Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I enjoy reading about strong women heroines in fiction and in history. Sometimes the fictional women might appear over the top or unrealistic. Historically, though, women have proven themselves to rise to a challenge—especially when it means remaining with or protecting family. Recently, I was reading about heroines of the Old West in Mike Wright’s WHAT THEY DIDN’T TEACH YOU ABOUT THE WILD WEST.  This is a frightening yet empowering story appropriate as we near Hallowe’en.

Apache Women in camp

An Apache woman named Dilchthe was a middle-aged grandmother captured by Sonoran mercenaries at then Esqueda, Mexico south of present day Douglas, Arizona in the mid 1860’s.  Dilchthe and several other women watched the Apache men executed and were then herded toward the Gulf of California. There they were sold into slavery and shipped across the Gulf to a penal colony on the Baja Peninsula. Many of the women died there, but Dilchthe hung on to life. She was sold again with several women and put to work at a nearby hacienda.

She was treated fairly at the hacienda, but she wanted freedom. Wouldn’t we? She hid food and planned her escape to return to her family. I wonder if she realized how far from them she had been moved?

Desert Dilchthe traveled

Finally, she freed several other women and they escaped. They traveled only at night and Dilchthe led them north along the Gulf. The women evaded the mounted guards sent to track them down and bring them back. Even conserving supplies, they ran out of food. They ate insects and desert plants.

Colorado River

Near the mouth of the Gulf, they faced crossing the Colorado River. Imagine how forceful this river was before damning and pumping to large cities commenced almost a hundred years later. None of the women raised in the desert could swim. Dilchthe promised the women she would find a way.

Gila River

She made friends with an elderly Mexican man who told her where she could safely ford the river. The women pushed northward to the spot the man had described. This was at the confluence of the Colorado and Gila Rivers and later became the site of the Yuma Territorial Prison. Of course the women were afraid, but Dilchthe waded into the water. Her feet struck a sandbar and she waded across the river, followed by the other women.

Yuma (Mojave) Indians

Near Yuma Valley, the women met sweltering heat. She insisted they follow the river, and they persevered for she knew the mountains held powerful enemies. Three nights after they crossed the river, a band of Yuma (also called Mojaves) raiders ambushed them.  Only Dilchthe and one woman survived by fleeing into the brush.

Again they were hunted, but Dilchthe walked over the hot, mostly dry, river bottom past Gila Bend and present-day Phoenix. They skirted Puma and Papago camps and villages. Can you imagine crossing that area with no water, no food, and weary from trudging so far?  These two women were strong!

Dry Riverbed

They were too weak to travel at more than a slow walk, and almost crazed from hunger and grief. At a spot near present day Safford, they collapsed. Dilchthe managed a signal fire. Incredibly enough, the man who saw the smoke was Dilchthe’s son in law. She and her friend were saved.

She had walked more than a thousand miles to be reunited with her family. Can you imagine her welcome as a hero and how her stories were retold again and again? She had outmaneuvered pursuers, carried no map, no weapons, and almost no provisions.

I love this story! We never know what we can do until we are faced with the challenge. Would you be like Dilchthe or one of those who was killed?

Another story of trekking across the land from Central Texas’ Hill Country to North Central Texas is my book, THE MOST UNSUITABLE COURTSHIP, which is part of the 10-book box set, COURTING THE WEST, now available at Amazon, Nook, 
Kobo, and iTunes for a limited time at only 99 cents.

Dilchte’ story source:
WHAT THEY DIDN’T TEACH YOU ABOUT THE WILD WEST, by Mike Wright, Presidio Press Inc., pp 285-286
Free photos


Bookie said...

Very interesting post today and the amazing story seems superhuman! I just finished reading a biogrpahy of Black Kettle that you might like. He was an amazing man, seeking peace that just would not last because of ugly, deceitful White men who lied to him. Last autumn we visited Sand Creek Massacre Site and this autumn we visited Washita Site where Black Kettle was finally killed. Such sad,sad places. Have you been to either?

Beth Trissel said...

These women certainly are outstanding. Loved your post.