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How Rye Got Its Name
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by Hazel Atterberry

A way out west where the mountains rise

high above the clouds to the bluest skies,

a mountain began and then came to a stop,

as flat as a table clear across the top.

So the only name they could think to then,

those hardy women and rugged men,

was to call it Table Mountain.

Yes, they called it Table Mountain.

As the settlement grew and became a town,

many were the hardships up and down.

Some sawed logs from the trees close by,

some raised grain called the hardy rye.

The seasons are short but it grew quite well.

At Least that is what the old-timers tell,

old folks on Table Mountain,

all around the Table Mountain.

One Indian chief’s name was Cuerna Verde.

Tales of his travels have long been heard.

His warriors battled as warriors do,

some to them got killed, and they killed a few.

As the story goes and it seemed a sin . . .

they just dug a big hole, pushed them in—

in one grave near Table Mountain,

five braves near Table Mountain.

The Meads had a mill in the canyon steep

and the water wheel sawed with the water deep.

And he did quite well till he ‘woke with fright,

for some big brown bears came around that night.

They had killed his horses and his chickens too,

and raised in general quite a hullabaloo.

All those years on Table Mountain,

Mead is buried on Table Mountain.

Uncle John Walter too had a saw mill then,

and he sent saw messages down the glen.

So many bangs on his saw said hello,

so many bangs let the people know,

so many bangs told them how or why . . .

from Happy New Year to the Fourth of July.

You could hear on Table Mountain,

as he banged on Table Mountain.

Mister Meredith built a small bank,

where some people came, but to be quite frank,

there wasn’t much money to be stashed away,

as each man traded things from day to day.

A cow for a horse or a sheep,

and no one bothered any records to keep.

They would trade on Table Mountain, even up on Table Mountain.

There was Mr. Deiter, a peculiar sort,

settled his difference out of court.

But it was quite odd everybody knew,

yet they had no proof what the man did do.

Said he went to town but he didn’t come back.

Then they found his bones ‘neath a big haystack—

out there on Table Mountain,

must’ve died on Table Mountain.

Old Jim blue had a personal sin,

his falsehoods were just a part of him.

When the ranchers’ pork barrels seemed too slight,

and they asked Jim blue where he was that night . . .

all around the cellar doors were peg leg marks . . .

and the dogs were heard to make peculiar barks

heard all over Table Mountian,

somthing wrong on Table Mountain.

Only took what he needed from the cellars or barns;

with the evidence there it was no surprise when he said,

“That’s just where the mysteries lie.”

If he’d told the truth it would seem quite strange.

Now he lies where he lied on the Mountain range,

somewhere out on Table Mountain,

he still lies on Table Mountain.

One fellow sawed and his kid saws still

—nothing ever daunted his valiant will.

He said, ‘at the hills foot,’ Nip Hardin was his name,

before he reached the top, ‘Hard Nippin’ was the game.

Now there may be some who are still around

who met at the Hardin School House ground . . .

were taught on Table Mountain,

played hooky on Table Mountain.

Monte Benham, he was justice of the Peace;

charged the big town hunters or made them cease.

But the country folk, he just let them shoot.

Though he made the rules he didn’t give a hoot,

when he knew they’d fed the deer corn and rye,

if they ate a few he never asked why.

That was the law on Table Mountain . . .

for the folks on Table Mountain.

If they needed anything that they couldn’t raise,

they went to Thomas’ down the road a ways.

At his trading post, they would dicker and charge

or go to Pueblo, a town quite large,

where they’d trade for their clothes, flour or wax,

a sack of white sugar or a choppin’ axe

for lumber from Table Mountain,

or rye from Table Mountain.

Old Doc Crozier and his trusty nag

carried through the hills his little black bag;

pronounced ‘em born or pronounced ‘em dead . .

he never arrived on time . . .

but his pills cured some of them so the people said.

He was known for his kindness and for his smile.

He charged one dollar for each long mile

he traveled on Table Mountain . . . and that’ all he charged

on the rough roads there on Table Mountain.

Mister Roley owned the town dance hall.

Everyone came and just had a ball.

They brought their kids, let them go to sleep,

and danced all night ‘till the wee hours creep.

The hardships and trial that each one shared

were all danced away as though no one cared.

They all danced on Table Mountain,

good old times on Table Mountain.

When the mail stage came with its load of mail,

it was left at the post at the foot of the trail.

When he left it there, presented his bill,

and he only drove it to the foot of the hill,

the postmaster grumbled both loud and strong.

Said the name of the town was much too long. . .

the town called Table Mountain,

why not change from Table Mountain?

So the folks called a meeting to determine why

they couldn’t call the settlement just plain Rye.

Some said that it seemed just a bit insane

that the town and the mountain should be the same.

Well the quarrel got a little bit out of hand,

as the town and the mail folks each took a stand

to rename Table Mountain, to keep it Table Mountain.

When peace was restored and feelings cooled,

they found that majority votes had ruled.

Now the old Table Mountain it stands there still,

and as far as we know it always will.

But the name of the town seems to satisfy,

for we still like the name of just plain Rye.

Close by is Table Mountain,

good old Table Mountain.

Note: Members of the Mormon Church presented this poem as a mini-musical to the community as part of the Colorado State Centennial year celebrations in 1976. It was published in the Greenhorn Valley News on September 25, 1986.

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The Greenhorn Valley View is a weekly newspaper serving the communities of the Greenhorn Valley in Southern Colorado,
including Colorado City, Rye, San Isabel, Beulah and Hatchet Ranch.

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