Until they get used to it, people always seem to struggle with my name. Some call me Marcus. Others call me Malcolm. My best advice is just call me “Mac.”
My life started out in Southwest Colorado. My dad was a ranch cowboy and my earliest memories—everything from getting blisters on my behind from riding on top of loaded packhorses, to coming up on a trapped bear caught by a single toe—are from summers spent on the mountains of the Uncompahgre Plateau.
When I was real young, I loved Indians—especially the Apaches—Geronimo, Cochise — all of them. We were already cowboys, so when we “played” cowboys and Indians I always wanted to be an Indian. My favorite Apache chief was Mangus—Mangus Coloradas. So, my dad and all the other cowboys and ranchers he worked with just started calling me Mangus. It was a nickname.
In some places, nicknames are something of a tradition, and more commonplace than others. Where I grew up, they were very common. Maybe it was kind of a Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid sort of thing. Butch Cassidy’s real name was LeRoy Parker, and Sundance Kid’s name was Harry Longbaugh—well what fun were names like that? On the mountain (the Uncompaghre) there was an old married couple called Frosty and Mame. I have no idea what their real names were. But Mangus MacLeod, that was sort of like being called Butch Cassidy or something.
My given name was Chester. I was named after Chet Smith, an old cowboy in Southwest Colorado that my dad thought a lot of. Of course, his given name was Chester, but he went by Chet. So, I got named Chester, but they couldn’t just call me Chet, because although you would honor someone by naming your kid after them, the kid himself would have to earn the right to have the name shortened to Chet. But I never ended up getting quite that far, because Chet himself was one of the guys who was always calling me Mangus, and it just kind of stuck.
But later, when I started outgrowing my “Indian Warrior” phase, I didn’t know if I always wanted to be called “Mangus” after an infamous Apache Chief.
Although, given my dad’s employment, we always seemed to live out on ranches, and I didn’t exactly have a “home town” growing up, in Southwest Colorado, between Durango and Cortez, there is a beautiful little town called Mancos that I always really liked. So, later on, when people would ask where I was from (and Mancos Colorado sounded better than Dolores, Nucla or Uravan), I just started saying Mancos Colorado. And before I knew it, Mangus MacLeod had become Mancos MacLeod—which was still far better than Chester or Dolores. But to make things even easier, just call me “Mac.”
That’s probably more information about me, my name, and my roots in Southwest Colorado than anyone really wants to know. But if you are interested in learning more information about that area I highly recommend the book “One Man’s West,” by David Lavender.
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