Sand Creek Massacre, Kit Carson, Pailin, & good friends

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2016

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Warning: This blog is long.

This blog has preempted the “Future Blogs List” as it is based upon a 19-day research-discovery trip that Pailin and I took recently to Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. As Pailin now has her Green Card she is free to travel the United States, and as she is an explorer, this was a trip that hopefully she enjoyed. She got to see a lot of land she had never seen before, got a taste of what I do, and better yet became my assistant. I told her at the beginning of the trip that within five years I wanted her telling everyone about the lead-up to, the November 1864 attack on a peaceful Cheyenne-Arapaho village, and the aftermath of this tragic event. The trip also included Kit Carson research in Santa Fe, Taos, and the Bosque Redondo Memorial (Fort Sumner) in New Mexico. There was also a tad of Wynkoop research; hell, we were in two of his three key areas in the West during the trip. Finally Pailin got a surprise Errol Flynn physical examination of the El Rancho Hotel, a national historic site in Gallup, New Mexico, where Flynn and the Rocky Mountain (1950) film crew stayed while they shot the film’s exteriors in the area. … But this trip was also about seeing good friends, introducing Pailin to the western landscape, looking at property in Eldorado (Santa Fe, N.Mex.), and making a delivery to the LK Collection in the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (Santa Fe).

Colorado here we come

The trip began on 28sept2014 and it was a long drive that took us from North Hollywood (a town in Los Angeles), California, to Richfield, Utah.

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Pailin took this image as we drove east from North Hollywood, California, and as the sun began to rise. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

During the first day we did detour to The Valley of Fire, which is north of Las Vegas, Nevada, and off I-15. I had been to The Valley of Fire in 2001 after I had sold the idea of a Ned Wynkoop one-man show to Kansas.

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The image with the white hat was taken at The Valley of Fire in Nevada.

I had pitched the Wynkoop one-man show idea to Leo Oliva, who was already bringing me to Kansas to speak (and I’m certain that George Elmore, now chief historian at the Fort Larned NHS, played a key role in this important stage of my life). Leo had asked for a publicity shot.

Of course when a friend saw the publicity shot in a publication, he complained: “What the hell is this? Wynkoop didn’t dress like that!” I don’t think I calmed his anger with my reply.

valley_ofFireCollage_28sept2014_wsOnce we got out of Nevada the landscape improved. Utah is gorgeous. We turned right onto I-70 and halted for the night after about 37 miles.

The second day started out nicely in Utah, and again the landscape was beautiful to behold. But soon the easy climate began to change. It started out with showers mixed with sunshine as we cruised through the eastern side of Utah and closed on Colorado.

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After entering Colorado I got my usual welcome: Weather headed straight for the deep freeze. It is almost as if I have become a marked man in the state. If Kraft crosses our border, chill his bones until he leaves. Pailin took this photo from the window of the Vette as we cruised eastward on I-70 (she took many photos through the windshield and the right window during the trip). This image captured the beginning of the end of color for the rest of the day, and we hadn’t reached the noon hour yet. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

At Grand Junction, Colorado, it turned cold and a downpour that lasted close to three hours struck. It was downhill from there, and looked like a repeat of the last two or three times I have visited Colorado. After we closed on the Rocky Mountains the temperature began to drop at an alarming rate. Rain clobbered us and stopped only to hit again minutes later. The temperature reached 37, 36, 35, 34, and then 33 degrees.

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Pailin’s photos remind me of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s nocturnes. He, along with Vincent van Gogh, are my favorite artists.

Snow began to fall. Thirty-two degrees. Ouch! This was not what I wanted to see. The traffic continued at a frantic pace. Soon the three lanes shrunk into one for construction, but there were no construction workers. And soon after the traffic came to a halt. We passed a sign that proclaimed, “When lights flashing chains are required” (or something like that), with a $500.00 fine if not obeyed. I’ve never seen a chain up close in my life. And soon after the traffic came to a halt. It did not appear to be for construction; an accident? Time crept forward, perhaps 30 minutes as we inched forward. We passed another construction zone but no one was working. The snow stopped falling and the temperature zoomed up to 37 degrees, but we came to a halt again a short distance in front of the Eisenhower Tunnel (there is more to the name). I called John Monnett and left a message that we were going to be late as we were expected at his and Linda’s house (I had anticipated arriving by late afternoon). Soon after we got through the tunnel the traffic jam vanished and I-70 returned to being a speedway (I have never seen so much tailgating as I have seen in Colorado on this trip). I guess everyone wanted to get off the mountain before they shut down the road. (John informed me that they don’t shut down I-70 in the fall; rather that Colorado drivers are the worst).

A short while later a ray of sunshine stole into the mountain pass, but it only lasted for a few minutes. There was no rain and the temperature reached 39 degrees and then 40. I breathed and said a silent prayer. We’ve made it. Somewhere the road grew to three lanes, and I even felt comfortable showing what my car could do (I say this fully knowing that its body is very light and it can become airborne). At the same time my goal was getting Pailin to John and Linda’s house safely.

COLO_29sept2014_apr2013_ps-k&lkCollageAll was looking good, when the snow returned with a vengeance. Visibility dropped to about 30 feet or less, and—thank goodness—the traffic slowed. Hell, they were forced to slow. Soon the three lanes closed into one for construction, but again there were no construction workers (I’m glad that they didn’t have to work in this weather). And of course the traffic came to another complete halt. We sat there and watched the temperature drop—37, 36, 35, 34, … Oh no! We started to inch forward. The downward spiral continued. Thirty-three, … 32! I hate to admit it, but I don’t know how to drive on ice. I’ve had good conversations about this, most recently with my good friend Layton Hooper (2013) who just this year moved from Colorado to Arizona (and I think I know why). But knowing something (at least thinking you know something) and doing it are two different things. If it were just me, I’m good and know that I’ll survive (experience has backed this up many times in the past), but I’ve got Pailin with me. Caution and driving safely were the only things on my mind.

After reaching 32 degrees the temperature stayed at 32. We approached a tunnel and it was closed. A detour road swung to the right of, and around, the tunnel and when we reached the other side of the tunnel the road again opened into two lanes.

Soon after the snow stopped falling. We had downpours of rain, and I kept in the slow lane, but the temperature again grew. Within minutes it reached 40 degrees and never looked back. I-70 got out of the pass, and even though the downpour continued we made good time until we closed on Denver and then Lafayette.

ps&LadyJaneGray_lk&Wellington_collage_wsVisibility remained bad, but after a couple of missed turns we arrived at John & Linda’s house. Just as I was about to push the door bell my cell phone rang. It was John trying to find out where we were and if we were okay. Linda opened the door and Pailin and I met a lady I had been looking forward to meeting for a long time, and John and his lady met Pailin. It was early evening on September 29. I liked Linda immediately.

The night passed easily as Linda prepared a terrific meal and we hung out for a few hours. Pailin is shy, and there is a reason for it, but she was thrilled over meeting John and Linda.

Some background on John and this trip

John Monnett is one of the top Cheyenne wars historians writing today. We had met years back. Somewhere, and it was most likely at a western history event. We knew each other and liked each other. We had both spoken at an Order of the Indian Wars symposium in Centennial, Colorado, in 2010, and at a party afterwards we hung out and got to know each other. From then on our friendship grew. Previously John had provided me with a great peer review of the Wynkoop manuscript (Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, OU Press, 2011) and later a top-notch peer review of the proposal for what will be my next Indian wars book (working title: Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, OU Press). When I told John that after Pailin had her Green Card that we would be making a trip to Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, he invited us to stay with him and Linda.

Research and hanging out with John and Linda

As most of you know my next book will deal with the people who lived through the events that led up to the attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village on Sand Creek in Colorado Territory in November 1864, the attack, and the aftermath. You also know that I write about people. I am now faced with a much larger task of making more people leading players and at the same time connecting them to the supporting players while maintaining a flow in the manuscript. This task is massive. Who, where, when, … while showing and not telling (a key to any writing). The goal is to transition smoothly between the players and the events. Doable? I have every intention of making this happen. If I fail my publisher—read my editor and friend Chuck Rankin—will do what he can to get me back on course. If I again fail, “Adios amigo!” I have no intention of failing. Actually this is the best challenge I have ever faced, and I love it.

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While I dawdled Pailin discovered the Wynkoop books in the museum. John suggested that I sign the museum’s books and the Boulder History Museum agreed. This was just the beginning of what John shared with Pailin and LK on this day.

On September 30 John took Pailin and I to a coffee shop he enjoys going to for breakfast and to work. Afterwards he drove us to the “Chief Niwot Legend & Legacy” exhibit at the Boulder History Museum. Niwot (or Left Hand, which is his name that is most known) was a chief of the Arapahos during the mid-1860s). All I’ll tell you about Niwot is that he will be featured as much as possible in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and that he received wounds during the November 29, 1864, attack on the Sand Creek village and they led to his death. This man stood for peace and had done what he could to hopefully bring about an end to the 1864 Indian war in Colorado Territory (he thought he had succeeded).*

lk&ps&jMonnet_SandCreek_NiwotExhibitCollage_wsThis visit to the Boulder History Museum was Pailin’s introduction to research. Over the coming days I wore her out with what I requested she do, and she would come through admirably.

* Be careful with what you read online regarding Niwot, for some of the supposed factual information you’ll see is flat-out not true. Actually it is wise to heed this advice when researching many of the historical figures involved in the American Indian wars online.

Next up was researching a soldier who had been a member of the Third Colorado Volunteer Cavalry at the time of the Sand Creek attack and seeing the remnants of a stage station that members of Company D of the Third used to travel to Denver to join their regiment as they had not yet been assigned horses. … Pardon my vagueness here, but as books always have word counts if contracted and professionally produced, and as I don’t know what research will be included in the manuscript until I piece it together, at this time I have nothing to share.

ps&jMonnett_FtChambers_BoulderMontage_wsJohn’s next destination was the stage station in Boulder that is currently falling apart. There is hope that money can be raised to save the building for in 1864 troopers that enlisted in the Third Colorado Volunteer Cavalry Regiment in Boulder rode from this stage station to Denver as they had not yet been mounted. Unfortunately the day passed quickly, but John made it both beneficial to my Sand Creek manuscript research and fun for Pailin and I.

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On Wednesday, October 1, Pailin lived through her first day of doing archival research at the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library. Almost everything I looked at was pulled from the DPL’s vault and she served as my official photographer with her iPad as it couldn’t be photocopied. Research is two things: Finding gold and ruling out that the research spot has been mined out for what is hoped to find. When working in an archive time is precious and I don’t believe in breaks (that includes when I research locally in Los Angeles, which contains some of the best archives I have ever seen—a major reason why I should never leave LA).

The day was long, but Pailin seemed to enjoy it. I told her that this was just the beginning, and she said, “I’m good as long as I’m with you.”

Rocky Mountain National Park

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Pailin with John & Linda Monnett at Bear Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park on 2oct2014. It was chilly but we had a good time. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, John & Linda Monnett 2014)

By Thursday, October 2, the archival and museum research work in Colorado had ended. John and Linda Monnett drove Pailin and I to the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was a short drive from their home. Beautiful vistas and landscapes, but surprisingly the area was more crowded than John expected. Luckily we landed parking spots when we needed them.

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Although John had captured me and the snowball I like Pailin’s image better as I played centerfield, 3rd base, and 1st base with my brother on winning baseball teams. We played together for 10 years. When he died in 1990 I quit and never played again. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

John had hoped to get us above the snow line but the roads were closed. There were remnants of a recent snow on the ground at Bear Lake, and as Linda, Pailin and I snapped photos John rolled a snowball for me. I wound up a la Sandy Koufax (the greatest baseball pitcher I have ever had the pleasure to watch perform in person and on TV) and went through the motion of flinging a fastball while John and Pailin snapped away. Afterwards I tossed the snowball at a tree, but alas it wasn’t a strike. My apologies to those of you who don’t know or understand the American sport of baseball and its terms.

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Linda and John Monnett in the coffee shop of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, on 2oct2014. This entire day was a joy as Pailin and I got to hang out with John and Linda. They had taken us to the Rocky Mountain National Park, which obviously both of them love. Afterwards they shared the historical Stanley Hotel with us. Linda knows I’m about to take her picture while John seems to be occupied with perhaps seeing a ghost. (photo © Louis Kraft and John & Linda Monnett 2014)

The trip also included viewing the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park that represented the hotel that Jack Nicholson and his cinematic family (Shelly Duvall and Danny Lloyd) encountered horror after recovering alcoholic Nicholson became the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film version of Stephen King’s novel, The Shining. I saw it when it first opened in theaters but was bored by the film and have never seen it since. … Don’t know if I’d like to stay in the Stanley Hotel on a solo trip but the hotel would make a great location for a western history convention.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Ladies and gents, this tragic and yet now holy land is a long-long drive into the middle of nowhere Colorado. John did all the driving on our way to the bloody ground and Linda and John split the driving back to their home. An exhaustive day for them, and John later commented on social media that he was happy when Kraft left for his life would now return to normal. John and Linda did everything possible to make our visit beneficial to my Sand Creek project while making us feel at home and welcome. They were marvelous hosts and Pailin and I enjoyed every minute of our visit. J & L, thank you.

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John knew I wanted to meet Jeff Campbell, whom he had already met, and both of our fingers were crossed on 3oct2014 (at least mine were). We—I—got lucky and Jeff worked on this day (and I do believe we—I—were/was lucky for he had a very busy schedule in front of him moving forward in October and into November with all the Sand Creek Massacre 150th anniversary events at hand (and with Cheyennes and Arapahos visiting the NHS). Pailin took this image of us on the wooden platform in front of the makeshift visitor center and as you can see there was a harsh sun that day. I don’t remember what I was saying to Jeff, but trust me for we weren’t arguing. Nor were there any comments regarding the Wynkoop review I had submitted upon request to the National Park Service. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, Jeff Campbell, & John Monnett)

The Sand Creek Massacre NHS needs a lot of money to bring it up to Washita Battlefield NHS in scope, presentation, and splendor. They have the correct people in place at the NHS, they have the knowledge and understanding of what happened, but they still need U.S. government funding to make this sacred ground a jewel in the U.S. park system. This must happen, for believe it or not this is perhaps the most important of all the Plains Indian war sites for what happened there paved the way for the conscious destruction of people and their lifeway. It created a searing wound in the Cheyennes and the Arapahos that will never heal, while at the same time made it clear that greed, prejudice, right, wrong, and conscience really have a major impact on history and that it defines the participants.

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I don’t remember what John was saying at this moment, but my guess is that he was pitching my Sand Creek manuscript. Pailin took this image on 3oct2014 just outside the Sand Creek Massacre NHS visitor center. (photo © John Monnett, Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

As said above everything is falling into place at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS (more below) as to what happened, and, as Ranger Jeff Campbell (more on Jeff below) explained on this day, those leading the way to define the presentation at this oh-so-important site are getting close with confirming their facts and gaining consensus from all the parties involved. This location—and I don’t care if it is in the middle of Neverland, USA—this sacred ground deserves a visitor center/museum that matches the one at the Washita. That said, the land is magnificent, and along the bluffs that skirt the western perimeter of the property present a marvelous view of massiveness of the ground on which the November 29, 1864, attack on a peaceful Cheyenne-Arapaho village took place. There are no well-placed signs along the trail telling the visitor what he or she is looking at to date, so one must have a good knowledge of what happened to make any sense of what is seen.

Some of what follows is repetitive, but as it is important I need to repeat it here. Jeff Campbell, who has held a wide range of jobs over his career, ranging from school teacher to a crime scene investigator, has now as a National Park Service ranger taken on the challenge of piecing together the events of that tragic day as if it were a crime scene. On Friday, October 3, John, Linda, Pailin, and I spent valuable time with him as he explained his approach to his task as well as update us on the status of the NHS. Although he wouldn’t reveal details he made it clear that his and others work was about 95 percent complete as to determining where the attack happened as well gaining a consensus from the various participants who have a major stake in the telling of this horrific attack. I’m talking about the people who had attempted to end a war in September 1864, thought that peace had returned to their lives, but then on that November 29 day were attacked and brutally murdered—the Cheyennes and the Arapahos.

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My lady on the bluffs above the Sand Creek village site on 3oct2014. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

To gain an understanding of all the parties involved in the massive project of purchasing the land, creating the NHS, and then piecing together all the historical events has been a joint project with many factions involved, read Ari Kelman’s book A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013).

Although Kelman’s prose is a page-turner, especially when dealing with the events in the last 30 or 40 years as he brings the modern-day Sand Creek story together—and it was a fight for the Cheyennes, Arapahos, U.S. government, land owners, historians, would-be historians, and National Park Service to create this historic site, but be wary of his information related to the battle and the events surrounding it. Although Kelman uses, at least his notes claim he used, primary source material, there are many errors. Why? I don’t know why. Perhaps there was a poor understanding of the primary source material, not checking facts, or a rush to go to print? There is a warning here: While in modern times and dealing with the fight, and it was a fight, to create this much-needed NHS that protects this oh-so-sacred ground, Kelman’s book is a wonder. However, if writing about the participants and events of that horrific time during the 1860s be careful or you will repeat his errors.

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The four of us are at the second and final bench on the walk skirting the village site. John is checking the brochure, which has a small map and I’m asking Pailin what she is doing. “Taking a photo.” We had great temperature for exploring but the sun made for deep shadows. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, Linda & John Monnett 2014)

As Jeff Campbell had stated at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS visitor center the attack had been a running fight. When you walk the bluffs above the grounds you easily see the immensity of the village site and the open expanse on which the fight took place. I could envision myself as Capt. Silas Soule or Lt. Joseph Cramer as they instructed their men not to fire their weapons; I could envision myself as mixed-blood Cheyenne George Bent as he scrambled to escape the surrounding soldiers only to be wounded but still able to escape under the cover of darkness.

I can also easily see myself as mixed-blood Cheyenne Edmund Guerrier as he escaped unharmed; I can imagine myself as Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle who under the cover of darkness returned to where he thought he’d find his dead wife Medicine Woman Later only to find her alive and with her escape; and finally I could picture myself as Arapaho Chief Niwot (Left Hand) as he received the wounds that would lead to his death. … I can’t visualize myself as a soldier that killed women, children, and men and then sexually hacked their bodies to pieces. By now you know I can step into Ned Wynkoop’s boots and explode when news of the slaughter reached him.

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LK standing next to the plaque at the entry to the Sand Creek Massacre NHS grounds (which is separate from the visitor center). John M. took this photo on 3oct2014 when we returned to his auto. The Indian pictured on the plaque is unidentified. (photo © John Monnett & Louis Kraft 2014)

As Johnny Boggs’ quoted me in his terrific article, “Trail of Tragedy” (True West, November 2014, page 53), “War doesn’t give soldiers the right to murder, rape, and butcher. Not yesterday, not today, and not ever.” You know where I stand, but as a writer and historian I must separate myself from the story and let the participants’ actions speak for them. I must eliminate my bias from the writing and reporting, for whatever I think and feel is not the same as the people thought and felt in 1864. If I do my job properly, the readers will make their own decisions on what happened.

At the Sand Creek NHS Administrative office in Eads, Colorado I met Shawn Gillette, Chief of Interpretation. Shawn liked the Wynkoop book, but more important he told me that he and the others who worked on the Ned Wynkoop NPS brochure had seen my review of their draft. He also told me that the NPS Regional Office had shredded their original draft and insisted upon certain items being in the two-page brochure and that he and the others did what they could to include as much as they could of what I had provided but were limited by space.

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I didn’t know what to expect when we walked into the Sand Creek Massacre NHS administration building in Eads, Colorado, that afternoon of 3oct2014, but I would not have guessed what happened. After Shawn realized who I was he greeted me like a long-lost friend. I’m still smiling over our meeting for I had felt when there was absolutely no response to the review of the Wynkoop brochure I submitted (upon request) that I had become public enemy no. 1 of the National Park Service. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, & Shawn Gillette)

Shawn’s comments were perhaps the best thing I heard regarding the Wynkoop brochure, and perhaps on the entire trip. Honestly, I thought that my review and the follow-up blog  (National Park Service, Ned Wynkoop, & a bad taste) killed my entire relationship with the National Park Service. Perhaps I could afford saying adios to the NPS but I didn’t want to lose my great friend, the chief ranger at the Fort Larned NHS, George Elmore. George and I became friends when he gave my then young daughter Marissa and I a private tour of Fort Larned in 1990 or 1991. At this time he had answered many questions that saw print in The Final Showdown (1992). Since that time George has been there for me 100 percent of the time every time I have called upon him. If we lived near each other I am certain that we would hang out together. … Shawn eliminated any fears that I had that I had damaged my relationship with George. Thanks Shawn!

An end to the Colorado visit 

John, Linda, Pailin, and LK had an easy Saturday. We had a late breakfast at the Monnett’s favorite coffee house (John calls it his second office; at least that is what I think he calls it). Certainly he spends a lot of time there. Afterwards we hung out at and rested at John and Linda’s great house. John and I talked a little about research and we decided not to apply for the fellowship at the Braun Research Library (Southwest Museum/now part of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles). I’m not sure of John’s reason but I know mine, and mine is firm (read into this what you will).

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Dinner at The Fort. I wanted to use a photo that I took of John, Linda, and Pailin but there was a problem with the image. Linda took this photo with Pailin’s cell phone. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft)

That night we went to dinner at The Fort in Morrison, Colorado. I always enjoy going there, and I think that John and Linda do also. This was a first for Pailin. My lady and I had duck (a first for me), while Linda enjoyed quail and John, I think, had a steak. Pailin and I often share, as she is small and I don’t want to grow larger (always more than enough food for both of us). I like buffalo and would have loved to have had shared buffalo with her but she many years ago swore off eating any large animals (buffalo, venison, elk, beef, and so on). I’m good with honoring her wishes when we share, and on this night we did. Loved the chile and orange duck! We don’t eat beef at home, but Pailin also likes duck (and has since her Thailand days) and it will be added to our menu at Tujunga House.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with The Fort, it was built to represent one the trading posts that William Bent and company built in the early half of the 19th century to the east of the Rocky Mountains in the land that would become Colorado Territory.

I-25 south to that special land where I am at home

I-25 enters and then leaves Denver, Colorado, as you head south to the Land of Enchantment—New Mexico. Santa Fe grabbed me the first time I had visited in 1987 for research (and this included a side trip to Taos).

Two years later I returned to New Mexico to negotiate writing, designing, and publishing a book a month geared toward pitching New Mexico to Japan.

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This is the east-facing portion of builder Joe Cuellar’s house as it sat near the top of the mesa to the west of Albuquerque. The great room is highlighted in the lighting. It had seven windows and fully a 180-degree view of the bowl in which Albuquerque resides. At night the views were spectacular. Most of the acreage in the front of the image shows the extra acre I negotiated into the contract. I don’t live in the past, but I do learn from it and it does influence me. (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

I had been lured to Albuquerque where I had seen several adobe-style homes on an acre that were featured in the Albuquerque Journal (I then subscribed to the Sunday edition). Before I returned to New Mexico to look at the homes, the builder and I hit it off and although I had an interview set up with a jewelry firm for a writing position builder Joe Cuellar introduced me to the vice president of the CBS TV affiliate in Albuquerque.

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I loved one of the houses (3300 square feet, one level that had steps as it climbed the hill). I negotiated an extra acre into the deal ($196,000 total), and although the jewelry position didn’t work out the CBS affiliate and my negotiations made decent progress. The VP even visited Los Angeles to continue working on the deal. My task: Obtain the information from Japan, write the text, design the publication, and get it printed each month. Alas, there was one showstopper to the possibility of bringing Japanese investors into New Mexico; I had set a bottom price that I wouldn’t go below. The VP dropped below it. Adios amigo. End of deal, … and house.

The drive was mostly straight with some curves until soon after I-25 passed Las Vegas and turned west toward Santa Fe. We cruised past Glorieta, where over three days in March 1962 Union forces, including Maj. John Chivington and Capt. Ned Wynkoop, took part in the Battle of Glorieta Pass (March 26 and March 28; the two armies didn’t fight on the 27th). A short while later we passed exit 290 (Clines Corners) where Pailin and I had an appointment with Lisa Smith on 7oct2014 to look at a couple of houses in Eldorado, a sprawling area with adobe style and adobe homes that is perhaps ten+ miles from downtown Santa Fe.

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The Lensic Theatre, which is just off the Santa Fe Plaza, in the early evening of 5oct2014. In the previous decade Tomas Jaehn (you’ll meet him below) attempted to get the Wynkoop one-man show into the Lensic but (if memory serves me) the cost was too high to rent this historic and gorgeous theater. A shame; I drooled when I saw the interior of the Lensic. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

After unpacking at our lodging on Cerrillos Road, Pailin and I drove to the historic district and ate at the Blue Corn Café. Afterwards I led her the short distance to the Santa Fe Plaza, showed her the exterior of the Palace of the Governors, and finally the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, which for years has played a special place in my life. While walking back to the car I pointed out the Lensic Theatre to Pailin. For one night in December 1940 it played a large role in the lives of the people of Santa Fe and surrounding areas when the Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland film The Santa Fe Trail premiered in Santa Fe (actually in three theaters). de Havilland had become ill on the train that brought the Warner Bros. junket to the city and never took part in the premier’s festivities. Not so Flynn, and he had the time of his life.

Tomas Jaehn & the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library

My first trip to Santa Fe was a visit to the New Mexico History Museum to research Ned Wynkoop in 1987. At that time Orlando Romero was in charge. Orlando was open and helpful. He was restoring (I think?) his family adobe home in Nambé Pueblo, which is at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains about 16 miles north of Santa Fe. He was getting close to finishing his project and was excited (he told me that he would at some point in the near future retire).

I don’t remember exactly when Orlando retired, but soon after he did (or perhaps before he did), the New Mexico History Museum moved its document collections to the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library. The New Mexico History Museum didn’t cease to exist, and let me say that some of the treasures it holds are marvels. I know, for one day years back Charles Bennett, former assistant director of the Palace of the Governors, took daughter Marissa and I into the depths of this historic site and we saw them.

… Soon after Orlando’s retirement I returned to Santa Fe to continue my Wynkoop research.

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On 6oct2014 Pailin and I met Tomas Jaehn in the entry to the New Mexico History Museum. We walked to his favorite coffee shop and enjoyed the brew while we chatted. Old times for Tomas and myself as we caught up, but new times for Pailin as she got to know Tomas. Unfortunately our visit wasn’t well timed and we couldn’t socialize. (photo by Pailin and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, and Tomas Jaehn 2014)

It was at this time that I met Tomas Jaehn, who replaced Orlando. I cannot say enough good things about Tomas. He has helped my writing and research in so many ways, that if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have completed some of the projects that I have over the years, and I’m certain that some of the articles and certainly Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek would have taken longer to complete and see print. In 2001 Tomas approached me about creating the Louis Kraft Collection. I liked the idea but it took a year for me to make a delivery and sign the contract.

Over the years Tomas and his family have become good friends.

A primary goal of visiting Santa Fe was and is (as this goal is ongoing) to introduce Pailin to this marvelous city and New Mexico. We both love Los Angeles and Pailin has a wonderful family of Thai friends living there (LA has the largest Thai population in the U.S., and better there are over 200 languages spoken in Los Angeles, also the largest in the U.S., according to the LA Times), which means that living in Los Angeles is very important to her. She is also aware that Los Angeles is a very expensive location to call home, and the prices climb continuously (I’m even taxed to be a writer using a computer in our home even though I don’t claim Tujunga House as a write off). There were two other primary goals for visiting Santa Fe: Making a delivery to the LK Collection and to continue my research at the Chávez.

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In the past I have handed a camera to people to take pictures of Tomas and I, but for some reason the photos have been out of focus. Not so on this visit to Santa Fe and Tomas. Pailin took a number of first class images, and this is my favorite. As you can see we are in Tomas’s office, and the morning sun is blasting through his window. Over the years Tomas has become my good friend; I wish we lived near to each other. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, and Tomas Jaehn 2014)

On Monday morning, October 6, we met Tomas at the New Mexico History Museum complex, which has been recently built, and now uses an elevator as the official entry into the Chávez. We walked to his favorite coffee shop and enjoyed coffee (see above photo). Afterwards I made the delivery, which included: Ned Wynkoop material (recent articles in the December 2013 and the August 2014 issues of Wild West magazine; an article in True West magazine; a review of the NPS brochure on Wynkoop & accompanying blog; review of Leo Oliva’s Wynkoop bio for Wynkoop’s induction into the Santa Fe Trail Hall of Fame; reviews of Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek; and recent talks on Wynkoop), information about LK’s relationship with Pailin Subanna and their marriage, five DVDs (three Wynkoop talks, one Gatewood-Geronimo talk, and the 2012 Wrangler awards in Oklahoma City), and about 100 photos (including art, collages, LK’s freelance-writing life, and Pailin Subanna-Kraft).*

* Although LK and Glen Williams made a delivery to Tomas in Williams, Arizona, in September 2011, this delivery, which mainly focused on the creation of Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (and also included a photo delivery), has not yet been added to the Louis Kraft Collection. It is hoped that the 2014 delivery will be added at the same time that the 2011 delivery is added to the collection so that the information related to the Wynkoop book from both deliveries can be merged together as one addition to the collection. … Currently the LK Collection includes 18 linear feet; with the addition of the 2011 and 2014 deliveries the collection should grow to 21 linear feet.

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Currently the Louis Kraft Collection has 18 boxes that are available for researchers to view. In this 6oct2014 photo I am touching the 18th box. I can’t begin to tell you how much Tomas has done for my writing career over the years. He’s a good friend. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft; © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, and Tomas Jaehn 2014)

After completing the delivery Pailin and I did research in the Chávez archives. We were looking for subjects for magazine articles as well as additional information on the Sand Creek tragedy. Tomas had brought out one of his latest acquisitions, which I have been aware of since the document had been made available to the Chávez. We discussed it, and I told Tomas that to date I hadn’t come up with any background on the author, but had yet to do a search on him in the National Archives. That will happen soon after this blog goes live.

I must add that although Pailin had done a lot of work in Colorado both in archives and in the field in Santa Fe my research demands wiped her out. There was nary a complaint as she smoothly completed each research task I asked of her, and as they related to her photographic capabilities she never had a chance to rest. Yes, I am a slave driver.

Wynkoop’s last job 

Tomas and I discussed Ned Wynkoop’s last job, which was as the warden of the New Mexico Territorial Penitentiary.

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The New Mexico Territorial Prison as it looked in 1890 during Ned Wynkoop’s tenure as warden. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

In 1890, when Wynkoop landed the position the prison was a fair wagon ride from Santa Fe, which in Wynkoop’s later years had become his home of choice. I told Tomas that I thought that Wynkoop’s time as warden might be a possible story for New Mexico Magazine, and he replied that he didn’t think so? “Why?” I asked. He said that the magazine, which has always been tourist centric, had dropped its historical pieces. Alas, ’tis true. Tomas did tell me where he thought the territorial prison once stood and that the warden’s house still existed. Although not on this day, but before we left Santa Fe we found and photographed the residence (as well as the government building where the prison once stood). As warden Wynkoop stepped outside the box and made the prison self-sufficient. There’s an article here; the question is where to place it.

Pailin’s introduction to Santa Fe

On the sixth we finished at the Chávez at about 12:30 and said goodbye to Tomas. As stated above my lady was worn out as I had pushed her in the research. Still she was game and saw the Indian traders on the portico of the Palace of the Governors (including the interior of the building), took a closer look at the Plaza, walked through the narrow streets of Santa Fe with her camera constantly clicking. Images for her and for me.

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Pailin loves art, and Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the U.S. after New York City and Los Angeles. Santa Fe has art on the streets and in the galleries in the downtown area. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for her to explore even a portion of all the roads that are lined with galleries. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2014)

We ate chicken and green chile stew especially prepared for us at Tia Sophia’s as the only green chile stew they made that day had beef. Good for me; a little warm for Pailin.

Eldorado & the International Museum of Folk Art

On the seventh Lisa Smith, my long-time friend and real estate agent in Eldorado (Santa Fe County) showed us two adobe-style homes on an acre plus of land. The first was interesting with a rustic appeal but felt small. It also had a loft that other than storage was almost useless. However, the land had a nice roll to it and the enclosed entry had lots of possibilities. Lisa told us that it was overpriced (she would tell the selling agent her view later that day, and apparently other agents had also done so, for by late afternoon the price had dropped $50,000). The second home listed for $25,000 less than the first house but was magnificent.

EldoradoHouseCollage_2014_wsAfter seeing these houses, and later at my good friends Glen and Ellen Williams’ home in Denton, Texas, and Pailin asked me why we don’t have a home like these in Los Angeles. The answer is simple: Housing in Los Angeles costs more, and that for us to live in a home like these we would have to move out of LA. … This was my kind of question and I hope that it remains in Pailin’s head. Prices continually rise in Los Angeles. Currently there is a scare of an increase of gasoline tax from 15 cents to 73 per gallon to fix the roads; we’re already paying a heavy tax to fix the roads (and most haven’t been fixed in years). Don’t ask me where the money goes for the government won’t like my answer.

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Oh, the Los Angeles Times featured “99 WAYS TO BOOST PENSIONS. AT PUBLIC COST. Taxpayers could shoulder billions after CalPERS approved perks for new public workers” in the 23oct2014 issue of the paper. The title and subtitle says it all, but here is just a taste of being a government employee in the late great state of California: The pension fund has quadrupled in the last 10 years, from $1.9 billion to $8.1 billion. What are some of the perks? How about a bonus each month for staying in shape (they call it “Physical Fitness Pay”), or adding to one’s pension by keeping traffic moving, working with animals, a premium for dictation/shorthand/typing skills (Are you kidding me?), writing parking tickets (What? Write more tickets and you get a bonus or your retirement grows?), auditorium preparation, mentioning school children, and my favorite, a library reference desk premium for directing visitors to the correct location in the building. The list goes on ad nauseam. … Sorry, but I’m back in the real world.


Santa Fe has four Thai restaurants that I know of and another that serves Thai food once a week. That said I failed to learn the size of the Thai population in Santa Fe. It will be small, but I know that the chef and owner of Thai Vegan (a great restaurant) is Thai, so that means that at least one Thai person lives in Santa Fe (city and county). My searches on the internet turned up zero.

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Yes, Pailin fit right in with the International Museum of Folk Art. LK photo on 7oct2014. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

We said goodbye to Lisa (although we would see her again later in the day to see a third house) and headed to a destination that I had seen only once (in 1987 I think). I had been bored to tears decades ago but thought Pailin would love it.

I don’t remember the other museums on Museum Hill but they could have been there in the 1980s. Certainly the exteriors and everything now in place didn’t look like I remembered it, and this is good.

ps_Intl_Museum_ofFoldArt2_7oct14_wsPailin fell in love with the International Museum of Folk Art the moment she started to explore it. And you know what? So did I. Like good wine the folk art from around the world sparkled with life and color. “Multiple Visions: A Common Bond,” which has been on display since 1982 is a marvel of culture and art. This is the exhibit that bored me in the dark ages. All I can say now—other than what I said above—is that I must have been blind when I was younger. … Three other exhibits are also wondrous, but they unfortunately have end dates:

  • “Between Two Worlds: Folk Artists Reflect on the Immigrant Experience” (ends 24may2015)
  • “Wooden Menagerie: Made in New Mexico” (ends 15feb2015)
  • “Brasil & Arte Popular” (ends 4jan2015)

A trip to Taos to introduce Pailin to Kit Carson

Over the years I have done a lot of research on Kit Carson. Since Taos is so close to Santa Fe and as our work had ended there except for photographing the location of where the New Mexico Territorial Prison once stood, on 8oct2014 we drove to Taos. The goal was to introduce Pailin to:

  • Taos
  • Taos Pueblo
  • La Hacienda de los Martinez
  • Kit Carson House

The order of the list is deceiving, as returning to see Kit’s home for many years has always been primary on my list (for reasons that have been in place for decades). Taos was second as I wanted Pailin to see another example of a city with adobe-style buildings and an artistic aura, which, alas, survives on tourism (heck, N.Mex. survives on tourism). Third was Taos Pueblo, actually as I wanted her to experience an Indian pueblo that was occupied. I prefer Acoma (west of Albuquerque) as it is much less commercial than Taos, but hadn’t plotted our return trip from Texas, and wouldn’t until the night before we left Texas. Kraft, how many miles can you drive during a single day? … Along with what would weather conditions along I-40 in Arizona be like during our trek homeward. Last, but certainly not least, was La Hacienda de los Martinez. When Linda Monnett learned that Taos was on our visit list she recommended that we see the hacienda and I’m glad she did.

Taos

This quiet adobe town dates way back, perhaps as early as 1615 with Spanish colonization. When the Mexican-American war ended with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) Mexico ceded a large section of land to the United States and this included Taos and the area that became New Mexico Territory. Kit Carson’s presence dated to the early 1840s, and Taos has been a favorite destination of mine since 1987. It was during that time that I became hooked on the real Kit Carson (see below). The town, which is a short drive south of the Taos Ski Valley* immediately became a second destination for my daughter and I, as we have always found it peaceful, liked the food, atmosphere, that it was a short drive to other places we visited, and best for me that it was a perfect location to take a week and create a talk (I think that the first time I did this was in 1995 when I gave a Custer-Stone Forehead talk in Amarillo, Texas, a week and a half later).

* After the portion of the trip to Albuquerque to pitch a job and look at a house that interested me the plan was to spend time and explore the surrounding area. Builder Joe Cuellar told me to cancel our lodging reservations in Taos and stay in one of his condos in the Taos Ski Valley and that he and his son Justin would join us in one of the condos he kept for himself. We did for about a week and had a great time exploring with Joe.

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This is a portion of the Taos Plaza as it looked on 8oct2014. Pailin took some images of the plaza area but I can’t find any of them. Oh well, … a little more on Kit Carson, who, during the American Civil War, rescued the American flag when malcontents threatened to burn it (or so the story goes). The plaza was most-likely dirt with scattered adobe buildings surrounding it during Kit’s time. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

The shops enclosing the plaza (and the plaza) grabbed Pailin’s interest and she looked at some of the merchandise (but didn’t get anything as she isn’t a spontaneous buyer). She focused on the plaza, enjoying its serenity in the peaceful October 8 late morning, and listened to my telling of Carson rescuing the American flag (history that I hope makes it into a book of mine). I’m certain that at times she thinks that I’m a motor mouth.

This time of year is perfect to visit. Although there was cloud covering the entire day we didn’t encounter scattered sprinkles until we headed back to Santa Fe late in the afternoon. The temperature was perfect, ranging between 70 and 72 degrees the entire time we were in Taos. As we brought food from the previous day, and she had enjoyed Southwest food already we didn’t eat there.

Taos Pueblo 

ps&TaosPueblo_8oct2014_collage_wsI had also visited the Taos Pueblo for the first time in 1987 (it was an extended trip of I believe 16 days with the focus on research in Santa Fe). If memory serves me I thought that in the past I had to pay for parking or to enter the pueblo (think to enter the pueblo), but not on this visit—there was no cost. I don’t know if my memory is in error or has begun to fail (hopefully the former of the two if there used to be a cost).

La Hacienda de los Martinez

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Pailin leans against the archway that separates the first courtyard from the second at the Martinez Hacienda. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

A drive into the country to the southwest of Taos, and I think closer to the Río Grande Gorge but not on the road that crosses this magnificent river, a narrow street wrapped in almost a horseshoe to this cool building that the Martinez family occupied from roughly 1804 (their arrival in Taos) until the 1930s. I’m going by memory here, but I believe it was in the 1950s when two gentlemen borrowed money on their homes to ensure that the hacienda would be not only restored but would become protected and made into a museum. There weren’t enough signs and those we saw were small, and at times we wondered if we had made a wrong turn. At one point I continued straight but luckily Pailin saw that I should have turned right. … A U-turn, then a left and we were back on course.

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LK leans against the same archway that separates the first courtyard from the second at the Martinez Hacienda. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

La Hacienda de los Martinez is off the beaten path and we almost had it to ourselves. As you drive into the dirt parking lot you get the feeling that it was built as a fortress. There are no exterior windows, and only one exterior door and one large double gate for wagon and livestock entry at the front of the building (and one double gate for entry into the second courtyard). At the top of the structure, which has two courtyards is a surrounding wall with notches for defending the structure if need be from attack. Rooms are at the base of the rectangular fortress enclosure and again slicing through the middle of the structure, which creates the two courtyards. The rooms are decorated and furnished in a manner that represents how it might have looked in the hacienda’s heyday. Lighting in the rooms makes it easy to study and enjoy them.

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This is the first of the two courtyards at the Martinez Hacienda. The second is dirt, as are all the rooms, which encompass the hacienda. It was built as a fortress, and had one door and two double-gated entries into the structure. Ramparts on the roof functioned as protection for the hacienda. There were no exterior windows. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

The Martinez family certainly predated Kit Carson’s arrival in Taos and choosing it as his home. What we saw has been restored and decorated to represent 1820 (or later, as it took time to build), but it also provides a great insight into how the Spanish families (and employees and slaves) lived before and probably up to the time that Kit’s tenure in the area began.

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This was the children’s room at the Martinez Hacienda. There were so many great rooms there, and they were decorated as they may have been in the first half of the 1800s. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft)

Pailin and I took our time as we explored every nook and cranny of the hacienda. I could picture myself living there in the early 1800s. When we entered and before we left we spent time with the lady who greeted the handful of visitors, and I learned a lot from what she told us, but alas didn’t take notes so some of the above is from my memory. Our western states could use more of this preservation as it allows those of us that want to step back in time and get the feel of what it might have been like to live as our ancestors did.

If your travels take you to Taos, and you have an interest in the western experience before the great migrations westward I highly recommend La Hacienda de los Martinez.

Kit Carson House

The Kit Carson House has changed ownership and this has affected the size of the residence (to the better) and the interior appearance (again to the better). I believe the last time I had been to his house was about a decade earlier. This was my fourth or fifth visit; the first was in 1987. The film Kit Carson (1940) with Jon Hall playing Kit hooked me on the one man who did it all on the frontier when I was young. And Kit has been with me ever since.

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By now you know that Pailin is my sole mate and lady. She is like no one I have ever known in the past. I’m lucky. She’s an adventurer and open to anything; my kind of person. Boy, did I overwhelm her on this trip, and she didn’t miss a beat. I took this close-up is of her sitting at the front of the Kit Carson House on 8oct2014. Although the building has been re-stuccoed and is no longer an adobe structure, the look and feel is close to what Kit and his family lived in 150 years ago. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Although I haven’t published anything about him it is a quirk of fate, at least in the 1990s after The Final Showdown (1992) was published, and this “quirk” (read: disaster at the time) changed my entire freelance writing path. Although I had been selling magazine articles and speaking about the Cheyenne wars since the mid-1980s I thought I would be a novelist. Unfortunately—or fortunately—the publisher decided to end its western fiction line and a contracted novel died. When I threatened to sue, my-then agent (a relationship also fated to end) almost had a heart attack when I told her my intention. The novel that had been vanished into oblivion dealt with Kit Carson and his relationship with Indians. Dick Upton, of Upton and Sons, Publishers (El Segundo, Calif.) had been pushing me to write a nonfiction book about George Armstrong Custer (to this point in time most of my nonfiction articles and talks had dealt with Mr. Custer). With a dead novel in hand and no book prospects I called Dick and pitched a book. He liked the idea, and I became a nonfiction book writer.

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Pailin took this image on 8oct2014. It is in the improved courtyard of what was the “old” Kit Carson House Museum. What you are looking at are the two rooms that were added after Kit no longer lived in Taos. The leftmost and smallest is now the video room of the new Carson Museum while the longer portion with the lower windows once served as a stable. The Carson Museum and its former associate/partner have severed association with each other. I hope that this makes sense. If you moved to the north of this image (that is on the right side of the image), you would enter the old Kit Carson Museum. This portion of the connected building never was part of Carson’s home, and it is now a separate entity. Life moves forward. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

But Kit never left me. I have first editions (or in the case of Kit Carson Days by Edwin Sabin, the 1935 second edition, in which many of the earlier errors had been fixed and additional material added) of all the key books written about Kit up to the most current. I have primary source documentation and am constantly on the hunt for additional material. Yes, Mr. Carson has been with me for a long time. After Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published, Kit will take center stage in my nonfiction Indian wars writing world. I have already begun a slow, very slow, conversation with Chuck Rankin regarding making my next nonfiction book about Kit.

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This is the middle of the three rooms that Kit and family lived in during the 20+ years he and they lived here. While walking these three rooms I tried to focus on the size of the rooms and their layout. Reason: I think a lot of what is in these rooms now are not current to the Carson family tenure (certainly there are Carson portraits that date to after his moving away; they should be in the small museum section of the building). This room served as the kitchen and eating room for the Carsons, and for their guests, which included numerous Indians from a handful of Indian tribes that considered Carson their friend. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Back to the Kit Carson House; if you’ve visited you know that the front three rooms are the rooms in which Kit, his wife, Josefa, and their children lived in during the time that they called this house home. Two rooms were added later (as described above), with the larger of the two being added in the early 20th century (it is the gift shop and now entrance to the Kit Carson House, and when it was added it served as a stable).

As my time with Kit nears, this visit became mandatory (for the reasons stated above). Pailin had plenty of work in Kit’s house.

(Soon after we returned home Lisa Smith sent me the following: “Conde Nast Traveler has named their Top 25 Cities in the World and Santa Fe is #10. Cool, as Santa Fe is my favorite city.)

Gone to Texas to see Glen & Ellen Williams & meet Linda 

Over the years I’ve worked in Texas in various ways. I have had great experiences and I’ve seen things that I’ll never forget, some of which I should keep silent about as I do hope to return to the Lone Star state again and I don’t want to be tarred and feathered. Nor do I want to put the Vette to a test to see if I can outrun a posse of angry Texans to the friendly lands of New Mexico or Oklahoma. I’m playing with thoughts here, but I have seen things that someday will see print in the memoir. What I had observed has remained with me, and it has influenced the direction of my life.

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This is how I looked in a generation-gap comedy at the Hayloft Dinner Theatre, Lubbock, Texas (summer 1976), called What Did We Do Wrong?, wherein a straight-laced father and his rebel son exchange places. We did seven performances a week, and had Mondays off. The lead actors came from LA while the theater hired the rest of the cast locally. During the last week of the run the next production was rehearsed during the day, making for long days (and no Monday off). This photo was taken during a rehearsal for the next play, Eat Your Heart Out, which was about an actor who waited tables while looking for acting work (my hair was trimmed and the beard became a mustache). Great play, but I saw things that I would never forget, things that affected my life. This summer led to me becoming a writer. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

I’ve performed a lot of jobs over the years while I attempted to figure out who I was and which direction was best for me. Many of the trails I have followed have had dead ends or just drifted off into oblivion. The visits to Texas have almost all been because of what I considered work (although some of you may not think so). My training was in theater: Acting and directing, and although I never thought about it the studies included a lot of historical reading and writing (the different eras of theater, the playwrights, and of course the actors). By the way I never considered writing for any kind of career until I acted in Texas.

I’ll touch on this a little below. Right now I want to introduce you to Glen and Ellen Williams. I met Glen shortly after I joined Infonet in El Segundo, California, in 1990. I landed the job on my freelance writing, design, and publishing experience. The first thing I said to my boss was: “Can I get some technical writing classes?” “No. I hired you as a technical writer. You’re on your own.” My coworkers were an editor that liked to party and not work and a writer who waited for engineers to feed him information. It took me just a day or two to realize that this wasn’t how one wrote accurate technical material that people could read and understand. I began hanging out with the engineers that created the software that I would write about. Before the first week ended I told my boss that I wanted the software that I would write about on my computer. My request surprised him. Nevertheless he quickly got me what I requested and before I knew it I was up and running.

Early on I did some writing for Glen’s team at Infonet. We hit it off and quickly realized that the Indian world and the frontier experience was something that both of us had a great interest.

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After Glen’s and my relationship cemented and we spent time together exploring and having good times. After Glen and I made a LK Collection delivery to Tomas Jaehn in Williams, Arizona, I took this image on 5sept2011 while Glen and I tracked historic Route 66 back to Los Angeles. Here we are east of Oatman, Arizona. I think we drove a little less than 1000 miles during the three-day trip. We had plenty of time to hang out and talk. Too bad we didn’t have a tape recorder going—some of the subjects were lively (read colorful). Something I needed. (photo © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2011)

Our working relationship grew to a working friendship (even though I don’t think we worked together again). By 1995 my life had changed drastically and it was about this time that Glen and I got together outside the workplace. It was also about this time that I met his beautiful wife, Ellen (and she’s still beautiful as her photos prove). She’s always been a joy to be around. Let me tell you that I was sad when Ellen and Glen decided to move from Torrance, California, to the land of Glen’s birth (he was born and raised in Wichita Falls, Tex.) in 2012 even though I knew and totally understood their reasons.

A long overdue detour to the Bosque Redondo

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Carson art in LK’s personal collection that pictures him in the mid-1840s.

Glen had given good directions on how to travel from Santa Fe to Denton, saving about 100 miles off the route that I had originally plotted. On Thursday, 9oct2014, we finished the New Mexico Territorial Prison photos, quickly shot north (actually east) on I-25, got off at Clines Corners (where we had previously to view the homes at Eldorado) and moved south to I-40. It was on I-40 when my memory shot back to 1995 and Marissa and I driving to Amarillo for the Custer and Cheyenne Keeper of the Sacred Arrows Stone Forehead talk after preparing in Taos. The Bosque Redondo … Fort Sumner … we had been close but had a convention to reach. On this day we were again headed toward Amarillo. Where was the Bosque Redondo? How close would we come to it? Do I dare detour? … Indecision. Ouch! I vacillated, as it would take a lot of time (but not add many miles to the day’s drive). Time passed, way too quickly. Make a decision, damn it! Now! And I didn’t.

We had a pit stop and I yanked out the map. More time passed, and way too quickly. … I continued to vacillate, but not for long. Make a decision, damn it! Now! And I did. The town of Fort Sumner was about 42 miles south of I-40. Once we reached the aged town we turned left onto route 60 to the intersection where we would head south a few miles to the Bosque Redondo Memorial at the Fort Sumner ruins.

AmFlags_GraceRoybal_9oct14CollageFIX_wsFor those of you who don’t know what the Bosque Redondo was, Gen. James Carleton, who in 1852 saw the land and thought it would be good for farming, decided to turn it in an Indian reservation in the 1860s. Fort Sumner was constructed and beginning with the 1863 Mescalero Apache campaign and then the 1863-64 Navajo campaign it would now provide the perfect location to incarcerate the defeated Indians.

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This is a detail from one of the placards at the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner. It deals with Carson accepting the Mescalero Apache campaign (with Carleton). The artwork at this memorial is exceptional.

One of his commanders, Col. Kit Carson had quickly forced the Mescaleros onto Carleton’s reservation. They lived south of the Pecos River. After Carson forced the mighty Navajos to capitulate by waging a burnt-earth campaign with very few deaths (with any other commander the death count could have easily grown into the hundreds or more) he didn’t participate in the Long Walk of the Diné, as the Navajos call themselves, to the land that would become hell on earth. Actually he didn’t want anything to do with the Bosque Redondo. Carleton refused to listen to him and ordered him to command the reservation that was anything but a garden place. Winds blew, nothing grew, the Mescaleros and Navajos didn’t get along, Comanches raided, and people died in large numbers from disease and hunger. Carleton provided nothing Carson requested and, frustrated, Carson resigned his military commission. Carleton refused to honor it. The third time Cason submitted his resignation Carleton still refused to accept it but he did transfer his unhappy subordinate.

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In February 1971 Navajos carried rocks from their reservation to the Bosque Redondo to commemorate the Diné that had been exiled from their land and died while incarcerated between 1863 and 1868. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

I didn’t know what to expect, but a wonderful visitor center/museum has been built (replacing the smaller and earlier structure next to the remnants of Fort Sumner). The museum isn’t complete, but judging by what the Bosque Redondo Memorial currently has in place it is going to be impressive. There is a lot of land to walk and the center has a recording that can be borrowed (I think there are 90 locations* with commentary as one walks the grounds) but Pailin and I didn’t have time to spend a day or longer at this important piece of Mescalero and Diné memory.

* There is a marker at the spot where Sheriff Pat Garrett shot and killed William H. Bonney, born William Henry McCarty, Jr., and of course known as Billy the Kid (this is a classy historical destination and I’m assuming they are accurate with the placement of the marker, which is close to what remains of Fort Sumner). He was shot in the Maxwell House, which had been the commanding officer’s quarters until the fort was abandoned on 31aug1869. Lucian Maxwell purchased the fort in October 1870, and would die in this building in 1875. All that said, we walked west from the remnants of the fort to view the “Kid’s” marker. The map pictured in the brochure clearly marks where the fort stood. However, it also clearly places the Maxwell House south of Fort Sumner. If true, the marker is misplaced.

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Pailin took this image of us (right) while we were at Navajo Treaty Rock, which has a Diné prayer attached to it. The Navajo Treaty (signed on 1jun1868) is a short distance southeast from the Rock (if the map is correct). The treaty freed the Diné  and allowed them to return to their homeland. Oh yes, there was a harsh sun on that 9oct2014 day. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

There is also a nature trail with plush vegetation (natural to the area?) that obscures and skirts the Pecos River. This area is as perhaps Carleton envisioned it, as the Bosque Redondo and the surrounding area looks to be good farmland today. Alas, for the Diné and the Mescaleros it was just a land of death and desolation. During their deadly occupation of their forced time there their crops mostly died from insects, drought, and perhaps bad luck, which included bad water and a failure of the U.S. government to supply them adequate supplies. Sound familiar? A resounding yes! “Shameful” is a word that accurately sums up what happened during the 1860s and throughout the American conquest of the Indian people.

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This is my daughter Marissa Kraft on one of her many research trips to the American West. She sits above Navajo Fortress Rock on August 7, 2012. The Fortress Rock is in Canyon del Muerto (Canyon of the Dead), one of the three canyons of Canyon de Chelly (the only national monument not on U.S. government land; it is on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona). Fortress Rock is one of the major set pieces of Navajo Blood, my upcoming Carson/Navajo novel for it is here that the fictional Diné Pedro Hueros must make a decision that will impact his life for all time. If you don’t know how I write about the Indian wars-—fiction or nonfiction—I must walk the land. I must feel the sun, the wind, and I must experience how hard it is to walk. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

I have a novel about Carson and the Navajos underway, but am currently waiting for the completion of the Sand Creek manuscript and the medical malpractice novel—as is Errol & Olivia—but actually the fictional story doesn’t deal with the Bosque Redondo unless I decide to continue with the fictional Navajo lead player and again mix his life with historical Diné leaders during the tragic incarceration. Additional research is needed before I even consider a follow-up book on the Navajos’ exile from their homeland. … At this time I have nothing to share about the nonfiction book idea that I hope interests Chuck, as there is still a lot of primary source research to complete before I have any chance of writing a nonfiction book about Kit Carson. As in my nonfiction past I will focus on a specific piece of Carson’s life. The hunt is on, and it is no longer lackadaisical.

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Pailin in the former and small visitor center of the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner. Photo by LK on 9oct2014. It is now furnished to represent soldier barracks. Pailin, like myself, avoids the sun. On this day the sun blazed and the wind whistled (although not as much as I’ve encountered in this portion of the U.S. in the past). At times she looks like a Bedouin mounted on a camel roaming the sandy deserts of the Mideast in times long past (at least as seen in countless films). This is to protect her face. I call her my “Bedouin.” I also call her “Chiquita.” (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

By this point of the trip Pailin knew exactly what I wanted from her and at the Bosque Redondo and at the remnants of Fort Sumner she split away from me to capture what hopefully will provide a good basis for understanding what this land—so barren when the Mescaleros and Navajos were imprisoned here—looked like … minus the vegetation that now thrives. My lady is in her element and it’s a joy to watch her work.

Back to Glen, Ellen, and Linda

It has been great to see Ellen and Glen again and to just hang out with them. It was also nice to meet Glen’s sister Linda and Ellen’s mother Judy. And I had the added bonus that Glen, Ellen, and Linda welcomed Pailin with open arms. They talked with her, hugged her, and she immediately responded and became a welcome a member of their household. Better yet she joked and laughed and felt a little more comfortable in joining the conversations.

Glen was home and working in his garage on 10oct2014, but Ellen and Linda were on an errand in Fort Worth and we wouldn’t see them until the late afternoon. After giving us a quick tour of his and Ellen’s home we went out for lunch at the Wildhorse Grill in Robson Ranch. Nice place and good food. Afterwards we returned to their house. This was the fifth house Pailin had been in on the trip. The first was John & Linda Monnett’s marvelous house, then three houses in Eldorado that Lisa Smith showed us of which the middle one was to both of our liking, and finally Glen & Ellen’s home, which is open and perfect for entertaining (we stayed in a casita that was part of their property). That day Pailin said to me, “Why?” “Why?” I replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Why all these big beautiful houses and ours is small.” I explained to her that the cost of homes in Los Angeles is high and that if we moved away from LA we could buy a larger house for less money (and with or without acreage; I prefer acreage).*

* Sorry to repeat myself, but the trip goals were Sand Creek Massacre and Kit Carson research, a delivery to the Chávez History Library, introduce Pailin to some of my good friends (while I met two ladies named Linda in person), and finally to give Pailin a taste of the land and some of the areas I love. 

sophie&Chewy_psImages_montage_oct2014_wsShortly after Ellen and Linda returned from Fort Worth, and Pailin and I met them, and Chewy, short for Chewbacca, Han Solo’s sidekick in the Star Wars films (Ellen & Glen’s dog), and Sophie (Linda’s dog), both of whom are friendly, we returned to the Wildhorse for dinner. Pailin had been slow to open up to John and Linda, but felt more relaxed by the time we got together with Tomas, and now she had opened up and although she still didn’t say a lot she spoke up whenever she wanted. Pailin works on the English language every day and let me tell you she is progressing with leaps and bounds. This includes her pronunciation, her sentence structure, and her comprehension of words (spelling and meaning). While driving she constantly reads the words off signs, buildings, trucks, and when the words aren’t names she asks for the meanings of them.

The next day Glen drove Ellen and her mother, Judy, to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Judy lives with Ellen and Glen half of each year and with her other daughter in Hawaii the rest of the year. They always meet in Las Vegas, where they can have a short family gathering before Judy returns to her other home. Pailin rested, I did some work, and then before Glen returned Linda and I had a nice talk in the living room, which is like a great room in an adobe-style house in the Southwest. The day and evening was easy as we enjoyed each other’s company. Glen and I never run out of subjects to talk about.

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You’ve already seen me say, “Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand?” Glen had taken us to Justin’s  (one of three stores in Justin I think). Pailin and Linda looked at clothing while Glen and I looked at hats. I told him that Barron Hats in Burbank, Calif., which makes many of the hats currently seen in film, makes mine for me. However, later Pailin wanted to see the hats. As I led her through the aisles she liked this one and tried on her size. “Do you want it?” “Yes.” “Let me snap a picture.” More proof that Thailand cowgirls exist. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

On Sunday (12oct14) Linda, Pailin, Glen, and I went out for breakfast.

Afterwards we visited one of the Justin Boot Stores (boots, hats, clothing, and so on) in Justin, Texas. Pailin likes hats and has more than I (actually she wears two cowboy hats that I gave her; one from the famed Nudie Cohn’s country and western superstore in Van Nuys, Calif., now long gone (as is unfortunately Nudie, who was a classic), and an Australian hat that Glen had given me. She liked a black one and I bought it for her.

Lunchtime arrived, and the four of us went to Mom’s in Justin. This was a funky place with cool and long-gone stuff on the the walls, including Elvis.

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From left: Glen Williams, LK, Pailin, and Linda Williams at Mom’s in Justin, Texas, on 12oct2014.

Good times. Yeah, this is social time with my longtime bud, his sweet sister, and my lady, and let me tell you it is as important as the Sand Creek and Kit Carson research, and the LK Collection delivery. Tomas Jaehn is also a long-time business associate and friend. John M is a great Indian wars friend, and now Pailin and I consider his wonderful wife Linda a friend. People are what our world is all about. People are our lives. Some are forever (some aren’t), but without people we have no lives. No matter what I think about my research and writing and no matter how much importance I place upon it, without Pailin, Glen, Ellen, Linda W., Tomas, Linda M., and John my life is empty—nothing. They, and others (such as Robert & Annette Florczak and Marissa K.) are key to my life, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

We returned to Glen and Ellen’s home in Robson Ranch.

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Glen took this great candid of LK and Pailin in front of the entry to the courtyard of his and Ellen’s home in Denton, Texas. It is 12oct2014, and Pailin is wearing the hat she found and liked at the Justin Boot Store. My good friend Glen Williams has taken many great photos for me, but this is one of my favorites. For the record, Pailin and I have a good time laughing together. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Glen Williams 2014)

Glen and Linda relaxed (Linda also prepared to return home) while I worked on this blog and Pailin relaxed and dealt with her family and friends in Thailand on social media.

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The lady in the light blouse is Linda Williams, Glen’s sister. We have been friends on social media, but I didn’t meet her until Pailin and I visited Denton, Texas. Pailin is holding Sophie, Linda’s sweet and loving dog. My lady has made great strides in her command of the English language, but still she holds back (except with me) as she is conscious of her pronunciation of the words and of her sentence structure (both of which she becomes better at by the day). That said, she gets along with animals fabulously (perhaps as there isn’t a language barrier). That’s Glen w/Linda & Pailin in the left image. These images were taken just before Linda returned to her home on 12oct14. Left image is by LK and the right image is by Glen. (photos © Glen & Linda Williams and Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Linda drove home.

Soon after the three of us drove to the grocery store for supplies, including celery, parsley, carrots, and lemons to make juice. Like the previous day, we enjoyed each other’s company, rested, and got some work done until we went to the Blue Ginger, a Japanese restaurant in Denton. Good food.

ellen&glenWilliams1_14oct14tight_wsMonday was more of the same until Glen picked up Ellen at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.

Ellen & Glen Williams (left) have been my great friends since the 1990s. As you can see Ellen is petite. She is bright, funny, open, and kind. She is also gorgeous. It was terrific seeing her again, and it was also good to see her effort to befriend Pailin, which gave my lady the confidence to open up some. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Ellen & Glen Williams and Pailin Subanna-Kraft, 2014)

Good times with Ellen and I’m glad she returned in time to be with us. After dinner, Ellen, who was beat, went to bed early, and so did Pailin.

drum&breastplate_gWilliamsGift_13oct14_wsThis allowed Glen and I to talk deep into the night. He made certain that I had a drum made for him by Devereaux Old Elk*, who grew up near Garryowen on the Crow Reservation in Montana, and a breastplate, which, according to Glen’s provenance, came from a Crow trader but was created by a Northern Cheyenne (based upon the bead colors). The breastplate dates to the early 1950s and shows considerable use as it was worn for years in powwows. Glen had carefully packed it. These had been his possessions for a long time and he wanted me to enjoy them. I had tried to talk him out of the gifts, but he wouldn’t listen. They are marvelous, and I will enjoy them. Thank you, Glen.

* The Crow scout Curley, who survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn, was Devereaux’s great grandfather.

The image to the right shows the two items that Glen graciously gave me (photo © Louis Kraft 2014).

Ladies and gents, my friend blew me away, and I told him that he needed to keep and enjoy them. He refused to listen, and you are now seeing two of my most prized possessions in Tujunga House. I wasn’t sure how I should share the images and cut them from a larger photo that I took. Most of our money goes toward paying bills, which means that most of my prized possessions were purchased in the past. We talked about the Cheyennes, Kiowas, Crows, among other subjects, and I went to bed blown away by Glen’s friendship and kindness.

Glen, my friend, you have been a highlight in my life. Your gift has floored me and I’m still struggling to accept it. Thank you, my friend, from the bottom of my heart.

A sad goodbye to Texas

On 14oct2014 we said goodbye to Ellen and Glen, but do hope to return again.

Ellen&Glen_wChewy_earlyAM_14oct14_wsEllen & Glen Williams, and Chewy (pictured at left) on the morning of 14oct2014, a morning in which Pailin and I hit the road early on our trip back to LA. I usually prefer to move forward in linear time, and did some juggling to make this happen here. This morning was both happy and sad for me. Sad in that we said goodbye to two friends I love, and a lifestyle that perhaps we’ll never know (and yet hope always burns eternal). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, and Ellen & Glen Williams 2014)

Our boring drive ended in Tucumcari, New Mexico (room was decent but the food pitiful; I won’t bother to mention the restaurant). On the fifteenth we cruised along I-40. West of Albuquerque is the Acoma Pueblo. I believe it is the longest inhabited town in the United States. It sits on top of a 600-foot mesa and is my favorite pueblo but as Pailin had already seen Taos Pueblo we bypassed it. One of the reasons was the long walk during the tour, which is the only way visitors can experience it and the people that live there today. The sun also was a deterrent.

Gallup, New Mexico, and Pailin’s research introduction to Mr. Flynn

lk&ps_EF&elRanchoHotelCollage_15oct14_wsI’ve been passing through and sometimes staying in Gallup for a week or longer while using it as a base for research. This is not my favorite town and I’m not crazy over the food served in the restaurants. Love the red rocks, and at the same time this gorgeous area always makes me sad. Errol Flynn’s last western film, Rocky Mountain (Warner Bros., 1950) was basically a location shoot (not entirely, but close) and a good part of it was shot in the area surrounding Gallup. Flynn, the other actors, and the film crew stayed at the El Rancho Hotel, which is now a national historic site. So why am I sad? The film was shot in black and white. With the red rocks the centerpiece to the film, and they are something to behold, the film should have been shot in color. Warner Bros. was cutting back on film budgets as it continued to end its relationship with its major stars, Flynn included. Too bad, as Rocky Mountain is a decent film.

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Unfortunately you can’t read the EF signature on the Flynn photo at the El Rancho Hotel. It is not only a fraud, but the person who signed Flynn’s name had no clue of the spelling of his name. Flynn’s Name is “Errol Flynn” and the forger signed it “Earl” Flynn. This crap is all over the place when dealing with signatures. If you buy signatures be careful. BTW, this Flynn image dates from the early- to the mid-1940s. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

In the past I’ve explored the El Rancho Hotel’s expansive entry and upper floor that is open to the main floor as well as photograph the exterior. On 15oct2014 this would change as I felt it would be time to expand the physical research, which in turn would be right up Pailin’s alley. It was and she gleefully took requested photos along with ones that she wanted. After exploring we shared a salad in the hotel’s restaurant (it was decent) but afterwards we weren’t able to see the bar, as it didn’t open until 5:00 PM. I told them I was a writer doing research on a book (No ladies and gents: Although there will be a lot of western fact and fiction in Errol & Olivia as three of their eight films were westerns, Rocky Mountain won’t make it into that book), that I didn’t want a drink and just wanted to see the bar. This opened conversations about Flynn’s time in Gallup but it didn’t open the bar, which was locked—Some other time.

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LK leaning against the Vette just before we hit the road. Many more miles to cover, and LK needed to stay awake. The research for this trip had ended, and it was now time to get home safely. Pailin took this image, which shows the exterior to the El Rancho Hotel. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Gallup was our last point of interest stop as we still had roughly half of the 1400+ miles that I needed to drive since saying goodbye to Ellen and Glen. And each day felt longer than the previous. By the time we said goodbye to I-40 (in California) and drove south on I-15 I was bleary-eyed. Adding to the misery we had to deal with major roadwork with narrow pieces of road and idiots darting in and out of the two lanes. The trip would come in at 60 miles shy of 4,000. And as a bonus, the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) reduced my insurance by $1,300.00; the bill was waiting for me when we returned home. And why not? Kraft is a good ol’ boy and hasn’t killed any cars lately and since he now works at home his driving mileage has shrunk big time. … Of course, if the ACSC had known how many miles the Vette had just covered they would have cried foul!

One final thing

I’m a biographer who focuses on race relations. That is I deal with people who turn their back on racial prejudice, and often attempt to bring an end to war as opposed to butchering people just because they are different. This was difficult to do in 1864 and it is still difficult in our day and age. A lot of people have problems with this. It’s their problem and not mine. Our world consists of many types of people—different races, religions, lifeways, and beliefs. If our world is to survive all of us must figure out how to peacefully coexist. If not … BOOM!!! … No more world as we know it and goodbye to the human race.

Today is a good day to be alive. …

Upcoming blogs

  • Newport Beach, editors, and friends
  • A surprise blog that comes out of left field
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
  • The song remembers when