Sand Creek and a Louis Kraft book update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


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

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

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

I have work to complete …
and Ladies to protect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEVER!

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

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

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

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

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

Where am I headed? I’ll tell you …

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

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

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

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

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

But an unforeseen problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A William Byers strikeout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As previously stated … 

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

— Louis Kraft

The Sand Creek, Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


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

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

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

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

Who am I?

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

lk_asNW_22sept12_Larned_ColorUSE_ws

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

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

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

mwww_ws

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

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

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

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

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

What the hell?

… and how do I illustrate this section?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Chuck Rankin

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

Mr. Rankin & the OU Press staff

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

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

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

A few Ned Wynkoop reviews

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

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

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

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

Working as a biographer to create the Sand Creek manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chuck Rankin and a major announcement

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

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

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

But … BUT …

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

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

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

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

— Louis Kraft

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never wrote
that book.

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

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


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

Sand Creek is a story of people

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

A short detour

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(book cover art © Louis Kraft 2016)

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

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

Sand Creek hasn’t been easy

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

Word-smithing comes later—much later.

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

Dr. Gary Roberts and the beginning of a friendship

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

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

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

Buddying up to John Simpson Smith

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

But first a little of LK and my lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally to Mr. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A possible dust jacket

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

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

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

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

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

What do I currently have? Nada (Nothing).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally a dark side that we cannot ignore

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

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

— Louis Kraft

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017
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.

— Louis Kraft