Oral Histories

Lloyd M. Pierson

Lloyd Pierson

L. Yes she was. After the field school in Chaco then we went down to Mexico, to Chihuahua and spent about 6 weeks there. We had these army trucks, two 6 by 6’s and a little 4×4 and that was quite an adventure. Paul got us all the necessary papers to work in Mexico, mostly on the Bolson de Mapimi which is a great big playa. Nobody in Mexico picked up arrowheads. We found one old one-armed fellow we called “Papacito” until he got mad at us because he thought we were calling him “little potato.” And we had another kid who had been in the U.S. Army that came with us for a while until Paul got mad at him. They were our guides.

On the Bolson one could see all the beach strands. We would get a bunch of kids and drive down the slope letting one or two off at each strand. One would find half an arrowhead and about four feet away you’d find the other half. We came back with bone boxes full of these arrowheads. Some of the guys went back that fall to do further research.

We also dug a cave called Cueva del Diablo. It was right across the road from a boys’ school. We ran a trench in the cave. Paul made me go down this tunnel into the cave. Just a straight shot. I turned around and here was this Army nurse we had with us. She had a ball of string, she wasn’t going to get lost. We got about 300 to 400 yards down into the cave and there was a plank going a across a gap and down below we could hear water running. I declared no Indian in his right mind would have gotten further and we left.

J. What kind of light did you have?

L. I don’t remember, flashlights maybe. We ran a couple of trenches through that cave and came up with some early stuff in the bottom of the trench, great big points. Some of the kids from the school tried to steal some of our drawing equipment. That’s another story, but that’s the extent of our archeology down there. The guy that made out the best was our conchologist, our friend Jake Drake (Robert Julius Drake). He would be out in the rocks and see these little shells just about an inch long. Just kind of weaving. He made quite a collection. He had 2 or 3 different new species. Meanwhile while we were down there we had a difficult time in some places because of the rain and mud.

J. Were you still a student then?

L. I was a graduate student, got paid 150 bucks for the month or so I was down there. Maybe it was for the whole season. I don’t remember which, but I was on the GI Bill. That fall of ‘47 Marian and I got married in Albuquerque in the parsonage of the Methodist Church. Then I thought I better find a place where I could get a job and write up my thesis on Chaco. I was really done with the survey. I had surveyed just the pueblos and skipped the shrines and stairways and stuff like that. Because we were interested in the population estimation, we figured out that if a ruin was occupied for a certain period of time it would have examples of pottery from various periods of time. Figuring out the number of rooms from the square footage of the ruin based on previous work and estimating the number of rooms occupied during each period based on pottery percentage and using a people per room figure based on contemporary pueblos we came up with a population estimate for various time periods.

We did ours sort of crudely but years later when the Park Service did the big program at Chaco a friend of mine, Al Hayes, who worked for the Park Service, he redid the survey, and he had a big crew and a lot more time. He did a population estimation and he came up with the same damn figure that I did. He got kind of a kick out of that too, I think. We figured the high population was about 4,500.

J. When did you start working for the Park Service?

L. I asked Paul Reiter, “I want to get a job and settle down at least until I can get my thesis written.” He says, “Why don’t you go up and talk to the Park Service?” Paul had already made us all take the exam that fall for the civil service, so we did. Marian and I went and talked to John Davis, general superintendent of the southwestern monuments. He was an old navy officer. I took Marian because the Park Service is always stressing family, you know. He said he was going to send us to Aztec, the Aztec Ruins (National Monument) as he had a ranger there that wanted to get back home to Bandalier. That’s when I wound up there in Aztec in February of 1948. I was not only in charge of the stupid monument but the superintendent had a 14 year old daughter and an eleven year old son.

J. How did that work?

L. Well, Mom and Dad had gone to California and left the two of them so they could stay in school. The old gal that ran the trading post, Dean Kirk’s mother, that was right across the street, kind of looked out for them and I’d go talk to her because once in a while the younger one would come in and say, “Mr. Pierson, can I go play with Johnnie so-and-so?” I’d ask, “Does your Mother let you play with Johnnie so-and-so?” He’d say “No-o-o-o.” And I would say “No-o-o.” It was a cold February. Got down to 15 below. I didn’t have many tourists, shoveled a lot of snow. We stayed there until July. There was an old guy there by the name of Sherman Howe, amateur archeologist. As kids they dug a hole through one of the roofs in Aztec and lowered him down in there to see what was there. He remembered that; he wrote a little book about his experiences. He asked me to help him dig a room that was back in a bank. There was only a beautiful Mesa Verde mug there. I don’t know what he did with it.

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