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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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


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

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


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

My view: I love walking on Mother Earth.

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

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

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

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

All of them are magnificent!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The year 2017 is one for the California record books

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

Something needs to be said about earthquakes

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

I guess it’s all about perspective.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Front and center in an unbelievable story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See below for the continuation of this story. …

The creation of history

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara Hershey and a film I like

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

Last of the Dogmen

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

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

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

Sand Creek players have been pounded time and again …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and the Cheyennes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Territorial governor John Evans has been pounded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the reality of our times

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

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

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

Another story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and this includes some mixed-blood Cheyennes

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

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

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

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

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

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

A wonderful research surprise in Downtown LA

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

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

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

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

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

The people of Sand Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A small repetition

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

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

I love what I do.

An Errol Flynn tidbit

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

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

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

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

Closing thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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


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

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

A return to John Simpson Smith

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

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

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

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

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

AND …

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

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

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

Huh?

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

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

Add Left Hand to “Why John Simpson Smith?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I’m slow, but that’s just me.

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

“I Stand By Sand Creek!”

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

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

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

This is on my to do list.

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

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

Other media and this blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I evil? No, I don’t think so.

The LK blogs …

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

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

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

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

Back to the Sand Creek manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is what it is

… And my life is good.

Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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


I thought that I had completed my work on my “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” article for the October 2015 issue of Wild West magazine until I would proof the design layout. No! The article now requires more work. As must be expected the World History Group, which now owns the former Weider History Group’s stable of history magazines, is making major changes to the look and feel of the magazines. … This affects the entire publishing staff in Leesburg, Virginia, as well as the freelance writers that contribute to the magazines. This blog not only preempts my work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, it has also preempted my ongoing work on upcoming blogs.

Just for fun, a quick change of pace …

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Sudeshna Ghosh, my friend and former manager at SeeBeyond Technology Corporation and Sun Microsystems liked this image of lk. Russ Williams, a writer, screenwriter, novelist, and friend dating back to the early SeeBeyond days and beyond also liked this image, which was taken earlier this year. I actually don’t like what I look like, and this simply means that my appearance constantly changes. That said I do like this image, which has appeared on other social media. Both Sudeshna and Russ liked the long hair (and long hair is decades in my past). Still pirates and frontiersmen wore their hair long, as did the Cheyennes and Apaches. Perhaps it is time for lk to belly up to the people he writes about. Ned Wynkoop, Kit Carson, George Armstrong Custer, Black Kettle, Geronimo, Bull Bear, Roman Nose, if I want to walk with you perhaps it is time that my hair is as long as you wore your hair. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

I’m okay with birthdays except for mine, which I absolutely hate. Since mine is long past I feel safe mentioning it here. Most of you probably think that I’m a motor mouth. Not true. Actually there are many things that I keep very secretive. One happens to be my birthday. This is my least favorite day of the year. Mainly because it loudly proclaims: “Kraft, the clock is ticking and now you have XXX days left.” Not my favorite thought. … All this negativity finished, and since my BD is now far in my rearview mirror, I feel safe to post an image that was taken on that dreaded day at Tujunga House. I’m wearing the cool shades that Pailin had given me (the first non-prescription sunglasses that I’ve owned in 35 years). The new lk? Maybe. For how long? That is a great question for I don’t have a clue. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, or maybe next month. Flip a coin for any date beyond the end of May.

Life moves forward & as Ernest Hemingway proclaimed the sun also rises

All of my proposed blogs haven’t gone live. Why? There’s a reason, but I hate excuses for they are BS. Sorry, but ’tis the truth. Read to the end of this blog and you’ll have at least a hint of the upcoming blogs’ status.

Music plays a large part in my writing world (although I never used it while writing software documentation). … Alan Jackson, Michael Parks, Waylon Jennings, John Lennon, Rhiannon Giddens, Rihanna, Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Tex Ritter, John Anderson, world music (especially Andean, Chinese, and Native American), but perhaps my all-time favorites are film soundtracks (classic music too, but to a much lesser extent).

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An lk rendering of the final duel in Flynn’s Adventures of Don Juan. Something needs to be explained here, and it is very important. To succeed film duels must have three pieces in place: Choreography, performance by the actors and stunt men, and a great editor. If not, the film audience yawns and mumbles “ho-hum” before they fall asleep. I hate to say it but this most often happens, and especially in modern times. Trust me on this view. I learned how to fence while as a teenager I studied under Olympic competitor and film stuntman and choreographer Ralph Faulkner, fought saber competition in college, and as a professional actor learned stage combat and choreographed and fought duels.

This week Hugo Friedhofer’s musical adaptation for the film version of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (20th Century Fox, 1957, which has a great cast including Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, who I luckily interviewed before his death, Errol Flynn, Eddie Albert, and Juliet Greco) shares time with Blue, the obscure Manos Hadjidoakis score for the Terence Stamp Paramount Pictures western film (1968); Ernest Gold’s magnificent score for the 1960 Paul Newman film Exodus; Klaus Doldinger’s score for Das Boot (Columbia Pictures, 1981, which I saw on the day that it opened in San Francisco while playing Miles Hendon during a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper. … I accepted the role as it included me choreographing and fighting the duel, and better yet getting to say much of the dialogue that had been stolen from Flynn’s 1937 Warner’s film of the same name); and Max Steiner’s magnificently composed and conducted score of Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Don Juan (Warner Bros., 1948).

Progress on the Sand Creek manuscript

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In 1990 I moved to Thousand Oaks, California, and was soon after under contract to write The Final Showdown (Walker and Company, 1992). I had always excelled at art in school (no collage classes) and had even contracted artwork and attempted (“attempted” is the key word here) during the 1970s and 1980s to experiment. Nineteen-ninety was a key year for me as I decided to play around with pen and ink. This image of Ned Wynkoop (based upon an 1867 woodcut) was the result. It saw publication in Custer and the Cheyenne (Upton and Sons, 1995). (art © Louis Kraft 1990)

Ouch!!! I thought that perhaps I’d talk about progress writing about Colorado territorial governor John Evans, Rocky Mountain News publisher and editor William Byers and his wife Elizabeth, Episcopal Father John Kehler (the correct spelling of his last name) & Ned Wynkoop.

Nope. Not today.

Oh heck, … I don’t want to be a killjoy. At this point in time, Evans is standalone in the manuscript, but I know that he’ll have connections with Wynkoop and I’m certain with Byers. In one way or another, Byers, Elizabeth, Kehler, and Wynkoop are already connected or will be connected with each other. The question here is, what scenes of them together; especially between Byers and Wynkoop will make it into the draft and not be edited out of it by the time of the final delivery? Arrival timing in Denver for Byers, Elizabeth (different dates), and Kehler have proved problematical but I’m now good to go with them. Progress is good … and maybe even great (from my point of view).

For what it is worth, Byers, Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Little Raven, Colonel John Chivington, Evans, mixed-blood George Bent, and his father trader William Bent will most likely be the leading players in the manuscript. Hopefully others will also play leading or major supporting roles (my research is key here). At the moment Elizabeth Byers is by far my leading lady (unfortunately I just don’t have enough about her, the Cheyenne woman Mo-nahs-e-tah, or even Wynkoop’s wife Louise).

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LK & OU Press Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association (WWA) convention in Newport Beach, Ca., on 17oct2014. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft; © Louis Kraft, Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2014)

OU Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin and I both want to highlight the women as much as possible. To do this, I need to find the information (if it exists). A fellow writer-historian Linda Wommack has offered to help with Elizabeth. I told her that I wanted to get what I knew about Elizabeth in place first, so that I don’t waste any of her time. Am looking forward to our upcoming (alas, long distance) time together. I have located a great image of Elizabeth that I want to use in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, but have seen it dated to both the mid-1860s and mid-1870s. Fingers are crossed that it dates to the 1860s, for if it is from the the 1870s it is out of the scope of the book and I won’t use it. Although I had purchased a low-resolution copy of the image I do not have the permission to post it. Too bad, for it is a great image.

What you see here is an invitation to speak up if you can share information about other key players in the Sand Creek story, including, but not limited to, trader and Cheyenne interpreter John Smith; Major Scott Anthony; Captain Silas Soule; Chivington’s subordinate officers in the Third Colorado (especially George Shoup); as well as other Cheyennes and Arapahos, such has Tall Bull, Bull Bear, Stone Forehead, Lean Bear, and Left Hand (BTW, a bio on Left Hand at times uses notes that are either inaccurate or don’t support the text, which makes the research questionable); Wynkoop’s subordinate Lieutenant Joseph Cramer; and Cheyenne mixed bloods Edmund Guerrier, Charley Bent, and Jack Smith. Over the years I’ve mined Anthony and Soule heavily at History Colorado and at the Western History Department at the Denver Public Library, but I’m certain that there is more on them that I haven’t seen.

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This image of Black Kettle was also an early lk attempt at illustrative art. It also was published in Custer and the Cheyenne. I placed it here just to grab your attention, as I want to bring the chief into the Sand Creek book as soon as possible and I don’t have much on his early life.

The goal is to bring the people in the manuscript to life. It is easier to do with participants that were verbal and left a lot of documentation in letters and other writing or had their actions constantly reported in the press. Guerrier was literate but didn’t leave much behind while George Bent left a goldmine of letters (all of which I have in house, either in his hand or in typescript form).

I know that I have said the following before, but it is worth repeating. I don’t write about good guys and bad guys. My opinion will not be in the book, but if I do my job properly the actions of the people I write about will allow you to form your own view of them. The following is also worth repeating: It is what a person does and not what he or she says about themselves that defines who they are or were.

Kit Carson is in LK’s future

I don’t think that Kit Carson is a supporting player in the Sand Creek story (he is minor at best), but he will be a major player in my writing future (anything you can share about Kit is of great interest to me, and at all times). As far as Kit goes, be warned for I believe that I have all of the books published about him in the 20th and 21st centuries. I also have the bio (in hardbound) based upon what he told DeWitt C. Peters in 1859, as well as a few other 19th century volumes that were accounts of a piece of time spent with Kit and not bios or dime novels. I’m especially interested in his relationship with Indians (yes, the plan is to follow how I wrote about Custer, Gatewood, and Wynkoop).

The World History Group flexes its muscles and takes a bite out of my ass

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lk art of Geronimo based upon the cover art that I created for Geronimo & Gatewood (University of New Mexico Press, 2000). This is just lk playing around with color and line. It isn’t very good and it will never be published. I view art as a learning process, and that is experimenting and trying to create an image that is decent. This is an ongoing process.

No, no, … no … NO!!! I received the World History Group contract for “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” (October 2015 issue of Wild West, and soon to go into production) on 27apr2015.

Editor Greg Lalire and I had already gone through our copyediting (which usually gets tweaked while in production) and we were good to go with the 3800-word feature. Just like in the IT software world, the times they change and to survive a writer must dodge and duck and go with the punches while standing upright. It’s called survival. Greg and I began our working relationship 20+ years ago. Over this time we have become good friends, and we help each other out when needed. Greg is doing what he can to survive the change happening with the 11 or 12 great history magazines that the World History Group now owns (I’ve been there and have done that way-too-many times in the software industry). Greg is a great editor, and he’s also a damned good writer. He will survive.

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I created this map for the “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” October 2015 Wild West article. If it is used, the contractor for Wild West, Joan Pennington, will create the final artwork (and she does good work). Back in 1999 I submitted one of the final pieces of art that was published in Gatewood & Geronimo to Wild West, it was recreated and published in the magazine with no credit (or payment to lk). I complained this time around, and if the map is published I will receive a “based upon” credit. Good, for this is the first time I have ever seen the Valenzuela ambush location and the Gatewood/Geronimo confrontation with Smith & Wood added to a map, and both are major pieces to the Geronimo story. (map © Louis Kraft 2015)

I study my contracts, and anything that is questionable, is not in line with what I want, or what has suddenly become a concern I confront immediately. The contract stated 3800 words. The “3800” was marked out in ink and replaced with “3200.” What? Did I lose 600 words and didn’t see the edit? I called Greg. My timing was perfect. He was typing an email to me that explained what had happened—and it got worse. The “3200” words is now “3000” words, and this word count would now be the maximum for a feature.

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Gregory J. Lalire’s dust jacket image for his novel: Captured: From the Frontier Diary of Infant Danny Duly (Five Star, 2014)

World History Group wants to mimic the Cowboys & Indians magazine, that is they want to obtain better advertisers. I consider the feature content in Cowboys & Indians as little more than fluff (which I can’t stand; oops, I shouldn’t have said that—disregard what you just read). Cowboys & Indians is big on color and images, and even bigger on good advertising. … That, ladies & gents is the future of Wild WestAmerican History and MHQ (three key magazines in my life) while keeping the same historical content these magazines have always had in the past.

My opinion doesn’t count here, for the publisher has every right to do what they think they need to do to stay in business. I agree with this, and as it was with the IT software companies, they need to survive to employ me.

While work is in progress Greg and I always keep good phone or email contact with each other. “Believe me,” he wrote me yesterday, “I know all about the pain of cutting, but as I found out in August, a story can still be strong at a shorter length.” (He is talking about the August 2015 issue of Wild West.)

I have 800 words to cut from a 3800-word article (that is a little over 20 percent of the word count). I will do what is required, and we’ll find out if the article still retains its impact. Hope so.

A few words on long overdue blogs …

For those of you who are wondering about upcoming blogs here’s an update. A blog dealing with what could be a major change in my writing world is ready to post (I just need reality and the future to merge in the present). …. Don’t ask, for I ain’t talkin’. The Thai walkabout blog continues to be written (and it will be an eye-opener, for you and for me), and I have finally begun to draft the unscrupulous writer-historians blog (and it will not be vague). Trust me, for when the unscrupulous blog is published, if ever, I will forever sit with my back to a wall with two Colts crossed over my chest like Wild Bill Hickok. People will be gunning for me and ifGod forbidmy life ends in violence it will be because someone is angry over what I have posted. This is not how I view my future so I hope and pray that my fearful vision never happens.

A few people that know me believe one, and only one thing, about methat I’m good at dramatics. I don’t agree, but my fear of the future is out there, for knowing my past I am aware that unsavory events can and do happen.

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a 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.
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
    Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap.
  • 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).
  • 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.

National Park Service, Ned Wynkoop, & a bad taste

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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


Warning: This blog is different than previous blogs

Although I get along with people I’m not the biggest joiner. Actually I’m a loner. I’m good all by myself, and I never get bored. Ask anyone who knows me in Los Angeles or anyone I know in the Indian wars world: Writer/historian/speakers, editors, the people that live these tumultuous times today working in museums and at national historic sites (NHS) or are what might be considered re-enactors.

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lk reciting a poem per the organizer’s request at the beginning of a symposium in El Segundo, Ca., on 24mar2001. A so-called Little Bighorn battle expert had contacted in the mid-1990s and read a part of his review of my Custer/Stone Forehead book. It was good and he duped me big time. I answered his questions. If a reviewer ever again contacts me with questions I will hang up or delete the email. This man was full of deceit; a hard lesson to learn. This blowhard would speak with me at this symposium. I told the man who organized it to keep him quiet or i would attack him with words. There was no confrontation. This was the beginning of me realizing that what I wrote about would sometimes garner a hostile response. Oh, I spoke about the Custer-Stone Forehead confrontation in March 1869. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

Let’s not forget the multitude of fabulous organizations that deal with this time period. They range from professional organizations such as Western Writers of America and the Western History Association to smaller groups that are more focused on specifics of the Indian wars such as the Fort Larned Old Guard, Order of the Indian Wars, and the Little Big Horn Associates (I’ve named a few; there are many-many more similar organizations).

I often help friends and people I don’t know when I can. That is, when I have knowledge  of something, or access to someone, that might help research and writing. See, I’m not a total mercenary. That said, I need to earn money. The reason is simple: My earning power is now about 25 percent of what it once was. Besides I like to eat once in awhile, and my car loves to gulp gasoline.

For those of you that don’t know how I choose my freelance writing subjects, it’s quite simple. Race relations is the joining thread. Certainly with my Indian wars writing (although Errol Flynn seems a strange choice to be one of my subjects, he was the most un-racial person I have ever written and spoken about—no one comes close to him, no one). In case you don’t know, I basically write biographies while moving easily into other writing formats when I feel like it.


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This is Ivan Hankla. He is a Southern Cheyenne who opened his lodge and heart to me in 2004 when I spoke at a two- or three-day event at Fort Larned NHS, Kans. Other than time required for my participation in the event I spent all my time with Ivan and James Coverdale, a Kiowa. This cemented a lasting relationship with Ivan (who, unfortunately, died a few years back). His tepee was a fully functional lodge as it would have been in the 1860s. He allowed me to photograph it and him over these days. My talk was on the last day and it dealt with George Armstrong Custer riding into the still warring Cheyenne village on Sweetwater Creek in the Texas panhandle in March 1869. More specifically it dealt with Custer’s meeting with Stone Forehead, the Southern Cheyenne chief, mystic, and keeper of the Cheyenne medicine (or sacred) arrows. Custer had an adjutant with him. At any time the Cheyennes could have killed him (and perhaps they might have died for doing it, but I don’t think so for the soldiers’ horses were as jaded as the Southern People’s mounts). I invited Ivan and James to the talk. Ivan told me that they weren’t paid participants of the event. I told him not to worry, that he and James were my guests. If they weren’t admitted to the talks and I couldn’t fix the problem that I wouldn’t speak (oh boy, there’s black mark against the Kraft name). There were no problems and they attended in full regalia. A good day for lk to be alive. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

I think I should mention the images in this blog. There will be three types:

  • Cheyennes and Indian wars people: Friends, acquaintances, but with one ongoing link and that is our connection started with and/or continues because of what I write about the 1860s Cheyenne wars.
  • Collages that hopefully present background that I know a fair amount about Ned Wynkoop, Cheyennes, and the 1860s and the Wynkoop and the Cheyenne connection.
  • Publicity for my writing (sorry).

The goal of these images is simply to show with as little words as possible who I am and my connection to Wynkoop and the Cheyenne people.

Before moving forward I want to make the following clear.
Two national historic sites have been good to me over the years:
The Washita Battlefield NHS (Okla.) and the Fort Larned NHS (Kans.). What
follows has nothing to do with them. I’m proud to have spent hours walking
their grounds and hanging out with their staffs (some of whom have
become good friends). They have been responsible for bringing me
to Oklahoma and Kansas over and over again.
Good times; some of the best in my life.

Early April 2014 and a request

A friend sent me a draft of a National Park Service (NPS) two-page Ned Wynkoop brochure and asked if I’d review it. Wow, what a great idea: a Wynkoop brochure specifically created for the Sand Creek Massacre NHS and the Fort Larned NHS. I jumped at the chance with the hope that I could offer assistance to help the brochure shine.

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Dr. Henrietta Mann is the founding president of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Okla. Her resume is amazing and it covers the entire spectrum of education, including lecturing throughout the United States and the world. In 1991 the magazine Rolling Stone named her one of the top 10 professors in the U.S. She has served as technical consultant on numerous documentaries and a film I like: Last of the Dogmen (1995), which had the premise of Cheyenne Dog Men surviving the Sand Creek Massacre and living as they had in 1864 undiscovered into the 20th century. On 6dec2008, Henri listened to a talk I gave on Wynkoop and his relationship with the Cheyennes. She told me that I was her hero (let me tell you that after I heard her talk that night about the Cheyennes she became my heroine). Anyway, after I spoke on that December 6 morning we spent a lot of time together (and it cemented a friendship that continues to this day). We posed for this image right after we finished our lunch. I had met Henri the previous day (5dec2008) when she saw a performance of the Wynkoop one-man show at the three-day Washita Battlefield NHS symposium. (Photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

Boy, was that ever a lofty ambition. Poof! Gone, long-time gone in a matter of minutes.

After reading only a handful of sentences I realized that the people who wrote the Wynkoop brochure didn’t do any real research (although I heard that the person who drafted the “Final Years” section did research Mr. Wynkoop). My guess is that the other writer(s) got most of their information off the internet (Oh nooooooo ….). Put kindly the two pages were little more than error-riddled prose that would be lucky to receive a passing grade in a high school English class. And those leading the project put it out for review! What were they thinking? … Oh, and if I didn’t mention it, I assume that the purpose of the brochure was and is to introduce Wynkoop and his relationship with Cheyennes and Arapahos to the general public. If yes, this brochure has failed terribly. Other than needing facts that are accurate, it needs focus. From my point of view (POV) the writers, the editor (was there an editor?), and those leading the effort didn’t put much time into the project. The draft sent to me showed little interest in the subject. Did the people assigned the project care? From my POV … No!

Let me tell you a little secret about earning a living
as a writer in the software industry: You had better deliver
accurate and readable prose on deadline. If you don’t
you are in deep “caca.” Let me say that another way:
Hell hath no fury like program and product management
with upper management serving as executioner.

I worked on the Wynkoop brochure for three solid weeks. I had 30 pages but they were not to my satisfaction. Even though I think I had been given a June deadline, that didn’t matter for I had run out of my time. Ready or not I submitted my last draft on May 1.

At this late date I can only assume that my 30-page review went directly to the circular file. There was no response. Nada. Not even, “We read it and we disagree with everything you wrote.” … So much for working for free. Yes, there is a bad taste in my mouth.

A change of focus

I accepted the assignment to review the Wynkoop brochure sight unseen. Once I had read it I wanted to improve the less-than-sparkling prose and the alarming number of errors presented on the two pages.

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The Wynkoop talk focused on his relationship with the Cheyennes. For the first time I used descriptive words in a talk to describe how the Cheyenne and Arapaho women, children, and men were sexually hacked to pieces at Sand Creek. I had previously used descriptive words in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011). When talks have value and I like the subject matter they change and grow as they see life in my future. This was one of those talks.

Those of you that know my writing, know that I live with my projects for what might seem like forever and that over the years the people and projects I write about grow and expand as time passes. I prefer to know a lot about a little (by that I mean a lot about only a few people and the events in their lives) as opposed to a little about a lot. My delivery to the NPS included:

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lk w/Principle Cheyenne Chief Gordon Yellowman (he is one of four principle chiefs). We met in 1999, when he and I spoke at a convention at Fort Larned NHS, and he and Cheyenne Chief Lawrence Hart blessed the Cheyenne-Lakota village site on the Pawnee Fork west of the fort. Since then we have talked at least twice at other events. This photo was taken at the end of a Washita Battlefield NHS two-day symposium on 12dec2011. Gordon, like Dr. Mann, has an impressive resume, which includes teaching art as an adjunct professor at the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College, and as the language director for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ Department of Education. It is always good times when I am in the presence of this gentleman. I have a poster based upon artwork he created prior to our meeting in 1999 that represents the Sand Creek village before and after that fatal 29nov1864 attack upon people that thought that they were at peace. I framed his art and I treasure it. I hope to use it in the Sand Creek book. If I can make it work on the dust jacket, then there, … if not on one of the pages of the printed book. It will depend upon Chief Yellowman, Chuck Rankin (editor-in-chief at OU Press) and his art director. (photo © Washita Battlefield NPS 2011)

  • Kraft qualifications: This was probably overkill, but I have been writing articles, talks, plays, and books about Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyenne Indians (and that includes when they weren’t in the same article, talk, or book) since the mid-1980s. Reason: I figured that those working on the Wynkoop brochure had no idea who I am.
  • Reading suggestions:
    Totally distraught at the less than pristine research, I suggested a number of places to learn about Wynkoop and his relationship with the Cheyennes and Arapahos.
  • Review of the two-page Wynkoop brochure:
    I’m certain that teeth clamped tightly (and perhaps tore flesh inside their mouths) and curses directed at me flowed loudly in a blue-tainted color when my documented words were read.
  • A suggested brochure rewrite:
    At first I began offering rewriting suggestions in the various sections. It didn’t take me long to realize that these suggestions would be ignored, not read, or discarded (probably all). I rewrote the entire two-page draft and submitted it with the review (probably a major mistake).
  • Suggested brochure images:
    I also had a big problem with the images in the brochure draft sent me. Again, the NPS is selling Ned Wynkoop in two pages, but the park service drifts so far away from Wynkoop in most of their images that I almost fell asleep when looking at them. I placed my suggestions in the brochure rewrite section, and the images include the reasons why I suggested them over the images in the draft I reviewed.

Unfortunately my optimism blinded me from governmental reality (which I don’t know much about, but what little I do know dips alarmingly close to the dark side).

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Most of the characters in the novel lived, including Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Stone Forehead, Bull Bear, and on and on. At this point in time (1992) it looked as if I would be a novelist (even though I had nonfiction articles published since the mid-1980s and I had been talking about my subjects at events in the western U.S.A. since that time. My next contracted novel dealt with Kit Carson and the Navajos. But—damn do I hate that word “but”—but the publisher decided to drop their “Western” line. I had an agent and she almost had a heart attack when I stated that I’d sue. She talked me out of it by insisting that I would be blacklisted (I know all about the blacklisting in the film industry). She was probably right, but I know that her main concern was her literary agency. Still I bought into what she said, but we soon parted company. Believe it or not, this opened the door for me to work out a deal with Dick Upton (Upton and Sons, Publishers) and begin writing nonfiction books. Bottom line: LK was one lucky frontiersman.

Those in power had plenty of time to read and digest the Wynkoop brochure review I submitted.

That’s it. End of story. As I said above I heard nothing. I still haven’t heard anything, and at this late date (and approaching September 2014) I don’t expect to hear anything …

… until I make an appearance on a National Historic Site and am recognized. If the review didn’t end my relationship with the National Park Service, this blog will. I’m certain that I’ll be escorted off the property by armed guards and told never to return (John Monnett, do you realize what’s in your future?).

In June a friend who was aware of my Wynkoop brochure review, and who offered suggestions, asked what had happened to the review. Heck, folks, The X-Files still lives (BTW, it, and Michael Parks’ Then Came Bronson, are the only TV shows I have ever liked), for I am certain that the review I submitted now resides in Neverland.

Regardless what people think of me and my writing, and there are people that have actually turned their back to me at conventions and symposiums after I have spoken about Ned Wynkoop and/or the Cheyennes. I guess they consider Wynkoop a traitor to his race and hell, man, the Cheyennes are Indians. You know, the villains of the American story of conquest. I must be a cretin—an un-American—that refuses to go away and die. Regardless of this anger by me directed at a backlash propagated by people that walk through life wearing blinders, my plays, articles, talks, and books that deal with Wynkoop and/or the Cheyennes speak for themselves.

There are two sides to every story

  • A fellow and gal fall in love, marry, and later divorce.
  • Two westerners packing revolvers draw on each other and one has his head blown off.
  • An army invades a foreign land and the people that call this land home fight back.

Another story

A few years back I appeared as the lone guest on one of the many LA talk radio shows. This station actually has two shows airing concurrently. I arrived early and while chatting with the radio host that would interview me I met the other radio host (a talkative fellow). After the hour interview ended (the interview focused on Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland) the host who interviewed me asked if I’d join him to eat a late dinner at a restaurant (it was now 10:00 PM). I agreed.

Before we got out the door the other radio host caught up to us and asked if he could join us. At the restaurant the radio host sat across from me while the other host sat next to him. The other host (vagueness is important here) never shut up while we ate. The host that interviewed me remained mostly quiet. This meant that I had to respond to an ongoing diatribe against the Germans during WWII. How the hell did this subject come up?

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Against All Flags (Universal, 1952). The publicity for the film looked great, especially the American posters, but alas, the film didn’t. This is an Argentina one sheet.

Of course it moved to the genocide of the Jewish people (this genocide happened and it was heinous, but I didn’t want to talk about it). Was this fellow trying to bait me (you know, the false allegations against Errol Flynn). I’ll never know for I didn’t bite. Without warning the other host moved to the actress Maureen O’Hara. I’m not a fan of her films; actually I’ve never seen one of them that I liked (realize that there are many that I haven’t seen). I will say this, the pirate film she did with Flynn (Against All Flags, 1952) is the only swashbuckler of the nine he made that I have nothing positive to say. That said, I read her autobiography, which is a whitewash of her life and a waste of time. Why do people write this cliché crap that means nothing, and if they didn’t write it why do they allow their name to appear below the title?

That said, I know a fair amount about Ms. O’Hara as I have done a fair amount of study of John Wayne and John Ford and she pops up often.

Whew!!! This SOB other host tore into Ms. O’Hara as a heinous Nazi supporter.

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This image of my daughter Marissa and I was taken on 25jun2011 after a Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association symposium in Hardin, Mont., where I talked about Errol Flynn’s Custer and the real Custer (not my best talk on the subject). After the event ended Marissa and I traveled to the LBH Battlefield National Monument with good friends Bob Williams and Linda Andreu Wald. Rain had pounded Montana before our arrival and the Yellowstone River had overflowed. But everything was green. A great time with Marissa, who has traveled extensively with me and knows my view on racism. This image is out of focus and has never had enough bytes for me to fix it, …. thus this line art quick fix (which is still lacking). That’s life; so be it.

Let me tell you racism has played a big part in most of my life. Give me five minutes with a person and I can tell you without batting an eye if they’re a racist or not. What he said about Maureen O’Hara I had never read or heard.

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On September 22, 2012, I spoke about Wynkoop’s efforts to prevent Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock from destroying the Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork, about 35 miles (40 by auto) west of the Fort Larned NHS. Leo Oliva, who spoke on the village site with me on that day, had asked me to represent Wynkoop when he was inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Association Hall of Fame. The induction of Wynkoop and others took place during a huge dinner on the 21st. My friend George Elmore, chief ranger at Fort Larned, loaned me the buckskin coat for the three-day rendezvous jointly hosted by the Santa Fe Trail Association, Fort Larned NHS, and the Santa Fe Trail Center. He also took this image of me leaning against Wynkoop’s home and Indian agency at Fort Larned on the 22nd. My film was black & white and I colorized the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012 & 2014)

I smiled. The other host continued, eventually asking me to comment.

“I know a fair amount about this lady and I have never seen anything close to what you say.”

He refused to shut up, even though my eyes relaxed into my coolest Clint Eastwood glare. … The other host rattled onward.

My smile grew.

“What’s your problem?” he almost screamed.

Violence is violence and it should never happen. I have learned a lot over the years. One is of major importance: If you are going to be in a fight, you have two choices—win or run like hell. This man was a blowhard; actually a bully with words. This man was short and it didn’t look like he exercised. I said nothing. He stood and repeated the question.

I turned on my charm. “You. You’re a racist.”

“I’m not a racist!” My smile grew bigger yet. It unnerved him and he sat down. … After we paid the bill at the table he leaped up but kept his distance from me as he ran for the exit.

I was never invited back to this radio station, even though the host claimed over and over again that he would do a follow-up interview on Wynkoop, Cheyennes, and race relations.

No comment.

A July 25 email and the response

One of my best friends for many-many years is someone I met in the technical world in 1990. We’ve done a lot together and there is a bond between us that is special. He is half Cheyenne, although that has had nothing to do with our relationship. I trust him and often he offers me more than support and friendship for he gives me opinion, review, and advice. Alas, a couple of years back he left SoCal to return to his homeland.

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Although not stated in the collage, Stone Forehead plays a leading role in Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995). As noted above, he played a role in The Final Showdown. He had a smaller role in the Wynkoop book, but he will have as large a role as possible in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (contracted with OU Press).

On July 25, 2014, I sent a long email to a business associate who has become my friend over the years.

One of the paragraphs read: “In the spring I reviewed a proposed two-page brochure on Wynkoop for the National Park Service. The two pages were a joke. Often a sentence contained one or more errors and I don’t think any of the paragraphs were error free. It took three weeks to submit a 30-page document that pointed out the errors with citations that backed up the commentary along with documented facts and suggested rewrites. The response: Zero. Not even a ‘we received it.’ Recently a friend asked what happened, and I told him nothing. ‘Hell, if they trashed what you sent, some of what you submitted would make good copy for one or more blogs.’ (He was privy to what I submitted.) Good idea, and I’m considering it.”

The friend’s response: “Yes, why not post your neglected response to the NPS?

What to do?

lk_computer_2014Ahhh, for there’s the rub. Obviously this blog will make me public enemy No. 1 to the NPS. Just like the racist radio host, I’ve gotten to that age in life where I’m not going to be a good boy and “Yes sir” people to death with views to which I don’t agree. The reason: I don’t care what they think of me, I don’t care if they hire me again, but more important I need to be true to me.

lk the thinker (left). Yeah, I hate to say it, but this is the real me and it is totally focused on my writing projects. I don’t want to say 24/7 but it’s close.

“What to do?’ … yeah I sometimes vacillate

What I can’t or won’t do: Give you my background, post the NPS two-page Wynkoop brochure, and I’m not going to give you the cited documentation to my critique. That leaves me two choices: Drag my rewrite of the two-page brochure into this blog or mimic their draft with my words and image suggestions in place. The second idea is easily doable but it will cost me many hours to duplicate the NPS design. Why waste my time for an organization—the NPS—that doesn’t give a bleep in the first place? I will provide my rewrite of the NPS draft along with a discussion of some the NPS statements, omissions, and errors that bothered me. I’m going to include my image suggestions to the NPS document in the section of the blog that contains my suggested rewrite to the NPS embarrassment.

NPS Wynkoop brochure errors & omissions

Errors are errors and the blatant ones directly related to Wynkoop shouldn’t be repeated ad nauseam in print. They should be pointed out. Also, the NPS also lost focus of their topic and because of this (or perhaps because the writers had no clue what Wynkoop did and/or way-too often omitted what Wynkoop did). Some of these omissions are as large and glaring as the errors. Fear not, for I have no intention of pointing out poor English or spelling errors in this blog (at least I hope not). The brochure headings are listed as in the original NPS Wynkoop brochure draft supplied me.

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LK with Leo Oliva (left) and George Elmore at Fort Larned NHS in April 2012. These two fellows over many years have been responsible for bringing me back to Kansas time and again. A good relationship that has led to friendship.

Early Years (1836-1861)

LK note: I had a lot of problems with this section, but most of them dealt with writing and focus.

  • I asked that the statement that Wynkoop was good with a Bowie knife be removed. Reason: There is only one quote that I have seen that stated he carried a Bowie knife. This does not mean that he was “good” with this weapon. There are images of Wynkoop with firearms but none with a Bowie knife. There is documentation that backs the premise that Wynkoop was “good” firing guns, but other than that one sentence that says he carried a Bowie knife, there is nothing.

ERROR: Wynkoop didn’t move to the “small mining settlement of Denver” for the simple reason that it didn’t exist yet.

He had no duties to perform as sheriff as there was no town or city, no laws, and no jail. Wynkoop’s title of “sheriff” meant nothing; it consisted of words on a piece of paper that the men in the area refused to accept. Of interest: Wynkoop might have named the proposed city that would someday occupy the land that he and other members of the Denver City Town Company, including William Larimer, claim-jumped from the St. Charles Town Company in November 1858: “Denver.”

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I met Deb Goodrich Bisel in 2008 when she invited me to give a couple of Wynkoop-Cheyenne talks in Kansas in May of that year. During the week that I stayed with her and her family, which also included her interviewing me on her radio show in Topeka, we became friends. Good friends. Whenever I see this talented person it is just like the last time was the previous week. She is a bright, funny, and caring writer-historian. This image was taken by Frank Bodden at the Centennial, Co., Order of the Indian Wars symposium hotel on the evening after I talked about Wynkoop lashing in to the U.S. government for what he considered the murder of innocent people in April 2013 (sorry Frank, but I didn’t have enough bytes and played around with the image). I call this my snow trip as I spent eleven days in Colorado and on at least six or seven of them I was snowbound and grounded.

ERROR: Wynkoop didn’t perform any “duties” as sheriff until after he returned to Denver City in late1859.

At that time the budding Denver City still had no jail, he reported to no one, and actually his position dealt with criminal events that happened outside the city limits. No real law existed in Denver or the surroundings and most of the rough and tumble crowd that then occupied the area ignored Wynkoop’s assignment as “sheriff,” which only paid upon arrest and conviction by a “people’s” court (that’s right, no judicial system existed in 1859-1860). This meant that Wynkoop went hungry more often than he feasted. It also meant that he had a lot of free time to figure out other ways to earn money.

Wynkoop did sell some property (mostly within Denver City limits) that he owned as he had been one of the founding members of the Denver City Town Company. He earned extra and much-needed money tending bar in Charlie Harrison’s Criterion Saloon in Denver beginning in1860.

ERROR: Wynkoop never earned money as an actor.

Almost all (if not all) professional actors arrived in Denver as members of acting troupes. Usually there might only be one, two, or three professional actors performing in a play. The rest of the actors that performed on the Denver stage at this time were “amateurs” and they acted without pay. Beginning in late 1859 and extending through 1860 and into pre-Civil War 1861 most of the acting was performed in drinking and gambling houses. During the winter months often many of the men had nothing to do as harsh weather prevented mining. I believe that Wynkoop went on the stage simply as he wanted to meet and woo Louise Matilda Brown Wakely.

LK comment: Actually I think you should totally drop all references to Wynkoop’s acting career to create additional room for Wynkoop’s relationship and interactions with the Cheyennes.

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ERROR: Major misspelling of Wynkoop’s future wife’s first name plus an erroneous middle initial.

Currently her name is listed as LOUIS B. WAKELY. “Louis” is a man’s name; her name was “Louise” with an “e.” Also, using a “B” as her middle initial is WRONG. If you want to use a middle initial, use “M” for “Matilda” as that was her middle name. “B” stands for “Brown,” which was the name of her mother’s first husband and her father.

LK suggestion: List Louise as “Louise Wakely” (my preference) or as “Louise M. Wakely.” BTW, “Wakely,” the name that Louise used at the time she met Wynkoop was her stepfather’s last name.

ERROR: Louise Wynkoop was not a singer and didn’t sing on stage. This comment should be deleted.

LK comment: I have seen nothing that states that Louise sang on the stage. However, since one of her sisters sang on the stage (yes, there were three sisters) and she constantly was recognized as a singer while there were no mentions of Louise singing, this seems like a no-brainer. Check the index in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011) for Flora Wakely, Louise’s youngest sister, or do your own research.

Civil War Years (1861-1865)

Although this section is listed as “Civil War Years (1861-1865)” it is totally mislabeled for Wynkoop’s involvement with the Civil War basically ended in fall 1862 when he returned to Colorado Territory, and perhaps you can extend it to 1863 (as the Colorado military continued to watch for another invasion). When this section moves to 1864 (and even though the Civil War was still in progress, the focus has moved to the Cheyennes and Arapahos. More importantly it has moved to the lead-up to the tragic attack on the Sand Creek village in November 1864. As currently labeled the Sand Creek section should be part of this section and as currently listed the “Sand Creek” heading should be removed and the text from that section should be moved into this section.

I totally disagree with what I said above. The Sand Creek section (as you originally created it) needs to remain standalone. That said, portions of this section should move into the Sand Creek section and this section should be re-dated.

Charge this section to: “Civil War Years (1861-1862)” or perhaps “(1861-1863),” for this can be justified as Wynkoop remained on the alert for a second Confederate invasion (but I don’t think this should be discussed as it would take up precious space in your document).

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Glen Williams & lk at Mission San Xavier del Bac on 15jan2012, which is west of Tucson, Ariz. I needed this trip with my good friend (really a brother whom I met shortly after my brother died in 1990). Our relationship grew slowly but over the years he has become a great friend who is an adventurer with a great interest in the world we live in and in our Indian wars past. If you have paid close attention to some my experiences in the blogs you are aware that at times I am capable of getting myself into trouble. Oftentimes Glen is a calming influence as we explore the present and our American heritage. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

We will obviously miss Wynkoop’s 1863 Ute Indian campaign (thus a gap in your heading dates, unless you use the second dating, which is my choice in the previous paragraph). You have two pages (front and back of one piece of paper) to state what is important and the focus must remain true to what you want to sell: Wynkoop’s relationship with Cheyennes (and to a lesser degree his relationship with Arapahos). This has got to be the focus, and I don’t think you should deviate from it.

The above is editorial opinion, and I sincerely hope you are not offended by it but agree with it.

ERROR: Wynkoop became a 2nd lieutenant on July 31, 1861, and not in August.

ERROR: “The Coloradans joined New Mexico’s Union forces and defeated the Confederates at the Battle of Glorieta Pass…” No. There were no New Mexican forces at this battle. However, there were troops from the 1st and 3rd U.S. Cavalries present.

ERROR: As currently written, the regiment returned to Colorado and then Chivington and Wynkoop were promoted and the regiment became a cavalry regiment. NO! The Glorieta victory didn’t stop the Confederate threat and the invasion hadn’t ended. This didn’t happen until the Battle of Peralta near Los Lunas, New Mexico Territory, in April 1862. Also, that April, and while still in New Mexico Territory Chivington became colonel of the regiment, which then had a “name change” and not a reorganization (that came probably in November). The 1st Regiment of Colorado Infantry became the 1st Regiment of Colorado Cavalry (I’ve also seen 1st Colorado Cavalry Volunteer Regiment), perhaps as early as April but certainly by November 1862 (as you state). Wynkoop received his promotion to major on April 14, 1862. The next day, April 15, the Battle of Peralta ended the Confederate invasion as the Rebels now hustled to get out of New Mexico Territory. There were New Mexican Union soldiers at this battle.

LK comment: I have seen many names for the newly named 1st Colorado Cavalry, and I’m probably good with whichever name you decide upon.

LK comment: Move the third and fourth paragraphs to the “Sand Creek Massacre (1864-1865) section.

Sand Creek Massacre

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I like this image of my daughter Marissa. It hangs on a wall at Tujunga House. Using it here is mainly a reminder to me that I have a lot of research images on 35mm slides but no projector and need to get the slides digitized. We had been tracking Custer when Jerry Russell’s Order of the Indian Wars 1987 tour would end at the supposed Sand Creek Massacre site on private property. 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 on modern-day historians for True West (1990). While the tour assembled on the bluffs, Marissa and I explored the land below. (photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 1987)

LK comment: This section has no dates. I suggest adding “(1864-1865)” to the title of the section to retain consistency with the rest of the document: “Sand Creek Massacre (1864-1865).”

LK comment: I moved paragraphs three and four from the Civil War section to this section and these paragraphs are now paragraphs one and two in this section (see the suggested LK draft, below). BTW, I had problems with both paragraphs and commented upon the NPS text within the paragraphs (this you won’t see in the blog).

LK question: Was Left Hand’s band part of Little Raven’s band? If not, I believe that you should feature Left Hand as he and a small number of Arapahos were at Sand Creek and Little Raven wasn’t at the time of the November 29 attack.

LK request: I’ve recently heard (without seeing documentation) that Left Hand is being removed from the Sand Creek Massacre NHS. If so, why? If Left Hand wasn’t at Sand Creek and didn’t receive wounds that ended his life there I would like to see proof. This is a major request from me for if true it needs to be in the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript that I’m currently writing.

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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 Signers & 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 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). (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

LK comment: You have repeated Black Kettle’s quote, “This white man is not here to laugh at us…but, on the contrary, unlike the rest of his race, he comes with a confidence in the pledges given by the red man,” which is in the subtitle of the brochure, and quoting it a second time is redundant. To save space I suggest cutting it here.

BTW, the George Bent quote in the subtitle is not redundant at the end of the document as he sums up what Wynkoop meant to the Cheyennes and Arapahos.

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As you know I take photos and create art. The reason is twofold: 1) Often there are not enough historical images to tell a story (and publishers rightly don’t like to keep printing the same images over and over again), and 2) They can bring in much-needed money. I created this portrait of Wynkoop in 2007. Since then it has appeared in two anthologies and two magazines. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

ERROR: You called John Evans a “new” territorial governor, which implies that he was a novice and didn’t know what his duties were. By late summer/early fall 1864, Evans, who was the second territorial governor of Colorado Territory, had served as governor longer than William Gilpin had during his entire tenure as the first territorial governor.

ERROR: You state that the Cheyennes and Arapahos that moved to the Big Sandy and were involved in the Sand Creek Massacre made the move in mid-October 1864.

The Cheyennes and Arapahos that were attacked at Sand Creek on November 29, 1864, didn’t make the move until after Anthony replaced Wynkoop as commander of Fort Lyon in November (at least Black Kettle, Little Raven, and Left Hand didn’t; for Left Hand and Little Raven met with Anthony and Wynkoop in November, and later Left Hand and Black Kettle met with Anthony and Wynkoop. Anthony reached Fort Lyon on November 2 but didn’t inform Wynkoop that he was replacing him as commander until November 5 (see below for the reason why Anthony replaced Wynkoop). After being replaced by Anthony, Wynkoop and Anthony met with Little Raven and Left Hand (their village, which was about a mile from the post consisted of 113 lodges and 652 people.). At this meeting, Left Hand said that he “was willing to submit to anything; that the whites might place him in irons, or kill him, but that he would not fight them.” A short while later, Anthony, Wynkoop, Capt. Silas Soule, Lt. Joseph Cramer, and Lt. William Minton (Minton was a member of the First New Mexico Volunteers) met with Black Kettle and Left Hand at the commissary on the hill above Fort Lyon (this was the former Bent’s New Fort, which William Bent had sold to the military). It was at this meeting that Anthony told the Indians that if they moved to Sand Creek that they would be under the protection of the military. And, AND they didn’t move away from the post until Anthony insisted that they move away. According to Anthony, Black Kettle and his band reached Sand Creek on about November 17, as he placed it 12 days before Chivington attacked the Sand Creek village on November 29.

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Wynkoop’s home & Indian agency was located just outside the perimeter of Fort Larned, and southwest of officer’s row on the western side of the post and just south of the bend in the Pawnee Fork (this view is from the east/slightly northeast). The southern wall of the Wynkoop agency/residence (photo left, and not seen in this image) had two wooden walls with stones between the walls to protect against ride-by shootings. When Cheyennes (such as Black Kettle, Tall Bull, Stone Forehead, and Roman Nose) visited Wynkoop at the agency they and the people that then traveled with them camped to the south and west of the building. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

MISSTATEMENT, and as Stated, an ERROR: Wynkoop set out for Kansas to assume command of Fort Riley (although he would command it for a few days in December 1864).

Wynkoop had been removed from command at Fort Lyon for being absent from his post in time of war and had disobeyed orders, risked his command, and met with warring Indians in September 1864, and it looked as if he would face a court-martial. Anthony informed Wynkoop that his orders were to investigate officers (meaning Wynkoop) that fed hostile Indians in violation of orders. The military wanted to get rid of Wynkoop, and as quickly as possible as it viewed him as little more than an embarrassment. Hell, a war was going on; you don’t try to make peace and end it and that is exactly what Wynkoop attempted to do.

ERROR: You state that Col. John Chivington and his combined First and Third Volunteer Cavalries departed Fort Lyon on November 29. Actually Chivington’s command left Fort Lyon on the evening of November 28 at 8:00 PM.

MAJOR ERROR: Wynkoop didn’t visit the Sand Creek village site before he wrote his January 15, 1864, Sand Creek report on the massacre. Although he might have traveled to the site before June 1865 when he took Joint Special Committee members Senators James Rood Doolittle, Lafayette S. Foster, Edmund G. Ross, and Gen. A. McDowell McCook to see the bloody ground, this isn’t confirmed. We know that Wynkoop visited the site with Doolittle in June 1865. FYI: They saw the skeletal heads of small children with bullet holes through the top of their sculls showing how they might have died.

leoOliva_23sept2013_PawneeFork_border

Leo Oliva speaking about the events that led up to the April 1867 destruction of the Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork by Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock on 22sept2012. This three-day rendezvous co-sponsored by the Fort Larned NHS, Santa Fe Trail Center, and Santa Fe Trail Association was a marvelous affair. It included talks, re-enactors, book signings, and historic personages being inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Association Hall of Fame. Leo gave his talk from the east side of the Cheyenne village site. As you can see, I was to his left and slightly behind him. The crowd also circled to his right, with some behind and above him where the main portion of the village had been located. Leo and I were the only two speakers at the village site on that day. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

Timeline for Wynkoop’s Sand Creek report: Wynkoop arrived at Fort Lyon on the evening of January 14, 1865, assumed command the next day, interviewed participants and non-participants of the attack, and on that same January 15th day submitted his Sand Creek report.

LK comment: The investigations into the attack on the Sand Creek village were exploratory for information on the tragic event; they never were investigations that would lead to a trial as Chivington had mustered out of the military before the investigations began, which placed the colonel beyond military court-martial.

Indian Agent (1866-1868)

ERROR: Wynkoop was not an Indian agent at the Little Arkansas River peace council in fall 1865. He commanded the military escort for the peace commissioners.

pawneeFork_Hart&YellowmanBlessing_24apr1999_tight_ws

The day is April 24, 1999, and it was a special day, for on this day Cheyenne chiefs Lawrence Hart and Gordon Yellowman blessed the Cheyenne-Lakota village site that Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock destroyed in April 1867. Cheyenne Chief Lawrence Hart stands just right of center with his hands folded. Cheyenne Chief Gordon Yellowman is praying at the right of the image. About four people to the left of Chief Hart (as we look at the image) is Connie Yellowman with the robe wrapped around her, Gordon’s wife. I met her early on the first day of the Fort Larned Old Guard event when both of us went to the office of our lodging to get coffee. She had read Custer and the Cheyenne, knew I’d be present, and brought her copy of the book for me to sign. Ladies and gents, in case you don’t know it I have written extensively about the Southern Cheyennes and have always been true to my view that people are people and that there are always two sides to a story. Connie loved what I had written about the Cheyennes. The sergeant at the far left of the image is George Elmore. At this time he was chief historian at Fort Larned NHS (he is now chief ranger at my favorite destination, which always includes the Pawnee Fork village site). I met George in 1990 or 1991 when I researched the novel The Final Showdown. He gave my daughter Marissa and I a private tour of the fort. I have photos, but unfortunately they are slides and were never printed and now reside in boxes and long unseen—I need to do something about this, and soon, as I have many images dealing with my research that are on slides. Sorry about duplicating what I said above in the image of my daughter but this task is a must. (photo © Louis Kraft 1999)

OMISSION: Wynkoop renegotiated the 1865 treaty agreement in spring 1866 with Cheyennes, Dog Men, and Arapahos that had mostly avoided the peace council. Wynkoop was on detached duty from the military at the time. Wynkoop arrived at the Bluff Creek, Kans., camp on February 25. Black Kettle was present, as was Stone Forehead, Keeper of the Sacred Arrows (a coup for Wynkoop). The next morning Dog Men waited for Wynkoop outside his tent, and they weren’t friendly. On February 28 Wynkoop held an initial meeting with Cheyenne and Dog Men leaders. That night he learned that Dog Man Porcupine Bear threatened to kill him if any Cheyennes or Dog Men touched the treaty paper. Nevertheless a nervous Wynkoop held his main council with the Cheyennes and Dog Men on March 1. Bull Bear and Black Kettle helped Wynkoop, who kept calm and got most of the Indians to agree to the changed treaty. However, Dog Men threatened Black Kettle if he touched the updated treaty paper and the chief didn’t make his mark on the paper. And there’s more. Wynkoop spoke with Little Raven’s Arapahos on March 2, and later yet had a second meeting with other Dog Men. Wynkoop also received a young woman whose freedom had been purchased while he was still at the first council site.

pfVillage_1_23apr99_fb

This is one of my favorite photos of all time (so much so that it is the header for my website/blog). I took this image on 23apr1999 when Leo & Bonita Oliva and George Elmore took me (and my then girlfriend) on a private tour to the Pawnee Fork village site and then an exploration of the site. Some of the Cheyenne re-enactors had set up their lodges on the Cheyenne portion of the village site. One of them invited us to spend time in his lodge. During our visit with him and other Cheyenne re-enactors he boiled buffalo tongue over the open flame at the center of the tepee. For me this was a very cool experience. (photo © Louis Kraft 1999)

OMISSION: In 1867 you attempt to deal with Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock’s destruction of the Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork but you have totally missed Wynkoop’s participation in the events that led up to the destruction of a peaceful village, which started yet another Indian war as Wynkoop warned.

OMISSION: What happened at the meeting at Fort Larned, with Cheyenne leaders including Dog Man Chief Tall Bull? Wynkoop was present and mixed-blood Cheyenne Edmund Guerrier interpreted when Hancock threatened the Indians with war. What about Tall Bull asking Wynkoop to stop Hancock from moving toward the Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village as the Indians feared another Sand Creek? I’m afraid you are missing a major point here.

lk_paulineEadsSharp_PF_KS_22sept12_ws

I had created this montage before I began to piece together this blog. In Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I used the word “Sioux” to represent the people I was writing about, mainly because the primary source quotes called these people Sioux. Words that represent people have changed as language usage has changed. In the blog I chose to call these people “Lakotas.” I don’t know which word I’ll use in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. However, I know that the primary source quotes will still say “Sioux.” This is a problem that I’ll think about right up until I deliver my polished manuscript. That said, I should say something else here. I use Cheyenne words in my writing whenever possible, and believe me the spelling of these words has matured and changed quite a bit since the 1980s. That said, this is an ongoing quest for me for I want to know the Tsistsistas’ words, I want to know how to pronounce them. and believe me I use the spoken words in talks and plays. It is a living language, and it must never die. I’m sorry, “Tsistsistas” means “Cheyennes” (a white word); it means “The People.” There is much more to the Tsistsistas’ name, much more. Simply, it represents the Northern and the Southern Cheyennes, and the Dog Men military society (remember, “Dog Soldiers” is a white man word) that for all intensive purposes functioned as a third segment of the tribe by the 1850s. There is much more I can say here. I have said a lot in past books and in some articles, and will say more in the Sand Creek book.

OMISSION: The fear of another Sand Creek attack was already in place long before Hancock reached the village (and as pointed out above, Tall Bull told Wynkoop of this fear after the meeting with Hancock). … You’ve missed another dramatic situation. Why not highlight the Indian battle line that confronted Hancock’s army miles before it reached the Pawnee Fork village? Wynkoop rode between the lines and prevented a battle that day. This is well documented.

ERROR: The Pawnee Fork village was occupied when Hancock’s army set up camp near it. This is well documented.

OMISSION: What about Wynkoop’s massive efforts to save the village from destruction after the Indians fled their village in fear of their lives? You’re writing about Wynkoop and yet you ignore this. Unbelievable.

LK suggestion: Read the chapter on “Hancock’s War” in Kraft, Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011), 178-201, and William Y. Chalfant, Hancock’s War: Conflict on the Southern Plains (Norman, Oklahoma: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2010) for information on what happened at the Pawnee Fork in April 1867.

LK comment: Obviously I have major problems with the Hancock 1867 expedition to confront the Cheyennes and Wynkoop’s participation in the events. You miss what happened, you miss the dramatics of what happened, and you exclude Wynkoop from the events, even though you are supposedly featuring him in this brochure.

gordonYellowman&HarveyPratt_11nov2011

Principle Cheyenne Chief Gordon Yellowman (left) and traditional Cheyenne Peace Chief Harvey Pratt (who I met for the first time) on 11nov2011 at a Washita Battlefield NHS two-day symposium. On this day Gordon blessed the Washita village site and Harvey spoke about Cheyenne warriors of the past and today. Unfortunately Harvey had to leave right after he spoke. On the 12th Gordon talked about what it is like to be a Cheyenne chief. Hopefully both will review my upcoming Sand Creek manuscript. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

LK comment: The NPS allowed three paragraphs for this section, and here is the final paragraph: “In September 1868, after a series of Cheyenne raids in Kansas, Major General William T. Sherman declared war on the Southern Cheyenne. Sherman’s winter campaign punished all Indians, both friendly and hostile. When Wynkoop realized that he could no longer protect the peaceful Indians, he resigned as Indian Agent in protest. He wanted no part in the murdering of innocent Indians.”

LK comment: Yikes!!! The above paragraph is true. But you have missed Wynkoop’s attempt to end the war, and worse Custer’s destruction of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the Washita River on November 27, 1868, is ignored. In case you didn’t know it Wynkoop spoke before a standing room only audience at the Cooper Union in New York City damning what he considered the murder of innocent people. This is a very short paragraph and room must be made to rewrite and increase the word count.

************

lk_craigMoore_washita_6dec08_ws

Craig Moore leads a group of people on a tour of the upper Washita Battlefield NHS trail. Moore is a ranger at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS and helped out on this last day of the three-day event (December 4-6, 2008); I gave two performances as Wynkoop on the first two days and on the third spoke about his relationship with the Cheyennes. When Moore passed Custer Hill, the location from which Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer observed the battle of the Washita (27nov1868), a tragic day for on it Cheyenne Council Chief Black Kettle, his wife Medicine Woman Later (Voh-is-ta), Cheyenne Council Chief Little Rock, and others who did everything possible to remain at peace with the United States died. It was here that Custer learned that soldiers shot at women and children. He rushed to stop the outrage. Ben Clarke (yes, that is correct for I have seen over 500 pages in Clarke’s handwriting including signed letters and he always signed his last name with an “e”), Custer’s chief of scouts confirmed this, and Clarke was no friend of Custer. Three years later Moore spoke of Cheyenne lineage as related to the Sand Creek Massacre in November 2011. I spoke on Wynkoop’s outrage on that day, but he wanted nothing to do with me. Perhaps because I inserted a running commentary during his 2008 tour of the upper Washita, including comments about Stone Forehead. He allowed me to do it, but I don’t think he was pleased. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

LK comment: Wynkoop will forever be remembered for his attempt to end the 1864 Cheyenne war, but the Wynkoop that should forever be remembered is the Wynkoop that did everything he could to prevent innocent people from being killed for the actions of the guilty in 1868. Although this won’t be in the brochure, it should be a highlight in the brochure.

Later Life (1869-1891)

LK note: The below paragraph is in response to this final section in the NPS brochure.

lk_ivan_jake_dec08

Ivan Hankla had set up his tepee at the Washita Battlefield NHS three-day symposium in December 2008. Ivan is at the left in his lodge. The fellow on the right is his nephew, Jake, who helped him at the event. The day was 6dec2008, and it was the last time I saw my friend on this earth. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

LK comment: This paragraph discusses information in detail that drifts far from Wynkoop’s Indian years, and although nicely written doesn’t add value to the brochure. John Chivington didn’t become Wynkoop’s “nemesis,” for Wynkoop simply ignored the man after Sand Creek. Chivington had become a symbol to Wynkoop, the man responsible for the butchery of people that had been guaranteed safety. For the rest of his life Wynkoop refused to acknowledge Chivington other than in relation to the attack at Sand Creek, which he considered a criminal act. Yes, Chivington played a key role in getting Louise Wynkoop Ned’s pension after his death, and he said kind words about Ned.

lk_tujungaHouse_8may2004_1_ws

LK sitting near the bay window in the living room of Tujunga House (8may2004). Ivan Hankla made and gave me the parfleche above my head that April. It is a treasured gift. (photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

There’s always a damned “but.” … But your words have redeemed Chivington at the end of the brochure and leaves the reader with a positive final view of him. It’s good that Wynkoop was “honest and always a gentleman,” but I think here if you are going to use a quote by far the best choice is to repeat George Bent’s quote about Wynkoop. Reason: Not many white men tried to help American Indians. Wynkoop was one of the few whites that truly worked for American Indians, and Bent’s handful of words recognize this. I firmly believe that you should eliminate all reference to Chivington in the final section and go with Bent’s quote.

LK suggested rewrite of NPS Wynkoop brochure

The following is the suggested lk rewrite of the NPS Wynkoop brochure

This brochure is about Wynkoop. Often—way too often—the focus ignores this. If you want to bring his name to the fore of the Cheyenne Indian wars and point out what he did to walk between the races and work for Cheyennes and Arapahos you must maintain focus throughout the entire brochure. This can be done.

What follows isn’t egotistical. Rather it is an attempt to help you create a brochure that is not only true to who Ned Wynkoop was but will give the public that read the brochure a solid vision of who this man was and what he meant to the Cheyennes and Arapahos. … I am submitting a rewrite for this brochure (below). I hope you look at the words and decide if they present to the public who Ned Wynkoop was and why he was important to our Indian wars past.

LK note: I listed both my word count and the NPS brochure draft word count below each paragraph.

Wynkoop brochure heading

Edward W. (Ned) Wynkoop

Wynkoop brochure subheadings

“Best friend [the] Cheyennes and Arapahos ever had.”
Mixed-blood Cheyenne George Bent

“This white man is not here to laugh at us…but on the contrary, unlike the rest of his race, he comes with a confidence in the pledges given by the red man.”
Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle

Early Years (1836-1860)

While growing up in Philadelphia Edward “Ned” Wynkoop (born June 19, 1836) acquired a strong sense of duty, loyalty to country, and racial tolerance from his mother and older siblings. Intelligent, Wynkoop excelled at school and possessed a sound understanding of politics and diplomacy.
(LK paragraph word count, 44; NPS paragraph word count, 45)

25feb13_NWcover300

The NPS chose the 1861 standing portrait of Wynkoop by his father-in-law that was created shortly after he became a captain in the 1st Colorado Volunteer Regiment as their leading image in the brochure. Wonderful choice! My editor at OU Press, Chuck Rankin, wanted to use the great image of Wynkoop, Capt. Silas Soule, Black Kettle, Bull Bear, John Smith, and others that was taken after the September 28, 1864, Camp Weld conference ended. I spent days trying to crop the image and make it work on a dust jacket and failed. I told Chuck that I wanted the 1861 portrait on the Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek dust jacket. I also said that I wanted it colorized. The art director made it clear that OU Press didn’t colorize, but they did do duotones. This fellow, who doesn’t think much of me, created this great cover for the Wynkoop book. I couldn’t have been happier (even though the art director might have a different opinion). I’m certain that when I finally deliver the Sand Creek manuscript that he will begin to have heart palpitations, and cry out: “Oh Lord, no more Kraft!” That’s right, I have a sparkling reputation with production teams.

In 1856 Wynkoop followed his sister Emily and her husband to Lecompton, Kansas Territory, to seek his fortune. At this time violence predominated as Free-Staters and pro-slavery Border Ruffians battled for supremacy. To survive Wynkoop became skilled with weapons.
(LK paragraph word count, 39; NPS paragraph word count, 50)

LK note: This shortened paragraph may allow the Wynkoop portrait to move up slightly on the page.

Two years later Wynkoop migrated to the gold region to the east of the Rocky Mountains that would eventually become the city of Denver. At this time there was no town, law, or government. Although Denver began to thrive by spring 1860, Wynkoop, like many, struggled to survive as he worked as miner, land speculator, sheriff (which paid only upon conviction), and bartender. On the wild side, Wynkoop hung out with a rough crowd and became known as a “bad man from Kansas.” A professional actress named Louise Wakely caught his eye and he wooed her.
(LK paragraph word count, 96; NPS paragraph word count, 97)

Civil War Years (1861-1863)

An Act of Congress created Colorado Territory on February 28, 1861. Less than two months later the Civil War began. Rumors swirled of a Confederate invasion of the Southwest. With the gold region threatened, in June the first territorial governor. William Gilpin. created the 1st Regiment of Colorado Volunteers even though he had no War Department authorization and no funds. Although Wynkoop still fluctuated between law and lawlessness Louise had calmed him down. He enlisted, and on July 31 received a commission as second lieutenant of Company A. On August 21 Wynkoop married Louise, and before month’s end a promotion made him captain and reporting to Major John M. Chivington.
(LK paragraph word count, 109; NPS paragraph word count, 110)

In January 1862 a Confederate brigade entered New Mexico Territory and defeated Union forces at the Battle of Valverde. Orders sent Wynkoop and the 1st Regiment south to confront the invasion. The Coloradans defeated the Confederates at what has since been known as the Battle of Glorieta Pass (March 26-28). When the regiment’s commanding officer resigned in April promotions made Chivington colonel and Wynkoop major. On April 15 Chivington, Wynkoop, and the Coloradans, along with New Mexico Volunteers, defeated Rebel forces at the Battle of Peralta, near Las Lunas, and ended the Southern invasion. By November 1862 the regiment became the 1st Regiment of Colorado Cavalry. (LK paragraph word count, 106; NPS paragraph word count, 101)

Sand Creek Massacre (1864-1865)

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The second NPS image in the brochure is the done-to-death line art of Black Kettle by John Metcalf (without giving the artist credit). I think it is a poor choice as dramatic events confronted Wynkoop at this time, including facing the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line on September 10, 1864 (this image represents Wynkoop seeing the battle line). He not only kept his cool but he maneuvered through potential death without violence that day. I created this art specifically for Wild West (it appeared in the August 2014 issue of the magazine) and I will use it in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. I offered this art free of charge to the National Park Service to use in the Wynkoop brochure for the Fort Larned and Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Sites with the stipulation that it uses this credit: (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Wynkoop assumed command of Fort Lyon on the Santa Fe Trail in early May 1864. On September 3 he saw two letters from Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, who wanted to end the war that raged all summer. Wynkoop led 127 officers and men toward a large Cheyenne-Arapaho encampment on the Smoky Hill in Kansas to discuss peace. On the morning of September 10 Wynkoop faced a massive Indian battle line. He thought he and his command would die, but instead Black Kettle prevented violence, and he met Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal leaders in council. Although threatened with violence by Dog Man Chief Bull Bear Wynkoop remained calm (Dog Soldiers is a white-man term). Wynkoop received four white children and seven chiefs accompanied him to Camp Weld, below Denver, to discuss peace with second Territorial Governor John Evans. During the council Wynkoop and the chiefs thought that war had ended pending the decision of the U.S. government.
(LK paragraph word count, 156; NPS paragraph word count, 155)

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The NPS’s third image is on page 2 in the Indian Agent section. It is an “Image of a typical Cheyenne village in the 1860s.” I might as well say this here: This is a brochure on Wynkoop. It has four images and only one is of Wynkoop, and it was taken long before Wynkoop met or worked with Cheyennes and Arapahos. Hello???? I don’t think I need to say anything else about the poor choice of images. This image appeared on page 124 of Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011). As it has many of the leading participants in the events that led up to Sand Creek, the attack, and the aftermath it is a major image and belongs in Wynkoop’s brochure. Partial caption from the Wynkoop book: “Kneeling in the foreground are Maj. Edward Wynkoop (left) and Capt. Silas Soule. Sitting (from left) are White Antelope (Southern Cheyenne), Bull Bear (Dog Soldier), Black Kettle (Southern Cheyenne), Neva (Arapaho), and No-ta-nee (Arapaho). Standing (from left) are unidentified, Trader Dexter Colley, Trader/Interpreter John Smith, Heap of Buffalo (Arapaho), Bosse (Arapaho), Secretary of Colorado Territory Samuel Elbert, unidentified soldier. Note that Neva has sometimes been identified as One-Eye (Southern Cheyenne), Heap of Buffalo has sometimes been identified as White Wolf (Kiowa), and that Bull Bear has sometimes been identified as the fourth sitting from the left, which is incorrect as a close examination of the many images of him in later life conclusively prove.” Courtesy: History Colorado (Scan #10025492)

On November 5, 1864, Maj. Scott Anthony relieved Wynkoop of command at Fort Lyon for acting without authority and feeding warring Indians. Wynkoop set up meetings and introduced Anthony to Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand. Anthony demanded that they move away from the fort but promised military protection. By November 17 Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village camped on a bend of the Big Sandy. A small band of Left Hand’s people also camped there. Expecting to be court-martialed Wynkoop set out for Kansas on November 26.
(LK paragraph word count, 87; NPS paragraph word count, 88)

On the morning of November 29, 1864, Chivington and approximately 675 soldiers of mostly the 1st and 3rd Colorado Volunteer Cavalries attacked the Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Big Sandy Creek. The soldiers showed no mercy and killed women, children, and old people. Many horribly. Almost all the bodies were scalped and mutilated. Somewhere between 160 and 200 Cheyennes and Arapahos died in what has become known as the Sand Creek Massacre.
(LK paragraph word count, 72; NPS paragraph word count, 80)

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This is a detail of a woodcut that shows the chiefs that traveled to Denver and Camp Weld with Wynkoop in September 1864. It was created in the 19th century and is part of my collection. I colorized this image and offered it to the NPS as an alternate to the Camp Weld photo (the Camp Weld photo belongs in the Wynkoop brochure much more than the 1861 Wynkoop portrait). This image shows Bull Bear (left) and Black Kettle, both of whom played large roles in Wynkoop’s relationship with the Cheyennes. (Colorization © Louis Kraft 2013)

When Wynkoop learned of the attack his shock gave way to rage. He demanded an interview with Maj. Gen. Samuel Curtis, who commanded the Department of Kansas. Curtis listened to Wynkoop, who damned Chivington for the murder innocent people. Exonerated for his actions, in late December Wynkoop received orders to resume command of Fort Lyon and report upon the attack. He interviewed participants and leaned that “three-fourths of [the dead] were women and children, among whom many were infants.” Wynkoop’s report along with other reports of the massacre resulted in two Congressional investigations and launched a U.S. Army Commission investigation. Chivington’s attack was officially condemned, but as he had previously resigned his military commission he was never court-martialed.
(LK paragraph word count, 118; NPS paragraph word count, 118)

The Sand Creek Massacre resulted in an Indian war of revenge that began in January 1865. Hoping to end the war peace commissioners met with tribal leaders on the Little Arkansas River in Kansas in fall 1865. Wynkoop commanded the military escort. Instead an arrow in the back as Wynkoop expected, Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders asked he be named their agent.
(LK paragraph word count, 61; NPS paragraph word count, 58)

Indian Agent (1866-1868)

While on detached duty from the military in 1866 Wynkoop met Cheyenne and Dog Men leaders in council at Bluff Creek, Kansas (February 28-March 1) to get them to agree to railroad tracks crossing prime buffalo hunting grounds. Although threatened if Cheyennes touched the changed-1865 treaty paper Wynkoop, with Black Kettle and Bull Bear’s help, obtained needed signatures. In June Wynkoop, who now considered Indians human beings, resigned his military commission and applied to become an Indian agent. As a special agent Wynkoop fed hungry Cheyennes before President Andrew Johnson appointed him U.S. Indian agent in September 1866.
(LK paragraph word count, 97; NPS paragraph word count, 100)

nw1867pawneeForkART_lkCollection_ws

The fourth and final NPS image is a long-distance image of Fort Larned, Ks. Who cares! The Fort Larned NHS brochure features a magnificent color artistic rendering of the fort. What value does a long shot of the fort provide to the Wynkoop brochure? Nothing, absolutely nothing. This image shows U.S. Indian agent Ned Wynkoop (left) with interpreter Dick Curtis, one of the interpreters accompanying Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock’s massive army as it approached the Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork (about 35 miles due west of Fort Larned, Ks., in mid-April 1867). Wynkoop, with mixed-blood Cheyenne Edmund Guerrier, whom Wynkoop often used as an interpreter, rode between the lines and prevented violence between perhaps 400 Tsistsistas, Dog Men, and Lakotas and about 1400 soldiers under the command of Hancock. Later, after Hancock’s army camped close to the Indian village, the Indians deserted it in fear that they were about to be butchered. Wynkoop fought with Hancock for days to protect the deserted village as these people had done nothing wrong, other than fleeing in fear that they would be sexually murdered and desecrated as the Cheyennes and Arapahos had been at Sand Creek. Theodore R. Davis artwork (author’s collection)

Wynkoop established his agency near traditional Cheyenne hunting lands at Fort Larned in southwestern Kansas. The fort’s isolated location afforded an opportunity to protect his wards that desired peace. In spring 1867 Maj. Gen. Winfield Hancock, with 1400 soldiers, threatened perhaps 12 leaders of the “Dog band,” as Wynkoop called the Dog Men, during a night meeting at Fort Larned on April 12. After the council Dog Man Chief Tall Bull told Wynkoop he feared another Sand Creek. Late that night Wynkoop tried but couldn’t stop Hancock from marching toward a Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork on the next day. When an Indian battle line confronted Hancock’s army Wynkoop rode between the lines and prevented violence. Soon after Hancock’s arrival at the village the Indians fled in fear of their lives. Wynkoop fought to save the Indians’ lodges and property, but Hancock refused to listen to him, destroyed the village, and as Wynkoop predicted started what has been called “Hancock’s War.”
(LK paragraph word count, 162; NPS paragraph word count, 163)

In August 1868 a Cheyenne-led war party killed settlers in central Kansas and started another war. Wynkoop could not stop it and resigned his commission in protest. After his friend Black Kettle (whom he called “Make-tava-tah”) died in a dawn attack on November 27, Wynkoop lashed out at U.S. government policy for what he considered wanton murder of innocent people in New York City on December 23.1
(LK paragraph word count, 67; NPS paragraph word count, 61)

1 See Kraft, Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011), for variations of Black Kettle’s name including what Wynkoop called him, 111.

Later Life (1869-1891)

In 1869 Wynkoop applied to become Superintendent of Indian Affairs, but because he spoke out against government policy and dared to suggest that Indians become U.S. citizens his application was denied. Wynkoop lived another 22 years and more than once attempted to again work with Indians but the U.S. government refused each request. During these years Wynkoop performed numerous jobs as he provided for his family. He died in Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory, on September 11, 1891. George Bent, who as a Cheyenne mixed-blood, lived through the violent 1860s and beyond, called Wynkoop “the best friend [the] Cheyennes and Arapahos ever had.”
(LK paragraph word count, 103; NPS paragraph word count, 103)

LK note: Wynkoop suggested making Indians U.S. citizens at the Cooper Union in New York City on December 23, 1868. See “Indian Affairs,” New York Times (December 24, 1868), 1. When Johnny Boggs reviewed Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, he wrote (in reference to Indians becoming citizens), “No wonder Wynkoop wore a gun.”

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Obviously when lk next appears at a national historic site
he will be escorted off the premises by an armed guard.
Hell, that’s not so bad for he’ll soon have another life
experience that will be a first. The future is out there
and I can’t wait to walk into it.

Upcoming blogs

  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
  • The song remembers when

Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion

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


Errol Flynn … long time gone? It might seem so, but trust me, dear friends, ‘taint so. ‘Taint so! He’s just been sleeping in Kraft’s head for the last three months. Actually he needs to sleep a little more before I return to him (and Ms. de Havilland) on a regular basis. My writing editors must also feel that Kraft has slowly sunk to Davy Jones’s locker, ne’er to return. Deadlines? What are they? In the past I made them, regardless if they were easy or if it took me months on end (back when I was a writer for the Dark Side) with three to four hours sleep per night day after day with no end in sight until the work delivered on deadline. The Wynkoop book fit this description to a tee. Beginning in December 2010, and this included a major car wreck on the 134 freeway at high speed that totally destroyed a Corvette two days before Christmas (the front end, engine and everything else under the hood, the left side, the rear, and the car frame cracked in half), I missed only one day of work for the Dark Side as there were deadlines to be met. Thank you? Hell, you’ve got to be kidding! Recovery? It took me a year (a year of multiple deadlines for both the Dark Side and the freelance side), but the recovery would never be complete.

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This is a self portrait that I created earlier this year to represent my trials and tribulations when I moved my internet and phone to AT&T U-verse. A major mistake: The phone would disconnect after 10 to 15 minutes and fully 30 to 50 percent of the time I had no internet. I can’t tell you how many technicians visited or how many phone calls I made (on one the calls to AT&T the phone and went dead and they made no attempt call back). … The answer was always: “It’s your computers.” “How come everything worked with my former provider and wi-fi works everywhere except in my house?” My words never sank in until the umpteenth technician again confirmed that all the wires and equipment worked perfectly. “So what’s the problem and how can you fix it?” “It can never be fixed for you are too far from our hub and it will worsen whenever another customer signs up and is closer to the hub.” After three months, that was my out w/o a financial penalty. …. Why this picture now? Because I’m being pulled in many directions, am not well, and daily find myself clawing just to stay with my nose and mouth above water. I’m a survivor and all will be well, but for my whining section of this blog this image seemed appropriate. (image © Louis Kraft 2013)

Sand Creek, Wynkoop, Geronimo? Kraft has learned how to become slow (it took years and years to get me to this point in my life). Hey, give me a break. Doesn’t good wine take years of aging? So does my writing. … I’m just a normal guy, and I have every intention of enjoying the flowers. Greg Lalire at Wild West and Chuck Rankin at OU Press understand this, and you should too. Aged writing is always better than speed-demon prose stolen from published and oft-times error-riddled tomes.

That’s right, many writers are lazy SOBs that do no real research. They survive by stealing from secondary books, and they make no effort to confirm the accuracy of what they are grabbing, and worse, oftentimes they make it sound as if the information is theirs (that’s right: they give no credit to the secondary writer they ripped off). … A sad state of affairs.

Kraft, what are you writing about today? Oh yes, Mr. Flynn swinging a blade.

Swords & Flynn
Swords and Errol Flynn go together. … Flynn was a graceful, athletic, sensitive (bet on it), and intelligent man who easily fit into anything that caught his interest. I don’t think “multi-tasking,” as we now know the term, existed in the 1930s and 1940s, but let me tell you that, term or no term, Mr. Flynn was adept at it. He made his life his.

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lk art of EF as Lord Essex in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939 release), a slow film because of Maxwell Anderson’s prose from his play Elizabeth the Queen (1930), which the writers, producer, and director made no effort to abandon or alter. Bottom line: a shame, for it could have been a much better film. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Many of his critics haven’t acted and haven’t swung a sword, yet they spout out their expertise on what they have little knowledge. Mostly they’ve read books and reviews and repeat what they’ve read with little regard for accuracy of their (or their predecessors’) words. All they care about is that they’ve found mostly negative information that supports their premise, a premise they intend to build their expertise upon. A strong and not pretty indictment. Unfortunately ’tis all too true. I could name way-too-many books that pretend to be factual but in reality are little more than reprinted frauds, and worse they often invent quotes and create notes that have been pulled from the na-na land that we might call their brain.

Enter Ned Wynkoop
Ned Wynkoop? Those of you who read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek know the connection between Wynkoop with Flynn.

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Wynkoop seeing a battle line of Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors in September 1864. Not a good moment for him. This Image first sees print in Wild West magazine (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

I bring up Wynkoop here only as I want to use one example that relates to the above section, an example that I didn’t find, but one that Greg Lalire, editor at Wild West magazine and my friend for many-many years, supplied to me. Greg sent me the following quote from a book he is currently reading in an email (22nov13):

“I’ve been reading a book called The Heart of Everything That Is about Red Cloud but it covers a lot of ground in the Old West. I know Wynkoop didn’t like Indians at first, but what do you think of this paragraph from the book?

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lk art of Bull Bear that will hopefully see print for the first time in August 2014. Bull Bear was an important player in Wynkoop’s life, and an even more important player in the Sand Creek story. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

“‘Fort Lyon’s new commander, Major Edward Wynkoop, was a friend of Chivington’s, and far less disposed than his predecessor toward differentiating between antagonistic and friendly tribes. He looked for any excuse to declare Black Kettle and White Antelope hostiles, and when he found none he simply refused their people food; returned their old muskets, bows, arrows, and knives; and ordered them off the premises. They were, he said, free to hunt in a limited territory bordering a stream called Sand Creek that fed into the Smoky Hill river about thirty-five miles northwest of the fort. The Cheyenne sensed a trap, but they were reassured that as long as Black Kettle flew the white flag of truce above his lodge next to an old American flag the Head Man had once received as a gift, no harm would come to them. Two days after the Indians departed, on November 28, Chivington arrived and Fort Lyon with two field cannons and 700 men of the Third Colorado Volunteer Cavalry….’ Nothing more is said of Wynkoop after that….”

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Wynkoop w/interpreter Dick Curtis on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas in April 1867. Art by Theodore R. Davis and originally published in Harper’s Weekly. (Louis Kraft Collection)

Of course I had to reply to Greg, but only partially as I could write pages and pages about the above quote: “The words from The Heart of Everything That Is gave me a good laugh for many reasons. I’m not going to waste my time with a lengthy explanation, but will say a few things. Wynkoop didn’t order the Indians to move farther away from Fort Lyon (he was already removed from command)—Maj. Scott Anthony ordered them away. And I don’t think Anthony told them where to go or where to hunt (at least I haven’t seen anything that states this). Wynkoop did not ask for the Indians’ weapons; Anthony did (but only for weapons they had taken from whites—no bows and arrows or knives), and Wynkoop certainly didn’t give the Indians their weapons back for he never had them. Wynkoop, after returning from meeting with the Indians on the Smoky Hill and they went to Denver (for the meeting at Camp Weld), was very favorable toward these Cheyennes and Arapahos—although he was still careful around them. … The entire paragraph is a joke. By reading it, I wouldn’t trust much else that is in this book unless there is solid proof of primary documentation.”

My next contracted book is Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and the manuscript deals with this very subject in 130,000-word detail. Based upon one paragraph, The Heart of Everything That Is is so error-riddled that it is unquotable and won’t even make the Sand Creek bibliography. Before returning to Mr. Flynn, I want to close this section w/Greg L’s immediate reply to my email (which was longer than quoted): “Hey, I cringed when I read that about Wynkoop and I obviously know Wynkoop only slightly while he is your best friend. (Well, sort of, I guess). The authors of the book write with a certain flair, but they brush over many things (and I wonder how accurately they brush sometimes). I wonder how much time they have actually spent on Wild West material.”

In regard to Greg’s last sentence and the paragraph he sent me, nothing those writers wrote is valid for in that one short paragraph everything they wrote was wrong.

Swords & Mr. Flynn … continued
Graceful, when describing Flynn, is an understatement. Put Flynn on a horse, and it looked as if he and the horse were one. Place a sword in Flynn’s hand and it looked as if he had been wielding a blade all his life.

Why?

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Errol Flynn holds two sabres as he stands in front of his pool at Mulholland Farm and introduces a dueling demonstration (spring or summer 1945). His seated audience included Gary and Mrs. Rocky Cooper, among others. They were special guests for also on this day Flynn threw a big party to introduce his second wife, Nora Eddington, to the world. (photo: Robert Florczak collection)

Flynn was a great athlete who easily performed physical activities, but there was more. Ladies and gents, Flynn worked at his physical craft. Believe me, riding a horse and swinging a rapier takes practice and more practice. You don’t mount a horse and ride like you are one with the animal if you don’t put in the hours (and I don’t give a damn how good an athlete you are). Ditto the sword. You don’t duel competition or on film/stage without hours upon hours of practice and look good.

Flynn was lazy and didn’t work at his craft! Certainly this statement (or something like it) has been presented to us again and again in tomes written by writers that are less than expert at what they write about. Actually these writers, for the most part, have been little more than hacks that have created a premise and then have attempted to prove it (at times exchanging incomplete and inaccurate research for fiction to create quotes and notes that are as wild as some of the worse prose you’ve ever read in piss-poor fiction. This is nothing new to historical biography (maybe I’ll deal with this in a Wynkoop or Sand Creek blog). Trust me, Errol Flynn put in the time to master the sword for his screen performances.

Although not part of this blog, Flynn’s acting was good (and for the most part, he learned on the job), so good that it holds up well today. The reasons will be made clear in Errol & Olivia. Not to worry, for I’ll touch upon Flynn’s acting (as well as Olivia de Havilland’s acting) in future blogs. I can’t give you the bulk of the book, but I’ll be able to give you a taste—hopefully just enough to excite your curiosity.

Errol Flynn made 9 swashbuckling films, and yes he is known as a swashbuckler. Still, most people don’t realize that he worked in many genres of film: War (7), westerns (8), comedy (4), drama (I didn’t count), … there were adventures, film noir, mysteries. Well, you get the picture, he was capable of performing in different types of films. Of Flynn’s 9 swashbucklers, 4 are classics and are right at the top of anyone’s list of best 10 swashbucklers (2 are on my best 10 films of all time list).

Oh, by the way, there are two other film leading men that were good with a sword: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Stewart Granger.

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They join Flynn on the short list of being much better than the rest of the screen swordsmen, which includes Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Tyrone Power, Cornell Wilde (who, I admit I haven’t seen swing a blade in decades, and you don’t want to know the reason) … all the way to so-called swashbuckling films of the last two decades (most of which survive off of filming doubles, using special effects, and making way too much of the action long shots). As the saying goes, if you can’t see the actor’s face, it isn’t the actor.

Three special mentions need to be made here: 1) Basil Rathbone, who was good with a blade in his hand and whom always looked good (albeit stiff: read, mechanical) trying to kill the hero on film—always,  2) Gene Kelly in the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers, and 3) The actors from three films created by director Richard Fleischer in the 1970s: The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers (1974), and Crossed Swords (1977 or 1978) w/Oliver Reed (released in Great Britain as The Prince and the Pauper, and later on DVD w/this title).

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I never met Olivia Reed, but I did spend good time with Ernie Borgnine in Oklahoma City in April 2012, just months before his untimely death. Ernie was nothing like his screen persona; he was a kind, open, and giving person. Here Reed threatens Borgnine, who is the pauper’s father in Crossed Swords. Nothing but kudos from lk for this film.

Reed was in all three of Fleischer’s films (as was Charlton Heston), and he is by far the best actor swinging a blade in what are really farcical duels—the movements are so large and bold that a first-year fencing student in college could have easily won any of these filmed duels. That said, Reed, who unfortunately died young, looked good on film with the sword.

Conversely, Richard Chamberlain, an actor who has given us many good performances in a variety of roles, including three miniseries: Centennial (1978-1979), Shogun (1980)  and The Thorn Birds (1983) wasn’t very good with a sword in his hand. Chamberlain played one of the leading musketeers in both of Fleischer’s films. After the hit Dr. Kildare TV series in the 1960s he worked on his craft and became a very good actor.

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I’ve picked on Mr. Chamberlain, as he was just human, and not a good swashbuckler. That said, he is a surprisingly good actor. Here he is in an image of him as Cyrano during the key duel of the play. … I’m a firm believer in ad-libbing, that is playing the scene even though it isn’t progressing as written. … Playing the scene! Ladies and gents, this was something that Errol Flynn was very good at, but, alas, something that Chamberlain wasn’t capable of doing (at least not when I saw him act). Acting is doing; it is also living, and when an actor can’t do this on film or on stage, he/she hasn’t prepared properly. He/she doesn’t know his/her character. On that night decades ago, Mr. Chamberlain wasn’t Cyrano. All he was, was an actor, an actor that hadn’t prepared properly to portray a character. He was lost, and it was a sad sight to see.

Case in point. I saw him play Cyrano de Bergerac on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles (8th row center). During “the” duel his blade broke and an actor had to walk to him and hand him another blade (no improvising and avoiding being killed until he had another weapon—the action just stopped, and it wasn’t very good to start with). Worse, the entire duel was boring and anti-climatic. In other words, totally disappointing (especially so since Cyrano was supposed to be the world’s greatest duelist).

I had hoped to discuss in detail some of Flynn’s duels. Unfortunately during the drafting of this blog I changed my mind (blame it on taking too long to complete the blog, which in turn made me realize that I need to keep this information for E&O). My apologies.

I will say this, the dueling in Captain Blood (1935) was a combination of exciting shots/angles filmed on sand and rocks on the California coast. Some of this exhilarating, and some of it farcical. The farcical is not Flynn’s (or Basil Rathbone’s) fault, for they performed as choreographed. They slipped over wet and slimy rocks and kept their balance on the sand—some of this is very good, including Flynn’s death thrust to Rathbone.

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Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone dueling to the death on the beach in Captain Blood (based upon the first part of Rafael Sabatini’s great novel, Captain Blood: His Odyssey, 1922, and romantic illustrations by Howard Pyle and others in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (lk collection)

That said, it is idiocy to swing blades that are thrusting weapons as if they are cutting weapons. Beyond that, Flynn’s swinging a thrusting blade like a saber but so high that all someone with a knife would have to do is duck, step in, and gut him. Again, not Flynn’s fault (but the dueling master’s). … BTW, the saber work on the ships is good.

The above said, Captain Blood is a great film for many reasons (not in this blog’s scope), as is The Adventures of Robin Hood (great for totally different reasons; again not in this blog’s scope). Sorry.

I’m going to say less about the dueling in Robin Hood, actually only two comments.

  1. No one, absolutely no one, can swing a broadsword as they were used in the film.
  2. If you can swallow the total misuse of the weapons and enjoy the dramatics of the sword fighting, the minor duel Flynn has with Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) and the major duel he has with Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) are magnificent.

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Both films and the duels will be dealt with in detail in Errol & Olivia.

BTW, the Oliver Reed-Mark Lester (as the prince and the pauper) film Crossed Swords is much closer to Mark Twain’s novel than the Errol Flynn-Mauch twins 1937 film (The Prince and the Pauper), and in my opinion, a much more satisfying film. That said, Flynn’s sword fight with Alan Hale at the end of the film was a huge improvement in his technique and form over the beach duel in Captain Blood. He now looked like he was a duelist and one to be avoided at the risk of loss of life. Graceful, deadly, but with a cocky panache that Hale’s evil captain of the guard would too-quickly learn, Flynn’s Miles Hendon marked his arrival as a swashbuckler and a suitor to share the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., armor as “the swordsman.”

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EF duels in jest and with deadly intent if need be with Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) in The Adventures of Robin Hood. This duel is really well done and the actors (and the stuntmen) performed admirably. (lk collection)

Flynn’s Robin Hood would confirm this. Although Flynn would rub shoulders with Fairbanks up to and after his own death, with the arrival of The Adventures of Robin Hood in ’38 there really was no comparison. Fairbanks bounced around on film, and he constantly swung the blade, but I would rate him with B-actors in the “talkie” swashbucklers of the late 1940s and early 1950s. What linked Flynn and Fairbanks père was their “swashbuckling” success at the box office.

(Douglas Fairbanks fils, has already been mentioned positively above with Flynn and Stewart Granger. lk: I just got tired of using “Sr.” and “Jr.”)

An in-left field baseball comparison
The following is a way-out comparison, so bear with me. The best baseball pitcher I’ve ever seen was Sandy Koufax of Los Angeles Dodgers’ fame in the 1960s (he also pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but one never knew where his pitches were going back then). No other pitchers have compared to him—none. He was lights out in LA on a team that couldn’t hit the baseball. Meaning he could throw a 1 or 2 hitter with 1 walk and lose the game 1-0.

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The white-haired Duke is batting in an old-timers game at Dodger Stadium in 1980. The Dodgers kindly allowed me to use this image in an 1985 Article, “The Duke of Flatbush” for Sports Parade. This signed image is from the magazine cover (I cropped out the magazine’s name, which was in a separate box above the image). In 1985 I pitched Snider to do a book about his life, but like most of my life I was a day late and a dollar short for the Duke had already signed a contract with writer Bill Gilbert (The Duke of Flatbush was published in 1988). I have a lot of the Duke’s autographs, for in the mid- to late-1980s it looked like my writing career would focus on baseball. The above artwork is by the BB artist Dick Perez (who allowed me to use his great art of the Duke from the classic 1984 Donruss BB card set—not pictured here—in my “The Duke of Flatbush” article. I think my failure to land the Duke set me on track to write about race relations on the western frontier (no regrets, for people are our world—yesterday, today, and tomorrow).

If Sandy had had the Brooklyn team of Duke Snider (see above image), Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, and Pee Wee Reese hitting for him in his prime (and if his career was longer), he would have easily won 30 games in multiple seasons.

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This BB art card was from the 2nd edition of Diamond Classics (1983); Koufax was one of only a handful of players to make the set from his era. … Certainly Clayton Kershaw will be featured in a future blog (as will Koufax, Snider, and Bill Buckner).

The Sandy Koufax comparison to the rest of baseball pitchers (past and present, with possibly the exception of the Dodgers’ current gem, Clayton Kershaw) is what Errol Flynn’s swashbuckler was to the world of film—past and present (and there was/is no Clayton Kershaw in the Flynn equation). The only two swordsmen who are/were rivals in skill to him on film were Doug Fairbanks, Jr., and Stewart Granger, with a distant fourth perhaps being Oliver Reed. Basil Rathbone was very good with a sword, and perhaps would have done well in fencing competition, but alas, on film—and regardless of his skill with a blade—he was stiff, controlled, and worse, so concerned if his dueling stance and form was correct that one could never believe he’d win a duel. Perhaps, as Rathbone egotistically claimed, he could “kill Mr. Flynn whenever he wanted” (lk: This is a paraphrase.), but this is not quite true. Yes, most likely Rathbone might have defeated Flynn in fencing competition where points are scored (but let me tell you, in competition it isn’t always the duelist who strikes first who gets the point; it is the duelist who strikes legally who gets the point. Of course, in a real duel this fencer would be dead before he scored his legal point. My “point” here is this, I’ll take Messrs. Flynn and Fairbanks, Jr., and maybe Oliver Reed (not sure about Granger) over Rathbone in a duel to the death any day. Let me repeat that, any day.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (update #1)

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


As the Sand Creek book now moves forward at lightening speed I thought that the time had arrived to begin updates on its progress.

This blog is the first in what will be a long string of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway postings that deal with status, thoughts, invitations, and quizzes. Not to worry for I’m certain that most of you aren’t interested in swinging a blade—the winners won’t win a free dueling lesson. They will, however, win something that I hope will be of interest.

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Chuck Rankin (right) is editor-in-chief at OU Press. This image was taken in September 2011 when Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was presented to the public (Western History Association convention in Oakland, Ca.) for the first time. Chuck gave me the poster behind us, and it has since been framed and hangs in my living room. The reason is simple: This book is the most important book I have written. Charley Gatewood’s involvement with the Apaches was as important as Wynkoop’s with the Cheyennes and Arapahos, but Gatewood’s involvement was limited to his career within the military. Wynkoop’s involvement with Indians extended beyond the military and eventually challenged national politics. Both dared to stand for what they considered right, but Wynkoop’s fall was greater for he dared to take on his entire world. This took guts. Gatewood’s stance also took guts, but to a lesser degree. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2011)

Years ago Chuck pitched me to write a book about Sand Creek and I said “no,” that I write about people and not war. Chuck didn’t give up and over time we have worked on a storyline that is good for both of us. Our connection with this story idea didn’t stop there and he has been with me as the book proposal developed. It became a story idea that we both liked and we worked as a team. Chuck sent an email a week or so back, and it reads in part:

“Sorry for the delay, but I was going to wait until our Faculty Advisory Board [FAB] pronounced the final decision. That occurs August 13, a week from Tuesday. Meanwhile, our Editorial Committee (an internal committee) met on the project … this past week and gave Sand Creek a unanimous and enthusiastic two thumbs up. So, it’s all a green light to FAB, and I expect no problems there whatsoever.

“It’s all good.”

August 13 will move us to the final piece in making the book reality—the contract. This is always touchy as both sides have items they want. As such, it turns into a round-robin of negotiations. I hate to say it, but I enjoy this. … As soon as the contract is signed, Sand Creek and Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate the next three years of my life. Talks will be limited to my full asking salary and all expenses, Errol & Olivia progress will slow but will move forward (this book is important and will happen). Alas, magazine writing will go on hiatus (am scrambling to complete what I owe). Blogs, however, will continue at a steady pace.

Those of you interested in Errol & Olivia fear not, for the next blog will deal with them.


August 13th is here, and late today the expected news arrived. Per Chuck Rankin:

“It’s late in the day and I’m headed out the door, but I wanted you to know that the faculty board approved your proposal for a study of Sand Creek today. Congratulations!”

Ladies and gents, all that remains are the contract negotiations. Chuck and I both want this book—we’ll work it out. At this moment I’m one happy frontiersman. The smile is wide. This is a good day to be alive.

Kraft’s luck & Mr. Wynkoop

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


Dear friends, you are not going to believe my sojourn to Colorado (which began yesterday) …

(Yes, Ned Wynkoop finally gets some space in a post, but you’ll have to read to the end of the post.)

Yesterday, I had lost my cell phone before going through security at the Burbank Airport, the flight was delayed because the crew needed extra sleep as they had flown into Burbank too late the night before (the last flight into Burbank is supposedly 10:00 PM), circling above Denver, and after finally getting onto terra firma missed a turn and took the long and not-so-scenic route to Fort Collins where Apache wars historian/friend Layton Hooper and his pretty wife Vicki are putting me up until I move into the hotel for the Order of the Indian Wars symposium later this week.

Today I’m supposed to be researching at the Western History Collection at the Denver Public Library (a great place for writers interested in western and Indian wars history). The internet had led me to believe I would see a few days of “snow flurries.” I was up early this morning, but didn’t climb the stairs until 6:30. The first thing I did was peek out the front door. Layton walked up behind me and said, “I guess you won’t be doing any research today.” Everything was white, and the snow hasn’t stopped falling (supposedly it is going to continue through tomorrow, which may kill a key meeting w/Indian wars writer supreme John Monnett …. Grrrr!), and I’ve heard that perhaps 25 inches of snow has covered the ground north of Fort Collins (?). It looks like about a foot outside right now, and Layton thinks about 3 feet by tomorrow. My rental car looks like it’s dead and buried.

Now for the bright side, … I get to hang out with Layton & Vicki, work on the “Wynkoop’s Last Stand” talk (hope I get out of Denver without being tarred and feathered). Yep, I think the talk will be lively. On the plus side, this snow storm might be similar to what Indian agent Ned Wynkoop faced when he traveled to Fort Cobb in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) to gather the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos in November 1868. Wynkoop never reached his destination, for thoughts of Sand Creek (1864) and the Pawnee Fork (1867) fiascos haunted him. He halted his journey and in protest to the 1868 Indian war resigned his commission, stating in part “… but I most certainly refuse to again be the instrument of the murder of innocent women and children.” Oh yes, it will be lively.

Western novelist/writer supreme Johnny Boggs, upon reading Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek and realizing that Wynkoop had suggested that American Indians should be given U.S. citizenship, wrote in a review something like “No wonder Wynkoop carried a gun.”