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 Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


Welcome to the Louis Kraft writing website. The goal is to explore where I’ve been and where I’m headed while entertaining you and updating you on the status of my life, events, and projects. The goal is to be loose and free while not preaching. As you see, there are a number of tabs (and information will change on them whenever appropriate) but this website will not be static, for I have control. It also has a blog (and if you followed me elsewhere you know that I’m open to discussing whatever catches my fancy). The blog entries will be categorized, and linked to specific categories that appear on the right side of the screen, for example: “Sand Creek Massacre,” “Cheyenne Indians,” “Ned Wynkoop,” “Errol Flynn,” “Olivia de Havilland,” “Thailand,” “Green Card,” “racism,” and so on. There will also be Kraft categories for when I explore myself and the craziness of life or when I mix my writing with my life or when I just need to let off steam. Nothing will be sacred on the blog … unless it’s harmful to yours truly, or anyone else (living or dead). “Harmful” also includes racist prose, which will not be tolerated. If desired, add comments at the end of each post. All you’ll need is your name and email address.

A few words about PressHarbor

Those of you familiar with my work know that I have a fair amount of skills,
but I’m not an engineer and I struggle with code.

PressHarbor is the full-service Word Press web host for my website/blog.

I need to be up front with my view of PressHarbor, and specifically its founder John Keegan, for they have been absolutely magnificent!

As stated above I’m not technical and when forced to deal with code I am often wading through a minefield of potential disaster. … Every time that I have had a problem, John and his staff have responded quickly and resolved the issue. Some of my problems have been simplistic (although I didn’t realize it), but others have been beyond my capability. Regardless, I have always received fast and courteous service.

PressHarbor also makes certain that the current version of their software is updated, and reminds me to update my template and plugins if I have failed to do so. At times when my website/blog has slowed to a crawl John immediately did what was necessary to fix the problem. More important he and his team have made my website/blog very secure.

John and PressHarbor are about to release a “major overhaul” to their platform that sounds massive and includes a new website, the addition of more powerful servers, and more hosting plans. I am thrilled that PressHarbor is my host, and am looking forward to our continued association over the coming years.

 

Firm Sand Creek delivery date, Louis Kraft massacre views & a future update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


It’s probably best to start with a little LK fun.

The Loikathong River is celebrated in Thailand every November. Good friend Pete Senoff used it as a backdrop when he created this dancing image of Pailin and myself in 2014. … Without words it is a simplistic entry into our relationship.


The above is a hint to what I cryptically advertised elsewhere on
social media early this year.

Unfortunately I’ve become Mr. Unsociable

I’m a recluse (but luckily I’m not one of the 58,000+ homeless in LA and some I know personally as I talk to them while I walk the streets, or the 139,000 homeless in California, and boy do I have a lot to say here but not in this blog), … actually I prefer “loner” for what I do is a one-man job that takes a lot of research, concentration, and time. I have been working seven days per week since last fall (I did take Thanksgiving off, and most of Christmas). The amount of hours increased big time last December, and I now know that it will continue until September 15. I seldom work less than 10 hours per day but way too often it is closer to 13 or more. … Worse, I know for a fact that the next four and a half months are going to be hell. Pure hell … There will be no room for me to get lazy, for each and every day must push toward September 15.

I saw my pulmonary specialist this week and we discussed a clinic that would be helpful (I’m already a member of a heart clinic). After he shared the benefits and the time commitment, I brought up the drive time. As the clinic is about 12 miles from home; a 9:00 am appointment would mean at least an hour and a half drive, while a 1:00 pm appointment approximately 45 minutes (double those drive times for a round trip). I told him that I’m really interested and he said he’d put through the prescription, but then I told him that I can’t lose those hours until September 15 passes. Yeah, parts of my health are on hold.

Pailin and LK at the one-year anniversary of The Massage Place in Santa Monica, Ca. (and also the birthdays of owner Marut  Manorat and his manager Amber) on 18apr2018. There have been many people that have played major parts in Pailin’s emergence as a successful contractor in Los Angeles. Marut, along with his wife Whitney, are two of these people. Oh yeah, LK does take time off for special occasions with his lady. Pailin made Thai tea for the party (heaven); that’s what we were both drinking in the red cups. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2018)

Unfortunately most of my local relationships are on hold and have been since my last two trips to the emergency room (July and August 2017), but this hold was not because of what I now view as the two luckiest months of my life (July and August 2017), but because of the crimp they put on my Sand Creek delivery deadline.

My lonely road may be costing me friends locally but there is nothing I can do about it other than infrequently touch base with them on social media or the phone. … It’s a two-way street and I need to do my share. Unfortunately I’m not good at this. Once my work begins in the morning (before Pailin gets up and then after she sets out in the AM/if she only has a PM shift after I have made our juice I’ll return to work until we eat together).

I’m not the world’s best husband, but my lady and I have something between us. Call it love, call it craziness, call it what ever you want but we have it, … and it is key to my future (see below).

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

This manuscript is the culprit, the villain, perhaps the death of me. It is also the most important book I’ll ever write. I must complete it.

Errol Flynn was a great writer, and I don’t give a bleep what anyone has said about his writing. My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1959) is a masterpiece. I’ve already talked about some of what the envious-baloney cretins have written about his last book, and I’m not going to repeat it here. Flynn saw the galleys, but he never had the pleasure of seeing My Wicked, Wicked Ways in print. … I will see Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway in print.

Simply, LK is moving toward the conclusion of his Sand Creek manuscript. If you accept that this has been a major part of my life for a long time you’ll understand.

A three-fold problem

Paying the bills, health, and completing the Sand Creek manuscript. … There is a lot to say here, and I want to keep it as positive as possible.

Surprise of surprises, my view on most of the leading players have changed (and some of the changes have been massive), as well as my view on the attack on the Cheyenne and Arapaho village on 29nov1864 on the Big Sandy (Sand Creek) in southeastern Colorado Territory. For many years I thought of it as a battle but this changed when I wrote Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011). But the scope of what happened during the lead up to the massacre, the massacre, and the aftermath is what I now consider heinous.*

* I’m talking about decades here.

Pailin with John and Linda Monnett at Bear Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park) on 2oct2014. We had an absolutely wonderful time with them during our visit. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, John Monnett, Linda Monnett, and Louis Kraft 2014).

Recently I updated two terrific Indian war friends—John Monnett and Layton Hooper—of my current status on the manuscript, … including that I had the two final sentences in the epilogue in place and that they would not be cut. And that’s final; they stay, … editorial can cut the rest of the manuscript but the final words stay. John wanted to know the words, but bad friend Kraft didn’t share them or their background.

My view on humankind is simple: You, me, and almost everyone else believe that what we do is right when we do it (it may not be, but we didn’t realize it at the time). This, ladies and gents, was how Chuck Rankin and I agreed on how I would write the manuscript—people-driven. Honestly, this has been the most difficult manuscript that I have ever written.

Sand Creek deliveries …
LK’s schedule for the next four and a half months

On January 31 I delivered the first eleven chapters of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway to Adam Kane and Chuck Rankin (current and former editors-in-chief at the greatest Indian wars publisher in the world—the University of Oklahoma Press). On April 30 I delivered chapters 12 through 15 to them. … I will deliver the epilogue and preface to them by the end of this month.

Adam has updated me on what must happen for the manuscript to make the OU Press Fall 2019 catalog and be printed by the time that the Western History Association meets in Las Vegas that October. … I need to have a reviewed, revised, and final manuscript to the press no later than September 15 of this year. This deadline schedule is huge in scope and it is demanding of my time. It is one that I will make.

I’m done talking about the struggle to complete the manuscript, I’m done talking about the ongoing research, for everything from this day forward will be about delivery.

An LK view: A massacre is a massacre is a massacre …

In Nashville on 1apr1971 a singer who has played a major role in my life since I was a little boy recorded the “Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley.”* The singer was Tex Ritter, and he was extraordinary (someday I’ll do an entire blog about him, and this will be an easy blog to write).

* But this date seems wrong as all hell had broken out when the 5dec1969 issue of Life Magazine hit the newsstands.

When this young LK rode the pony he was already glued to a green TV screen as he watched the heroic Tex Ritter (who did most of his own stunts and that easily included 90+ percent of the riding on White Flash, and there were multiple White Flash’s until Tex bought a white horse that would become his White Flash until the end of time). I would meet Tex, and his music and B-western films are still with me. … and they will be until the end of my time.

Tex was religious and loved the USA. At the time that he recorded this song if not the U.S. press at least a major portion of the U.S. population still praised Lt. William Calley, Jr’s victory over the Viet Cong in the foreign war that was seemingly without end. And why not? The lieutenant was a hero, a major hero to many.

My great friend Dennis Riley captured this image of LK. He had become a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy in the late 1960s, and took this photo in June 1969. It would become a key image in the LK acting and modeling world for years. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

I was a villain.

Actually my view on race was firmly in place by the time I exited high school, and it would never waver in the coming years.

Villain? What are you talking about Kraft?

I’m not going to dig into my past, but I was truly a villain in 1970. There was a war going on—a heinous war—and I didn’t volunteer to kill people—civilians—regardless if I did not agree with their country’s politics.

I was a villain. There were many of us across the United States at that time.

When my university days ended in spring 1969 I no longer had a free pass on the mandatory U.S. military draft, and it was just a matter of time before I would be forced to make a decision that would impact the rest of my life. During WW II my father had enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as he didn’t want to be drafted into the Army. By this time I had college friends who had turned their backs on America and had taken asylum in Canada and elsewhere.

What would I do?

The USA has always been my country. Will it always be my country? That was a million dollar question in 1970 as I had no intention of deserting my homeland. Is it again a million dollar question?

LK’s history world has had a lot of people of interest

I discovered history in elementary school, and I met two people at about the same time—soldier George Armstrong Custer in the fourth grade and the pirate Francis Drake in the fifth grade. Over the course of my life I have learned a lot about both of these men. Like all of us they had faults, they had highs and lows, but that is what makes them interesting. They were also able to step beyond race and hatred of their enemies.

I met Custer on TV when I saw Errol Flynn’s They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941) for the first time back in the dark ages. Custer would appear in many films, TV shows, one TV series, and documentaries. I saw the pilot and a few of the episodes of the short-lived Custer TV series (17 episodes in 1967 with Wayne Maunder as Custer). You do not want to know my opinion of this TV series, even though Maunder looked great as Custer.

LK art of Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941). (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Drake appeared a year later when he was featured in my school history book (words and cool images; I’ll share them someday). To my knowledge Drake appeared in two films, one TV series, and various documentaries (most of which are forgettable). I saw a few of the twenty-six episodes of Sir Francis Drake (1961-62 with Terence Morgan in the lead role …You need a multi-region PAL/NTSC DVD player to view this series in the USA today. I wasn’t impressed (and I’m being kind here, even though I haven’t seen it in decades).

History and times have been fairly kind to Drake over the centuries and much less so with Custer. Two books are planned on Drake (and I have much of the primary source material  in-house) but nothing published to date other than a blog that features him: The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft. Upton and Sons published a book I wrote on Custer in 1995 (Custer and the Cheyenne). There have been numerous articles in such publications as American History, Wild West, Research Review, and talks on Mr. Custer have ranged from Texas to Missouri to Kansas to Montana to Arizona to California. The links on Drake and Custer give you an idea of how I view these two men. BTW, depending upon word count limitations in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (vagueness is golden here), Custer may have a fairly large presence in the epilogue (at least he does at this time).

History got me to Drake and Flynn got me to Custer

… and Drake got me to studying Elizabethan England and piracy while Custer got me to the American Indian wars. Everything was a go beginning with junior high school.

Still, there’s one more piece. Tex Ritter and then Errol Flynn got me to acting. I took acting classes in junior high school, high school, and majored in theater (focused on acting and directing) in college. You know where this is going, and so do I. But then something happened in 1976 when I was doing a summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas; something I would have never guessed in a lifetime. The first play was a generation-gap comedy. Two actors, the director, and I were hired in Los Angeles. The rest of the cast were hired locally. The two other LA actors and the director were also writers.

The Hayloft Dinner Theatre was in the round, which allowed for a fairly large audience while keeping the acting intimate. (photos © Louis Kraft 1976)

Long story short: Texas Tech is in Lubbock, and it was a wild town back in the ’70s. Racism was rampant, drug busts were all over the place, the theater department at the university had two cliques that wanted to kill each other. Add patriotism and by the time I finished the second play I was thrilled to put the Lone Star state behind me.

But, that summer led to me writing screen plays and landing an agent. By the mid-1980s I knew I wanted to write full time. I had parted company with my third screen writing agent about 1984 and started writing and selling articles. In 1985 I quit the acting world cold turkey and the next year talked my way into a corporate insurance brokerage firm without ever touching a computer. I knew they were the future for writers and I wanted to learn while getting paid to do so. The vice president liked me, put me in a room with a computer with pay, and told me that if I learned how to use it in two weeks I had the job.

Massacre no. 1

Sand Creek was a massacre, and it will always be the number one massacre in my view. But I didn’t have this view until this century.

The Sand Creek manuscript has become the most difficult assignment I’ve ever had (and that includes everything I wrote in the software world). The days have been long while the progress has been slow. The reason is simple: I’ve focused on using a number of people to propel the story toward conclusion. Yes, there have been health problems (my life should have ended in August 2017), but the ongoing research and the struggle to mix this grouping of people together in a linear way has become the biggest challenge of my life. For the record some have smaller roles than anticipated while some have seen their participation in the events grow.

LK as Ned Wynkoop viewing the hacked-to-pieces remains of the Cheyennes that had been murdered at Sand Creek on 29nov1864 during a dress rehearsal for one of the performances of the Ned Wynkoop one-man shows at the Washita NHS in 2008. (photo © Louis Kraft and Johnny D. Boggs, 2008)

After signing the contract with Chuck Rankin in 2011 I knew that this project would push me to the extreme, but I never dreamed what I would face over time. … This said, I’m thrilled that Chuck took the time over perhaps two years to bring me on board to write the manuscript. … For me it is the creation process from the beginning of the research through the publication of a book. I know that when I look back on these years that I’ll have fond memories.

Col. John Chivington was a hero. Don’t believe me? Just read the Rocky Mountain News in December 1864, all through 1865, and for years to come. Chivington commanded the 29nov1864 attack on Black Kettle’s village on Sand Creek. Butchery of children, women, and men happened on that day and the next. Butchery of men, women, and children who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military until it decided if the 1864 Cheyenne war would end or continue. In Chivington’s two official reports on the massacre he stated that he killed between 500 and 600 Indians. These numbers were inflated. Still, the good colonel, the war hero, was wrong, for easily many more Cheyennes survived his butchery count than died on that bloody ground.

My terrific friend and great Cheyenne Indian wars historian John Monnett took this image at the end of our time (that is his, mine, Linda M, and Pailin’s) on the Sand Creek Massacre NHS on 3oct2014. We had been walking along the bluffs to the west of the village site in southeast Colorado. (photo © Louis Kraft and John Monnett, 2014)

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway when it is published. If you do, I guarantee that you will become ill. If not, you will have a very foul taste in your mouth.

Still, Chivington would years later state: “I stand by Sand Creek.” This quote is now in the manuscript. It took me years to locate it and figure out how to get Chivington’s most famous quote into the manuscript.

The LK view on race

In 1970 I volunteered to serve in Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which was like the Peace Corps but in the United States. Early in 1971 President Richard Nixon had a national draft lottery, and on the night that it was televised my eyes were glued to the TV set. I got lucky. My number was 273. This meant that every male of draft age (that is, between the ages of 18 and 35) with a lower number than mine would be drafted before me.

LK speaking about Lt. Charles Gatewood and Geronimo at the Festival of the West in Scottsdale, Arizona. Over four days (18-21mar2004) I spoke about Gatewood and Geronimo twice, Custer and the Cheyennes once. (© Louis Kraft 2oo4).

This eliminated me from the draft. … Even so, that June I reported for duty with VISTA. My life and view on race was already in place, but my time in VISTA would confirm what I already knew, … LK was not and is not a racist and accepts all people as human beings.

This statement has played a major part in my life. Both in my view of humankind and what I write about. My first novel dealt with race relations, as have my first four nonfiction books (my Sand Creek manuscript will be my fifth nonfiction book that deals with race relations). The following manuscripts (fiction and nonfiction) will also mostly focus on race relations. I’m a person. You’re a person. Every other person walking our earth is a human being. We’re all equal. Nothing else needs be said.

Back to Lt. Calley and massacre no. 2

I learned, as all of us did in the USA, that Calley’s victory was not a victory—it was a massacre of men, women, and children that were non-combatants. That’s right, they were just like you and me, … people who were not soldiers fighting a war. Five hundred four Vietnamese civilians were murdered, and that included 200 who were less than twelve years old.

This image was reprinted in the Los Angeles Times on 16mar2018. (The photo & copyright credit goes to Ronald L. Haeberle and the Associated Press, 1968) … This image is worth 1000s of words. Make your own decision of what happened on 16mar1968. … Sgt. Ron Haeberle was a photographer for the U.S. Army. The photos that he took for the military were black and white and they were vanilla-flavored. He shot color photos using his personal camera, and these he didn’t hand over to the Army. This image, although printed in black & white in the Times, was originally in color.

Kraft, why are you writing this? … If you don’t know why by now, don’t ask—just move on.

For the record Lt. Calley, and more important Capt. Hugh Thompson (I’ve also seen Thompson listed as a warrant officer), played important parts in my life. Calley for being a hero and then a murderer of innocent people (sound familiar to those of you who know what my Sand Creek massacre manuscript is about?). You bet!

On 16mar1968 Army photographer Sgt. Ron Haeberle had reached the hamlet of My Lai near the northern coast of South Vietnam. He came upon U.S. soldiers who pointed their weapons at mostly women and children. “Guys were about to shoot people,” Haeberle told Life Magazine (5dec1969 issue, p36). “I yelled, ‘Hold it,’ and shot my picture. As I walked away, I heard M16s open up. From the corner of my eye I saw bodies falling, but I didn’t turn to look.” This was the caption for the photo at right, which was on p37. (© Ronald L. Haeberle and the Associated Press, 1968; and Life Magazine, 1969)

But heroes in the USA have always been honored and set upon a pedestal. Lt. Calley initially joined this elite group. A man who was my first hero—a B-western star of the 1930s and 1940s who became one of the main people who made country and western music coast-to-coast in the USA beginning in the 1940s. Over the decades Tex Ritter honored the USA, religion, relationships, and heroes in song, and many of his recordings are classics. As soon as Tex and his producer at Capitol Records realized the truth of what happened the record’s release date was canceled. Without knowing the facts I am certain that the recording session that made Calley a hero has long since been destroyed.

A side story that is major …

You want to know my favorite storyline? Do you? It’s simple: Boy meets girl, girl doesn’t like boy, boy doesn’t give up, eventually boy wins over girl, and they live happily for the rest of their lives. … I’m not joking here.

This is what I want for me and what I want for you. I have it, and I am the luckiest man you know.

This LK art is based upon a photo that was totally useless, while showing that I am a decent cook. The image was also taken after I met the most fantastic person in my entire life. Yes, Pailin. She is unlike anyone I have ever met, and that includes a multitude of people from all walks of life. My meeting her was totally unexpected and it changed my life forever. This Wedgwood stove that dated to the 1950s is gone after years of great service. It is history, like just about everything I write about. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I have lived my life turning my back on false relationships and charlatans. Not good times for LK. This continued until 15jun2013 when I met Pailin (that day/evening changed my life forever).

LK and his beautiful wife, Pailin, on 2dec2014, just before we boarded the first of two planes on our return flight to California from Bangkok, Thailand. For the record Thailand is in my past and in my future. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

If you have read any of my blogs you know her. If not, look to the right.

Unfortunately my upbringing guaranteed that I could never write the above storyline. More important this year saw the 50th anniversary of what happened on 16mar1968. Like Sand Creek, we should never forget My Lai.


I know that a lot of you have bad thoughts of California and Los Angeles. How’s this for a sudden change of topic? Other than high taxes, high cost of living, and jealousy of people like me who enjoy great weather year round, I’m clueless why? Let’s talk about Los Angeles. There are more languages spoken in LA than any other city in the USA, there are more American Indians in LA than any other city in the USA, and there are more Thai people in LA than all of the rest of the USA put together. I live in the melting pot of the USA—I have it all; museums, theater, music, art, any food you want to eat, any film you want to see (and that includes numerous Errol Flynn films on the big screen every year), and most important any race, religion, and culture you may want to mingle with.

Flight commander Hugh Thompson’s actions

Helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson, and his two-man crew (which included Glenn Andreotta, his crew chief, and Lawrence Colburn, his door gunner), supported the USA attack on 16mar1968. However, this day would not be as he assumed, for when his helicopter swooped low over enemy lines he saw wounded children, women, and men spread across the ground. After marking their position, he called for medics, and returned to base to refuel.

This Associated Press © 1971 image of Thompson was published in the LA Times on 16mar2018.

When Thompson returned to the war zone he again flew the helicopter in low over the scene of the wounded civilians. They were no longer wounded; they were dead. Worse, it was obvious that they were not the Vietcong, they were not soldiers standing firm against an American assault on their homeland. No. They were civilians, simply people trying to flee while their country’s soldiers confronted an invasion of their land.

Thompson then saw a group of mostly women and children running from U.S. soldiers. He acted immediately—WITHOUT ORDERS (sound familiar with Wynkoop and my 1864 writing?)—for he saw what he needed to do. Act, now, or watch the murder of women, children, and men who were non-combatants. He landed the helicopter between the advancing soldiers and the fleeing Vietnamese. He told Colburn and Andreotta that if the soldiers didn’t halt or shot him to shoot them. He stepped from the ‘copter and confronted a portion of actually Capt. Ernest Medina’s Charlie Company (1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Infantry Brigade), to whom Lt. Calley reported.

If Thompson did this on 29nov1864 he probably would have become a casualty of friendly fire or would have faced a court-martial, not to mention major racial hatred. Luckily the USA—our country, my country, your country—has progressed to the point that it recognized murder (at least with the My Lai massacre and hopefully more and more with the Sand Creek massacre as we age).

Actually my wish list on this subject is quite large.


Hugh Thompson’s name is right there with Gatewood and Wynkoop, as well as Capt. Silas Soule and Lt. Joseph Cramer. His actions mimics theirs. This is not an overstatement; it is fact. He was an American hero, as they were. For the record Thompson, Andreotta (posthumously), and Colburn received the “Soldier’s Medal for acts of extraordinary bravery not involving contact with the enemy” twenty years later.

Also for the record, William Calley apologized for his actions against the Vietnamese people in August 2009; Something that John Chivington was incapable of doing.

I live a simple life of fun and goofiness

If you have followed these blogs you know that Pailin and I are gunslingers … with our fingers, and that at times we attempt to surprise each other. This is pure fun. For us it is being five years old, or six, or seven again. Maybe older.

On one night when Pailin returned home after a long day of massages I didn’t open the back door, which forced her to enter the house through the front door. Immediately she focused on where I was. In a closet? Hiding behind a door? In the bathroom hidden behind the shower curtain? She cautiously searched the house.

No LK. It was after ten that evening, and suddenly the game became one of concern.

Not for yours truly, for I sat under the dinning room table. It had a table cloth, which cloaked my hiding spot. No notes, which I usually leave if I’m not home or are already in bed. Pailin entered the kitchen, which leads into the dinning room. She set her massage bag down and prepared to relax. I pushed the chair to the side and appeared from under the table. At the same time I fired a bullet from my finger gun. “BANG! BANG!” I yelled. She grabbed her midriff as she sank to the kitchen floor, laughing all the way down. I stepped from under the table, and, also laughing, crossed to her and pulled her to her feet. Point LK! We hugged.

Pailin is my lady, my love, my life. … And we do play games, as they keep our lives fluid and alive.

Pailin is as different from me as I am from her, and yet our interests and views on life (and remember that she is Thai and I’m American) are night and day. Somehow, without consciously attempting to create a world for PSK and LK, … we have done just that.

We have connected between race and culture and created our own world that thrives in two worlds, two religions, two cultures.

Our world also includes an openness of just being ourselves. She and I have learned who we are in this mixing of culture and religion and lifeway. I met Pailin on 15jun2013 at a dinner party I hosted for five people; two couples and myself. One of the ladies insisted that she bring a coworker for me as I had been at that time girlfriend-less for two years. I refused. The lady—Pailin—also refused, but eventually we both gave in.

What happened was quiet magic, for I found a beautiful woman who knew few English words but was totally alert to what was happening around her. Before the day/evening ended I knew that I wanted her in my life.

This is my lady in the front yard of Tujunga House. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna 2013)

Much has happened. Her first visit to my world, our marriage, her first Green Card, her first Indian wars talk, and the following year her first Indian wars trip and meeting my friends, my first visit to Thailand and her family (who are now my family), her California drivers license (no easy task as the written test is in English), her passing the California Massage Council massage therapy test and receiving her license (this English test was 10 times tougher), her becoming a massage therapist in major demand on the Westside of Los Angeles (and this is an understatement as she could work 15 hours a day ten days a week if she desired as she is in that much demand), her receiving her 10-year Green Card extension, and now in place to obtain her U.S. citizenship. This is a mouthful, but I thought that you needed to know who my lady is. Bottom line: She is special, and I haven’t mentioned any of her personal traits that far outweigh her professional life.

Sadness and my future … a future never imagined

This is the first announcement of this (although I did hint elsewhere on social media that a large change was coming, even offering 100-1 odds that no one would guess it). Pailin returned to Thailand this February due to the death of a special person in her life. Her brother, my brother-in-law, who she loved with all her heart and a brother I thought the world of. I couldn’t go due to an overdue Sand Creek manuscript delivery and a physical problem that, honestly, made me fearful of flying. Palin totally understood.

Pailin shared this video that she taped on 27feb2018 early during her trip, and I believe often. It increased my fame, or infamy, in Thailand. Anyway, everyone saw it and commented, and I think it indirectly helped what was about to happen. … I say “rich” in it, but I don’t mean rich in dollars; rather rich in knowledge.

Pailin and I video-talked almost every day (6:00 am LA time/9:00 pm Thai time). I knew a lot of our relatives, but not all. No matter. Magical minutes for LK and his lady, but also pure gold for me as I was able to connect in real time with my extended family. These calls made me realize how much a part of my life they were and are. During this time I met the officer and his beautiful wife (I had known about them since 2014, but had never met them). At different times during Pailin’s trips she has spent great time with them and her brother and sister-in-law. This led to my introduction to them, cemented a friendship, and opened the door to an offer I never expected.

Last year the officer and his wife shared with Pailin (and I believe they have been close for a long time), a wonderful piece of information—their first children will enter the world in the future. During our California/Thailand video time the officer and his lady decided to approach me with a proposal. And through Pailin they did, they asked me if I’d consider teaching their still unborn children English as a first language. …

LK’s office in Uttaradit, Thailand, on 26nov2014. Pailin and I spent a lot of time at her sister and brother-in-law’s home, and Not and Font have certainly become my sister and brother. Great memories, and good work on my last Geronimo article for Wild West as well as making decent progress on my book projects. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Wow! A magnificent offer I never expected. Believe it or not, my brain still functions and quickly when necessary. I replied positively; at the same time I made it clear that all my Sand Creek deadlines would have to be made. They shared an approximate starting date, and as of today I think that this is doable. The basics are in place; the what, where, when, and how are still to come (but won’t be shared).

This is Font Subanna and LK on his 27nov2014 birthday. This man is my brother, and so much more, … he is one of my best friends on this earth. I had met him after my arrival in Langpang, Thailand, but our friendship didn’t begin until days later when he picked Pailin and I up and drove us to his home in Uttaradit. During the drive he told Pailin, “I don’t know what to say to him.” My mastery of the Thai language and his of the English language isn’t very good, but over many great days we had no trouble communicating. During one of our joint dinners at his home he said to Pailin, “Why don’t you teach him Thai so I can talk to him?” Everyone laughed. At another dinner a few nights later, and again at his home, opportunity presented itself. I said to Pailin, “Why don’t you teach him English so I can talk to him.” Everyone laughed. Some of the best days in my life. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

I already know that I can work in Thailand, for I wrote almost daily in 2014. This said, and with proper preparation I can work on nonfiction, fiction, articles, and talks (if not a thing of my past). While in Thailand my focus will be the children; when not them my writing, research, and spending time with family and friends.

A neighbor’s 2017 Harley Davidson. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

I had broached the subject of buying a Vette in Thailand. “Are you crazy?” Pailin asked. “They cost more in Thailand than in the U.S.!” Oops! I suppose a Harley Davidson is also out of scope. BTW, Thailand is a motorcycle wonderland. Alas, easily 95 percent of them are small.

Actually much of what I saw of the Thai people is similar to the Cheyenne people (and they are totally separate for the Cheyennes originated in Southern Europe and are not of Asian decent). Carrying this thought farther, I compare the Thai and Cheyenne people in the Sand Creek manuscript to make a major point that impacted the Called Out People (Cheyennes) and Cloud People (Arapahos) in a major way.

This is Phraya Phichai Dub Hak. It is a small bronze of the huge statue of him in Uttaradit, Thailand. It originally belonged to my brother Font Subanna, but he sent it home with Pailin in 2016 as he was very aware of my interest in this great man. Phraya Phichai joins me at work every day as he guards my computer. (photo © Louis Kraft 2018)

When I visited Thailand in 2014, I first stayed at Pailin’s sister’s house (she had retired as a colonel from the Thai Army). After days Daranee Kostin, who is a special lady, finally said to Pailin, “When are you going to tell him I’m not your sister?” If you know anything about the Cheyennes you know where I’m going. … Daranee and Pailin were childhood, school, and adult friends (to this day).

Sitting on the top of a small cabinet near the front door of Daranee’s house was a bronze statue of Phraya Phichai Dub Hak (the soldier with the broken sword; actually he was a general). He intrigued me, grabbed my attention, and eventually I asked about him. What I learned about him was mind-boggling. My brother Sophon and niece Lek introduced him to me in Uttaradit, and Font, although not present, was front and center with this world of discovery (see the above caption). … Phraya Phichai was close to his king in a major time of woe, for Burma was invading Siam. The enemy was winning. During a major battle, and like George Armstrong Custer, he was at the front of his troops in battle. The sword in his right hand was broken by an attacker, but instead of retreating he charged forward. He and his soldiers won the battle, and eventually the invasion of Siam ended.

There is much more to Phraya Phichai Dub Hak. I have seen a handful of pages here, paragraphs there, and they all say basically the same thing—and as far as I’m concerned none of it is confirmed. I am certain that there is a ton of primary research in Thailand that is available and I want to see it. … Obviously my translator will become a close friend.

My future is before me and it is mine

I am in good shape with Errol & Olivia and can complete the manuscript anywhere in the world. The first Kit Carson book will be a novel and I can also complete it anywhere.* There is also going to be a nonfiction book on Kit, but I have more research to complete (this will happen before year’s end). Both books are major for me; so much so that if I don’t find enough primary source material to write the nonfiction manuscript, I will merge that information with another portion of his life. As said above there will be two books on the pirate Francis Drake; one nonfiction and one fiction. I began a novel on El Draque in the mid-1970s when I had an acting manager, and it is my intention to complete it. There is also a Chinese/western novel set in Monterey, California, waiting in the wings (researched and outlined), as well as a modern-day story that deals with the Anasazi and cannibalism in the American Southwest (this will be based upon one of my screenplays, and it will be a thriller). Once Errol & Olivia is published I will ramp up my research on the second nonfiction Flynn book (this can only be done in the USA). (There had been hope for a partnership on a Flynn book but this is no more—LK’s loss, and perhaps yours).

* The novel will deal with Kit Carson and the Diné (the Navajos). I have a draft that was agented and contracted but then the publisher decided to eliminate their western line. It was genre, meaning 65,000 words; I plan to expand it and make it into an historical novel. Like The Final Showdown (1992), most of the characters actually lived, but the two leading Navajos will be fictional: an old warrior and his granddaughter.

That’s about it in a nutshell. …. Yikes! Actually it’s a mouthful.

One last thing …

At this time my Sand Creek manuscript supersedes everything else. Time is short. I must focus on what is important to me. The blogs will eventually continue, but not until October at the earliest.

 

Louis Kraft, SoCal fires, earthquakes, Sand Creek Massacre, & an Errol Flynn tidbit

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


For starters Pailin and I hope that the day we celebrated Jesus Christ’s birth was a peaceful and loving one for you with your family and friends. … Also that you had a safe and uneventful New Year’s Eve. Ours was at Wat Thai (Thai Temple of Los Angeles in North Hollywood) praying and seeing some friends as we welcomed in 2018.

On 20dec2017 Mimi took this image of us at Jantana (pronounced Jan-ta-na) and Richard’s (pronounced Ri-chard’s) apartment in Northridge, California. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2017)


The year 2017, more than any other, has made me realize how
fragile life really is. For the record, I have a family of four—three ladies
and yours truly. I’ve survived some horrific car crashes, I’ve had guns
pointed at me, a knife at my throat, I’ve taken a motorcycle over a
a cliff, I’ve been knocked cold (I don’t know if this counts), and
I’ve survived cracking my skull open more than once as
well as surgeries that had to succeed or I would I have
been dancing with Angels long before now.

My view: I love walking on Mother Earth.

Fire, wind, more fire, & more wind … a SoCal story

Elsewhere I’ve documented the frightening Los Angeles and Ventura County fires of December 2017. It’s rough when you can watch flames billow into ever-growing puffs of brown smoke that obliterate the sky. You know that property is being destroyed and animals are dying.

This image dates to December 6, 2017, and is of a man attempting to calm a horse during the Sylmar/Creek fire. These fires in SoCal were absolutely devastating on horses and over livestock during these fires. My great friend and Apache scouts expert Layton Hooper commented numerous times about this image (as he also cares about animals). I couldn’t agree more with Layton’s views on horses and how they are innocent bystanders to man’s destruction of our world.

But often the men and women who combat these horrific Santa Ana winds that range upwards to 80 MPH and fuel the fires that ravage SoCal year-in-and-year-out fall under the radar. These people, these heroes, risk their lives on a daily basis. During the recent Sylmar/Canyon fire in the San Fernando Valley that put Pailin and I at risk (a December 6 LA government text read: Strong winds over night creating extreme fire danger. Stay alert. Listen to authorities.”), they worked 24-hour shifts to combat an enemy (wind and fire) that is a hundred times more devastating than the earthquakes that are associated with SoCal. These brave human beings deserve all our respect and thanks. Believe it or not, they aren’t alone for volunteers joined them along with fire fighters from other states as well as people serving jail time in California.

All of them are magnificent!!!

I have favorite animals. Just five: Wolves, coyotes, mountain lions (pumas), horses, and doberman pinchers, The last are dogs, and they are the most gentle animals I have ever known. The Pumas are beyond belief, and they are a major part of my life as I follow their struggle to remain free in SoCal. Today, tomorrow, and always. These photos are from an article in the 27Dec2017 issue of the Times. This young Puma was burned while attempting to flee from the Thomas fire. It has been rescued and is on its way to recovery.

… and the Thomas fire continues to burn (as of 30dec17).

Ye-ough!!! (a sound) … For California 2018 will be back to normal if what the LA Times just published is accurate, mainly that this winter would be one of the driest in California history. If true next year’s fires will again ravish the Golden State. Pailin’s and my home was at fire risk twice in 2017 (June and October).

This image of a condor and its chick was on the front page of the LA Times on 1jan2018, as it featured a story on endangered species chick no. 871, who should have left its cave and flew for the first time in December. It didn’t as the Thomas Fire ravished the Los Padres Sespe Condor Sanctuary. Scientists have recently seen its parents near the cave and hope that the chick has survived.

If fires attack Los Angeles in 2018 it is not going to be 1,000 homes destroyed, it is not going to be 2,000 homes destroyed, … it will be thousands upon thousands of homes destroyed. The homeless count in LA is currently 55,000 (how large is the city you live in?). If, and I pray God this never becomes reality, … if the 2018 fires destroy the San Fernando Valley (one of numerous valleys in the county of Los Angeles) 1.3 million people will become homeless; the threat was ominous in 2017. … Will it become reality in 2018?

Earthquakes? What are they? Fire is the numeral uno enemy to the Golden State.

Oh, I forgot to mention that global warming is little more than fiction. My view on this: Everyone who thinks global warning is little more than a left wing piece of baloney have got their fingers firmly stuffed somewhere.

The year 2017 is one for the California record books

It is official, 2017 has been the hottest year on record for California. It has also been the worst fire year on record, and the Thomas Fire that started in Ventura County (which borders Los Angeles County) and has raged north and into Santa Barbara County is the largest fire in California since they began keeping accurate records in the early 1930s. This fire began on December 4; it was still burning on December 30 (but supposedly 65 percent contained … homes are still threatened).

Something needs to be said about earthquakes

I have lived through the last two major earthquakes in SoCal: 1971 and 1994. I can’t tell you how often I have been quizzed about the horror of an earthquake when outside California. People I have met when giving talks or performances or on research trips are forever interested (some of them are terrified of experiencing one). … Let’s start this conversation with LK isn’t keen on living through a hurricane or a tornado.

I guess it’s all about perspective.

Let’s start with tornados. In 1974 I flew to Missouri to buy a 1951 Hudson Hornet, a great automobile that ruled NASCAR racing during the first half of the 1950s (I even wrote a screenplay about them cleaning up at the racetrack called Hornet; unfortunately my agent couldn’t sell it).

Time is short, and this blog is about four months late. Thus this old collage. This picture of the Hudson that came from Missouri was taken in the still-rural Northridge in the San Fernando Valley. The photo of the Camaro was taken overlooking the Pacific Ocean in northern San Diego County. … BTW, bets were out that I wouldn’t make a wedding in Tucson, Arizona, which was a little over a week after I bought the car. I covered the bets and won.

The Missourian picked me up at the airport. After checking out the Hornet and taking it for a test drive I bought the car. Tornado warnings were live on Missouri TV that morning. He and his family didn’t want me to leave. I ate his wife’s homemade ice cream and then allowed the family to show me the house where future U.S. president Harry Truman was born. I am a patient and polite cowboy. During this time I had visions of Judy Garland’s classic film The Wizard of Oz (1939) dancing around in my brain. If you don’t know the film, a tornado transports Judy’s character to the land of Oz. It was 1974 and I was picturing me and the 1951 Hudson Hornet being transported to the land of Oz.* Honestly, this was a living nightmare for me. When the seller’s family finally gave me a tearful goodbye about eight-thirty that morning I pushed the Hornet’s accelerator pad to the floor, … and hightailed it out of Kansas as quickly as I could.

From left: Hattie McDaniel, OdeH, and Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind. Olivia was nominated for a supporting Oscar in this film. She didn’t win. At first she was angry, but later was thrilled for Hattie’s win. I couldn’t agree more with her view. (photo in LK personal collection)

* The Wizard of Oz should have won the Oscar for best film of 1939 (I know, heresy). Gone with the Wind did. I have a large connection with Gone with the Wind due to Ms. Olivia de Havilland. Writing about her connection with this film will take up quite a number of pages in Errol & Olivia, and these words have and will flow speedily forward on the keyboard. Her story here is good stuff. No-no-no; it’s great stuff! All I want to say here is The Wizard of Oz, which took me decades to accept and like, is a great film, while Gone with the Wind, which I’ve hated since the first time I attempted to see it is not. For the record, I have never seen this film completely in one screening (and that includes seeing it in a movie theater; I walked out before falling asleep). I doubt this is a high recommendation.

Let’s get back to earthquakes. On February 8, 1971, I needed a place to sleep. My then girlfriend was living with her father. I parked my motorcycle next to her car in the apartment building’s underground parking lot and slept in it that night.

This image of LK was taken just months before the 9feb1971 earthquake. I’m sitting in my office just north of the apartment building where my then-girlfriend lived with her father. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

The next morning I was awake and reading the newspaper in her car when the earthquake struck. I was out of that parking structure in a flash and as far as I could be from the surrounding apartments. In front of me was a large swimming pool with tidal waves pounding the sides. The surrounding complex consisted of three-story apartments. They looked like old-time cartoons as they swayed back and forth in rhythm with the pool’s pounding waves.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake caught me asleep in bed in North Hollywood. It struck about four-thirty in the morning on January 17. Let me say one thing here. When a fairly large earthquake hits there is no guesswork. You know immediately what is happening. Get away from windows and anything that can collapse or fall on you.

Earthquakes don’t last long. One minute, two minutes, maybe three minutes and it’s over. There are after shocks that can go on for days.

Front and center in an unbelievable story

LK image choices are now being selected for Sand Creek and the Tragic
End of a Lifeway, and they will add great value to the book.

Pailin took this photo of me relaxing at home with guests on 13sept2017. This is one of the last images of me as I looked like this. A joke? I wish, but alas, no. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2017)

I know, I know, I’ve always known (nothing new here). For the record I’m working on the Sand Creek manuscript seven days a week until I deliver a first rough draft to the great editor-in-chief of OU Press, Chuck Rankin at the end of January. He has always been my friend since we met years back. By that I mean that he has done everything possible to see that my manuscripts saw publication, … and this was long before we signed the Wynkoop contract. Folks, in case you don’t know, OU Press is the largest and best publisher of Indian wars books in the world. In the world! They are my publisher, which makes me one of the luckiest guys in the world.

At times events happen and they affect all of our hearts in different ways. …
31dec2017 was one of those days, but with life there’s always hope.
Pain over the loss of a cherished person is always private. … Life
can be fickle. One day we’re here and healthy, but there is
no guarantee for tomorrow (I’m not talking about me).

A bashed-face and worse … that’s me!!!

Ouch! … for it is worse, and I hate to say it but this is the story of my life.

Christopher Juarez at the central Los Angeles Public Library in downtown on 19nov2017. I cannot begin to tell how much this young man helped me during my two days at the library studying the Nancy Morton microfilm from the Nebraska State Historical Society. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

On 11nov2017 I took the subway from the North Hollywood hub (the Red line) to the main LA Public Library. My bad from the beginning, but it was worse than that for good ol’ LK got lost. What should have been three miles of total walking turned into six + miles of walking. Huh??? Take one guess. LK was clueless and got lost. If you know downtown LA there are good places and there are bad places and I got to see all of them, including a male urinating in pure daylight (I know, this is not a major selling point for Los Angeles). When I finally reached the library I was in for a shock. It was November 11—Hello cowboy! … Veteran’s Day—and the library had shut down Friday, the 10th, through Sunday, the 12th, for the Veteran’s Day weekend. What can I say other than keep your views to yourself. That’s right, I don’t want to hear them.

My day excursion, which began at nine in the morning ended at 12:25 in the afternoon with roughly two and a half hours spent as LK walked as fast as he could. Again, and by my calculations, it was over six miles. … You do not want to know what my feet felt like that afternoon, for all you’ll get from me is a bunch of XXXs and !!!s.

See below for the continuation of this story. …

The creation of history

If I chose to list all the historians who have shaped history in their image you would be shocked. I know a very good Indian wars historian who once told me that he wanted to turn history upside down. Say what? Basically this person wanted to push Indian wars history to the extreme.

That’s right, and more often than you would ever guess historians do this. Facts don’t drive what they write, sensationalization does. Most of the time they choose people who are no longer with us as you can’t be charged with defaming the dead in the USA. This is not hard to do when you write about the American Indian wars or the Golden Age of the Cinema.

LK at Tujunga House on 5mar2017. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

This blog, as most in the near future, features events that led to the attack by Colorado Volunteers on people who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military on 29nov1864.

For the record I’ve been giving talks based upon reality for thirty years, and since 1986. These are talks wherein I know my subject matter and I don’t read. At the moment I’m on self-imposed sabbatical. The reason is simple: I have a book to complete that is of major importance to me.

Believe it or not, I have been persona non-grata for more years than I’d like to count. You do not want to know about people who turn their back to me when I walk past them. What’s their problem? Hell, I don’t know. I’ll say this, they ain’t my friends.

Barbara Hershey and a film I like

What can I say about Ms. Hershey other than I’d like to know her well enough that we could share our views on the world, living, and creativity. Given decent parts in film or class TV productions she has time and again proven how good of an actress she is.

Last of the Dogmen

Barbara Hershey played an anthropologist whose expertise was the Cheyenne Indians in Last of the Dogmen (Savoy Pictures, 1995). In this film, which always makes my top 50 (now 60) film list had a great quote that Barbara said. But first she had to deal with a modern-day bounty hunter played by Tom Berenger.

As stated elsewhere some of Hershey’s performances are top-notch, and certainly  in Last of the Dogmen and Defenseless. Also she is someone that I wish I knew. This, in the Kraft world, is a high recommendation. (photo in LK collection)

Berenger had found evidence that points to Cheyenne Indians from a time long gone killing escaped criminals, and he’s trying to learn if people from the mid-nineteenth century could have survived undiscovered into the mid-1990s. Hershey finds his quest ludicrous. And it is, but it opens a door to explore race relations between people from a time dear to my heart with those living in the mid-1990s. From the get-go the film is fantasy for the simple reason that there were no Cheyenne Dog Men (whites called them Dog Soldiers) at the November 29, 1864, massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians on Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, an attack that saw children used for target practice, an unborn child cut from his dead mother’s womb and scalped, … it gets worse, much-much worse. … Before the story can take off Hershey gives Berenger a history lesson on the Cheyennes along with their struggle to retain their freedom, land, and lifeway before again making it clear that Dog Men could not and did not murder the escaped convicts as there were no “Dog Men” from the 1860s living as they had in 1864 in modern times. Lordy-lordy, you have got to love this premise as it is a good one. Barbara’s quote in the film was great, but you’re not going to read the words in this blog. See the film.

Sand Creek players have been pounded time and again …

Certainly Ned Wynkoop has been labeled a “traitor” to his race, and an Indian-lover. This pounding centers on his acting without orders (not cool when you are in the military) to save white prisoners and bring seven Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs to Denver to discuss ending the 1864 Cheyenne war with John Evans, the second territorial governor of Colorado. One premise holds that the massacre at Sand Creek would have never happened if he had not done this.

LK as Ned Wynkoop in an one-man show seeing the sexually dismembered bodies of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos months after the butchery at Sand Creek on 29nov1864. (photo: Johnny D. Boggs during a dress rehearsal for performances at a Washita Battlefield National Historic Site symposium in 2008).

Really? All I’ll say here is that illogic follows and stampedes its way into the foreground.

This isn’t worth talking about, other than to say there were many participants in the events that led up to the attack on a Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Sand Creek in November 1864. It was not just one player, it was a combination of multiple players and all their actions. People make choices. You make choices; I make choices. So did Evans, Wynkoop, Colonel John Chivington, Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, Arapaho Chief Left Hand, and on and on.

The tragedy of Sand Creek is much more than an officer (Wynkoop) acting without orders to rescue four white children and bring seven Indian leaders to Denver to discuss ending a war. If illogical thinking rules the day, why not say that the Sand Creek village was “easy prey,” like some of those hunting estates where macho men with big guns can hunt big game that can’t escape as they are trapped within the preserve?

These people had their vaginas cut out, their penises hacked off. Their children had their skulls bashed in. The term “war crime,” didn’t exist in 1864, but it does now. What happened in 1864 was a war crime regardless of what it might have been called then. Pure and simple. You do this today, and you happen to be an American soldier, you will be tried for war crimes. … I’m not certain when this came to pass but it was certainly in place at the end of World War II when Nazis were charged with heinous crimes of genocide against the Jewish people. (BTW, “genocide” became a word in 1945).

These crimes live into the twenty-first century when on March 12, 2006, an American soldier (Specialist James Barker) raped and murdered a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. He and five soldiers with him then murdered her father, mother, and six-year-old sister in Mahmoudiya, twenty miles south of Baghdad. They burned the bodies in an attempt to cover up their crime.

… and the Cheyennes?

For starters there were a number of Southern Cheyenne bands trusting Chief Black Kettle’s efforts to remove them from the on-going war. Unfortunately their approximate location was known, making them an easy target. Chivington’s goal was never to fight Cheyenne Dog Men and Lakotas who rode the war trail farther north. Instead, he wanted a target that never expected to be attacked. Chivington would claim a lopsided victory with a huge death count that perhaps exceeded the total number of people that could have possibly been living in this Sand Creek village, and for a short time became a great Indian fighter.

From left: Leo Oliva, LK, and Fort Larned Chief Historian George Elmore. We are walking the on the parade ground, and we are heading toward the building that Wynkoop rented for his headquarters when he was a U.S. Indian agent, which was just outside the perimeter of the post. Good friends Leo and George have helped me oh-so many times over the years. Both have been instrumental in getting me to Kansas time and again to speak and perform, as well as aiding my research. … I can’t begin to tell you how much George has aided my Sand Creek research. This photo was taken on 20sept2012. Two days later Leo and I spoke on the now protected Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village that Major General Winfield Hancock destroyed in April 1867. … This part of Kansas is in my blood. It is one of my homes away from home.

What can I say. My Sand Creek proposal was 37 pages long. I presented a detailed outline of what I thought the final manuscript should include. It also stated that nothing was set in stone, that my research would define the flow of the manuscript. … Boy, is this a true statement.

Actually Chivington is going to have a smaller role than planned. Such is life. This said, his impact on the story is huge.

On 24apr1999 Cheyenne Peace Chiefs Gordon Yellowman (kneeling) and Lawrence Hart (standing right-center) blessed the Pawnee Fork village site. This was the first time that I spoke at Fort Larned. That’s George Elmore in the sergeant’s uniform at the left of the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1999)

Fort Larned plays an important role in the Sand Creek story. Black Kettle, Neva, Left Hand, Little Raven, William Bent, George Bent, John Smith, and Wynkoop all spent time there. The destruction of the Pawnee Fork village (about 35 miles west of the post) was a continuation of what began in the early 1860s.

Territorial governor John Evans has been pounded

But should he have been? I’m not so sure, and although I hate to admit this, I don’t totally agree with the University of Denver’s study of Evans, and his part in the disaster. Still, they uncovered key information regarding the governor ducking the issue while in Washington D.C., and he didn’t return to Denver until spring 1865.

As I didn’t use an image of John Evans in the Wynkoop book, and have not decided what image(s) of him that I’m going to use in Sand Creek, this color portrait of Black Kettle is good here. The chief and the governor met at Camp Weld on 28sept1864, and both walked away from that meeting with totally different views upon what had been decided. For all the chief’s efforts to avoid or end war he has been pounded as hard as the governor. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Let’s be up front, some of John Evans’ words and actions led to his downfall (which has been frighteningly similar to the racist backlash we have seen against the Southern states fight to remove themselves from the United States of America in the 1860s. Yikes!!!! How can the USA banish and remove one of the most important pieces of our history, the war between the states? Without a doubt slavery is heinous, and it has always been so. Owning another human being and playing god with his or her life is evil (but I’m talking from a modern POV). Times have changed in regards to racism for the better, but from what we have seen in 2017 we still have a long way to go.

Some of Evans’ proclamations are damaging. However, his attempts to avoid or end war were something he tried to do. More important, he left for the east on November 10, that was nineteen days prior to Chivington’s massacre of men, women, and children, and he didn’t learn of the battle until days afterwards. Evans wanted war and wanted the Cheyennes and Arapahos removed from the territory but he had no clue that this would happen to the people who tried to end the war.

Art of Mr. Carson dating to about 1845. (LK personal collection)

Evans’ fall from grace is similar to Kit Carson’s. … Folks, Kit was a good friend to the American Indians. He spoke seven languages: English, Spanish, and five native languages. If he were the butcher that modern times attempts to label him, why would he speak (at least partially) the words of the Navajos, Mescalero Apaches, Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Utes? Oh, I forgot to mention that he had three wives: Arapaho, Cheyenne, and a Latina of Spanish decent. One more fact, he converted to Catholicism to marry his Spanish wife. Does this sound like a racist? I think not. … Pray God I live long enough to complete two books that deal with Carson and his relationship with American Indians. … One fiction; one nonfiction.

John Evans has become an evil person. … Really? Guess what? John Evans was a human being who thought he was doing right when he did it. I’m not going to tell you that he was a good person or an evil one. If I do my job his words and actions will allow you to make your own decision of who he was.

Ditto everyone else, and this includes John Chivington. BTW, he will be the last piece of the manuscript to be completed. Oh, he has a presence now, but it is not close to being finished. Like Evans and everyone else, it is my job is to show what he said and what he did. There is nothing worse than an author (history or fiction, it matters not) who has a preconceived premise on an historical personage and will stay the course regardless of how much discovery disproves their premise. God forbid they shy away from their damnation of a human being because they see facts that shoots arrows into their task of destroying a person’s life. And especially people who are gone and cannot defend themselves. Yep, folks you can defame the dead in the USA (but be careful if you attempt to defame the living, for then you might set yourself up to join the homeless wandering the streets of LA).

Back to the reality of our times

Is it ethical to sell out truth for greater book sales? Honestly, you don’t want to know my opinion on this. Many writers have done this over the years, and it isn’t confined to the Indian wars. The most infamous—in my opinion—was Charles Higham.

In his 1980 best-selling piece of slop called Errol Flynn: The Untold Story, without proof Higham wrote that Flynn was both homosexual and a Nazi spy. Over the years real historians have debunked all of Higham’s falsehoods. Still the general public, if they remember anything about Flynn, it is that he was homosexual Nazi spy. Hell, the media still sells this as there is nothing better than trashing a star name for the simple reason that the public gobbles it up. As said above there is no punishment for defaming the dead in the USA. Not so in Canada; Higham’s book was also published in the land of our neighbors to the north. Flynn’s daughters Deidre and Rory went after Higham in Canada. To avoid going to court and potential prosecution Higham never set foot in Canada for the rest of his life. … I can’t speak about Higham’s other film biographies save one—Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (1984). I presented Olivia with a lot of questions about this book in letters and in person. Olivia made one reply in writing in which she dismissed Higham with three words (and none were profane). In person the only thing she said about him and his book on her and Joan was that he never contacted her, never asked her one question.

Was Higham a charlatan? Are other historians charlatans? I believe in challenging history. I also believe that it must be done ethically and not by presenting outrageous statements that are fiction-based on preconceived premises with the lone goal of destruction.

Another story

He was flesh and blood, had a deep baritone voice, was a college professor, had lived through the revolution of the 1960s, had evolved into the 1970s, and when I met him in the 1980s he had fine-tuned his persona. Oh, I forgot, he was also a writer. Charm oozed from him. He instantly became a friend (think 1989 in San Diego).

Years passed. It was now 1995 and we were at the Western Writers of America (WWA) convention in Cheyenne, Wyoming (I’m foggy on the location but think the timing was with the publication of Custer and the Cheyenne).

I’m going to pull from a major lesson I learned from Errol Flynn’s magnificent memoir, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, which was published shortly after his death in 1959. Mainly, that at times one must remain vague to protect friends, former lovers, and yours truly. I hope that what I share here is okay. Am back to the writer from the 1960s. He was working on a book wherein he claimed his subject outlived his death by decades. “Do you believe he wasn’t murdered?” He honestly replied that he did believe that this westerner was murdered. “Why are you writing this manuscript?” He again honestly answered that it would sell books.

Kudos to him for his honesty. At the same time his words now mimic the truth of today’s world. If the truth gets in the way of your preconceived premise, dismiss it. If someone confronts you on your lie, one-up them and call them “little Billy,” or “bullshitting Johnny,” or “sex stalker Alex.” The new key words here are: “Fake News.” Point your finger at them, scream, and if possible see that your hateful rants explode all over social media. …

Luckily for me the Dennis the Menace cartoons continue to live in the Los Angeles Times (this cartoon appeared in the 22nov17 edition of the paper). Although cartoonist Hank Ketcham is long gone, his wonderful creation continues to live at dennisthemeance.com and in various newspapers. The North America Synd. holds the 2017 copyright.

Good Lord, is this really today’s world? If yes, I need say no more.

The struggle to bring the Tsistsistas (Cheyennes) into their new world

Ladies and gents, separating myth and fiction from fact is an hellacious task, and one I’ve struggled with for years now. Also, unfortunately, no one is ever going to get all the facts straight. It is an impossible task.

Believe it or not the Cheyennes have been mostly painted as villains throughout most of their history. Their views and their facts have been almost totally ignored as little more than lies. There’s an adage, and it is that the conqueror writes the history books. … The vanquished are savages or worse and the winners are heroes who have saved mankind.

… and this includes some mixed-blood Cheyennes

I’ll mention two here: Julia Bent and her step brother Charles Bent. Their father was trader William Bent, who plays a fairly large role in the manuscript, but surprisingly wasn’t as I expected him to be (this statement should have a few exclamation points as the William Bent I now know is not the William Bent I thought I knew). … I can’t begin to tell how many hours I’ve spent on Julia and Charley. I know them somewhat, but I wish more. She is little more than a beautiful image that appears and disappears during the tumultuous times of the 1860s while Charles has been pounded to hell as little more than a vicious killer.

George Bent was Julia’s older brother and Charley’s older step-brother. He lived well into the twentieth century and left a wealth of information for anyone willing to dig and understand, and by that I mean cross-reference and closely check what he wrote.

If you believe just half of the recordings of supposed Cheyenne raids between 1864 and 1867, Charley Bent was named way-too-many times as a traitorous leader of perhaps thirty percent of these raids, and yet when he died he had not yet reached his twentieth year, and this is an easy fact to prove regardless of David Lavender’s fanciful words without a drop of proof in Bent’s Fort (1954) or Halaas & Masich’s tons of research citations in Halfbreed (2004), which simply muddies the water while providing little support for important text in their biography of George Bent.

I don’t have much on either Julia or Charles, but what I do have will be in the book for both were exceptional young people during a time of death and destruction. I won’t come close to sharing who they really were, but I will present them to you in an honest way while at the same time destroying some of the undocumented baloney that has been printed and reprinted about them ad nauseam.

There is Sand Creek Massacre research coming that will open some eyes

The misinformation and out-and-out fabrications of reality in the Sand Creek story is mind-boggling. These ongoing fabrications range from Laura Roper becoming Black Kettle’s sexual object to Isabelle Eubank being five when the Cheyennes gave her to Wynkoop on September 12, 1864 (a date that is improperly documented easily sixty percent of the time).

A wonderful research surprise in Downtown LA

A young wife was captured one day after the Cheyenne raid that captured Isabelle, her mother, younger brother, a relative, and Laura Roper. This young woman, like those taken with Isabelle, also plays a key if small role in the story. I had seen most if not all of the published documentation about her. Her name was Nancy Morton. She along with many other whites were, during an horrendous string of a few days mostly along the Platte River Route survived seeing their families and loved ones murdered and hacked to pieces before their eyes. Traveling settlers, ranchers, station employees were attacked, many murdered, while a small number of whites were taken prisoner. There is an old cliché, “Save the last bullet for yourself,” as death or captivity by Indians was not something anyone wanted to experience. … Nancy and a boy named Daniel Marble survived the attack on their wagon train.

I have spent a lot of good time with Marty Vestecka Miller, of the Nebraska State Historical Society, who secured the interlibrary loan of a microfilm reel on Nancy Morton for me. As the only library in the 100-library system of Los Angeles that still had microfilm readers that could also print was the central library in downtown Los Angeles I had to set up the loan there as the microfilm could not leave the library.

The west entry to the Central LA Public Library in downtown Los Angeles on 18nov2017. The library is a treasure, both inside and outside. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

On November 18 I got wise and looked at a map of the subway exit and the downtown library. They looked shockingly close to each other. On this day I used the Hope Street exit from the subway, looked to my left and could see the library two and a half blocks distant. On this day I worked closely with Christopher Juarez (pictured above), who not only got me set up on the microfilm machine but made me aware that I didn’t have to pay for printouts of the pages, but could scan them and email them to myself free of charge. Folks, when you are looking at over 250 images this is a pretty cool savings. Christopher worked closely with me on this day and then the next day as he ensured that I obtained every image that I needed. I have nothing but kudos to say about Christopher. The city of Los Angeles should give this young man a pay raise, and I’m not joking here. Los Angeles is lucky to employ him. Good work needs to be rewarded. Mayor Giradi, if you see this post or if you hear of this post, know one thing: Christopher Chavez is an extraordinary employee and the city is lucky to have him.

LK’s workstation at the Central Los Angeles Public Library in the History Department on 19nov2017. Cool times for LK. (photo ©  Louis Kraft 2017)

The people of Sand Creek

The major players range from the second territorial governor of Colorado Territory, the chief editor and co-partner of the most successful newspaper in Denver during the 1860s and beyond, the commanding colonel of the District of Colorado, the official U.S. interpreter for all four major treaties with the Cheyenne Indians between 1851 and 1867, a major partner of the most successful trading post who married into the Cheyenne tribe, one of his mixed-blood sons, and the one man who dared to act for he thought was for the good of mankind and has since been termed a traitor to his own race. They were ambitious, had views of success in their dreams, but like you and I had to survive in a world beyond their control.

I know. Where’s Cheyennes Black Kettle, Lean Bear, or Bull Bear; and Arapahos Left Hand, Neva, and Little Raven? Trust me, for they are a comin’ to life, … I want them to be surprises; I want them to explode off the pages. Actually Black Kettle and Little Raven will surprise you, but unfortunately I simply don’t have enough on the others to allow them to also dominate. Still Left Hand was a person I wish I could have known in life.

More important, and like most of us, they thought that what they did was right when they did it. … What I’ve learned is not what I wanted to know. I’m writing the manuscript as a biography through the eyes of (currently) nine people. I’m doing everything I can to be in their point-of-view (POV), a film term.

This is my lady, Pailin, on the bluffs to the west of the 1864 Sand Creek battlefield. Our terrific friends John and Linda Monnett took us to the isolated site in 2014. You want to read good history pick up some of John’s books that deal with the Cheyennes. … Pailin and I are totally different in all phases of our lives, and yet she supports everything that I do. I pray to my God that I am capable of supporting everything that she does. Life and love is a two-way street. You won’t believe what is in our future. (photo © Louis Kraft & Palin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Where the hell am I? Simply, I’m treading water in the middle of pure hell. Does this sound negative? Probably, but it shouldn’t be as I’m inching closer to completing perhaps the most important manuscript of my life. If true, I must see Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway through to print. Folks, I can’t see this happening before 2019. This means I need to live another two years. Doable? I think so, … I hope so. Time will tell.

This is the OU Press dust jacket for the Wynkoop book; I’ve had some great covers over the years but this jacket is by far my favorite. It was an image that I requested, and it was an image that the art director did great work.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has 37 contracted images. Three will be maps; that leaves 34 photos or art.Good times for LK to fill in the blanks. At this moment I have chosen 16 (as I don’t own the rights to all these images the process to purchase and determine the use fees is under way. Actually several have already been procured, and all that needs to happen is working out the publishing details and paying the use fees. I hate to say it but at this point in time I must become secretive. Of the 16 I’ve previously used six of them. This is more than I hoped to use, but the images that will again be used are mandatory to telling the story of the events that led up to the Sand Creek attack and its aftermath.

For the record Chuck Rankin had requested I place as many women in the manuscript as possible. My research leading to the creation of the proposal and its acceptance was less than sparkling, meaning that there were no women who would be in the manuscript. Over the last three years of research this view has changed. I mentioned a couple of young ladies above. This is, for me, great news. Hopefully they will come to life when the book is published, even if their presence is small, for they are oh-so important to the Sand Creek story.

A small repetition

My Sand Creek proposal was a very-detailed thirty-seven pages, but it also included a “get out of jail” pass. This simply means that as a writer-historian I track all the usual suspects and try to follow where the trail leads. That is, the documentable facts. Actions and words define character. My job is not to create villains and heroes; rather it is to present people to you. If I do my job correctly you will make your own decisions of who they were and what happened.

As said above, this is a seven-day-a-week job. I’m up between four and four-thirty and often don’t get to bed until nine, ten, or later. … You guessed it. Sometimes I have to crash. But even on these days I must research and/or add word count.

I love what I do.

An Errol Flynn tidbit

I want to go off course here while still tiptoeing the straight and narrow. Thank you, Mr. Flynn. I’m not being sarcastic here, for Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways is the best book that I’ve ever read. His book dealt with time and memory, it dealt with good and bad, success and failure, and protecting the innocent in more ways than one (for example: Not saying much about a person or event, changing a key fact or two, or names of people that Mr. Flynn did not want to hurt, or perhaps because he did not want to be hurt).

The Flynn photo used on the dust jacket for the first printing of My Wicked, Wicked Ways. (photo © Esquire, Inc. 1958)

For the record, a successful writer named Earl Conrad was hired by Flynn’s publisher (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) to spend time with him at his home in Jamaica in 1959. Flynn had received a good advance to write his memoir, but he was almost at the end of his time on earth, was having trouble completing the manuscript, and needed help. Flynn was self taught, literate, and well published. He always had a story to tell, forever stood firm for what he believed, and never shied away from anything in his life. Without checking, and perhaps it is in Conrad’s memoir of his time with Flynn or in Thomas McNulty’s Errol Flynn: The Life and Career (by far the best biography on Flynn), but I think Flynn shared about 200,000 words during a handful of weeks with his guest Conrad. Flynn would see and sign-off on the galleys of his memoir but then died before seeing his last book published. (I’ll deal with this in my third book on Flynn; perhaps my second if I get lucky and something I want to do happens.)

My friends, … those of you who fear that I’ll never complete the first book
on Errol Flynn (and Olivia de Havilland), relax, for that book is closer
to publication than you think. Moreover, the two other planned
books on Mr. Flynn will happen. The second or third
books—there is no order here—will blow you
away in many ways.

Closing thoughts

There are pieces of my life, and luckily they didn’t deal with life and death on a major scale or decisions that would affect hundreds and thousands of people. Luckily I’ve lived in the shadows of time. Honestly, I think that this is a better place to be … for if I lived in earlier times when I would have had a target on my back as I would not have stepped in line and said, “Yes sir!” Luckily I didn’t live in the 1860s, for if I had, I’m certain that I would have been murdered on the streets of Denver as Captain Silas Soule was.

Still things have happened and they have affected my life in more ways than I’ll ever admit. During those times I wasn’t smiling. Looking back I can’t stop chuckling.

The little angel sitting on my right shoulder just whacked me in the face. The little devil sitting on my left shoulder simply snickered and said, “You wimp, you deserved that!”

What it all comes down to is life—my life.
My view is simply that you and I have different views of
our lives. … I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sand Creek Massacre, Errol & Olivia, Louis Kraft, and a perfect storm

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


Rod Taylor, Michael Parks, Sam Shepard. OUCH!
Three actors who have played roles in my life are
all gone in one godawful 2017.
Who’s next? Me?

Parks* and Taylor have been favorite actors since I discovered them, and this has continued throughout my life even though some of their films and appearances on TV weren’t in top-notch productions.

In LK personal collection.

Still, fully ninety percent of their performances that I saw shined.

Michael Parks also has the distinction of being my favorite singer of all time.

* Kevin Smith directed Red State (2011), a film in which Michael Parks delivered one of my favorite performances of all time. If you don’t know anything about Parks see Kevin Smith’s memory of Michael Parks. Warning: There are some foul words, but the interview is from the heart of a director who viewed Michael Parks as a good person and an acting genius—something I agree with. Better, Parks’ performance shows how a person can play evil on screen while being charming, charismatic, and certain that everything he does is absolutely for the good when he does it.

I haven’t seen all that many of Shepard’s films and I don’t think I’ve seen any of his TV work. Still he always adds intense credibility to every performance that I’ve seen.**

** All three have films on my top 60 film list.


Time moves forward at lightening speed, and as the years have passed I have had a few-too-many encounters with the grim reaper.

As the body grows frailer, and as it is harder and harder to swing a blade with deadly intent I have come to cherish life. Shockingly, this is new to me as I have always been “charge forward with guns blazing.”

Two projects that are a long time coming

  • Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
    I plan on delivering a first rough draft to my editor, Chuck Rankin (OU Press), in December or January 2018, and the final draft before 2018 ends.
  • Errol & Olivia
    Research is continuous, and every so often when I have a few spare minutes I open the draft and add information. Right now I’m trying to confirm if Flynn’s first wife, Lili Damita, earlier had married the great film director Michael Curtiz or not. This must be confirmed without a doubt.

Below is an update on both.

Wandering through a life rife with change

I’ve been walking between the races since 1970 (but really it had been earlier as my parents had an open door policy no matter what a person’s race was). That year I joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which is/was like a continental Peace Corps. I had wanted to work with American Indians (even at that age), and the two other possibilities were African Americans (Blacks back then) and Latinos (Chicanos then). There was a lot of training at the University of Texas in Austin, … and afterwards we—the other candidates and I—partied. Big time. We were housed in tall a dorm (ladies on one floor and guys on another), and the celebrations went deep into the night in various dormatory rooms (two rooms that shared a bathroom).

Great friend Dennis Riley, then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, took this image a few days after my last final at SFVSC (now CSUN) in June 1969. That day was my first acting publicity shoot, and this image represented how I often dressed while earning my BA. I had picked up the god-awful nickname of “Tex” in college as I often wore a cowboy hat. “Tex”? Yee-ough! (a sound; not a word) (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

One night in the wee hours I said something to a married couple that they enjoyed but a Chicano who would eventually select people to work with Latinos didn’t like. Suddenly I had a knife at my throat as he grabbed me from behind. I was scared to death but had my wits and kept calm. In between his bursts of rage I pointed out that he had fifteen and perhaps twenty witnesses. Did he intend to kill them too? I also pointed out that if he killed me his cause was DOA (dead on arrival).

He let go of me, and let me tell you that I was one happy cowboy to see the sun rise that morning. Surprisingly at breakfast, which began at six, I had become a celebrity. This was stupid, and I hated it. From my view I was damned lucky to be alive. … A few weeks later the American Indian, Black, and Chicano group leaders chose their candidates a la choosing a sand lot football team. I was chosen early by a Black group from Oklahoma. A week of living with a Black family in Sapulpa (Oklahoma), more training in Austin, back to Sapulpa, and back to Texas before being assigned to Oklahoma City. My supervisor in OK City, Cheetah Gates, told me to ditch the cowboy boots when he saw them. I asked why. “The brothers don’t like cowboys,” he said. “If you want to live don’t wear the boots.” I took him at his word.

During the summer of 1976 Kitty Moore was playing one of the leads in a Texas Tech theater department play (Lubbock, Texas). She was about to begin her junior year in college. What I saw that summer was an eye opener. Lubbock was a mass of racial inequality and hatred, it struggled with what appeared to be a drug culture that grew by the day, and a theater department that was split by two different cliques. Some of my not so-good  experiences in Lubbock initiated the writing of my first screenplay, and surprisingly it landed me my first screenwriting agent. I based the female lead on what I viewed as the essence of who Kitty Moore was (she eventually read a draft of Laird Francis and liked it).

This was just the beginning. By the mid-1970s I was writing screenplays and a number of them dealt was race (this came about after a summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, a place I was lucky to put in my rearview mirror without being tarred and feathered as racism in the city and factionalism in the Texas Tech theater department was rampant that that time). Most of my screen plays were current day, or at least historically based in the 1970s. The two exceptions included 1) Wonderboat, an epic tragedy that dealt with U-boats during WWII, and 2) Corsair, which dealt with the Englishman John Ward who became a feared Tunis pirate during the early seventeenth century.* By the mid-1980s I was writing and selling baseball articles, but soon changed focus to the American Indian wars (writing for periodicals and speaking at symposiums).

* Drafts of my screenplays are housed in the Louis Kraft Collection at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, New Mexico). For more information about Wonderboat see Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view.

In 1999 I wrote for a space industry firm that had one customer: Hughes. My major deliveries usually consisted of about 1,000 pages of documentation (and you would choke if I told you what Hughes paid for it). My editor worked in the company’s headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, as did my manager. Most of the documentation department was in Herndon except for one writer in Colorado, one in Northern California, and yours truly in the South Bay of Los Angeles County. That summer all of us attended week-long demonstrations at headquarters that dealt with using code-based software to create documentation that could be delivered to multiple types of output while discussing the difficulty of such a massive change while still making our deliveries on deadline.*

* This didn’t happen during my time in the space industry, but I later experienced moving from WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) book design to code-based production tools that could deliver documentation in various formats at the now defunct Sun Microsystems and later at Oracle.

The editor and I had a great long-distance working relationship, and during the evenings she became my tour guide, dinner companion, and drove me to Leesburg where I spent time with Wild West editor Greg Lalire at Primedia’s headquarters (they then published a great grouping of about 12 history magazines).

While there I verbally pitched and sold an article on Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyennes to the then editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History (it was published as “Between the Army and the Cheyennes” in the Winter 2002 issue).

Being so close to Washington D.C. I had negotiated not flying home until Sunday. That Saturday my space-industry editor took me to the National Archives and we worked together. I liked her, but she had a dual-personality that I didn’t know about until I returned to Los Angeles. She had told me about the “good ol’ boys” at headquarters, but after I flew home I became one of them. I think that this was all in her head, but that doesn’t matter. She began calling my home phone but her voice had turned demonic and threatening. Eventually I received and unmarked package. Inside was an oversized mailing envelope with one word in bold red ink: “SHAME” (there was hair inside the envelope). Creepy. I kept it for DNA evidence.

My father Louis Sr. (left), brother Lee, and me. I’m on a 1970 Triumph Trophy 500. The bike survived both accidents described below, although the collision with the girl that outweighed me turned me into a gimp for a couple of months and the Triumph required a lot of work to fix. For the record I was wearing a helmet during both crashes. (photo © Louis Kraft, 1972)

While racing around turns on a narrow mountain dirt trail, the motorcycle in front of me suddenly stopped when the path ended. To avoid ramming the motorcyclist I attempted to slide around him as I braked. I almost pulled it off, but instead took my Triumph over a cliff. On another occasion an oversized girl who was running hit me broadside as I exited a driveway at low speed. My hand jerked the accelerator, the Triumph shot into the street, jumped a curb, and left me knocked out and hanging from a chainlink fence. Car wise, the worse was hitting the center divider of the CA 134 freeway headfirst at high speed, the car spun and took out the left side on the center divider, spun in the opposite direction and destroyed the rear end, and this is where the car stopped. Shockingly I walked away from the crash (what helped was that it was two days before Christmas 2010 and traffic was light).

Being vague has become a way of life to protect numero uno—yours truly

I’ve been coy, or rather vague, elsewhere on social media. That’s just me, but the horror of an end stares me in the face, and for multiple reasons. … I have three ladies to protect, three lives to see long into their futures. You know one of the ladies but the other two will remain unknown. I also have multiple books to complete. This is a massive task but I have every intention of completing it. Unfortunately there are pointers that hint that the future may not be as I envision it.

LK and Pailin on 2sept2016. It was just minutes before I would be prepped for throat surgery. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Actually I’m staring at something that I cannot possibly complete today as the story is ongoing and without end (unless …?). This leads me to a place that I have ignored, been vague, or worse I have refused to discuss. I’m going to try and do that in this blog, and hopefully with a minimal number of words while still talking about Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and Errol & Olivia status.

In September 2016 I had my second operation that year (both were in my ear, nose, and throat specialist’s surgery center in Northridge, California). It was the twentieth surgery to date and was a throat operation (in April I had my second sinus surgery there). As advertised it would improve my breathing. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprising as I had been warned that the recovery would not be fun, it easily took two weeks of pure hell as the drugs to mellow the pain flat out didn’t work.

LK joking while waiting to be prepped for throat surgery on 2sept2016. I was relaxed and enjoying myself. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Two previous operations had eliminated cancer, and if they had not happened I would have long ago begun dancing with angels. One removed a portion of my spine, and if this didn’t happen I would have stopped walking fourteen years ago. … I have other problems now, for earlier this year breathing again reared its ugly head, but this time he brought his pals with him. Walking had been making great strides between late September 2016 and the beginning of June 2017 as I averaged fourteen miles per week. … The phrase, “all things must pass,” has been around forever, but for me this couldn’t happen soon enough as it began to get scary in mid-spring 2017. By this time isolated incidents slowly began to become ongoing events to the point of concern. Worse, I hadn’t been able to figure out why this was happening and neither could my specialists.

I know … still vague! Sorry, but I have to ease into this.

I’m a fighter. I have three aforementioned ladies to protect,
I have books to write, and I have every intention of willing myself to do this.

A quest for truth

Many books contain errors that have been perpetrated for decades or longer. Sometimes this is because the “so-called” fact has been printed so often that it is accepted as truth. Other times it is because of laziness, or worse because it propels a writer’s story forward even though he or she knows that the fact is fictitious. This leads directly to writers who ignore proven facts simply because it blows holes in their set-in-stone premise. And it gets worse than this, for sometimes writers create facts and quotations and cite obscure material figuring that most readers don’t have the source, and the handful that might have the documentation won’t bother to check the citation. … The above is a mouthful, but not my point. Like medicine, history is not an exact methodology and the reason has always been in place. Simply stated, if five people participate in a specific event there is a good chance that their views on what happened differ. Sometimes slightly but at times considerably. Occasionally a known fact can confirm truth in a documented event while at other times deciding upon what really happened is not an easy task.

A couple examples follow:

  • Edmund Guerrier and Julia Bent were two mixed-blood Cheyennes who were young at the time of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory on 29nov1864. They were both in the village on that tragic day, but luckily both escaped death and sexual dismemberment. Some books have them married on that tragic day, but without any proof. Actually they weren’t married, and wouldn’t be for many years in the future (and I can prove this).
  • LK speaking about Errol Flynn, Olivia Havilland, and The Santa Fe Trail (1940) at the Festival of the West, Scottsdale, Arizona, on 19mar2005. (photo by Johnny D. Boggs)

    Olivia de Havilland is a good case in point. Fortunate enough to spend time with her I know firsthand that she is a warm, kind, and caring person. She is also charming and very intelligent, and can easily shift from topic to topic without hesitation, such as moving from being cast in Gone with the Wind to Jack Warner to modern-day USA politics. To be precise she specifically told me how well she knew Warner (great stuff here, but not in agreement with what has been published). In regards to Gone with the Wind, she had a “take no prisoners” stance. On the visit wherein we talked about her landing the role of Melanie I was well prepared for the conversation. By that I had notes with me relating to her landing the role including the points-of-view of fired director George Cukor and producer David O. Selznick, along with additional storylines. She listened intently to what I shared, and then proceeded to inform me what really happened. Like most primary sources—and I don’t care if it is 1860s Colorado Territory or 1930s Hollywood—everything must be considered in an attempt to piece together what happened. At times I have placed conflicting, but just as valid, points of view of an event in my notes. I’ll give you one guess of what is going to happen here.

An Active Person am I

Always! I learned how to duel with a foil with the great Ralph Faulkner, who won the World Amateur Sabre Championship in 1928, and represented the USA at the Olympics that year and in 1932. He had come to Hollywood to become an actor in the early 1920s (even playing Woodrow Wilson in a silent film) but soon began his great career as a stunt double and as a choreographer of duels for decades, as well as having has own Falcon Studios on Hollywood Boulevard where he taught fencing for over fifty years.

My partner parries an LK slashing sabre lunge to her midriff at North Hollywood Park in December 1981. Although mostly cropped, our coach and the cameraman dominate the foreground of this image as they taped the workout. (photo © Louis Kraft 1981)

I grew up with a pool, swam in the Pacific, and up until early 2013 swam (the last years in 24-Hour Fitness pools, which are great!). A lot of sandlot football, and this resulted in my first real injury in the late 1960s. Ditto sandlot baseball (my parents refused me playing on a Little League team), but between 1980 and 1990 I played ten years of year-round softball (for the Kool-Aid Kids), but this ended in early 1990 with a knee operation and my brother’s sudden death (the most shocking event of my life then and it still is today). At that time I had also been running since the late 1970s, usually doing three and a half miles or seven miles per day. Let me tell you that running and swimming (and I was doing thirty-plus laps at 24-Hour Fitness without a break when I ran out of time) keep you in shape. Think the 24-Hour Fitness pools are Olympic sized (they were certainly the same size as the pool that I used in college). Oh, I also learned swashbuckling, or stage dueling, in the early 1980s ( and fought and choreographed duels for the stage), and I still work out with a blade when all is well.

A change of pace

In fall 2015 I redid the front yard during my spare time (I had previously removed the grass and already had a lot of drought-resistant vegetation growing in the yard). I leveled the ground, put in walkways of rock and stones and wood chips, and created a maze of cactus, aloe vera, and other plants that provide beauty (at least to my eyes). Every time I stand or sit in the front yard I feel as if I am in New Mexico or Arizona or the original SoCal. This was easy work and I never broke a sweat.

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Still, a lot of the work was on my knees, and this is where I discovered a problem for in this position I began to huff and puff. I completed the work about the second week of December but the breathing problem bothered me. I began searching for answers, and the only one I came up with of pointed to my heart.

My heart has always skipped a beat and my cardiologist and I have tracked it for decades without any problems. Early in January 2016 I visited him (he’s also my internist), and he ran all the usual tests and everything came up negative.

How? Why? Something was going on. … Finally he had me blow into a breathalyzer. I failed—twice. He prescribed an inhaler and pills to control blood pressure, which he felt would climb (my blood pressure had always been good, but soon it would become a challenge).

Final LK art of my internist/cardiologist of over twenty years, and writing partner on The Discovery. (art © Louis Kraft 2017). If I ever complete The Discovery page on my website I intend to use this image on it.

Late on January 16 while using the inhaler for the night dose I fell backwards into the bathtub and cracked the top of my skull open. Blood flowed onto the wall and into the tub. My legs were hooked over the side of the tub, my ass was in the tub, and my back and head propped against the back of the tub and the wall. The blood was slippery and it continued to flow. I couldn’t get a firm grip with my hands and had become a turtle stuck on his back. Pailin, who had had just gone to bed, heard the crash, and rushed to help me get out of the tub. Afterwards she cleaned me up and I cleaned the bathroom. She asked if should go to the ER. … I shook my head. My brain functioned and I had performed a few simplistic concussion tests. I felt I okay, but told her I’d go to the internist/cardiologist in the AM. Before going to bed I called my PPO’s nurse line, and she recommended a night in the ER. … Pailin had a long day in front of her and I didn’t think the injury was that bad.

The following morning in my doctor’s office the nurse cleaned the wound as well as possible. She told me that I’d need staples. After checking me over the doctor asked if I was dizzy, felt faint, or had passed out before I fell. I told him no, that I was wide awake when I hit. He confirmed the nurse’s view, I walked across the driveway that separated the medical building from Providence Tarzana Medical Center, and checked into the ER. … The wound required six staples.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

Folks, this manuscript dominates my days. As said above a delivery is due to my editor in December 2016 or January 2017. Alas, the word count grows and grows and grows. This is similar to the situation I had with the Wynkoop book contract. I luckily had then Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin behind me then, and he was again responsible for the Sand Creek contract. Actually Chuck pitched the story to me. I refused, but he refused to accept “no” for an answer. It took us two years to work out a proposal that was acceptable to both of us. … It is still acceptable to me, but this story has been pure hell to write. The research is ongoing, and as I’ve said elsewhere I put in about eight hours of research to about two hours of writing. And this is probably an understatement on the research side.

Pailin studying David Mann’s painting, “First of Five Thousand,” at the then Autry National Center on 7mar2015. Unfortunately the Plains Indians are not identified, something that I would have liked. The painting’s story is about a raid that is returning home to Canada with horses stolen in Mexico. Two thoughts: 1) That was one hell of a raid, and 2) That was a long trek to complete and return to their village safely with 5,000 horses. Considering that unknown Indians have successfully driven 5,000 horses from Mexico to Canada sounds like a movie plot and not reality, I like this painting. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

For the record, the Cheyenne storyline is now jumping forward in leaps and bounds. John Chivington and John Evans move forward at a good clip. As do Black Kettle and Arapaho Little Raven. These two chiefs are coming to life through their actions and words. But these four aren’t the only ones: Ned Wynkoop, Rocky Mountain News owner and editor William Byers, and John Smith are also beginning to shine. Alas, William Bent is a little behind schedule, but this should end soon. Although Chuck Rankin was pleased with the Sand Creek fight that was in the 37-page book proposal years back, it too has changed considerably as I know more now. Better, a lot of people are coming to life in what is currently chapter 13 as the fight turns into a scramble of single events that merge together to create the whole.

Pailin took this image of LK and Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association Conference in Newport Beach, California, on 17oct2014. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2015)

Earlier this year the manuscript lost a chapter when I decided merge chapters 1 and 2 together. The reason was simple: The manuscript is people driven regardless if they are major players, supporting players, or simply players who appear and then are never seen again. Too much time was being spent before I introduced a Cheyenne who emerged from the mists of time. Unfortunately his life ended tragically. And of course I’m struggling to confirm his presence at an early meeting with William Bent or reject it.

As in the past I take my time and challenge what I write and what I consider required for the manuscript. And time is ticking, … tick, tick, tick. It is time to walk the walk, that is it is time to put up or shut up. …

Right after I learned of Sam Shepard’s death I again watched his and Barbara Hershey’s film, Defenseless (1991). It has been on my top 60 film list, off it, back on it, and off it ad nauseam. When you have a chance, do yourself a favor and see this film. Nice performances by Hershey and Shepard.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I learn by studying film that I respect. For one thing, and this is important to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, as decent film constantly provides ideas on how to smoothly move from one event to the next.

Left: The DVD cover for Thunderheart (1992), another film I watch often.

Val Kilmer, Graham Greene, Shelia Tousey, Ted Thin Elk, John Trudell, Fred Ward, and Shepard are the key players in this thriller that deals with a murder on a Sioux reservation around the time of the 1973 takeover of the town of Wounded Knee (27feb1973-8may1973) and the standoff with the U.S. government. For the record, and in stark contrast to Defenseless, this film has constantly been in my top five. On Thursday, 17aug2017, I asked Pailin if she’d like to join me in the Kraft Theatre and watch Thunderheart with me. She accepted and was glued to the screen.

Better, the Cheyennes and Arapahos are moving forward. We’re talking about raids and treaties and death and peace. We’re talking about a people who were led by chiefs that stood firmly for peace to save their people from murder as well as chiefs that stood firm for freedom at any cost.

Back to the healthy world of Kraft

This heading sounds facetious, or at best a big fat lie, … but this isn’t so. I have taken good care of myself over the years, and even more so after the cancer and spinal surgeries. As stated the first cancer surgery was to keep me among the living and the spine surgery (some four and a half months later) to hopefully keep me walking. … After I fainted the morning after this cancer surgery when three nurses attempted to help me to a chair by the window all hell broke out. A neurologist at the hospital (not one of mine) thoroughly examined me and afterwards proclaimed that I would not walk in the near future … to which I told him to F-himself and get out. Additional testing continued deep into the night, and without checking I remained in the hospital nine days.

Dejah Thoris (named after the princess of Mars in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter/Martian novels). Fully grown in this 1978 photo, she was the kindest and sweetest animal I have ever known. (photo © Louis Kraft 1978)

Not all was well when I returned home from the cancer surgery on a Saturday for on the next evening the catheter fell out of position and required a trip to the Encino Hospital Medical Center. The ER doctor told me he didn’t know how to put the catheter back in place. I told him to look it up in a medical book, which didn’t please him. Too bad! I then insisted he call my surgeon (who is also my urologist, who I’ve seen every three months since fall 2002) and he replaced it in less than a minute. The catheter was finally removed twenty-one days after the surgery. No fun.

There would be additional surgeries over the coming years, including an implant of animal tissue. I never asked, but have since hoped that it was Doberman tissue and not rat tissue.*

* See above photo for reason.

The next biggie …

My sister, Linda-Kraft-Morgon, lived in Lake Arrowhead with her husband Greg. They were supposed to come to my house for Christmas 2005 but I was under the weather and Linda’s immune system could not be put at risk. The second week of January Linda called and told me that she would soon die of the cancer that she had been fighting for several years. On the fifteenth I drove to Lake Arrowhead and we celebrated Christmas. On that day she told me that she had six more weeks to live.

Sunday, January 15, 2006, was a day that I’ll never forget. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

Sudeshna Ghosh, my documentation manager at Sun Microsystems, did one of the kindest things anyone has ever done—something I’ll never forget—for she allowed me to take a few hours off to drive to Lake Arrowhead two-three times a week during weekdays to see Linda, which gave me three to four days each during the remaining weeks with my sister. Sudesha’s compassion gave me a lot of memories captured in a handful of stolen hours, and they will be forever cherished.

During drives up the mountain to see Linda a sharp pain in my head became so intense that on numerous occasions I had to pull to the side of the road until it subsided. I didn’t think much about it as I figured that it was stress. … It wasn’t, for after Linda died on March 1 it continued in Los Angeles. That April I had my first sinus surgery, and I was lucky I did for if not I would have been heading for big trouble. Greg was right there for me, as was a former girlfriend and her son.

The years continued

I swam laps at 24-Hour Fitness, worked out with sabres, wrote for companies (Yahoo! and Oracle), did my research in the field as well as in archives, spoke about the Cheyenne and Apache Indian wars as well as Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, saw articles published, finished a book (Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek), and signed a new contract (Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway).

March, Pailin’s good friend Daranee’s son, took this image just before we went through security at the Thailand International Airport on 1dec2014. We had spent the previous evening with Pailin’s great friends (Noi and Wichen) in Bangkok. Two of her brothers Pum and Mana, and Mana’s wife Pen, who had taken care of me during the wee hours before dawn when I arrived in Thailand weeks before and made sure I made my next flight, also joined us (along with other friends). Mana, Pen, and Pum took us to the airport the next morning.

Life was good. …

And on June 15, 2013, it got better. On that day I hosted a dinner party for five at Tujunga House. I invited a good friend and Errol Flynn expert and his beautiful wife (Robert and Annette Florczak) and another twosome. The other couple brought a lady for me. She was petite, pretty, quiet, and yet totally aware of her surroundings. Oh yeah, she was born in Thailand. Before that afternoon and evening ended I knew that I wanted her in my life. Yes, “That Lucky Old Sun” (my favorite rendition was Frankie Laine’s, released for the first time in 1949) is about long days and struggle while the sun shines. I find this very positive. Soon Pailin Subanna entered my life permanently—making me the luckiest guy in the world. And this feeling has easily quadrupled over the years.

Errol & Olivia is reality

I know that by now many of you think that my book on Flynn and de Havilland is little more than a pipe dream. Not so. I’ve been researching Errol & Olivia since 1996. The research is ongoing although the writing is light (but that is only because of what has been going on in my life and the major task of completing Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway).

In spring 2013 I spoke about Ned Wynkoop at the Order of Indian Wars symposium in Centennial, Colorado. I think that the trip was eleven days, and most of them I spent with Layton and Vicki Hooper in their then Fort Collins home (it was my pleasure, although most of the time we were snowed in). Before the symposium I enjoyed a great morning, lunch, and afternoon with Mike and Dee Koury. Before leaving I pitched Mike on a Gatewood/Geronimo talk in Tucson for the OIW’s 34th Annual Assembly, and he kindly said yes. This image was taken in Tucson on 26sept2013. This was Pailin’s first Indian wars event (and to date her last).

For the record my last article, “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” was published in the October 2015 issue of Wild West. At that time I informed editor Greg Lalire that there would be no more articles until the Sand Creek manuscript was in production. In September 2013 I delivered my last talk, “Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo,” before the 34th Annual Assembly of the Order of the Indian Wars in Tucson, Arizona. Again, this is related to the writing that I must complete (Sand Creek and E&O).

You’ve waited this long, a little while longer will only build your anticipation and that might be good. I can’t begin to tell you what I have found about Flynn and Livvie (Flynn’s pet name for Olivia) over the decades but it is massive. When Errol & Olivia is finally published it will be an eye-opener for numerous reasons (and this is not braggadocio). There is a lot of new information to present, there are egregious errors that need to be corrected, and the presentation will not be like any book you have read about either of them before.

This is a publicity shot for They Died with Their Boots On (1941). It won’t make into Errol & Olivia.

Hint: If you have read one or more of my biographies you have an idea of what is coming. Continuing this thought, if you have read any of my nonfiction books you know that I don’t just tell one side of a story. While saying this, I must add that I don’t take on long-term projects (Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches as well as Wynkoop, Cheyennes, and Sand Creek) without being 100 percent behind my topics. By that I mean that I do not explore major players in my writing without a deep commitment to write the best book possible. Also, I never write a book or article with the intention of trashing someone. As far as I’m concerned just about everyone (and there are exceptions, such as Charles Manson or Ted Bundy—both of whom were mass murderers) believes that they were right when the did something. Sometimes events overwhelm them and they act rashly, but this isn’t often.

A staff artist for American Classic Screen, John Tibbetts, created the art of Flynn and de Havilland in Captain Blood in 1978, and it graced the cover of the Jan/Feb 1979 issue of the journal (right). Tibbetts’ art grabbed my attention decades ago. However, as the journal is long gone it might be difficult to track down who currently owns the rights to the painting or more important obtain a good digital copy of the original art.

If you’ve missed it, Errol & Olivia deals with their arrival in Hollywood, landing the leading roles in Captain Blood (1935), their life and times during their eight films together (1935-1941), and an epilogue. Like my Indian wars research I question a lot of what is generally considered fact for way-too-often information that has been sold as truth for decades is taken as truth, when in fact it isn’t. Ten, twenty, even a hundred printings of a supposed fact doesn’t guarantee anything if the source is unknown. Heck, it could have originated in a Daffy Duck cartoon. … I’ve seen numerous photos and a handful of paintings that feature Flynn and de Havilland together that would work for the cover of the book. Currently I’m leaning toward images dating to the 1940s.

For the record two other books are planned on Flynn. I already have the art that I want for the cover of one of these books.

A year of uncertainty—2017

The year began as any other, and for the most part I felt good. Walking the fourteen or so miles each week had done wonders for me. I even had different routes (half mile, mile, mile and a half, two miles, two and half miles, and three miles), and with this range I could take care of a lot of errands from grocery shopping to needed items at the drug store to dealing with the post office and the public library.

And this includes Sand Creek progress

Research and writing of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has made decent progress. Actually it finally started to have a life of its own as certain historical personages began driving the manuscript. I let them take control and followed leads until they revealed events and more important certain players’ roles in these events in ways I never imagined. But sometimes the leads led to dead ends, but this is always good as it lets me know what I thought happened never did. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable this is to know.

But for me there’s always that bleepin’ BUT

I stopped walking two or three days before July 5, 2017, as my left heel hurt. Worse, during the last handful or so of walks I often began to breathe heavily. At times I felt dizzy. Each time I halted until my breathing returned to normal. Also, if there was still a hint of dizziness or lightheadedness I remained stationary until it also passed.

As July 4th fell on a Tuesday our trash pickup was the following day. The first trashcan was picked up about 6:30 but I didn’t retrieve it immediately for on this day I felt dizzy and was wobbly on my feet after taking my one medication and using the prescribed inhaler. This had happened before (but sometimes it was later in the day). At these times I sat down until the feeling passed (sometimes at the computer). By seven that morning I felt great, and went outside to put the trashcan away. When the trashcan was in place I let go of it and looked west toward the garage. Without warning I fell over backwards, crashed onto the driveway, and cracked the back of my skull open.

I took the photo that I based this art on nine hours after the fall. I was only a handful of inches from a huge prickly pear cactus that a friend gave me in 1992. I shudder when I think about landing on that cactus. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

I had difficulty rolling onto my stomach. Luckily Pailin had taken the day off as it was her birthday. Hoping  that she was still relaxing in the dining room I called for her. She heard me, rushed to help me roll onto my stomach, stand up, and into the house. A bloody trail followed us all the way to the bathroom, where she cleaned the wound. Without her I’m certain that it would have been a struggle for me to get off the asphalt. Nervous, she called our close friends, and the three of them took me to the Providence Tarzana Medical Center emergency room.

This is how I felt when admitted to the ER. This photo of me was taken on 14dec1979 while in makeup at Universal Studios. (photo © Louis Kraft 1979)

Surprisingly, and certainly after a holiday where firecrackers and other nasty things light up the sky deep into the night, there was no waiting line. The wound continued to seep and I quickly stained the sheet behind my head. After I was cleaned up more, the ER doctor examined the damage while she asked all the usual questions: Did I feel faint, dizzy, or light-headed before the fall. I didn’t feel anything before the fall, absolutely nothing. This was just the beginning as hours would pass while tests were performed and studied. The doctor finally returned and informed me that the test results (including a CAT Scan) were good. She left and my scalp was cleaned yet again. The doctor reappeared and inserted three staples into my head. I was released, but before leaving I asked the attending nurse to clean my scalp and wrap my head. “Why?” I held up my right hand; my fingers were red with fresh blood. “So I don’t ruin the car seat.” She did as requested.

It was pushing three in the afternoon when I was released from the ER. No one had yet eaten, and everyone asked if I was up to a food break on the way home—something quick? “As long as it isn’t McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., or something similar, I’m okay.” We settled on Sharky’s Woodfire Mexican Grill. Until seeing this image by a good friend I didn’t realize how red I was at that time. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2017)

The head healed slowly, but the dizziness increased and the blood continued to seep. Over the next week or so I saw my internist/cardiologist and my pulmonary specialist and presented them with detailed notes and told them the highlights. My pulmonologist told me that my one medication could cause dizziness (I already knew this per the prescription’s documentation but was happy to have a verbal confirmation) but my internist/cardiologist would have to change the prescription. The inhaler was his and he told me that it didn’t cause dizziness. “What about the potency of it?” When I had tested several inhalers in May they had a higher dosage. Since I already had another appointment with him early in September he suggested we discuss it in more detail then. I agreed. … My internist/cardiologist didn’t think that the medication caused my dizziness.

I still didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that I wouldn’t be doing any walking in the near future, and that my six-plus hours of yard work would be less. … On the plus side I had more time to research and write.

The Sand Creek tragedy is in my blood

Oh yeah, you can bet it is! Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and now forever. I’ve known Ned Wynkoop intimately for decades. This meant that I knew something about Black Kettle, Little Raven, John Evans, John Smith, George Bent, John Chivington, Bull Bear, Left Hand, Silas Soule, and on and on, but not as much as I would have liked as I had previously focused on their connections to Wynkoop. This is no longer the case, for now I need to know them as much as I possible. Some of this has been easier said than accomplished.

In this “hunting party” image Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers is standing at the right (as printed in “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” Wild West, April 2011). From the moment I saw the photo during a research trip I have liked it. Alas, Byers is the only person in the photo that has been identified to my knowledge. I had suggested the image to Editor Greg Lalire, but then had second thoughts about using it as at the time I was considering it for the Sand Creek book. When more room was required at the beginning of the article for a portrait that I had done of Ned Wynkoop that was smaller than I felt it should be and suggested to Greg that he cut the “hunting party,” he emphatically said,”No.” “Why not?” “Because I like it.” I could understand his view as I still like it. However, I have decided that it isn’t for Sand Creek as it dates to the mid-1870s (which is interesting as Byers looks younger here than in the 1860s).

At one time the word “survival” was in the title of this blog. It no longer is as it appeared to relate just to me. Nothing could have been further from my intension. For most of the leading players, including everyone listed above, and a good number of the supporting players in the Sand Creek story, dealt with survival often. For the Cheyennes and the Arapahos it was a part of their daily life, be it food, the weather or tribal enemies, such as the Pawnees. When the white man—the vi’ho’ i—came they were presented with an even greater danger to their survival. It was no easier for the Anglo Americans who were lured to their world by the dream of golden riches, or those who followed and discovered a magnificent land. They too, were at risk, but not only from the people whose territory they craved, but each other while experiencing the same daily problems as the people they wanted to eliminate (food, weather, and so on). Doubt not that those who survived in the land that became Colorado Territory were strong, focused, and had no intention of ignoring what they saw as their future.

Byron Strom, custodian of the Anne E. Hemphill Collection, graciously allowed me to use this image of Captain Silas Soule on 1apr1865 (his wedding day) in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. Actually he had given me permission to use two images, but the other I failed to restore in a timely manner. My skills have improved over the years and with Byron’s permission I plan on taking another attempt at an image that is terrific although terribly deteriorated.

The Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway contract states that the book will contain 37 images. Three will be maps and I’ll deal with them when the manuscript is in production. I’ve been looking for images for the book for years now. I prefer to use images that date to the time period of the manuscript. Hopefully there are photographs that will support the text, but in some cases I have used them in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. I really don’t want to duplicate many of these images but know that some will be reprinted as they are key to the storyline unless I can locate similar images. At this time there are four photos that I’ll probably reprint, including the great portrait of John Chivington.

I’ve often used art (woodcuts, paintings, or line drawings). Also I have no problem with creating collages, as they count as one image. … I’ve been looking at the work of Cheyenne artists, and some of their work is descriptive and tells a story. If I decide to approach any of them, they will have to understand that I’m just a writer who would like to use their art and that I will provide them with a first edition of the book.

The cover for the October 2015 issue of Wild West. Really nice work by the art director.

There’s a story here (there’s always a story). I did two books on Lt. Charles Gatewood (Sixth U.S. Cavalry), Geronimo, and the Chiricahua Apaches’ struggle to remain free in the 1880s over a ten-year period. During a longer spread of time Wild West printed two stories of mine dealing with this subject. One of Gatewood finding Geronimo in Sonora, Mexico, and talking him, Naiche, the last hereditary Chiricahua chief, and the remnants of their people into returning to the United States and surrendering (“Assignment Geronimo,” October 1999) and Geronimo’s struggle to remain free (“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” October 2015). Both magazines featured the great painting by Howard Terpning (“Legend of Geronimo”) on the cover.

Guy Manning’s Geronimo painting (El Prado Galleries, Sedona, Arizona).

For both articles I recommended Guy Manning’s terrific oil painting of an alert and squatting Geronimo as he watches for trouble in a night scene with blue dominating the painting. Both times either Editor Greg Lalire or the art director went with my suggestion. … The point of this story is that I contacted El Prado Galleries in Sedona, Arizona, and inquired about using Manning’s Geronimo art in Lt. Charles Gatewood & HIs Apache Wars Memoir. “Sure,” the person I spoke with said. “The cost is $2,000.00.” “No thank you,” I replied as I chuckled. … The above image is from the 1999 Wild West article. Unfortunately the text bled through from the following page. The presentation in the 2015 issue of Wild West was terrific but it took up the first two pages of the article (and I didn’t feel like taking the magazine apart to scan the image).

Images already in place for Sand Creek

I have several images long in public domain that I own and they will be in the book when published. I also intend to use two images of white captives, and one of a Cheyenne girl captured at Sand Creek. I’ve also seen an earlier portrait of John Chivington that I might use. … In regards to large art there is a painting of the Battle of the Washita (27nov1868), that although stiff in presentation, features Black Kettle and Medicine Woman Later attempting to escape death.* I plan on looking into the rights to use it but only if it can be printed as a detail as the entire painting is way-too large to be of any use in the Sand Creek book.

The Battle of the Washita is in the scope of the Sand Creek as the manuscript concludes at the end of the 1860s.

There will also be a new portrait of Black Kettle. A good friend of mine is Jeroen Vogschmidt, an artist and historian who lives in the Netherlands. He specializes in American Indians. He does a lot of portraits of especially the Plains tribes, and he has written books that also deal with them. Unfortunately they are in Dutch, although he told me that he is trying to get one of his books translated into English. Earlier this year he asked some of his friends which Indian portrait they would like to see him paint next. Motor-mouth Kraft jumped at this: “Black Kettle!” Jeroen liked the idea and completed the portrait. I liked his art, especially BK’s eyes which are focused on someone who is slightly to his left. Not shy I pitched him on allowing me to use the image in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Jeroen immediately agreed. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of Jeroen, and I need to rectify this.

Chief Yellowman (left) and Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Harvey Pratt near the battlefield overlook during the first day of the Washita Battlefield NHS 2011 Symposium on November 11. On this day Gordon blessed the sacred ground and Harvey spoke about what it was like to be a Cheyenne warrior in the 1860s and to fight on foreign battlefields in modern times. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

Those of you that have read my Sand Creek blogs know that I like a painting that Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman painted years back (a framed print is displayed in one of the rooms in Tujunga House). When we near production I plan on sharing it along with other paintings for the book cover (to date I only have Chief Yellowman’s art on the list) with Chuck Rankin and current OU Press Editor-in-Chief Adam Kane to hear their thoughts on the painting.

A perfect storm

I saw my neurologist near the end of July 2017. As the CAT Scan had been negative at the Providence Tarzana Medical Center on 5jul2017 and a Brain MRI and X-rays of my lungs had been negative in May, he remained concerned and ordered a Brain EEG. After the EEG test on August 8 (in the medical building across the drive from the medical center) the technician told me that my brain looked fine. He then called me to his monitoring device and showed me that my heart rate was low. It ranged between mostly 35 and 36, and at times it dropped as low 30 while never reaching 40.

Knowing that my neurologist wouldn’t see the results for two or three days I took the elevator up to my internist/cardiologist’s office and told him the Brain EEG results. His nurse did an EKG (the heart rate was 39), and then attached a device on me that would record my heart rate for the next 24 hours. The next day when I returned it I was told to call the following morning for the results.

About 11:30 AM on August 10 I called for the test results, but there were none yet. I called back at 11:55 AM. “You have severe heart blockage, and need to get to the ER immediately,” my internist/cardiologist said. “Do not drive.” He also told me the name of my surgeon. My surgeon?

For the record, this was the first time I was aware that I might have a heart problem.

After the surgery, and until just before I was released, my vitals were watched closely. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

The next four images
precede the flow of text but
do not ruin the telling of what
has recently impacted my life.

As Pailin was en route to West LA, I called our close lady friends. They didn’t answer but returned my phone call within minutes. They arrived at Tujunga House at one and drove me to Providence Tarzana Medical Center ER. … In the ER my heart rate remained low while my blood pressure shot off the charts (for me) and well above 200 and sometimes reaching into the 240s plus. After about two hours of the ER doctor studying my medical records and speaking to at least one of my specialists I was admitted to the hospital.

About 4:30 the doctor who would be my heart surgeon met me and showed me the printout of the 24-hour heart study. … My heart rate was skipping three and four heart beats at a time, and these were not isolated instances. The hospital had been monitoring my heart rate and blood pressure since my admittance, and I’m certain that the gap between these two readings increased considerably.

Pailin took this image of me holding the device that captures and displays my heart rate in realtime early on the morning of 12aug2017. At that moment it was 74. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Through all of my surgeries I had been calm and collected except for two cancer surgeries, and they frightened me. The calmness has mainly been because I have always had full trust in my surgeons and surgical crews. I’m forever curious with everything that happens as events move quickly toward the anesthesia entering me. Knowing that when everything is over I’ll wake up, … or perhaps not. Surprisingly this is soothing to me.

If not, I’ll never know what happened. Trust me for I am aware of potential disaster as Dr. Robin Cook’s medical thrillers scare the hell of me (am currently reading Charlatans, which was just published). Still he is my favorite novelist. … We can now add a third surgery to my nervous list as I had entered the unknown world of the heart—my heart.

Pailin, who visited me at ten the previous night was back at seven on the morning of the eleventh. She had taken the day off. Her company was a godsend. As the day dragged by with uncertainty, my heart rate remained low, and the thought of my heart continuing to miss three and four beats at a time kept my blood pressure out of sight. … The unbearable sluggishness continued. I was supposed to be in surgery at four, but an hour passed without a peep out of anyone. I rang for the day nurse and asked for an update. She left but returned shortly and told me that the surgeries before mine proceeded slower than anticipated.

Breakfast with my lady on the morning of 12aug2017. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Long story short I was wheeled to surgery a little after six and my procedure began around six-thirty but moved slowly as my blood pressure remained high (I was not told what my heart rate was while under the knife). A bi-ventricular pacemaker was attached to my heart.

I had never seen what a pacemaker looked like until Pailin brought me home on August 12. Not a pretty sight but a thousand times better than a probable alternative. Pailin took this image of the pacemaker and scar above it as sunlight blasted through a bay window early on 27aug2017. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Like the previous night I barely slept as the night nurse kept on top of my vitals. Again, a device that read my heart was attached to me (the same one as the previous two days) and it was plugged in as soon as my bed/gurney was back in place. The intravenous line was again attached and I was again put on air. My blood pressure remained high until four-thirty on the morning of the twelfth, and from that point on it slowly returned to normal. The monitoring continued all day, but I was finally released at four-thirty. Like the day of surgery—and it was a terribly long day for Pailin—she was back with me at seven on Saturday morning. On this day, which she again didn’t work, she informed her various managers that she would be taking the next six days off.

Free at last, and with hopefully a new outlook on life. Although I didn’t realize I was in big trouble until August 10, I am absolutely thrilled that a perfect storm set me in motion to get the pacemaker before something terrifying happened. I’m one lucky fellow.

The future?

Mine is now.

I met with my heart surgeon on 18aug2017 and had a lengthy description of what had happened between August 10 and 12, and what I had experienced since. The bi-ventricular pacemaker is currently set to 60, meaning that ideally it will trigger my heart to function whenever the heart rate drops below 60. However, I have atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat. As I had shared that I had some chest pain and slight lightheadedness, he told me to use Aspirin to thin my blood and that I would probably be put on a blood thinner. The mild chest pain continues off and on, at times my heart races*, and my breathing is heavy, but the lightheadedness is gone. The next two weeks will be key.

* My heart surgeon is mainly concerned about my lower heart chambers not having a regular rhythm and beating faster than they should, which could cause clot-related blood flow problems. Honestly, so am I.

LK on the morning of 27aug2017. I’m getting a little stir crazy, and there’s weeks more of this, but I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

That same day my internist/cardiologist ordered a second 24-hour heart test for September 1, and on the fourteenth I’ll enroll in my heart surgeon’s heart monitoring clinic. Once set up, the clinic will be able to monitor my heart when I’m home.

My neurologist, who I have a sparkling relationship with (medically, life interests, and personally), has kept up with what is going on with me via the phone (he has the surgeon and hospital records). I also see him in early September.


Will I live to see our future, our country’s future? My friends, the answer is yes!
On May 31 I told my pulmonary specialist that I planned to live to 130.
He chuckled and said that he did, too.

Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


This blog is dedicated to my great friend,
Robert Florczak,
who is writing a book on Errol Flynn
that will become an instant classic when published.


The lead-in is long. It is also important, as it introduces you
to why I am capable of writing a film list.

I discovered film early in life and loved it, to the point that I wanted to be an actor. I studied acting in junior high school, high school, college, and then years after in professional theater groups. I worked in the industry for fifteen years (theater, film, TV, commercials, and print).

This image of LK was taken at Tujunga House on 5jan2017. I’m listening to something that I didn’t buy into … The story of my life, … and maybe yours. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

… But it didn’t go in the direction I wanted it to go in and I walked away “cold turkey,” just like quitting smoking, … and I didn’t gain a pound.

  • I study film (at least four times a week). What? Why? Simple, I can’t tell you how much I learn about a storyline, plotting, dialogue, character development, scope, and on and on.*


    * A few years back I functioned as a consultant to a person who wanted to write a novel (and what I told him also applied to how I view film). I’m not going to share his writing problems, but they were large. I provided a detailed redline of his manuscript pages and each review included pages upon pages by me that told him what he had to do to improve his story and prose (and this included many face-to-face consultations). … I wasn’t seeing any improvement and asked him if he read a lot. “Yes!” “Fiction?” “Yes.” … “Here’s what you need to start doing,” I told him. “When you read a book, what do you like about it? This would include what excited you, what made you cry, what made you turn the page, and so on. What didn’t you like about the book? Did it bore you? How and why? Did you put the book down and never return to it?” Moving forward. … “Could you improve the book that you were reading? If yes, how? … These are notes that you need to take, and you need to study them, for they will give you an insight on how to write fiction.” … 
    As I said, I study film and I study everything I read (and I do research each citation—you learn a lot about lies and fiction here).

  • Film has always been with me, and I have always studied it (and from many angles) … but there is one thing that I cannot accept and that is film or nonfiction or fiction rewriting history.*


    * Proven facts: Ned Wynkoop did not participate in the 1864 massacre and butchery of Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children in Colorado Territory; George Armstrong Custer did not survive the 1876 battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory; and Errol Flynn did not spy for Nazi Germany.

A film must grab and hold my interest from beginning to end. And just as important I must care about at least one character.

What follows is totally personal.

I write for me

… and I always have. This blog is for me, and it isn’t unusual for everything I write is for me. … Books, talks, plays, articles, blogs. My friends, regardless of what you think of this lead-in, everything I write is because I care about the subject matter. My hope is that you have an interest in it and read some of my words. … If not, I have just struck out.

LK hitting a home run for the Warriors, a team I filled in for when they didn’t have enough players on any given game. I played third base for them, and in this image I slashed a hooking line drive to left-center field that resulted in a home run. My team was the Cool Aid Kids, and I played for them from spring 1980 until March 1990 (and our seasons were year-round). (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

Baseball has always been a part of my life (but not so much during the last twenty-seven years). It was when I was a kid, it was when I was a young adult, and it again entered my life in1980 (after my mother’s death). … Sorry. I’m vague, way too vague. I know this as my friends ping me all the time.

Baseball. There’s one major thing about baseball, and I love it. If you don’t come to the plate and bat you can’t strike out, … if you don’t come to the plate and bat you can’t hit a home run. I love hitting home runs. … This ended forever on March 6, 1990.

A film list?

I never wrote a list in my life until a few years back. A fellow named Hans Florczak (formerly known as Robert Florczak) insisted that I do a list of 10 Elvis Presley songs. I did this but then he got greedy and wanted Presley’s top 10 songs from the 1950s ’60s, and ’70s. At the moment I have 10 from the ’50s (but two are Christmas songs and one is religious), for the ’60s I currently have 40 songs (cutting this list is a waste of my time for I’ll never be able to complete the hack job), but, alas, I only have one firm song from the ’70s. This shouts out loud and clear that Elvis’s creativity came to an end early in that decade. At least for me.

(art and cover design © Louis Kraft 2016)

For the record, Elvis’s lone song from the ’70s* is heard while a yacht (The Newborn) is anchored off Santa Catalina Island (Los Angeles, California) in The Discovery. It is a medical thriller. The cover asks: “Can a birth 21 years in the past destroy a man’s life?” It can destroy a lot more than one life. The novel is a character study of people under extreme stress.** (Warning: It contains stark violence and is erotic.) I know, disgraceful, as I’m plugging one of my books … in a film-list blog.

* Burning Love (1972).

** One of the reasons I decided to partner on The Discovery was because I needed to play around with a number of leading and supporting players in a story that was a mixed-up mess over two decades. I’m a biographer, and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is a much bigger mess to smoothly move between the historical people who drive the story to conclusion. I easily spend eight hours doing research to two hours writing nonfiction. Facts, facts, and more facts; mix them up with who is currently driving the story, and don’t fall on your face for believing errors (on purpose or not) in previously published works.

This is my sister, Linda Kraft, about an hour before she became Mrs. Greg Morgon in Long Beach, California, on 3dec1988. I took the wedding photos and had access to candids like this image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

The following is for Robert/Hans and his Annette

Hans is a good friend, but he moves to Deutschland in July. My sister Linda Kraft-Morgon (she was an LA County Sheriff and an investigator for the LA County District Attorney’s Office) had huge law enforcement connections with Germany, and she and her husband, Greg Morgon (my bro for all time, and he retired as a lieutenant from the LA County Sheriff’s Department) visited often and their German associates visited them in SoCal. … Will I ever see Hans again? Doubtful. … There might be a research trip to England for the pirate Drake (which is almost spitting-distance close to Germany, and I love Eurorail), but if I don’t move to the southern coast of either Spain (research heaven!) or France a fair guess is that I will never return to Europe. … However, I did write an epic tragedy about Germany* (and, as almost always, my theme was racial and anti-war).

Jürgen Prochnow played the U-Boat commander in the great German anti-war film Das Boot (The Boat). In 1982 I played Miles Hendon in a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper in Northern California, and I choreographed the duel. When Das Boot opened in San Francisco I saw it without knowing anything about the plot. The film featured a lone U-Boat patrol. When the tour ended I fired Ed Menerth, my screenwriting agent. I had completed Wonder Boat in early 1981. He had told me, “I love it,” but he also told me that he couldn’t sell it as it was about racism, WWII, was a tragedy, and the hero was a U-Boat commander. … BTW, great performance by Prochnow. Oh, Das Boot made my top 50 (or will it be a top 60?) film list (which will be the topic for an upcoming blog). The struggle with 50 or 60 films is because certain films, which should be on this list will be dropped if only 50. One is John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). Ford’s American Indians are mostly faceless “savages.” My view on this? You don’t want to hear it, and certainly not if you love Ford’s work. However, John Wayne’s racist performance in The Searchers is magnificent, and because of his performance, and only because of his performance, this film belongs in my upcoming list, and I will figure out a way to include it.

* My best ever screenplay (agented, but not sold) dealt with the destruction of Germany during WWII as seen through the eyes of a U-Boat commander who wasn’t a Nazi (most U-Boat commanders refused to join the Nazi party but fought for their country with honor and with conscience). The title was Wonder Boat, and although the screenplay dealt with the various phases of the war and the U-Boat commander’s relationship with a Jewish woman (that’s right, a Jewish woman) the title referred to a U-Boat that was being developed, but the German high command’s hope that a fleet of these “boats” could prevent the inevitable never happened. The war ended before the first “Wonder Boat” launched for a combat mission. There is a copy of this script in the Louis Kraft Collection (Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico). … I still have all of my research. If finances go south, and I experience a forced exit from the USA, this story is a top contender to become a novel.

Let’s talk about something that means absolutely nothing

Huh? Sorry, but I’m back to the reason for writing this blog—film lists. … I know—who cares? Heck, I do now (thanks Robert, … I mean Hans), and I hope that some of you do too.

Annette and Robert Florczak at brother Richard Florczak’s great restaurant—Flame Pizzeria—in Reseda, California, on 24jun2017. A good night as I said goodbye to them along with a gathering of their friends. His beautiful Annette is so sweet and kind; Robert is one lucky man. … I sat with Adam Bendorf and his family and the producer of Robert’s last album and his lady. Good conversation all around, and best I got know Adam’s wife (Anna) and his oldest daughter, who sat next to me. For the record, Adam and I used to watch Flynn films at Robert’s apartment when he lived in Van Nuys and then have a round-robin discussion about the film we just viewed. Good times that I dearly miss. I took this picture of them just before I left, and we shared some good thoughts, one’s I’ll not forget. (photo by Louis Kraft; © Annette & Robert Florczak and Louis Kraft 2017)

I also know that Hans will not much care for the following list. … A few years back I sent him a 50-film list and he told me that he hadn’t seen most of the films on it. What goes around comes around as I hadn’t seen all of the films on his 50-film list. Love it, for it shows that even though we are talking about film … we’re also dealing with oranges and apples in what we (Hans/Robert & LK) have seen. If you haven’t viewed every film how can you make a top 50 (or top 60) list? (I can certainly do a list on Flynn as I have seen all of his films wherein he had leading roles except Murder at Monte Carlo (1935), a British film that was never released in the USA (and unfortunately may be a lost film); and Hello God (1951), an anti-war film, in which EF had the original negative destroyed as he thought that the subject matter, and perhaps the quality of the film, might hurt his career. I believe that the patched together film has screened in Europe (and supposedly a number of reels have been discovered and are being restored). My view: I certainly hope so.

The above makes it clear that opinions on any artistic creations (fiction, nonfiction, plays, films, TV, song and music, poetry, and art) can never be totally valid.

Top film lists and what they are

I’ve always been able to create a top 10 Errol Flynn film list (since my first Elvis list). It has made certain people grind their teeth and complain (to the point that I don’t think that they have any teeth left, … just the nubs). Actually there are always Flynn films that are on the cusp of my list and could bump a current film and make the list. For some time I have avoided this by creating a follow-up Flynn list that included films 11-20. This is ridiculous and I don’t like it. Thus, the following will only include one Flynn list (top 12).*

* Upcoming blogs will focus on other film lists including a top-50 (or perhaps 60) without Flynn, and top-10 film lists of the following: 1) Drama, 2) Comedy, 3) Thrillers, 4) Action, 5) War, 6) Westerns, 7) Race, and 8) Swashbucklers. Dramas, Thrillers, Westerns, and films that deal with Race have plenty of contenders; the other categories are difficult to fill. Obviously sequels are coming.

Finally on to the main event, … Mr. Flynn.

Top 12 Errol Flynn films

The top six films are alphabetical and are not in order (for the record if I could only keep five Flynn films they would be Adventures of Don Juan, They Died with Their Boots On, The Sea Hawk, Gentleman Jim, and The Sun Also Rises). 

  1. Adventures of Don Juan, director Vincent Sherman, and w/Viveca Lindfors, Robert Douglas, Alan Hale, Jerry Austin, Romney Brent, Ann Rutherford, Raymond Burr, and Douglas Kennedy (1948)

    I think that it was Stan Maxwell, a good Flynn source and a better friend, who supplied Mr. Sherman’s address and phone number. This bit of information led to letters, phone calls, eventually a day meeting with Vincent wherein our conversation focused on Flynn and Don Juan. Afterwards, Vincent graciously answered follow-up questions that I had. All this information is locked away in a secure location, as are all of my other communications and transcriptions of interviews until I need them, including a couple of decades of contact with Olivia de Havilland (by the way, she is now Dame Olivia de Havilland). (photo in LK personal collection)

    As Adventures of Don Juan is alphabetically first I need to say something immediately: Flynn’s Juan de Maraña, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Mike Campbell, and George Armstrong Custer are my favorite performances by him. Flynn had his own personal choices and one was Corbett (I will deal with them in upcoming books). In regards to Don Juan, Flynn liked and respected John Barrymore, the great stage actor who became a major silent film star. My grandfather (Eugene Small) saw Barrymore star in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had been told that he was amazed with Barrymore’s transformation from good to evil on the New York stage. One problem here: I can’t find any proof that Barrymore played the dual roles on stage, even though everyone on my mother’s side claimed that my grandfather did. He did play Robert Louis Stevenson’s famed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on film (1920), and my guess is that this is what he saw. Since my family is long gone (other than a cherished cousin that I haven’t seen in person since she was about eight years old), and she is wonderful but I’m a recluse or worse. My life revolves around Pailin and two others whom will remain unnamed. This is my life. Actually it was my father’s life during his last nine years after my brother’s death. There was a family across the street, along with three and a half people that were major to his life at that time (me, my brother’s best girlfriend of all time, the fellow who lived next door, and another person who can’t be named).

    Oops! I’m supposed to be on Flynn’s Don Juan. Guess what? Mr. Flynn apparently liked Mr. Barrymore’s silent portrayal as Juan. This meant one thing, he wanted to follow in the “Great Profile’s” footsteps, as he counted himself lucky to know and befriend this great actor. Yes, Flynn, who often trashed himself playing heroes, wanted to play the great Don on film.

    This is actually a tight shot of Flynn crossing blades and soon daggers with Douglas (who instantly became Flynn’s major swashbuckling nemesis even though he wasn’t very good swinging a rapier). This image, which is numbered, was taken by a staff photographer assigned to the film. … But what happened here? A good portion of the image is out of focus, there is a head in the foreground (an extra, someone watching the action?). This image—and with all its problems is magnificent even though Queen Margaret (Lindfors), King Philip III (Romney), and Don Sebastian (Austin) are out of focus—as it shows Flynn and Douglas in mortal combat. One will survive (and yes, the film is a tragedy). Douglas has yanked out his dagger and within seconds so will Flynn to parry the thrust. At this point in time the duel steps into another world of swashbuckling reality. (this torn, crinkled, and numbered image is in LK’s personal collection)

    And did he! When filming began in October 1947 Flynn not only understood who he was, but also what the public expected of him on film. His performance as Juan is sad; it’s full of charm and charisma that only he could deliver; full of a life lost and yet not forgotten; it is also full of laughs that are based distinctly upon his screen persona (yes, Flynn had no problem laughing at himself). The film Adventures of Don Juan belongs to Flynn and to no one else. He was able to combine his screen presence with his ongoing life and come up with a middle zone that presented who he was on film and in real life. Flynn’s Don Juan is heroic while also being tragic. In my opinion this was Errol Flynn’s best performance on film. This includes every other film in this list, and a major reason why each of these movies made the list was because of Flynn’s performances in them.

    It has been oft-stated that Flynn had to have short takes during the dueling scenes. If you have ever swung a blade and fought competition (and I have), let me tell you that you are feeling it after a 30-second exchange. Yes, Flynn’s smoking certainly impacted his stamina, but you know what? It is what is on film that counts—and all of Flynn’s dueling in Adventures of Don Juan is the best that I’ve seen on film. (The Sea Hawk’s final duel is second).

  2. This publicity image of Flynn and Lupino was published as a full-page color image in a 1947 movie magazine. While in junior high school and waiting for my mother to pick me up after a fencing lesson with the great Ralph Faulkner I spent my time in a large used book store next to his studio on Hollywood Blvd. The bookstore (sorry, but it is long gone and I don’t remember the name) had shelves and shelves of movie magazines from the 1940s and 1950s. I sat on the floor and turned pages. Magazines that featured Flynn I bought (I had money as I worked). A few years later I met a girl one year younger than I (Judy Groh) at a friend’s party at his parents’ house. We hit it off and she became my first girlfriend. In those days everything in my life was innocent. Back to Flynn, … I showed her this image. She laughed and laughed and laughed. She pointed at Flynn’s hair and laughed some more. This image is simply WBs publicity—it is tender and yet has a hint of eroticism. I don’t know when the image was shot (I haven’t researched this film yet) but I think that the image was taken after Escape Me Never was filmed for Flynn didn’t look like this in the film (if I’m wrong, it was taken before filming began). (photo in LK’s personal collection, and it is not a scan of the 1947 magazine image, which I still have)

    Escape Me Never, directed by Peter Godfrey and w/Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young (1947).

    I hated this film, absolutely hated this film when young. The last time I had seen it was perhaps thirty years before it was finally released as a Warner Bros. Archive print-on-demand film.
    The production value, as critics complained, could have been better and it was just as I remembered. But when I saw it recently I was overwhelmed by the flow of the plot, and more important, Flynn’s subdued performance as a composer. Flynn was hurt and angered by the reviews of his novel, Showdown (1946), at the time he filmed Escape Me Never, and worse this film would be pounded by critics, and this affected him in more ways than one. I don’t blame him for he provided one of his better film performances as a man torn between two women, as a man who wants to do right but finds himself weak, as a man who finally realizes who he is and what is important to him. As for Showdown, I’ve read it at least six times and it has been a page-turner on each reading. … Flynn and Lupino were friends, although I’m not certain when their friendship began, and it registers in Escape Me Never. For the record, and this should be known, actors and actresses usually perform better together when they are friends and/or are in a relationship. I’m not implying anything here, for as far as I know Ida and EF were friends and I believe good friends (but that was all). Also for the record, a man and a woman can be friends, good friends, and it has nothing to do with sexual intimacy.

    Sebastian Dubrok (Flynn) holds Picolo (as far as I know not credited; also, whenever possible producers try to hire twins) while a minister (Frank Reicher) marries him and Gemma Smith (Lupino). (photo in LK’s personal collection)

    All of the above said, this film is about a woman (Lupino) who totally loves her man (Flynn). He loves her too, but his classical compositions have gone no where and his focus is on success and not his small family, which also includes her infant son, Picolo. They are poor and from the wrong side of the family. Without giving anything away, Flynn is a musical genius. Enter Parker, and she has what Lupino doesn’t have. He is also weak. More, and as you and I know, reaching for the stars is a difficult thing to do. You succeed or you fail. When you fail, that is you or I (and I only speak here from my point of view) the results can be disastrous. This was a view of life that Flynn wanted to explore, and in my opinion he succeeded here. This film holds my interest from the first reel until the end, and it moves me in ways that none of his other films have ever done. As an added bonus the great composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who scored seven of Flynn’s films (including 1935’s Captain Blood; 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood; my favorite, 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex; and 1940’s The Sea Hawk), created this absolutely marvelous score, which also included an incomplete ballet (Primavera).

  3. Gentleman Jim, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, Ward Bond, and William Frawley (1942)

    This is a video cover for Gentleman Jim. It is accurate, and is a pretty damn good representation of him in this this film. Warners, and not only for this film, but others, totally misrepresented what Flynn looked like in numerous films. This heinous stuff, and shame on Warners Bros., as Flynn didn’t have a mustache in this film even though their publicity sold him with a mustache (we’re talking major promotion here, including the 1942 USA one-sheet).

    Flynn wanted to play James J. Corbett, who would become the first heavy-weight boxing champion of the modern era. To this point in time boxing was flat-footed with charges at their opponents in the ring. Corbett would change that as he used his feet to avoid punches and counter-punched. The film is a light-hearted romp as Flynn’s cocky attitude upsets the rich as he strives to be accepted in society while rising in the boxing world (a lot of which was outlawed as the nineteenth century neared its end). The film is funny, fast paced and Flynn’s Gentleman Jim is a delight to watch. He trained with Mushy Callahan (a former welterweight champion) and was coached by sports writer and Corbett expert Ed Cochrane. Smith, a society woman, presented the perfect foil to Flynn’s attempts to climb in society. BTW Smith and Flynn were friends, and they make a dynamite combination in this film. Bond shined as heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan, who against betting odds, Corbett defeated at the climax of the film. Their scene together when Bond appears at Flynn’s celebration party is touching. Flynn, for the most part, was not doubled in the ring and the fight scenes really stand out. Luckily for Flynn Jack L. Warner was absent from the Warner Bros. lot during most of the filming and this allowed him to get away with murder while working on this film. Flynn constantly had his own idea of what lines were best for his characters, and often he changed lines during script development and during filming. When on set and shooting this is called “ad-libbing.” He was often called lazy for not learning his lines. Perhaps that happened at times, but not always and Flynn often had a hand in his dialogue. His reason for the changes was that he felt they improved his character. All of this will be documented in my books on Flynn. Flynn’s performance in this film was a revolution when viewing his acting capabilities, and better he pushes everything he knows about acting to the next level. … Jim Corbett is Flynn’s cockiest, assured, and most athletic persona on film.

  4. The Sea Hawk, directed by Michael Curtiz and w/Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains, Flora Robson, Alan Hale, Henry Daniell, Una O’Connor, and Gilbert Roland (1940)

    The 1940 1-sheet for The Sea Hawk (in LK personal collection)

    I’ve talked about The Sea Hawk for years, and I’ve made the comparisons to the pirate Drake’s life (see The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft). I’m not going to repeat any of this here.

    All I’m am going to say is that by 1939 Errol Flynn had discovered who he was as a film actor. From this time forward he had control over his performances, and many of them—not all, but most—dwarfed every film role he performed in 1938 or earlier except for The Dawn Patrol (below) and Four’s a Crowd (which was in this list, but was bumped by That Forsyte Woman, 1949, below). This golden decade (actually eleven years) of Flynn’s acting (1939-1949) had a number of misses (that is average films for multiple reasons) but this eleven-year period contained most of his great acting performances (the only role outside of this timeframe was his portrayal as Mike Campbell in The Sun Also Rises, 1957). … I know, that for many this is pure heresy. It isn’t. If I extend this list to 15, you can bet that Captain Blood (1935) would make the cut (if for nothing else than the great slave auction at the beginning of the film), and this still gives me two other films (one would definitely be Four’s a Crowd and most-likely Silver River, 1948). But remember the key here is Flynn’s performances, the creative quality of the film, and not if the film was a mega hit, for this is something that I don’t care about.

    This duel with Gilbert Roland ends peaceably at the beginning of the film when Flynn takes the Spanish vessel that transports Spanish ambassador Claude Raines to Elizabeth I’s English court. But later in the film, Roland would have the upper hand on Flynn. For the record, Roland would also have leading roles in film, including That Lady with OdeH (1955). In this first duel in The Sea Hawk Flynn displays how much his sword capabilities have advanced since The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). (photo in LK personal collection)

    We need to talk about Brenda Marshall here. She made one other film with Flynn, the decent comedy, Footsteps in the Dark (1941). She is okay in the comedy, and, (again more heresy), she is absolutely fine as the Spanish lady in waiting who views Flynn as a pirate. Their scene in an English rose garden after Flynn has received a verbal rebuff from Queen Elizabeth I in front of the court is simple and touching. Robson was light-years better than Bette Davis’s psychotic and almost spastic mess of a queen in 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. BTW, Flynn was fine in Elizabeth and Essex, and Olivia de Havilland absolutely shined as Lady Penelope Gray, a small role that was part of her punishment for daring to pursue being cast in Gone with the Wind (1939).

    This scene was after Robson (Elizabeth I) verbally punished Flynn for attacking the King of Spain’s ship that transported his ambassador (Rains) and his niece (Marshall) to England. What Marshall doesn’t know here is that Flynn has since had a private interview with Robson and she has bought into his next piratical expedition to the New World. … It matters not, for this might be my favorite love scene of all time (and to this point in time Flynn is little more than a pirate that Marshall wants no contact with although she is happy that he wasn’t punished, that is sent to the Tower of London). Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s love theme for this scene is to die for; it is marvelous. (photo in LK personal collection)

    By 1940 Flynn was no longer the novice star of Captain Blood or the blooming mega-star of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) but a full-blown leading man who defined what a swashbuckling leading actor could do in a major pirate film. The Sea Hawk is Flynn’s film from start to finish and he is in total control whenever he is on screen, and it matters not if he confronts Robson’s Elizabeth or Marshall’s lady who spurns his advances or the evil Daniel whom Flynn will eliminate in an extraordinary duel at the end of the film. Flynn’s Geoffrey Thorpe is magnificent from the first time you see him before he launches an attack on a Spanish galleon.

  5. They Died With Their Boots On, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Hattie McDaniel, Charley Grapewin, Sidney Greenstreet, Gene Lockhart, Stanley Ridges, and Anthony Quinn (1941)

    February 2008 American History cover. I wrote the cover story for this issue, and at that point in time it was the magazine’s all-time best selling issue (don’t know if this is still true).

    As I have made clear over the years this film has had a major impact on my life. I’ve written four articles about the film and I’ve spoken about it in Texas, Missouri, Montana, and California twice (I need to add Oklahoma to the list, as I think that they may buy into the idea). The best article was a cover story for American History in 2008. For the record, this film is fiction and yet it is so close to reality at times that it is scary. Warner Bros. had a long track record for shying away from facts and real historical people for the simple truth that they feared being sued.

    The errors in the film are massive but when you look at how closely some of it is to reality while being disguised there is a lot that holds up nicely. However, when it came to the battle of the Little Bighorn the writers and Walsh chose to deal with mythic legend and an heroic end with Flynn holding his saber defiantly. The film end happens in a valley as Crazy Horse (Quinn) has set up a trap and attacks the soldiers. No, no, and more no. Custer divided his force into four independent commands and the battle began when Major Marcus Reno (he isn’t in the film; actually none of Custer’s Seventh U.S. Cavalry officers are in it) crossed the Little Bighorn River (also not in the film) and moved to attack the southern end of the massive village.

    LK standing where Flynn-Custer’s small command marched to the Little Bighorn (13jul16). The west entrance to Lasky Mesa, a massive mountainous and valley area (in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve), is on Victory Blvd. in Woodland Hills (a town in Los Angeles) in the San Fernando Valley. I’ve seen it printed that it is a seventy-mile drive from Universal Studios and worse that it took a day to get to the location from Warner Bros. (which is on the east side of the SFV). For the record I live three miles from Universal Studios and six miles from Warner Bros. I can make the drive to Lasky Mesa on surface streets in about an hour. Even with dealing with some dirt roads in 1941 this would have been a fairly easy “drive to” from the studio on a daily basis that September. … There are places in Lasky Mesa where a river could have flowed and if WB wanted to film Custer’s end on terrain similar to where it happened in southeast Montana Territory it could have been done. But, … there’s always a but; the film was over budget. … Robert Florczak took this image on a great day almost a year ago when I believe we braved 100-degree weather and he showed me some locations for several great films. (photo © Louis Kraft and Robert Florczak 2016)

    For the record, a lot of what has been published about this film in recent times is pure fantasy. Director Raoul Walsh, who directed Flynn for the first time in TDWTBO when EF made it clear to WBs that he would never again work with director Michael Curtiz, only to see their relationship end before the 1950s began. In my personal opinion the Walsh-directed Flynn films were much better than most of the Curtiz-directed Flynn films. … And better the Flynn persona would grow and change, and there would now be a dark side, but not yet.

    A publicity shot of Olivia and Flynn as they travel to the American frontier. (photo in LK personal collection)

    And the uniting of Flynn and de Havilland one last time—although neither of them knew this at the time—is a pure pleasure to watch as they work together and age in the film. They had been through a lot over the last six+ years both professionally and personally, and they certainly had their ups and downs in their relationship with each other. All this gave them a backstory that they could, and did, use as Mr. and Mrs. Custer. Their last scene in the film (but not the last scene they filmed together), was just before he marches toward the Little Bighorn River (again, there is no river in sight in the film) and destiny is so simple as she helps him prepare to go on campaign (a routine that they must have done every time he left on campaign) and yet is so poignant.*

    * Max Steiner did the music for the film, mixing period music with his composition. However, the love theme that he created for George and Libbie (the correct spelling of Elizabeth Custer’s nickname) is mixed with bugle calls as the command prepares to march to Montana Territory and with Garry Owen (which was actually the theme song of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry as chosen by Custer) as they say goodbye and he exits to destiny. This is by far my favorite scene of Olivia and Flynn together.

    LK with Olivia de Havilland at her home on 3jul2009; the third time that  I was with her. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

    I did open up a can or worms the first time I visited Livvie in her Paris home (2004). We talked a lot about this film and it being their last together (this was just something that happened as both were considered to costar in upcoming Warner Bros. films but it never happened as soon after she took the studio to court over her contract). At the beginning the TDWTBO conversation, she told me that “no,” she didn’t feel any different shooting this scene as opposed to others, but by the time it had gone deep into the night she came back to it for the third or fourth time. Surprisingly now it was suddenly different, for now she came up with a premonition … a premonition she now totally believes (and has since stated on camera).

  6. Uncertain Glory, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Paul Lukas, Jean Sullivan, Lucile Watson, and Faye Emerson (1944)

    This Uncertain Glory (1944) video cover represents a tragic love story that should have had a happy ending. Jean Sullivan (above) delivered a very delicate and open performance. I found her different from most of the female leads in Flynn’s films, and honestly quite refreshing. Unfortunately she didn’t become a star, and I don’t know why. … Looking at this image, I have no clue if she had blue eyes (the film is in B&W). Looking at this same image I know damn well that Flynn’s eyes weren’t this color. … How many “artists” got this wrong? … I’d probably need a full page to document this error, which I’ve seen way-too-many times.

    Let’s begin by saying that Flynn’s portrayal as French criminal Jean Picard is one of my favorite performances by him of all time (and this has always been so). It’s restrained, and yet he allows the old Flynn persona to appear every now and again. The charm is present and so is the humor, and yet this film is a tragedy from the beginning. Worse, you care for the criminal Flynn from the get go and he is only alive as he has escaped the guillotine when German planes bombed France during WWII and destroyed the prison where he was about to be executed. He is a con-artist who’s only out for himself.

    You know where the film is heading and yet you don’t want it to get there—at least I don’t. I want a happy ending as the story has redemption written all over it. … Actually it comes down to a question of how valuable is our life if we could trade it and save 100 innocent people from death. … What would I do? What would you do? What will Flynn’s character do? The film is a drama, and there is no action, and yet I’m on the edge of my seat every time that I watch this film.

    The bottom six films are in numerical order.

    I know that some people will consider me little more than an unfaithful cretin as major Flynn films, such as Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) didn’t make my list, and for multiple reasons. But again, I choose from a lot of criteria, and the following six films meet my criteria. I’m not going to discuss why these three great films didn’t make my list (and all three are great), and that Flynn did with de Havilland, … and trust me that they will be discussed in Errol & Olivia. But if you’d like to know more (about two of these films that didn’t make the list), see Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view.

    Although I won’t discuss top film lists in Errol & Olivia, I will deal with all eight of their films in detail. What I say may surprise you and perhaps even shock you. … Hey folks, this is a comin’. Alas, Errol & Olivia will only deal with Olivia’s and Errol’s introduction to Hollywood, their life and times during their films together, and a very long epilogue. Trust me, for every hour it takes me to complete this manuscript will create a new understanding for you of these magnificent human beings who happened to be damned-good film actors. It will change a lot of what you currently thought you knew about them, correct egregious errors, and better it will be a book that I hope you read time and again. I know, the preceding statement is egotistical, but a writer must have an attitude when he dares to challenge fiction sold as nonfiction.

  7. Virginia City, directed by Michael Curtiz, and w/Miriam Hopkins, Randolph Scott, Alan Hale, Guinn (Big Boy) Williams, and Humphrey Bogart (1940)

    Virginia City has everything I want in a western, and this basically starts with that there aren’t any “bad guys” other than a supporting character played by Humphrey Bogart, who was still a few years shy of super-stardom. This film, this western, deals with the Civil War on the western frontier. … As I have always claimed in my nonfiction writing, “there are two sides to every story,” and it is certainly true in this film. Virginia City had a great cast, and that included Hopkins and Scott—two actors I wish that Flynn could have worked with again in the future. It was never to be. Our loss. (this is a cropped image of a photo in the LK personal collection)

    Over and over and over again I have heard complaints why de Havilland didn’t play the lead role in this film. There are at least two reasons why, and one is that there is no way she could have danced in a saloon and made the audience buy it. Actually the anger is even larger, as de Havilland’s fans refused to accept Hopkins’ performance. Why? Some said, “Because she was older than Flynn.” Who cares! I don’t! Hopkins played a dance-hall siren who enticed every miner, drunk, and soldier in Virginia City, Nevada, which was a Southern stronghold during the American Civil War. … And best Flynn was infatuated with her singing and dancing too. This film required a raw sexuality that Hopkins provided, for if there was no Flynn-Hopkins draw to each other this film had no chance of working (and to place a target on my back, it would have had zero chance with de Havilland). At this late date I have one major regret here, and that is that Flynn and Miriam Hopkins didn’t work together again. (Those of you who hate this comment, sharpen your daggers and sabers but remember that I’m damned good with both.) I do know that by this time film audiences wanted Flynn’s costar to be de Havilland (but let me tell you that a lot more goes into this than meets the eye). … Can we call TDWTBO a western? I think so. If yes, what is Flynn’s second best western. The LK view: Virginia City with Dodge City a distant third.

  8. Objective Burma, w/Henry Hull, George Tobias, and William Prince (1945)

    After the raid on the radar station Flynn split his command. They had a set meeting place. Flynn and those with have just reached this destination. (photo in LK personal collection)

    More than any other film, this non-heroic picture gives us Flynn at war but not with his usual screen persona. He is reserved, and focused on completing a task: Parachuting into Japanese- controlled Burma during WWII and destroying a radar station. As Flynn and his men slowly inch toward their target the atmosphere is tense, and understandably so as everyone is aware that one mistake, just one slip-up, could mean disaster as there was no backup. The dense jungle that they cut their way through is alive with the sounds of nature, and it helps build tension. Some of Flynn’s command are typical cliché characters, but for me this was okay as you get to know them, their hopes, their desires. Without giving too much away, the film is just half over when the attack force reaches its target.

    Detail of an image of Errol Flynn and Henry Hull during a lunch break during the filming of Objective Burma. Let me add something here, and it is totally opinion. When working on film I ate with people that I liked. I certainly can’t talk for anyone else, but this is what I did. (photo in LK personal collection)

    A reporter (Hull) accompanies the mission; older than everyone else he struggles to keep up, but his performance is decent as he vents his views on what he sees. More, it presents a Flynn who shows an emotion that I don’t think he ever shared in any of his other films (the closest might be The Sun Also Rises, 1957), and the sadness that affects him when he watches something happen rips my guts up every time I see the scene. I first saw this film on TV in the late 1960s or very early 1970s at my then-acting manager’s house in Hollywood. His name was Coy Bronson, and in the 1950s and early 1960s he worked with and knew some the then-film greats. I knew that he had worked with Montgomery Clift and I was interested to hear what he had to say. Nothing. He clammed up and said it was none of my business. If I dare to share what I saw and learned during my time with him in an upcoming memoir you will be shocked. On the night of my first viewing of Flynn’s Objective Burma we had gone out to dinner before watching the film in his living room as we sipped drinks. Bronson didn’t know Flynn but had a very negative attitude toward the film. My guess then (and now) was that he still had anger when his acting career didn’t take off. At this time he managed Samuel French’s Hollywood office (they were then leading play publisher in the USA; don’t know about now) and directed plays at the Pasadena Playhouse (Charley’s Aunt was one that I saw).

  9. That Forsyte Woman, directed by Compton Bennett and with Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Young, and Janet Leigh (1949

    Flynn getting rough with wife Greer Garson. (photo in LK personal collection)

    To begin with this film bridges the gap between Gentleman Jim and The Sun Also Rises (see above and  below) in multiple ways: 1) Period-piece plot construction, 2) Ensemble-cast performances, and 3) A real grasp of time and place. But it also had one additional element that was first displayed in Silver River with Ann Sheridan, 1948, and later in The Sun Also Rises, and that is a Flynn, totally foreign to what his fans expected of his films (there were other films at the end of his career that also provided this—most notably Too Much, Too Soon, 1957, when Flynn played John Barrymore). Like The Sun Also Rises, this film’s leading characters all work well with each other and their performances (along with a first-class supporting cast, read minor supporting players, all capture the culture and class-separation during the ending decades of the 19th century. This achievement was a combination of casting, directing, editing, and the result is extraordinary. The film is based upon John Galsworthy’s The Man of Property, the first of a trilogy of books that are now known as The Forsyte Saga. Flynn is this man of property and one of his treasured possessions is his-long pursued wife (Garson). What Flynn had created in Silver River he pushes to the next level. He’s ruthless, he’s jealous, he’s possessive, he’s in love, but he doesn’t know how to experience or show love, … much less make a relationship work. He’s clueless! But this is because he is a man of his times. Flynn’s performance is riveting, and so is Garson’s, Pidgeon’s, Young’s, and Leigh’s, and these five actors are first class in this film.

    A candid of Flynn and Robert Young, who is absolutely marvelous in this film. (photo in LK personal collection)

    As you can guess by now, That Forsyte Woman is a tragedy but I don’t want to share any of the details of the film for if you haven’t seen it you need to experience it first hand. Like many people who love Flynn’s film acting I didn’t much care for this film, actually early on I dismissed it. At this point in time someone should hit me in the head with a baseball bat for my prejudice against the film. All I can say is that I was an idiot when younger. Flynn’s performance is pristine! It was F—ing Oscar worthy. Shame on the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences! This film, like The Sun Also Rises, is a mix and match of human beings at one point in time and place. They are who they are, and because of who they are, they react to situations predictably. Without giving away the plot I can’t expose what happens, but trust me for if you view this film with an open mind (in regards to Flynn) it is one that will grab your attention from beginning to end. Not many films do this for me.

  10. The Dawn Patrol, directed by Edmund Goulding and w/Basil Rathbone, David Niven, Donald Crisp, and Melville Cooper (1938)

    (1938 poster in LK personal collection)

    Joanne Woodward, an Oscar winner, felt that Flynn’s performance as Captain Courtney was perhaps the closest he came to playing himself on film. I totally agree with her (see the best documentary that I’ve seen on Flynn’s life and film career for more of Joanne’s comments about him; The Adventures of Errol Flynn, 2005). I think that I should say that until modern times (and that is decades after Robert Redford’s poorly executed film The Great Waldo Pepper (1976), I haven’t liked any WWI arial films until I saw two modern films: Flyboys w/James Franco, Jennifer Decker, Jean Reno, and Martin Henderson (2006); and The Red Baron with w/Matthias Schweighofer and Lena Headey (2008, but not released in the USA until 2010). Flynn’s film is definitely dated, but this statement is totally based upon what could be created on film in 1938.  … Do not doubt it, Flynn and Niven were close friends moving into the beginning of the 1940s, and this definitely gave both of their performances in Dawn Patrol extra spark and a relationship that was totally believable on film. I don’t know what happened between them, but something did for in the 1940s there is no mention of the end of their relationship, but it did end. Flynn and Niven are totally alive in all their scenes. More, they are rebels who don’t like being controlled by authority (Rathbone’s Major Brand). They are not James Dean (thank goodness!), but they are rebels and act and react to what is in their souls during this heinous time of WWI when human life didn’t mean much (hell, this is little more than a small piece of humankind and civilization). This is basically a character study of pilots in an extreme situation wherein they had a job to perform but with a life expectancy that wasn’t long. Flynn shines as Captain Courtney.

  11. Dodge City, directed by Michael Curtiz, and w/Olivia de Havilland, Bruce Cabot, Allan Hale, Guinn (Big Boy) Williams, Frank McHugh, Victor Jory, and Ann Sheridan (1939)

    Flynn at the beginning of the film. (photo in LK personal collection)

    I’ve spent a lot of time with Dodge City elsewhere in these blogs, as I really like this film. What I like most—other than Flynn’s introduction to a genre that he felt totally miscast in—was Olivia de Havilland’s absolutely negative attitude that she brought to the film. She was angry, and rightfully so, for how Warner Bros. dissed her after her breakout performance in Gone with the Wind (1939), which included her first Oscar nomination. Better, she allowed her anger to direct her performance (and not her time on set, which happened during The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex).

    Publicity photo for Dodge City. (photo in LK personal collection)

    My view: She was a total delight in Dodge City. Back to Flynn. He was clueless to who migrated to the American frontier in the 1860s. Clueless! Do you know how many Irishmen were on the American frontier? Flynn didn’t. The character he played was Irish. He wasn’t a lone Irishman; he was one of thousands. Oh yeah, and you can take this comment to the bank. Dodge City spreads over time and during it we see a life growth in Flynn’s character. Better, the film moves forward in a logical plot that must reach resolution. The film sparkles in each act except for the climax. Here, the villains are disposed of way-too-easily (and I’m being kind with this statement). These words led to a Virginia CityDodge City flip while writing this blog (actually Virginia City was higher on the list and Dodge City dropped lower).

  12. The Sun Also Rises, directed by Henry King and w/Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, Eddie Albert, Juliette Gréco, and Robert Evans (1957)
    According to Patrice Wymore, Flynn’s third and final wife, she told him that he didn’t have to be drunk to play a drunk. She also hinted that he didn’t want to do the film as he would have fourth billing, but that she talked him into taking the part. For the record, this film is based upon Ernest Hemingway’s novel of a lost generation after WWI and it bores me to tears every time I read it. Reviews pinged the film as all the leading players were too old to play the roles. You know what? I don’t care. … Power, an actor who I usually find terribly leaden in his screen performances, plays a writer who is impotent due to wounds suffered during the war. But his life is about to change when Ferrer becomes an unwelcome visitor in his office. Power refuses to join him for a night in Paris, France, as he has a date with a woman and he doesn’t know. This is Gréco, who calls herself a working woman. BTW, Gréco’s part is small but it just oozes with sexuality during every minute she’s on screen. … The “date” moves from day into the Paris nightlife. Power is thrown for a loop when he stumbles upon Ferrer (good stuff as Gréco turns an introduction into chaos), but it gets worse when he sees Gardner (who he has had a past life with), and even though it has no where to go she can’t take her eyes off him.

    This is a detail from a scene that Eddie Albert is also in. Flynn (left) is getting his shoes shined (something he does more than once in the film. He is with Gardner and Power. (photo in LK personal collection)

    Power is sick of the entire situation, but has an out for his friend (Albert) and he have plans to travel to Pamplona, Spain, to see the bullfights.This is just the beginning of a character study of four men and Gardner, who is a flittering bird that can’t control herself while still caring for Power. Surprise of surprises—Ferrer told Gardner of Power’s destination, and she, Ferrer (who has already lost Gardner’s affections) and her broke, drunk, and on again and off again “fiancé” whom she’ll never marry (Flynn) are already Pamplona. This is an ensemble cast that works well together. They are at all times full of life, regardless if they are pleased or angry or experiencing the world of bullfighting in Henry King’s gorgeous-looking film.*

    * For the record, when in elementary school, I saw this film as a second part of a double bill; I didn’t know who the heck Flynn was at that time but loved his performance.

    In February 2000 Ferrer kindly answered some of my questions about Flynn when they worked together. Don’t think I’ll share any of them here, other than to say that everything he said about Flynn during the filming of The Sun Also Rises was positive. They will eventually see print in an upcoming book.

    This is near the end of the film. From left: Mel Ferrer, Errol Flynn, Ava Gardner, and Eddie Albert. (photo in LK personal collection)

    The running of the bulls is delightful fun when Flynn and Albert get caught in it. Their rapport on film is a standout in The Sun Also Rises. But the problems in place since the beginning of the film grow in Pamplona, and Flynn, who is love with Gardner but sick of Ferrer hanging around, and finally of an-up-and-coming bullfighter (Evans) who Gardner chooses for her next lover. … Although the focus is on Flynn films, I want to say that this cast worked well together and had well-defined characters without nary an unbelievable moment (the only exception being Evans, but he is okay).

    Flynn photographed by Bruce Davidson as used on the rear dust jacket cover for the first edition of Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways (image © Esquire, Inc. 1958)

    Flynn gave a magnificent performance and I don’t give a hoot if he was drunk or sober when he was on camera. He was charming, funny, drunk, sarcastic, hurt, and at the same time his performance was terribly touching. There is a scene near the end of the film between Flynn (sitting on a bed) and Power (standing). They are basically saying goodbye (even though there are a couple of more scenes of them together), but there is much more here for when Power exits the room and the camera holds on Flynn we see a man who has lived life but has nothing. This reminds me of the great image of Flynn on the first edition of his memoir (My Wicked, Wicked Ways, 1959). Is Flynn an image for all of us as our lives near conclusion? At times I think yes (at least for me*). … In my opinion this was by far his best performance during the decade of the 1950s.

    * For those of you who think I have a negative attitude on life I want to share the following. … On May 31 I told my pulmonary specialist that I planned to live to 130. He chuckled and said that he did too.

Finally … 

Errol Flynn was a great film actor. He was natural at a time of over-acting. More, he was a human who could easily fit into our modern world of a mix of colors and race, for one simple reason—he wasn’t racially prejudiced and accepted people of all races as equal (and I can prove this).

The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


Recently I proposed several ideas of what I might deal with in
my next blog on social media. A good friend of mine quickly asked me to
highlight the pirate named Francis Drake (and she had a great reason why; you’ll
meet her below). … This lady’s request confirmed my desire to do something
that has been with me for a long time and was long overdue.

Alas, and like most of my blogs, this post includes some personal stuff. This is never intended but always happens (I know the reason why, and probably you do too). … Here I’m also talking about Francis Drake; a man that if you don’t know him—you should, as he was centuries before his time.

Centuries!

The LK introduction to the pirate Drake

Francis Drake had many names, but perhaps the most important—or fearful—was what the Spaniards once called him, El Draque. To them he was the dragon, for he time and again appeared out of nowhere to steal their gold and silver, and worse put a dent in their domination over the New World in the 16th century.

I discovered him in the fifth grade, actually the first school in my life wherein I would spend more than one year in the same school. This short two year period would give me the first friends who, although not for all time, would become a good memory of my youth. Ladies and gents I love and cherish my time as I walk between our past and my current life. I’m one lucky cowboy—Ouch! I think here a better word might be pirate as I explore the past while walking into my future.

Believe it or not it was three or four years before Errol Flynn’s death when I saw his great 1940 film The Sea Hawk for the first time on TV. This film, along with Flynn’s 1941 They Died with Their Boots On (when he played George Armstrong Custer), would impact my life more than I could ever have imagined if I had tried. I was still a year or more away from the fifth grade so I hadn’t heard of Drake yet. …

LK on 31oct1958 at my first and only permanent home during my school years (Reseda, California). I believe that this image (right) is the first of me holding a sword. A proud moment for me. Within three years I would be studying the sword with the legendary American Olympian, Ralph Faulkner, who went on to double stars in American film, choreograph cinematic duels, and teach fencing in Hollywood, California, for perhaps half a century. My mother created the costume for me in this image. Unfortunately we didn’t have a morion (a helmet worn during the 16th century) or other armor that Drake might have worn. My costume was closer to pirate attire during the two golden ages of piracy in the Caribbean; late 17th century/early 18th century. My favorite pirate during this time period was Henry Morgan, but it would be years before I discovered him. (photo © Louis Kraft 1958)

I had begun buying books on Flynn before his death, and I bought his memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways when it was published (available in LA in late 1959 or early 1960). When my mother saw it she asked: “Where did you get this?” “I bought it.” No more questions were needed as my first job was in elementary school—I had a seven-day-a-week newspaper route (not to mention that I made the rounds picking up glass bottles, and they were worth cash at the local market; oh yeah—Way back then!). Good money in those days. “Okay,” she said, “but I don’t want you talking to any of your friends about this book.” I readily agreed.

This joint image is a colorization of a publicity photo of Flynn from The Sea Hawk (Warner Bros., 1940) and this artwork by Clark Hulings appeared on the cover of F. Van Wyck Mason’s novel about Drake’s 1586-86 “West Indies” voyage, Golden Admiral. I believe that this was the first paperback publication of Mason’s novel (1960s), and Hulings’ art shames the U.S. and Australian hardbound book covers. I really like Hulings’ painting and hope to use it if I complete my planned books on Drake.

I actually didn’t make the Drake-Flynn/Geoffrey Thorpe (who EF played in The Sea Hawk) connection until sometime in high school when I began to read real books about Drake. … The Warner Bros. screenwriters Howard Koch and Seton I. Miller (and they were top-notch), wrote the screenplay for The Sea Hawk. It was based upon a story that Miller drafted called The Beggars of the Sea. I’ve never seen Miller’s draft, but it apparently detailed Francis Drake’s early exploits on the Spanish Main and the Caribbean Sea. If you are familiar with Drake and you have seen The Sea Hawk this is a no-brainer connection.

The USA one-sheet for The Sea Hawk (1940).

The film’s title is from Rafael Sabatini’s great novel about an Elizabethan who became a Barbary slave but who eventually became a feared Tunis pirate in the early seventeenth century. A great plot and story by Sabatini and a book that I enjoy every time I read it. Sabatini’s book would become a silent film, but one I’ve never seen. Warners, who owned the rights to the novel and (perhaps) the silent film, opted to go with a fictionalized Drake story. As Warner Bros. constantly did during the Golden Age of Film, they steered clear of being sued. Read that they changed names and facts to protect the innocent—mainly, yours truly, Warner Bros.

Some of you know that I’m writing a book about Errol Flynn; actually I’m writing three books about Flynn. They are all a comin’, and sooner than you might think. For the record, I have a list of what I think are the ten best films Flynn ever made. See Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view for my list. Four of those films are extraordinary and The Sea Hawk and They Died with Their Boots On are two of them (perhaps someday I’ll write a blog that explains why).

Racism in the 1580s and in LK’s life

Yeah, racism existed in Drake’s time and it still does in our time. Usually when I talk about this subject I concentrate on race, but today I’m going to focus more on ethnicity. I was born a Catholic (you had better sit down before you read the rest of this paragraph). I would eventually become a Lutheran (who Drake was) and then a Methodist (who Ned Wynkoop was), but none of these choices by me had anything to with who I have written about or will write about. I’m me, and changes happen. I’m a citizen of the world and I’m free to choose how I worship God. For the record all of my choices throughout my life have been Jesus, my life and savior, God, and Christianity. This is what I worship and I will do so as long as I walk our world. … I have been pounded way too often because I have also cherished and cherish Mary, the mother of Jesus … Moreover I have been attacked for I am able to accept people who worship their God, be it Buddha, Maheo (the Cheyenne God), Ussen (the Apache God), or any other religion (and that included a screenplay that I wrote that dealt with an interracial relationship between a Persian woman and an American in Los Angeles at the time of the fall of the shaw of Iran in the 1970s). If you have trouble with this; it’s on you and not me.

This art of LK meeting the Virgin Mary is based upon a great photo taken my friend Glen Williams at Mission San Fernando (city of San Fernando in Los Angeles County) in May 2012. This lady is with me today, tomorrow, and always, … and I don’t give a damn about what you think. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

Let’s make this clear right now: Mary will always be with me regardless if I pray to my God in the Catholic or Protestant religions. Always. Now and forever. I am strong and I can survive whatever criticism that might come my way (there are stories here, but they are too personal to share). If you don’t agree or like this, again that’s on you (and it is for you to do what you believe is right for you).

I speak with God and Jesus every day. Your decision of what you do is yours and it will not affect my life or my religious beliefs in any way. Nor will I ever curse you as you don’t worship your God as I do mine.

Back to the Dragon …

Both Drake and Flynn were adventurers. Both made an impact on their chosen professions. Most important both stepped outside the racial times of their day (although this last point I didn’t realize until years later when I was actually writing and selling freelance words).

By the mid-1970s I was still an actor but I had begun to write with a purpose. A harrowing experience during a summer of dinner theater in Texas had landed me a screenwriting agent. It had also landed me an acting manager. Although the push was to get me acting work, the manager, and his name was Richard Steele-Reed (alas, no longer with us), was well aware of the writing direction that had begun to take hold of my life. He suggested that we write a novel together; that is I write it and he function as an editor during the process. I liked the idea.

This art by an unknown artist that dates to the 1960s and the world of discovery and piracy. It was a baseball card, and from an unknown card set. This may, or may not, have been Francis Drake’s early entry to the New World after the disastrous Hawkins’s slave-trading expedition of the late 1560s. Here Drake would show his true colors as he partnered with escaped African slaves that married into the indigenous tribes of people who lived in the area prior to the appearance of Columbus at the end of the 15th century. … As for the image: The men are obviously Cimarrons (more about them below), but the vessel is too large to be Drake’s Swan, which, without digging, I believe was his ship during his early 1570s sailings to the New World.

My choice for a novel: Francis Drake’s early solo voyages after the massive John Hawkins trading disaster to the Indies in 1567, wherein his slaving venture (and Drake was one of his ship captains) from Africa to the Spanish colonial cities looked to amass a huge profit. By the way, the Spanish outlawed this, but it didn’t stop the trading and selling of human cargo. There was a hurricane and Hawkins’s fleet put into the protected harbor of San Juan de Ulúa (current Vera Cruz, Mexico) to repair damage before attempting to cross the Atlantic and return to England. Bad timing placed the Spanish fleet arriving there at this time. The English fleet, and Drake commanded a small vessel called the Judith, was formidable and Hawkins worked out a truce with the Spanish viceroy. … But treachery followed and all but two English ships were sunk. The two to get out of the harbor and flee were Drake’s Judith, and he took some heat for not waiting for Hawkins, who escaped on (if my memory is good) his damaged flagship, the Minion. English seamen that were captured had a future of prison and the Spanish Inquisition (some would luckily survive the ordeal).

This is a detail of  a newly authenticated portrait of Francis Drake. It is on loan and currently displayed at Buckland Abbey, Drake’s home that he bought 11 miles from Plymouth in Devon, England, after his return from the circumnavigation of the world in 1580. Drake’s first wife, Mary Newman, got to enjoy their magnificent new home but not for long as she died the following year. Four years later Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham. This art, which definitely captures Drake’s features is, unfortunately, not dated (and worse the artist is unknown). It predates his 1585-86 expedition to the Spanish Main and his 1587 raid on Cadiz, Spain. And it perhaps predates his triumphant return to London after the circumnavigation. If so, this pushes the date of the painting to the of end of his successful 1572-73 West Indies raid or after he served as the the navel commander for Walter Devereux, First Earl of Essex, in July 1575. The painting has brilliant colors and is alive. I love it.

This was key for both the times, which then was in the midst of a religious war that would heat up, and was also combined with the fight to control the New World, or the Americas. Currently Spain and Portugal had divided this land (what would become Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean Sea, although the Spanish had made a foothold in what would become the American Southwest and Florida) between themselves and were doing everything possible to protect what they considered their private domain. The English were interlopers (and very aware of the wealth the New World contained) and Spain realized the threat.

Drake, who was a Lutheran, now viewed Spain as his deadly enemy. Turning pirate, he launched his personal war with Spain’s New World empire. … And this was the premise of my co-authored novel with Steele-Reed. It dealt with his first exploratory voyages as he befriended Cimarrons, mixed-blood escaped African slaves who joined and married the indigenous people (that is the people who lived in the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World) that struggled to remain free from Spanish domination. Partnering with the Cimarrons Drake learned how Spain shipped gold and silver overland via mule trains to the eastern coast of what would become Central America. He planned, he plotted, and at the same time he became a small thorn in mighty Spain’s personal domain when he attacked mostly undermanned shipping that could not avoid or repel a piratical attack at that time.

This image was taken during LK’s first time aboard Drake’s Golden Hinde II in August 1976 (San Francisco, California). I’m on (I think) the aft deck, and I’m certainly talking to my crew. There’s nothing better than living in the moment even though in this instance the moment isn’t mine. … I guess that I should share something here; when I walk in an historical person’s shoes I do whatever I can to live their moments. I want to know what they felt, and more why they did what they did. I’m a firm believer in cause and effect, and I need this to write about them in their view. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

This incomplete Drake draft is not in the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe; it is still with me and awaiting my return to it. It is one of two Kraft planned books on Drake. The other will be nonfiction. Like Wynkoop and Sand Creek I don’t share my nonfiction plot lines until the books are published (this reason should be obvious, but if not I do not want to give the story away for one major reason—I’m slower than any historian that I know and I don’t want them to publish their book that is based upon my idea before I do).

I write about extraordinary men: Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Charles Gatewood, and Errol Flynn. I also write about a magnificent woman: Olivia de Havilland, who plays a major role in Errol & Olivia. … More important, in the not-too-distant future Drake and Kit Carson will join my writing world that Flynn will soon dominate. It’s a comin’ folks, it’s a comin’. Trust me.

Who was Francis Drake?

And more importantly how do I walk with the pirate Drake and present him in words; both fictionally and in reality? I know. Actually I’ve known for decades. He is in line with above-mentioned writing subjects. By that I mean Drake stepped beyond racial prejudice and hatred and dealt with his fellow man (often his hated enemy) in a humane way. The enemy were killing his brethren, and often butchering them, torturing them, and ripping their bodies to pieces. He dealt with that, he lived with that, but when in control—that is with Spanish prisoners—he didn’t reciprocate. Conversely, he treated them as human beings.

This is Rod Taylor playing the Francis Drake in the 1963 film Seven Sea to Calais. He was brilliant as Drake (but the film never comes close to equaling his performance), and if he had decided to walk in Flynn’s steps and become a swashbuckler—and of course improved his sword skills—we would have had a great successor to Flynn’s glory years. Taylor did not, and alas we have still not seen an actor who could have followed Flynn’s swashbucklings steps. At this late date perhaps we—that is me—will never see someone who can fill Flynn’s legacy. … I’m good with this; oh baby am I good with this. It should have been Rod Taylor. That did not happen, and everyone since Rod’s time have been total failures. … It is what it is and I’m good with this. Bottom point? This just shows you just how great Flynn’s screen presence really was (and that included performing in numerous film genres).

Perhaps not in 1573, one of Drake’s most magnificent years, for he did capture and secure a Spanish treasure caravan. It would make his fortune, put his name in circulation, lead to his short association with Essex in 1575 (mentioned below the above Drake portrait currently displayed at Buckland Abbey), and more important lead to his introduction to Thomas Doughty, an aristocrat. Actually Drake’s participation was small. Sailing the Falcon (a frigate), he commanded the fleet that transported John Norrey’s army to Rathlin Island, off the coast of Ireland. On July 25 Drake used the canons on the Falcon to batter the castle’s stone walls until they crumbled. At that point Norreys began the assault as Drake sailed the coast to ensure that no Scottish ships attempted to send reinforcements. That day the fortress with 200 soldiers surrendered, and the following day the English rounded up 400 civilians who had fled to hide in caves when the English appeared. Men, women, and children, and many of them Scots who had been sent to the island because it was thought to be a safe haven. The English put them to the sword (just a saying, meaning they murdered all 600). The “Rathlin Island Massacre,” as this infamous event is now known, shows that the Spanish were not the only ones who dealt harshly with the enemy. It is unknown what Drake’s reaction was when he learned of the massacre, but his participation in this heinous event led to a friendship with Doughty (who served as Sir Christopher Hatton’s personal secretary), and this would eventually lead to his introduction to Queen Elizabeth I of England.

This is the Golden Hinde II, as it appeared in the Robert Shaw, Genevieve Bujold, James Earl Jones, and Peter Boyle film Swashbuckler (Universal Pictures, 1976). If I remember correctly Universal paid $1,000,000 to rent the Golden Hinde II. Unfortunately there were no battles at sea (guess the production only had enough money to rent one vessel). Here Shaw’s pirate ship (The Blarney Cock) is bombarding a stone execution gibbet that is just above the Jamaican town of ??? (can’t remember; Port Royal?) before making a daring rescue of Jones, who was about to be hung.

Better, it would lead to his proposal to attack the Spanish settlements on the western coast of the Americas (advertised as a trading voyage to the Nile). This would lead to riches beyond belief for him, his crew, his queen, and the investors in the piratical raid. This included his circumnavigation of the globe*, which led to his knighthood in 1581. This voyage, if studied, is mind-boggling. Yes, it is that magnificent, and again it demonstrates in bold letters Drake’s daring as well of his view of humankind and Spain. His relationship with indigenous people continued as he circled the globe. At times he wined and dined his Spanish captives aboard the Golden Hinde; (after transporting the treasure from the Cacafuego, see below italicized note, which took five days, Drake released the ship and its crew on the evening of March 5) treating them with humanity and respect, something that wasn’t expected during the second half of the 16th century.

The Golden Hinde II under full sail.

* Drake did not initially plan to sail around the globe. Instead he hoped to return to England by discovering the western entrance to the (still thought to exist) Northwest Passage and sail this unchartered waterway back to the Atlantic Ocean. Reason: He knew that his raids along the western coast of the Americas, and this included the March 1, 1579, capture of the Spanish treasure ship Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (also called Cacafuego) off the coast of what would become Ecuador, guaranteed that a Spanish fleet would be waiting for him to return to the Strait of Magellan, the 373-mile water passage below southern-most portion of mainland South America and north of Tierra de Fuego. When Drake realized that the Northwest Passage didn’t exist he had but one choice to return home—sail west into the Pacific Ocean.

Yep, Francis Drake, a lowly born Englishman, became a member of the realm. He was a self-made man, and by that I mean a person who dared to step outside the stated doctrines of his life and times, and stand firm for his country, religion, culture, and freedom.

“I vote for Drake! Please?”

How could I refuse the lady’s request? … And especially since Drake has been with me for a long time. “My friend, El Draque (the Dragon) it is.”

This is MaryLou Backus. She is a beautiful and slender person that I am lucky to know. We are close on many subjects from the American Indians and into our world of today. When I had raised the question of perhaps writing a blog about Francis Drake she immediately replied yes. (art of MaryLou © Louis Kraft 2017)

When I had raised the question of who I should next highlight in my next blog on social media a long-distance friend spoke up quickly with the words in this heading. Her request was quick (actually she was the only person to reply on the first day of the post).

Back to this lady, and I haven’t shared her name except in the image to the right. She is MaryLou Backus. … She and I have much in common even though we have never met. Better, she is a lady after my heart. Unbelievably her family believes that that they are directly related to Francis Drake, who, to repeat myself, lived in a time of extreme racial and religious prejudice, as well as hatred and butchery. He refused to murder other human beings. … And he was a pirate. …

I’m still with MaryLou. She is an absolutely gorgeous lady who luckily I’ll meet sometime in our future. Social media linked us in our joint interest in the American Indian wars. When I proposed this blog to her, MaryLou had this to say: “Wonderful! I grew up on tales of him [Drake] having been an ancestor. I have no idea if it’s true, but of course it created a fascination.” I can’t walk away from MaryLou’s hope. Not today; not ever! I wish that I could join her and claim that Mr. Drake was also my relative. I can’t. Her claim is real; it’s alive, and I’m certain that the back story to what she has heard has the possibility of being true. My view? Wow! MaryLou, you are so lucky to have the pirate Drake perhaps being your relative.

… And there’s more to MaryLou’s extraordinary reminiscence of her family’s living history and connection to the pirate Drake who would become Sir Francis. This remembrance of MaryLou must not be forgotten, and here’s another reason why. … “And somebody was supposed to have some old doubloons squirreled away,” she told me. “As a kid, I always dreamed of finding them in somebody’s attic. Ha!” Good stuff.

Knighted and a national hero

When Drake returned from his circumnavigation and was knighted, he had no idea that his service, which ranged from piracy to loyalty to his country, had not yet ended.

This is the April 1581 Nicholas Hilliard miniature of Drake. It is a portrait of Drake the year after he completed the circumnavigation of the globe in 1580. It is in the National Maritime Museum on the Thames River in Greenwich across from London proper. Also in this museum complex is the Queen’s House. In 2009 I visited Olivia de Havilland at her home for the second time upon her invitation. I don’t fly to Paris without a full agenda to wrap three weekends around two weeks. My then special lady wanted to also see London (cool for me, as I wanted to see some of the classic paintings of Drake in person). I would have liked to have traveled to Plymouth do research and see Buckland Abby but that would have added another week as I would have had to do some serious Drake and Devon research. Heck, I got to spend time on the Golden Hinde II for the third time as it is now docked in London (and I assume that it is still berthed on the Thames River). Believe it or not, my lady and I had the ship to ourselves during this visit (it pays to be an early bird); some good research material at the shop that handled visits aboard this oh-so famous replica vessel. … I’ve missed flights, and on this trip I almost missed two—that’s right—two Eurorail trips (from Paris to London and London back to France). My lady was okay with the first mess up as we threw our bags onto the train and boarded it seconds—yes, seconds—before the doors closed and we were thrown to the floor as the train jerked forward, but when we almost missed the train back to France she was livid. The reason was simple: We would have missed our return flight to the USA. … Back to the story, we took a Thames boat ride to Greenwich and explored the National Maritime Museum (a wonder!). We saw Hilliard’s miniature and other decent art of Drake, but not the 1591 jewel portrait of him. It was supposed to be at the museum. I asked, and was told that it was in the Queen’s House (a part of the museum complex). We hustled to the house (perhaps a 300-yard distance from the National Maritime Museum), but it closed at five and it was now a few minutes after five. For the record this was not Elizabeth I of England’s house but James I’s (the Scot who succeeded Elizabeth on the English throne as she left no heirs) wife’s house, and it was built a little over 10 years after Elizabeth’s death. My friend and great historian Eric Niderost (who is also a professor in Northern California) shared this information with me, and I am forever grateful. … My lady and I couldn’t talk our way into the building. Devastating! We took our boat ride back to Big Ben and then the subways to our hotel. After dinner she said to me, “We have time tomorrow morning. Let’s go to the Queen’s House.” This was based upon the misinformation that had I shared with her of when Eurorail would take us back to France (yeah, sometimes Kraft isn’t the smartest pirate wandering our modern world). Another roundtrip on the Thames and me seeing the Drake jewel portrait became my second highlight of the trip; seeing Livvie, as Flynn called Olivia de Havilland, for the third time was definitely number one. … A print of this great Drake portrait is in the personal LK collection.

The Spanish threat of death to all heretics continued; that is death to all that did not accept  Catholicism. Drake enjoyed a short but peaceful time in his homeland, but he lost his first wife (I don’t know how she died). Several years later he married a second time. Life was good, but the Spanish threat refused to go away. Ever the pirate the now patriot Drake helmed a massive invasion of the New World. He would attack and seize major cities, including Cartagena (the western coast of Columbia, current South America). While in control of the city he sent an African emissary to negotiate with the Spanish only to watch a Spanish officer murder his negotiator. Drake could not accept this and demanded that the officer who committed the crime be delivered to him. This was done and Drake had the murderer executed. The Spanish threat of death to all heretics continued. Elizabeth and many in England felt vulnerable to invasion. Spies reported King Philip II of Spain was amassing a huge armada in Cadiz.

I have shared larger copies of this image elsewhere on social media but never before on my blog. I am at the helm of Drake’s Golden Hinde II on 10jul2009, which means that I was in a live-world heaven. Originally the helm had a whipstaff for the wheel didn’t exist in Drake’s day. I’m on the half deck of the Golden Hinde II. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Francis Drake (the British pirate) and Francis Drake (the British knight) was a man for all time. … For the record he would have easily walked with frontiersman Ned Wynkoop, Cheyenne chief Black Kettle, and actor Errol Flynn as they all stepped beyond racism. As already stated Drake lived during a time of extreme religious prejudice, a time of absolute butchery of the foe (let’s not forget the American frontier or the modern world of warfare). I have not yet figured out how Drake could step beyond his times and accept people who were of different color and in the case of the Spanish prayed to a God that, although similar to his, preached the elimination—that is the murder—of everyone that did not accept and pray to Jesus as viewed through the Catholic Church. This was a harsh time wherein “infidels,” that is those that did not cherish and praise Jesus Christ exactly as those who accepted Catholicism as worshiped in the Spanish empire were evil and needed to burn at the stake. I can’t begin to imagine the Inquisition or the horror of this kind of death.

This artwork of Sir Francis Drake (1594) is perhaps a copy of the magnificent 1591 jewel portrait of him (a copy of the jewel portrait is in his cabin on the Golden Hinde II, currently docked in London, and the original painting is in the Queen’s House in Greenwich). This unknown artist rendition is rough—at best.

During the attempted Spanish Armada invasion of England in 1588 Drake again played a major role, although he also acted as he had in the past, mainly as a pirate acting on his own hook. I hate authority and love this. Regardless of how we view his actions at this climatic time in England’s history he was a patriot.

Francis Drake was born a protestant, and he would die a protestant. He was born into a world of racism, and his entire life would exist in a harsh climate of religious hatred and brutal murder of those who prayed to a different Jesus Christ and God.

But Francs Drake was different. He was a pirate, and later a knight of the realm. He and those he loved were always at risk of death if the Spanish conquest of England won out. It didn’t, and he and his family survived. Francis Drake would never know Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, or Errol Flynn, and they most likely never considered his life, and yet all of them are tied between the ages and time in that they accepted people of a different race, color, and religion as just people.

This is something that everyone currently walking our world should do. Lordy, if all of us could just do this, what a better world we would have. Think of it … a world without racial or religious prejudice and hate, … a world without conquest and genocide, … a world wherein a woman and a man are equal.

Yep, I dream for a future that I’ll never see.

Sand Creek and a Louis Kraft book update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


Kraft is slow because he wants to research
everything that makes it into his books. This takes time,
a lot of time. At times it is an ungodly amount of time
and yet it must happen before l can deliver a
manuscript to my editor.

I’d like to make a lot of money on my freelance writing, but that
isn’t the objective. What I really want is to write books that have value
and will outlive me. This is my goal, and it has always been my
goal. … The future will decide if I succeed or fail.

You may ask why I have so often talked about time.
The answer is simply that it is key to all of our lives.
For me, the clock is ticking in overtime.

I have work to complete …
and Ladies to protect.

This blog features Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers & Ned Wynkoop

Oops!!!! Sometimes it seems that nothing is easy in my life.

Dumb ol’ Kraft thought that William Byers would be a slam dunk. Since I just used a basketball term I guess that I should continue with the sport that has given me a lot of pleasure during this century. Let’s just say that I thought that Byers would be an easy layup. No-no-no!!!

This image was taken on 5mar2017. My face was lighted by a bay window while the two images on the wall were in almost total darkness. The top image is the poster for the publication of the Wynkoop book. My friend and editor Chuck Rankin gave it to me in 2011. The bottom image is of me as Wynkoop in Ohai, Calif., in 2002. I have been ripped by supposed friends for only writing about one subject—Wynkoop. Pure BS!!!! I’ve written two books about Gatewood and the Apaches and one about Wynkoop. Nothing else needs to be said, other than I need to address this accusation by a so-called writer who is no longer my friend. I also need to address real-life threats upon my life that are heinous. I will someday in the future. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

When I started my current inter-library loan request I was shocked. The Los Angeles Public Library system is huge (100 branches, and the main branch in downtown LA is magnificent). There were no biographies on Mr. Byers, who was one gutsy fellow, and better one of the most important figures during Denver City’s birthing years. He knew what he wanted for the city, for Colorado Territory, and eventually for statehood. Byers shot for the moon and he had no problem going after his competition or those who opposed him. … I have a T-shirt that simply says: pen > sword. I agree with this, and I think that William Byers would have also. Byers was not a man who carried a gun and shot people, but he had guts and then some. I think that if I had had the chance to have met him that we would have gotten along as long as I didn’t oppose his plans. If I did, woe to Kraft for whatever good press he might have given me would have gone up in smoke quickly.

Those of you who have read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011) know who William Byers was. For those of you who haven’t read my book on Wynkoop and who are clueless of who Byers was I hope the following introduces you to him. … I hope that the following introduces you to a magnificent man who had decided to publicize the new land that also happened to be to east of the Rocky Mountains in an area that would eventually become the boom town of Denver City. He, like Ned Wynkoop, would face many adversities for his views and, like Wynkoop’s, could have led to his death on numerous occasions.

Byers and Wynkoop began their relationship when they met in Omaha, Nebraska Territory, in early January 1859. At this time Wynkoop provided details about the gold fields near the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, but these details were mostly based upon rumors as mining was then on hold until the following spring when temperatures warmed. Byers gobbled up what he heard as he was then writing a book that publicized the so-called “Pike’s Peak Region.” It and other books would send hordes of men west in the hope of becoming rich. Most would fail.

This is a variation of an image that I created of Wynkoop for an article I wrote for Custer and His Times Book Five. “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races” was published in 2008. The art has appeared in four or five publications, with the most important being an article that I wrote for Wild West magazine, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” which was published in April 2011. Again, this is a variation, for the image printed in Wild West was an oval and it wasn’t a duotone. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Byers and Wynkoop hit it off that January of 1859. It wasn’t long after their meeting that Byers would set off for the gold fields; he arrived in Denver City in April 1859 and began publishing the Rocky Mountain News soon after. Wynkoop, who had braved the dead of that 1858-1859 winter reached civilization shortly after meeting Byers. He presented the Denver City Town Company’s claim only to fail and not secure the reason for his trip. There was one thing about Wynkoop. Like Byers, he never turned his back on what he thought right, and he refused to quit even though the bid had failed. Wynkoop continued to push for the town company; he also negotiated with the St. Charles Town Company, whose his land group had claim-jumped. Even at this early age Wynkoop was good with words, had charm, and prevailed in merging the two land development companies.

Upon his return to Denver City in fall 1859 Wynkoop and Byers became friends even though Ned survived by the seat of his pants while Byers and his wife Elizabeth socialized with the elite of the booming town.

This would soon hit the fan when Byer’s wife went ballistic with Wynkoop’s future lady. For some reason Byers refused to take sides in this altercation. Actually Byers often allowed Wynkoop to get away with his transgressions wherein if someone else had did what Ned had Byers would have attacked that person in print. To me it appears that the two men had a good friendship to the point that Byers mostly turned his back on his friend’s actions and mostly kept those that stepped outside the law out of the press. But then that terrible event of November 1864 happened, and Wynkoop, then an officer in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry but not present when Chivington’s command attacked the Cheyenne and Arapaho villages at Sand Creek on 29nov1854, refused to keep his opinions silent. Byers had been able to turn his back to a lot of his friend’s antics and indiscretions but not his vocal view that innocent men, women, and children had been murdered and butchered.

This image dates to April 2012 and the Western Heritage Awards weekend in Oklahoma City. My article, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” (Wild West, April 2011) won a Wrangler, which is a cool bronze statue of a cowboy on a horse. This was a fun time with friends and people that I just met. Even though my connection with Wynkoop is deep and ongoing (and I do publicize our connection), to claim that he is the only un-racial person I write about is a joke. I’ve written two books about Charles Gatewood, one about George Armstrong Custer, and when I complete my trilogy on Errol Flynn I will written more about him than anyone else. To date I have written one book about Wynkoop (although he will be a key player in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway). Two books are planned on Kit Carson and two on the pirate Francis Drake. Those of you who have no clue of what you talk about—and I’m pointing my finger at a writer who runs off at the mouth without knowing anything—you need to get educated, you need to do a little research, you need to prepare before you say a lot about nothing. Period! (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

Friends—good friends—became enemies. For all time. LK has been there and done that. Why? How? I don’t know the answer, but with the drop of a quarter good friends, people who I thought were friends until the end of time changed colors, and attacked with a vengeance and a hatred beyond imagination. They were friends of long standing and suddenly they bared their fangs and struck to kill. …

I have not yet survived the shock, or have recovered from the shock of vicious verbal and written attacks of hatred. Most likely I never will. There’s a hole in my life that can never be repaired, never become whole again.

NEVER!

What I have experienced I am certain that Ned Wynkoop had also experienced. The shock in my life was not as extreme as the shock that he lived through for he knew people who were murdered and I only dealt with egotism, stupidity, and love turned into venom. How can a person I liked and respected for decades turn into a viper whose sole goal was to belittle another’s writing career? How can people that I have been close to create lies and then believe them as truth? How do I—or they—survive this? … We don’t. It’s just like seeing fresh roadkill lying in a broken clump with blood seeping onto the pavement. An innocent life had ended for no reason other than being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

LK as Ned Wynkoop viewing the butchered remains of the Sand Creek dead when he visited the massacre site in 1865, as photographed by my good friend, writer, historian, and editor Johnny D. Boggs in December 2008 during a dress rehearsal in Cheyenne, Oklahoma.

These are scenes that I have experienced and I have never forgotten. I’m certain that Wynkoop’s and Byers’ experience was much harsher on both of them than mine has been.

Wynkoop was not me, … nor am I him, yet we are joined between the centuries because of our views on race and racial equality (and not because we had good relationships that flamed out and burned). Does that make him evil … or me evil? Without blinking an eye—No!

Research is mandatory to writing a good book. No real research and a “so-called” nonfiction book is basically bullshit. That is crap, and let me tell you that there are a ton of these pieces of shit published every year. All I can say is: “Shame on these authors!” … “Shame on them!” for their goal was book sales and to hell with truth or reality. You do not want to know my opinion of these cretins for it really isn’t printable.

Where am I headed? I’ll tell you …

Suddenly easy research on Editor Byers has gone belly up. This cannot be for William Byers must be a leading player in my manuscript, even when he is AWOL in book print. He was a major part of my pitch and I have no intention of deserting him or his cause. Trust me. This man had a vision for a new land, and it was a good vision if we view his roadkill attitude of taking no prisoners in print from his point-of-view.

Know this, I don’t give up. I want Arapaho chief Left Hand to be as large as possible. I also want William Byers to be a major presence in the Sand Creek manuscript. … Hint, hint, hint. Ha-ha-ha. … I know the answer but I ain’t a tellin’.

OU Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin speaking at the Western Heritage Awards banquet in April 2012. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

Last December I had a great phone conversation with Chuck Rankin, who had initially pitched me on writing about Sand Creek. It took us two years before we agreed upon a vision for the book and for me to create a 37-page proposal (that Chuck reviewed in progress and in which he had great input). Going into the project I knew I had bitten off a huge bite, but that would be worth all the wrong turns, dead ends, and honestly the struggle to use a select group of players drive a non-biography to conclusion. … I don’t get headaches; never. That was then. Now is now, and now I get headaches. But then perhaps this is only because I have fallen on my head way too often.

I have an angle to follow. It is not where you might think. It is not where I would have ever guessed. But it is close to home. My fingers are crossed that I can make my pitch and that my desire is fulfilled. I’ll soon know, but not you for you will have to wait. Sorry, but that’s just life in the real world.

But an unforeseen problem

As mentioned above, I failed to locate a biography of William Byers in the Los Angeles Public Library’s 100 branches. Abebooks.com, which I often use for research, also had no hits. Ditto Amazon.com. At the moment I have a zero mark on landing a major biography of one of the most important players in Denver and Colorado Territory’s early years. Why? WHY?

I have some great primary sources on Mr. Byers. Hell, a week doesn’t go by when I don’t have my nose pressed against my computer screen reading an issue of the Rocky Mountain News. Someday this will cause me to go blind. Don’t believe me, read the sucker, that is the RMN, without glasses or a magnifying glass. Byers’ paper that he used to conquer all who opposed his vision is a magnificent document. Magnificent as long as you understand the paper’s stance and viewpoint. … That’s right, for sometimes you must read between the lines or more important question what you have just read.

Heck, the Los Angeles Times is a magnificent newspaper—today, in 2010, and in 1941 or 1937 or before. This does not mean that I buy what the paper has printed in well over a century sight unseen. Actually, just like I challenge the Rocky Mountain News, I also challenge the LA Times, and I do use it for historical research, today’s events, and even the paper’s selection of cartoons, which are first class (and often hit the target dead center).

This is an artistic rendering of the west coast of Costa Rica. It could have been the southern coasts of Spain or France, or, if I eliminated the water and changed some of the colors, New Mexico. … I love Los Angeles. It has more culture and artistic events than anywhere else in the USA, and that includes NYC and Santa Fe, which is my favorite city in America. Moreover, and much more important, Los Angeles has more people of ethnic origin than any city in the USA, and even more important has more Thai people than any city in the USA (and if you add all the Thai population in the other cities stretched across our great country together LA still remains number one). This is a major fact for my lady, and the major reason for us to not leave this great city. Put mildly, Los Angeles is our home and we don’t want to move. That said I constantly study Costa Rica and New Mexico. The future? Someday we’ll know. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

On 20mar2017 the Los Angeles Times led with “Trump’s immigration plan faces obstacles,” by Don Lee (pA1+). If you read the article and dig, just a little, you will see that the threat is much more than to just immigrants without papers and to immigrants with no criminal records and are in the U.S. as it offers them a much better life. … Actually the threat is frightening and it is much larger than you might expect.

This is one of my favorite images of my cowgirl, my lady, my best friend, my love, and my wife (although she wasn’t my wife when I took this photo in the front yard of Tujunga House on 7nov2013). (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna 2013)

In my freelance writing I try to challenge everything that I discover and read and discuss with my network of writers, historians, editors, artists, and other creative people. The thoughts and ideas are lively. Many have helped me, and I hope that I have helped some of them. I use my network to not only widen my knowledge but to keep up our friendships. Besides some of what I learn or now understand might eventually make it into a talk, article, or book. … I also try to do this with my every-day life and world, but most of this I do on my own. I believe that eventually the United States will regain its senses and most of this ugliness that is currently in vogue will begin to fade away. If perchance it doesn’t make a major U-turn, most of my adult life will have been lived in vain and all that you and I have seen change for the good will have been for naught. What does that say about our time walking this earth?

A William Byers strikeout

At the moment I feel like one of the Major League Baseball players that whiff (that is strike out) 200 or more times every season while justifying their failure to hit the baseball and their piss-poor .245 batting average means nothing as they belted 37 balls over the fence (that is 37 home runs). Give me a break! I’ve seen great ballplayers perform on TV and in person, and there aren’t many that are great. One was Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers (who, and luckily for me, moved to Los Angeles when the Dodgers deserted Brooklyn, New York, after the 1957 season).

The signature to LK was on the cover of a magazine that printed a feature on the Duke by yours truly. I would write numerous articles about him, but when I pitched him to co-author his autobiography I stuck out for he had already contracted with writer Bill Gilbert. … I spent a fair amount of time with the Duke during a few years in the 1980s. He was a good man, gracious, and I treasure our time together. Not bragging, and I’m not a big fan of celebrity signatures, but I’ve got a lot of the Duke’s. (A side note on another great player, Barry Bonds: His swing was so compact and smooth. Regardless if he took drugs or not and I’m not going to state what I believe about this, he belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, he certainly grew larger during the second half of his career, and the extra muscle certainly helped his home run output. But he still had to hit the baseball, and if you’ve never attempted to hit a ball that is coming at you at 90+ miles per hour you have no idea of how difficult it is to do.)

I hate feeling like that ball player who hits .245 when he’s lucky. And I’m not talking about money or poor performance. Rather I’m racking my brain trying to figure out how I’m going to make Byers fully dimensional. … At the moment I have more strikeouts than hits, and this isn’t acceptable.

I know that a Byers’ bio exists and I hope that I’ll be able to see it. If not, Mr. Byers won’t get too much press in future LK blogs. A shame, for it would be fun to challenge him at times. And especially so, since I already know that he wouldn’t meet me on the field of honor at 10 paces with revolvers in our hands—something that John Simpson Smith would not have blinked an eye before making or accepting such a challenge.

This image was published in “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” in the April 2011 issue of Wild West. William Byers is standing in the upper right. This article was almost never published. When I saw a proof I wasn’t pleased. It had but two images of Ned Wynkoop in the feature, and the portrait on the first page of the article was dinky. I had suggested most of the images in the article, including two of William Byers. I spoke with the person in charge of the images and told her that I wanted the above group shot removed so that the portrait of Wynkoop on the first page could grow in size. She told me that the design was complete and nothing could be changed. I restated what I wanted. She refused to budge and the phone call went downhill. Finally I said that if the portrait wasn’t enlarged it wouldn’t appear in the magazine. She told me to talk with Greg Lalire, and then hung up. Greg L is a great editor, and probably the major reason behind Wild West’s success for decades. He is also my friend. I didn’t call him. Two days later he called me and asked if I had a problem? “No,” I said, “but one of your coworkers has a problem.” He already knew what was going on; still we talked it through. … I want to say this up front, Greg has done everything possible to print my stories over the years, and he didn’t desert me at this critical point. … A few days later he called again and said that he had cut the other image of Byers. I saw another proof. My art had grown but not completely—still I was pleased. The Wynkoop article saw print and out of nowhere it won a major award, the Wrangler.

Does this make Byers a coward? Absolutely not! He was a brave man who put his life at risk day in and day out. … A little change of subject: Los Angeles has returned to its modern-day version of Dodge City. That is people are again gunned down or knifed to death at an alarming rate. I haven’t been saving these articles in the LA Times for it seems that almost every day another one or two or three or more people die violently (and many of them are innocent bystanders, and that includes infants, children, women, and men). Will their murderers be apprehended, brought to trial, and convicted? The answer is sadly not always yes.

This is a sad state of affairs, but this is nothing when compared to the dark-dark days that California will soon face. Although the Golden State isn’t a country I’ve seen it listed as the sixth richest economical area in the world. Well that bold claim may not hold up too long if the presidential prejudice and anger that is aimed at destroying its economy becomes reality. … That said, I’m totally against California becoming a separate country (as many idiots are proposing and pushing to get onto an upcoming ballot).

I have a lot of favorite images of my lady, and some of them are two-shots. This photo is one that I really like (it is framed and in our living room). This image dates to 13nov2013. We were enjoying the opening of the Lily Pad Thai Spa & Massage in Sherman Oaks, California. For the record, we were sitting on the floor. (photo © Pailin Subanna and Louis Kraft 2013)

Folks, the country of California is a joke. It is also a frightening possibility for those of us who love the USA and are thankful that we live in the United States regardless of how bad and racist our land has become in just a blink of time.

A return to the Sand Creek manuscript in a totally different direction

The young Cheyenne woman (she was in her early-to-mid-teens at the time of Sand Creek) Mo-nahs-e-tah, and this is the phonetic spelling and pronunciation of her name (I say this for often her name has been written as Mo-nah-se-tah (and other variations), which is wrong). Dr. Henrietta Mann, a Southern Cheyenne, who’s entire career has been one of exceptional achievement, including being one of the founders of the Cheyenne [and] Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma, shared this with me in 2012.

Dr. Henrietta Mann speaking at the Washita Battlefield NHS symposium on 6de2008. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

I met and became friends with Dr. Mann—Henri to me—at the Washita Battlefield NHS in December 2008. … In April 2012 we smiled and joked, we shared gifts, and we talked about serious subjects when I drove to Weatherford to visit her in her office at the college. She ordered lunch in and our time together continued with a mix of good and bad.

The Cheyennes are unfortunately on the bad side (if you’ve read my writing or heard my talks or seen my plays you know why). I’m not on that “bad” side; actually I’m on the opposite side. The Cheyennes in the 1850s, 1960s, and beyond, were on the good side. Although the word wouldn’t exist until the end of WWII, they faced “genocide.” Genocide! White people craved their land, and they did whatever they could to secure it (a better word is “steal” it). … And this included murder. Of course, when the Cheyennes and their allies fought back they were reported as “vicious savages who murdered and raped.”

The lady 2nd from the left is Mo-nahs-e-tah, and I am certain of this. She is holding her child who was pure Cheyenne. Prior to when this image was created she accompanied George Armstrong Custer on his mission of peace on the Staked Plains of the Texas panhandle. Her child, which was then an infant, did not accompany her. I have used a full view of this image in Custer and the Cheyenne and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. … During my visit with Henri in 2012 I asked her how she would phonetically spell and pronounce Mo-nahs-e-tah’s name. She gave me the above information.

When your total lifeway is at risk, and that includes your lives, what are you going to do?

FIGHT! Or in the case of Arapaho Left Hand, and Cheyennes Black Kettle, Lean Bear, and White Antelope they would do everything possible to keep the peace between the races with words and not weapons.

Does this make them a “savage?” Or did this make those who refused to fight for freedom without weapons traitors to their own race? The answer to both questions is: No!

LK art of Bull Bear, the great Dog Man chief, and of Black Kettle, who, in my opinion was the greatest Cheyenne chief of all time. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Until Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway goes to press I will struggle to define and document the Cheyennes (and to a lesser degree) the Arapahos lifeway and history. This time in their lives, this critical time in their lives must be recorded. And it must not be forgotten. … Also it must be recorded with an unbiased opinion.

I know that Mo-nahs-e-tah was at Sand Creek on 29nov1864, and I know that she escaped, but that was it. Now, thanks to my good friend, Gary Leonard, who is very knowledgable about this lady and the Cheyennes, I now know that she did not make her run for freedom that winter day before a soldier’s ball wounded her. Do I have enough to write about this? That is a big question at the moment. Perhaps Gary and I will be able to open a conversation wherein we can share and discuss, confirm some facts, and learn more about her. I hope so; otherwise this would be a tragedy for me.

I can’t begin to tell you how difficult this is to realize. Unfortunately this problem is generally the case, and that is that the victors write the history, and the losers’ stories are forgotten or ignored or buried. This should not be; it should never be!

As previously stated … 

I have to complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and Errol & Olivia. Fear not for I will do this. Know also that I am one tough cowboy. I will outlive my ladies for I must protect them, I must keep them safe. … This means that you will endure decades more of my writing. Smile, for you have good—or bad—reading a comin’.

Sand Creek, Louis Kraft, and pushing to step out of the box

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


You know me, or you don’t know me.
If I dared to publish a memoir right now and you read it you
would proclaim: “No! Absolutely not! Kraft writes fiction, for what he has
written could never have happened!” … At the same time you might fall out of your
chair as you were laughing so hard. And again you would proclaim: “No!
Absolutely not! Kraft writes fiction, for what he has written could
never have happened for it is too funny to be true!”

I’m not a clown, but at times I think I need to paint my face.

A return to John Simpson Smith

As I claw and struggle to figure out who I am, I am attempting to figure out who the leading players are in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. The research is ongoing and relentless. Hours and hours sweep by while I try to figure out what happened in a flash of time. I am about to get my paws on a letter that John Simpson Smith would deny, hate, and swear vengeance upon me if ever we meet in the hereafter if the information ends up in my manuscript. The information in that letter will see the light of day in my Sand Creek book (and it is in place now and will remain so regardless how much a copyeditor might want to delete it).

No, this lady, an actress, and please accept my humble-humble apologies for I don’t remember her name, is not John Smith. We were working out in North Hollywood Park in preparation for a series of sword-fighting one-act plays that would be performed in 1982. Actually I’m lunging with a slashing attack to her breast and she is parrying my saber. … If John Smith and I meet up in the afterlife and he isn’t happy about what I have written about him I’m certain that he’ll attack me (not with sabers; more likely Bowie knives, which I also know how to wield). … Going in another direction I need to say something. I have been accused way too often of being intimate with ladies when nothing happened. We were friends. Friends! I hate to say it, but men and women can be friends without being intimate. This lady is a great example. Don’t believe me? I can provide a long list of ladies who have been my friends over the years and nothing else. Enough said. (photo © Louis Kraft 1982)

… So if Mr. Smith and I do meet, I had better be ready to parry (that’s a sword-fighting term; see the above image) his assault on my person as it won’t be pretty.

If you have read any of my writing, heard any of my talks, or seen any of my plays about Ned Wynkoop that deal with Mr. Smith you know that they weren’t bosom buddies.

I’m not picking on John Smith here. Actually my appreciation of him has grown ten-fold in the last year. He was one-tough dude, and believe me he was lightyears ahead of his time and place. … He did some things that I view as heinous. Heck, perhaps I’ve done some things that he might consider in a less than positive light, or perhaps even laughable (and I’m not laughing here). A better word for both of us looking at each others lives might be “cringing.” What he did and what I have done will not nimbly move back and forth between two different times and place.

AND …

It is a done deal that John S. Smith will play a leading role in my Sand Creek book, for the simple reason I can’t stop researching him (my apologies for much of the text in this paragraph previously saw life elsewhere on social media). This is a mouthful, but fear not for Black Kettle will have a large roll and Left Hand will be as large as possible. The incomparable Ned Wynkoop will play his part as will John Chivington, William Byers, and John Evans. Mixed-blood Cheyenne George Bent has given us so much with his letters over the course of decades as he filled in the blanks with what he saw or with what his Cheyenne friends saw and shared with him. … Back to Mr. Smith: He performed perhaps the most heinous event I’ve ever documented and to repeat myself it is now in the manuscript. Rape, murder, sexual butchery is certainly there big time but not performed by Mr. Smith. By now I have experience dealing with the dark side, and if I didn’t the world that I immersed myself in during the writing of The Discovery finished me off, for it got dark, real dark, and perhaps too explicit. Nevertheless Mr. Smith has landed himself a place in infamy for doing something that at least to me is unthinkable.

This is a detail from the great art of the 1939 USA one-sheet for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with James Stewart and Jean Arthur. (one-sheet © Columbia Pictures Corporation 1939)

… And yes, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (this is actually the title of a 1939 James Stewart film but Jimmy S. wasn’t playing John S.). John Smith took Indians to the capital city at least three times (and maybe four). Actually there is a novel by Bruce Cutler, The Massacre at Sand Creek: Narrative Voices (OU Press, 1995) that is also poetry when dealing with the Cheyennes. Believe it or not way too often historians have quoted and cited this work of fiction as fact. I’m chuckling here for this is totally absurd. Near the end of the novel John Smith has an eight-page conversation with the Devil while returning to the frontier after his last trip to Washington, D.C. I wish that I could cite this book as it has a lot to offer on Smith and other Sand Creek players, but I can’t for the reason already stated.

Huh?

Can John Smith document Louis Kraft’s life? Can Louis Kraft document his? At the moment I’m the only one who will be called onto the carpet to produce fair and unbiased prose about Mr. Smith (for he doesn’t get his chance to talk about me until I join him sometime in the future). Ha-ha! Upper hand: Kraft!

What I’m talking about in this blog is simply that it isn’t easy to piece together mini biographies of eight or ten people (and at this moment this list is shrinking) and merge them together and tell the story of an event in November 1864 that reverberates to this day (and long beyond).

Add Left Hand to “Why John Simpson Smith?”

What has the Arapaho Chief Left Hand have to do with John Smith? Actually he had a lot to do with Smith, but much of it is in a very grey area. By that I mean that this connection raises more questions than the few answers it supposedly confirms.

I’m certain that you are wondering why I have spent so much time in these blogs dealing with Mr. Smith. The reason is simple: He was part of the Sand Creek story before there was a Sand Creek story. And better he walked on both sides of the Sand Creek story, and that includes being in the village when it was attacked.

This is Margaret Coel’s cover page on Facebook. Very nice! She is a long-time writer who has focused on fiction. Her work should be honored, and I do honor her for her fiction and for her groundbreaking work on the great Arapaho Chief Left Hand. (art © Margaret Coel 2017)

A novelist/two-time nonfiction (?) writer Margaret Coel labeled Smith as “Lyin’ John” in her biography of Arapaho chief Left Hand (Chief Left Hand, Southern Arapaho, OU Press, 1981). I have problems with her book, including her research, her citations, and information that was created without any supporting evidence. My copy of her book (and it is the only biography to my knowledge that deals with Left Hand, or Niwot, and for this reason alone it should be in every library that deals with the Arapahos, the Cheyennes, and the 1860s), which is paper, and will not survive my Sand Creek manuscript. By that I mean that it will fall apart in the not-too-distant future. This is good for it means that I am using it and trying to understand it and challenging it.

For the record there are no photographic images of Left Hand (a terrible shame).

With luck someday I’ll meet Ms. Coal. If so I have every intention of giving her a big hug for she chose to write about a very important person (that shockingly many historians have ignored). Why? WHY? Left Hand was a major player in the Sand Creek story. A MAJOR PLAYER! Regardless of my view of her book on Left Hand, kudos to her for writing it!!!!! Ms. Coel, I hope that someday I am lucky and that in our future we do meet.

The piss-poor art of John Smith that I used in 2016 continues to grow (and darken). He’s coming closer to reality, and I still have a lot more work in front of me (light paint strokes, more dark?, and his eyes—I need to bring his eyes to life), and there’s even more for if I choose to use this portrait of him in the Sand Creek book my color art must transfer to grayscale decently (this means the contrast of dark and light must work well together). (John Smith art © Louis Kraft 2017)

But I’m wandering from John Smith, and I shouldn’t be. Ms. Coal’s Left Hand is of major importance to Smith as it paints him in a not-so-good light. To date the two things I take away from her book is that Smith lied and that Left Hand, who spoke English, knew this. What I have just said has launched me on perhaps a wild goose chase (similar to a bitty in a major Arizona University, who, while supposedly aiding my Lt. Charles Gatewood research (for Gatewood & Geronimo, University of New Mexico Press, 2000) plotted a misdirection and wasted my time and money looking for key information in a state where it never existed).*

 * I found the information and it was roughly a two-hour drive from my home in Los Angeles.

But in the case of John Smith, and I must learn the truth about him (and this is also so for Left Hand) for much of what I currently know about him is totally illogical (and the “illogical” is also true for Left Hand). I raise my own questions and track the answers until I find them or realize that 1) There is no answer, or 2) I’m searching in the wrong place.

Yeah, I’m slow, but that’s just me.

Smith and Left Hand’s roles will be as large as possible. Smith has become a leading player; I’m worried about Left Hand’s presence in the manuscript.

“I Stand By Sand Creek!”

Supposedly Colonel John Chivington said these words sometime after the 29nov1864 attack on the joint Cheyenne-Arapaho village and the booming proclamations of “Great victory” had begun to lose its luster and “Indian massacre” tainted Chivington’s fame.

The Sand Creek manuscript flies forward, and this makes me one happy cowboy. … This blog won out over a blog that again deals with racism in my life that is also close to publication. … John Chivington, that is Colonel John Chivington, who led the attack on the peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, on 29nov1864, plays a role in the upcoming book. I needed an image of him. This is it, and it represents him near the end of his life. Not to worry for it won’t be in the book unless I can improve it. (Chivington art © Louis Kraft 2017)

Actually Chivington’s quote, “I Stand By Sand Creek!” became the title of a book about him (“I Stand By Sand Creek”: A Defense of Colonel John M. Chivington and the Third Colorado Cavalry by Lt. Colonel William R. Dunn, The Old Army Press, 1985). I didn’t remember my impression of the book until I looked at it for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011), wasn’t impressed, and didn’t use anything from the book. … The search is under way for finding the colonel’s quote, and I believe it was later rather than earlier. Good friend and terrific Indian wars historian John Monnett suggested that I check the Rocky Mountain News during the 1890s for the quote.

This is on my to do list.

I’ve been discussing the Sand Creek manuscript with Steve Schmidt, a knowledgeable and literate person I met in Kansas a number of years back. Steve has kindly been offering me leads to research and raising questions that are valid. One, pertaining to Mr. Chivington, is right on target. He put it in my head, and let me tell you it “ain’t a goin’ away.” My dear colonel, you and I will be walking hand-in-hand for the unforeseeable future. This said, John Chivington, I have no comments to say about you. You are who you have proven to be, a man of guts, a man who reached for his own future, a man who was totally in-tune to his own world. Mr. Chivington, you are a great challenge for me, and I must—absolutely must—walk in your boots, get into your head, and present you as you viewed your life. Anything less will be subpar and little more than crap. … However long this takes me I must do it. And, … and if, … OU Press bashes me in the head for taking too long—shame on them for I must become one with you, John Chivington.

Luckily it ties in with the Methodist angle on the Sand Creek story, which is the basis for Gary Roberts’ latest book on Chivington’s attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village in 1864.

Other media and this blog

Although what I share on these blogs are the real LK, I have placed a lot of background information elsewhere. This said, the “elsewhere” destination is clean cut, meaning the Walt Disney version. On the blogs I have at times pushed to cross a line that perhaps I shouldn’t cross. But still I haven’t gone any farther than an “R” rating (in other words, not appropriate for anyone below the age of 17 without their parents’ permission). Duh!! I know, I’m still doing a balancing act between goody-two-shoes and a real “R” rating (which someday may be pushed to perhaps “NC-17” in other formats).

LK in the living room at Tujunga House on 5jan2017 just before nightfall. Egotism aside, this is one of my favorite images of me. Reason: I look alive and happy. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

What can I provide for you here? Actually nothing, for LK censures LK.

Actually I’ve made great strides into moving into the “R” zone (and beyond, and again I have toyed with going beyond this rating in both my fiction and art). If you think that I’m joking here—I’m not. For the record I constantly attempt to push the limits of my creativity in all directions whenever I can. This is not just for creativity’s sake but for me forever trying to expand my capabilities in the various medias in which I work. Be it words or art I must be true to myself. At the same time I must observe the limits of the various media that publishes my work; meaning that at times words or art that is acceptable in one media (let’s say fiction) is not acceptable in another media (such as nonfiction). This is a juggling act for me with the center point being my blogs, but not completely, for no matter how much I push myself on the blogs there are words and art that I cannot share with you (at least not today). … I’d like to, but I’m frightened of the response.

For the record I paint portraits of human beings (including myself). I view them as art. … For a long time I have debated what I can share on the blogs. LK nude? I could share this. Will I? Don’t know, but not today, and most likely never. The ladies in my life? … Not the major ladies in my life (Anglo American, Japanese, Korean, and Thai) for they would not want this (and I am in total agreement with them). That said, others who will remain nameless shed their clothes and posed for my camera, may appear sometime in the future but only in art that I created of them.

LK at the Louvre in Paris on 1jul2004. I visited the Louvre twice (2004 and 2009). This is what I looked like on the first visit (photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

This brings me to a great piece of art that I have seen twice at Musée D’Orsay in Paris, France (2004 and 2009). It had to have been shocking when Gustave Courbet created and first displayed his “L’Origine du Monde” over a century ago. I could describe the painting, but I won’t. This said, I think that it is magnificent and deserves its permanent exhibition at Musée D’Orsay, which is by far the best museum of art in the world that I have ever been fortunate to visit. The painting is still shocking to this day. This said, it is glorious and should have not been hidden from the world for years and years. Is this painting, which I’m not describing or sharing, art? Yes! Yes, and yes without a doubt. What does this say about Courbet? What does this say about Kraft? What does this say about you?

I know what this says about Courbet and about me. I don’t know what it says about you, and honestly I don’t care. Obviously—or not obviously—I’ve been talking about sexuality and nudity in my life. I don’t know about you, but sexuality and nudity has played a large role in my life. This huge part of perhaps many of our lives has given my life the energy and the desire to survive and cherish each and every moment I have walking through our so-called “world of woe.”

Am I evil? No, I don’t think so.

The LK blogs …

The purpose of the LK blogs from the beginning in early 2013 was to push my writing capabilities beyond what they had been in the past. That goal is still front and center as you and I move forward in 2017 and beyond. Why? This is a simple question but without an answer, at least not an answer that I can provide at this time.

All I can say is that I need to be true to me, true to my vision of nonfiction, fiction, and art. I actually have a major question that is front and center every day. Mainly, Kraft, how many days do you have left? What can you complete before the end? What do you have to do? In a nutshell I must protect my beautiful wife and daughter (and my daughter’s mother), and this includes living for as long as I can to accomplish this. So you know, I work at this every day (and often this is three to four hours of my time every day). I have one other reason for living, and that is my writing. Without blinking an eye I must complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and deliver the manuscript to my great friend and editor Chuck Rankin; I must also complete Errol & Olivia.

The reason for completing these two manuscripts is simple: They will be the most important books that I write in my lifetime (while my favorite has already been printed by OU Press, Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek). LK’s writing world does not end with these two manuscripts, for I will have a long life as I move forward in my writing (this includes two additional nonfiction books on Errol Flynn; two books on Kit Carson, one nonfiction and one fiction; two books on the English pirate and knight Francis Drake (again one nonfiction and one fiction). Ladies and gents, this is a mouthful. But—BUT—on the plus side it will ensure that I live a long life as I protect the women in my life.

The above is my future, and it is a good one.

Back to the Sand Creek manuscript

All I can say here is that I need to walk with the leading players in the Sand Creek manuscript as they move forward with their lives. I’m getting close to Mr. Smith, perhaps a little too close (but I’m thrilled with what is current in the manuscript). I’ve known Ned Wynkoop for decades, and even though I’ve written about Black Kettle for the same length of time I’m only now doing what I can to walk in his moccasins. This is not a small comment about BK, for he was an extraordinary man and I need to know him intimately before the Sand Creek manuscript goes to press. I need to repeat these words in another way—I need to bring Black Kettle to life, something that has still never happened in my books or any other books.

Add Left Hand to my list, but here I’m fearful that I won’t find enough primary material (or accurate information) to fill out his life.

This woodcut of the Camp Weld 28sept1864 meeting is a total joke. It is a available in numerous archives. From left to right: Black Kettle (in clothing and with a hairstyle that he never wore or had; a bearded John Smith (I have all of the known photos of Mr. Smith, including the famed 28sept1864 image with Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Bull Bear, and other key players at Camp Weld, and in all of them he is clean shaven). Finally, Wynkoop never dressed in this totally fictional uniform. Worse, none of these three players look like the artist painted them. I have toyed with using this art in the Sand Creek manuscript, but only to list all the errors in it. I have 37 contracted images for the Sand Creek book, three of which will be maps. Time will tell, but at the moment using this image is doubtful.

As the days pass numerous players cement their positions as leading players while others continue to fall by the wayside. Fear not, for John Chivington, John Evans, William Byers will all play their parts. As will George Bent. All I can say about George, other than “God bless him for what he has given us—you, me, and every other person that gives a hoot about the Cheyenne and Arapaho people while writing about their history during the 1860s owes Bent one hell of a lot. George Bent was one special human being and I pray that I do him justice.” His brother Charles was just as noteworthy but unfortunately his life was way-too-short and poorly documented (other than volumes of fiction; that is naming him leading raids and killing a lot of whites). If a white person under attack (or captured) by a war party heard a warrior speak the English language who do you think they named even though they had never seen that person before (or later) in their lives? You got it: A name they had heard once or twice or nine times before, … George or Charles Bent or Edmund Guerrier or Jack Smith. Without knowing what these young men looked like (by 1864 two were teenagers and two were in their early twenties), but still they were named for killing and raping again and again. All four were accused of many “crimes”* that most likely they never performed. …

* Crimes? A lot of these so-called “crimes” happened in retaliation for military actions that included, among other “crimes,” attacking peaceful villages and murdering Cheyenne leaders who attempted to speak to the soldiers (one of the attacks, that on Sand Creek, also included killing Arapahos, and especially Left Hand, who, like Cheyennes Lean Bear, White Antelope, and Black Kettle who also died violently, did all he could to keep the peace between the races). … Yes, the Cheyennes, Arapahos, and their allies the Sioux (Lakotas) fought to save their families and loved ones, the buffalo, their land, their religion, their language, and their freedom. CRIMES???? Let’s call it war, a war of survival with the end result never in doubt.

As this blog is hopefully giving you yet another taste of what is coming …

… Lets mention the ladies? A few will have supporting (unfortunately small supporting) roles, but they are key to the Sand Creek story. Chuck Rankin and I have discussed bringing them into the story, but there just is not enough information to make any of them full supporting players (much less leading players). This said, there will be a few surprises in the Sand Creek manuscript—good surprises (I promise).

This is artwork for the mini series Centennial (which premiered on American TV in the late 1970s). From left Richard Chamberlain, Robert Conrad, Sally Kellerman, Michael Ansara, and Barbara Carrera. I decided to use this art because there were two-mixed blood Cheyenne brothers in the early episodes of the mini series that represented George and Charles Bent. Played by Stephen McHattie (as the mixed-blood Cheyenne Jacques Pasquinel, and an actor that I thought would become a star as every performance of his that I have seen has been exceptional, including playing the acting legend James Dean) and Kario Salem as the mixed-blood Cheyenne brother Marcel Pasquinel). Their characters were totally fictional, but the two actors and the parts they played were riveting. I want to say a little more here. Richard Chamberlain was a pretty-boy TV star in Dr. Kildare in the early 1960s, but refused to be who he was and studied acting (including classical theater) and recreated himself as a very good actor and he became the king of the mini series. My favorite actress of all time is Gong Li (who is Chinese), and the reason is that she is totally in the moment—she listens, she thinks, and she responds (just like Errol Flynn). There are a lot of actresses that I like, including Barbara Hershey, Olivia de Havilland, Meryl Streep, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Barbara Carerra, among others. Carerra, who is Nicaraguan, was a model, and she is beautiful but not a good actress except in two mini series, Centennial (as the Cheyenne Clay Basket) in 1978-1979 and in Masada with Peter O’Toole (as the Jewish woman Sheva) in 1981.

And this is the same for others who play specific parts but are only fleeting in the flow of the story before they unfortunately exit the story. I have learned how to do this when I wrote The Discovery between January 2014 and April 2016. Some of these players are mixed-blood Tsistsistas (Cheyennes) Edmund Guerrier (mentioned above and an all time favorite of mine), who will soon move into the forefront with an upcoming book on him by a good friend of mine named Dee Cordry (and I do not want to share any information about his his work until he gives me the okay to do so) as will Jack Smith (John Smith’s son, and also mentioned above). Trust me, for there are others.

I’m not ignoring my Indian players, but other than Arapaho Niwot (Left Hand), who, as I said above, I am struggling to find real documentation to confirm his life (don’t ask, for you won’t like what I say), and Arapaho Little Raven. Others who I thought might be leading players are slipping through the cracks of my research. I still hope Dog Man Bull Bear plays a larger role than now anticipated, and ditto Cheyennes White Antelope and Lean Bear. My favorite Dog Man is Tall Bull, but to date I have very little of him during the 1863-1865 timeframe. … Suggestions of where to research these gentlemen are always welcome.

Silas Soule’s wedding photo in April 1865 as restored by LK per the permission of Byron Strom for publication in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. Hopefully Byron, who controls the Anne E. Hemphill Collection in Des Moines, Iowa, will again agree to me restoring yet another great image of Silas Soule that must see print.

One white man that I hope whose role can grow is Captain Silas Soule. The reason is twofold: Much that has been written about him to date is bogus. More important he refused to fire his weapons at the Cheyennes and Arapahos camped at Sand Creek on 29nov1864, as did Lieutenant Joseph Cramer, and those of their men who obeyed their orders not to fire on the Indians (as documented in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek). … Cramer would survive his damning testimony and letter to Wynkoop; Soule would not for he would be murdered in the streets of Denver weeks after his marriage at the beginning of April 1865.

Colonel George Shoup of the Third Colorado Volunteers is a mystery. Can I bring him to life? My fingers are crossed. As they are to bring some of the whites to life in supporting roles who held firm with Chivington’s proclamation: “I stand by Sand Creek.”

William Bent, one of the founders of Bent’s Fort, and more importantly a leading player in the development of the Cheyenne and Arapaho domination of the central plains, their lifeway based upon the buffalo, and their trading to the south, the north, and the east, and their horse-based culture that had evolved less than a century before Sand Creek. A lot of work is coming here, for this man’s life and world is a major part of the story.

These players and the tragic events of November 1864 affected a lot of people during the 1860s, they have affected a lot of people since that tragic day of 29nov1864, and they have affected me for decades.

These people, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., African Americans, Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apaches, and believe it or not the English pirate Francis Drake have played major roles in my writing decisions and my chosen path in my writing life and future.

It is what it is

… And my life is good.

The Sand Creek, Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


I thought that for the third time my next major blog would deal with race and racism in my life, as this has always been a major piece of my world and always will be.

Actually on other social media it had been advertised as the next blog
as an introduction to dealing with some of the explosive comments
that my blogs had garnered that were both hateful and
threatening. Those who responded, and almost as
a total group, uplifted me from the dark swirl
of what amounted to threats.

I have no intention of shortchanging my world but
at the moment I need time, … and want to keep focused on
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

I have a major announcement to make in regards to
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
(It will appear at the end of this blog).

Who am I?

I’m a pirate, a duelist, an explorer, a frontiersman. More important I’m a person who has walked between race in my world and in past worlds that I never experienced but know intimately (the last half of the 16th century, the 1860s and 1880s, and the 1930s through the 1950s and into the 1970s).

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LK leaning against Ned Wynkoop’s restored home/U.S. Indian agency just outside the perimeter of Fort Larned in Kansas on 22sept2012. I represented Wynkoop that evening when the Santa Fe Trail Association inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Photo by Fort Larned NHS chief historian and my great friend George Elmore. (image © Louis Kraft 2012 & 2015)

My books all deal with the human experience (regardless if they are nonfiction or fiction). They deal with time and place while none of them are in the present. For the record, the only book I’ll ever write that deals with the here and now will be my memoir (and I had better be dead at least one day before it is published). Trust me that my research on this fact is on target and that there can be no room for deviation from what must happen before this book is published.

These are not dark words. Rather they are truths in our modern world. Most people who write about their lives (or have someone else write about their lives for them) steer clear of truth. The reason is probably twofold: 1) They don’t want to be sued for telling the truth, and 2) They do not want to present themselves as less than an exemplary person. Unfortunately fully ninety percent of the autobiographies or memoirs that I have read fall into this category. These books are glossed-over bores that quickly put me to sleep. This must be good for I certainly need to sleep, perchance to dream.

mwww_ws

Of course this book has an LK story. It was distributed to book sellers early in 1960. As said Flynn had seen the galleys but he did not live to see publication (he died on 14oct1959). … At the time of publication I was in elementary school, and I had a job—a paper route—that I worked seven days a week. When the book was published I purchased it. My mother was upset and asked where I got the book. “I bought it.” “The book store sold it to you?” she asked incredulously. “Yes.” My mother knew that Errol Flynn meant a lot to me, even at that early age. “Okay,” she said, “as long as you don’t tell anyone you have the book or what is inside it.” I readily agreed. … Flynn wrote a book that contained a lot of truth—(and to repeat myself) so much so that for the second printing a lot was removed as some people didn’t like what he had written about them. They couldn’t sue Flynn for telling the truth for he was dead, but they made their anger known. … Many people have since spread the word that a lot of the book was fiction (certainly in the early portion of the book; Tasmania and New Guinea, that a book I own but don’t totally agree with documented). … I have a lot to say about this. Mainly 1) Flynn changed names and facts to protect friends and himself (trust me, this is not strange in memoir); and 2) I write nonfiction (Custer, Gatewood, Geronimo, Wynkoop, and Flynn and that includes Olivia de Havilland as she plays a large role in my first book on Mr. Flynn). Guess what: All of these people never documented their past accurately. Why? I’ll tell you why—I can’t document my past accurately. Reason: My memory has changed; it has forgotten or it has evolved into a new view of my life over time (thus I keep boxes upon boxes of documentation for my memoir). … Ditto Custer, Gatewood, Geronimo, Wynkoop, Flynn, and de Havilland. And there is what I said above about Flynn: Protecting himself and friends. … If I have learned a major thing from Flynn’s memoir (and this is my favorite book of all time), it is that when my memoir is ready for publication that it must be published after I am dead for this will be the only way I’ll be able to tell the truth.

The one autobiography that I have read that has forever stayed front and center in my life is Errol Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1959). Mr. Flynn had magnificent help from writer Earl Conrad, who spent prime time with him in Jamaica when the actor-writer had trouble completing his memoir. Of course, Flynn’s story raised eyebrows. Certain personages were misnamed. Read: To protect friends (or Flynn himself). Other people Flynn spoke too truthfully about. Read: You pick them (but you had better have a first edition of MWWW, for if not a lot of the swashbuckler’s truths vanished in subsequent printings). Although Flynn knew he was dying (something that he had known for quite some time) he didn’t know that he wouldn’t see the publication of his memoir (although he did see the final galleys and approved them), … and he knew what he could possibly face (and thusly ignored the last love of his life in the book; he simply dedicated the book “to a small companion”).

Relax, my life doesn’t come close to the life that Mr. Flynn lived and shared with the world. But that said I have stories to tell that will result in people pounding on my front door with knives, sabres, Colt revolvers, and other instruments of destruction. I’ve had knives at my throat, guns pointed at me, but perhaps the worst was a surprise package in a plain white envelope with bold red letters that proclaimed: SHAME! This was from an editor in software that I worked well with and liked, and the contents was long dark hair. You won’t believe what her voice evolved into on voice mail messages—It was unnerving and chilled me to the bone. Luckily she lived and worked on the East Coast and I lived in SoCal, for otherwise I would have spent my days with my back to a wall while holding a brace of Colts in my hands as I waited for the front door to be bashed open. Are these words extreme? You bet! Are they the truth? Yes. Can I write about this lady and not get sued? Now that is the million-dollar question! … Yes, Mr. Flynn changed names and altered some facts but believe me he did some of this to protect himself (and some of it may have been because his memory had faded, but trust me for he never forgot the name of his friend Hermann Erben).

We have a lot of homeless people in Los Angeles and some I know on a
first-name basis—but I don’t want to join their ranks

I do walk the streets, but not as a hunter seeking prey. No! Absolutely not. I walk to be able
to walk, I walk for exercise, I walk for my health, and I walk so that I can survive. During these times (almost daily) I’m wary of my surroundings. At the same time I’m open to a human connection, and some of these people are homeless. I enjoy meeting and knowing
them (while knowing that I can’t offer them much). There is a lady named Sandy who shaves her head (the royal Egyptians of Nefertiti’s time shaved all their hair for cleanliness). She has a bicycle, is friendly, and we have talked on numerous occasions. I always carry a phone but
I have never asked if I could take her picture (and I have never taken a photo of a homeless
person, for they have a right to their privacy). This said she is a delight to know and I pray
God every day that soon the tax leveled on Los Angeles home owners in the 8nov2016 election and which goes into effect today (1jan2017) will build housing for these unfortunate
people (and not end up in politicians’ pockets).

What the hell?

… and how do I illustrate this section?

Perhaps I can use the artwork that I created of the Los Angeles 405 freeway
for my upcoming blog on race, as it is a nightmare. … Don’t think so.

bb&bk_lineArt_lkColorSIG_29dec13_ws

Cheyenne Dog Man Chief Bull Bear (left) and Cheyenne Peace Chief Black Kettle. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Just this; we all have lives and all of my subjects (except for Olivia de Havilland and less than a handful of people that I love) have moved on to the next world. … I must treat their lives with the same respect and accuracy as I would Livvie (Ms. de Havilland), Pailin, and everyone else in my life. I can’t treat them with anything less than the truth as my research defines it. Ladies and gents, this also includes my Sand Creek manuscript (Left Hand; John Chivington; John Evans; Charley Bent, BTW I think his brother George almost but not exclusively referred to him as “Charles”; Black Kettle; Bull Bear; George Bent; John Smith; Silas Soule; Ned Wynkoop; Little Raven; Scott Anthony; William Bent and everyone else I’m writing about.

HighamBookCover_ws

This 1980 book sold a lot of copies, and it is well-written. Unfortunately Higham wrote a lot that wasn’t true (and his major fictions have been debunked). Years later all some people know about Flynn is that he was a Nazi. Nothing printed about him has been farther from the truth. … Ah, the power of words!                                                             For the record, when I spoke with Olivia de Havilland about Higham’s biography about her and her sister, Joan Fontaine, all she shared with me was that Higham never contacted her and that he was “an unscrupulous man.”

Unfortunately you can defame the dead in the USA. In my opinion this is a massive crime and should be punished. It isn’t, but just because it isn’t writers and historians like me shouldn’t be able to have an open door and write untruths about people who can no longer defend themselves (and in many cases prove their innocence). … Anyone who writes about the past and calls someone a Nazi supporter or a rapist or a racist or child molester or a butcher of innocent people should be held accountable if he or she cannot provide proof for their statements. Writers who sell books and articles while destroying an historical person’s reputation should be called upon to prove what he or she has written or face a civil trial.

I can’t begin to tell you how many untruths I have seen in print (and unfortunately have heard verbally) about people that I write about and of which I know the facts from decades of study. Often I get pinged (and I’m being kind to me here) for taking so long to complete a manuscript. Put simply, I’m asked time and again why can’t I complete a 125,000-word or (in the case of Sand Creek) a 135,000-word manuscript in a year when writers for New York publishers can write a 400-500 page book in a year or two. You don’t want to hear this answer. … All I’ll say here is: Use your brain and think about it. My comments in the following paragraphs are a slam dunk reason why. You connect the dots.

I bought a book on George Armstrong Custer (2016) that won a major award, and immediately went to the index, and checked two pages that dealt with an historical figure that I know intimately. Guess what? Both pages had major errors (it’s on you to recognize them). The author cited a piss-poor so-called “autobiography” of Edward Wynkoop that was assembled by someone who’s research was horrendous (by the way, this “autobiography” was little more than an incomplete first rough draft that was less than half completed). For example, this compiler-editor’s research had Wynkoop resign his commission as U.S. Indian agent on November 27, 1868*, and had Custer attack Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the Washita River on November 29, 1868. If you know your history; enough said! … If not, reverse the dates. No! Not enough said, for it gets worse. The compiler-editor states that the great Peace Chief Black Kettle was born in 1841, became one of the four principle chiefs of the Cheyenne Council of Forty-four in 1853 (at twelve years of age?). … For the record I have written about Wynkoop and Black Kettle for decades, and these types of errors should never see print.

* The above-mentioned Custer book had Wynkoop resign as U.S. Indian agent prior to Custer’s attack on Black Kettle’s village.

fromcochise_togeronimo_bookcover2_wsAn Apache wars book that also saw print in 2016 listed (in my opinion) the best Apache wars book of all time, Edwin R. Sweeney’s From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches 1874-1886 (OU Press, 2010), in its bibliography. For the record, Sweeney’s book proved without a doubt that an Apache woman named Lozen was not with Geronimo and Naiche when they told Lt. Charles Gatewood that they would surrender and end the 1886 Apache war in Sonora, Mexico (August 1886). This book (and again I’m not naming it) totally ignores what Mr. Sweeney’s work proved for the simple reason that it didn’t agree with what the writer chose to push on a clueless public. As this book has sold a lot of copies it has yet again reintroduced a proven error as historical fact.

My friends, this type of supposed historical writing is little more than fiction perpetrated by authors who have preconceived premises that are set in stone and to hell with facts or truth. Is it lazy research? Maybe, and maybe no; at least I hope not. But it matters not, for they have set back real history by a number of decades.


I know, the above is something that I should shun and ignore.
I cannot! Two upcoming blogs will deal with Indian wars and Errol Flynn
errors, fictions, and lies, and everything will be totally documented.
But first my Sand Creek manuscript must be in production with OU Press.

Finally
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
and the winding road to today

In case you don’t know, I never studied to become a writer. Simply put, and even though the late 1960s started this process, it was the decade of the 1970s that set me in motion to realize a future I never dreamed possible for it set me on course to walk my own road of decision and discovery. … If it wasn’t for the pure hell that I experienced while acting in Texas in 1976 I never would have become a writer. The events that I saw and lived through that summer placed an exclamation point on what I experienced in Austin (Texas) and Sapulpa and Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) in 1970. The year 1970 made me realize who I was while 1976 set me on course to become a writer. Both years put me at risk and yet pushed me to reach beyond anything I had yet imagined.

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LK the December after working for VISTA. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

Over the years a lot of people have been in my corner. They have done many things to help me survive in the real world. This certainly began with my father (who always had my back) but then took off in 1970 when Cheetah Gates, my Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) supervisor, told me that if I wanted to live I had better ditch the cowboy boots. I did. He then taught me how to survive while walking the streets of Oklahoma City at night (and this was after I had saved myself from having my throat slit in the wee hours of an Austin morn). It was during that long muggy summer where I found myself dead center in a racist storm. Oh, I should state that I was living and working with African Americans.

Six years later I again maneuvered through a Texas hotbed of racism and other nasty things. Richard Steele-Reed had cast me in What Did We Do Wrong and he almost had a heart attack when I threatened to quit when my salary was reduced after the seven days of rehearsals ended and the play opened.

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LK as Charlie, a struggling actor, in Eat Your Heart Out (Hayloft Dinner Theatre, Lubbock, Texas). I was on stage throughout the entire play. The Lubbock theater was in the round (the audience was on all four sides of the stage), and I have always loved performing this way. I also love breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the audience (which I again did with Cheyenne Blood and the Wynkoop plays in this century). (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Steele-Reed insisted that I behave (I said that I would as long as I received all my contracted salary for the run of the current play and that the next play included a hefty raise). He directed me in the following  play, Eat Your Heart Out. The part of Charlie would be the best role that I ever played (actually twice; also in SoCal in 1977). But the key to that summer was that it led me to write a screenplay about this experience, and it landed my first literary agent, Ed Mernerth. Over eight years he not only taught me how to write character, dialog, and plot but did everything possible to sell and option my screenplays.

But the times were changing. By the mind 1980s I quit acting cold turkey and started selling freelance articles and talks. The learning process continued, but from this time forward it was on me. In 1986 I landed my first job using a computer without ever touching one. There was one catch, I had one week to learn how to use a computer. I did, and within a year I brought desktop publishing into the company. This landed me a publishing position with a “how to succeed in business” company. I then used this publishing experience combined with my freelance writing to land a technical writing job in 1990. When I asked the manager for training, he laughed and said: “I hired you as a technical writer; you’re on your own pal.” Soon after Jackie Johnson, a New York editor, bought my first novel, and for the next 20 or so years I combined freelance and software writing (and let me tell you that the days and nights and weeks were long).

Enter Chuck Rankin

Charles (Chuck) Rankin has been the editor-in-chief at the University of Oklahoma Press (OU Press), the top Indian wars publisher in the world, for many years. Chuck befriended me years back and did what he could to improve my writing. This was during the time after I walked away from an absurd second Charles Gatewood/Apaches book contract with the University of New Mexico Press but before the University of Nebraska Press turned Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir into my best selling book to date. During this time of short-lived uncertainty before Nebraska jumped on the Gatewood manuscript, Chuck and I began a long off-and-on discussion about Ned Wynkoop and his journey from being a racist to someone who became a hated white man when he dared to stand up for Indians (and in particular the Cheyennes and Arapahos).

Mr. Rankin & the OU Press staff

The following reviews (see below) would not have happened if not for Chuck Rankin’s patience and guidance.

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LK at the Western History Association convention in Newport Beach, California, on 17oct2014. On this day I introduced Pailin to Chuck Rankin, and spent good time great friends John Monnett and Durwood Ball (who, as then editor-in-chief at the University of New Mexico Press, jumped on Gatewood & Geronimo as soon as he read the manuscript in 1999), and Clark Whitehorn (currently executive editor at the University of New Mexico Press). (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

For years Chuck hung close with me as we worked on the Wynkoop contract. After it was signed he stood firmly behind the manuscript. During this time he did everything possible to make the book as good as possible. Without Chuck and the entire OU Press staff, and this certainly includes production manager Steven Baker and copyeditor Beth Hadas, I’d probably still be wandering alone through a blazing SoCal desert without the possibility of publication. … For the record (and I touched upon this in my previous Sand Creek blog, John Smith, Chief Gordon Yellowman, and the Sand Creek Massacre) I am demanding. Chuck and the entire OU Press production staff, and this definitely included the art director (I think he has left and I’m kicking myself as I can’t remember his name), dealt with me without revolting and insisting that I walk a pirates’ plank and drop into the shark-infested sea off the coast of Los Angeles. Without OU Press’s entire staff Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek would not have been what it became. I am forever grateful to everyone involved.

A few Ned Wynkoop reviews

Editor Greg Lalire (Wild West, April 2012): “Kraft . . . has produced the first full biography of an unusual fellow whose humanitarian stance toward Indians, empathy and ‘brave act of conscience’ made him, in the eyes of many, a villain or a traitor. … Certainly Wynkoop’s stance against the Sand Creek attack not only changed his life forever but also defines how he is remembered today. He had stepped beyond the accepted mores of the day and kept speaking his mind. Kraft compares Wynkoop to screen legend Errol Flynn, but Wynkoop’s life did not play out according to a Hollywood script. ‘Of course,’ writes Kraft, ‘Flynn’s humanity and his stand for justice always won out by the final reel of the film, whereas Wynkoop walked away from the pinnacle of this life knowing that he had failed.’”

Novelist and Editor Johnny Boggs (Roundup, April 2012): “Before he earned fame (or infamy among Indian-hating people in Colorado and Kansas) for speaking out against John Chivington’s massacre of Cheyennes at Sand Creek, Wynkoop led a colorful life … What’s the best way to fix the ‘Indian problem?’ Wynkoop was asked in 1868. ‘[T]o extend American citizenship to the Indians, and allow their representatives seats in Congress,’ he answered. No wonder he carried a gun [Boggs proclaimed]. This engaging, intelligent and well-researched biography is also even-handed, showing the dark side of an early champion of Indian rights. One of the best biographies of a Western figure to come out in years.”

Historian R. Eli Paul (writing for True West, December 2011): “Louis Kraft’s special skill as a biographer is taking a figure from Western history—one whom the general public should know but does not—and telling the story of a meaningful, significant life. He did this expertly with Lt. Charles Gatewood of the Apache wars and now has repeated the feat with frontiersman Edward Wynkoop. In an American history that trumpets great ‘last stands,’ Wynkoop spoke out against the mistreatment of the Plains Indians and made his own stand of conscience, one to be studied, remembered and admired.”

Historian and novelist Thomas McNulty (writing for Dispatches from the Last Outlaw): “This is the third of Louis Kraft’s books that I have enjoyed, and I believe this book is a masterpiece. I am selective in my non-fiction reading choices, and for good reason. There is so much available that is unreadable, if not incomprehensible, and from all of the New York publishers. History sells, and it has always outsold fiction ten to one. This is a historical fact. But the market is glutted with unreadable biographies. What really matters is a love for the topic. That, my friends, is a rarity among historians and biographers these days. Louis Kraft does not fall into that category. He cares very much about Ned Wynkoop, and his passion for his subject is evident on every page. … Although I have studied American western history at leisure, I had only a smidgen of knowledge about Ned Wynkoop. Thanks to Mr. Kraft, I am now enlightened, and immediately grateful. Wynkoop is fascinating, his story compelling, his era unlike anything we had seen before or since.”

Working as a biographer to create the Sand Creek manuscript

I have no clue what your current views are of what will perhaps be the most important book that I ever write, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. … I am deeply connected with my book projects and the focus is always on people and their actions. This does not mean that I research or write with a preconceived bias for I don’t. As I have written in the past: I think that just about everyone I know, have known, or have written about think that they were right when they did what they did. This view will never change.

Louis Kraft coming in from the light. Photo by Glen Williams (Image © Williams & Kraft 2012)

This image shows what I’m trying to say here. Mainly that until I have found what I need to propel the story of Sand Creek to conclusion it is a lonely path as I struggle to find and assemble the actions and facts that will allow me to complete the manuscript. Photo by Glen Williams. (image © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Our actions define us, and actions can and at times do include what we say. Documenting only the good in a person’s life makes them one-dimensional and unrealistic. Everyone does things that they later regret. Certainly I have. I know that I’ve hurt people, and I have been hurt by people. This doesn’t make me bad or them bad. It simply means that something happened. It adds dimension to a life and gives it color. Without color—that is the ups and downs, the good and the bad—a life becomes boring. Making a life worth knowing (and perhaps studying) requires multiple shades of color.

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This photo by Glen Williams also deals with the search for a nugget that can perhaps become a piece of the puzzle. (image © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Do not doubt that the 1860s were a time of aggression and war, a time of hatred and butchery, and a time of fear. The Sand Creek manuscript is about people whose color, race, and religions were different. It is about people in conflict as they deal with the events that led up to an attack on a Cheyenne-Arapaho village populated by people that thought the U.S. military promised their safety until the U.S. government decided their future. It is also about the attack and the aftermath.  If I do my job as a writer-historian you will walk with the leading players as they did what they thought right. What happened on November 29, 1864, affected a lot of people at that time, it has affected a lot of people since 1864, and it has affected me for decades. A writer-historian should never judge the people he or she writes about for this is for the reader to decide.

Chuck Rankin and a major announcement

I want to say something and I also want to make it absolutely clear by repeating myself. Chuck Rankin became my friend long before I ever became attached to the University of Oklahoma Press. Back in time when I wrote for publishers other than OU Press he didn’t shun me. No. Instead he talked with me, shared information with me, befriended me. He did what he could to aid my second Gatewood/Apache book see publication even though it would not be with OU Press. His kindness went far beyond friendship.

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This is Chuck Rankin, my good friend and great editor. All I can say here is that without Chuck my writing life and world would have suffered. I’m lucky to know him and look forward to our relationship as it moves into our future. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

Our working relationship began in the early part of this century and over time led to the Ned Wynkoop and then the Sand Creek contracts. Chuck has supported my work and effort every step of the way.

But … BUT …

Years pass and life changes. Several months ago Chuck Rankin retired as editor-in-chief at OU Press (effective 31dec2016).

When I heard the news I was shocked and concerned, as he has been the driving force behind my Sand Creek manuscript. This began years back when he pitched me to write the book about the 1864 attack on the Sand Creek village. I had said no, that I don’t write about battles. Chuck immediately made it clear that the book would not focus on the battle; rather it should focus on the lead-up to the attack, the attack, and the aftermath. I hesitated, thinking that this wasn’t a project for me. … Our conversation continued, and a year passed. FinalIy I pushed for writing a manuscript driven by peoples’ actions. Eventually Chuck and I agreed on a storyline. Next came the written proposal and this in itself was a project (the final draft was 37 pages long) but it defined what I needed to do to create a manuscript that had value. …

When I spoke to Chuck about his retirement he let me know that he had worked out a deal with the press that would allow him to continue working with selected projects. Best, he made it clear that he was behind Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway one hundred percent and would see it through to completion.

I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am. Thank you Chuck from the bottom of my heart.

John Smith, Chief Gordon Yellowman, & the Sand Creek massacre

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


 

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“Sand Creek” (above) is Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman’s interpretation of what happened at the joint Cheyenne and Arapaho village that thought they were at peace with the U.S. military in November 1864. The results of this attack—read butchery—were horrific. For more about Chief Yellowman’s painting see below. (art © Gordon Yellowman 1996)

This is the first time that I have led a blog with artwork and then featured it later in the same blog. The reason is of extreme importance to me.

The Sand Creek tragedy has returned to my life with a vengeance; actually
for some time. Progress is good, but slow (I could give myself a few
nicknames here but won’t for I don’t want any of them to stick).*

And as in the past I have found primary source documentation
that is an eye opener.

To give you an idea of how much, … in the late 1980s I
had outlined a novel with Indian agent Ned Wynkoop
as my chief villain. I had without enough research
added Wynkoop to the list of Indian agents
who robbed their wards while lying to
their U.S. government employers.

One problem: Wynkoop didn’t do
what I originally thought.

I never wrote
that book.

OVER THE LAST 30+ YEARS I’VE LEARNED A LOT,
AND BETTER I LEARN MORE EVERY DAY.

To quote Yogi Bera, the late and great catcher of the NY Yankees
during the Golden Age of Baseball, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”


* Actually a good friend and fellow Errol Flynn biographer, Robert Florczak, has named me “Kit” Kraft, and nothing I say or do has killed this name. Luckily he didn’t choose to call me “Wild Bill” Kraft. For the reason why see: http://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2016/09/17/the-tom-eubanks-louis-kraft-ned-wynkoop-errol-flynn-connection/.

Sand Creek is a story of people

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is a story of people creating a future, retaining a lifeway, race relations, survival, and it is of major importance to me. Although I am working in familiar territory this manuscript is 100-fold more difficult to write than any of the previous nonfiction books that I have written.

A short detour

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(book cover art © Louis Kraft 2016)

My recent novel with partner Robert S. Goodman, The Discovery, which took place in Los Angeles over two decades (between 1951 and 1973), presented me with a lot of information that had to be accurate (medical, legal, not to mention historical facts), such as when the 101 Freeway that cuts through the north side of downtown LA, through the Cahuenga Pass and into the San Fernando Valley before continuing north and west as it skirts the Pacific Ocean. For the record it didn’t exist in 1952. CNN news didn’t exist in 1973; I had never watched it (but I do now on the internet). The Discovery had an enormous list of facts that had to be correct. Yeah, that’s right, even when you write fiction you have a responsibility to stick to reality.

When you write nonfiction it is a crime to get creative with facts and distort or change or invent them to support preconceived premises.

Sand Creek hasn’t been easy

What did I say? Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway “is 100-fold more difficult to write”? This is perhaps the truest statement that I have ever made about my writing world. Honestly, this story, and remember I don’t write lists of facts but about people, is a living-breathing nightmare. … My average day? Try five to six or eight hours of research and if I’m lucky two or three or four hours of writing. I’m not talking polishing here, simply trying to get facts that I think are accurate written.

Word-smithing comes later—much later.

I’m approaching the Sand Creek manuscript as a biography but with multiple leading players. The goal is to smoothly flow all the key players’ actions into a storyline that shows what they did without allowing it to turn into a jerked-together mess of telling. As in the past this is a work that is taking longer than anticipated. The plus for me here is that, and as in the past, I have a lot of very knowledgable friends that constantly supply information and run thoughts, questions, and ideas by me. They open my eyes to information that I hadn’t known previously existed, and believe it or not, some of this information has changed my views on key people and their actions.

Dr. Gary Roberts and the beginning of a friendship

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This is Dr. Gary Roberts latest book (Abingdon Press, 2016), and in it he presents well-thought-out insights into to both Colonel John Chivington, who commanded the Colorado Volunteers that attacked the joint Cheyenne and Arapaho village at Sand Creek on November 29, 1864; and the second territorial governor of Colorado, John Evans. His book is available on Amazon.

Lately I’ve been enjoying a round-robin discussion with Gary Roberts, which began when my question of approximately how many miles would the Reverend John Chivington have been able to cover on a normal day’s travel during his first journey to Denver was forwarded to him. Gary kindly dug into it and answered me (and more than once on what he found). This opened an ongoing question-answer-thought provoking conversation that has led to a friendship.

During the last two or so months Gary has also opened my eyes to something that Wynkoop had done that I wasn’t aware of as well as other key questions I’m tracking on Chivington and others, and this includes primary source material on trader and interpreter John Simpson Smith that to date I haven’t been able to get my hands on, and by the way he is proving to be an unexpected surprise. I’ve also been focusing on Arapaho Chief Left Hand, and the more I learn about him the more I wish I knew.

Buddying up to John Simpson Smith

Actions—peoples’ actions—drive how I explore the people in my books, for what they did tells me who they were and what drove them. I cringe when someone tells me who they were. I don’t need opinions of who they were and neither do you. Also, I need to get as close as I can to walking in their shoes, boots, or moccasins as possible. Doing this is the only way I know of to prevent my bias from tarnishing how I present them in my writing. By this I mean that I must view and document their actions as they viewed them.

But first a little of LK and my lady

If you listen to some people who claim to be my friend I’m a loser, a failure, and an evil person. They secretly spread malicious rumors about Pailin’s and my life behind our backs.* For all the things that I’ve done in my life, I’ve done them while thinking that I acted correctly at all times.

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This is my lady and me on the Skywalk above the Grand Canyon in Arizona in late September 2013. We were one then and we are one today. Anyone who says different is a liar and asshole. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna 2013)

* I know a handful of people with Green Cards who are only in the United States to use our country, … that’s right, “to use our country” to their advantage and then desert it. They are by far a small minority, a small headcount, but still they are taking up precious space, headcount, and preventing someone who truly wants to make the USA their home from doing so. I find their actions despicable. Moreover, one of these people has taken my comments on other social media out of context and lied about it for unknown reasons. For the record, Pailin and my life together is one of love and is on course for our ultimate goal—her U.S. citizenship.

What I have just shared about our life is true, and Pailin will obtain her citizenship in the not-too-distant future.

The principle people in my manuscript did what they thought right when they acted

I honestly believe that Black Kettle, John Chivington, Left Hand, Ned Wynkoop, John Evans, Little Raven, George Bent, William Byers, John Smith, Charley Bent, Silas Soule, Edmund Guerrier, George Shoup, Scott Anthony, Tall Bull, and Bull Bear thought that they were right when they did what they did during the 1860s.

And this is exactly what I must do when I write about them.

It will be up to you to decide if you agree with their actions or not.

Finally to Mr. Smith

Alas, some of the players that I thought would have larger roles are shrinking while others are growing. One person, John Simpson Smith, the interpreter and trader that had married into at least two tribes has become a total surprise to me in the second decade of the 21st century. Those of you who read my biography on Ned Wynkoop, have heard my talks or read my articles about him know that Smith and Ned did not get along. This began when Wynkoop, who, along with others in their land development group that had traveled to the gold region near where the city of Denver would be founded, threatened to hang Smith in 1858 if he did not leave the area or join their company.

Have you ever been knocked cold with a sucker punch?
I have, and it affected my life.

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This is a cropping of the famed Camp Weld image that was taken after Governor John Evans and Colonel John Chivington met with Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders that Major Edward (Ned) Wynkoop (kneeling left) escorted to Denver in late September 1864 after he had met with them on a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas earlier that month. This is not the image that I used in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, but is a cropped version of the original by an unknown person. Sitting directly behind Wynkoop is Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Black Kettle (and who, with the Chiricahua Apache war leader Geronimo, I would gladly trade one year of my remaining life to be able to spend two weeks with these gentlemen). John Smith is standing left behind Black Kettle. The meeting on the Smoky Hill tributary was the first time that Smith and Wynkoop worked together after Wynkoop insisted that Smith translate for him at Fort Lyon at the beginning of the month (and this was their first connection since the threat of hanging Smith in 1858). Wynkoop needed an interpreter and he had only one choice—Smith. The events of September 1864 led to a four-year working relationship that neither Smith nor Wynkoop wanted. That month also began Wynkoop’s friendship with Black Kettle, a friendship that led to his turning his back on racial prejudice and accepting Cheyennes and Arapahos as human beings. … That is Captain Silas Soule kneeling next to Wynkoop. He was forced to participate in the attack on the Sand Creek village (Wynkoop wasn’t present at the attack as he was in transit to Kansas to await a potential court-martial). At Sand Creek Soule refused to fire his weapons. In 1864 he spoke out about the savage and brutal mutilation of men, women, and children and in 1865 testified about the attack. He was murdered in the streets of Denver in April 1865.

Don’t you doubt for one minute that the threat of death did not affect John Smith in the coming years. Don’t you doubt that he never forgave Wynkoop and the others that threatened his life. Almost six years later events forced Smith and Wynkoop to work together, and they would do so for another four years. Neither Smith nor Wynkoop liked or wanted this relationship, but they made the best of it. Knowing my connection with Wynkoop over the years, it’s a safe bet that my view of Mr. Smith has been less than sparkling. But times change with deeper research and understanding of people’s actions. … While struggling to understand how the people that I have chosen to propel Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway toward conclusion I’ve found Smith to be a major player. Every time I turn around there he is again.

Damn you Smith! Go away and hide!
You’re gobbling up precious word count.

Too many historians tell us how bad a person John Smith was, but alas they don’t do much showing us why they damn him to hell as an evil creature. They make no attempt to understand his actions or the actions that affected his life. This said I am in the middle of trying to find primary source material that proves beyond a doubt why the Arapahos wanted nothing to do with him. This is absolutely key and I must locate it. … ‘Course Mr. Smith, who walked between the races for decades, survived as a key U.S. interpreter for Wynkoop and even more impressive as the interpreter for all the Cheyenne-U.S. treaties. If he was the “liar” as some historians proclaim, why didn’t he end up with a knife in his guts, why weren’t his sexual organs hacked off, and why didn’t he meet a sudden end?

Let’s return to my belief that actions define a person and when documented allow readers to decide how they view the person being examined.

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LK art of a debonair John Smith in the early 1860s. If I use this image in the Sand Creek book I need to improve the final product for it needs more work. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

The book contract allows me 37 images, and currently I’m planning to have three maps. That leaves 34 images, and at the moment at least three could feature Smith. … And this is because I am discovering a man who had a lot more to offer than his less than sparkling relations with Wynkoop. … I try not to repeat images in my books, but one will definitely be reprinted in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and that is the Camp Weld image of Black Kettle, Bull Bear, Neva, John Smith, Silas Soule, and Ned Wynkoop that was taken shortly after Governor John Evans, Colonel John Chivington, Black Kettle, and other chiefs spoke on 28sept1864 (see the above group shot). Most likely only one of the other Smith images will make it into the final book, but whichever one makes the final cut will be of massive importance.

What I know to date is that every image that I have seen of John Smith was taken when he was in a controlled area and was dressed in dapper clothing. Ladies and gents, John Smith walked between the races and he married American Indian women. It is not a huge stretch to surmise that he did so because he loved them (and perhaps because he saw that an interracial marriage presented him with an opportunity to trade with the Cheyennes). Yes, he could have married them because he thought that by doing so would have opened a large door of trading with native people, but this is a stretch in today’s thinking and an even larger stretch during Smith’s lifetime. … John Smith ventured westward at the time of the trappers, and although marrying into one tribe might have saved his scalp with the people he chose to marry into it didn’t preserve it in the eyes of all the tribes at war with his new wife’s people. What did John Smith gain from such a marriage? Yes, when the day of trapping neared its end might have been reason for such an interracial marriage, but to date I haven’t been privy to Smith’s views on his marriages (if indeed they exist somewhere; alas, this is unlikely). Did Smith know that he would become an Indian trader? Probably yes, but also maybe no. … Like rebels of our time he didn’t fit in with his time. Before taking that huge step and marrying an American Indian woman he knew that such a relationship would immediately cast him as an outsider to his own race, and a man to be scorned. Without a doubt he came to respect the Indians he associated with, and especially the Cheyennes (again, I have seen zero proof in Smith’s words, but I do believe there is enough documentation of his actions to support this view). Add the correct woman, and Smith gladly accepted a racial marriage at a time when it was almost universally rejected. This was a brave decision by him, and one that he had to have made with his eyes wide open.

A possible dust jacket

I have at times used an image of a photo that I took of the Pawnee Fork village site in Kansas to represent Sand Creek. I did this to use a dark representation of a horrific murder of people who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military.

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This image was created from a photo that I had taken of a Cheyenne re-enactor village on the Pawnee Fork village site in Kansas in modern times. I had turned it into line art, darkened the image and have at times used it to represent the 1864 Sand Creek village. My friend and historian Eric Niderost has panned me for using this image more than once, and he’s right. Still I needed an image to represent the Sand Creek village. Not to worry for this image will never appear in any of my books. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m having a terrible time trying to come up with a good illustration for the cover of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. I hate the way-over used painting by Robert Lindneux of the assault that resulted in the murder of way-too-many innocent people at Sand Creek (as I don’t think that it is accurate). … As you know, I dabble in art for my articles and books but I have absolutely nothing that could possibly represent my Sand Creek manuscript.

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LK with Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman at the conclusion of the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site symposium on 12nov2011 (this is the correct date). (photo courtesy of the Washita Battlefield NHS)

For the record I also hate dust jackets that have a bunch of portraits (photos or art). In the case of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway an assembly of Black Kettle, John Chivingrton, George Bent, John Evans, Little Raven, Ned Wynkoop, George Shoup, William Bent, William Byers, Bull Bear, Silas Soule but without key player Left Hand as we don’t know what he looked like, would be pure crap. These covers tell us nothing, and as far as I’m concerned they were created because the writer had no opinion and the art director at the publishing house was clueless.

What do I currently have? Nada (Nothing).

Or do I? … There is a print that I purchased, framed, and then hung in Tujunga House as soon as I returned home from my first Fort Larned National Historic Site speaking engagement in Kansas in 1999. It was at that event when I first met Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman, who also spoke at the event. His art is a great rendering of that tragic day of the butchery of innocent people.

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This magnificent painting was created by Chief Gordon Yellowman. In my humble opinion it says everything we need to know about that tragic day of November 29, 1864, in Colorado Territory. (art © Gordon Yellowman 1996)

There’s one problem, and it is a major one, Chief Yellowman’s painting is landscape where most book cover jacket artwork is portrait. How do I deal with this? … I think I know the answer, but I can’t/won’t deal with it until Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin and OU Press are in line with my tardy text delivery. I was slow and took forever to deliver Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. With luck all will be good with my Sand Creek manuscript delivery. When Chuck and I agree with my current manuscript, and not until then, my focus must be on the research and words. Until then nothing else counts, for if my words and storyline fail there is no book.

A printable manuscript is absolutely mandatory before we move into the publication process. To repeat myself, until Chuck and I agree that the manuscript is ready to go to press, and only then, it is not time for me to move forward into a world that I have at times not been welcome. … Over the years I’ve had some book covers that I like, and have played a part in a number of the covers. I designed Custer and the Cheyenne (nothing more need be said here), I created the art for Gatewood & Geronimo, it was upon my insistence to use the 1861 Wynkoop portrait and colorize or duotone it for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, and I created the art and designed the book cover for The Discovery.

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LK with OU Press Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association convention in Oakland, California, on 15oct2011. OU Press created the poster for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (seen behind us) for the event. Chuck kindly gave it to me, I had it framed, and it is displayed at Tujunga House. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2011)

I know, the above sounds egotistical. It isn’t, for I’ve played a major role in over 200 other book covers (that don’t count for they were in the software world), and that doesn’t include the five or six that I designed for Upton and Sons, Publishers, in El Segundo, California. Give me a break! I know what is good design and I know what is bad design, and that said I’ll never push for bad design for any of my freelance books. Never! And you can take that to the bank.

You can bet that once Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway moves into production, and Chuck and crew are in agreement with my view of Chief Yellowman’s art, I will approach Gordon. When we get to this point, hopefully he’ll agree that his art would make a magnificent book cover. But, and this is important, if the press’s art director insists that Gordon’s art won’t work because it is landscape I will approach Gordon to see if we could compromise. BTW, my playing with size proportions and using the Wynkoop book dimensions lead me to believe that we can use Gordon’s entire painting with small black bleeds to the left and right, a slightly larger bleed above the top, and a larger bleed below his art for the title and author credit.

I’m a firm believer in reaching for the stars. …

Finally a dark side that we cannot ignore

Our life, and ultimately our future, is based upon our past. It is on us to correctly document our history (and I’m talking about your history and my history). If we can’t honestly do this how can we move into our future? We need to know who we are and how and why we have become who we are. … We live on one earth, and we are but one people even though our colors, religions, politics, and races are different. The key here is people, one people—us. It is on us to get beyond all our greed and fears and hatreds and accept all of us as one. … For only then will we get beyond attacking and raping and murdering other people because their god is different, they have land and resources that we crave, and that we must decimate or dominate them to insure our freedom and safety.

Again, we are one people on one earth. If we fuck it up, or if they fuck it up—we all lose.

The Tom Eubanks, Louis Kraft, Ned Wynkoop, & Errol Flynn connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


I want to say upfront that my friend Tom Eubanks is the most talented person that I’ve ever known. Moreover, he has unlimited focus and energy to bring all his projects to fruition. He’s a terrific friend and to date my only director since I quit working in theater/film/TV/commercials etc. in the mid-1980s.

This blog deals with our initial literary connection, theatrical relationship,
and to where it hopefully leads us next.

Enter Tom Eubanks stage right

In spring 1990 my then wife and I bought a terrific house in Thousand Oaks, California (in Ventura County, the county north of Los Angeles), which was a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains.

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Although this image of LK dates to later than 1990, it pretty much represents my clean-cut look at that time when I wasn’t wearing boots and wide-brimmed hats. George Carmichael took this image on a beach in northern San Diego County. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

At that time I had been selling magazine articles and giving talks mostly about race relations and the Cheyenne Indian wars of the 1860s but also baseball (current and history). I also wrote for a telecommunications software company. Even though I freelanced nonfiction I studied fiction at UCLA at night taught by a visiting professional. … I met George Carmichael at UCLA. He was a retired aerospace engineer who sold magazine articles and had an unending curiosity in the world. We remained close friends until his death on 2apr2014. After the class ended George and I continued to study with the UCLA writer at her Westwood office/home. As at UCLA, she oversaw the discussions and critiqued the work.

Actually, some of the wanna-be novelists at this time seemed to be from other planets (but not George). One of the Westwood writers was drafting a story about Jesus Christ, who was the quarterback of a high school football team. He was serious. … How do you keep a straight face while frantically trying to figure out how to say something constructive? Not easy to do.

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The Thousand Oaks house played a role in the publicity for The Final Showdown (see below).

After the move to Thousand Oaks a novelist that I no longer associate with suggested that I become a member of the Ventura County Writers Club and join one of the fiction groups of five, six, or seven that met weekly. I did. At these meetings the writers read from their current project and their peers reviewed their words—sometimes with insight but more often than not with chatter that was useless. Sometimes this was difficult to do, for way too often the people in these groups were not professional and never would be (and this included most of the would-be writers that I had seen at UCLA and Westwood). That said, there were some talented people present and they knew how to review constructively.

It was at these Ventura County writer meetings that I met Tom Eubanks. He was opinionated (and at first we didn’t connect), and it was shortly after I joined the group that I also learned of his theatrical training and interest.

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As I don’t have any photos of Tom that date to the 1990s I decided to use this image of him that I took on 13aug2016. (photo © Tom Eubanks & Louis Kraft 2016)

I believe that at this time he had already directed a number of stage productions. One night our words crossed swords over a play that he directed (and I think that he liked), The Owl and the Pussycat, and some years back that I had been assigned to work on at the Melrose Theatre Company, a professional theater group in Hollywood that I became a member of in the 1970s. I didn’t like Bill Manhoff’s The Owl and the Pussycat. Most likely because I was probably the worst Felix ever. The play focused on Doris (the pussycat) and Felix (the owl), and had some great scenes but I never came close to connecting with the character. For me, he was a pure “nothing” (Barbra Streisand and George Segal played the roles in the 1970 film version; I’ve always liked Barbra’s singing and acting, but didn’t like this film). This was not a great beginning to a potential Eubanks-Kraft friendship.

A lady in the Ventura group read the opening chapter from her novel as her character watched the panorama of spectacle and debauchery in pre-history England as it unfolded on the plain below the tree from which she saw all that happened. When I asked her the name of her major character, she didn’t know what I was talking about. I rephrased the question: “Who was the person in the tree?” “An extra.” It was my turn to be confused. “What?” “She is nobody and doesn’t need a name,” came the reply. “But everything that happened in your story has been seen through her eyes. She reacted to what she saw and is the focus of the scene. So far she is your only character, and …” “No!” “Why?” “You’ll never see her again.” … This woman was beyond help.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take me long to realize that Tom was almost always right on with his comments. He had a quick wit, was funny, and always contributed constructive comments that could benefit the writer on the hot seat if she or he listened. Better yet, a friendship began to develop.

The Final Showdown

That same year of 1990 I attended a Western Writers of America (WWA) convention in Portland, Oregon (unfortunately I didn’t bring a camera to fully 95 percent of the first two-thirds of my life and there are few images. At that time I had a literary agent (not my first for earlier I had had three screenwriting agents, and the first one—Ed Menerth (1976-1982)—took me under his wing after I submitted a fictionalized screenplay based upon my surviving a harrowing summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, in 1976.

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A publicity photo from the Hayloft Dinner Theatre in 1976. I was  performing in the generation-gap What Did We Do Wrong in the evenings while rehearsing Eat Your Heart Out during the days (and this photo is from one of the daytime rehearsals), which was about an actor who waited tables while struggling to survive in Hollywood. That’s Robin LaValley, an LA actress in the background. I don’t remember if the leaping onto the chair was in the script or not but it was always a balancing act. This was one of at least two plays wherein I dueled with imaginary swords on stage. … With luck, one more time. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Actually, I was lucky to get out of the Lone Star State without being tarred and feathered, or worse (I had lived and worked with racism and violence in Texas and Oklahoma in 1970 but the 1976 racism was worse).

Back to the 1990 WWA convention. One late night that June my then agent Cherry Weiner, Walker and Company editor Jackie Johnson, I sat in the Oregon hotel lobby sipping drinks and chatting.

I pitched a story that took place during the lead-up to the Medicine Lodge Peace Council in 1867 Kansas, the council, and the aftermath. While most of the characters actually lived (Cheyennes Black Kettle, Stone Forehead, and Bull Bear; Kiowa Satanta; reporter Henry Morton Stanley; Captain Albert Barnitz (Seventh U.S. Cavalry); and Indian agent Ned Wynkoop; the three leads were fictional. It had action, was romantic, and it dealt with Cheyenne-white race relations.

Two or three months later my agent called me. “Have you drafted three chapters?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The story that you pitched Jackie Johnson. She wants to see three chapters.”

Sometimes I’ve got a few screws loose in my brain. “I didn’t realize that she was interested.”

“She is. Get on it!”

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LK and editor Jackie Johnson chatting at the 1991 Western Writers of America convention. (photo © Louis Kraft 1991)

It took me a couple of months to draft the requested chapters, and as I wrote I presented at the weekly meetings of the fiction group. Tom, and others, helped me immensely. I received a contract on those three chapters.

The lead players in The Final Showdown

I based the three fictional leads on real people. Ex-soldier Ned Morgan, who had been at the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory, was based on Wynkoop* (while never calling the real Wynkoop “Ned” and referring to him as “The Tall Chief Wynkoop,” which I steer clear of in my nonfiction writing); I used the famed Northern Cheyenne war leader Roman Nose as an inspiration for The Wolf’s Head; and a lady friend I once knew for Elsa Wells (she read and liked the book, but never realized that I had pulled from her inner being to create Elsa). … Here’s a warning to my lady friends: Be careful with what you share with me as you might become inspiration for one of my fictional female characters, and often they are on the adventurous side.

* The real Wynkoop was not at the Sand Creek Massacre.

This placed Tom front and center with Wynkoop from almost the beginning as I moved between various media time and again as I struggled to figure out who he was. Tom would eventually see some of my articles about the soldier turned Indian agent but never heard any of my talks that dealt with him.

25feb13_finalShowdown300By fall 1991 The Final Showdown was at the publisher’s in New York City. Everything should have been good.

Unfortunately it wasn’t for my marriage was limping toward its end. My time in Thousand Oaks ended a month or two before the divorce was final in early April 1992, and it marked the beginning of the end of my membership with the Ventura writing group. When I moved my belongings to an apartment in Tarzana, a town in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles city and county), Tom Eubanks played a major role in getting my handful of belongings back to LA and safety.

Instead of this disaster marking the end of my friendship with Tom, it marked the beginning.

Before the divorce was final the publisher had submitted the book to the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle, and a staff writer called me at Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet) in El Segundo, California, to interview me. He wanted to come to the Thousand Oaks house. I told him that I worked as a technical writer in the South Bay, which is south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and that I had a two-hour drive each way (all true), and that I’d prefer a phone interview. He was good with this, called back twice, and we spoke for perhaps three hours.

Before hanging up the last time we spoke the reporter told me that a photographer would visit me at my home. “Why does it have to be at my home?” I asked. “You must live in Ventura County; if you don’t, there won’t be an article,” he snapped. “Do you live in Ventura County?” “Of course!” I gave him my former address and we set a time for the photo shoot the following Saturday.

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LK in the courtyard entry to the Thousand Oaks house in April 1992. Photo used by permission of the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle.

I called my ex-wife, explained the situation, and asked if the paper’s photographer could take photos at the Thousand Oaks house. “Yes,” she said, “as long as you don’t come inside.”

When the photographer arrived at my former home I met him in the front yard. After leading him into the courtyard and suggesting an archway opening that I thought would make a great photo, he agreed, set up his lights, and snapped away. He then suggested that we go inside and shoot photos of me at my computer. (Oh horror or horrors!) “That’s a terrible idea,” I said (yes, I did prep for what I could not let happen). “Why?” “Do you take photos of all the authors your paper writes about sitting at their computers?” “Yes.” “Well, damn, by now that is cliché.” He agreed and I began to breathe again.

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The cover page for the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle “Variety” section. LK is sitting near the top of the hill to the west of the 101 Freeway. This is the image that saved the interview.

I suggested a hill on the west side of the California 101 Freeway after exiting at Lynn Road. He agreed, we drove to the hill, climbed it, and luckily we got the images he needed. … I later called my ex-wife and thanked her, and that call was from my heart.

Tom’s Plays and the passage of time

As said above, my move to Tarzana ended my days as a member of the Ventura County writers group as it was just too far to drive, and especially as my days at Infonet began at 6:00 AM. Of great importance my relationship with Tom didn’t end. He began inviting me to see his plays at the Ohai Art Center Theatre in the Ohai Valley (Ventura County, Calif.), and our friendship grew. He had a wide range of plays that he directed, from the famous (such as Equis) to the not-so-famous (can’t think of an example) to plays he wrote. Yes, Tom is a terrific writer; fiction and plays, and over the years the number of plays that he has written has grown considerably. I’ve seen a lot of them, and they are damned good. I’ve not asked, but I hope that other directors have staged some of his plays.

I met Tom’s wife, Judy, in those wild early years of the 1990s and from the moment that we first met I’ve always enjoyed spending time with her. Tom has three daughters, Cassie, Alex, and Hannah (who’ve I’ve known since she was an infant). … I have more to say about Tom, for not only is he a bright fellow who does a great job of bringing his writing and plays to fruition, he’s open, friendly, generous, and funny with a very quick wit, but probably best of all he is a wonderful husband and father. Judy and his daughters are lucky to have him.

The years passed and I enjoyed our friendship at his home in Casitas Springs and at Tujunga House (which became my home in January 1993).

A trip to Yuma & its importance

I’ve been to Yuma, Arizona, twice, and this section deals with the first trip.

In 2000 Gatewood & Geronimo was published, and I delivered a number of talks. One was in Yuma.

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Cover art © Louis Kraft 1999)

All I can say about this place is that it’s hotter than Hell during the summer months. On this first trip I spoke about 1st Lieutenant Charles Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico and talking him, Naiche, the last hereditary Chiricahua Apache chief, and the people with them into ending the last Apache war. The book had just been published and the two maps were an assembly of dots and totally useless. I was told that in the blue line the maps were fine. I replied that this was bullshit (I had seen too many blue lines to doubt my view sight unseen), and I must have been correct for the publisher recalled all the books (and it had been printed in hardback and paper at the same time; a costly mistake). BTW, I never saw this blue line until years later when it was sent to me, and it proved that I was right in 2000—the maps were a disaster and no one at the press had checked the blue line. I quickly forwarded it to the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but I don’t know if the archive kept it or trashed it (hopefully the former).

I had been thinking about writing a one-man play and had already outlined one on George Armstrong Custer. But during the drive home from the talk in Yuma I began thinking about Ned Wynkoop, who had gone from being a racist to someone who accepted Cheyenne and Arapaho people as human beings. Ladies & gents, I hate to say it but this is still a major problem in the USA 150+ years after Wynkoop decided to live by his conscience and damn all who disagreed with his choice.

For the record this is my choice. A good person is a good person, and
I don’t give a bleep what his or her color is, where they were
born, or what their race or religion is. We are all human
beings living on earth by the grace of God.

This didn’t happen until Wynkoop, as a major in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry, attempted to end the 1864 Cheyenne war when he without orders and at great risk to himself and his men, rode to a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas and discussed ending the war with Cheyennes and Arapahos.

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While traveling to the still unseen Cheyenne and Arapaho village on a tributary of the Smoky Hill in western Kansas Wynkoop’s small command was confronted by a battle line of perhaps 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors on 10sept1864. Original art © Louis Kraft 2015, and first published in “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” August 2015 Wild West magazine.

No violence happened at the confrontation and later that day Wynkoop met in council with Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs. Although threatened and at times in a desperate situation he would eventually receive four children prisoners and was able to talk seven Indian leaders into traveling with him to Denver, Colorado Territory, to discuss ending the war with Territorial Governor John Evans (the council eventually took place at Camp Weld, just south of Denver). Wynkoop and the Indian leaders thought that peace had come to the land. They were wrong. Wynkoop was removed from command at Fort Lyon (Colorado Territory), and Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand moved their villages from the post and to Sand Creek, about 40 miles to the northeast. Wynkoop traveled to Kansas, where he expected to be court-martialed for being absent from his post in time of war (without orders he met the Indians on the Smoky Hill and brought them to Denver). Three days after Wynkoop set out for Kansas Colorado Volunteers attacked Black Kettle and Left Hand’s villages—villages that thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military until it decided to end or continue the war.

What happened on that tragic November 29, 1864, day rips me apart every time I think about it.

On that drive home from Yuma I conceived a one-man play on Wynkoop and the Sand Creek tragedy. I called Leo Oliva, a Kansas historian and friend who played a major role in the Fort Larned Old Guard, an organization that deals with the history of the Fort Larned National Historic Site (NHS), and pitched the idea. For years Leo had been instrumental in bringing me to Kansas, and nothing had changed. He loved the proposal and said, “How about next April.” Although thrilled I had to say, “No,” as I didn’t have an outline, a play, or a director. “How about April 2002?” I offered. … It was a go.

I pitched the idea to Tom and he liked it.

Wynkoop one-man shows in Kansas, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma

As said above not many photos were taken but by the early 2000s a change was a comin’.

lk_NWpubicity_valleyOfFire_30nov2001_wsTaking a one-man show on the road is not a cup of tea; it is 14-or-more-hour days as a set needs to be created, lights need to be set, and technical rehearsals need to happen. If anything can go wrong, I guarantee that it will.

As 2001 neared its end Leo Oliva requested a publicity photo of me as Wynkoop. This was impossible as the hat and costume were still being made. However, that November I spent some time in Nevada and this image (right) was taken at the Valley of Fire State Park, northeast of Las Vegas. I printed it and sent it to Leo, and it was subsequently printed on the cover of the Fort Larned Old Guard newsletter, Outpost, promoting An Evening with Ned Wynkoop. Of course it garnered me a complaint from a California historian: “Wynkoop didn’t dress like that!!!” No kidding. Publicity with a photo is always better than publicity without a photo.

As soon as I had the costume (a wife of a former superintendent of Fort Larned created it for me) and hat I took some photos at Tujunga House and sent them to Leo Olvia, but I don’t believe any were used in the publicity.

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I’ve always liked this image that was taken in front of a shed that no longer exists at Tujunga House. Baron Hats (Burbank, Calif.) made the hat for me (it is based upon the 1867 woodcut of Wynkoop that appeared in Harper’s Weekly in May of that year). They make a lot of the hats used in films, and since this hat they have made all of my hats. I didn’t include this image in the package that I had sent to Leo Oliva. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Kansas

I first traveled to Fort Larned, Kansas, in 1990 for The Final Showdown research. On that trip I met (now) chief historian George Elmore, who has been my friend since we met. I can’t begin to tell you how much he has done to help my Indian wars writing over the years.

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I think that this picture is the only photo I have of George Elmore (right), Leo Olvia (left) and me together. We are walking on the Fort Larned parade ground. The photo, by National Park Service ranger Ellen Jones, dates to the morning of 28apr2012 when I was a banquet speaker at the annual Fort Larned Old Guard conference.

For the record I don’t get stage fright (acting or talks), and I guess that this comes with the number of performances and talks over the years. If true, the talks, which have been prepped are script-less, and by that I mean that although I know what I’m going to talk about I don’t memorize while at the same time I work at getting a flow to the talk (the only things I memorize, that is try to memorize, are quotes). Glitches happen, and over the years I’ve learned how to deal with them as best as possible.

But the one-man show would be different. Both Tom’s and my ass were on the line. If the worst happened I’d be standing alone on stage while Tom ran for the closest exit. Luckily this scenario has never happened as each time Tom has pulled off a miracle: Getting a set built, lights set, and when people volunteered or were assigned to run lights and sound weren’t technical and were placed in a difficult situation he coached them until they were able to pull off the impossible.

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LK enjoying Fort Larned while dressed as Ned Wynkoop in early May 2002. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

The day before Tom arrived I dressed in the Wynkoop costume and my then girlfriend and I hung out at the fort (doing a little living history) and took a series of publicity photos.

The city of Larned had a huge and first class proscenium theater (it seated at least 2000), but although we requested skilled light and sound technicians we were given two people—kind and giving ladies—that were clueless. Read long-long hours (from roughly eight each morning until after midnight) of getting the lights angled and set, and after learning how to run the complicated light and sound board Tom had to teach the ladies how to perform their cues. … George, Leo, and a number of Fort Larned’s maintenance crew built platforms to Tom’s specifications, built a stool which also substituted as a horse, built a podium, and rounded up the requested log, desk, and chair, and delivered everything to the theater on the morning after Tom’s arrival.

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I had recently used a very tight cropping of this photo elsewhere on social media. The reception had been surprisingly good and I decided to use the uncropped image here to hopefully mellow my rambling. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Pure hell for LK, for as the hours passed (I think that we had three days to pull it off), I didn’t have a technical or dress rehearsal. I was on the stage at all times, and basically functioning as my own stand-in. As showtime neared, and I didn’t have any rehearsal other than getting familiar with the set and mumbling my lines under my breath, only to again and again stand or sit in a specific location for technical issues.

My apologies for complaining
but Tom and I had put in a lot work in California just to get
ready to travel to Kansas. The time was short. Tom, with the generous
support of George Elmore, Leo Oliva, and others connected with Fort Larned,
pulled off nothing short of a miracle to create a set, angle lights (Tom), and set
the sound and light cues (Tom). From then on everything was related to the technical
end of getting the two volunteers to learn how to run the lights and sound.
I needed at least one complete rehearsal on the real set and
there hadn’t been any since arriving in Kansas.

I did have my dress rehearsal just hours before showtime. And I was miked, but during my only run-through of the play the mike fell from the costume and slid across the stage. The rehearsal continued without the mike while not missing a beat, but I was well aware of what could happen. Luckily when we had an audience everything went soothly on stage (and I presume in the sound and light booth).

California

Soon after we were both back in California (I had driven while he had flown to Kansas) Tom asked if I’d like to take Wynkoop to Ohai. You bet, for I had always wanted to act on the Ohai Art Center Theatre stage.

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This photo of LK as Wynkoop sitting at his desk was taken at the Ojai Art Center Theatre by the Ojai Valley News in May 2002, and is used by permission.

Tom, who was the artistic director, slipped An Evening with Ned Wynkoop between major productions. He used an incomplete set (partially seen in the above photo) and had platforms built to his set-design specifications. As in Kansas a log represented an Indian village, a podium New York City, and so on. Again we had proscenium stage but much more actor friendly (120 seats, 150 seats?). Much more intimate, which I prefer. An Evening with Ned Wynkoop played in Ojai in June 2002.

Colorado

Next up was Colorado, and I rewrote the play—now called Ned Wynkoop: A Matter of Conscience—to focus a little more on the horrific 1864 attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village, a tragedy that has still not healed for these people. The former Colorado Historical Society* (CHS) had a huge auditorium and they guaranteed to fill all 400 seats.

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LK as Wynkoop seeing the remains of the Sand Creek dead for the first time months after the 29nov1864 butchery. Pal Johnny D. Boggs (a writer, editor, and photographer) took this image at a December 2008 dress rehearsal in Oklahoma. I have no images from the performance in Colorado. I believe that it was in Colorado when Tom lit this scene in red for the first time. … At the end of the Sand Creek scene I knelt down at stage right as close as I could get to the audience to look at what was left of a Cheyenne girl and as Wynkoop said: “I couldn’t believe what I saw. This wasn’t the savagery of animals—what stared at me was the creativity of civilized man. This was the work of my compatriots, … of white men. … What I saw could have been Louise—could have been my children.” (LK: Louise was Wynkoop’s wife.)

Again, it would be another challenge taking the show on the road, but a friend, Anita Donotello, whom I had met in El Segundo, California, when I spoke at one of Dick Upton’s symposiums (miss them), volunteered to run the lights and sound. Doable as she had moved to Colorado. She was everything for us including our driver and Tom’s go-to assistant. After the show ended and Tom flew home I stayed at her house for another week while I did Wynkoop research at the Society and at the Denver Public Library. As I had worked out a deal to remain in the terrific hotel room that the Society had provided Tom and me, I had some leverage with Anita. I told her that I’d gladly accept her invitation if she invited Indian wars historian Jerry Greene over for a dinner that I’d cook. I didn’t know Jerry, wanted to know him, and knew that they were friends. I got my way and the four of us, which included Anita’s son Nicholas, enjoyed our evening together.

Again I think that we had three days (but it might have been two) to create the set and deal with the technical aspects. This trip wasn’t as frantic as Kansas as Robyn Jacobs, the CHS Adult Public Program Coordinator, was on top of everything (and she had a budget). She had even ordered metal frames to build a multi-leveled stage. Tom had come up with a great log to represent the Cheyenne village but an inspector or Society bigwig saw it and demanded that it go because of the threat of termites. I don’t know what Tom said, but the log stayed.

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Near the end of the play events in Wynkoop’s life began to haunt him when he was ordered to Indian Territory to collect his Indian wards at an area designated by the military. As he traveled through deep snow in November 1868 he sensed another massacre. Suddenly he thought he saw Isabelle Eubank, a three-year old girl he received from the Arapahos in 1864. He yanked the wagon to a halt and ran to comfort her, but couldn’t for she changed into the Cheyenne girl who had been raped again and again by soldiers at the Pawnee Fork in 1867 Kansas. … It couldn’t be, for both were dead. Alone, he needed to make a decision and allowed his conscience win out. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs in 2008.

Better, Tom and I had time to enjoy great breakfasts at the hotel, one lunch during our first day in town, and a great dinner after the show closed.

Sometime during our time in Denver I had proposed adding a scene for fun when Wynkoop, as the lead in The Drunkard (which garnered him great reviews in Denver), struggled trying not to take a drink at a climatic moment in the play. We rehearsed it and Anita (or Annie as Jerry calls her) was good with the last minute insertion. Both the technical rehearsal and the dress rehearsal went smoothly the morning of the performance. After notes Tom and I retired to our hotel room to relax.

Due to the low hanging lights that Tom had to use to light the stage I could see the audience. This wasn’t a problem as I couldn’t make out details, and even the faces of those in the first three rows were little more than blurs. This has always been a blessing for me and certainly has helped me keep my concentration, which is of major importance.

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I based this illustration on one of the photos that Johnny D. Boggs took of me in Oklahoma. … And, yes, it illustrates that moment when LK/Wynkoop took deadly aim at a CHS patron that was sitting at stage right because the Society decided not to turn away walk-ins on the night of the performance. Am not complaining, for I loved this audience. (art © Louis Kraft 2008)

The show ran smoothly and I had an absolute blast playing to 440 people (40 over the seating limit). Some of the overflow sat stage right, which was fine as I played to them too. One problem occurred when I yanked out the 1860 Army Colt and pointed it with deadly intent. Instead of aiming at an invisible enemy I now had a CHS patron in my line of fire. Oops! A quick jerk of the wrist and the revolver pointed upstage right. … For the record I swept right by the Wynkoop drunk scene without missing a beat. Afterwards Anita teased me, saying something like: “It’ll make the next show.” All I could do was shrug and agree. … It didn’t matter for I had had one hell of a good time.

Mike Koury (Order of the Indian Wars & The Old Army Press) has been a terrific friend since we both spoke at an Indian wars conference in SoCal in February 1987. He said he planned on seeing the show, and it was great seeing him afterwards.

Tom and I ate a great dinner at a restaurant on the walk back to the hotel (we passed the restaurant twice each day, and this dinner was planned). A good time as we chatted and enjoyed our food and drinks. I hated that the evening was coming to an end, but then I’ve always had good times with Mr. Eubanks.

* Sometime in late 2011 or 2012 the Colorado Historical Society became History Colorado and moved into a spectacular modern building a block away.

Oklahoma

A few years passed and I gave a talk about Ned Wynkoop and Cheyenne race relations at a 2007 Western History Association convention in Oklahoma City. The session was Indian wars-based and the three speakers enjoyed a standing-room only audience with another 12 or more people lining the back wall or struggling to listen and see from the doorway.

Afterwards, Dave Schafer, then chief of interpretation and operations for the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, and his wife Valerie (who also worked for the Park Service) along with Richard Zahn and Drew Hughes (NPS rangers) in Oklahoma caught up with me after the session ended.

lk_te_BoggsPrayArt_websiteDave and the others liked the talk and wanted to know if I’d like to present at the Washita Battlefield. Of course I would, but as we walked my mind raced. I wanted the talk but I also wanted to do an updated version of the Wynkoop one-man show. I pitched both and Dave bought both. I’d perform Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita on two days and talk about him on the last day of the festivities that marked the 140th anniversary of the battle that resulted in Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman Later’s deaths on 27nov1868 when Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh U.S. Cavalry attacked and destroyed his village in what is now southwest Oklahoma.

The image (right) is based upon a photo that Johnny D. Boggs took during one of the final dress rehearsals for Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita in December 2008. That’s director Tom Eubanks on his knees begging LK to remember his lines. I like this description but, alas, ’tis not true. He was discussing the prayer at the end of the play, and as you can see my nose was red. Yep, LK was doing some crying. Tom was showing me how I could improve the scene.

George Elmore kindly lent me an 1860-period revolver for the performances, and saved me the hassle of dealing with the airlines, which is no fun.

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Tom Eubanks (left) and LK going over Tom’s notes after one of the dress rehearsals in December 2008. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs.

Tom and I had two performances in a huge proscenium theater in the Cheyenne High School, and there were no problems for the school provided technicians that knew what they were doing.

A great time for me for I cemented my friendship with some Cheyennes, including Minowa lk_asnw_okdec08_sc1_boggsuse_wsLittlehawk (who would later become a godsend when she helped me with the Cheyenne words I used in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, OU Press, 2011) and Dr. Henrietta Mann (one of the founders of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma).

LK as Wynkoop (left) seeing the butchered remains of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people at Sand Creek months after the tragic event. It was evident that children were shot in the top of their heads, that sexual organs had been hacked off bodies for trophies, and, although Wynkoop probably did not see the body, a soldier had cut an unborn baby from its dead mother’s womb. This is my favorite image from the Johnny D. Boggs December 2008 photo shoot.

In the pictured scene (above) LK as Wynkoop described what he saw:
“Bodies littered the ground. All were at hideous angles, … naked, …
frozen in time. I dismounted and walked toward the carnage. … What I saw
ripped at my guts and I had to struggle not to vomit. Wolves had come
and feasted, but their hunger didn’t obscure what had come before.”
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LK with Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (left) and his nephew Jake in Ivan’s fully functional lodge during the last day of the Washita Battlefield NHS’s 140th anniversary of the destruction of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village. … It’s been too long since I’ve visited the Washita Battlefield (the last time was in 2012 when I flew to Oklahoma City for the Wrangler Awards), and methinks I need to pitch a talk for 2017. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

The performances went smoothly on the first two days of the event, but for me the final day turned into pure Cheyenne heaven (unfortunately Tom had to drive to Oklahoma City, to catch a flight back to SoCal before the second performance, which was in the evening). I met Henri (Dr. Mann) after the first performance, and after my talk in the morning on the last day of the event we spent a lot of time together, and it cemented a friendship to this day.

Other friends attended the last day of the event, Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (a wonderful man who opened his heart to me, but unfortunately this would be the last time I would ever see him in person) and Kiowa James Coverdale. I had met both of them at a major Fort Larned event years before and we had kept a long-distance friendship over the years.

Cheyenne Blood

Tom and I had discussed doing a play dealing with the same subject matter that we had used in the one-man shows by 2007 and perhaps a little earlier. I had come up with a script with a cast of 1000s but most of the characters would have been played by actors that would play multiple roles. It wasn’t very good and never had a second draft.

cheyBloodPosterTom came up with the idea of a two-character play, and this appealed to me. There had been two leading women in the initial draft: Louise Wynkoop and Monahsetah (photnetically pronounced “Mo-Nahs-e-Tah,” per my request of Dr. Henrietta Mann when we spent time together at the Washita in December 2008). By this time I knew that it would be a two-character play and It made sense to make the second character a Cheyenne (I think that we were both in agreement on this). Obviously Black Kettle would have been a good choice. Tom suggested Monahsetah, who was perhaps 17 in 1868 (but most likely younger). I liked the idea, mainly because there isn’t much known about her, and if George Armstrong Custer hadn’t been drawn to her when he viewed the captive Washita prisoners in 1868 she may have been lost to history. Due to her father’s closeness to Black Kettle, she often traveled and camped with the council chief’s village. As Little Rock, her father, and Wynkoop knew each other and seemed to get along, this meant that there was a good chance that Wynkoop knew her.

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Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Wynkoop during the drinking bit from The Drunkard. Obviously Monahsetah never saw the play but Tom added her to the scene and her presence added to the audience’s enjoyment of the bit that was played for laughs. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Also, and this was important, for other than Monahsetah’s contribution to Custer’s peaceful roundup of still-warring Cheyennes in 1869 Texas she was, and still is, little more than a heavenly shadow that his heart-felt words brought to life when he wrote about her in the 1870s.* Her absence from the history that she lived through allowed us to have her present but watching from afar or simply just representing a Cheyenne woman when not actually performing as herself. As it worked out, audiences accepted Tanya Thomas’s performance as Monahsetah at all times.

* Custer’s My Life on the Plains is still in print, as is Elizabeth Bacon Custer’s Following the Guidon, in which she shares her view of the young Cheyenne woman who spent time with her husband in the field and who obviously liked him. For secondary books see LK’s Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, 1995) and Peter Harrison’s Monahsetah: The Life of a Custer Captive (The English Westerners Society, 2014). There is biography by a supposed relative called Princess Monahsetah: The Concealed Wife of General Custer (2008) that is little more than bad fiction and should be avoided.

I finally had a draft of Cheyenne Blood early in 2009, and rehearsals began in March at the Petit Playhouse in Heritage Square.

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A tense moment during the ride to Denver. Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Ned Wynkoop react to what is going on around them. This did not happen in reality, however, the seven Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs did ride in a wagon to Denver. Wynkoop was mounted on his horse during the September 1864 trip. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Cheyenne Blood was a difficult play to learn, and I should admit up front that I’m terrible at learning lines. During one of the rehearsals I couldn’t remember the lines and ad libbed what the thought process was behind the words.

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LK as Wynkoop breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. The Petite Playhouse was intimate and I enjoyed this no end during the run of Cheyenne Blood. In the one-man shows we had also broken the fourth wall but here if I knelt down on the edge of the stage I could have touched a person in the audience. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Tom stopped the rehearsal and said: “You didn’t say the correct lines.” There was more, but not for your viewing pleasure. “What I just said are now the lines,” I said. “Huh?” he replied. “I just rewrote my script. Did you write the new words down?” Tom grumbled, and I looked at the script to put the lines back in my head so we could continue with the rehearsal. I think that Tanya quietly enjoyed the exchange.

Actually Tom and I had many exchanges over lots of thoughts and views that had nothing to do with getting Cheyenne Blood ready for its premier. All fun and games as we toyed with each other with words, … and Tanya quietly chuckled. At one point she said something like: “You two are a hoot.”

It’s fun to work with people you like and trust.

Without a doubt Tanya Thomas is the best actress that I’ve ever been fortunate to act with on stage. This is a big compliment. I enjoyed every minute of the time that Tanya, Tom, and I spent together during the production.

The Elite Theatre Company’s new home

The Elite Theatre Company (ETC) moved from its original location at the intimate Petit Theatre in Heritage Square where it had been since its inception in 1994 to its new home at Oxnard’s Channel Islands Fisherman’s Wharf in 2013.

Pailin meets Mr. Eubanks

Pailin and I made the drive to the Elite Theatre Company’s new home on 24apr2014. The theatre complex is housed in a two-story wooden Cape Cod-style building with two proscenium stages and is a joy to behold.

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of The Art of Something.

On this evening Pailin met Tom for the first time and obtained a first-hand introduction to the theater world that is in my blood and will be until the end. As a bonus she saw a play performed on stage for the first time in the USA. And best, I knew that it would a good experience for her since would see a story that Tom wrote and directed.

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I took this image of Pailin and Tom before the final dress rehearsal for The Art of Something. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Tom Eubanks, and Louis Kraft 2014)

On the night of the final dress rehearsal for Tom’s The Art of Something at the new venue Pailin also met Tom’s wife Judy and daughter Hannah.

Since that first day and evening when I met Pailin at a dinner party at Tujunga House in June 2013 (it was supposed to be two couples and myself but one of the ladies pushed me to allow one of her friends to attend and then she pushed Pailin that she needed to make it a party of six) when she was quiet but totally attentive to what was going on around her, I have come to know that this is a major part of her inner being. … And it was same when she saw The Art of Something on that night over two years ago but which still feels like last week.

Yes it had been a good night for Pailin when she met Tom and part of his family, but it had also been good for me to again hang out with him if only for a short while after a way-too-long passage of time.

“To be or not to be”* Wild Bill Hickok

I can’t remember when, but years back Johnny D. Boggs sent me his novel about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Jack Omohundro on a theatrical tour of the East called East of the Border. Hickok quickly realized that acting wasn’t for him. Bored, he drank too much and allowed his disgust with the situation show. Eventually he realized that if he fired his revolver loaded with a blank too close to a dead Indian on the stage the extra playing the corpse jerked spasmodically while he screeched out in pain. This tickled Hickok’s fancy (I assume that this was Mr. Boggs’s invention) and continued to do it to the dismay of Buffalo Bill and the extras. … It tickled my fancy too—but then I guess I may have enjoyed knowing Mr. Hickok if given the chance—and I decided that I wanted play the scout-gunman-gambler on stage.

* Although I quoted William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (written in 1601 or 1602 and first performed in 1602) I’m not depressed or considering ending my life. Just the opposite, I’m thrilled to move into my future. … I’m just having a little fun with the Bard’s words at Wild Bill’s expense.

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LK as Wild Bill Hickok. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Now came the hard part; getting Johnny to buy in on his novel being turned into a play. I approached him on this numerous times over the years and he never replied. In 2012 when I attended a WWA convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I again approached Johnny. No reply, but Lisa Smith, his wife and my friend, said: “That’s a great idea.”

Of course I wanted Tom to direct East of the Border if Johnny had agreed to me writing a play based upon his book, but this was beginning to be little more than wishful thinking. Worse, Tom was also lukewarm to the idea until I gave him a couple of books when I saw a play that he had directed called Men of Tortuga at the Elite Theatre in May 2016 (one 38-minute scene with two actors—Ron Rezac and Adam Womack—sitting at a table was riveting and had me on the edge of my seat).

lk_aslk_orwildbill_attujungahouse_sept2015LK (right) as LK (or Wild Bill) relaxing at home in September 2015 (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

To this point in time I still wanted to play Wild Bill Hickok on stage and thought that Johnny’s novel would be the perfect vehicle to bring my desire to fruition.

Back to the books that I gave Tom; one was Boggs’s East of the Border. Tom read it, called me, and we discussed what he thought needed to happen to make the novel work on stage (mainly condensing the story, removing the repetition, and focusing on three or four characters). This would have certainly been doable if Boggs would only buy into the idea.

Since Cheyenne Blood I’ve wanted to return to the stage, and thought it would be fun to play Hickok as he was burned out and certainly out of his element play-acting on stage. Alcoholism and a sadistic sense of fun would have made him a wonderful stretch for me.

After my phone conversation with Tom ended and I hung up I knew what I wanted to do … what I really wanted to do.

In the Midst of All that is Good

On Saturday 13aug2016 I saw a great play written by Tom Eubanks. I’ve seen a lot of the plays that he has directed or written and directed since 1990, but this one was special.

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of In the Midst of All that is Good.

I had hoped to create this blog that dealt with Tom’s and my friendship, our working relationship, In the Midst of All that is Good, and Wild Bill Hickok before the play closed at the Elite Theatre on 21aug2016 to give it additional publicity. Good attempt by me, but there just wasn’t enough time as I also had to pound the midnight oil as I push to complete my manuscript, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, which may be the most important book that I ever write (and this currently includes a great ongoing communication with Gary Roberts, who has written numerous books and documents about the tragedy), as well as deal with yet another operation (my nineteenth). Tom has written and directed a lot of plays that have been extraordinary, but this play is by far my favorite.

While all six characters have underlying problems that they must deal with all are engaging and I wouldn’t have minded calling any of them friends in real life.

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Josh Carmichael (Vic) points his gun at Jeff Ham (Reverend Bob) while his children Hannah Eubanks (Maddie) and Alex Czajka (Carson, who is deaf in the play) nervously react to the threat behind their father). David Fruechting (Lloyd, Reverend Bob’s disgraced and long-retired father) is about to jump Vic from behind. Johnny Avila (Dennis, Vic’s brother-in-law and partner isn’t shown in the image). Photo courtesy of the Elite Theatre Company.

According to Tom (whose father, Sam Eubanks, is an evangelical pastor), he spent, “most of my early life planted in a pew.” His early life started a spark that pushed him “to get a few things off my chest,” and write In the Midst of All that is Good. I think he told me that it took him a year to write and fine tune with comments from six friends that he mentioned by name in the program. I’m certain that after casting was set and rehearsals began that the play continued to evolve. I couldn’t take my eyes off Josh Carmichael, who was totally natural while at all times a threat to everyone else on stage as he raised questions and protected his livelihood. Jeff Ham also shined, as did David Fruechting, who was terribly sick during the performance that I saw and had been in the emergency room the previous night. If I hadn’t known, I would never have guessed. Hannah, Tom’s youngest daughter, played a key role in the play; she’s fifteen and was terrific, as was Alex Czajka, who as a young actor was totally believable as her deaf brother. Finally, Johnny Avila, as an almost flashback to the days of love-ins and hippies, reminded me of my brother’s best friend and our baseball teammate for 10 years until a mere flick of time ended Lee’s life in a flash.

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LK and Tom Eubanks at the Elite Theatre on the evening that I saw In the Midst of All that is Good. Obviously religion has played a large role in Tom’s life. Over the years he has prayed for me and I have for him. (photo © Louis Kraft & Tom Eubanks 2016)

See the theater’s website for upcoming plays: http://www.elitetheatre.org/.

Adios Wild Bill … enter Errol Flynn stage left

During our time together at the Elite Theatre that August 13 night Tom and I had time to chat. Early on I told him that I wanted to discuss something (and I’m certain that he thought it would be Mr. Hickok). … When we finally had the chance to talk I went for broke and threw a curveball at Tom a la Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I knew one thing moving forward, adios Mr. Hickok. … And honestly I didn’t know what to expect when I made the pitch.

I think that the role that I enjoyed playing the most on stage was Charley in Eat Your Heart Out. I played Charley at the Hayloft Dinner Theater in Lubbock, Texas (1976), and in Inglewood, California (1977). I luckily landed a great part in a great play. Eat Your Heart Out is about an actor trying to land acting work while waiting tables.

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Errol Flynn circa 1940-1941. LK personal collection.

There are four other actors in Eat Your Heart Out: Two women and two men who play various roles, and this is how I pitched a play on Errol Flynn to Tom but with a second historical figure on stage with him (can’t name him, sorry).

While proposing a play dealing with Flynn I also pitched using additional actors to play various roles but was vague if it would be two or three men and two or three women on stage with Flynn and the mystery man. I lean toward Flynn/other person plus six for a total of eight actors but know that Tom prefers a total of six actors. There could also be a compromise and have three actors (Flynn, one male, and one female) that play one character, and two men and two women who play various roles (for a total of seven).

Obviously identifying the characters is of utmost importance, and if truth be told they have already been selected. Don’t ask, for I ain’t a sharin’ their names. Once each player’s relevance to the play is in place an outline is mandatory to insure that this is true and that the actors that play various roles will have time to change costumes and characters. Unfortunately all of the details must remain secretive until the play is in production.

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See … LK can clean up as this photo by Steve Buffington proves. More important, I know Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft & Steve Buffington 2010)

History repeats itself: Like Leo Oliva in 2000, Tom asked if I could have the play written by next year (due to some changes that might happen with the Elite Theatre Company’s future scheduling). I told him “no,” as I needed to complete the delivery draft of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway first. Once the Sand Creek book is in production at OU Press I’ll be on Errol & Olivia* full time and it will be perfect timing for doing a play on Mr. Flynn.

* For the record I plan on writing three books about Errol Flynn, but will space them between Indian wars books that deal with race relations (that is if I’m able to successfully pitch my next Indian wars subjects to OU Press).

Upcoming Blogs

  • Sand Creek updates
    Sand Creek and the Tragical End of a Lifeway now dominates my writing life. I envision twelve-to-fourteen-hour days seven days a week except when I drop or socialize. (Wow! It almost sounds like I’m again writing for the software industry or film and TV.) As time permits I plan on posting numerous “short” (I know, Kraft doesn’t know what the word “short” means) posts with updates, questions, and whatever catches my fancy. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer a few teasers that won’t give away the story. There’ll probably be between two and three Sand Creek posts by the end of summer.
  • Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland book updates
    As you’ve seen in past blogs one or both of these screen legends appear whenever I have the time or the urge to write about them. As you now know, Errol & Olivia will be my next published book after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and as time moves forward I need to keep them before you. When they appear, and currently one isn’t planned, they will be short … similar to the blog that I posted on Olivia in July 2016: Olivia de Havilland 100 BD LK blog.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted. My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront. Actually, I’ll also include a subject that I didn’t know about until recently; the connection between the Thai people and the Cheyenne Indians (the Cheyennes didn’t come from Asia; they migrated to America from what became Europe). This blog will deal with two totally different people who are closer than I could have ever guessed. It will also deal with life (past and present) and an uncertain future.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact. It is time to address this creation of history that is error-riddled or fiction sold as truth. (The blog dealing film history—read Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland—is currently being drafted, but won’t go live until sometime in 2017.)