Today in our look at the sketches of individual Basque lives portrayed in the mammoth 2-volume work, Basques in the United States, we take a lighthearted look at Basque logic, as expressed in the following two charming anecdotes adapted from volume 1:


The machines of Basque sheepherding. From the Jon Bilbao Basque Library archive.

The first of these is about Simón Cruz Nachiondo Achaval, born July 16, 1882, in Ispaster, Bizkaia. He arrived in New York City on Feb. 26, 1899. and went to Boise. His reference was Domingo Bengoa in Rye Patch, Nevada. In 1918 he was an independent herder in Moore, Idaho. In 1927, while in Boise, our man was involved in an accident: he was kicked by a horse. Not missing a beat, he went to the insurance company to claim compensation. The answers provided to the insurance agent by our man were deemed worthy of publication in the local press, which assured that “accidents can happen even to the most careful person.” These were the technical explanations: Q: What machine were you working with when you were injured? A: With a horse. Q: What is the power of this machine? A: One horse. Q: Please, describe the nature of the injury. A: I worked behind the said machine when it decided to extend its hind leg toward me in the horizontal direction. (Ogden Standard-Examiner, Nov. 10, 1927; Oregonian, Nov. 13, 1927).



Orange County Sheriff’s deputies dumping illegal alcohol, 1932. Orange County Archives. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The second story concerns Peter Astuy, born in Bermeo, Bizkaia, on Oct. 7, 1902. While he was managing a lounge in Monterey, California in 1932, he was prosecuted for selling liquor to Prohibition agents. However, he claimed that the agents did not pay him, therefore he was freed with no charge! (San Diego Evening Tribune, 1932-03-05).

We intend for this work to be more than just an encyclopedic reference; we’d like it to be a true forum for sharing stories and anecdotes about the thousands of Basque women and men who forged new lives for themselves in the US.

If you’d like to share your own family stories with us, please click here at our dedicated Basques in the United States Project website.