A Year in Patagonia – part 2

Continuing the fascinating account from our previous post…..

My father went out hunting sometimes with my cousin and one day killed a puma. Its skin was made into a mat which we girls had in our bedroom. I had four cousins out there living miles away – Mylyrfyn, Reene, Llewellyn, and Callan. Their father was killed by the Indians.  Mrs and Miss Rowlands were other friends of ours from Abercanaid – they lived a long way from us, and father would take us sometimes in a buggy, a farmer had lent it to him, to visit them. I used to stay with them for a holiday sometimes. Miss Rowlands had a sweetheart, a Spaniard named Antonio Miggins – he was much darker than our people I often wondered why. One night when we were sitting round the fire I asked him why he was so dark, the answer was that he always drank strong tea. They all laughed, they were very nice people I did enjoy my visits to them.

One day my father did not go to work as there were many things needing to be done around the home, and he wanted to do some fishing. Being away all the week he could not do much, so he took my sisters and myself with him we gathered a lot of sticks and lit a fire as we were so far away. Father knew mother was very timid so we hurried home. Although we were so many miles away we could see quite plain as the country was so flat, but before we reached our house we saw an Indian ride away. He only wanted to know the way to Chubut, Mother could not understand him so said Lo ken savvy , meaning I don’t understand you, the, Indian made to dismount she got very frightened and went into the house for a gun and showed him she could use it he then rode away. Mother stood the ordeal very well but she was glad when we were all together again.

Every farmer in Patagonia had an enclosure attached to his farm called a corral where he had his cattle put at night to protect them from wild beasts, or when the Indians knew they were well stocked. They were very cruel and would come down from the Andes and steal their stock. there was no way to stop them as they came in large numbers unaware. Father made mother an oven to bake in, it was made in the shape of a beehive it was baked without lime. Mother was very disheartened at times, she would travel for miles to the mill then could get no flour, and butter too she could not buy although she had plenty of money.

Life was not very easy in many ways so when father came home at weekends, they would discuss ways out of the difficulty. They found out there was a sailing vessel leaving Chubut for Buenos Aires. They decided to book a passage on her. Mother sold all our household furniture and we went to the Chubut village for a while until the vessel was ready to sail. I went to school for the first time in Patagonia, the first thing they did was to take my shoes and stocking off to see if my feet were clean, but did not bother about my hair as they do in this country. I learned to count up to ten in Spanish, also to sing Oh click a dak a pana Novama. My father again had a buggy to take us to the vessel at the mouth of the River Plate, and I remember when we reached the ship there, a sailor helped us up a rope ladder as he put us on deck he counted una piccaninny dos piccaninny tres piccaninny, and for mother he said Senorita. It took us less time to get home- about five weeks. Father had to forfeit his £5 guarantee. We eventually reached Pontypool Road Station, where friends and my dear Grandfather who I thought I would never see again were meeting us. There was great rejoicing when we met. Well dear children the year is now up and I do hope I have not tired you so Good night and God bless you.

Martha Thomas (née Protheroe) in later years

Many thanks to Thomas Gwynder Davies for sharing this document with us.

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