Sand Creek Massacre update, SoCal fires, P-64, & Christmas

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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


The next blog is tentatively scheduled for late March, and will feature Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and Errol & Olivia updates as well as introduce you to Valley CORF (Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility). My apologies for moving the LK top 50 film list from this blog but there is still too much study that must be completed before my opinion on these films can go live.

’Tis the time of peace on earth
and goodwill to all

Christmas, like Thanksgiving, are now quiet gatherings with my family. It is a day to count our blessings and cherish each other as we pray for peace on earth and equality for all on the day that represents the birth of Jesus. Pailin and I will welcome in the New Year at the Thai Temple in North Hollywood on the evening of the thirty-first.

Pailin created this Christmas image of us for social media. The photo is from 2016 and it was from the last Christmas party we have hosted. It was mostly in the backyard until everyone moved inside after nightfall. That day was nippy, as was this Christmas. Both wouldn’t have been so cold if the wind hadn’t increased as each hour passed. … Just for the record I’m freezing when temperatures drop into the low 60s (no comment is needed). The last thing that I want to do is live in a winter wonderland. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

I talk to the little boys and girls who live next door. A large hedge along my 80-foot driveway separates us but clipping and removing branches that die during heat spells creates openings wherein we can see each other (and this includes a little boy who lives two doors farther south). They are Latino, but unlike some of their parents they are bi-lingual and speak terrific English. But if not, we’d still be friends. … I walk a lot, often to various stores, and see them in their front yards and when they walk with their parents. I’m almost always around, I have a car they like a lot, they also like my shaggy hair (compliments of yours truly) as theirs is neatly clipped. It matters not if they only had a handful of English for we’d still be able to communicate.

We talk almost daily, and it is enjoyable for us, as we are curious about each other. They had their Christmas tree at least a week and a half before the twenty-fifth. They wanted to know if I had mine. “No.” “When are you going to get it?” “I’m not.” “Why?” “I don’t have any children like you.” “Doesn’t your girlfriend want a Christmas tree?” I chuckled. “She’s my wife, and she’s okay without one. Actually, I haven’t had a tree since my little girl grew up.” “Oh.” There was disappointment in his voice. His simple “Oh” touched me and my memories drifted back to Christmas days long gone but not forgotten.

This card is a major update to a Christmas card that I created in 1992. There were three printed words inside the card: “life … love … peace …” These words are still with me today. May they be with you today, tomorrow, and forever … LK. (image © Louis Kraft 1992, 2018)

I’ve missed giving talks …

Probably the major piece of my life that Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway forced me to walk away from years back were giving talks. They almost always got me on the road, and I love to travel. More important was/is the thrill of doing one-time presentations before audiences while not knowing what was going to come out of my mouth.

LK talking about “Cheyenne Indian Agent Edward Wynkoop’s 1867 Fight to Prevent War” at the Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, N. Mex.) on 15sept2004. BTW, this talk dealt with the destruction of the Southern Cheyenne-Dog Man-Sioux village on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas. It is a key piece in the Sand Creek manuscript Epilogue, which shows “the tragic end of a lifeway.” I shouldn’t say the following, but heck these blogs are for LK publicity (and hopefully offer a little entertainment). … The Chávez houses the Louis Kraft Collection of his work, photos, and correspondence (AC 402 and ACP 010 for the photo archive). Tomas Jahen created it at the beginning of this century. He has moved on to become the Director,
Special Collections/CSWR University of New Mexico Libraries as well as becoming a great pal of LK. (photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

I’m prepared, always, but I refuse to read or use slides. I know what I’m going to talk about and I do work on it, but the only thing that I attempt to memorize are quotes.

Sometimes quotes walk out the door of my memory at the most inopportune moments. Paraphrasing usually saves the day, but not always. A number of years back I was talking about Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941) and comparing the fictional Custer with the real Custer. My favorite scene in the eight films that Flynn made with Olivia de Havilland was at the end of Boots. Olivia, as Elizabeth (Libbie) Custer, helps Flynn pack before he marches to his destiny at the Little Big Horn in Montana Territory on June 25, 1876. During the talk (in Hardin, Montana, in 2011) I used some of the dialogue between them in this scene and of course went blank when I got to my favorite line that Flynn’s Custer said to Olivia’s Libbie—”Walking through life with you, ma’am, has been a very graceful thing.” There’s one thing when you perform live, and that is you keep going. I did but in a different way, I asked the audience for the line and one of the fellows in the front row or near the front row knew it. Think it might have been Gary Leonard, an Indian wars historian from England, whom I met a year later when Custer and the Cheyenne won an award in Oklahoma City, and who has since become a good friend.

Back on focus

Due to the massive undertaking of the Sand Creek story (not to mention The Discovery, 2016, which I wrote to pay for an operation that I didn’t know about until after the fact—money I didn’t have), everything went on hold. As mentioned above, talks were no longer on my schedule. Ditto articles, plays, and believe it or not this year’s blogs (my last one was posted in May).

Talk about a disappearing act. …

LK and Pailin on the evening of 22nov2018 (Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday). We are in the dining room at Tujunga House but due to the glare of lights in widows and mirrors (yes, mirrors—that’s a mirror behind Pailin and not an entry to the dining room) what is behind us is not behind us. Make sense? No? I didn’t think so. … See, I’m not a total outcast; I have a social life with my small family. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2018)

At times it is easy to create an outline or a proposal, but in the Sand Creek manuscript there was a massive problem and it wasn’t the research (but in my case the research doesn’t end until no more changes can be made, and this isn’t a joke). It was the massiveness of the players from all points of view. After mining the facts the question became how do I pull all their stories together seamlessly in a linear way and make it work with the larger picture of what was affecting their lives? This is a hell of a lot easier said than done, and certainly when the scope of the manuscript is huge. For those of you who don’t know I have done everything possible to be in the players point-of-view (POV, a film term) when dealing with them. The reason is simple, I want to show what they did and what they said for this will allow the reader to make their decisions about the Cheyennes and Arapahos, the whites who married into the tribes, their offspring, the whites who coveted Indian land, and those who spoke out against the massacre of people who thought that they were removed from the 1864 Cheyenne war in Colorado Territory.

I know, it’s a mouthful but an exploration that has become a big part of my life. Honestly, I’m one lucky cowboy to have it in my life.

Fire, fire, and more fire, … and which blog goes live

Fire has become the new normal in California and in other western states. Unfortunately it is not going away. The year 2017 was the worst fire year in California history, but 2018 surpassed it by late spring. By fall 2018 destroyed the 2017 figures.

This Los Angeles Times photo (12nov2018) isn’t as dramatic as the multitude of photos that pictured lines and lines of destroyed vehicles that did not escape from Paradise in the Camp fire, but it has massive importance. The San Fernando Valley (SFV) has a population of 1.75 million. If the Woolsey fire had continued east through Calabasas, Bell Canyon, and West Hills the number of destroyed vehicles would have been in the 10s of thousands. I know, this sounds like a ridiculous disaster movie plot, but someday it could become reality. This is the second year in a row when raging fires invaded the SFV. In 2017 fire struck the northeastern and eastern sides of the Valley (and both of those were within five miles of my house), and every effort was put in place to stop them.

Certainly the Woolsey fire in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties (November 2018) has affected me and many other people (and most of them much-much-much worse than me and for many of them their lives will never be as before). … So has my breathing clinic, my Sand Creek manuscript, and my film blog, which preempted this Sand Creek blog, only to get preempted in return (fair is fair). Even though the work on Sand Creek has been ongoing for what seems like a lifetime (read never-ending) things change. …

The Woolsey fire, its devastation, is an example of daily life in California.*

There is a mostly-unpublished fact that has recently come to light
(regarding Northern California). The Camp fire, which wiped
out the town of Paradise (November 2018) and quickly
became the worst and deadliest fire in the Golden
State’s history has a statistic that is frightening.
Between 2003 and 2018 this portion of
Northern California had permits to
build 24,000+ houses. During
this time fire has destroyed
20,000+ homes.

* See http://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2018/01/01/louis-kraft-socal-fires-earthquakes-sand-creek-massacre-an-errol-flynn-tidbit/ for details about the 2017 SoCal fires.

The nightmare is ongoing. A study just released pointed out that over 1.1 million buildings are at fire risk in California, according to the Los Angeles Times (“A million buildings facing fire risk stir cries for action,” 22dec2018; see the map at left and drag it onto your desktop to expand it), that is “roughly 1 in 10 buildings.” The largest number of these buildings are in Los Angeles County: 114,000, “including tens of thousands of Westside and San Fernando Valley houses in the Santa Monica, Santa Susana and San Gabriel mountains”. … The Times went on to state: “The findings follow a fire season of unprecedented destruction—more than 20,000 homes lost, more than 100 people killed—that showed what damage can be done if Californians fail to address a widespread risk.”

The real SoCal

California rainfall season is from October 1 until September 31. For the rainfall season ending on 31sept2018 for Los Angeles the rainfall was 4.74 inches.* … Regardless if SolCal has a lucky year of rainfall as we did between 1oct16 and 31sept17, which was about 18 inches (an anomaly), SoCal suffered through the worse year on record for fire destruction in California in 2017. …

* As of December 26 the rainfall for the season that began on October 1, 2018, is 4.26 inches (three months into the year and we have almost reached last season’s entire output). Fingers are crossed.

Even though the destruction during recent fire seasons has increased this century everyone thought that 2017 was an anomaly. It wasn’t. By late spring 2018 the fire season (which now almost feels like it is year round) surpassed 2017. That year two fires came within five miles of Tujunga House (one from the east and one from the north).* What do you take if you must run? Pailin and I know what documentation is mandatory, and we have more than most people for Pailin has gone through multiple processes to obtain permanent residency, obtain a Social Security number, driver’s license, and of major importance pass the required testing to obtain a certificate that she is one of the top massage therapists in California (it is illegal to work in the state if you don’t have this license and raids are ongoing).

* I would need a large U-haul to get my research to safety (not a comforting thought) or a year to digitize it (not going to happen), and this doesn’t include a lot of artifacts, posters, photos, and books).

As of 17nov2018 over 98,000 acres have burned in the Woolsey fire. … The Griffith Park fire started on the morning of 9nov2018 where Victory Boulevard crosses over the 134 freeway just east of I-5 at the southern entrance to the Los Angeles Zoo and the Autry Museum of the American West. The brush fire was totally extinguished by the next morning with only 30 burnt acres. Luckily there were no Santa Ana winds on the east side of the San Fernando Valley for the cities of Glendale (east and northern border) and Burbank (to the north and northeast) while the town of North Hollywood was northwest (about seven miles to Tujunga House), … all highly populated areas. (To view a larger rendition of the map drag it to your desktop and open it.)

On 7nov18 fires again struck SoCal with an intent to destroy and kill (a day after the Camp fire in Northern California destroyed most of the town of Paradise (population of approximately 26,000). …What has happened during the Camp fire in Butte County (where the town of Paradise once stood) has been an ongoing nightmare. As of 17nov2018 9,800 homes have been destroyed, the death count currently is 71 (this number is now over 100, but it includes some deaths in SoCal) with 1,001 people still missing (this figure has dropped, but they’ll never find all of the missing). I don’t know what you see outside of California but I see it all. The story of Sand Creek and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians is a tragedy; so is the story of the people who once lived in Paradise. Some died in their homes, others died in their cars as they attempted to flee, while even more died after deserting their cars in a last-gasp effort to survive.

This image of Llamas on a beach in Malibu, Calif., on 9nov18 (© Wally Skalij for the Los Angeles Times) is worth 10,000 words for it shows the horror that has become a yearly occurrence in California. The two llamas, Thunder and Luke (called alpacas in a later edition of the Times), and the horse, Gidget, are west of the Santa Monica Mountains and they are as far west as they can go for just beyond them is the Pacific Ocean. They symbolize not only the destruction of property but also the massive loss of animal life (wild and not). Luckily Thunder and Luke were evacuated to Ojai, a gorgeous valley/small city north of the city of Ventura (Ventura County), and Gidget to a stable in Glendale (a city in LA County; I-5 is its western border and the Ca. 134 freeway cuts through it as it begins to climb the mountain on its way to Pasadena).

My time is short, and the fires in California have again become the fires from hell. I don’t have time to keep writing about this ongoing disaster, so perhaps this social media post will give you some indication of the immensity of the threat: Woolsey fire as related to Los Angeles county on 12nov18. The fire that has ravaged Ventura and Los Angeles Counties was contained around November 19. Some 300,000 people were evacuated in California since these fires broke out in early November; 177,000 lived in Los Angeles County. It could have been worse—much worse—if the Woolsey fire had completed its invasion of the San Fernando Valley, it had the possibility of forcing an additional 1.75 million evacuations.* So what’s the big deal? This example should give you an idea. One of my physician’s office is on Ventura Blvd. in Encino. It is a 10 mile drive. To arrive at a nine o’clock appointment on time I need to be on the road by seven-twenty.

* If the SFV was a city it would be the fifth largest in the USA (only NYC, LA, Chicago, and Houston would be larger).

When the Santa Ana winds strike their speeds can quickly grow from 40 mph to 60 to 75 and more. The firefighters, some of whom at times worked 36 hours straight, had to deal with not only the power of the Santa Anas but also the sudden change of direction.

Many people lost everything but their lives. Everything. Already many know that they can’t rebuild for what they had originally paid for their homes is peanuts in today’s market and unfortunately many could not keep increasing their fire insurance.

My house before moving to Tujunga House was in Thousand Oaks. A very safe and gorgeous city in Ventura County (just north of LA County). It was on a hill, had a courtyard, swimming pool (swimming is my favorite individual exercise; I’ve been a fish since elementary school), and a half-block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. The house survived as the fire was farther south.

An LK reality

My life is what it is, and it has been this for way for a long time. My world is simple: Protecting three women, surviving, and living to see my Sand Creek manuscript published. This doesn’t sound like much but for me it’s a big deal.

Art of LK and his pistol-packing lady that I began several years after I began pitching the idea of bringing Johnny’s novel to the stage (see the paragraph to the left of this image). I’m a chameleon but this is an image that reappears in my life time and again. … Pailin? She is my lady for all time, and as such she is with me in all my incarcerations. She backs me at all times no matter deep I immerse myself in my projects, no matter how far I drop out of society. She is with me and I am with her. (art © Louis Kraft 2015-2018)

The LK reality is the book projects and the people in my life. Relax for this blog will focus on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway past, present, and future. Long time comin’. … But first I need to get a little personal with the recent past, present, and future. Not that long back I had pitched two friends on me writing a play based on East of the Border, a novel by Johnny D. Boggs, wherein James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok tours the theatre circuit in the East with Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro. Wild Bill feels awkward treading the theatrical boards, is bored, hates what he is doing, and is often drunk. He discovers that when he fires his revolver too close to extras playing dead Indians that they leap to life when the blank firing burns them. He loves this. Type casting for LK? Probably. I’ve wanted to play Wild Bill since the first time I read Johnny’s novel.

LK, a former friend, and John Goodwin at a Galaxy Press event in Hollywood, Calif., in June 2010. I designed two of the hats (center and left), the buckskin coat, and moccasins years back.

This desire goes back years, and as I’ve said in previous blogs Lisa Smith, Johnny’s wife, said it would make a great play. Still Johnny has been silent (probably because he didn’t want me to adapt his book for the stage), and the other key person in this triangle, Tom Eubanks, who has directed all of the Ned Wynkoop one-man shows (Kansas, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma), as well as Cheyenne Blood (which ran for five weeks in SoCal), showed little interest.* Eventually I gave up on what I thought would make a good play, and better a great character for LK to play. They probably thought I’d embarrass myself. … I never get embarrassed, and certainly not when I’m wearing a wide-brimmed hat, buckskins, moccasins, and packing an 1860 Colt. Are you kidding?

* See http://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2016/09/17/the-tom-eubanks-louis-kraft-ned-wynkoop-errol-flynn-connection/ for images of the Wynkoop one-man shows and Cheyenne Blood, plus more on Tom Eubanks.

I believe in reaching for the stars, … and if I get lucky and my wish/prayers become reality to reach for another impossible dream—that is many more years with my ladies and perhaps yet another book, and another, and another, … and another. Yep! I’m a greedy ol’ dog.

Since the end of May it has been an ongoing string of Sand Creek edits, dealing with the peer reviews, adding new information, checking and double checking citations, searching for key information that I need in the manuscript, reaching out for help with other experts on my subject (which, believe it or not I’ve been living with since the 1980s). This is always a good time for it is totally creative. It’s also a scramble as the manuscript must now come together and flow smoothly between people and events as the story races toward conclusion.

My great friend George Carmichael took this image while we enjoyed the Pacific Ocean in northern San Diego County in March 2001. I met George at a fiction class at UCLA in 1990. We were both writing western novels: His was traditional, mine was modern day on the Navajo Reservation. We didn’t see eye-to-eye, but somehow became great friends until the end of his life on 2apr2014. He was an engineer turned published fictional short story writer while I focused on becoming a novelist. Although I have two published novels I’m proud of (The Final Showdown, 1992, and The Discovery, w/Robert S. Goodman, 2016), I reached an intersection in the road, yanked the wheel to the left, and became a writer of nonfiction. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

Sound like fiction? Maybe. Sound like a film plot? Perhaps. … For LK it is nonfiction with many intricate pieces that must merge in a linear fashion and not jerk all over the place. … Been there and done that. But that doesn’t count for the scope of this manuscript is massive and I must connect all the players and events in a manner that makes the reader turn pages.

That’s right—turn pages. I believe that nonfiction is just like fiction, plays, film, articles, talks, and blogs. It must grab the reader’s (or viewer’s) interest at the beginning and hold it until the end. Will I succeed at this? You’ll have to read Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway to learn the answer.

Ladies and gents, the question of the Sand Creek manuscript being published in my lifetime is now passé. I’m one tired and skinny cowboy but I get up between four and five with a big grin on my face almost seven days each week.

A big grin, for my tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and then a cup or three of coffee begins my days of exploration and confirmation and word-crafting and polishing. … This is a golden time for LK and it gets better as the days pass, for this is just the beginning. See below.

The reality of this time

I don’t want to say that it was bad. At the same time I don’t want to say that it was good.

As I floated for months in a no-man’s zone that hovered between success and failure I was totally alive as each day merged into the next and the next and the next. One edit became the next edit and then the next, with each a challenge all its own. I’m social, very social, and get along with all people (two exceptions being racists and sexual predators that hit on me and other people; perhaps I should add habitual liars to the list). I’m also a loner. Although I want a special person in my life at all times I can thrive in a solitary environment. … Although I have many people that are a major part of my literary/creative world (these people are my best friends), and I spend a lot of time with them via the phone, email, social media, as well as in person whenever I get lucky. When it gets down to the writing it is me, my computer, pens, and paper. Zero days pass without work, and this drives me to the next day and the one after. I live and breathe my work.

This is my lady praying at Tujunga House on 9sept2018. We have two different upbringings, two different cultures, two different languages, and two different religions. When we met we took our time and slowly got to know each other, to respect each other, to trust each other, to explore each other’s lives, and to love each other. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, 2018)

I am with my lady 100 percent of the time day in and day out no matter what our work schedules are. One hundred percent of the time. If someone badmouths her or hints that I should cheat because they have an open relationship I don’t run to the bathroom and vomit. Still you do not want to
hear my opinion of these slimballs for it isn’t printable in this blog or elsewhere. AND I don’t talk about them with friends either. For me
people like this aren’t worthy of mentioning. They are dirt, they mean nothing, and I remove them from my life.

Add racism to the formula, and I can say one thing and it is important—I grew up in a racially-tolerant family at a time when racism was rampant in the USA. Over the years all of us have seen a massive amount of progress to alleviate this hateful and harmful blot on the world. Unfortunately something evil took center stage in 2015 and people embraced a man who has no respect for humankind or women or the truth. This opened a door and racists crashed through it. It is the here and now, but like all evil that has thrown a dark shadow over the world in the past it will be pushed to the side and a humanitarian light will once again shine.

LK (right), Linda Kraft (left, d. 2006), and our mother Doris (center, d. 1980) in 1955 at the Van Nuys trailer park, our first permanent home in Los Angeles after parking the trailer in rural backyards for a long period of time. The car was a 1950 Hudson Commodore and it pulled the 35-foot trailer in the background to California. My dad owned the car from when he bought it in 1950 until 1998, a year before his death (and I had many happy memories driving it). (photo © Louis Kraft 1955)

My first best friend was a Latino (in a time when the word wasn’t used). I was seven and he was five or six. I was Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett and he was my sidekick (actually, he was also Davy Crockett for we were equals, even at that age and time) as we climbed the man-made mountain on the west side of the trailer park where we lived in Van Nuys, California, in 1955. We climbed it and slid down into the wonder of the Los Angeles River that flowed on the other side of what would become the infamous Ca. 405 freeway. We were explorers as we followed the flow of the river on the sandbanks below the trees that lined the water flow. It was a mystical time. Others—not many—also skirted the river; some adults and others younger. Not once were Jesse and I ever threatened. Try to do this in our 2018 world and Jesse Carrera and I would have become easy targets.

A Little about how I write and the Sand Creek peer reviews

Although I write my books from proposals and outlines there are no preconceived directions, and it doesn’t matter what the writing medium is, for I go where the research and the words lead me.

For the record I over-write everything and I don’t care what my subject or genre is. The reason is simple: The more facts, anecdotes, quotes, events, people’s actions the better for when it is time to cut, edit, add, polish, and bring the words together the better chance I have of creating the manuscript that I envision. … At same time I’m totally aware of the contracted word count.

Pailin on the bluffs to the west of the Sand Creek village at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (NHS) on 3oct2014. Our wonderful friends John and Linda Monnett, whom we had been staying with, drove us there that day. This is one of my favorite images of Pailin, as she is an explorer and as at home in the field as I am. She’s also like me in that she is a little goofball. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft, 2014)

I had begun editing the manuscript in June 2018 in the hope to deliver a polished manuscript by 15sept2018—an impossible deadline, and especially so when I received the two peer reviews in early August. As expected they were professional, well done, and with a lot of good comments and questions. As it turned out neither said a word about the huge word count and both highly recommended publication.

One of the reviewers had the following to say about the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript: “Kraft … purposefully devotes nearly two-thirds of his manuscript to that time before conflict [meaning before the Sand Creek Massacre]. That portion of the work is delightfully original and a marvelous setup to the final third of the book, when for the Southern Cheyennes their world changed forever.”

LK with Scott Gillette, chief of interpretation at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS administration building in Eads, Colo., on 3oct2014. Scott has always been open and friendly to me, and he has time and again aided my research. Thank you, Scott. … Oh yeah, they sell Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, 2014)

He went on to say, “Kraft has a fine way with words. … There are any number of Sand Creek histories, some good, some atrocious. Kraft’s point is not to refight the episode but to use it as a defining moment in the telling of a multi-generational history of the Southern Cheyennes, from their earliest appearances through Sand Creek and slightly beyond to the coming of the reservation era. No other Sand Creek history contextualizes this story as he does. Equally if not more important, this reader is unaware of any comparably detailed history of the Southern Cheyennes told within the same broad timeframe that Kraft embraces. That alone makes this work a gem.” Finally this reviewer said something that blew me away: “Kraft knows this story and its primary and secondary sources intimately. He utilizes his sources soundly, challenges in his notes various source shortcomings, contradictions, and nuances; notes where sources have been misused by others; and in all fashions a story destined to be deemed, I believe, definitive on the subject.”

Whew! … Heady words, kind words, and I didn’t expect them. I hope that they prove out to be true. Time will tell.

I had miles to walk and thousands upon thousands of words to cut while fine-tuning the story line and polishing.

A return to the Woolsey fire destruction

Some of the following words and views were pulled from recent LK postings on
other social media (actually those posts were created for this blog).

I can’t walk away from the Woolsey fire and its destruction of film history. Robert Florczak, my great friend and also an Errol Flynn historian, in July 2016, took me to Lasky Mesa, a massive mountainous and valley area (in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve), an easy 35 minute drive from my house on Victory Boulevard). I met Robert at his apartment on that day, and he drove. After parking in the lot where Victory Boulevard dead-ends at to the eastern entry to the Open Space Preserve you have perhaps a two-mile hike around and over hills as you work your way to an open area surrounded by hills and in the distance mountains—Lasky Mesa. Dirt roads and paths meander through the area and down into small canyons. That July there was a lot of dried grass up to my knees.

On 13jul2016 LK stood where Errol Flynn’s Seventh Cavalry rode to their death in They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941). (photo © Louis Kraft and Robert Florczak 2016) … For the record three of the eight Flynn-de Havilland films were westerns, and all had back stories that will be dealt with in detail in Errol & Olivia.

This mostly-ignored hilly area has been seen in many major films from the Golden Age of Cinema. This includes Errol Flynn’s glorious death as George Armstrong Custer (They Died with Their Boots On) that was shot in fall 1941. That day Robert was working on confirming the tree near where Errol Flynn and Alan Hale sat upon their horses as the coach with Flynn’s then wife Nora Eddington approached at the end of Adventures of Don Juan (Warner Bros., 1948), … as well as the tree from a famous scene from Gone with the Wind (Selznick International Pictures/MGM, 1939). I have this film on DVD but have not seen it in decades (and never in one complete screening) as the film bores me. However, for Errol & Olivia (and sooner than I now expect) it will become a film that I study in detail while I decide what I’ll say about Olivia de Havilland’s performance.

LK & RF on Lasky Mesa on 9jul2016. Before capturing the image that Robert suggested that we pose for, … as if we were going crazy in John Huston’s 1948 Warner Bros. classic film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I had never seen it but had seen photos of Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, among others, and have read about it; I need to see it. (photo Robert Florczak and © Robert Florczak & Louis Kraft 2016)

Robert Florczak and LK were in trouble by the time we finished our research on Lasky Mesa. Between us we had a lot of water but the heat soared to 105-106 degrees (as we knew it would). By about three in the afternoon we headed back to the parking lot where Robert’s SUV was parked. One problem. We had a long walk in front of us. Would we make it was not only on our minds but something we discussed, including if one of us dropped the other would drag him to safety. As you can see in the photo we had been walking down but would soon turn to the left and begin to climb a hill only to continue to meander to the right and left as we descended, climbed, and worked our way back to his vehicle. At the time of the image we had stopped to catch our breath and Robert proposed this portrait of us. After we looked at it we agreed that it would never see the light of day. Oops! Recently RF sent me this image on social media. OOPS!!!! I guess all bets are off. … For the record this is what historians really look like when they are in the field.

Lasky Mesa is north (or east) of the Ca. 101 freeway as it slices northwest and skirts the Pacific Ocean. Soon after one can exit the 101 and drive west on Kanan Dume Road toward the Santa Monica Mountains until it reaches the Pacific Ocean. To the north of the road as it begins to enter the mountains is/was the Paramount Ranch (a back lot for a major film studio in Los Angeles during days gone by).

Fire devastation beyond human tragedy

But by no means has this been only humankind’s loss. The devastation has been beyond belief throughout California over the last few years, and not just to the families that have lost everything (many of whom won’t be able to rebuild as the cost has become prohibitive), but also for the loss of the trees and grasses and plants that are native to Southern California (actually all of California). And I cannot forget the wild life, many of whom have been forced to share their land with invading humans. I’m certain that this has not been an easy adaptation for them.

Lizards

I have pet lizards. I call them pets as I talk to them and often they listen, but they aren’t pets. I walk carefully when they are present as I don’t want to frighten them for they are wild. … I don’t know their view of me, but I consider them friends.

I took this photo of Tujunga House at 4:41 am on 6feb2018. It is a photo, not art, and it is full frame. There was an early morning fog and I took advantage of it and captured some great images. The foreground light was provided by a telephone pole that is just south of the driveway. The front yard is a good portion of the lizards’ homeland, and it is a wonder to watch them enjoy their environment. (photo © Louis Kraft 2018)

I don’t feed the lizards, but Pailin and I have created a home for them on the north side of the driveway with two pieces of granite near a huge bougainvillea in a plantable area that I cleared except for one white rosebush. The lizards discovered that the granite provided shelter from the elements and they have made the area their home. Tujunga House is surrounded by mostly desert vegetation. I don’t water often, but when I do it is for my lemon trees, bamboo, and roses (Pailin makes rose tea). Every so often I’ll water a plant that needs it, only to give one of the lizards a shower. It darts away, stops, turns and stares at me, almost as if saying, “What the hell are you doing?” … They know that we keep two monsters (a Vette and an M-B), and when they come to life and growl the lizards get off the driveway to where they will be safe and watch until the beasts come to a halt or leave their land. …

How many lizards died in the Woolsey fire? I could never venture a guess, but I know that it was way-too-many.

P-64

Here I’m also talking about an animal that is my favorite as it is so sleek and graceful (more so than wolves or horses or coyotes or doberman pinchers, my other favorite animals). They are sometimes called panthers, but much-more often pumas. They are mountain lions that live in Los Angeles (city and county). When caught, and they are never harmed, they receive a GPS collar, tagged, and given a name designated with a “P-” and a number. They are then returned to their habitat, tracked, observed, but never fed or pampered. If sick, and cameras are set up in areas they frequent, and their condition is captured, they are medically treated and returned to their homeland that ranges through the Santa Monica Mountains that separate downtown Los Angeles, the Westside, and the beaches from the San Fernando Valley (SFV) and the Ca. 101 freeway that connects downtown Los Angeles with the SFV (population of 1.75 million) to Agoura Hills, Malibu, Westlake, Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Ventura, and onward to Santa Barbara and beyond.

This is P-64 in the photo (courtesy: National Park Service). He was captured in February 2018 in the Simi Hills, Ventura County (northwest of LA County) and fitted with his collar and tag in his ear. This image shows him exiting a blind culvert that is in total darkness as it zigzags under the Ca. 101 freeway. The day after he was set free he became the second puma to be captured on film crossing the 101 freeway (I don’t believe that it was this image). Since that time he crossed not only the 101 but also the Ca. 118 freeway that slices through the northern portion of the SFV and into Simi Valley. It is not known how many times he crossed these freeways risking death by dodging speeding autos during night hours (unfortunately numerous mountain lions have lost their lives doing this), but he was tracked doing it forty-one times since he received his collar.

P-64 was a pathfinder and adventurer in that he expanded his habitat while trapped inside civilization. This was how it always was for him; the only life he ever knew. Then fire, fire, and more fire that increased time and again over recent years. But this time it wasn’t beyond the next hill—it was all around him. On November 26, and again on the twenty-eighth his GPS tracked him. But Jeff Sikich, a wildlife biologist who tracked the four-year old, said he was caught between the avalanche of blaring sirens, an army of firefighters, and frantic humans, and moved back into the burnt area near Oak Park and the Simi Hills in Ventura County. Glen Williams and I discussed P-64 in detail on December 10 and decided he was terrified and chose the best of his two options.

I believe that this is Jeff Sikich displaying two of P-64’s paws. Sikich located him near a streambed on December 3, 2018, about two or three days after he died. He wasn’t burned by flames but was forced to cross hot embers. The burns were severe, which would have hindered his hunting. It has been surmised that the burns might have led to infection. (photo courtesy: National Park Service)

The pumas have adapted to the massive encroachment upon their homeland. They cross freeways and range north and east and west of the San Fernando Valley. Some are in the San Gabriel Mountains that are on the northern side of the San Gabriel Valley (the next valley to the east of the SFV, where I wrote for software companies for 12 years). Mountain lions are predators and they do live off the land. Thus one must be careful when in their territory.

Our mountain lions are famous and often the Los Angeles Times prints articles of births, status, activity, and accomplishments of those we have come to know (and in my case, and friend Julie McHam) care about. Unfortunately the Times also shares their end of life.

Another piece of Hollywood lost to flames

This is one of the photos that Glen Williams shot at the Paramount Ranch on 25may2012. (photo © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

To the north of Kanan Dume Road as it moves west from the Ca. 101 freeway and toward the Santa Monica Mountains is/was the Paramount Ranch (Paramount Pictures was a major film studio in Hollywood during the glory days long gone; so many mergers and purchases have happened I don’t know who owns it now). I worked at the studio in the ’70s and early ’80s; Nice place to work. My bro Glen Williams and I did a photo shoot at the western town on the Paramount Ranch (just building fronts for all interiors would be shot on sound stages) in May 2012. A good day for LK. In the dark ages I earned money as a model. Hated it! But the money paid bills. This modeling with Glen (as was other great excursions with him) was for companionship, as well as photos that might be used for publicity or for artwork. … Sadly the Paramount Ranch no longer exists. It had provided locations for films and now it is a piece of California history.* Just thinking about this brings tears to my eyes.

* Friend Dennis Clark saw in his local newspaper that the western town would be rebuilt within the next 24 months. My fingers are crossed that the article he read is accurate. If yes, Glen, ol’ bro, we need to do a Paramount Ranch photo shoot 2. If yes, I want our ladies to join us and make it a foursome.

The Wynkoop book and the Sand Creek manuscript

Errol Flynn’s portrayal of George Armstrong Custer (They Died with Their Boots On, Warner Bros., 1941) brought me to Custer, a lot of articles, talks, and Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (see Custer and the Cheyenne wins the Jay D. Smith award for its contribution to the study of Custeriana), Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995).

LK with Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association convention in Oakland, Calif., on 15oct211. Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek premiered at this event. The poster in the background is now displayed at Tujunga House. (photo © Louis Kraft and Chuck Rankin, 2011)

Mr. Custer brought me to the Cheyennes and a fellow named Ned Wynkoop. When I started writing and talking about Wynkoop in the 1980s (and he had a lot to do with Colorado Territory history in the 1860s) I never dreamed that he would lead me to a major player in my writing life that I didn’t meet until the beginning of this century—Charles (Chuck) Rankin, the former editor-in-Chief of University of Oklahoma Press (OU Press). Chuck played a big part in the development of Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). We spent many years talking about Wynkoop as we developed a proposal that would work for both of us. When we got together in Oklahoma City in 2006 he said to me that the beginning of a manuscript draft I sent him was a little light in content. “… And I’m 15,000 words over my contracted limit,” I replied. “Why don’t we spilt the manuscript into two books?” “Let’s think about this,” he said. During the next month or two he agreed to increase the manuscript from the contracted 90,000 words to 125,000 words.

Shortly before Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011) went into production Chuck asked me if I’d like to write a book about the Sand Creek Massacre. I told him, “No. I write about people and not war.” Chuck refused to walk away and over the next year or so we talked in person, on the phone, and via email. We worked on a proposal that was suitable to both of us. The contracted word count was 125,000-135,000, and I needed the higher number (and more) as the scope was huge to show and not tell what happened.

That was then … this is now

In April of this year I was informed that for the Sand Creek manuscript to be published in 2019 I needed to submit a completed draft for peer review, deal with the peer reviews, and deliver a polished manuscript no later than 15sept2018. As I didn’t have a completed rough first draft … on May 31 I delivered an incomplete but huge draft for review. I don’t gamble with cards or money but I do gamble with my projects. This was a big-time LK gamble for one and certainly two thumbs-down reviews would end my relationship with OU Press.

LK image shot by Pailin on 4aug2018 by request of the OU Press Publicity Department. There were exteriors with a hat and interiors w/o a hat. This photo I like (as I’m happy) but it is slightly out of focus (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2018)

It was an impossible task, and one I knew would never happen. … Still I dug in and pressed forward. In early August I received the two peer reviews. Both were positive and provided first-class comments (which required additional words), and more important neither mentioned that my incomplete manuscript was huge or that I should trim the word count (which was then 204,000+).

Hey Kraft, this mess is your creation.

I know. … and as I said above the more words, events, and character development I have the better it is to cut, add, edit, rewrite, and polish. In other words I am now in LK heaven (or perhaps LK hell). My days and nights merged—became one. Sleep was a delicacy that I no longer had. Days passed and September 15 loomed. Delivering a polished manuscript that was close to the required contracted word limit vanished. Current OU Press Editor-in-Chief Adam Kane upped the word count to 150,000. This was impossible and I told him I needed 160,000 words or more.

On September 14 I emailed Adam and told him that I would not make the 15th deadline (meaning there would be no publication of the book in 2019). A big loss as I don’t want to be like Errol Flynn and have my last book published after my death, a scenario that walks with me more often than desired. Back to the positive, missing that deadline was a godsend.

September 15 came and went, and I pounded the keyboard. A hundred words gone, a thousand words gone, five thousand words gone, and more and more. As I knew it would, the manuscript tightened and flowed.

An example of a long-gone Laser Disc cover of The Time Machine (MGM, 1960) signed by Rod Taylor and supporting player Alan Young. The film  was extraordinary in 1960 but it hasn’t survived time well, mainly because special effects have seen lightyears of improvement since the ’60s. Taylor’s performance was decent, but this film is not close to being in my upcoming top 50 LK films blog (tentatively scheduled for late March 2019), which will also feature Valley CORF (Tarzana, Calif.), a breathing, balance, and strength clinic that has done wonders for LK. … There is a good chance that Taylor will have three films on the list.

It was almost as if I was Rod Taylor in his star-making film The Time Machine (MGM, 1960) as I sat in front of my computer for the days flashed forward at lightening speed and words changed, sometimes to grow while often many disappeared in an ongoing merge of days, weeks, months.

This was my now while it was also my then. A vast desert of sweltering heat that I’ve walked time and again. Familiarity beckons confidence. Been there! Done that! … and I know the outcome. We’re talking about my freelance writing, but we’re also talking about my twenty-plus years writing for the software world. ZOOOOOMMMMMM!!!! I’m Rod Taylor riding his time machine … NO! I’m LK sitting tall in my chair as my fingers dance over the keyboard and my monitor flashes the changes in real time. I’m alive in my world. … My world!

Two hundred four thousand plus words fade into history for it has become 197,000, 191,000, 185,000, 179,000, 173,000, 168,000, 165,000 … and counting.

Today’s Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

The “was” brought me into the “now.” On 15nov18 I delivered my “last” rough Sand Creek draft to Adam Kane. Actually by an email mistake, but that didn’t matter as I had anticipated making the delivery on November 16, which would have been the same draft minus a few files that were meant LK’s eyes only.

I will deliver the maps to cartographer Bill Nelson and Adam on January 7, 2019, and my polished Sand Creek draft to Adam on the fourteenth.

I have been collecting possible events and locations for the maps as I have worked my way through my manuscript polish. At the moment there are a fair amount of choices but most will be eliminated as space is limited. I don’t want to tell you what the selections are but those chosen will be based upon what I consider primary locations and actions during the flow of the text.

As stated elsewhere in this blog I do everything possible to show and not tell in my books. I can’t begin to tell you how important this is—at least to me. When Chuck and I created the 37-page proposal for the Sand Creek manuscript “show and don’t tell” was forever front and center. This takes more words but the extra words are worth their weight in gold a thousand times over when the book is published. This is as it should always be. Words are mandatory but it is the showing that must grab the readers and never let go. If done correctly the reader will turn pages, and more than they anticipate. From my POV this is how all books should be written. … Honestly, any book that puts you or me to sleep after two or three pages is a piece of crap and I don’t give a bleep about its reviews or awards or how many books have sold. In some cases all are valid and well earned. However, sometimes they are not. If you live in LA you would know that we suffer through a film/TV awards season that begins in the early fall and doesn’t end until the last Oscar is presented the following year (next year’s presentation is on 24feb2019). The amount of money spent stuffing “created” contenders down our throats on a daily basis is obscene. You don’t want to hear my views on this for they aren’t printable. It’s a part of the world, … just not my part. Pardon my English, but ass-licking or paying big bucks to win an award is something I refuse to do.

Maps

Until the Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I had created the maps for my previous books. Believe it or not over the years I improved my skill at creating them.

This map from Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) was reprinted in Lt. Col. Paul Fardink’s (USA-Ret.) article, “Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood: Premier Cavalry Soldier of the American West,” in On Point: The Journal of Army History, winter 2014. Paul had interviewed me for the article and had wanted it at the end of his prose. The editor disagreed and moved it into the flow of the text and it worked out fine for Paul and myself. Paul’s article is terrific and I’m proud to be part of it. (map © Louis Kraft 2004)

Two of my maps have been reprinted. The Custer and the Cheyenne (1995) map that illustrated Custer’s attack on Black Kettle’s village on 27nov1868 appeared in Sandy Barnard’s A Hoosier Quaker Goes to War: The Life & Death of Major Joel H. Elliott, 7th Cavalry, 2010). The lone map from Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apace Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) illustrated Gatewood’s search for Chiricahua Apaches Geronimo (war leader and mystic) and Naiche (the last hereditary chief of the tribe) and the remnants of their people in Sonora, Mexico, in July-August 1886, and then talked them into returning to the United States and surrendering for the last time.

Chuck Rankin wanted me to use a cartographer for the Wynkoop book and this request began my association with Bill Nelson, whom I hired to create the maps from my rough drafts. The entire creation and review process was a total pleasure, and his maps are first class.

Adam had requested rough drafts of the Sand Creek maps, and all was a go with me supplying them to him and Bill Nelson (who I again contracted) by the end of December, which I have since moved out to January 7, 2019. … On 10dec2018 Adam told me, “We are fans of Bill’s work here so look forward to seeing the new ones for this latest book.”

I’m not going to tell you how I’m prepping the new maps, or what’s going to be in them but if all goes well they will include some locations/actions usually not seen on maps.

This was the rough draft that I submitted to Wild West for my feature on the Chiricahua Apache war leader Geronimo (“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” October 2015). Not to brag but some of the locations had never before been placed on a map. A lot of work, and although the magazine’s cartographer created the final map from my draft Editor Greg Lalire and WW, both of whom have always been kind to me, paid me for this draft. (map © Louis Kraft 2015)

I have been selecting possible locations and actions for the map drafts as I work my way through what will be my polished draft of the Sand Creek manuscript. I had pitched a third map to deal with the Sand Creek village at the time of the massacre. All of the printed maps that deal with the massacre are incomplete at best and misleading at worse. I’m not going to reprint any of them or create a new map based upon them. There is current information that I am not privy to, and if I cannot learn the details that are available but not shared there will be no Sand Creek village map in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. … Not my choice, but I’m not going to print a map based information that I don’t consider valid. If this becomes reality—and I pray not—there will be no third map unless I have a replacement map that I’m not yet completely sold on (but on the plus side it might dip into Old Mexico).

How can this be Louis? Simple; about 8,000 words deal with the massacre, making it a small piece of my Sand Creek story. Not to worry for the SC massacre section is explosive and graphic. The goal here has always been to grab the readers and not let go (we’ll see if I succeeded when the book is published). Still, I want a map with the most up-to-date information about the Sand Creek village circles if indeed they are known, and I don’t think that they are. If so, they are a well-hidden secret. For the record I know the names of 15 Cheyenne chiefs who were present on that tragic day. I have been told that there were 20 Cheyenne chiefs present with no names or documentary proof that I’ve seen. I would love to have this information and the order of the chiefs’ village circles (if it exists).

Major information that is currently denied LK that must be in the Sand Creek book

I have information from Dee Cordry, who is writing a book that deals with a lot of people I deal with in my manuscript. I’m sorry, but I must remain vague here to protect Dee’s manuscript as well my mine, but what he shared is absolutely mandatory to see print, and Adam Kane totally agrees.

Photo at right shows Southern Cheyenne Chief Harvey Pratt (left) on 30mar2017 near El Reno, Oklahoma, when he was honored by the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes for his service to the tribal community. He is with his friend Dee Cordry, an historian and former police officer, on the day of the ceremony. Eleven chiefs of the Cheyenne Tribal Council of Forty-four were present, as were the tribal governor and lieutenant governor. (Good friend Dee Cordry shared this image with me.)

This information when published by Dee and myself will destroy ongoing errors that have been propagated for decades and often reprinted without citations or ones that are error-riddled at best or created simply to disguise what doesn’t exist/never existed or worse create a lie based upon a writer’s premise (which some writers refuse to change regardless of where their research leads).

An example of lies in the real world

Many years back, but soon after Custer and the Cheyenne was published, a preeminent Little Bighorn/Custer historian called me and said he was writing a review of my Custer/Cheyenne book. He read about a quarter of his review (which, when published was over a page and a half in an 8″ x 11″ publication). Great stuff and I loved his words. He got me to talk about the young Cheyenne woman Mo-nahs-e-tah (phonetic spelling of her name); a major mistake by LK, and for all of you who write books when someone calls and states that he/she is writing a review about your work think carefully about who they are and what their motivation is for calling you. If there is just hint of a scam slam your phone down on the receiver. Do it! If you don’t you may regret what follows. … I did.

A year or so later this historian/cum-reviewer and I both spoke at a symposium in SoCal. I called the host and told him that if the historian attacked me verbally that I would retaliate. The historian kept his mouth shut and we actually enjoyed spending time together and talking.

Two things that need to be said

Ladies and gents, I want to make something absolutely clear right now—people and archives play major roles in all of my published work. I am forever grateful for their contributions.

This photo was taken on Christmas day, 2018. Do I look “snarky”? Perhaps, … or maybe I’m simply “cocky.” (photo © Louis Kraft 2018)

I have pointed out errors in books published over the last 50 years. Some of them are heinous but have been reprinted time and again (and often without any documentation). One of my peer reviewers tore into me big time for pointing out published errors; he even stated that I was “snarky.” Snarky? Maybe he’s correct. I don’t care for I’m sick and tired of seeing old errors repeated ad nauseam. This reviewer rightfully stated that I needed to temper my comments (hopefully I’ve been able to follow his suggestion). At this point in time much of my proof of erroneous documentation has been purged from the manuscript. In its place I have inserted notes that mention the errors without pointing the finger at published works, and simply warning readers to be wary of documents that use the previously published errors.* Hopefully historians and readers who read these words heed them.

* Of course a few instances existed where this was impossible to do. I guess I’m still “snarky.” Sorry.

LK writing and life in his world

I don’t view myself as a liar, for sometimes I need a break from almost continuous seven-day weeks for what seems like forever. The blogs are fun for me, while being time intensive. More important they are research for my nonfiction or that memoir I usually ignore when I talk about my writing projects. If ever I finish the memoir, and it is doable as I have a ton of research in house, I will never see it published. Errol Flynn never saw his final book published (My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Putnam and Sons, 1959), and no one was able to sue him for telling what I believe were truthful words about some of the people he knew well. … Let’s carry the LK memoir one step forward. It is completed and placed with a publisher. At that time I will make certain that we are in sync when it can be published, and that time will be right after I’m dancing with angels. Am I joking or am I serious? Be patient for time will give you an answer.

Throughout our early life together I moved Pailin’s car out of our long driveway so that I could use my car; that is moving her car onto the street, moving my car onto the street, moving her car back onto the driveway, and then walking to my car on the street. She suggested parking her car under a carport that we didn’t use as it had been blocked by a fence I installed about 2009 and a huge orange tree that had died about 2013. A great idea! In December 2015 I removed the steel fence, chopped down the tree, removed its root system, filled in the hole, pounded the earth, before the Vette pressed down the earth. This photo was taken in the late afternoon on December 9 after quitting work. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

On 24jun2018 my life took another detour. That Sunday the sole of one of my yard-work moccasins came loose and caught on the small red stones I installed in 2015 for the drive to Pailin’s carport (the Vette lives in the garage), and I took a flying dive forward. There was a pole in front of me—I had to protect the pacemaker—and twisted to my left to avoid a head-on collision or worse, nailing the pacemaker. While knowing that the impact wouldn’t be pretty I had to make a perfect landing. Acting and swashbuckling training provided what I needed to know—that is, how to fall. Still, my flying body was like a biplane crash-landing during WWI. Add deep-deep gashes, huge bruises, and burns along the left side of my body. But it was a good day for my noggin’ didn’t slide along the stones and neither did the pacemaker. Nevertheless I saw my heart specialist pronto. The moccasins were exiled to the black trashcan.

This has been my life for years now, and yet I’m alive. They say that the good die young. If so, what am I? … Evil? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Still, there are some people that will agree with this. For the record there’re not my friends.

I’ve discussed cracked skulls and trips to the emergency room, I’ve detailed the perfect storm that resulted in me continuing walk our earth, and I’m not repeating this here. (If interested see: Louis Kraft perfect storm and the Sand Creek Massacre).

I’m not going to tell about this book, except to say that it is one of the best books I’ve ever written. The reviews have been kind. Unfortunately I’ve not had time to place a page on the website for the book (hopefully in 2019), but when I do I’ll share some of them. A number of the reviews state that it would make a good film or mini-series. This said, beware if you decide to read it for there is extreme violence, as well as sexual intimacy, and a darkness that at times is overwhelming, and would give the story an extreme “R” rating if ever produced as a film (perhaps higher depending upon the script and director). A good friend, Tom Eubanks, read about 30 pages and stopped. He told me he knew where book was going. All I can say is that he was clueless, for the two leading players are on the book cover and he never met the newborn as an adult, and that is where the medical, judicial, intense character-study thriller begins. Begins. … BTW, the title is misleading while being dead on target. (art and book cover design © Louis Kraft 2016)

This said, my time has been questionable ever since I made a habit of cracking the back of my skull open. Other than a partnership on The Discovery with Robert S. Goodman that began at the time I needed to pay for a surgery that I didn’t know about until after the fact (oh yeah LK has gone from someone with wads of cash in his pockets to someone who picks up bottles on the street). This began in 2012 by my choice. At that time I endured a practice that was totally illegal, totally unethical, and yet a manager I saw only three times in my life not only backed the policy he salivated while supporting it. I doubt that I will ever write about it (although it is well documented; perhaps I should add it to my archive in Santa Fe). Alas, today truth in the USA is a dangerous thing to share. Money almost always wins out.

Regardless, I decided to never again write for the software world, and at that time I was pulling in six figures.

For the record, I believe that writers must move between different genres and push themselves to the limit as they explore and improve their craft.

The Discovery was a detour and at the same time the most important one in my writing life

Bob Goodman has been my physician for almost 30 years, and he along with another five specialists keep me living a good physical life. In 2002 Bob saw something that if not fixed would have led to my death in 2003 or perhaps early 2004. I owe him a lot. Add that I like him a lot, and when he approached me to partner with him to write his terrific story idea (folks, his premise was magnificent). More, as it was an historical piece that spanned over 20 years between the early 1950s and the early 1970s with a huge cast of players (read the Sand Creek story for scope and cast list), and I knew that it could give me what I needed for my nonfiction manuscript—learning how to make a story with many people whose actions are all over the place work in a linear progression. At this time the Sand Creek manuscript didn’t flow forward smoothly. Read that it was hackneyed at best; I’m sorry but that wasn’t acceptable.

A work in progress of LK and Bob Goodman (even though it carries a 2017 copyright). He hasn’t seen it yet. I had hoped to complete it this year and give it to him. Nope! Story of my life: A day late and a dollar short. … I will finish this painting hopefully in 2019 for I will be seeing him then. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

The Discovery gave me what I needed to pull Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a LIfeway together and become reality. Hell, I’ve been a professional writer for decades and I was having trouble. I still had a massive amount of word crafting of facts and time in front of me to make the tragic end of the Cheyenne and Arapahos’ lifeway move forward in an acceptable manner. But now I was in the driver’s seat. God love you, Bob! I cherish our relationship and our partnership.

The other influences on my writing life

Technical writing had been a terrific experience. It is fast, demanding, and the deadlines are deadly. DEADLY. … When I worked in the film world you worked eight hours. After that it was time and a half and then after 10 hours more dollar bills flowed out of a fountain. On feature films I didn’t experience that much overtime but in TV it was a different story. On the last day of a medical TV pilot (read an hour and a half and shot in 15 or 17 days; can’t remember) the limited shoot (my guess at this late date as I didn’t keep the “call sheets,” which gave you a start time each day and what was being filmed that day) was get what was absolutely necessary and discard the un-shot script pages. That last day and night we worked 23 hours. My eyes turned into dollar signs. Often there were previews; I never saw one for this pilot, never saw the pilot on TV, and it never became a TV show. Not the first time or the last time.

Since we’re dealing with film and TV and that other money-maker I hated but did when I needed money—modeling, let’s touch base with the entertainment world in the 1970s and 1980s.

LK art of Bob Ellenstein. His son, David, also an actor and director, saw it in a blog years back, contacted me, and asked if he could have a copy. Of course; I sent him copies set to print as an 8×10″ and various versions for the internet. It was good catching up with him (he was a little boy when I spent a lot of time with Bob and his mother Lois at their home on the Westside of LA). Bob and Lois also had an in-house bookstore, and they were able to get me all of the classic works published on the pirate Francis Drake in the early 1970s including many that were simply primary-source documents. You can bet that both nonfiction and fictional works dealing with Mr. Drake are a comin’. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Actually more important is me clarifying what I learned from Bob (Robert) Ellenstein, an actor/director I met in college when he was the professional guest directing professor during my senior year at CSUN. Actually I learned it after graduation when I studied acting with him. This time, beginning in summer 1969 and continuing for a number of years led to a friendship between us that extended long after I stopped studying acting under his guidance. … At one point Bob told the small acting class that I took with him in the early ’70s (between eight and ten people), “Whatever you do, make sure you can live with it.” This was the absolute best advice I have ever received in my life. The absolute best! … And I have lived by it ever since.

This doesn’t mean that I’m a good person; it means that I have never done anything that I could not live with. Put another way, I have never sold my soul or body for money or advancement.

The year 2020 is front and center as long as LK doesn’t mess it up

Although I’ve spent a fair amount of time dealing with writing extra words above I’m totally aware of my contracted word counts. This guarantees that I’ll never place myself in a situation wherein I’m below the word count, need more, but am clueless where to dig for more facts and events simply as a filler as this not a good way to complete a manuscript.

But this isn’t the problem. Actually, it shouldn’t be a problem for when I buy into a project it is for 100 percent. Simply, this means that I’m not just the writer. I have a vision for my print projects, and I do everything possible to insure that the final product is as close to what I originally envisioned. This means that I am present throughout the production process with my input. Sometimes this isn’t appreciated. Too bad. It is my project and my input will happen. What I say, do, or insist upon is not egotistical. Not at all—it is simply to improve what is published.

I originally created this art of Ned Wynkoop for an article of mine (“Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races”) in Custer and His Times, Book Five (2008). It has appeared in I think three (perhaps four) additional publications including two (three?) magazines. Originally it was an oval portrait but has also been landscape. This image was last printed in Symphony in the Flint Hills: Field Journal, Volume V (2013), and it provided me with my best payday with this portrait. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Often I submit my photos/art for publication. It brings in money (sometimes four or five times when I get lucky and an image is resold). This is good for it helps pay bills. Sometimes my art is used to reduce the cost of the image in university press books wherein I am responsible for assembling all the photos and art for the publication. I negotiate with artists and owners of historical images (often offering a book in exchange for using their art/images). I think that this is fair for I save money, they get a copy of the first edition of the book as well as the publicity.

Regarding using my images in publications, at times I’ve been pinged as some people don’t like writers creating art for their words. Honestly, I don’t understand the reasoning behind this and have refused to respond to these comments.

In the past I have publicized photos and art in consideration for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. The process has been ongoing for years, and I have been negotiating for a good part of this time with artists, private collections, as well as National Historic Sites.

Jerry Greene and Mr. Scott’s book (OU Press, 2004) is one of the better books published dealing with the massacre. The cover is a cropped version of Robert Lindneux’s Sand Creek Massacre art. The painting is landscape, so almost every book cover that features it has been cropped on one or both sides. This isn’t a problem when it is used in magazine articles. Jerry is a good friend whom I enjoy hanging out with whenever opportunity presents itself.

At the moment I am considering pushing two pieces of art for the cover, but I know as 2019 races toward summer that this number will increase. One thing is certain, the cliché art that has appeared on way-too-many Sand Creek books (some of which have nothing to do with the massacre) will not appear on my dust jacket—including Robert Lindneux’s painting (left), which is housed at History Colorado.

Want to read a terrific book dealing with the Cheyenne wars, read Jerry Greene’s Washita: The U.S. Army and the Southern Cheyennes, 1867-1869 (OU Press, 2004). While the book and dust jacket design were in production (I saw a proof of the cover art). Anita Donofrio, who kindly volunteered to do sound and lighting for an over-sold-out Wynkoop one-man show at the former Colorado Historical Society that year invited me to stay with her and her son (a totally delightful young man) the following week while I did research. She was/is a good friend of Jerry’s. I told her that if she invited him to dinner one night I’d cook. My reason: I wanted to meet him, and that evening, which went deep into the night, created a friendship.

Regarding LK’s cooking—don’t snicker. I’m a terrific cook, and have been for decades. … Gents, here’s a tip worth its weight in gold: The way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach (and I can prove this).

The here is now, … or is it put up or shut up?

I deliver my polished draft of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway to Adam in two weeks. If this draft passes review—fingers are always crossed—it is all uphill from here. Meaning: LK will have a Cheshire Cat grin on his face until 2020.*

* Lewis Carroll created this cat and its mischievous grin in his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).

I participate in all of my projects in every way possible. At times—and this is a major understatement—production teams from art directors to editors and everyone in between would love to lock me in a cell until the book is published. … And I’ve heard the comments (or read them) to know that this is a true statement. They’re professionals, and most of them are very good at what they do.

This Sun Microsystems badge was the only one I ever bothered to grab, and I had no clue at this late date why I did this. In 2005, when the company purchased Seebeyond Technology Corp., they had over 40,000 employees worldwide. by late 2008 that figure had dropped to 24,000 employees. Poor management had doomed the company, whose stock plummeted to obscene levels when in January 2009 69 percent of the former Seebeyond employees then in Monrovia, Calif., were laid off. Often they talk about loyalty in sports or the lack of. Take a quick look at the technical world and you’ll see that they make the sports world look like amateurs when it comes to eliminating personnel.

Alas, so am I, and I have done what they do. I’ve designed books, dust jackets, newsletters (wherein I was the editor and designer), created art, maps, and know that I must pay close attention to what is happening during every step of the production process or things can and might happen that are bad (or worse), and this isn’t on the production team. It’s on me. My name is on the book or article, and that means one thing: If there are errors (anything from a note that is no longer accurate or apropos, inaccurate captions, quoted text blind-edited, whatever) there is only one person to blame—LK. I’ve missed changed captions, notes that no longer deal with what they supposedly confirm, and I cringe when I realize that a quote has been altered. This list is ongoing, including index entries that vanish, even though I thought they were important.

My manuscripts receive two copyedits and they usually take about a month each (but that was back when I wrote for software companies and often had two-plus hours of drive time and overtime almost every day). This is no longer the case. Although the Sand Creek manuscript has a larger word count I think that the copyedits will take only a month each to complete.

LK acceptance of the Wrangler Award for “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” (Wild West, April 2011) at the Western Heritage Awards banquet in Oklahoma City in April 2012. Yeah, Kraft does dress up sometimes. On this evening I was wearing Cheyenne beaded moccasins. For the record, Cheyennes wore low moccasins (unlike the Apaches and the high moccasins shown above). To cover and protect their legs the Cheyennes wore leggings, which are described in detail in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

I want to say something here and it is of major importance. … I love my editors and copyeditors. Actually I consider myself one lucky SOB as I have been associated with OU Press and the University of Nebraska Press for they create first-class publications and are the two best Indian wars publishers in the world. In the world!

Unfortunately I think they and their production teams cringe when an LK manuscript arrives on their desks. Folks, I’m a historian, but I’ve also a teller of stories. This means I want character development. This isn’t easy in nonfiction. In the past I’ve had to fight to keep my character development. For example in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011), his wife Louise is alone in their hotel room at La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory, when rats enter the room. She steps onto a chair and is still standing on it when Ned enters the room. Of course the rats scattered when he opened the door and he didn’t see them. He chides her, she gets angry and tells him to sit down. He does, and the rats return. Wynkoop leaps onto his chair, yanks out his Colt and begins shooting at the rats. This brings the hotel manager, who quickly moves them to another room. … The scene shows character, but the copyeditor cut it. I reinserted the scene and told her that it stays.

This image of LK was taken on the old Route 66 that sliced through a good portion of the USA back in days long gone. Alas, so are the towns, and some are little more than skeletons of what once was. My bro Glen Williams took this photo in front of a long-abandoned gas station in fall 2011 on the day after he and I delivered an LK archival package to Tomas Jahen (then of the Chávez History Library) and his family in Williams, Az. I really like Glen’s photo as it captured the destruction of a past that will soon vanish if not recorded. Ladies and gents, history will quickly fade into nothing if not recorded—Lost to time. Our grandparents, parents, and children (and that is all the personal history I have) will vanish without a trace if I don’t write about their lives. This is personal, and so is a memoir. (photo © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2011)

Many nonfiction books are stuffed with fact upon fact upon fact stringed together in—please forgive me good nonfiction writers for I’m not talking about you—long sterile sentences and paragraphs that can put me to sleep in two pages. I often must suffer through these, … these, … these, … what are they—Oh yeah, pages! Often they offer nothing that I need but I don’t know that until I read the last page. Wasted time? No, for I must know the answer. To borrow from the long departed TV show (which should have been left in peace) The X Files, “The Truth is Out There,” and I need to know it.

Long answer short. Good times are on the horizon for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is about to move into production (if accepted), a process I love for it is a collaboration of many people working together to make the published book as good as possible. There are many steps, many reviews, many changes, and many suggestions to make the final product of value to those who read it. For me it is a thrilling time.

In closing Global Warming is here to stay

… and it will only get worse if action is not taken during our lifetimes.

It is unbelievable how many nay-sayers there are to this statement. Conspiracy stories abound. I know people who insist that the fires in California and elsewhere in the American West, the hurricanes that assault the East Coast, the Southern Coast, the Caribbean, and Texas, as well as the typhoons in other portions of the world are nothing more that disasters created by the “government.” “The government? Who? Trump?” “No, the government. The Clintons, Obamas, and Bushes.” … Beachfront property in SoCal is losing the war with the Pacific Ocean as the waves increase in velocity and pound the cement barriers that protect these over-priced houses in LA and San Diego Counties. Eventually the sea will destroy them, and the process has already begun.

This image of Pailin and LK doesn’t belong here. This said, I have no images of Climate Control for its future is still unknown. The LK/PSK future is known, and this end of Christmas 2018 photo shows this. We are together and we are one until the end of our time of walking Mother Earth. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2018)

Those that deny the changes of weather conditions, the melting of icepacks, spout vehemently that it is all fake news. Some have even told me that the violence and mass murders across the USA never happened. They claim that it is “government” false news to spread hatred and violence and that these “fictions” are filmed performances using actors. They claim that the reason is to reduce the population and eliminate the middle class. … I agree that the USA is becoming a world of the super rich and the poor (who will soon become homeless—at least in LA, the homeless capital of the USA).

What about the recent report on global warning by the Federal Government? “Fake news!” … Maybe I’m old fashioned, maybe I’m not in line with today’s world, but I have a lot of trouble with slogans—such as Fake News. Don’t believe me see the Los Angeles Times 24nov2018 article “Climate report warns of bleak future”.


Since May and my last blog the following seven months have been a blur.
At times I didn’t know if I was sleeping or awake. I was focused solely on the
Sand Creek manuscript and the health of the ladies in my life. That’s it; that’s all that mattered. I became Rod Taylor as he sped between centuries in H. G. Wells’ novel turned into the classic 1960 film
The Time Machine (which would have blasted the 2002
adaption to kingdom come if it had the special effects capabilities available
during the first decade of the 21st century). Beginning in 2011 I have
been on a joyride without end, a joyride that at times descended
into the depths of Hell, but is not yet complete and won’t be
until 2020 when the book is printed.

There is one LK truism for the upcoming year—There will be more blogs.
The question is when?

The Tom Eubanks, Louis Kraft, Ned Wynkoop, & Errol Flynn connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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


I want to say upfront that my friend Tom Eubanks is the most talented person that I’ve ever known. Moreover, he has unlimited focus and energy to bring all his projects to fruition. He’s a terrific friend and to date my only director since I quit working in theater/film/TV/commercials etc. in the mid-1980s.

This blog deals with our initial literary connection, theatrical relationship,
and to where it hopefully leads us next.

Enter Tom Eubanks stage right

In spring 1990 my then wife and I bought a terrific house in Thousand Oaks, California (in Ventura County, the county north of Los Angeles), which was a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains.

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Although this image of LK dates to later than 1990, it pretty much represents my clean-cut look at that time when I wasn’t wearing boots and wide-brimmed hats. George Carmichael took this image on a beach in northern San Diego County. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

At that time I had been selling magazine articles and giving talks mostly about race relations and the Cheyenne Indian wars of the 1860s but also baseball (current and history). I also wrote for a telecommunications software company. Even though I freelanced nonfiction I studied fiction at UCLA at night taught by a visiting professional. … I met George Carmichael at UCLA. He was a retired aerospace engineer who sold magazine articles and had an unending curiosity in the world. We remained close friends until his death on 2apr2014. After the class ended George and I continued to study with the UCLA writer at her Westwood office/home. As at UCLA, she oversaw the discussions and critiqued the work.

Actually, some of the wanna-be novelists at this time seemed to be from other planets (but not George). One of the Westwood writers was drafting a story about Jesus Christ, who was the quarterback of a high school football team. He was serious. … How do you keep a straight face while frantically trying to figure out how to say something constructive? Not easy to do.

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The Thousand Oaks house played a role in the publicity for The Final Showdown (see below).

After the move to Thousand Oaks a novelist that I no longer associate with suggested that I become a member of the Ventura County Writers Club and join one of the fiction groups of five, six, or seven that met weekly. I did. At these meetings the writers read from their current project and their peers reviewed their words—sometimes with insight but more often than not with chatter that was useless. Sometimes this was difficult to do, for way too often the people in these groups were not professional and never would be (and this included most of the would-be writers that I had seen at UCLA and Westwood). That said, there were some talented people present and they knew how to review constructively.

It was at these Ventura County writer meetings that I met Tom Eubanks. He was opinionated (and at first we didn’t connect), and it was shortly after I joined the group that I also learned of his theatrical training and interest.

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As I don’t have any photos of Tom that date to the 1990s I decided to use this image of him that I took on 13aug2016. (photo © Tom Eubanks & Louis Kraft 2016)

I believe that at this time he had already directed a number of stage productions. One night our words crossed swords over a play that he directed (and I think that he liked), The Owl and the Pussycat, and some years back that I had been assigned to work on at the Melrose Theatre Company, a professional theater group in Hollywood that I became a member of in the 1970s. I didn’t like Bill Manhoff’s The Owl and the Pussycat. Most likely because I was probably the worst Felix ever. The play focused on Doris (the pussycat) and Felix (the owl), and had some great scenes but I never came close to connecting with the character. For me, he was a pure “nothing” (Barbra Streisand and George Segal played the roles in the 1970 film version; I’ve always liked Barbra’s singing and acting, but didn’t like this film). This was not a great beginning to a potential Eubanks-Kraft friendship.

A lady in the Ventura group read the opening chapter from her novel as her character watched the panorama of spectacle and debauchery in pre-history England as it unfolded on the plain below the tree from which she saw all that happened. When I asked her the name of her major character, she didn’t know what I was talking about. I rephrased the question: “Who was the person in the tree?” “An extra.” It was my turn to be confused. “What?” “She is nobody and doesn’t need a name,” came the reply. “But everything that happened in your story has been seen through her eyes. She reacted to what she saw and is the focus of the scene. So far she is your only character, and …” “No!” “Why?” “You’ll never see her again.” … This woman was beyond help.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take me long to realize that Tom was almost always right on with his comments. He had a quick wit, was funny, and always contributed constructive comments that could benefit the writer on the hot seat if she or he listened. Better yet, a friendship began to develop.

The Final Showdown

That same year of 1990 I attended a Western Writers of America (WWA) convention in Portland, Oregon (unfortunately I didn’t bring a camera to fully 95 percent of the first two-thirds of my life and there are few images. At that time I had a literary agent (not my first for earlier I had had three screenwriting agents, and the first one—Ed Menerth (1976-1982)—took me under his wing after I submitted a fictionalized screenplay based upon my surviving a harrowing summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, in 1976.

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A publicity photo from the Hayloft Dinner Theatre in 1976. I was  performing in the generation-gap What Did We Do Wrong in the evenings while rehearsing Eat Your Heart Out during the days (and this photo is from one of the daytime rehearsals), which was about an actor who waited tables while struggling to survive in Hollywood. That’s Robin LaValley, an LA actress in the background. I don’t remember if the leaping onto the chair was in the script or not but it was always a balancing act. This was one of at least two plays wherein I dueled with imaginary swords on stage. … With luck, one more time. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Actually, I was lucky to get out of the Lone Star State without being tarred and feathered, or worse (I had lived and worked with racism and violence in Texas and Oklahoma in 1970 but the 1976 racism was worse).

Back to the 1990 WWA convention. One late night that June my then agent Cherry Weiner, Walker and Company editor Jackie Johnson, I sat in the Oregon hotel lobby sipping drinks and chatting.

I pitched a story that took place during the lead-up to the Medicine Lodge Peace Council in 1867 Kansas, the council, and the aftermath. While most of the characters actually lived (Cheyennes Black Kettle, Stone Forehead, and Bull Bear; Kiowa Satanta; reporter Henry Morton Stanley; Captain Albert Barnitz (Seventh U.S. Cavalry); and Indian agent Ned Wynkoop; the three leads were fictional. It had action, was romantic, and it dealt with Cheyenne-white race relations.

Two or three months later my agent called me. “Have you drafted three chapters?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The story that you pitched Jackie Johnson. She wants to see three chapters.”

Sometimes I’ve got a few screws loose in my brain. “I didn’t realize that she was interested.”

“She is. Get on it!”

lk_jj91_cropSmartSharp_wsUSE

LK and editor Jackie Johnson chatting at the 1991 Western Writers of America convention. (photo © Louis Kraft 1991)

It took me a couple of months to draft the requested chapters, and as I wrote I presented at the weekly meetings of the fiction group. Tom, and others, helped me immensely. I received a contract on those three chapters.

The lead players in The Final Showdown

I based the three fictional leads on real people. Ex-soldier Ned Morgan, who had been at the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory, was based on Wynkoop* (while never calling the real Wynkoop “Ned” and referring to him as “The Tall Chief Wynkoop,” which I steer clear of in my nonfiction writing); I used the famed Northern Cheyenne war leader Roman Nose as an inspiration for The Wolf’s Head; and a lady friend I once knew for Elsa Wells (she read and liked the book, but never realized that I had pulled from her inner being to create Elsa). … Here’s a warning to my lady friends: Be careful with what you share with me as you might become inspiration for one of my fictional female characters, and often they are on the adventurous side.

* The real Wynkoop was not at the Sand Creek Massacre.

This placed Tom front and center with Wynkoop from almost the beginning as I moved between various media time and again as I struggled to figure out who he was. Tom would eventually see some of my articles about the soldier turned Indian agent but never heard any of my talks that dealt with him.

25feb13_finalShowdown300By fall 1991 The Final Showdown was at the publisher’s in New York City. Everything should have been good.

Unfortunately it wasn’t for my marriage was limping toward its end. My time in Thousand Oaks ended a month or two before the divorce was final in early April 1992, and it marked the beginning of the end of my membership with the Ventura writing group. When I moved my belongings to an apartment in Tarzana, a town in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles city and county), Tom Eubanks played a major role in getting my handful of belongings back to LA and safety.

Instead of this disaster marking the end of my friendship with Tom, it marked the beginning.

Before the divorce was final the publisher had submitted the book to the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle, and a staff writer called me at Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet) in El Segundo, California, to interview me. He wanted to come to the Thousand Oaks house. I told him that I worked as a technical writer in the South Bay, which is south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and that I had a two-hour drive each way (all true), and that I’d prefer a phone interview. He was good with this, called back twice, and we spoke for perhaps three hours.

Before hanging up the last time we spoke the reporter told me that a photographer would visit me at my home. “Why does it have to be at my home?” I asked. “You must live in Ventura County; if you don’t, there won’t be an article,” he snapped. “Do you live in Ventura County?” “Of course!” I gave him my former address and we set a time for the photo shoot the following Saturday.

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LK in the courtyard entry to the Thousand Oaks house in April 1992. Photo used by permission of the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle.

I called my ex-wife, explained the situation, and asked if the paper’s photographer could take photos at the Thousand Oaks house. “Yes,” she said, “as long as you don’t come inside.”

When the photographer arrived at my former home I met him in the front yard. After leading him into the courtyard and suggesting an archway opening that I thought would make a great photo, he agreed, set up his lights, and snapped away. He then suggested that we go inside and shoot photos of me at my computer. (Oh horror or horrors!) “That’s a terrible idea,” I said (yes, I did prep for what I could not let happen). “Why?” “Do you take photos of all the authors your paper writes about sitting at their computers?” “Yes.” “Well, damn, by now that is cliché.” He agreed and I began to breathe again.

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The cover page for the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle “Variety” section. LK is sitting near the top of the hill to the west of the 101 Freeway. This is the image that saved the interview.

I suggested a hill on the west side of the California 101 Freeway after exiting at Lynn Road. He agreed, we drove to the hill, climbed it, and luckily we got the images he needed. … I later called my ex-wife and thanked her, and that call was from my heart.

Tom’s Plays and the passage of time

As said above, my move to Tarzana ended my days as a member of the Ventura County writers group as it was just too far to drive, and especially as my days at Infonet began at 6:00 AM. Of great importance my relationship with Tom didn’t end. He began inviting me to see his plays at the Ohai Art Center Theatre in the Ohai Valley (Ventura County, Calif.), and our friendship grew. He had a wide range of plays that he directed, from the famous (such as Equis) to the not-so-famous (can’t think of an example) to plays he wrote. Yes, Tom is a terrific writer; fiction and plays, and over the years the number of plays that he has written has grown considerably. I’ve seen a lot of them, and they are damned good. I’ve not asked, but I hope that other directors have staged some of his plays.

I met Tom’s wife, Judy, in those wild early years of the 1990s and from the moment that we first met I’ve always enjoyed spending time with her. Tom has three daughters, Cassie, Alex, and Hannah (who’ve I’ve known since she was an infant). … I have more to say about Tom, for not only is he a bright fellow who does a great job of bringing his writing and plays to fruition, he’s open, friendly, generous, and funny with a very quick wit, but probably best of all he is a wonderful husband and father. Judy and his daughters are lucky to have him.

The years passed and I enjoyed our friendship at his home in Casitas Springs and at Tujunga House (which became my home in January 1993).

A trip to Yuma & its importance

I’ve been to Yuma, Arizona, twice, and this section deals with the first trip.

In 2000 Gatewood & Geronimo was published, and I delivered a number of talks. One was in Yuma.

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Cover art © Louis Kraft 1999)

All I can say about this place is that it’s hotter than Hell during the summer months. On this first trip I spoke about 1st Lieutenant Charles Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico and talking him, Naiche, the last hereditary Chiricahua Apache chief, and the people with them into ending the last Apache war. The book had just been published and the two maps were an assembly of dots and totally useless. I was told that in the blue line the maps were fine. I replied that this was bullshit (I had seen too many blue lines to doubt my view sight unseen), and I must have been correct for the publisher recalled all the books (and it had been printed in hardback and paper at the same time; a costly mistake). BTW, I never saw this blue line until years later when it was sent to me, and it proved that I was right in 2000—the maps were a disaster and no one at the press had checked the blue line. I quickly forwarded it to the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but I don’t know if the archive kept it or trashed it (hopefully the former).

I had been thinking about writing a one-man play and had already outlined one on George Armstrong Custer. But during the drive home from the talk in Yuma I began thinking about Ned Wynkoop, who had gone from being a racist to someone who accepted Cheyenne and Arapaho people as human beings. Ladies & gents, I hate to say it but this is still a major problem in the USA 150+ years after Wynkoop decided to live by his conscience and damn all who disagreed with his choice.

For the record this is my choice. A good person is a good person, and
I don’t give a bleep what his or her color is, where they were
born, or what their race or religion is. We are all human
beings living on earth by the grace of God.

This didn’t happen until Wynkoop, as a major in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry, attempted to end the 1864 Cheyenne war when he without orders and at great risk to himself and his men, rode to a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas and discussed ending the war with Cheyennes and Arapahos.

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While traveling to the still unseen Cheyenne and Arapaho village on a tributary of the Smoky Hill in western Kansas Wynkoop’s small command was confronted by a battle line of perhaps 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors on 10sept1864. Original art © Louis Kraft 2015, and first published in “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” August 2015 Wild West magazine.

No violence happened at the confrontation and later that day Wynkoop met in council with Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs. Although threatened and at times in a desperate situation he would eventually receive four children prisoners and was able to talk seven Indian leaders into traveling with him to Denver, Colorado Territory, to discuss ending the war with Territorial Governor John Evans (the council eventually took place at Camp Weld, just south of Denver). Wynkoop and the Indian leaders thought that peace had come to the land. They were wrong. Wynkoop was removed from command at Fort Lyon (Colorado Territory), and Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand moved their villages from the post and to Sand Creek, about 40 miles to the northeast. Wynkoop traveled to Kansas, where he expected to be court-martialed for being absent from his post in time of war (without orders he met the Indians on the Smoky Hill and brought them to Denver). Three days after Wynkoop set out for Kansas Colorado Volunteers attacked Black Kettle and Left Hand’s villages—villages that thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military until it decided to end or continue the war.

What happened on that tragic November 29, 1864, day rips me apart every time I think about it.

On that drive home from Yuma I conceived a one-man play on Wynkoop and the Sand Creek tragedy. I called Leo Oliva, a Kansas historian and friend who played a major role in the Fort Larned Old Guard, an organization that deals with the history of the Fort Larned National Historic Site (NHS), and pitched the idea. For years Leo had been instrumental in bringing me to Kansas, and nothing had changed. He loved the proposal and said, “How about next April.” Although thrilled I had to say, “No,” as I didn’t have an outline, a play, or a director. “How about April 2002?” I offered. … It was a go.

I pitched the idea to Tom and he liked it.

Wynkoop one-man shows in Kansas, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma

As said above not many photos were taken but by the early 2000s a change was a comin’.

lk_NWpubicity_valleyOfFire_30nov2001_wsTaking a one-man show on the road is not a cup of tea; it is 14-or-more-hour days as a set needs to be created, lights need to be set, and technical rehearsals need to happen. If anything can go wrong, I guarantee that it will.

As 2001 neared its end Leo Oliva requested a publicity photo of me as Wynkoop. This was impossible as the hat and costume were still being made. However, that November I spent some time in Nevada and this image (right) was taken at the Valley of Fire State Park, northeast of Las Vegas. I printed it and sent it to Leo, and it was subsequently printed on the cover of the Fort Larned Old Guard newsletter, Outpost, promoting An Evening with Ned Wynkoop. Of course it garnered me a complaint from a California historian: “Wynkoop didn’t dress like that!!!” No kidding. Publicity with a photo is always better than publicity without a photo.

As soon as I had the costume (a wife of a former superintendent of Fort Larned created it for me) and hat I took some photos at Tujunga House and sent them to Leo Olvia, but I don’t believe any were used in the publicity.

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I’ve always liked this image that was taken in front of a shed that no longer exists at Tujunga House. Baron Hats (Burbank, Calif.) made the hat for me (it is based upon the 1867 woodcut of Wynkoop that appeared in Harper’s Weekly in May of that year). They make a lot of the hats used in films, and since this hat they have made all of my hats. I didn’t include this image in the package that I had sent to Leo Oliva. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Kansas

I first traveled to Fort Larned, Kansas, in 1990 for The Final Showdown research. On that trip I met (now) chief historian George Elmore, who has been my friend since we met. I can’t begin to tell you how much he has done to help my Indian wars writing over the years.

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I think that this picture is the only photo I have of George Elmore (right), Leo Olvia (left) and me together. We are walking on the Fort Larned parade ground. The photo, by National Park Service ranger Ellen Jones, dates to the morning of 28apr2012 when I was a banquet speaker at the annual Fort Larned Old Guard conference.

For the record I don’t get stage fright (acting or talks), and I guess that this comes with the number of performances and talks over the years. If true, the talks, which have been prepped are script-less, and by that I mean that although I know what I’m going to talk about I don’t memorize while at the same time I work at getting a flow to the talk (the only things I memorize, that is try to memorize, are quotes). Glitches happen, and over the years I’ve learned how to deal with them as best as possible.

But the one-man show would be different. Both Tom’s and my ass were on the line. If the worst happened I’d be standing alone on stage while Tom ran for the closest exit. Luckily this scenario has never happened as each time Tom has pulled off a miracle: Getting a set built, lights set, and when people volunteered or were assigned to run lights and sound weren’t technical and were placed in a difficult situation he coached them until they were able to pull off the impossible.

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LK enjoying Fort Larned while dressed as Ned Wynkoop in early May 2002. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

The day before Tom arrived I dressed in the Wynkoop costume and my then girlfriend and I hung out at the fort (doing a little living history) and took a series of publicity photos.

The city of Larned had a huge and first class proscenium theater (it seated at least 2000), but although we requested skilled light and sound technicians we were given two people—kind and giving ladies—that were clueless. Read long-long hours (from roughly eight each morning until after midnight) of getting the lights angled and set, and after learning how to run the complicated light and sound board Tom had to teach the ladies how to perform their cues. … George, Leo, and a number of Fort Larned’s maintenance crew built platforms to Tom’s specifications, built a stool which also substituted as a horse, built a podium, and rounded up the requested log, desk, and chair, and delivered everything to the theater on the morning after Tom’s arrival.

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I had recently used a very tight cropping of this photo elsewhere on social media. The reception had been surprisingly good and I decided to use the uncropped image here to hopefully mellow my rambling. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Pure hell for LK, for as the hours passed (I think that we had three days to pull it off), I didn’t have a technical or dress rehearsal. I was on the stage at all times, and basically functioning as my own stand-in. As showtime neared, and I didn’t have any rehearsal other than getting familiar with the set and mumbling my lines under my breath, only to again and again stand or sit in a specific location for technical issues.

My apologies for complaining
but Tom and I had put in a lot work in California just to get
ready to travel to Kansas. The time was short. Tom, with the generous
support of George Elmore, Leo Oliva, and others connected with Fort Larned,
pulled off nothing short of a miracle to create a set, angle lights (Tom), and set
the sound and light cues (Tom). From then on everything was related to the technical
end of getting the two volunteers to learn how to run the lights and sound.
I needed at least one complete rehearsal on the real set and
there hadn’t been any since arriving in Kansas.

I did have my dress rehearsal just hours before showtime. And I was miked, but during my only run-through of the play the mike fell from the costume and slid across the stage. The rehearsal continued without the mike while not missing a beat, but I was well aware of what could happen. Luckily when we had an audience everything went soothly on stage (and I presume in the sound and light booth).

California

Soon after we were both back in California (I had driven while he had flown to Kansas) Tom asked if I’d like to take Wynkoop to Ohai. You bet, for I had always wanted to act on the Ohai Art Center Theatre stage.

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This photo of LK as Wynkoop sitting at his desk was taken at the Ojai Art Center Theatre by the Ojai Valley News in May 2002, and is used by permission.

Tom, who was the artistic director, slipped An Evening with Ned Wynkoop between major productions. He used an incomplete set (partially seen in the above photo) and had platforms built to his set-design specifications. As in Kansas a log represented an Indian village, a podium New York City, and so on. Again we had proscenium stage but much more actor friendly (120 seats, 150 seats?). Much more intimate, which I prefer. An Evening with Ned Wynkoop played in Ojai in June 2002.

Colorado

Next up was Colorado, and I rewrote the play—now called Ned Wynkoop: A Matter of Conscience—to focus a little more on the horrific 1864 attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village, a tragedy that has still not healed for these people. The former Colorado Historical Society* (CHS) had a huge auditorium and they guaranteed to fill all 400 seats.

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LK as Wynkoop seeing the remains of the Sand Creek dead for the first time months after the 29nov1864 butchery. Pal Johnny D. Boggs (a writer, editor, and photographer) took this image at a December 2008 dress rehearsal in Oklahoma. I have no images from the performance in Colorado. I believe that it was in Colorado when Tom lit this scene in red for the first time. … At the end of the Sand Creek scene I knelt down at stage right as close as I could get to the audience to look at what was left of a Cheyenne girl and as Wynkoop said: “I couldn’t believe what I saw. This wasn’t the savagery of animals—what stared at me was the creativity of civilized man. This was the work of my compatriots, … of white men. … What I saw could have been Louise—could have been my children.” (LK: Louise was Wynkoop’s wife.)

Again, it would be another challenge taking the show on the road, but a friend, Anita Donotello, whom I had met in El Segundo, California, when I spoke at one of Dick Upton’s symposiums (miss them), volunteered to run the lights and sound. Doable as she had moved to Colorado. She was everything for us including our driver and Tom’s go-to assistant. After the show ended and Tom flew home I stayed at her house for another week while I did Wynkoop research at the Society and at the Denver Public Library. As I had worked out a deal to remain in the terrific hotel room that the Society had provided Tom and me, I had some leverage with Anita. I told her that I’d gladly accept her invitation if she invited Indian wars historian Jerry Greene over for a dinner that I’d cook. I didn’t know Jerry, wanted to know him, and knew that they were friends. I got my way and the four of us, which included Anita’s son Nicholas, enjoyed our evening together.

Again I think that we had three days (but it might have been two) to create the set and deal with the technical aspects. This trip wasn’t as frantic as Kansas as Robyn Jacobs, the CHS Adult Public Program Coordinator, was on top of everything (and she had a budget). She had even ordered metal frames to build a multi-leveled stage. Tom had come up with a great log to represent the Cheyenne village but an inspector or Society bigwig saw it and demanded that it go because of the threat of termites. I don’t know what Tom said, but the log stayed.

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Near the end of the play events in Wynkoop’s life began to haunt him when he was ordered to Indian Territory to collect his Indian wards at an area designated by the military. As he traveled through deep snow in November 1868 he sensed another massacre. Suddenly he thought he saw Isabelle Eubank, a three-year old girl he received from the Arapahos in 1864. He yanked the wagon to a halt and ran to comfort her, but couldn’t for she changed into the Cheyenne girl who had been raped again and again by soldiers at the Pawnee Fork in 1867 Kansas. … It couldn’t be, for both were dead. Alone, he needed to make a decision and allowed his conscience win out. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs in 2008.

Better, Tom and I had time to enjoy great breakfasts at the hotel, one lunch during our first day in town, and a great dinner after the show closed.

Sometime during our time in Denver I had proposed adding a scene for fun when Wynkoop, as the lead in The Drunkard (which garnered him great reviews in Denver), struggled trying not to take a drink at a climatic moment in the play. We rehearsed it and Anita (or Annie as Jerry calls her) was good with the last minute insertion. Both the technical rehearsal and the dress rehearsal went smoothly the morning of the performance. After notes Tom and I retired to our hotel room to relax.

Due to the low hanging lights that Tom had to use to light the stage I could see the audience. This wasn’t a problem as I couldn’t make out details, and even the faces of those in the first three rows were little more than blurs. This has always been a blessing for me and certainly has helped me keep my concentration, which is of major importance.

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I based this illustration on one of the photos that Johnny D. Boggs took of me in Oklahoma. … And, yes, it illustrates that moment when LK/Wynkoop took deadly aim at a CHS patron that was sitting at stage right because the Society decided not to turn away walk-ins on the night of the performance. Am not complaining, for I loved this audience. (art © Louis Kraft 2008)

The show ran smoothly and I had an absolute blast playing to 440 people (40 over the seating limit). Some of the overflow sat stage right, which was fine as I played to them too. One problem occurred when I yanked out the 1860 Army Colt and pointed it with deadly intent. Instead of aiming at an invisible enemy I now had a CHS patron in my line of fire. Oops! A quick jerk of the wrist and the revolver pointed upstage right. … For the record I swept right by the Wynkoop drunk scene without missing a beat. Afterwards Anita teased me, saying something like: “It’ll make the next show.” All I could do was shrug and agree. … It didn’t matter for I had had one hell of a good time.

Mike Koury (Order of the Indian Wars & The Old Army Press) has been a terrific friend since we both spoke at an Indian wars conference in SoCal in February 1987. He said he planned on seeing the show, and it was great seeing him afterwards.

Tom and I ate a great dinner at a restaurant on the walk back to the hotel (we passed the restaurant twice each day, and this dinner was planned). A good time as we chatted and enjoyed our food and drinks. I hated that the evening was coming to an end, but then I’ve always had good times with Mr. Eubanks.

* Sometime in late 2011 or 2012 the Colorado Historical Society became History Colorado and moved into a spectacular modern building a block away.

Oklahoma

A few years passed and I gave a talk about Ned Wynkoop and Cheyenne race relations at a 2007 Western History Association convention in Oklahoma City. The session was Indian wars-based and the three speakers enjoyed a standing-room only audience with another 12 or more people lining the back wall or struggling to listen and see from the doorway.

Afterwards, Dave Schafer, then chief of interpretation and operations for the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, and his wife Valerie (who also worked for the Park Service) along with Richard Zahn and Drew Hughes (NPS rangers) in Oklahoma caught up with me after the session ended.

lk_te_BoggsPrayArt_websiteDave and the others liked the talk and wanted to know if I’d like to present at the Washita Battlefield. Of course I would, but as we walked my mind raced. I wanted the talk but I also wanted to do an updated version of the Wynkoop one-man show. I pitched both and Dave bought both. I’d perform Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita on two days and talk about him on the last day of the festivities that marked the 140th anniversary of the battle that resulted in Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman Later’s deaths on 27nov1868 when Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh U.S. Cavalry attacked and destroyed his village in what is now southwest Oklahoma.

The image (right) is based upon a photo that Johnny D. Boggs took during one of the final dress rehearsals for Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita in December 2008. That’s director Tom Eubanks on his knees begging LK to remember his lines. I like this description but, alas, ’tis not true. He was discussing the prayer at the end of the play, and as you can see my nose was red. Yep, LK was doing some crying. Tom was showing me how I could improve the scene.

George Elmore kindly lent me an 1860-period revolver for the performances, and saved me the hassle of dealing with the airlines, which is no fun.

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Tom Eubanks (left) and LK going over Tom’s notes after one of the dress rehearsals in December 2008. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs.

Tom and I had two performances in a huge proscenium theater in the Cheyenne High School, and there were no problems for the school provided technicians that knew what they were doing.

A great time for me for I cemented my friendship with some Cheyennes, including Minowa lk_asnw_okdec08_sc1_boggsuse_wsLittlehawk (who would later become a godsend when she helped me with the Cheyenne words I used in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, OU Press, 2011) and Dr. Henrietta Mann (one of the founders of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma).

LK as Wynkoop (left) seeing the butchered remains of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people at Sand Creek months after the tragic event. It was evident that children were shot in the top of their heads, that sexual organs had been hacked off bodies for trophies, and, although Wynkoop probably did not see the body, a soldier had cut an unborn baby from its dead mother’s womb. This is my favorite image from the Johnny D. Boggs December 2008 photo shoot.

In the pictured scene (above) LK as Wynkoop described what he saw:
“Bodies littered the ground. All were at hideous angles, … naked, …
frozen in time. I dismounted and walked toward the carnage. … What I saw
ripped at my guts and I had to struggle not to vomit. Wolves had come
and feasted, but their hunger didn’t obscure what had come before.”
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LK with Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (left) and his nephew Jake in Ivan’s fully functional lodge during the last day of the Washita Battlefield NHS’s 140th anniversary of the destruction of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village. … It’s been too long since I’ve visited the Washita Battlefield (the last time was in 2012 when I flew to Oklahoma City for the Wrangler Awards), and methinks I need to pitch a talk for 2017. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

The performances went smoothly on the first two days of the event, but for me the final day turned into pure Cheyenne heaven (unfortunately Tom had to drive to Oklahoma City, to catch a flight back to SoCal before the second performance, which was in the evening). I met Henri (Dr. Mann) after the first performance, and after my talk in the morning on the last day of the event we spent a lot of time together, and it cemented a friendship to this day.

Other friends attended the last day of the event, Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (a wonderful man who opened his heart to me, but unfortunately this would be the last time I would ever see him in person) and Kiowa James Coverdale. I had met both of them at a major Fort Larned event years before and we had kept a long-distance friendship over the years.

Cheyenne Blood

Tom and I had discussed doing a play dealing with the same subject matter that we had used in the one-man shows by 2007 and perhaps a little earlier. I had come up with a script with a cast of 1000s but most of the characters would have been played by actors that would play multiple roles. It wasn’t very good and never had a second draft.

cheyBloodPosterTom came up with the idea of a two-character play, and this appealed to me. There had been two leading women in the initial draft: Louise Wynkoop and Monahsetah (photnetically pronounced “Mo-Nahs-e-Tah,” per my request of Dr. Henrietta Mann when we spent time together at the Washita in December 2008). By this time I knew that it would be a two-character play and It made sense to make the second character a Cheyenne (I think that we were both in agreement on this). Obviously Black Kettle would have been a good choice. Tom suggested Monahsetah, who was perhaps 17 in 1868 (but most likely younger). I liked the idea, mainly because there isn’t much known about her, and if George Armstrong Custer hadn’t been drawn to her when he viewed the captive Washita prisoners in 1868 she may have been lost to history. Due to her father’s closeness to Black Kettle, she often traveled and camped with the council chief’s village. As Little Rock, her father, and Wynkoop knew each other and seemed to get along, this meant that there was a good chance that Wynkoop knew her.

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Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Wynkoop during the drinking bit from The Drunkard. Obviously Monahsetah never saw the play but Tom added her to the scene and her presence added to the audience’s enjoyment of the bit that was played for laughs. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Also, and this was important, for other than Monahsetah’s contribution to Custer’s peaceful roundup of still-warring Cheyennes in 1869 Texas she was, and still is, little more than a heavenly shadow that his heart-felt words brought to life when he wrote about her in the 1870s.* Her absence from the history that she lived through allowed us to have her present but watching from afar or simply just representing a Cheyenne woman when not actually performing as herself. As it worked out, audiences accepted Tanya Thomas’s performance as Monahsetah at all times.

* Custer’s My Life on the Plains is still in print, as is Elizabeth Bacon Custer’s Following the Guidon, in which she shares her view of the young Cheyenne woman who spent time with her husband in the field and who obviously liked him. For secondary books see LK’s Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, 1995) and Peter Harrison’s Monahsetah: The Life of a Custer Captive (The English Westerners Society, 2014). There is biography by a supposed relative called Princess Monahsetah: The Concealed Wife of General Custer (2008) that is little more than bad fiction and should be avoided.

I finally had a draft of Cheyenne Blood early in 2009, and rehearsals began in March at the Petit Playhouse in Heritage Square.

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A tense moment during the ride to Denver. Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Ned Wynkoop react to what is going on around them. This did not happen in reality, however, the seven Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs did ride in a wagon to Denver. Wynkoop was mounted on his horse during the September 1864 trip. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Cheyenne Blood was a difficult play to learn, and I should admit up front that I’m terrible at learning lines. During one of the rehearsals I couldn’t remember the lines and ad libbed what the thought process was behind the words.

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LK as Wynkoop breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. The Petite Playhouse was intimate and I enjoyed this no end during the run of Cheyenne Blood. In the one-man shows we had also broken the fourth wall but here if I knelt down on the edge of the stage I could have touched a person in the audience. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Tom stopped the rehearsal and said: “You didn’t say the correct lines.” There was more, but not for your viewing pleasure. “What I just said are now the lines,” I said. “Huh?” he replied. “I just rewrote my script. Did you write the new words down?” Tom grumbled, and I looked at the script to put the lines back in my head so we could continue with the rehearsal. I think that Tanya quietly enjoyed the exchange.

Actually Tom and I had many exchanges over lots of thoughts and views that had nothing to do with getting Cheyenne Blood ready for its premier. All fun and games as we toyed with each other with words, … and Tanya quietly chuckled. At one point she said something like: “You two are a hoot.”

It’s fun to work with people you like and trust.

Without a doubt Tanya Thomas is the best actress that I’ve ever been fortunate to act with on stage. This is a big compliment. I enjoyed every minute of the time that Tanya, Tom, and I spent together during the production.

The Elite Theatre Company’s new home

The Elite Theatre Company (ETC) moved from its original location at the intimate Petit Theatre in Heritage Square where it had been since its inception in 1994 to its new home at Oxnard’s Channel Islands Fisherman’s Wharf in 2013.

Pailin meets Mr. Eubanks

Pailin and I made the drive to the Elite Theatre Company’s new home on 24apr2014. The theatre complex is housed in a two-story wooden Cape Cod-style building with two proscenium stages and is a joy to behold.

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of The Art of Something.

On this evening Pailin met Tom for the first time and obtained a first-hand introduction to the theater world that is in my blood and will be until the end. As a bonus she saw a play performed on stage for the first time in the USA. And best, I knew that it would a good experience for her since would see a story that Tom wrote and directed.

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I took this image of Pailin and Tom before the final dress rehearsal for The Art of Something. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Tom Eubanks, and Louis Kraft 2014)

On the night of the final dress rehearsal for Tom’s The Art of Something at the new venue Pailin also met Tom’s wife Judy and daughter Hannah.

Since that first day and evening when I met Pailin at a dinner party at Tujunga House in June 2013 (it was supposed to be two couples and myself but one of the ladies pushed me to allow one of her friends to attend and then she pushed Pailin that she needed to make it a party of six) when she was quiet but totally attentive to what was going on around her, I have come to know that this is a major part of her inner being. … And it was the same when she saw The Art of Something on that night over two years ago but which still feels like last week.

Yes it had been a good night for Pailin when she met Tom and part of his family, but it had also been good for me to again hang out with him if only for a short while after a way-too-long passage of time.

“To be or not to be”* Wild Bill Hickok

I can’t remember when, but years back Johnny D. Boggs sent me his novel about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Jack Omohundro on a theatrical tour of the East called East of the Border. Hickok quickly realized that acting wasn’t for him. Bored, he drank too much and allowed his disgust with the situation show. Eventually he realized that if he fired his revolver loaded with a blank too close to a dead Indian on the stage the extra playing the corpse jerked spasmodically while he screeched out in pain. This tickled Hickok’s fancy (I assume that this was Mr. Boggs’s invention) and continued to do it to the dismay of Buffalo Bill and the extras. … It tickled my fancy too—but then I guess I may have enjoyed knowing Mr. Hickok if given the chance—and I decided that I wanted play the scout-gunman-gambler on stage.

* Although I quoted William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (written in 1601 or 1602 and first performed in 1602) I’m not depressed or considering ending my life. Just the opposite, I’m thrilled to move into my future. … I’m just having a little fun with the Bard’s words at Wild Bill’s expense.

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LK as Wild Bill Hickok. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Now came the hard part; getting Johnny to buy in on his novel being turned into a play. I approached him on this numerous times over the years and he never replied. In 2012 when I attended a WWA convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I again approached Johnny. No reply, but Lisa Smith, his wife and my friend, said: “That’s a great idea.”

Of course I wanted Tom to direct East of the Border if Johnny had agreed to me writing a play based upon his book, but this was beginning to be little more than wishful thinking. Worse, Tom was also lukewarm to the idea until I gave him a couple of books when I saw a play that he had directed called Men of Tortuga at the Elite Theatre in May 2016 (one 38-minute scene with two actors—Ron Rezac and Adam Womack—sitting at a table was riveting and had me on the edge of my seat).

lk_aslk_orwildbill_attujungahouse_sept2015LK (right) as LK (or Wild Bill) relaxing at home in September 2015 (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

To this point in time I still wanted to play Wild Bill Hickok on stage and thought that Johnny’s novel would be the perfect vehicle to bring my desire to fruition.

Back to the books that I gave Tom; one was Boggs’s East of the Border. Tom read it, called me, and we discussed what he thought needed to happen to make the novel work on stage (mainly condensing the story, removing the repetition, and focusing on three or four characters). This would have certainly been doable if Boggs would only buy into the idea.

Since Cheyenne Blood I’ve wanted to return to the stage, and thought it would be fun to play Hickok as he was burned out and certainly out of his element play-acting on stage. Alcoholism and a sadistic sense of fun would have made him a wonderful stretch for me.

After my phone conversation with Tom ended and I hung up I knew what I wanted to do … what I really wanted to do.

In the Midst of All that is Good

On Saturday 13aug2016 I saw a great play written by Tom Eubanks. I’ve seen a lot of the plays that he has directed or written and directed since 1990, but this one was special.

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of In the Midst of All that is Good.

I had hoped to create this blog that dealt with Tom’s and my friendship, our working relationship, In the Midst of All that is Good, and Wild Bill Hickok before the play closed at the Elite Theatre on 21aug2016 to give it additional publicity. Good attempt by me, but there just wasn’t enough time as I also had to pound the midnight oil as I push to complete my manuscript, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, which may be the most important book that I ever write (and this currently includes a great ongoing communication with Gary Roberts, who has written numerous books and documents about the tragedy), as well as deal with yet another operation (my nineteenth). Tom has written and directed a lot of plays that have been extraordinary, but this play is by far my favorite.

While all six characters have underlying problems that they must deal with all are engaging and I wouldn’t have minded calling any of them friends in real life.

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Josh Carmichael (Vic) points his gun at Jeff Ham (Reverend Bob) while his children Hannah Eubanks (Maddie) and Alex Czajka (Carson, who is deaf in the play) nervously react to the threat behind their father). David Fruechting (Lloyd, Reverend Bob’s disgraced and long-retired father) is about to jump Vic from behind. Johnny Avila (Dennis, Vic’s brother-in-law and partner isn’t shown in the image). Photo courtesy of the Elite Theatre Company.

According to Tom (whose father, Sam Eubanks, is an evangelical pastor), he spent, “most of my early life planted in a pew.” His early life started a spark that pushed him “to get a few things off my chest,” and write In the Midst of All that is Good. I think he told me that it took him a year to write and fine tune with comments from six friends that he mentioned by name in the program. I’m certain that after casting was set and rehearsals began that the play continued to evolve. I couldn’t take my eyes off Josh Carmichael, who was totally natural while at all times a threat to everyone else on stage as he raised questions and protected his livelihood. Jeff Ham also shined, as did David Fruechting, who was terribly sick during the performance that I saw and had been in the emergency room the previous night. If I hadn’t known, I would never have guessed. Hannah, Tom’s youngest daughter, played a key role in the play; she’s fifteen and was terrific, as was Alex Czajka, who as a young actor was totally believable as her deaf brother. Finally, Johnny Avila, as an almost flashback to the days of love-ins and hippies, reminded me of my brother’s best friend and our baseball teammate for 10 years until a mere flick of time ended Lee’s life in a flash.

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LK and Tom Eubanks at the Elite Theatre on the evening that I saw In the Midst of All that is Good. Obviously religion has played a large role in Tom’s life. Over the years he has prayed for me and I have for him. (photo © Louis Kraft & Tom Eubanks 2016)

See the theater’s website for upcoming plays: http://www.elitetheatre.org/.

Adios Wild Bill … enter Errol Flynn stage left

During our time together at the Elite Theatre that August 13 night Tom and I had time to chat. Early on I told him that I wanted to discuss something (and I’m certain that he thought it would be Mr. Hickok). … When we finally had the chance to talk I went for broke and threw a curveball at Tom a la Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I knew one thing moving forward, adios Mr. Hickok. … And honestly I didn’t know what to expect when I made the pitch.

I think that the role that I enjoyed playing the most on stage was Charley in Eat Your Heart Out. I played Charley at the Hayloft Dinner Theater in Lubbock, Texas (1976), and in Inglewood, California (1977). I luckily landed a great part in a great play. Eat Your Heart Out is about an actor trying to land acting work while waiting tables.

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Errol Flynn circa 1940-1941. LK personal collection.

There are four other actors in Eat Your Heart Out: Two women and two men who play various roles, and this is how I pitched a play on Errol Flynn to Tom but with a second historical figure on stage with him (can’t name him, sorry).

While proposing a play dealing with Flynn I also pitched using additional actors to play various roles but was vague if it would be two or three men and two or three women on stage with Flynn and the mystery man. I lean toward Flynn/other person plus six for a total of eight actors but know that Tom prefers a total of six actors. There could also be a compromise and have three actors (Flynn, one male, and one female) that play one character, and two men and two women who play various roles (for a total of seven).

Obviously identifying the characters is of utmost importance, and if truth be told they have already been selected. Don’t ask, for I ain’t a sharin’ their names. Once each player’s relevance to the play is in place an outline is mandatory to insure that this is true and that the actors that play various roles will have time to change costumes and characters. Unfortunately all of the details must remain secretive until the play is in production.

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See … LK can clean up as this photo by Steve Buffington proves. More important, I know Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft & Steve Buffington 2010)

History repeats itself: Like Leo Oliva in 2000, Tom asked if I could have the play written by next year (due to some changes that might happen with the Elite Theatre Company’s future scheduling). I told him “no,” as I needed to complete the delivery draft of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway first. Once the Sand Creek book is in production at OU Press I’ll be on Errol & Olivia* full time and it will be perfect timing for doing a play on Mr. Flynn.

* For the record I plan on writing three books about Errol Flynn, but will space them between Indian wars books that deal with race relations (that is if I’m able to successfully pitch my next Indian wars subjects to OU Press).

Upcoming Blogs

  • Sand Creek updates
    Sand Creek and the Tragical End of a Lifeway now dominates my writing life. I envision twelve-to-fourteen-hour days seven days a week except when I drop or socialize. (Wow! It almost sounds like I’m again writing for the software industry or film and TV.) As time permits I plan on posting numerous “short” (I know, Kraft doesn’t know what the word “short” means) posts with updates, questions, and whatever catches my fancy. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer a few teasers that won’t give away the story. There’ll probably be between two and three Sand Creek posts by the end of summer.
  • Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland book updates
    As you’ve seen in past blogs one or both of these screen legends appear whenever I have the time or the urge to write about them. As you now know, Errol & Olivia will be my next published book after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and as time moves forward I need to keep them before you. When they appear, and currently one isn’t planned, they will be short … similar to the blog that I posted on Olivia in July 2016: Olivia de Havilland 100 BD LK blog.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted. My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront. Actually, I’ll also include a subject that I didn’t know about until recently; the connection between the Thai people and the Cheyenne Indians (the Cheyennes didn’t come from Asia; they migrated to America from what became Europe). This blog will deal with two totally different people who are closer than I could have ever guessed. It will also deal with life (past and present) and an uncertain future.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact. It is time to address this creation of history that is error-riddled or fiction sold as truth. (The blog dealing film history—read Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland—is currently being drafted, but won’t go live until sometime in 2017.)