Geronimo, Sand Creek, Mike Koury, & challenging me

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


I’ve reached the stage of my life wherein I’ve got to push my writing world. A few years back when Wild West published “When Wynkoop Was Sheriff” in 2011, George Carmichael, a writer I met when we both took a fiction class at UCLA (I was still working in the film industry—yep, the Dark Ages), said: “You’ve finally written an article with a little bite.” Not quite the comment I wanted to hear, but a good one.

“A little bite.” …  

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I’m currently working on a Geronimo/Apache article for Wild West magazine. Think it is going to have a little bite. Thanks George.

This image of Geronimo (left) is a detail from the dust jacket for Gatewood & Geronimo (art © Louis Kraft 1999)

Something else is going to have a bite—Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Research (and I already have a lot in house) began in April, and is now continuous. If all goes as I hope, it will have “a big bite.”

I know a fellow who has “a little bite” to him named Mike Koury. I met Mike when I spoke before an audience for the first time at an Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) two-day event (I think in Fullerton, Ca., in 1987). Mike’s a great speaker. I’m a firm believer that you learn from what turns you on and from what turns you off. The key is why. Why do I like it or why don’t I like it? Simple question … Back to Mike. He delivered a great talk; full of life. And not a lecture; rather a story. I loved it. If you’ve seen any of my talks and like them, you’ve got to give all the kudos to Mike Koury. On the flip side, it you don’t like them—sorry Mike—he deserves all the blame.

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lk, Layton Hooper, and Mike Koury at the La Quinta Inn & Suites on the morning after the Order of the Indian Wars symposium in Centennial, Co. Layton put together the symposium (April 20, 2013), was responsible for me speaking about “Wynkoop’s Last Stand, and kindly (along with his wife Vicki) made me a member of his home while the OIW wasn’t housing me at the hotel. (Photo by Frank Bodden)

I had a good time with Mike in Colorado last April when I spoke for the Order of the Indian Wars symposium in Centennial (will again speak for them in Tucson this coming September), including a nice morning and afternoon with him, his pretty wife Dee, and Danny Martinez (Danny and I have shook hands over the years, but didn’t really know each other until this past April when we spent a little time together).

Also present at the symposium was Deb Bisel and her friend Michelle Martin (who I met for the first time, although we knew each other long distance). More on the ladies at another time, other than to say that they were with Mike after the symposium had ended and we were partying at the hotel. I asked them to step outside so I could take a photo of them. After getting it, I asked the ladies to kiss Mike, and they readily agreed. I snapped away, my eyes turning into little green $$$ signs; my mind doing backflips—would Mike Koury be paying for me to have a summer home in Colorado, the state that has 100 days of sunshine (that’s right, I’ve deducted 200 days from what I consider false Colorado advertising, which claims it is “the land of 300 days of sunshine.”).

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Michelle Martin (left), Mike Koury, and Deb Bisel outside the La Quinta Inn & Suites after the Order of the Indian Wars symposium on April 20, 2013. (Photo by Louis Kraft)

Joking aside (but not with what I view as false advertising), it’s a cute picture so I’m sharing it in the hope that it doesn’t get anyone in trouble.

Over the years Mike has pursued what is important to him, and he has lived the life of his choice as he has pursued his interest in history (in particular, the Indian wars, but it goes way beyond the Indian wars). … In a time long gone an Order of the Indian Wars tour visited Sand Creek (at the bend in the dry riverbed below the monument as perhaps documented in mixed-blood Southern Cheyenne George Bent’s map) which was then located on the Bowman ranch (private property) in southeastern Colorado. Marissa was young. At the time of the OIW tour we had been tracking George Armstrong Custer in Montana (I believe the time was somewhere around September 1987). I called Jerry Russell, who then ran the OIW, and asked if we could join the last day of the tour and see Sand Creek?

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Jerry Russell holding court above the bend of the Sand Creek dry bed that was then part of Bill Dawson’s ranch, and which is now part of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, in September 1987 … I’m currently reading Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013), and the book is a mixed bag. There are many errors dealing with 1864-1865 (lots of notes regarding them), but Kelman’s assembly of the various factions that had to work together (land owners, NPS employees, Arapaho and Cheyenne descendants of Sand Creek, historians, would-be historians, government officials, and pro- & anti-POVs on what happened in 1864 and how it should be presented to the public (other than a fair amount of repetition by Kelman) is a pretty good investigative read. (Image © Louis Kraft 1987)

Jerry was always good to me, and said yes. Timing was such that Marissa, her mother, and I were able to complete a private tour of Custer’s night march on June 24 and follow his movements (including the Crow’s Nest) over private property with Jim Court, who had been superintendent of Custer Battlefield NHM. When we were on the west side of the LIttle Big Horn where the Indian village was and where the 7th Cavalry attempted to cross the river or feinted an attempt to cross the river and were repulsed (Medicine Tail Coulee), a drunken Indian charged up in a pickup and had an angry encounter with Court. My ladies were in Court’s van and were safe (reason: mosquitoes all over the place). The Indian, who I believe was Crow, appeared ready to attack Court, who handled the situation calmly. Thinking the worst was about to happen, I positioned myself behind the Indian to aid Court if the need arose. Luckily it didn’t.

We got down to Pueblo, Colorado, late the night before the OIW trip to the private property Sand Creek. But it was a push to get there (I did all the driving) and I was burning with fever. My ex-wife, who grew up in the medical world, saved the day. We bought rubbing alcohol, I stripped, and she rubbed it all over my body (sorry—no photos). I became ice cold, but it worked and the fever was gone the next morning. A few years later she pulled off the same feat at Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

Back to Mike K. (who was also on the 1987 OIW Sand Creek tour), … I came up with a great idea for an article for True West (this was long before Bob Boze Bell took it over, revamped it, and turned it into what it is today): modern-day Indian wars historians and how they approach what they do.

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Mike Koury, owner of The Old Army Press in Johnstown, Colorado (which creates documentaries), has been the driving force behind the Order of the Indian Wars since Jerry Russell’s death in 2003 (am unsure of the date). (Art © Louis Kraft May 2013)

It would feature four people, including Mike and Jerry Russell. True West loved the idea. But when it was time to go to press, the owner of the publication saw the article, held the presses, and canceled “The Good Ol’ Boys” until Mike could be purged from it (which meant it ran in the next issue or the one after that in 1990; an easy cut, for Mike had a section all to himself). It turns out that Mike had perturbed the publisher. I don’t know what happened between them, but I like it when someone (Mike, me, … whomever) perturbs someone else.

“Challenges” is perhaps a better word than “perturbed.” Standing firm for what you believe is important in the writing/historical world. Enough said, other than Mike is a jewel, and I’m glad I know him.

Back to today … I must challenge myself. Every day. To walk, to exercise, to research, to write, to sell, to enjoy another human being, to sleep. This is obscure, as it should be.

Living is fun, that is living and doing what drives me (I’m not talking about writing here). Especially when related to people. You probably won’t believe what follows, but ’tis true—I’m shy, especially when I’m interested in a lady. This has been a curse throughout my life. And it’s never going to improve. That said, I get along with people. Always have. There’s another curse in my life; some people want more from me (usually more than I can provide) or become jealous over nothing (read something that doesn’t exist or never happened). At the moment I’m caught between two worlds. Huh??? I haven’t told you anything, other than perhaps I don’t have a girlfriend.

Vagueness is heaven. Sorry.

And for those of you that think I push the limit whenever presented with an opportunity, realize this: I love life; certainly mine. Sometimes that word “challenge” is key, … I’ve got to challenge me, my failures, my insecurities, my hopes. Once in a while someone gets pulled into my challenge and is pushed. If it’s you, realize that you aren’t the target, I am, so please don’t get upset. Also know this, if I didn’t like you, didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t involve you.

Trust me on this one.

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