A Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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

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 You should know that when I write blogs I’m not writing plays,
articles, talks, or books. When drafting a blog I function as a journalist.
I have points to make. Sometimes I deal with the past but often I deal with
the present. The goal is to present an opinion on events (past and present) while getting my facts straight. When I deal with the past I’m researching a memoir; when I deal with the present I’m focused on events that affect my life, and
I talk about them as they are important to me. Regardless if I write about
the past or the present the goal is to inform and entertain you.


The times are boiling …

One of my best friends of all time went under the knife on September 23. A wonderful friend of mine in Thailand has just lost her brother. …

An anticipated call did come on September 23 from a
wonderful lady who is my best friend’s sister.

A language translator totally messed up reality
as to my Thai friend’s brother’s situation
and tragically he died.

Life is precious and I make an effort every day to cherish the time I still have.

As promised in a previous blog I’m keeping my Sand Creek project up front with status updates. Ideally these will be shorter blogs (and not books, as my friend Vee has often reminded me about many of my posts).

What follows will mostly deal with the trials and tribulations of LK attempting to make progress on an Indian wars book that will be in my opinion perhaps the most important book that I’ll ever write. All I have to do is complete the manuscript and then work closely with my publisher to ensure that the printed book is as good as we can make it.

You should know that when I begin to draft a blog
I have an idea of what I will present. When I write fiction
the characters take over and move the plot, but in the blogs
it is the subject matter that controls the flow of the text.

A return to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

During 12 days in June 2014 I performed intensive primary Cheyenne research at the Braun Research Library at the former Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, California. I had been promised my extensive photocopy request in September 2014. And don’t ignore the word “extensive,” for it was. Read a massive amount of work for Research Services Assistant Manola Madrid, who had worked with me closely on previous visits to the Braun. There would be a delay, but this was not Manola’s fault, and I truly believe that the delay was not caused by the Braun. …

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The Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, Calif. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

Changes at the Autry National Center, to which the Southwest Museum merged with in 2003, were about to become reality. In July 2014 people that had landed research grants (if that is the correct term) would dominate the Braun staff’s time, and then the reality of the closure of the Braun and ultimately the final closure of the Southwest Museum (which still hasn’t happened as it is still open on Saturdays for people to see, … I believe one exhibit that has rotated some artifacts and improved the placards that describe what the visitors see.

WestResearchTripMontage_sept-oct2014_wsSeptember 2014 came and went. Actually the rest of 2014 came and went; great times for LK as I was able to take PSK on her first research trip to the West in the Vette. Almost 4,000 miles in 19 days. She researched Sand Creek in Colorado with my good friend and great Cheyenne wars historian John Monnett and his wonderful wife Linda (they kindly welcomed us into their home). In Santa Fe, New Mexico, PSK got to hang out with my wonderful friend Tomas Jaehn, who is responsible for creating the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library, which is part of the New Mexico History Museum (if you saw the historic artifacts that the history museum has hidden away you’d faint). Pailin was again put to work at the Chávez and then locating the last place that Ned Wynkoop lived at in Santa Fe (this last thanks to Tomas’s right-on tips on how to find the building), and again came through with flying colors. We next headed for Texas to see my great friends Glen and Ellen Williams (and Glen’s pretty sister LInda), and like Mr. and Mrs. Monnett, the Williams opened their home to us.

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This is a detail of a painting that is one of many placards at the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner in southeast New Mexico (unfortunately I don’t know the name of the person that created the art). Here Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson (right) is agreeing to command Gen. James Carleton’s (left) Mescalero Apache campaign in 1863. The Mescaleros would be removed to the Bosque Redondo before Carson’s burnt earth campaign against the Navajos began later that year. BTW, the Bosque Redondo Memorial is magnificent. If you have any interest in the Apaches or the Navajos’ forced confinement in a deadly environment a visit to the memorial is well worth your time. If you are a Mescalero Apache or Navajo cultural or Indian wars historian-writer it is mandatory that you visit. … BTW, Kit Carson was not the racist-butcher that so many uninformed people stuff down our throats. For starters he had an Arapaho wife, a Cheyenne wife, and a Spanish wife. He also spoke six or seven languages: English, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Spanish, Ute, Mescalero Apache dialect, and I believe Navajo. Not bad for a person who is now often slandered and libeled as a butcher and racist by people with their thumbs stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

On the way to Texas we visited the Bosque Redondo in southeast New Mexico where the Navajos were incarcerated after the “Long Walk” in 1864 when they surrendered to Kit Carson’s burnt earth campaign that had few fatal casualties (I believe under 30 deaths). This area now thrives but in the 1860s it was a land of pestilence and death. This was must see for my next nonfiction Indian wars book will feature Carson’s relationship with Indians (but most likely not the Navajo campaign or its aftermath).

Yeah, I’m up to my usual evasion tricks. Sorry.

Back to my line of thought. January 2015 arrived and I still didn’t have any of my Cheyenne research that I had been promised in September 2014. If you know me well you know that in the past (actually my dark past) I had a short fuse. Time has mellowed me, but at the beginning of this year I needed to calm the rest of me down (not a small task).

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Liza Posas, who is archivist and head librarian of the Braun Research Library, played a major role in my 2014 research time within the George Bird Grinnell Papers held by the Southwest Museum. She is professional, open, helpful, and kind. I have enjoyed every moment working with her, and look forward to when we again work together. In this image of her on 20jun2014 she is showing me the scope of the George Bird Grinnell Papers. (photo © Louis Kraft & Liza Posas 2014)

On August 6, 2015 (13½ months after I made the request), I picked up photocopies for what amounted to a little over a third of my order at the Autry National Center (a short surface-street drive as opposed to a three-freeway potential nightmare). Email communication at that time stated that the rest of my research had been digitized. I was quoted a page cost for the digital pages and told that I would hear more in a week. The week passed. Actually over a month passed. Believe it or not I have deadlines, but worse it takes me at least five times as long to write a page of nonfiction than it does a page of fiction (to be honest, I believe that this is an understatement for I’m thrilled when I get a full page of Sand Creek text written in a day (granted that day may only be five or eight hours, but heck sometimes I can crank out two or three pages of fiction in an hour). Remember that none of this writing is polished for I’m only talking about rough drafts. That said, nonfiction polishing easily takes a lot longer than fiction polishing as I’m again concentrating on facts and dates and making sure that a polish doesn’t turn the nonfiction into fiction.

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This image of Pailin and LK is now from a time long gone (although the art is based upon a photo taken a handful of days ago). I’m playing with it and trying to use it to figure out how I’ll create a piece of art that is required. It is an ongoing search for me to figure out what I need to do to create artwork in the very near future (and believe me it has nothing to do with gunfighters or frontiersmen). I’m a firm believer in doing plenty of research before a word is written, or in this case playing with color, line, and technique before doing anything (other than researching the subject) before attempting to create art for a book cover. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

The Sand Creek manuscript deals with five types of people: Whites that saw an opportunity in a new land (Colorado Territory) and did what they could to secure the land and their fortunes at the cost of the American Indians that claimed the land as theirs; the Cheyennes and Arapahos who called this land theirs; the whites that married into the tribes; the mixed-bloods that walked between two races; and the whites that dared to speak out against the butchery of Cheyennes and Arapahos who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military. … Add females whenever I have enough information to bring them to life. … Oh, I should add that racism was rampant in the 1860s.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is not an easy manuscript to write. The research is massive, and worse I have to bring the leading and major supporting players to life with a minimal amount of primary information. And just as important I need to make the text flow seamlessly between the various people groups and their actions, while at the same time attempting to keep all the players’ points of view (POV) in focus. The goal is to have the reader make their decision on all the players’ actions.

Doable? You bet! Can I do it? I don’t know, but I hope that I can.

For the story to work the people must be real. They must live and breathe and have objectives as they react to their life and times.

Back to the immediate present

In mid-September my fear threshold began to reach its eruption peak. The Sand Creek manuscript is due at OU Press on October 1, 2016. Hell, I’m light years away from completing a rough first draft, a first draft that I’m still collecting primary source material to complete (again, I did my research at the Braun in June 2014).

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Manola Madrid working on the first floor of the Braun Research Library for LK in June 2014. She’s a hard worker, very knowledgeable on the subject matter, and most important an absolute delight to know and call friend. For what it is worth, Manola and I can talk about anything. That’s a real nice feeling, and worth keeping. With all the massive changes that the Southwest and the Autry are undergoing she has chosen to walk away and retire in mid-October 2015. I’m thrilled for her, … my lone hope is that our relationship can continue and that someday I’ll meet her husband and that she’ll meet Pailin. (photo © Louis Kraft & Manola Madrid 2014)

LK is thrilled (and angry) but thrilled is the bottom word. I’m writing a book about the end of the Southern Cheyenne lifeway. This primary research; useable or not is mandatory by me. There was so much to see in just one archive that there was no way I could get through all of it in 12 days. Thus my costly research request, which—and to repeat myself—was due in September 2014. September 17, 2015, arrived and I again complained. I was told that my complaint was confusing. Confusing? Well maybe, but I wasn’t obscure. More important my complaint garnered results for on September 21 I picked up a CD with the remainder of my research request of June 2014.

This was a joyous occasion for I got to spend two hours with Manola Madrid, a long-time research service assistant at the Braun Research Library at the former Southwest Museum in Los Angeles.

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Marva Felchin, director of libraries and archives at the Autry National Center. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I also spent prime time with Marva Felchin, director of libraries and archives at the Autry National Center. I met Marva while researching obscure and yet mandatory primary source material for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. She would attend an Errol Flynn talk locally in Burbank, Calif., soon after (I think in 2008). On September 21 I delivered a promised Geronimo magazine article, as well as two Ned Wynkoop articles that I knew that the Autry didn’t have to Marva for the Autry Resources Center (ARC). I believe that the ARC, a 105,000 square-foot research center that will house the former Southwest Museum archive and research material (over 500,000 artworks and artifacts + archival material) and the Autry’s library and archive (not sure how large this is). Although the private opening might be in late 2016 most likely the public opening won’t happen until 2017. On this day Marva told me that if needed I could perform research before the ARC opens.

That was very kind of Marva. I don’t think I’ll need to do any research before the opening, but it is good to know that the door will be open to me if I need to do additional research. This is a good feeling. Thank you, Marva (unfortunately I have no images of Marva to share).

Autry National Center is magnificent … almost

The Autry National Center is magnificent, but it doesn’t compare to similar facilities, such as National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Not too many years back when the Autry decided to merge with the Southwest Museum, this action opened the door to major respectability. Do not under estimate this, for the Southwest’s holdings are a major coup for the Autry.

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Over the years the Autry National Center has had many names (Why? I have no clue why, but can guess that the rich and famous continued to spout their view and progressively have worked to remove not only the westering experience from the museum’s name but also—God forbid—have tried to push the legendary Gene Autry, who is responsible for the museum, into the dark shadows of a long-gone time). I’m not a fan of Gene’s one-hour B-westerns, his 1950s TV show, or his singing. That said, he was a major influence on his world and if it wasn’t for him there would be no Autry National Center. The “Inventing Custer: Legends of the Little Bighorn” exhibit was brilliant and was by far the best exhibit that I have ever seen at the Autry (or elsewhere). It ranged from Custer and his times (artifacts, including his hair, which his wife Libbie had clipped prior to an expedition on the Plains and BTW he was a strawberry blond and nowhere close to being “Yellow Hair,” to photos, to Custer in afterlife, which included film, toys, and memorabilia). As already stated I have never been a fan of Mr. Autry, but more recently (22Jun2007 through 13Jan2008) the Autry presented a marvelous exhibit that focused exclusively on “the Singing Cowboy’s” life and times (“Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007”). Unfortunately I have inside information that confirms that many of the elite members of the Autry were unhappy with the exhibit and refused to support it. SHAME ON THEM! This was by far the second best exhibit I have ever seen at the Autry, and in the future it should be repeated! Unfortunately “Inventing Custer” was pieced together with artifacts, photos, toys, books, and film memorabilia from multiple archives and private collections (and would be almost impossible to bring back for an encore). (photo of “Inventing Custer” banner © Louis Kraft 1996)

Still you need to realize that people who light their cigarettes with $1,000 dollar bills, shall I call them the “major” Autry donors, bitched. As far as they were concerned money counts, such as their designer clothes, their $10,000 necklaces, the glitter of the Autry … I used to attend 2nd (or was it 3rd) tier openings at the Autry. Those days are history. You want to attend an opening, fork up $1,700 or perhaps $1,800. I wouldn’t call these openings ones that the general public can attend. What can I say? You get the picture, other than these elite people don’t give a bleep that the Southwest goldmine is now part of the Autry. … American Indian culture and artifacts mean little to them. “Why are we wasting our money on an institution that was dying?” (this is a quote based upon words that I recently heard but wasn’t able to jot down exactly for prosperity). Lucky them! Bottom line, they don’t give a bleep about the wondrous treasure that the Southwest (and its now dead and gone Braun Research LIbrary) once was.

You want to know the truth? The Southwest Museum (which includes the Braun) was special. The Autry has always reeked of money, and the facility has always been gorgeous. Unfortunately when compared to other institutions of a similar type it can’t compare. Now it can, for regardless of rich bitching it now controls the massive collection of American Indian artifacts and research that the Southwest once owned. Ladies and gentlemen I have been off and on (at the moment off) a proud member of the Autry. To quote one of only three TV series that I have liked (The X-Files), “The truth is out there.” And it is for the Autry National Center.

The Autry National Center is poised to claim its position as one of the great western history and cultural museums in the United States. I certainly believe that the person leading the way, President and CEO W. Richard (Rick) West, Jr., will ensure that this happens.

Some views; wanted or not …

Los Angeles is currently divided between the extremely rich and everyone else, who struggle to pay bills.* The middle class? What’s that? Actually it is a name that represents a dead and departed race of people that has ceased to exist and that is the middle class. Worse, and I’m not talking about racism; rather I’m talking about the future that has, alas, arrived. Specifically to the Autry’s major donors, the extraordinary and exceptional artifacts housed at the Southwest don’t count. What is at risk here is the American western experience, which includes the Plains Indians, Southwest Indians, Pacific Coast Indians, Alaskan Indians, and the massive conquest of their homelands and destruction of their cultures.

* This statement is simplistic at best. What isn’t simplistic or overstated is that the city of Los Angeles (North Hollywood is a town in LA)  is quickly becoming a modern-day Tombstone, Arizona. Los Angeles had a confirmed murder count of 39 in August (LA Times, “Deadliest August in Los Angeles in 8 years,” 4Sept2015). This past weekend (September 26-27) 19 people were shot and five died (LA Times, “19 Shootings, A Call for Help: LAPD appeals to community after new bloodshed,” 30sept2015). Although I have had guns pointed at me I have yet to witness shootings in North Hollywood. That said, I no longer walk at night for violence often stalks the streets of NoHo.

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I don’t have an image of Kevin Tighe as Miles (damn!!!). Tighe, along with Wes Studi (who was at least 30 years too young to play Geronimo) were the two outstanding performances in Geronimo: An American Legend. I don’t know either man but shortly after the release of Dances with Wolves (1990) I spent good time with Studi in an American Indian shop in Tarzana, Calif. Unfortunately the shop is long gone and I never met Studi again. My guess, both men did their homework, … something Bob Duvall (who I worked closely with for about four months in the 1980s) didn’t do. This image of Miles is in the LK personal collection and was published first in 1886. It has since been published in Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (2005) and in “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” (Wild West, October 2015).

This is America and it must not be forgotten! American Indian lifeways count, and so do the racial interactions between invading whites and the people that initially welcomed their presence. During this time very few whites accepted American Indians as human beings, and those that dared to are American heroes; not those that stole, incarcerated, and if need be butchered people that they felt were below them on the evolution scale. … If I am even close in my opinion I am predicting a “Pandora’s Box” that when it is opened will initiate the end of America’s heritage. As Kevin Tighe, who played General Nelson Miles, says to Matt Damon’s Lieutenant Britton Davis (who BTW had resigned his military commission in 1885 and lived in Mexico at the time of Geronimo’s and Naiche’s surrender in September 1886) near the end of Geronimo: An American Legend (Columbia Pictures, 1993): “Lieutenant, you’re more worried about keeping your word to a savage than to fulfilling your duties to the citizens of this country. We won and that’s what counts. It’s over with Geronimo, the Apache, and the whole history of the West, except for being a farmer.”

You want my opinion? Honestly, you don’t want to hear my opinion for much of it isn’t printable.

I’ve been cramming on the digital files from the September 2015 Braun delivery since I’ve received the CD from Manola. I’m looking at the files to ensure that they are readable. I’m also spot reading and searching for primary information that might be included in the Sand Creek manuscript. Let me tell you that this is slow going.

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This is Black Kettle, and for the record I constantly attempt to create portraits of him; this image will not appear in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (and you can take this to the bank). … It looks like Black Kettle, John Chivington, John Evans, William Byers, Ned Wynkoop, William Bent, and George Bent are my leading players. Left Hand is also but no images of him exist (my loss). There are other Cheyenne and Arapaho players who could become leading players such as Bull Bear, Tall Bull, Little Raven (and I hope that they can be; alas, no images exist of Tall Bull). … Back to Black Kettle. Folks, he was not an elderly fellow that dropped out of the most important time of his life or his people’s lives. He was up front and center, and he had more guts and courage than any of the Cheyenne warriors that fought the overwhelming might of the United States. His life was always at risk, by both his own people and the invading whites. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

However, when I do find a jewel I’m right into the manuscript and adding the information. The other day I found pure gold on Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle that I had no idea existed. Honestly, this is what I’m looking for as Black Kettle is one of the leading players in the Sand Creek manuscript and I’m desperately trying to find events that happened in his life to fill in the gaps. This is directly related to my view that actions define who people are and not what someone says about them.

Again, I’m thrilled. … But the purpose of this post is threefold: Bitch, which I’ve done; praise, which I’ve done; and alert Indian wars writers to wake up to a massive archive in SoCal that will reopen in a blink of an eye (2017) that there is material available that can be added to your manuscripts in ways you wouldn’t believe. If you are a historian doing Plains or Southwest Indian research wake up and add validity to your writing. … The former Braun Research Library (at the former Southwest Museum) along with the former Autry National Center library and archives will provide you with a research center that will blow you away (American Indian research and including the Indian wars).

I’ve again been harsh, and believe me I have been pounded in the past by companies that I write for that I’m an ingrate that bites the hand that feeds him. True? Probably. … Know that I care about everything that I do. This means that I can’t take prisoners, that I must fight for the best product possible at all times and that includes receiving requested documentation when promised and not being forced to complain again and again until I receive a comment that I’m unclear in what is owed me. I have deadlines and I can’t afford to miss too many of them or I won’t be hirable.

For the record

“There’s gold in them ‘thar’ hills!” I have no clue if this is a real quote of not. And, by God, I have struck it! Mining the Cheyennes at the Braun Research Library in June 2014 has already proved worth every hour I put in, every complaint I had to make to receive requested documentation, and every dollar that it has cost me (and it wasn’t cheap).

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This image is from 1997’s Titanic. Here Leonardo DiCaprio (as Jack Lawson) proclaims at the beam of the mighty vessel on its maiden voyage: “I’m king of the world!” Danny Nucci (as Fabrizio, Dawson’s friend), joins him. When this film was released it was storied to become the largest financial disaster in film history. Instead it became the largest grossing film worldwide ever (to that point in time). Almost everyone I knew loved the film, which went on to win a ton of awards including the Oscar for best film. Many of these people have since dismissed the film. … For the record I have two film lists: a top 10 Errol Flynn films (and The Adventures of Robin Hood isn’t on the list) and a top 50 films which does not include Flynn films. Only one film on my top 50 films list has won the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Oscar for best picture, and that was Titanic. Perhaps Kevin Costner’s magnificent Dances with Wolves (1990) should be on my list but it isn’t. I believe that Costner’s Open Range (2003) with Bob Duvall and Annette Bening is a much better film, and it is in the top 10 of my top 50 films list. … Even though I work on “The Song Remembers When” blog whenever I have free time there is a chance that a short blog, like this one, can sneak in. And I’m going to announce it here: “Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view.” Be warned that it will include prose that might anger you, hopefully enlighten you, but certainly will be based upon a long-time film knowledge combined with a deep-seated gut-feeling that is present whenever I view film. For what it is worth I study film four to five times a week as it a great way to understand how dialogue; plot; script; editing; direction; cinematography; film scores, which is my favorite type of music; and good production values influence every word that I write for print (and that includes these blogs).

At the moment my every waking hour is dominated by one thought: Kraft, when are you working on the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript? For the record this is daily. Research takes time; comprehension takes more time. Once both connect, my fingers pound the keyboard. At those times, and to again quote Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, “I’m king of the world!”

Upcoming Blogs

  • Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view
    The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing his performances that I consider his best on film (and this will include a few comments about certain films that will surprise and perhaps shock).
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life every day). This blog should be easy to write (and it has been) for songs often link me to a person or an event. In my last blog I announced that this blog would be next. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) this blog continues to grow and grow as there are musicians and composers and singers that are with me all the time. Their music impacts me almost every day, but some compositions and performances stand out as they have influenced my life in one way or another. … At this point in my life everything is important: Being a good husband, a good father, a good writer, and continuing to “walk” this earth. … Since my time has become short—very short time-wise—I’m trying to cut down the gaps between blogs with shorter ones that deal with the immediacy of my day-to-day life; thus the current blog and the upcoming Flynn blog.
  • Ongoing Sand Creek and PSK updates
    With everything basically falling into place for The Discovery (there is still work but it’ll be easy in comparison to what has been completed), Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate my writing world. That means that it is up-front-and-center seven days a week, and that everything else (finishing The Discovery; blogs; research and writing on Errol & Olivia, that is, Flynn and de Havilland; Kit Carson nonfiction and fiction research; and taking care of the business portion of my writing life) is secondary. As time moves forward variations on this series of blogs will update you on the manuscript’s status, that is what I’m doing as I piece the tragic end of the Cheyenne’s lifeway together (as well as completing the other listed blogs, all of which will be large). Oh, as Pailin has been a headliner in many of my blogs but has had a smaller presence of late, it is also my intention to bring back the leading player in my life.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.

A tease for The Discovery and a return to Sand Creek

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2016

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

Click on an image to expand it


  • Those of you who read my Indian wars writing will be shocked.
  • Those of you who know me but not my writing will also be shocked.

Kraft, what the hell are you talking about?

The Discovery

The Discovery fell into my lap while I wrote for Yahoo! and functioned as a consultant for the beginning of a medical malpractice novel by a physician I’ve known for 25 years—Robert S. Goodman.

… From 1971 until shortly before his death in 1987 my father-in-law was my
physician. 
He was one of the top doctors in the San Fernando Valley, and
had—believe it or not—been my family’s doctor since 1956 (I didn’t
meet my first wife until I was a junior in college). And let me tell you
there were perks. I guess that the major one was that after the
marriage and until after his death I never had to buy health
insurance. Other doctors didn’t charge me, and neither did
my dentist. My daughter’s birth had a total cost of zero
dollars. Yes, early in my adult life I learned of the
benefits of befriending one’s doctors.

Not that I use my doctors (all of whom are specialists), for I never have. I have befriended them, but this has always been a patient-doctor relationship. We talk about medicine, health, insurance, play scripts, fiction, nonfiction, their writing, my writing, and I share. They learn a little from me and are even open to learning more while I learn a lot from them (my side of the learning basically deals with my health).

A short diversion with my father, violence, and earning a living

Just before my father died (1999; 19 years after his wife/my mother died) he said to me, “If I knew I’d live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.” (All I can say to that is, “Me too.”)

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In the late 1940s and into the early 1950s my father climbed the Esso gasoline world. By the 1950s he appeared to be a person on the rise in the company. The Esso Gasoline Corporation did a round of publicity shots that they used in their advertising with him as the leading model. At that time he managed three Esso gas stations in Yonkers, New York. What the company didn’t realize was 1) My father hated being told what to do (shades of LK Jr) and 2) he hated the weather in New York. In the late 1940s after WW II my mother and father, who had explored SoCal in the late 1930s, again explored SoCal. I was a member of their 1949 trip (but unfortunately remember nothing). That trip ordained their and my future, and it wouldn’t be in New York.

On February 13, 1999, the last day I saw my living father as I knew him, he said to me as I left, “I love you, Louis.” Two of the words he had never used before: “love” and “Louis.” I had chosen to use “Louis” when I became an actor (he along with others struggled with this). As far as “love” goes, he always loved me, even when we didn’t get along, which stretched all the way to my mother’s/his wife’s death. The last 10 days of her life put us together during all of our waking hours. My mother/his wife’s last hours on earth gave us a relationship, that is her passing ended his quest to rule my life and accept that I was an actor and I was able to put behind me a past that I hated.

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LK at the time of these bullets. Actually this image was pulled from a three-shot of LK, Santa Claus, and another person. I have four of these photos. One is definitely the first of the four and dates to the end of the 1960s but the other three can be shuffled and all date to the early 1970s.

For example:

  • Once my father knocked me cold at home when a friend visited.
  • Soon after a girl who perhaps outweighed me by 50 to 100 pounds ran me over while I was going about three or four miles per hour on my motorcycle when she was running and broadsided me and hit me in the face with her hands. She broke my sun glasses which cut her fingers, but that was it—she didn’t even fall down. This was in Woodland Hills, California (then a rural area). The motorcycle shot across the street, jumped the curb, and went through a chain link fence that blocked entry to a field and hills. I was left hanging knocked out on the top of the fence (thank God for helmets!). I didn’t walk for weeks, and my father was there for me.
  • Another time I became a little too angry (the last day I ever lived at home) and aggressive (I’m being kind to me here), and I frightened him. He called the police. Within minutes three or four squad cars arrived with sirens blasting and guns in evidence when the officers stepped from their vehicles. I exited the house with hands raised. My father was right behind me and he talked the officers out of making an arrest. Even though there seemed to be a bloodlust pushing us toward a not-too-good ending he stood behind me, protected me, and pulled me to safety. (That night I slept in my girlfriend’s car in a parking garage below her father’s apartment. The next morning the infamous February 1971 earthquake destroyed portions of the San Fernando Valley. Jerked awake I ran out of the parking structure to see tidal waves washing out of the pool. The three-story apartment complex buildings waved in the breeze like 1930s cartoons. The view was unreal.)
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LK & LK Sr. in the back yard at Tujunga House on Thanksgiving 1995 (three years two and a half months before his death). He loved the garden at Tujunga House, and I’m certain he’d be shocked if he saw it now. This day is special to me, as are all Thanksgivings and Christmases (and I cook traditional meals). Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth and Thanksgiving is the celebration of the Pilgrims’ first harvest of crops with the Wampanoag Indians in Plymouth in 1621. They are not the extravaganza of sales that is currently stuffed down Americans’ throats today. Unfortunately business greed has overwhelmed America and has done everything possible to negate these special day’s true meaning. I’ll damned if I’ll stand in line and elbow strangers to buy, buy, and buy more as publicity departments pound the American public to do from every direction that it is almost demoniacal. … On this 1995 Thanksgiving, perhaps 10 minutes after this image was taken, my father observed for the first time a grand mal seizure. It shocked him, as it would you. There is a lot of harsh reality in this world, and much of it most people don’t experience. (photo © Louis Kraft 1995)

Eventually time would change even though we still had clashes, while I survived in a world that was different from his. He saw this, and although it would take years he accepted it. The point of this section is simple. My father gave me the strength to be me, and although at times it looked as if one of us could have killed the other we didn’t. If not for him I’m certain that my life would not have been as it has been. Our battles pushed me to challenge him. They also gave me the courage to follow my winding trail of life. I do as I please and my profession is what I choose. I have no regrets for everything in my life happened for a reason. You can bet that I believe in cause and effect. That said my life always has goals prominently leading the way. Someday the end will come and a goal or two won’t have been reached but if that is how it ends I’m good with it.

Back to The Discovery and physicians

This simple formula of how I relate to my physicians has opened doors to my life. It has given me friends in a world in which I haven’t known other than how it applies to my health. Bob Goodman is directly responsible for me walking this earth for the last 12+ years (as is urology specialist Malcolm Cosgrove, who performed a surgery that continued my life in 2003).

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One of many clipart images that symbolize medicine. This will not appear on The Discovery cover. It is here as I must soon begin thinking of cover art. I think that the doctor whose life spirals toward an explosive end must dominate the cover. I also think that a 1952 incubator needs to be on the cover as well as the doctor’s wife who is an essential key to the plot (but both she and the incubator must be secondary to the doctor. Looming behind doctor must be a shadow that symbolizes the court system. Just like my studying whatever I read and every film that I look at I also study book covers. Simple is better, but it cannot be vague nor can it mislead the reader. …

Trust me, these two gentlemen, along with other physicians, are people that I have befriended and helped whenever possible.

At the end of November 2013 Bob Goodman asked me to partner with him on The Discovery (read: I write the manuscript based upon his rough draft and great idea). I was hesitant as I write seven days a week on my books and blogs. He offered upfront $$$. I told him I’d think about it. I decided to turn down the offer (which I knew would hurt him), but then I received a bill for an uninsured operation that I didn’t know about until after the fact. This was a big ouch as I then earned about 20 percent of what I earned when Oracle and I parted company in 2012. The up-front money paid for my half of that unexpected operation. I accepted the partnership in his updated but still incomplete novel sight unseen.

That was a big mistake time wise, but at the same time it eliminated a bill that I couldn’t afford to pay.

To repeat myself accepting the partnership was a big mistake time wise, but it did eliminate a bill that I couldn’t afford to pay. I’m still putting in a lot of hours on The Discovery project (a recent week logged over 70 hours). But—BUT I’m in control and I’m working on a manuscript that I think will be one of the best that I ever write (the story spans over two decades, has multiple players, and yet I’ve figured out how to pull everything together and make it work while keeping it believable).

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This is the cover for the Variety section of the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle (15may1992). The Final Showdown was published in April 1992 and my divorce was final in April 1992. At that time I owned with my ex-wife two houses (one in Encino and one in Thousand Oaks), and she got both of them. The Thousand Oaks house, which is in Ventura County, was a gorgeous two-story home a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. Swimming has always been my favorite sport and at that time I swam 70 laps (no big deal when compared to the 30+ laps I used to swim at 24 Hour Fitness in an Olympic-sized pool). Nevertheless I loved living there. When the News Chronicle contacted me for the interview/article I lived in Tarzana (in Los Angeles County). The writer wanted to interview me at home. At that time I wrote for a telecommunications firm in El Segundo (south of LAX). I asked him to drive to El Segundo. He didn’t want to, so I talked him into two phone interviews. At the end of the interviews he told me that a photographer needed to take pictures of me at my Thousand Oaks home. “Why?” I asked. He said, “If you don’t live in Venture County we won’t print the story about you.” I called my ex-wife and explained the situation. She told me that as long as I didn’t enter the house I could take as many photos outside that I needed. Good for me. On the day of the photo shoot I arrived early at my former home and met the photographer outside. We shot images in the courtyard. He then wanted to go inside. I asked if he wanted to take pictures of me at my computer and he answered in the affirmative. “I have a better idea,” I said. “What’?” “Let’s shoot on the hill after you exit the 101 freeway and drive south into the Santa Monica foothills.” He loved the idea, and the Variety cover is the result. BTW the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle at that time was just like the LA Times. It even mimicked the Times’ entertainment section and was folded in half and opened like a magazine. (© Thousand Oaks News Chronicle 1992)

BTW, I’m not a novice at writing fiction. For almost a decade beginning in 1976 and extending to 1985 a screen writing agent and a TV writer/producer took me under their tender tutelage. Under their care I learned how to write dialogue, create characters, and design plots that move forward. By the late 1980s I moved on to fiction. The Final Showdown was published in 1992, and I had a follow-up contract for a Kit Carson/Navajo story (if you’ve read previous blogs you know what happened here and what my future became). Don’t doubt me, folks, my move to nonfiction has been the best working (not writing, but working) decision in my life for it directly led to my writing for the software world and eventually earning over six figures). It also gave me the best writing that I’ve ever done in the Indian wars nonfiction field, and believe me there are nonfiction books on the horizon that will be better than anything that I’ve written in the past.

All the above said, and as of the beginning of September 2015, I’m thrilled that I partnered with Bob Goodman. We will have a good story, and I think that it will be a page turner. What more could a writer ask for?

Bob Goodman had a great idea for The Discovery, but he had/has no clue on how to write characters, dialogue, plot, or a novel. My new partner had told me that he had polished what he had and in which I had reviewed and had included my major suggestions on how to improve the story. I don’t want to say that his words were an understatement but they were. He had no chapters, just pages—some with one paragraph and others with a half page of text. Sometimes scenes would be repeated, … You get the picture. That said Bob Goodman’s idea for The Discovery was terrific.

My work was a challenge but one I embraced. And best, I had no restrictions. The manuscript will be published, and I know that I’ll take a lot of negative heat. But The Discovery will open the door for my return to fiction. Fiction is a touchy subject to a number of people including me. Why me? Because I still have to complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, would like to do a nonfiction book on Kit Carson, and must finish Errol & Olivia (which is the first of a planned trilogy on Flynn). That’s a lot of nonfiction writing staring me in the face. In case you don’t know it nonfiction takes a lot longer as almost every day I’m studying the known facts (that is primary source material). It probably takes me at least five times as long to write a page of nonfiction than it takes me to write a page of fiction. For the record I use secondary nonfiction material only when necessary (for many-many reasons).

… My first novel after The Discovery will deal with the Navajo Indians (or as they were called and as they call themselves, the Diné).

A return to Sand Creek

As hinted at in this blog The Discovery has absolutely killed me time wise (and there are other reasons that I’ll probably never mention). I’ve also said that I’m thrilled with the manuscript, and that’s good. … But Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is my main book project and it has been so since the contract was signed. It is now and must be until it is published my number one priority. What I still need to do on The Discovery has now been regulated to extra work, by that I mean that it will happen after hours (just like these blogs are created; at night and after I’ve completed my day’s work).

Although I’ve said it in the past I’m saying it again here. When I work on nonfiction I write from primary source (and secondary source when necessary) information. I study the primary source information and compare to other primary source information that I’ve been able to locate and obtain from archives or from historian friends that share their primary source documentation with me. I make every effort to confirm what I think is what happened. For me this is a slow process, and it gets even slower when I attempt to write what I believe happened from my understanding of my research.

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The LK portrait of Gatewood was first published in Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). Over the years it has been printed three times. (art © Louis Kraft 2004)

The Charles Gatewood books and the Ned Wynkoop book were new territory as no one in the past had written about them with them as the focus of the book. Most often they received a paragraph here or a paragraph there or once in a while a few thousand words. Often much of what was said about them had already been printed and that mostly in anthologies. Primary resource books, especially for Gatewood, have contained nuggets about them that are invaluable but they were far too little (and often in obscure books that didn’t advertise their presence in the volumes). One of the reasons for this is that both stood up to authority: That is to the military, the U.S. government, and the press when they thought that they were correct in their beliefs.

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The LK portrait of Wynkoop was first published in “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races,” Custer and His Times, Book Five (The Little Big Horn Associates, Inc., 2008). Over the years it has been printed five times. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Both men accomplished extraordinary feats during the Indian wars—not feats in war with notches on their revolvers but feats of preventing war or ending war or attempting to end war. They actually accepted the people in conflict with the United States as human beings and not vicious subhumans that were capable of little more than theft, rape, and murder. This was not a popular view in the 1860s (Wynkoop) or the 1880s (Gatewood) and as such the press, the military, and even the U.S. government chose to ignore their efforts and exile them (Gatewood) or better yet bury them (Wynkoop) in an avalanche of negative press and criticism by a military ordained to control American Indians as the United States basically stole their land through treaties that the Indians didn’t understand and worse didn’t represent the agreement by most of the tribe (Cheyennes). For the Apaches it was different, for they had been forced onto reservations and when portions of them fled being little more than prisoners of war they were treated as if they were outlaws … and not people who were losing their homeland, their religion, their language, their children, the lifeway and their freedom. …

When the colonists revolted against British rule in the eighteenth century they became patriots, but this was not the British point of view (POV), which is a film term that I explained in Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995). Why not the Apaches and the Cheyennes? Wasn’t their revolt similar? The soon to be Americans fought to free themselves from a tyrannical overrule while the Apaches and Cheyennes fought against a massive enemy that wanted their land at all costs.

Sand Creek is turning into becoming the most difficult book that I have ever written. Why? Simply put I’m attempting to tell the story through a handful of major players from five distinct categories. I want to bring the leading players (as well as major secondary players) to life through their actions and words. This is considerably more difficult than it sounds. Not because I’m viewing the lead-up to the attack at Sand Creek, the attack at Sand Creek, and the aftermath of the attack through the eyes of the players but because there isn’t a lot of primary source material on these players (and often secondary sources are light on information).

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After the speakers and music completed at the Washita Battlefield NHS overlook on 11nov2011 I captured this image of Moses Starr of the Red Moon Singers & Drum Group (left) and W. Richard (Rick) West. I met Rick for the first time before the event began and then spent a lot of time with him on the 12th, when we both spoke at the symposium and also lunched together. We had plenty of time to talk. Rick is a Cheyenne peace chief. He is also the founding director and director emeritus of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Recently he became president and CEO of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (I believe in December 2012). To date I have held off contacting him about my problem, but my fuse is growing short and something must happen. And it must happen soon!!! (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

For the book to work I must find the required information, and this hasn’t been easy and especially so since an archive that I mined in June 2014 for 12 days has still not delivered requested material that I was supposed to have received in September 2014. One might say, “Kraft, tell them to keep the damned material!” Believe me I’ve thought of this more than once, and it’s pretty bleeping hard to keep a civil tongue each time I approach the archive, which is local, on the status of the delivery. My guess, I’ll probably receive the material in 2017 (which is beyond my manuscript delivery date). I should know better, for the archive had missed a deadline for an image permission I needed to use one photo in the second Gatewood book (and they had about six months to create the permission), so the track record was already in place (only now it is one hundred times worse). It is magnified as I’m trying to present the Cheyennes in a way that I’ve never done before, and here I must succeed for the manuscript having any chance of working as I envision it.

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Regional National Park Service ranger Jeff Campbell (right), LK, and John Monnett on 3oct2014 at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS. Campbell, a former police officer, is writing a book about the Sand Creek Massacre as a murder investigation. On this day, he, John, and I enjoyed a good round-robin conversation. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Research is ongoing until the book will be published. OU Press, my publisher, and I are well acquainted with each other and how we both work. My comment here? I’m one privileged cowboy for OU Press is the top Indian wars publisher in the world and I’m lucky to write for them. We are brothers (and sisters) in war. That is we both want the best possible product published and as such we push for this to happen, … and this means at times that we are in conflict. I wouldn’t have it any other way, for this is the only way to produce a product that has value.

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This is John Derek, a film star in the 1950s and early 1960s. Like Errol Flynn he had to deal with the “gorgeous” image, which he hated (like Flynn). Unlike Flynn he walked away from film stardom and became a director-producer-photographer. This image is from Massacre at Sand Creek (1957). I believe that he played the lead role in the film, but it isn’t currently available and I have not been able to view it. Sometime shortly after Derek walked away from his acting career I met him at his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., south of Ventura Blvd., in the San Fernando Valley, when I tried out for one of his independent films. His home was very macho, and featured game kills and trophies on the floors, furniture, and walls (it was the third such home I had seen like this among the Hollywood crowd, and if you are into big-game hunting it was impressive). His wife was Bo Derek, and she was one of the stars of the major release hit 10 (1979) with Dudley Moore in the lead role. Derek was preparing for his next film. It wasn’t Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981) so it had to have been Bolero (1984) although I never heard a film title and don’t remember seeing sides to a script (although I must have for I spent easily six or more hours in Derek’s home during a two-week span). Bo was present at all three tryouts. During my first two interviews, which were more like visits, I hung out mostly with Derek as we spent time chatting and getting to know each other. On my final interview/visit I spent most of my time with Bo while she showed me nude slides of herself as we chatted. There’s nothing that I can say other than I didn’t land the part. … That’s life—move on.

For the record I’m approaching the leading and supporting players in the Sand Creek manuscript through their POV. That is I’m attempting to present them through their actions, and honestly I believe almost everyone who has lived or lives believes that what they do is good (at least from their POV). Of course there are people, such as Charles Manson and Ted Bundy, who were massive murderers (I almost had contact with Manson as a place he at times lived at I used for a motorcycle stop and I worked on a mini-series on Bundy called The Deliberate Stranger, 1986). Oh, for the record, Los Angeles has returned to days long gone. August 2015 has a confirmed murder count of 39 per the Los Angeles Times (“Deadliest August in Los Angeles in 8 years,” 4Sept2015). Until 2015 the Times had been bragging about the decline in heinous crime in Los Angeles. I guess they spoke up too soon, and gulp, need to swallow a little of their misrepresentations.

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This is Jerry Russell, the original head of the Order of the Indians Wars (second edition; the first was membered by Indian wars military participants). I can’t tell you enough about my times with Jerry. There were many, but alas most were long distance. He accepted my proposal to speak about Ned Wynkoop in Fullerton, Calif., in February 1987, at the first (and last) Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) convention in SoCal. I met Mike Koury, who also spoke at that event, for the first time and he has since been a good friend who has also done everything to advance my Indian wars writing career. In fall 1987 the OIW ended their annual convention with a visit to the Sand Creek massacre battle site (that was still on private property, and alas, not on the actual battle site). At the time I had a major George Armstrong Custer research trip in progress. I called Jerry and asked if I could attend the last day, which featured a tour to the incorrect battle site and then closed with a banquet. Jerry said “yes,” and I had a perfect ending to this research trip. Good times, for I captured a great image of my daughter below the cliffs (which, by the way, are below the current marker for the battle site, although the National Park Service realizes that the attack on the peaceful Cheyenne-Arapaho village now took place to the north of this marker). Jerry did everything possible to advance my Indian wars-writing career, including being positive to a Flynn/Custer article and accepting another talk somewhere. Unfortunately I later learned that my daughter’s graduation from high school would happen during the same weekend of the convention wherein I would talk and I canceled the talk. Jerry’s response: “I’m glad that someone has their priorities in place.” Unfortunately Jerry is now long gone, but luckily the OIW continues to live under the capable management of Mike Koury and his staff (which includes, among others, Layton Hooper, who has also become a good friend). (photo © Louis Kraft 1987)

Do not doubt it, the lead up to the massacre at Sand Creek was bloody from both sides, and a lot of innocent people died. The tragedy at Sand Creek in November 1864 is perhaps the most important event of the Cheyenne Indian wars on the central and southern plains for it made the Indians realize that the white man had one goal—To kill them and take their land. This single event marked beginning of the end of the Cheyenne lifeway. It was an intense time for Indians and whites alike. To repeat myself many innocents would die horribly. Lives and careers (of both races) would be put on the line. These people made decisions that were popular and not popular among their own race. Some of these decisions led to a loss of prestige, power, and at times death. Heroes would become villains and villains would be vindicated. … And still people would die. By the end of the 1860s the Cheyenne lifeway had come to an end. Oh, there would be Cheyenne attempts to return to a former homeland in the north, but this would prove to be impossible.

The goal for the Sand Creek manuscript is to find the required information and then turn it into readable prose. When completed, this manuscript will be the most important that I have written (pray God that it happens).

Back to The Discovery

The manuscript moves toward production at an increasing pace. Two polishes have been completed. I’m excited. … Although I have basically ignored (or hidden) plot I want to share a few lines of dialogue that deal with the first meeting of two key players in the story, and it is exploratory in character development. Moreover it gives away nothing of the plot. Character development is usually created with action and dialogue, and in this example it is almost totally through dialogue.

I must again warn you, for I do believe that fully 60 percent of you that read The Discovery when published will be offended by the text. If true, I apologize. …

But if not I hope that the text grabs you, holds you, excites you, and at times shocks you, but more I hope that it captivates you and that you aren’t able to set the book down.

The above is the hope of every writer.

A first meeting in The Discovery

The following is just a sample of how some of the dialogue flows in the working manuscript. This scene (of which only a portion is presented below, is the initial meeting between Greg Weston, who was born blind, and Gail Gordon, a lady eight years older than him. Both are key players in a discovery made 20 years after the fact that will lead to malpractice, infidelity, a court case, plotted murder, and the destruction of a pristine medical career and life. I have written story as a thriller. Sample text from The Discovery (© Louis Kraft & Robert S. Goodman, MD, 2013-2015) follows:

As Greg continued to talk to the waitress a young woman burst into the deli and raced to Ethel at the cashier station. “Could you tell me whose dog that is?” she said as she pointed at Boots, who was clearly visible through the front window.

“Sure, sweetie.” Ethel pointed at Greg. “See that handsome hunk in the second booth on the right?”

The woman nodded. “Yes.”

“It’s his seeing eye dog.”

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This LK portrait dates to 1973 when I was a member of the Melrose Theatre Company, a professional theater group on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood (Paul Kent ran the company). I worked on a lot of scenes with a redhead with kinky hair (whose mother then worked on Broadway in NYC). We hit it off in our personal lives and on stage. She was sexier than hell and I not only liked her I desired her. At that time I was married, meaning that intimacy could never happen. I know that this hurt her (and this would hit the fan about two years later, and what happened on that day ended our friendship and working relationship). Before the end we had spent a lot of time working on a then popular play called Butterflies are Free. It dealt with a blind man and the lady in his life. I learned a lot about blindness at that time and I used it in The Discovery. (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

“Thanks,” she replied over her shoulder as she walked quickly toward Greg. When he didn’t look at her she tapped his shoulder. “Is that your dog outside by the fire hydrant?”

“Yes. Is there a problem?”

“No—YES!” She inhaled deeply. “Please don’t get upset, but I hit him with the bumper of my car while I was backing out of my parking spot.”

“Was he in the street?”

“No.”

“Then how did you hit him?”

“I guess I turned the wheel too sharply and my right rear wheel climbed the curb.”

“Good driving.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt him. Look, I checked him over and he seems fine but maybe you should come out with me and take a look at him.”

Greg stood and waved his hand, but didn’t move toward the door.

“Are you coming?”

“In a minute.”

The waitress Molly reached his table. He recognized her by her perfume. “Yes, my dear boy, what do you need?”

“I need to check Boots. Please keep my breakfast warm for me.” He turned to the woman. “Let’s go.”

She took his hand and began to lead the way. He pulled his hand free. “Whoa! What are you doing?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t … I saw your … cane … and I thought that …” she stammered.

“Never mind. It’s an easy mistake. Look, I’m totally capable of walking to my dog.” He led the way using his cane and she followed him out the door.

Boots leaped up and gently nudged against Greg when he reached the fire hydrant. He smiled. “That’s a good sign,” he said to the woman. “Sit,” he ordered and the dog did. Greg began to examine his care keeper, pet, and best friend beginning with his snout. He then moved to his chest, abdomen, and back before moving to his legs and paws. “He seems fine,” he said over his shoulder.

The woman sighed. “Thank goodness! He must be one tough dog.”

“He should be. He spent two years in the army; he worked with a combat unit of the First Airborne Division. … I’ll check him again at home.”

“Can I take both of you to a vet?” she asked anxiously.

“No!” Although he couldn’t see her, he sensed that his sharp reply stung. “Boots is so damn smart that he would go there on his own if he felt hurt,” he continued in a soft voice.

She laughed but not loudly. “Can I at least take you to breakfast?”

“I was about to have it before you interrupted.”

“I meant …” she began, but couldn’t finish. “I mean, can I pay for your cold breakfast?”

He nodded and smiled smugly. “That you can, providing you join me.”

“I just ate—here as a matter of fact.”

“Understood. I still want you to join me … at the table.”

She smiled and nodded.

He waited but heard nothing. “Are you going to reply?” he asked.

“Oh! I’m sorry. I did, but I didn’t. Yes, I can join you.”

“Good. Lead the way.”

The woman opened the deli door, entered, and Greg followed her. As they sat down the waitress Molly appeared with Greg’s breakfast and coffee. “Now that’s what I call fast service,” Greg said.

“All of us poor waitresses here strive to please you, handsome boy.”

“Molly, give it a break.”

“Humph,” she mumbled as she walked away.

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LK at Tujunga House in the late afternoon on 29aug2015. The hair is long and I have become a shaggy dog. What can I say, other than that’s life and that I need photos with long hair for various reasons. Pailin says that I look like a hippie. My view: Like an ugly hippie. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

“She’s been hustling me for over a year now.”

“I know why. You are handsome.”

“Enough of this!” He took a slice of toast and broke off a corner, which he dipped into his semi-hardened egg yoke. “You know a little too much about me. Tell me about yourself.”

She gulped in a small breath. “I’m—I’m a little over …” She paused and then started again. “I’m forty-seven years old, overweight, divorced, with two kids in college, and unemployed.”

“Right,” Greg said dryly. “Now give the real sales pitch.”

She chuckled. “Okay, but remember that you asked for it.”

“I like this.”

“Hold on to your seat, handsome boy.

“I will. But first your name.”

“Gail Gordon. I’m twenty-eight years old, …”

“…and are speaking the truth this time?”


A few thoughts about The Discovery and my world

The above incomplete scene is innocent. I assume that all of us have had innocent times in our lives regardless of the end result. More often than not—at least for me—a lot of good beginnings never went anywhere. With hopefully not sounding too cliché everyone’s lives are different. Things happen and those happenings often direct the future of our lives. Sometimes we’re in control of those changes but often we aren’t. Decisions and events are key to our everyday life but also to the flow of our lives. Did I choose the right course for me? If not, where did I go astray? Could I have done better or did my past life seal my future? We live in a violent world; hell, I live in what could possibly called the vicious world of Los Angeles in 2015. People die violently every day in LA. Robberies are ongoing as are rapes against innocent victims. How many children in their yards, homes, or cars need to die by bullets meant for someone else? I can dig much deeper into the dark area where the last few sentences head, but I won’t (or perhaps I’d silently place a target on my back). … I grew up in a much more innocent time, and those were the good old days (of course, where I lived didn’t deal with racism; actually it wouldn’t have mattered for my parents had no racist thoughts). Those of you that have read my books and these blogs or know me personally know my stance on racism.

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I took this image of Pailin on 3oct2014 as John & Linda Monnett and she and I walked along the western ridge that presents a good view of the land where the Cheyennes and Arapahoes camped along Sand Creek in November 1864. It is a long walk just to reach the southern portion of where the village once stood. She is doing what she loves to do and that is documenting the people, events, and happenings in her life. Not too long ago she asked when our next research trip would happen. I know for a fact that it won’t be this year as our work loads are too large (and hers now includes six months of classes). When the time arrives I know that she’ll be ready to hit the road. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

The coming novel doesn’t deal with racism but there are hints of it on the edges of the pages. Rather it deals with a physician who has had a pristine medical career. Suddenly an event so far in his past that he can’t remember it triggers events that may end his life as he knows it. For someone who has always been in control he must now face a future in which he has little say. It’s more than frightening as his entire world disintegrates before his eyes. There’s really only one question: Will he and what is most important to him survive?

The Discovery is a medical malpractice thriller that is both intimate and truthful. It deals with subject matter that once was taboo in poplar fiction but perhaps is no longer so. That said it is harsh, to the point, and it will shock many of you. … I hope that you read it for it deals with real people in real situations. If not I understand.

Upcoming Blogs

  • Sand Creek, Pailin, and updates
    With everything basically falling into place for The Discovery (there is still work but it’ll be easy in comparison to what has been completed), Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate my writing world. That means that it is up-front-and-center seven days a week, and that everything else (finishing The Discovery; blogs; research and writing on Errol & Olivia, that is, Flynn and de Havilland; Kit Carson nonfiction and fiction research; and taking care of the business portion of my writing life) is secondary. The next series of blogs will be to update you on the manuscript’s status, that is what I’m doing as I piece the tragic end of the Cheyenne’s lifeway together (as well as completing the other listed blogs, all of which will be large). Oh, as Pailin has been a headliner in many of my blogs but has had a smaller presence of late, it is also my intention to bring back the leading player in my life.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t quite call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it. This blog continues to grow. Not because of the music, but because of thoughts related to the music.

Cheyennes, George Bird Grinnell, & the Braun Research Library, Autry National Center

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2014

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

As in the past, click on an image to expand it


The best place to start is with a little background of something that doesn’t exist anymore (at least not as it was, and sometime in the not-too-distant future never again). As I type these words I’m sad. The city of Los Angeles had something special.

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The Southwest Museum of the American Indian, which is now part of the Autry National Center of the American West. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

Writers of history and especially the American Indian shame on you. The diverse population of the city of Los Angeles, which I believe still has the largest Native American population not living on the Rez (most likely the Navajo Reservation, as it dwarfs the other reservations), I’m ashamed of you too. But more I’m ashamed of the city and the county of Los Angeles, for you had a treasure and you didn’t support it. Shame on you!!!!

Los Angeles, you constantly brag about the quality of culture that exists within the city and county borders. We have everything. Great museums, great theaters, great restaurants (I think every food possible, sans one—American Indian; how many times do I have to say that damned word, “shame”?). And let’s not forget the mountains, surf, and weather that are to die for. Yes, we do have a number of days during summer and a number of them string together and the temperature is an ungodly 100+ degrees, but these have shrunk in number over recent years. We don’t compare to Phoenix and the rest of the Valley of the Sun; for unlike the residents of that sprawling metropolis the people of LA don’t fry their eggs on the pavement (that’s right; lk isn’t seeking any kissy points from Arizona; the only establishment that welcomes him back is Guidon Books in Old Scottsdale). Oh, I should add that Christmas time is shorts and broad-brimmed hats, and if you still have your American football legs (mine were during the days of the late-great Johnny U. and Joe Montana) a round of competitive tossing and catching the pigskin after a Christmas dinner under blue skies in mid-70 to low 80 degree weather with 20 or so buddies often happened.

Charles Lummis, the American Southwest, and well you know, … the future

Charles Lummis (1859-1928) earned a living as a journalist, but without doing due-diligence research I wonder how much family money he had.

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This image for this magnificent exhibit that the then Autry Museum of Western Heritage presented for a little over three months in 1996 represents what the Autry had been and what the 2003 merger with the Southwest Museum can become. Friend Paul Andrew Hutton played a major role in this exhibit coming to life. It was by far the best exhibit that I have ever seen at the Autry or the Southwest. Let us hope that the merged museums can again recreate this type of excellence. I saw the exhibit twice; first with my good friend writer/historian Eric Niderost and later by myself. … Over the years the Autry would create another masterpiece, but I believe most of it came from in-house—they paid a long-overdue homage to Gene Autry a few years back. Alas, it is long gone, but it should have been made into a permanent exhibit, and this is coming from someone who didn’t like Gene’s singing, B-moves, or what is now called the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.” Hell, I guess that I now live in Anaheim of North Hollywood, Los Angeles. (photo © Louis Kraft 1996)

I’ve not met many rich journalists. In direct relation to what he would do, Lummis stood for Indian rights and historic preservation. He was also an historian, photographer, ethnographer, and archaeologist. He had a passion for the Southwest and the Indian people that called this land home.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Charles Lummis, who was the driving force behind the Southwest Society, saw the creation of a museum that would house art, history, and science of the American Southwest. The Southwest Museum opened in downtown Los Angeles in 1907. Seven years later it moved to its current location at Mount Washington on the western side of the Arroyo Seco, and in which in the coming decades the 110 freeway would snake through and connect downtown Los Angeles with the city of Pasadena in the San Gabriel Valley. Sumner P. Hunt designed the original structure in the style of Spanish Colonial Revival that climbed the hillside. Over the years additions would be added. The Braun Research Library opened in 1979. If one doesn’t drive up the hill to the parking lot, he or she can walk from the subway just below the famed institution to a tunnel that leads to an elevator that rises 150 feet to the bottom floor of the original structure.

The Friends of the Southwest Museum claim that the museum houses 238,000 Indian artifacts. True? I don’t know, but that’s a pretty impressive figure. Over the course of his life Lummis amassed a large and impressive collection of American Indian artifacts that mostly focused on the Southwest, and quite a number of them along with his photos, papers, and documents are housed at the museum. Other notable papers and/or collections include those of Edward S. Curtis, Frederick Webb Hodge, and George Bird Grinnell, among others.

There has been a lot of planning and politics since the merger of the Southwest Museum and the Autry in 2003. It is not my intent to comment on that here other than to say that even though the historic Mount Washington site may someday be history, the oh so-precious collection it houses will continue to live in a 200,000 square foot building in Burbank, Ca.

The Braun Research Library is one of the premier archives that I have spent many hours, days, months, and more visiting in an attempt to learn what is hopefully the truth. Other than the Braun here are other classy archives in which I’ve researched:

  • The Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, N. Mex.)
  • USC Warner Bros. Archives (Los Angeles, Ca.)
  • Arizona Historical Society (Tucson, Az.)
  • Western History Collection, Denver Public Library (Co.)
  • History Colorado (Denver; I have not researched there since the new facility opened)
  • Fort Larned National Historic Site (Larned, Ks.)

Of course, there is a disclaimer here, and it is as follows. Sometimes it is more economical to order research. National Archives (various locations) and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. are two such library-archives.

A long and winding road to the Braun Research Library

Let’s drift back to the dark ages. In 1987 I spoke at the Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) “First Annual West Coast Indian Wars Conference” in Fullerton, Ca. (alas, it was the first and only OIW SoCal conference).

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Jerry Russell holding court on private property above the supposed Sand Creek village massacre site in 1987 (see photo of Marissa Kraft, below, for more about this visit). (photo © Louis Kraft 1987)

This event cemented my relationship with Jerry Russell, who ran the OIW and who always had my back covered.

Jerry is long time gone, and I still miss him. At that conference I met Mike Koury (The Old Army Press), a great speaker (he should do it more often), who took over the Order of the Indian Wars after Jerry’s death. Mike and I became friends and for years and years he has done everything possible to help my writing. I also met Chris Summit, former historian at the Custer Battlefield National Monument (since renamed to the Little Bighorn National Monument). He was round and perhaps short. I thought that he would make an impact on Indian wars writing, but he dropped from sight (don’t know why; hope he is well). The reason I mention him is because during the two-day event (February 28-March 1) he told me that I should check out the Braun Research Library at the Southwest Museum for it would be a boon to my Cheyenne Indian research.

I never forgot Chris Summit’s words.

Years passed and believe it or not, with the publication of Custer and the Cheyenne (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995), a quirk of fate thrust me into a 10-year quest to understand a long-forgotten 6th U.S. Cavalry officer named Charles Gatewood and his involvement with White Mountain and Chiricahua Apaches. A Custer book signing at Guidon Books, in Old Scottsdale, Az., alerted me to the Gatewood Collection at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. The following month resulted in a nine-day trip to view the Gatewood Collection (over the years I would spend another three+ months at the archive).

Enter Kim Walters

Gatewood had preempted what I thought would be my next Indian wars book (soldier/Indian agent Ned Wynkoop and his relationship with Cheyennes and Arapahos). In the late 1990s I took off the Gatewood/Apache blinders and heeding Chris Summit’s suggestion contacted the Braun about doing Cheyenne research as related to my longtime project on Wynkoop.

This is when I met Kim Walters.

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Kim Walters doing research at the Braun on June 18. I hadn’t seen Kim since the Wynkoop book had been published and it was good to see her again. Her current title is: “Ahmanson Curator of Native American History and Culture—Autry National Center.” (photo © Louis Kraft and Kim Walters 2014)

At that time Kim’s title was “Director, Braun Research Library,” a title she held from 1990 until 2011. She quickly became my go-to person. My sole interest during these visits to the Braun was the Cheyennes in Wynkoop’s life. With Kim’s terrific digging I became privy to prime Cheyenne research in the George Bird Grinnell Papers. At the time I didn’t know of a 77-page document that lists Grinnell’s Papers (and don’t think it existed in its current state then).

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Head Librarian Liza Posas shows lk where the George Bird Grinnell Papers are stored in the Braun’s stacks. Liza and I have discussed me submitting suggestions that will aid the 77-page listing of Grinnell’s papers, among other things that are not for this blog. The suggestions will not be egotistical; simply constructive comments that will hopefully aid researchers in the future. (photo © Louis Kraft and Liza Posas 2014)

I would not see this extended list until Braun Head Librarian Liza Posas supplied it to me earlier this year (see below for more on Liza). Good digging by Kim!!! And especially so since the key documents she located for me are not listed in the contents of the Grinnell Papers. That said, they are in the folders listed in the 77-page Grinnell Papers document (I checked to ensure that they were still located in the same folders). The information that Kim found for me saw print in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011).

Soon after completing the Cheyenne Indian research for the Wynkoop manuscript I returned to the Braun to search for images for Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000), and again I struck gold in various collections with Kim’s help. The images included:

  • A little Apache girl about four years old holding a small puppy (perhaps my favorite image ever in any of my publications for I could write a book about her)
  • A studio portrait of Gen. George Crook (1880s)
  • The Chokonen Chiricahua Apache chief Chihuahua
  • The Chihenne Chiricahua Apache war leader Kaytennae w/Benito
  • The mixed-blood Mexican-Apache Mickey Free
  • The Chihenne Chiricahua Apache Mangus

Moving forward

The Custer book tossed my name into the hat, but it was Gatewood & Geronimo that made me a player. Kim Walters and the Braun helped make this happen. Thank you, Kim.

Custer and the Cheyenne had been contracted but G&G was spec. I figured I didn’t have a good enough name to move away from regional presses and submitted the manuscript to Westernlore Press (Tucson, Az.). It was immediately accepted, and I said I wanted a contract. “I’ll get to it, when I finish one of my books,” Lynn R. Bailey told me (he was also a writer). I gave him three months and repeated my request. He told me he’d get to it when he was ready. I fired him, and that day sent a query letter to the University of Arizona Press. I waited a week. Nothing happened. I sent a query to the University of New Mexico Press.

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(left to right): Bonita & Dr. Leo Oliva (more on good friends Leo & Bonita in an upcoming blog), and Dr. Durwood Ball. After Leo and I spoke at the Pawnee Fork village site (he about the events that led up to Gen. Winfield Hancock destroying a Tsistsista, Dog Man, Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas in April 1867 and I about Wynkoop’s effort to save the village), Durwood followed us back to Fort Larned so he could see the hill that Hancock’s army climbed on April 14, 1867, only to halt when they saw the battle line of Cheyennes and Sioux in the valley. Wynkoop asked permission of Hancock to ride between the lines and sooth Indian fears. Edmund Guerrier, a mixed-blood Cheyenne, rode into the valley with him. Durwood spoke that night about Col. Edwin Vose Sumner, the subject of his next book. BTW, the photo is black & white, and with the late afternoon sun everyone was in deep shadow. I turned the image into a duotone and lightened it. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

Durwood Ball, then editor-in-chief at University of New Mexico Press, contacted me immediately; he wanted the G&G manuscript (the U of A Press contacted me a week later; am sorry—too late). Durwood, like Jerry Russell, always had my back, especially during the production process which had a few bumps. I don’t see him near enough, but whenever we are together it is like we are neighbors and hang out on weekends.

A quick return to the Braun, but not in person

I had less success at the Braun with the second Gatewood book, Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). I had wanted to use the same Apache girl image again in this book, and started the process perhaps three months before my deadline but due to problems with the Southwest’s schedule (nothing to do with Kim) I couldn’t secure the needed documentation to proceed with the publisher. The deadline arrived with nothing from the Southwest. No big deal for I always have another 10 or more images that I want to use with documentation in place if an alternate is needed. Problem immediately solved. I wrote fully two-thirds of the text and the remainder is my editing of Gatewood’s long-winded and very passive prose. This volume is by far my best-selling book (I think in large part as the publisher promoted it aggressively).

Chuck Rankin, the Cheyennes, and the tragedy of Sand Creek

For me writing nonfiction, real nonfiction, is a long-term process. Put another way, it is not wham bam, thank you ma’am. What does this less than satisfactory statement mean? I must put in the time and walk the walk to know what I’m writing about.

This section needs to lead with a major disclaimer. Chuck Rankin, editor-in-chief at OU Press, is a good friend. He has also played perhaps the most key role in my Indian wars life, and this includes my writing not with OU Press. He liked my last blog with a lone criticism; he did not like the image I posted of him. Chuck has told me many times now that he prefers to reside in the shadows and not in the limelight. I do my best not to talk about him, but damn!, if you could only use one word to describe me as a writer it would be biographer. Chuck, I can’t help myself. It’s what I do.

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lk with Chuck Rankin on 15oct11 at the Western History Association convention in Oakland, Ca. Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek became available to the public in Oakland. Chuck gave me the book poster behind us. I framed it and it resides in my living room at Tujunga House. I know Chuck doesn’t like this type of publicity, but he does great work and any writer who works with him is damned lucky. This should not remain in the shadows; it should be proclaimed! (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2011)

Right around the time that Chuck and I signed the contract for the Wynkoop book (without checking, I think 2005), he started pitching me on writing a book about the Sand Creek Massacre. I said, “No, I don’t write books about war. I write about people.” He pitched again and eventually we began to talk about the possibility of a book. Sometime before the Wynkoop book was published I pitched him on a “people” book, and the conversation continued. We came to a verbal agreement on the storyline about the time the Wynkoop book saw print. It took me almost another two years to create a 36-page proposal that was satisfactory to both myself, Chuck, and OU Press. During the entire time Chuck supported the project 100 percent. His input and patience were exceptional. Two reviewers also provided constructive criticism (one being good friend and great Indian wars historian John Monnett).

Unfortunately I won’t tell you about the storyline.

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My daughter Marissa and I had been tracking Custer when Jerry Russell’s OIW traveling tour ended at the supposed Sand Creek Massacre site on private property in 1987. I called Jerry and asked if we could join the trip to Sand Creek and following banquet. He graciously said yes. This actually turned into an article for True West (1990). While the tour assembled on the bluffs, Marissa and I explored the land below. There were rattlesnakes, including babies. She isn’t looking at one here. (Photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 1987)

Without telling you anything I need to pull the Tsistsistas from the mists of time and into their golden age, and as soon as possible I need to make the story people driven.

More, I must interlink people story lines. When you have one or two lead players this isn’t a hard task. However, when you increase the major player count to 10 or more, this task becomes complicated. To make this work I must know the leading (and supporting) players intimately, for only then will I be able to move about in the story smoothly. Research, research, and more research is the key (and this is mixed with writing and rewriting every step of the way).

For all my research and writing dealing with white/Cheyenne relations and history (and this dates back to the dark ages), there is still a lot that I don’t know about the Cheyennes (and to a lesser degree about the whites and mixed-blood players). This is a no-brainer; I must increase my knowledge about the Cheyennes and others.

The Braun becomes a major player

Liza Posas, Head Librarian

When I contacted Kim at the beginning of the year regarding revisiting Mr. Grinnell’s Papers she informed me that she had moved on at the Autry. She pointed me to Liza Posas, copied Liza on the email, and suggested that she send the 77-page Grinnell listing. This marked the beginning of my relationship with Liza (I believe that it was in February).

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John Monnett at The Fort on 10apr13, a cool restaurant in Morrison, Co., that serves venison, rattlesnake, buffalo, and so on. He may look like a dreamer, but he’s actually a very good listener. (photo Louis Kraft & John Monnett 2013)

My friend John Monnett constantly has Cheyenne manuscripts in progress, and we had talked about my return. When he learned of the extended list he asked to see it, and Liza sent it to him. Months would pass before I could visit the Braun and meet Liza and Research Services Associate Manola Madrid (more about Manola below). Liza and Manola prepared to work closely with me to ensure that I saw what I wanted/needed to see.

No Kim. Shock, pure shock? No, not at all. This might have been my first reaction to a change that I didn’t expect, but it vanished beginning with Liza’s first contact with me.

During our initial emails she partnered with me to ensure that I was primed for a successful search regardless of the final outcome. What? What does “I was primed for a successful search regardless of the final outcome” mean? Just this: If I find documentation I can use, great; but if not, and I am certain that I have looked at everything that is related to my search and found nothing, I have also succeeded. Huh? That’s right, I have succeeded for I no longer need to worry that I missed something because the search was not complete, that is I didn’t look at everything.

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Liza Posas at her desk at the Braun. (photo © Louis Kraft and Liza Posas 2014)

To repeat, and I’m talking about Liza here, her lone goal was to help my research succeed. And when I met her late on that first day—wow! I met a person who was not only involved and interested but would be available (even though she had to spend time at the Autry across town). And more, she’s a fun and positive and bright individual. The Braun has a first class person performing a needed task of ensuring that our history—yours, mine, and specifically in this case, the lifeway and history of the Cheyennes will continue to survive.

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This is my MacBook Pro on the first floor of the Braun at the beginning of the day on 18jun14. You can see the open balconies of the second floor. I spent a good amount of my time at this table and to a lesser extent the other tables in the room. Intense work is about to begin. My kind of workplace! (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Liza okayed some research for John Monnett, and it happened. The year 2013 gave John and myself time to cement our relationship thanks to our mutual friend Layton Hooper, who only became my friend that year when he and his wonderful wife Vicki opened their home to me in Fort Collins, Co. I think it was for nine days (or somewhere close). Good times, times I want to repeat (if not in their new home in Arizona then at Tujunga House). Ditto you John M.

I will say this; I have always put in the time and have walked the walk. More important, none of my books are based on a preconceived thesis that I must prove at all costs. You would be shocked if you knew how many so-called historians work from a set premise and everything they write and every citation they use only sees print because it supports what they are selling. Worse, some of these historians cite fiction, create quotes, and facts that don’t exist. This discussion is not for here but will appear in a future blog.

Manola Madrid, Research Services Associate

Manola Madrid greeted me at the guard station in the Southwest Museum on my first day back at the Braun. She had worked with me in the past and we had an instant connection. On this day we worked on the third floor.

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Manola Madrid on the third floor of the Braun. On this day, June 9th I worked at the table facing the Braun’s stacks. During a break she and I chatted. I asked if I could snap a few photos and she was open to the idea. It was at this time that we discussed John Wayne and his portrayal in John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). Photo © Louis Kraft and Manola Madrid 2014)

Like Liza, Manola was and is a delight to work with (Liza spent her morning at the Autry but returned to the SW Museum that afternoon and we officially met). Manola is a wizard with the archival material and she always had what I wanted to view ready upon my arrival. We have a lot in common and often when I came up for air from my prolonged and intense viewing of pages we chatted. And our subjects freely drifted and swirled about in what caught our interest at that moment. Overall I think highly of John Ford’s film The Searchers for how it explores racism on the frontier. John Wayne is brilliant; I only like one other of his performances (She Wore A Yellow Ribbon). Manola had a different take on the film, and that was the portrayal of the Comanches wasn’t very good and that over the years Ford did not portray the American Indians in a positive way. I agree with Manola.

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One of the numerous DVD covers for the film.

Still, Manola’s view doesn’t diminish Wayne’s brutal portrayal of a man who lives on hate but who must find his own soul or murder his kin whom he spends the entire film searching for as she has been tainted living in captivity. For me the film works because of the murderous hatred that drives Wayne’s search but more importantly because an ingrained love for a child now an adult is strong enough to prevent murder. This story premise is strong and overrides the clichéd portrayal of the Comanches (but then the story is told through Wayne’s racist eyes). A strong-strong piece of storytelling.

If you haven’t seen it, you must.

Hanging out with Liza and Manola at the Braun

When I research I become a predator; that is I’m a hunter for information.

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Manola Madrid working on Kraft’s photocopy request on 18jun14 (this will easily take her deep into July). One thing I learned a long time ago, a researcher must “work smart.” That is, he/she must document what they see while ensuring that they request copies of what they can’t transcribe error-free during their allotted time at the archive. (photo © Louis Kraft and Manola Madrid 2014)

I’m searching for people and actions and I’m not locked into Tsistsista Chief Black Kettle or Northern Tsistsista warrior Roman Nose or Dog Man Chief Bull Bear (although anything that I can find about them that I don’t know is gold). Dog Man Chief Tall Bull is always on my wanted list but he is good at avoiding detection. There is a fifth player who has appeared in three of my books, Stone Forehead. But this search at the Braun (and it will continue at least three-fold in the future) I’m open to experiencing a people and lifeway that I don’t fully know. To date the Braun hasn’t provided much on High-back Wolf (at least not yet). His death, although I think I know how and why it happened, is shrouded in mystery (read: stories that don’t coincide).

Early on I became overwhelmed with letters from George E. Hyde, who wrote A Life of George Bent written from his letters (OU Press, 1968). I requested (I thought) one folder of letters, and that was all I expected. There were more. Four, five, six, more (?) … I didn’t count, and all with the same folder number but with a letter or number extension (Hyde pops up throughout Grinnell’s papers). The letters are a marvel. There are copies of Grinnell’s letters to Hyde (but few in comparison). Ladies and gents, in case you don’t know it Hyde worked as a writer-editor for Grinnell (not once, but at least twice over the years).

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The lk hardbound of the seventh printing of the OU Press reprint (1983) of Grinnell’s 1915 classic book.

Here’s my humble opinion on what I saw: George Hyde should have had a writing credit on Grinnell’s book The Fighting Cheyennes, and I believe he should have had the leading credit. How’s that for a piece of heresy? Why? How? I’m sorry, but this was not what I searched for (I took only a few notes from this for a book that I’ll never write unless I live to 100).

… Obviously Hyde functioned as a ghost writer (and he provided ranges in his negotiated fees). What follows are paraphrases from what I saw of Hyde’s work for Grinnell (and they did not come from what I saw in the original Hyde folder I viewed):

  • Hyde informed Grinnell that the 17 page chapter he provided was loaded with errors, all of which he corrected. He then rewrote the chapter and it grew to 23 pages.
  • Hyde submitted a chapter that he wrote from scratch upon Grinnell’s request (and this was not a lone instance).

I wonder how Hyde felt about with how Grinnell recognized his contribution to The Fighting Cheyennes: “Mr. George E. Hyde has verified most of the references and has given me the benefit of his careful study of the history of early travel on the plains.” That’s it. The quote is from: Reprint 1915. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, seventh printing, 1983, x.

If I were George Hyde, I wouldn’t have been pleased.

A question for thought: How many of the words in The Fighting Cheyennes are Hyde’s and not Grinnell’s?

I must state that I’m not belittling Grinnell. He was adventurous and went after what he considered important, and by so doing carved out a highly successful and extraordinary life and career.

**********

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The lk copy of volume 1 of the hardcopy reprint of Grinnell’s 1923 two-volume classic (New York, Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1962), The Cheyenne Indians: Their history and ways of life. Of course Grinnell adds firepower to the misspelling of Ben Clark’s name (see “A surprise discovery”) Even though Grinnell received letters and invaluable help from the Indian wars scout and Cheyenne interpreter, he misspelled his name in the Preface (I’ve seen what I’m about quote in more recent paperbound versions of the book, in an Introduction). Grinnell wrote (p. xv), “In the South, Ben Clark helped me.” Three paragraphs later (xvi) he stated, “I owe much” to my interpreters, which included Clark, among others. … I can’t see Grinnell making this blatant spelling error; could it have made it into the printed book due to erroneous editorial insistence upon spelling Ben Clarke’s name without an “e”? Probably.

That first day I moved away from Mr. Hyde (he would pop up again and again, and sometimes in a totally surprising location). Manola was cool with this, making it clear that she would provide whatever I wanted to see.

And see I would do. And this would include early Cheyenne life and migration that I had not seen in book form. I would also see tidbits of key players that I didn’t know.

A surprise discovery

Ben Clark was Custer’s chief of scouts during the attack on Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the Washita River in Indian Territory on November 27, 1868. Ben Clark and George Armstrong Custer did not get along, but I have seen primary source information that Clark provided and it was key to me writing Custer and the Cheyenne for Upton and Sons, Publishers. Guess what? The primary source information was listed as Ben “Clark,” as has been every reference in book form that I have seen on Clark. Oops!!! Ben Clarke—that’s right “Clarke”—was a very literate man. He not only could write good sentences that are intelligent, his handwriting was extraordinary and is easy to read. I’ve seen letters that Ben Clarke wrote, and trust me, each letter was signed by Ben “Clarke” and the handwriting is consistent. As stated every book that I have seen, including Custer and the Cheyenne, has misspelled his last name. Talk about an uphill fight to correct the spelling of a man’s name. Shameful.

A tip

My opinion of and respect for George Hyde and his interest and knowledge of the Indian wars is large. Grinnell could not have hired a better writer-editor. What I saw blew me away. If someone wants to write about the Grinnell-Hyde relationship and throw in George Bent, the mixed-blood Cheyenne who moved between the races and who worked with both Hyde and Grinnell, you might have one hell of a story to tell. A story that focuses on the three men during the time that they tried to document Cheyenne history, culture, and lifeway.

BTW, Grinnell did not limit his research to the Cheyennes. He also spent a lot of time meeting, befriending, and interviewing Pawnees that lived through the tumultuous times dating from at least 1830 and through the reservation years. There were other tribes that he also had an interest in (the Blackfeet, Sioux, Apaches to name three), but to what extent I currently don’t know.

“Success or Failure?”

I had announced this upcoming blog with the words: “Success or Failure?” Bad boy Kraft for there is no success or failure research—all is successful. Reason: If I find something, great! If I don’t, I now know that where I’m searching is a dead end.

If you are researching Cheyennes, do yourself favor and take a long-hard look at the George Bird Grinnell Papers.

The Man Who Walks With His Toes Pointed Out … 

I used the word “Cheyenne” in the title of Custer and the Cheyenne as opposed to the proper word usage of “Cheyennes” as I’m not talking about a group of people but a single person. The title points to one person, a Cheyenne person.

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This Upton and Sons, Publishers’ book cover is here as it makes this article publicity for the book (published in 1995 and still in print), which in turn makes the next image, which is from the book also publicity. You’ll see the importance of this below.

From 1849 until his death in 1876 he was the keeper of the Cheyenne Medicine (or Sacred) Arrows. As such, he was probably the most powerful person on the central and southern plains, and when he traveled to the north, there too. He had been a warrior, but now he was a chief, a mystic, and a man of peace. The arrows had been given to The People (the Tsistsistas, or as most of you know them, the Cheyennes), and they gave the Tsistsistas power over the hunt and their enemies in war. Ma?heo?o, their one God, their All Father, using the Tsistsistas’ profit Sweet Medicine, provided a set of rules for the arrows that must always be followed at all times. Otherwise a darkness would cover The People and tragedy would haunt them.

What I have just told you is an absolute key for the Sand Creek book working. And let me tell you this is no small task to pull off.

In three of my previous books the keeper of the arrows has played an important part. In the Custer book he is that lone Cheyenne of the title. You can bet that he’ll again play a role in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

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I had seen a lot of Mr. Reedstrom’s illustrations over the years and I contacted him about this and other images for Custer and the Cheyenne. He was gracious and allowed me to use the requested images, and in this instance he allowed me to change the title of his artwork. I will forever be grateful to him for in 1995 and continuing to this day I have zero photos of Stone Forehead. If you know of any, please contact me. (BTW, magazine and book publishers I designed this book along with over 250 books and countless newsletters and ad material over the years.)

He was known as Stone Forehead or Rock Forehead or the Man Who Walks With His Toes Pointed Out. He was also known as Hohonai´viuhk´tanuh, Nan-ne-sa-tah, Nan-ne-sat-tah, and by the white man Medicine Arrow or Medicine Arrows (and by the way, I have found yet another Tsistsistas’ name for him).

One online review ripped the Wynkoop book for specifically listing Stone Forehead’s various names. That was this reviewer’s major peeve: Why waste paper space listing crap that no one gives a shit about (there goes my “GP” rating; I’m back up to “R.”). I’ll tell you why … I’ll tell you why. Recently a book dealing with the Cheyennes talks about two different people: Stone Forehead and Rock Forehead. The author had no clue that he was writing about the same person. DUH????

I need not write any more about this, other than to say, “Hey, online reviewer sharpen your teeth, for my next Indian wars book will give you plenty to bitch about.” I can see his words now: “This tragedy of a writer refuses to learn. Instead of reducing the number of names for a stupid Indian, he has increased them. Un-f—ing believable!”

And the search goes on …

Liza and Manola pulled what I needed to see. They figured out ways to keep me working when they realized that I didn’t take lunch but simply sat at a table outside the Braun and continued to work. Actually on an online interview that is long overdue, is long-winded, and at the moment unsatisfactory. Worse, it isn’t close to being completed. At the moment I’m working at cutting and cutting and cutting. I owe a letter to Wild West, as well as an article on Geronimo, and let’s not forget the malpractice novel, Sand Creek, or everything that must be  in place by September for a date with U.S. immigration (that might determine my continued residence in the U.S.).

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lk spent prime time with Rick West at the two-day event without really knowing much of his background (dummy me didn’t know who he was other than he played a prime role the creation of the Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.). I discovered an open, kind, and interested person. A good listener and someone I enjoyed getting to know, if only slightly. In case you don’t know, he is a full-blooded Southern Cheyenne peace chief. Also, in case you don’t know, he is president and CEO of the Autry National Center. I believe he assumed this position in December 2012. Earlier that year I had parted company with the technical world and didn’t want to approach him for fear that it might look like I was hustling him for a job. In 2011 I had approached him on a five-part documentary that would have been costly on Wynkoop and the Cheyennes. He wasn’t interested, even though I had key people lined up (including Indian wars historian Jerry Greene and Cheyenne Chief Gordon Yellowman; both spoke at the symposium).

Yes, I juggle projects. I must, for most projects take years to complete and no writer can disappear from the public for that long and expect his readers to return. That means articles must be written, talks (and this is now a sorry subject, and one from which I’ll not bend—when I go on the road I will receive my full salary and all expenses, as I had as recently as September 2012, or no talk). Look on the bright side; I have more time to write.

The days are busy, but on the plus side they keep me out of trouble.

Upcoming blogs

  • The song remembers when
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers