Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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

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For starters I should state that film has played an important role my life.

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Errol Flynn as Don Juan in the final duel in Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In my opinion Flynn’s sword fight to the death with Robert Douglas as the Duke de Lorca is by far the best duel captured on film. I’ve heard the criticism, such as all the takes had to be short as Flynn was out of breath. You know what? That criticism isn’t valid, for all that counts is what we see in the film. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing some of his performances on film (and this will include a few comments that will surprise and perhaps shock).

Know that my views don’t jive with popular opinions that have
been oft-repeated by writers and the media that do little original thinking
and buy into what is over and over again stuffed down their throats.

My opinion of reviews and reviewers is not sparkling

Reviews are opinions; some are based on bias while others are based upon sales or what the media has proclaimed and stuffed down our throats. … Also know that many reviewers base their opinions on what they saw on film or read in a book or viewed on a canvas (these reviewers should be praised and not considered brethren to cretins that have an agenda).

Film acting is a lot different than acting on stage. AND it must be natural, and let me tell you that sometimes this is very difficult to do—especially when you’ve got 35, 40, 70 people staring at you and you are now into your tenth closeup take for a scene and the producer is on set bitching about being over budget and screaming at the director why the idiot actor—you—can’t play the scene right.

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A publicity shot of Tim Matheson and Catherine Hicks from the short-lived TV show, Tucker’s Witch. (LK personal collection)

I saw this happen while working on Tucker’s Witch (1982-1983), which I thought was a decent show if it had had a chance to succeed. Already it had been canceled in its first season but the contract stated 12 episodes and we were then shooting episode number 11 or 12. The actor was a TV star with some film hits, charming, natural, and competent but now a producer had pulled the rug out from under him. The actor struggled, and bless him for he kept his composure as much as possible in a situation that should have never happened as he fought to perform as demanded by someone who should have kept his mouth shut and who should have allowed the actor and director do their jobs.

What the hell! Money is privilege and it rules.

As are reviews, valid or not. Believe me, they can make one feel good and they can also make one feel like slime that should be flushed down the toilet.

Money can “win” elections, or should I say “buy” elections? Reviews do more—much more—to individuals as they can hurt and destroy or build up and create. For the record reviews are sometimes biased. By that I mean that they can fry a performer (let’s say Richard Gere) or praise a performer (let’s say Bruce Springsteen) over and over again. When this happens it is based upon the reviewer’s bias. Here I’m talking about a Los Angeles Times film critic that eventually became the Times music critic. He’s not with us anymore. Ain’t that a shame.

The early days & a Tex Ritter influence

Film and I joined hands back when I was somewhere around four or five years old, and this time dates all the way back to Yonkers, New York. I lived with my father, mother, and infant sister in a wooden house that my mother had grown up in (my father and mother had bought it from her parents). Yonkers—at least where we lived—was in the hills and not far from the Hudson River.

LK&TexRitter_1950&1961_collage_wsWe had a small TV in a large wooden cabinet and the screen was green. I was often glued to Tex Ritter one-hour B-westerns that played all the time (as well as Buck Jones, who I liked; Wild Bill Elliott; Johnny Mack Brown; Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; and many others). Tex was a singing cowboy (as was Jimmy Wakely, Autry, Rogers, and others including John Wayne who made no impact on me for I don’t have any memories of him). Tex rode a white horse (White Flash) and caught bad guys (Autry and Rogers also did this, but often cars were in their films and I found that phony). I guess that it also helped that I liked Tex’s singing (Rogers’ songs were nondescript and Autry’s singing did absolutely nothing for me).

Before long my family migrated to California in a 1950 Hudson Commodore that my father had bought new in ’50. It pulled a 35-foot trailer. My father and mother loved the road and took every opportunity to explore the USA. This trip was no different than earlier trips that they had taken across the United States. It was my second to California for in 1949 my father, mother, and I visited it in a red 1949 Chevrolet convertible. I guess that the Chevy under performed as my father sold it in 1950 to buy the Hudson. He never owned another General Motors vehicle.

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I have a great photo of the Hudson and trailer in the background with my mother, dinky sister, and small me during the exodus to California (but I can’t find it). … Thus this collage. The Hornet is on a rural road in Northridge, California, in 1974. This area is now wall-to-wall houses (a shame). The Camaro is at the beach in northern San Diego.

When I bought a new Camaro in 1998 my father told me that I’d regret it; I didn’t and the car averaged 24,000 miles per year until I sold it to buy a Vette in 2007. My father, who had been fragile since 1996 or 1997, refused to ride in the Camaro and didn’t live to see the first Vette (if I had been able to get him into the Vette I’m certain that he would have loved it for he liked cars that gripped the road and went fast). … I can’t remember the 1949 trip, but the 1954 trip took perhaps 60 days (there were no freeways, but we weren’t burnin’ rubber as we zig-zagged across the USA). In California we moved around hooking up the trailer in backyards with horses and goats and pigs and chickens and sometimes cattle in the very rural San Fernando Valley (most of which is in the city of Los Angeles and all of it is in the county of Los Angeles) before we settled in a trailer park in Van Nuys.

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Tex Ritter on White Flash. This image represents the first job description I ever had, that is I wanted to ride a white horse and shoot bad guys like Tex did. (LK personal collection)

About this time my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told her that I wanted to ride a white horse like Tex and shoot bad guys. She shook her head. “Tex is an actor. The bad men he shoots don’t die for they are actors too.” It was at that moment I decided that I wanted to be an actor.

During my early years I attended at least eight elementary schools, and perhaps more (the only two grades wherein I spent two years in the same school were the fifth and sixth grades). Sometime, probably in the fifth grade, I saw my first Errol Flynn film.

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I believe that this is the 1948 German one-sheet for Flynn’s 1940 film The Sea Hawk.

It was the 1940 Warner Bros. production of The Sea Hawk. I had already become a gunslinger (actually this had begun in Yonkers). There’s film of this, but my sister took it after our father died. After she died her husband dumped truckloads of stuff in my backyard but the old films from the New York years were not included. I guess that they hit the trashcan as he decided to start his life over and jettison his past. By now I was good with my cap guns. The pirate Flynn added swords to my repertoire (The Sea Hawk would add much more to my life, but that would be decades in the future).

Junior high school gave me three things: Better sports competition (although Dennis Kreiger, who would again meet up with me in high school and then our early college years was the perfect adversary in the fifth and sixth grades), acting classes with performances on stage, and best of all learning to duel with Ralph Faulkner. Faulkner had become the amateur world sabre champion in 1928 and competed as a member the U.S. Olympic fencing squad in 1932. Although he had come to Hollywood to become an actor (and he had silent film credits) his legacy was his long career in film as a stunt double and choreographer of film duels, which had directly led to him opening a fencing academy on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. I actually took a third place in a foil competition at his studio while in junior high school, and I competed against adults.

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This art is based upon a 1974 photo. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

There were no swords in high school, but in college I took fencing in my first year. I became a favorite of Muriel Bower, the coach, and she asked if I wanted to join the fencing team. I said that I would but only if I fought sabre. She agreed and I trained. … But we didn’t see eye-to-eye. You see I was a theater major, and this made my normal school day 7:00 AM until 10:30 PM or later during the week and often this included performances on weekends (backstage and when lucky on stage). This problem would haunt me over my professional life in the entertainment industry when I needed a job to earn extra cash. …. If it had been real life instead of a major 1966 multi-university competition at UCLA in which in real life I could have killed Bobby Crawford (Johnny Crawford’s brother; Johnny was famous for his part as The Rifleman’s son on TV and as the singer of decent pop tunes at the time such as “Cindy’s Birthday” and “Rumors”). I was still learning sabre and I only fought sabre in the competition. I held my own but I didn’t win. There is a running sabre move wherein the attacking duelist runs by his opponent and slashes at his shoulder or head as he passes. I hadn’t learned how to parry it yet (actually Bowers hadn’t even discussed this move with me). In an earlier duel that day an opponent scored a hit when I failed to parry (block) the attack. In my duel with Bobby Crawford, who at that time was one of the best sabre duelists in SoCal, when he began to charge with the cut that I didn’t know how to parry I dropped down to one knee as his sabre was raised to strike. As he launched his slashing attack I thrust with all my might and struck him in the chest. The impact was so great that it bent my sabre blade into an “S-shape.” The contact was forceful and he stumbled backwards four or five feet while his blade nicked me on my thrusting arm. Point Crawford as I hadn’t parried his attack. I was up in an instant and rushed to Crawford to ask if he was all right. He said that he was. He wasn’t, and this I knew for his chest would turn black and blue and he would feel the hit for some time. Hell, my sabre blade was in an “S” shape from the impact and totally unusable. If this had been a real-life sword fight Mr. Crawford would have died on that day.

College gave me actor Jeff Corey and actor-director Robert Ellenstein. They set in motion my quest to eventually earn money as an actor (see below).

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Errol Flynn’s great film, The Sea Hawk (1940), took its title from Rafael Sabatini’s magnificent novel of the same name, which Warner Bros. owned the film rights. But that’s all it took. You see, Sabatini’s novel dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery in Tunis who rises to become a famed Barbary pirate that preys upon English vessels. Sabatini’s story was loosely based upon an Englishman and seaman named John Ward, who was starving at the beginning of the 17th century, and who moved to Tunis and became a pirate lord (the famed Captain John Smith of Virginia fame was the last Englishman to spend time with Ward). … This image is of Flynn as Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, a pirate (BTW the term “privateer” didn’t come into existence until about 1640) who sailed with the blessing of Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I of England). The other image is my favorite romanticized painting of Sir Francis Drake (I have talked about the Drake connection to The Sea Hawk elsewhere).

Bob Ellenstein would play a major part in my world for five or six years after I graduated college. At times it seemed as if I lived at his house on the Westside of Los Angeles. I studied acting with him and he played perhaps the most important player in my life at that time. We did a lot together, including my introduction to an acting vogue at that time called psycho drama, which probed into an actor’s inner being. Coffee, breakfasts, and lunches at Bob’s home, plus talks, lots of talks, which, believe it not, included the pirate Francis Drake who to this day plays a major role in my research (often I leave him off my upcoming book lists but you should know that he is forever present with me).

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Three images of LK with a blade at different times. I’ve recently discovered other images with swords but they will take time to restore (if ever I decide to spend the time).

Years later I would study stage combat or “swashbuckling” from two people who approached this from different perspectives. This training would lead to me choreographing duels and dueling on stage.

Yes, Errol Flynn impacted my life (but much–much more than you can guess from the above).

Flynn was a natural actor when stage acting ruled film. Most of the so-called “great” actors over-acted and chewed up scenery. Many of these performances simply do not hold up. When viewing film from a time long gone one must consider the life and times of the film industry (just like one must consider the racial and social mores when studying the Indian wars). More important, one must consider and accept (and this is key) the technical world in which films from another era were created.

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Believe it or not, Flynn’s Escape Me Never (1947) is an outsider film that has the largest chance of making it into the LK top 10 Flynn film list. If this is true it means that the 1930s mega successes for Flynn (Captain Blood, 1935; The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936; and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938) won’t make the list. I know, pure heresy, but with my top 10 Flynn films I’m talking about Mr. Flynn’s performances (and not big bucks). I’ll spend a little more time with Flynn’s Escape Me Never below. Here Flynn is with Eleanor Parker and Gig Young. (LK personal collection)

All this said, good acting survives time (and bad acting doesn’t). In Errol Flynn’s case other life ingredients would play havoc with his life, and because of this his life was extraordinary and worthy of study. Unfortunately long after Flynn’s death writers have written words that cannot be validated because they are out and out lies and this has continued into the twenty-first century. Unscrupulous historians who are little more than mud-slingers that create quotes, print facts that never happened, and often use notes that can never be confirmed because the cited documentation cannot be found. On this last sometimes obscure documentation is used and then totally falsified in the belief that readers won’t have it and if not they won’t make any attempt to find it. … There’s always a “YIKES” to this type of history writing for every so often another historian has the cited and oh-so obscure documentation.

Bullshit is bullshit and lies are lies and fiction is fiction and none of them are valid when writing biography.

Damn, that’s a good lead-in to an Errol Flynn blog. Unfortunately my dear friends it ain’t the lead-in to this blog for the following words won’t be accusatory. Actually all I want to do is mention my list of 10 Errol Flynn films and three of them are in the scope of Errol & Olivia, as well to wander in and around a smidgen of Errol Flynn’s reality and touch base with a few of his films.

eoImage_whiteAboveJust so you know Errol & Olivia deals with their life and times and will include all eight films that they played in together as well as selected other films between 1935 and 1941. The book will be a dual-biography and the word count will be 135,000. It will be a biography like none other that I have written in the past and although I have two additional books planned on Flynn they will not be like Errol & Olivia.

For the record, and I think that those of you that have an interest in Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland, the following is of great importance. I have a novel that will be published in 2016 (The Discovery) and my work on it is almost complete. I do write about the American Indian wars (my interest is in people that risk their lives to step beyond racial prejudice and attempt to prevent or end war). Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway might be the most important book that I ever write. After the Sand Creek manuscript goes into production Errol & Olivia will become my major project until published.

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LK art of Ned Wynkoop as he sees the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line in September 1864. He and his small command faced death but he later that day, with words, convinced the Indians in council that they should secure peace. This rendering of Wynkoop first saw print in the August 2014 Wild West magazine. It may be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Every person that I write about in biography form was unique and dared to challenge his (or in Ms. de Havilland’s case, her) world. Errol Flynn was unique and he challenged his world again and again. Just like the Indian wars people that I write about, Errol Flynn had ups and downs and because of this he found himself under attack time and again. Like Ned Wynkoop & Black Kettle and Charles Gatewood & Geronimo from the Indian wars, Errol Flynn fought to survive in his world. All of them, including Flynn, stood out, and people from their times and thereafter did whatever was necessary to bury them. There are connecting links, and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I connected Wynkoop to Flynn. And it wasn’t that big of a stretch, and I didn’t need to use the race card. Wynkoop changed from a man who thought that Indians were close to animals. Events in his life changed this view and he dared to fight the press, the military, and the U.S. government to secure a fair deal for the Cheyennes and Arapahos. …

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This photo of Flynn dates to 1940-1941, and it is my favorite of him. That said, he probably hated it, for his physical image again and again garnered him less than satisfactory reviews, reviews that either stated he was a “pretty” boy and nothing else or hinted at this. He cared about his work and these criticisms hurt him immensely. (LK personal collection)

Flynn didn’t do this. But just look at his life: He wasn’t in the military and didn’t have to deal with the brutal murders and sexual mutilation of human beings. Why? Simple, for Errol Flynn people were people. As his eldest daughter once said: “He didn’t care what race you were. If he liked you he liked you.” Errol Flynn was the most un-racial person I have known or studied.

Alas, this blog is going to move away from man’s inhumanity to man, away from heinous crime (and I’m talking about the Indian wars here), and simply talk about Errol Flynn the actor.

LK’s top ten Errol Flynn films

This film list has grown. See Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view. … The list has been updated.

(top four/alphabetical and firm)

1.   Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

2.   Gentleman Jim (1942)

3.   The Sea Hawk (1940)

4.   They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

(bottom six/alphabetical and not firm)

5.   Dodge City (1939)

6.   Four’s a Crowd (1938)

7.   Objective Burma (1945)

8.   The Dawn Patrol (1938)

9.   Uncertain Glory (1944)

10. Virginia City (1940)

I won’t be discussing the films on the list or this blog would turn into a book. That said, I will mention a few of the above titles. I’ll also spend a little time with Captain Blood; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Escape Me Never; Crossed Swords; and Too Much, Too Soon; among others.

Not to worry for what I say here won’t give away Errol & Olivia for there is only enough space to deal with a few points—important points—but if they make it into Errol & Olivia they will be expanded upon in directions that you won’t be able to guess from what you read in this blog.

Alas, I won’t be discussing any of the films in detail here.
However, I will in the upcoming Flynn books.

Well-constructed words can always hide bias

As stated above I’m not big on reviews of anything, and even though I just presented you with a list I hate lists. They mean absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen lists that have been printed and much of the time I run to the bathroom to vomit (Robert Florczak I’m not talking about you, for your lists are well-thought-out and valid). Most of them are regurgitated baloney or worse. Often I see the same titles again and again. Did the person who created the list put any effort into creating their list? Or did they simply peruse lists that they had previously seen?

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The perfect example of a film that I cannot stomach is Gone with the Wind (1939), a film that Olivia de Havilland risked her film life at Warner Bros. to obtain the role of Melanie after she was told that the studio wouldn’t allow her to work in the film. In this image you see Hattie McDaniel as Mammy (left), who deserved her best female supporting Oscar; OdeH as Melanie Hamilton; and Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara; who Clark Gable as Rhett Butler should have shot in the first reel of the film (of course then there wouldn’t have been a film). My view on this film: I hated it and was bored to tears, and even though I own it on DVD (mainly because I wanted the one-hour OdeH interview), I have yet to see this film to the end other than the first time I saw it in a movie theater about 1969. (LK personal collection)

Of course you know that it’s risky to pick a film that was a huge bust at the box office, and most people who create lists steer clear of films that don’t make a lot of money. Although this isn’t always the case, often best film lists stick with films that were block-busters, Oscar winners, or were so artsy-fartsy that I’ve never been able to get through a complete viewing of them. Read 10 minutes, or if I have time to burn, 15 minutes and click. Goodbye! The reason: I’m bored. The plot hasn’t caught my interest and the actors’ performances have scored a zero with me. If the film in question had been a stage performance I would have been screaming “Get the hook!”*

*This is a not-too-kind expression from times past that means slipping a hook that is attached to a pole around a performer’s neck and then yanking them offstage.

I’ve got to care about story and performances. If I don’t, viewing a film is a waste of my time, … and I don’t give a bleep about how great a critic with his thumb stuck somewhere claims the film is or how a certain performance is one for the ages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Oscar-winning performances in the past and I’ve suffered through the film as I’ve wasted good money to see it in a theater. … While talking about the Academy Awards and other major acting awards I hope you realize that millions upon millions of dollars are spent every year to buy these awards. The awards season that begins late in the year and climaxes with the Oscars in February of the following year has been for years (nay decades) a three-ring circus with often the largest pocketbooks bringing home the bulk of the awards. My view of these TV extravaganzas? A joke. The last time I watched part of one was when I was recovering from a surgery a number of years ago. A friend was staying with me, and about two plus hours before the conclusion (and I have no idea what actors or films danced home with the gold statures that they had purchased) we turned off the television and enjoyed a good Mexican meal at a local restaurant.

It’s too bad that pro football players, pro basketball players, and
major league baseball players can’t spend millions of dollars each year
to buy Most Valuable Player awards. Heck, they earn enough in
salary and endorsements. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

The swashbuckler

In the 1930s Errol Flynn became connected with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., when writers began saying that he had donned the swashbuckling armor and boots and followed in the silent film legend’s footsteps. As it turned out Flynn would go on to make nine swashbuckling films. Four of those films would secure his legacy as the swashbuckler for all time. I hate to say this but since Flynn’s death in 1959 no actor has come close to challenging his mark on this genre of film. None.

(For a little more on Flynn and screen dueling see: Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion.)

I love this poster of The Adventures of Robin Hood (but I’ve got a poster I like even more framed and on a wall). This poster was created for a video release of the film and I couldn’t believe it when I was lucky enough to obtain a one-sheet of it locally. (LK personal collection)

There are valid reasons why Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood aren’t on my list of 10 Flynn films, but they are not for this blog. Both films are in the scope of Errol & Olivia and trust me I will spend a lot of time with both films, and a good portion of what I present will be positive. As with my Indian wars books I don’t whitewash the major person or people or their actions. Errol & Olivia will not only focus on Flynn and de Havilland and their life and times but also the eight films that they made together.

Four of Flynn’s swashbucklers are classics: Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940), and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In the last three Flynn excelled in the dueling scenes. In one other film, The Prince and the Pauper (1937) Flynn’s duel with an evil captain of the guard (Alan Hale) who intended to kill the prince who was poised to be named king of England as his father (Henry VIII) had died near the end of the film is superb. It clearly demonstrated what was to come.

Unfortunately Flynn’s four swashbucklers in the 1950s don’t compare to his earlier efforts. The most popular reason that I’ve often seen is that Flynn had aged. He had, but he hadn’t lost his grace and skill, … simply his stamina and physical strength. What really impacted his dueling in these films: Against All Flags (1952), The Master of Ballantrae (1953), Crossed Swords (1954), and The Warriors (1955) were the lackluster staging (that is: choreography), film angles, and editing of the duels.

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I think that Against All Flags is at the absolute bottom of the nine swashbuckling Flynn films. Don’t doubt that it was a Universal production and meant low budget. One of the half sheets for the film is absolutely gorgeous. This Spanish one sheet is well-done and I like it. (LK personal collection)

The sword masters that created these duels and rehearsed them with the actors and stunt men couldn’t compare to the great master Fred Cravens (and his crew) that Flynn worked with in the 1930s and 1940s. I have a caveat here. Early in The Master of Ballantrae Flynn duels with his brother (Anthony Steel). This duel is fast-paced and well-done by everyone involved in front and behind the camera (and this includes the editors). By the time that Flynn shot The Warriors his dueling days had passed him by and he said as much in his magnificent memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways (which is strange for he seemed capable enough in Crossed Swords). By the way, the British title for Flynn’s last swashbuckler, The Dark Avenger, was a much better title than The Warriors. I actually like this film much better than Against All Flags. Alas, Flynn’s duel in a tavern with a French captain (Christopher Lee) was mostly performed by a stunt double. Still the choreography was better than the slap-dash staged fights in Against All Flags, which had the look and feel of a B-film. The best thing about Against All Flags were the one-sheet and half-sheet advertising posters, which were quite good (as opposed to the American posters for The Warriors that did nothing to sell Flynn or the film).

Dancing between reality and a public image

In 1984 I worked on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times, shown on TV in 1985 (for a little background on it see an earlier blog: How race has affected my life & writing), with Errol’s Flynn’s first daughter, Deidre Flynn. At that time another miniseries was shooting called My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn, which was supposedly based upon Flynn’s memoir (which is one of the best books that I have ever read) with Duncan Regehr as Flynn. He sounded like Ronald Coleman, looked nothing like Flynn, and worst of all had absolutely no charisma (he could have been playing Daffy Duck with an accent).

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LK connecting with Pat Wymore Flynn on June 6, 2006, when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences honored Olivia de Havilland (Beverly Hills, California). Deidre Flynn is center in the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

The production company had asked Deidre to be an advisor for the Flynn miniseries. She had read the screenplay and gave them a resounding response of “No!” She had no clue that I knew a lot about her father (believe it or not my research of him began shortly before his death when I was in elementary school). That said, we talked slightly about her dad. She told me that the screenplay was a piece of crap and that she wanted nothing to do with the production. I saw the miniseries when it first aired (and once again a dozen or so years later), and it was a bleeping joke! And I am being kind here. Only two performances were decent—Barbara Hershey as Lili Damita and Hal Linden as Jack Warner (and I’ve never heard Warner’s voice). Everything and everyone else was terrible or worse. If Olivia de Havilland saw Lee Purcell attempt to play her I’m certain that Livvie would have made a couple of runs to the bathroom to vomit. I was embarrassed for her and at that time I never dreamed that sometime in the future I would spend prime time with her. … Enough of talking about a miniseries that should have never been produced.

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The cover of Higham’s piece of Errol Flynn fiction says it all on the book’s dust jacket.

A few years before the Flynn miniseries aired Charles Higham saw the publication of Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Doubleday & Company, 1980). I bought it, as I have every book on Flynn that I can get my hands on, and read it. With notations that were so vague they were immediately suspect, Higham would have us believe that Mr. Flynn was both a bisexual and a Nazi spy. The fictional rantings should have been ridiculed; instead they were accepted by the media (which always jumps onto anything that might defame a human being). Oh, and I should mention this: You cannot defame the dead in the United States (at least you couldn’t in the 1980s). Not so in Canada, where the book was also published. If I remember what Deidre told me correctly, she and her sister filed a complaint about Charles Higham in Canada. I don’t believe that he ever dared to reenter Canada again. … Mr. Higham has since moved on to wherever people who fictionalize and distort history go, and I do hope that the flames are sizzling. His travesty of a book single-handedly destroyed Flynn’s reputation and for so doing awarded him massive book sales. Olivia de Havilland called Higham “despicable.” Believe it or not there are other Flynn writers and more than a handful of Western historians that think that there is nothing wrong with what Higham did—rewrite history at the cost of truth and reality. These cretins cite primary source material that is often so obscure that they are certain that no one can find the cited works even if they looked. Guess what: I have research material in every room of my house except for a bathroom and the dining room. Some of these cretins (I should use stronger words here, but I’m trying to keep a civil tongue) cite real documentation (thinking that no one has it or will look for it) with quotations that don’t exist except in their books of lies. When they don’t do this, they misinterpret what the primary source material states (again, always obscure and hard to obtain material). Their thinking here is that they have cited authentic documentation and it is beyond challenging. … In a word: BULLSHIT!

I’m sorry about the repetition of the above, but this is important.
Facts must always be questioned and confirmed. Alas, this
is so important that I return to it below.

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Susan Goulet art of a famed EF publicity photo (© Susan Goulet 2004). I’m not sure if she has the color of his eyes correct. She had created a wonderful portrait of OdeH and I had given Olivia a print of it in 2004 (I kept the original art). She loved it. This image is a copy of the original art in the LK personal collection.

I do know one thing: Mr. Flynn worked hard at being an actor, took an interest during pre-production and production although at times after the farce of a rape trial in 1943 he decided to give the public what they expected of him. This turned out to be a two-headed dragon for not only did he present himself as the lecher that the Los Angeles criminal justice system attempted to paint him as (read: behind closed doors political shenanigans then in vogue) but also that it marked the beginning of a huge downward life spiral that he mistakenly thought he could reverse whenever he wanted.

He couldn’t.

I’m not going to talk about what I see as the real Errol Flynn in this blog (this I’ll save for Errol & Olivia and the two follow-up books on EF). All I’ll say here is that the general population’s view of him as a man, a human being, a father, and as an actor and writer is incorrect.

Over the years Errol Flynn saw his Warner Bros. salary and say in his films grow. By the mid-1940s he had worked into his contracts that he could choose some of his films (his Thompson Productions produced three films) and as his phallic image grew (to his disgust) so did his efforts to break his heroic image. In doing this he easily demonstrated his acting range, but it cost him popularity at the box office.

Finally, and this is related to the above paragraph, Jack Warner would have never invested the amount of money he did over the years in Errol Flynn if he wasn’t sold on Flynn’s creative talents.

Views of a few of Flynn’s films

I’m just going to meander here as I talk about a handful of Errol Flynn’s films that are for the most part not considered among his great films.

Escape Me Never (1947)

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Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn work at hustling for money as they travel across the southern Alps in Escape Me Never. Their off-screen friendship gave their on-screen relationship an extra dimension. Over the years Ida would be one of Flynn’s greatest supporters. He was lucky to count her as a friend. (LK personal collection)

Flynn and his three co-stars (Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young) played off each other nicely. … Flynn and Young are composers in Italy. Gig’s lady (Parker) is rich while Flynn’s (Lupino and her infant son) are not. Flynn is a budding genius with an ego to match (which is understandable); he also has a roving eye for the ladies. I hated this film when young and I still hated it when I had last seen it about 30 years ago. Reviewers have always pinged the film on its lack of authentic shots of the canals of Venice as well as the backgrounds of the Alps (and the problem of the phony canals and background images of the alps were obvious the first time I that saw the film when a teenager) but Flynn’s performance was a major discovery for me when I again viewed it this past summer. His acting ability had grown in leaps and bounds in the 1940s and is right on in this film; that is right on in everything except for lecherous glances at women. There are perhaps a handful, and honestly I believe that these were director decisions (like The Adventures of Robin Hood direction discussed below). Looking back it is too bad that Errol and Ida only acted together in this film.

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A publicity shot of Ida & Flynn at the beginning of Escape Me Never. (LK personal collection)

For all of you Peter Blood (Captain Blood), Geoffrey Vickers (The Charge of the Light Brigade), and Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood) fans I’m going to shock you, so please sit down and hold on tightly. If a Flynn performance and film gets bumped from the bottom six of my favorite EF films most likely it will be by Mr. Flynn and his performance in Escape me Never. I know; heresy. Hey, I’m a former actor, a resurrected actor, and if lucky I’ll again be an actor. I’ve already stated what goes into making a film that grabs my interest. I need to state here that I’m talking about Errol Flynn the actor. I’m proud to say (other than the few director-pushed instances of over acting while eyeing a pretty woman) that EF’s internal system was functioning and his natural instincts were right on target. Perhaps working with people he liked helped, but for my money he was a hundred-fold better actor in the 1940s than he was in the 1930s.

That Forsyte Woman (1949)

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Errol Flynn and Greer Garson in a scene that is hard to watch in That Forsyte Woman. (LK personal collection)

This film was the first under another Flynn contract that allowed him to act in one film per year filmed at a studio other than Warner Bros. This stiff Victorian drama carried Flynn’s performances in Cry Wolf (1947) and the western Silver River (1948) to the next step of being as far away from the adventurous hero as he could possibly get. His performance was controlled and right in tune with the time period. Those who saw the film and expected to see Errol Flynn the hero must have been shocked by the time they exited the theater in 1949. That said, Flynn’s performance shows without a doubt that he really was a magnificent actor. If we can believe his words, and I do, this was one of his favorite performances (if memory serves me, Gentleman Jim Corbett, see the film list above, was another of his favorite roles). Greer Garson, Flynn’s co-star in the film, had heard a lot of trash talk about him prior to filming. After working with him she had nothing but praise for the actor and man.

Ladies and gentlemen, Errol Flynn had taken what he had learned during the 1930s, had crafted during the 1940s, and at the end of that decade put it all together. Regardless of what you think Flynn’s Soames Forsyte was the performance of his entire cinema career. I need to have a top 12 Flynn film list, and this is going to happen (I’ve just given you the two films that will make the list).

Here’s a quick thought for you
In 1940 Errol Flynn earned about eight times what
Olivia de Havilland earned. Why? They both became
stars when Captain Blood premiered in December 1935
but the level of stardom was evident by the end of the last
reel on that historic New York City night. … I can’t give
away Errol & Olivia but put the above sentences
together and you should be able to figure
out what happened as both of them
moved forward with their
professional careers.

Crossed Swords (1954)

This is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production. It had the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff (who had shot The Master of Ballantrae, which had been released the previous year, and who would be Flynn’s choice to shoot and direct his ill-fated William Tell). Flynn looked great (and much better than he did in Against All Flags, 1952, and The Master of Ballantrae) and his physical prowess hadn’t deteriorated (actually it looked better than in the two earlier swashbucklers) to what it would be in The Warriors (1955). Perhaps the Flynn-Barry Mahon teaming with an Italian production company was responsible for the result, which could have been much better. Worse, the production team couldn’t provide a decent script, a decent director, complete scenes (many could have used extra cuts and angles added to improve the final product), better action (some is quite poor) or decent actors (I’m not certain of what I think of Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida’s on-screen relationship other than it is definitely better than previously reported. … Alas, some of the acting other than Gina and EF is amateurish).

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The lines are on the DVD cover, which wasn’t too professionally produced.

My DVD was created using an Italian print of the film (Il Maestro Don Giovanni, which would translate to Master Don Juan, leading one to wonder who Flynn played in the Italian release of the film). The color is decent and not faded but not great. The entire film has had an English-language sound track added to an original Italian release print for the DVD. I’m certain that most, if not all, of the Italian actors were dubbed, but the sound (dialogue, sound effects, and film score) is not good. It is obvious that the editors attempted to get the words as close as possible to the actors’ mouth movements, but this meant that now Flynn’s words are slightly off, and it is definitely his voice. My guess is that the complete track was pulled from an English-language release.

For the most part Flynn (as Renzo), who was decent in the film, doesn’t seem to connect with the rest of the cast. My guess—and that’s all it is—was the language barrier while shooting the film, especially for the Italian-speaking actors connecting with Flynn. Cardiff and others behind the camera spoke English but I think that Flynn was the only actor saying his lines in English. Honestly, Flynn was a professional and I don’t think he had any problems with language during the filming.

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Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida are about to surrender to their fates (as is her father, who is in the scene but off camera in this still). This image shows Flynn’s typical involvement in a scene as well as his physical appearance. (LK personal collection)

Cesare Danova, who played Raniero, Flynn’s staunch friend in their misadventures with the fairer sex, immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1950s to play the title character in Don Giovanni (AKA Don Juan), which was released in 1955. He would go on to have a long career in American film and TV. My memory doesn’t shout out that he was dubbed in his American performances, but I could be wrong early in his U.S. films. Lollobrigida also began appearing in big American films in the 1950s. … The duel at the end of Crossed Swords was by far Flynn’s best climatic fight against the villain in all of his 1950s swashbucklers. And this is a massive understatement by LK. Flynn performed most of the final duel and his movements were fluid and well-done. His sword work was good and damn-near great (and there was very little stunt-doubling of Flynn in the final duel). Flynn’s swordplay far out-shined everything else he did in the 1950s. The only sword work that compares with his work in Crossed Swords was his short duel with Anthony Steel at the beginning of The Master of Ballantrae.

Again, this is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production.

BTW, swashbucklers co-produced in Europe with leading
English-speaking actors were often less than satisfactory well into the l960s.

Three more EF films and a return to Mr. Ellenstein

Errol Flynn made three films in which two were released in 1957 (The Big Boodle, The Sun Also Rises) and one in 1958 (Too Much, Too Soon). These films, all of which were American-produced after his long self-imposed exile in Europe. They contain, in my humble opinion, his best acting in the 1950s. This Errol Flynn was no longer the romantic hero who wins regardless if he lives or dies by the last reel of the film. Instead these performances were by a man who had lived life and had sunken to the depths of despair and yet had survived. These films presented a man who could no longer swing a blade or ride a horse and knows it as he nears the end of life. They are alive with sadness for an audience that knew what came before and yet they show a man who, if not quite a fighter to the end he does what he can to present as good an image as possible considering his situation.

Only Flynn’s Ned Sherwood in The Big Boodle is active and puts up a fight as he struggles to stay alive while clearing his name of a crime he didn’t commit.

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This image is based upon a b&w image in the LK Collection. Robert Ellenstein was one of the most important people in my life. See Bob’s comment about the acting and film world (below), as it gave my life focus at every step. I’m certain that he followed his simple rule as he lived his life and career. … I’ve known a lot of people who were not as they presented themselves. They had agendas that perhaps could be labeled as “heinous.” If yes, these people, if still alive, should be in prison. Bob Ellenstein was not one of these people. He was an extraordinary human being. And better he set my life on the course that it follows to this day. My father, my brother, and my mother influenced my life, and so did Robert Ellenstein. He was one of the most magnificent people that I have ever known during my entire life. Bob, thank you from the bottom of my heart. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I want to say a bit (probably a lot more than a bit) about actor and director Robert Ellenstein (who died in 2010). In the 1960s I was a theater major at what became California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The on-staff acting professor and I didn’t connect and I learned little from her. Luckily the university decided to bring in professionals to tutor the students. Jeff Corey, who had been blacklisted for 12 years in Hollywood during the communist witch hunts of the early 1950s, used his lost years to good advantage and began teaching acting. He became my acting coach while Bob Ellenstein became my directing coach. Bob and I connected and after I graduated college he became my acting coach, confidant, and good friend (as did his wonderful wife Lois). I can’t tell you how many happy and learning hours I spent with Bob and to a lesser degree with Lois.

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Errol Flynn as John Barrymore. Often it has been said that Flynn played Flynn in Too Much, Too Soon. I don’t know enough about John Barrymore’s life to know if this is true, but I intend to find out. For the record Flynn talked about how he played “Jack” Barrymore. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Bob Ellenstein played a key supporting role in Flynn’s Too Much, Too Soon, and of course I asked him about what it was like to work with Flynn (to this point in time I hadn’t seen the film). Bob’s lawyer entered the picture after Flynn’s John Barrymore had died. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: “My scenes were shot on days that he didn’t work. I never met the man.”

As the years passed and as Bob and I became close we shared more and more about our lives and as we did he guided me. … Acting is a lifelong study for a person must come in total contact with his or her being. That sounds simplistic; it is not. It is hard work. At one point Bob said to me while talking about the acting and film world, “Whatever you do, make sure that you can live with it.” I took this to heart. For the record I have never done anything that I can’t live with, and let me tell you that I have been presented with many unsavory propositions that would make you sick. I have never given in for the cost was way too expensive for my living soul.

An image of Mr. Flynn & yet another attack

On the late afternoon and evening of October 17, 2015, I was lucky to spend prime time with people from my past—people that shouldn’t be in my past, but friends that are still part of my life. It was a reunion, and honestly, if it wasn’t for a good friend of mine named Pete Senoff I probably would have passed, Thanks Pete, for it turned into a special time.

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From left: LK, Dennis Kreiger, and Ken Small at our high school reunion at the Sheraton Agoura Hills Hotel on 17oct2015. A good time for LK. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft)

Dennis Kreiger and Ken Small went to the last two years of elementary school with me, the three years of high school, and Dennis spent at least a couple of years with me in college. Ken became a police officer in Los Angeles and eventually a chief of police in Florida and then in Huntington Beach, California. Dennis had a successful tennis business in Encino, California, for decades. They are two of the good guys out of my past and present. I don’t know if they knew who they would become, but I didn’t know my future. Early on I did well with writing and essays but it didn’t mean anything to me.

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Friend Dennis Riley, who was then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, shot this publicity photo in June 1969 at my parent’s house in Reseda, California, shortly after I completed my American Indian anthropology class, graduated from college, and began pursuing a career in acting. Oh yeah, broad-brimmed hats and I go way back. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

In my last semester in college I talked my way into an upper division anthropology class (with absolutely zero anthropology background). The professor gave in and I enjoyed myself in a class that dealt with American Indians that ranged from Alaska south into Central or South America. We had a term paper and I wrote about a young Apache’s journey into manhood. The professor set up a meeting between us. “Your paper is fiction,” she said. “It was supposed to be nonfiction.” “The instructions didn’t say that,” I replied. Her eyes looked up to the heavens. She shook her head, perhaps in the hope that I would go poof and disappear. I didn’t. Finally she chuckled and smiled. … I did quite well in that class. Still, I’m certain that if another hustler approached her without any anthropological background he would have fled for his life as she let loose with unbridled determination to never again deal with an outsider to the study of humankind.

Even when I wrote a screenplay about a shocking 1976 summer of acting in dinner theater (me), drugs (not me), racial prejudice, and bald-faced hatred wherein I was thrilled to escape the Lone Star state in one piece I still didn’t have a clue of what my future might hold. … Actually it had been preordained and was in place at least as early as 1970, and that experience was more horrifying, but as usual it didn’t register in my brain. Moreover, I still hadn’t realized what type of person Errol Flynn really was. This would still take me another decade or two to learn.

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I once wrote an article entitled “The Image of Errol Flynn” (Films of the Golden Age, Spring 2000), and even though I had made it clear the article dealt with Flynn in the 1940s letters to the editor attacked me for not including Flynn in the 1950s. Often editors will ask writers of articles to respond to letters to the editor. I should say that I hate letters to the editor for often they are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. In this case I simply said to the editor that there was no reason to reply as the ridiculous statement was out of scope of the article. … This hasn’t always been the case with some of my articles published in Wild West. These comments have often been flavored by racism or hatred toward me, but often I haven’t had to reply as I have viewed the comments an open invitation to attack. The editor, Greg Lalire, is first class and a good friend, but at times he walks a fine line between reality and insanity. More than once he has taken care of the problem offline (that is not in print or online). I love this! In 2014 an attack struck from a place that it shouldn’t have (and those reasons won’t be exposed until I go on an offensive that will initiate a war, a war a number of magnificent historians want me to start). Will I? Honestly, I don’t know. Guts Kraft, you need to trust your instincts and expose the lies and deception!

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LK enjoying champagne with Olivia de Havilland (“OdeH” as I often call her and “Livvie” as Errol Flynn often called her) at her home in Paris, France, in July 2009. The lady is alive, funny, informative (when she wants to be but secretive when she thinks it is best), bright, charming, and oh-so-sexy. Livvie is alive and I hope that she outlives me. For the record, she has been burned by unscrupulous writer-historians and agrees with my views on Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

What I have just stated above has also been true with so-called historians that write about Errol Flynn. They view him as open season, and fabricate facts and quotes while often citing obscure documentation that is hard to obtain at this late date. Worse, their facts and quotes are at times fiction (or, if you will, lies). You do not want to hear my opinion of these people, and I am using the word “people” here very loosely for these hacks aren’t “people.” I’m not going to call them what I know they are in this blog. Most likely I’ll never call them what they are, but I have every intention of exposing their fraudulent writing that has been created to destroy a human being’s life and reputation long after the fact without valid proof. As far as I’m concerned this is a heinous crime.

Back to the swashbuckling image

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A classic magazine cover; alas, they don’t make them like this anymore. This isn’t quite true, for Wild West magazine is moving to art for their covers (and this is something that I like).

Beginning with the release of Captain Blood (based upon the first portion of Rafael Sabatini’s novel, Captain Blood: The Odyssey, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1922) in New York City in December 1935 Errol Flynn became an overnight sensation—a superstar* if you will—and his co-star Olivia de Havilland became a star (but not as bright as she would have liked). Warner Bros. realized that they had struck gold with the Flynn and de Havilland combination and began looking for another epic to cast them in; it would be The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), inspired perhaps by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem of vainglorious defeat. Again the film was adventurous as it mixed a little history with a lot of fiction. Unfortunately a love triangle bogged the story down. Nevertheless Warner Bros. confirmed what they already knew—the combination of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in an epic romance meant big bucks at the box office. But for some unknown reason Warners ignored what they knew and began casting Flynn in films that were little better than melodramas in scope and delivery. Except for The Prince and the Pauper, but here Flynn was little more than a supporting player with a magnificent duel at the end of the film. By the end of 1937 Warner Bros. had finally realized their error of splitting Flynn and de Havilland apart. After almost making a major casting flub (casting James Cagney as Robin Hood), someone woke up and suddenly Errol and Olivia were once again cast together in a major motion picture. Filming on The Adventures of Robin Hood began in fall 1937.

* The word “superstar” was first used in relation to a great cricket team in the 1830s. Almost a century passed before it was used to describe great hockey players between the years 1910 and 1920. More decades would pass until the word hit its stride as we now know it today, but that wasn’t until long after Errol Flynn’s time.

One thing stood out in the 1930s and it is still true today—Errol Flynn appeared very natural on film. It, for the most part, looked like he wasn’t acting, and in a time when many actors came from the stage and their performances looked like acting, Flynn didn’t overact. At times the critics would chew on him for his naturalness, and judging by comments that he made over the years this hurt and bothered him.

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This is an original lobby card from the 1938 release of The Adventures of Robin Hood. (LK personal collection)

Oh, there were times when he did overact, such as in a scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood where his eyes go from left to right (or was it right to left?) in a closeup as he supposedly took in lay of the land (as to where Sir Guy of Gisbourne’s (Basil Rathbone) soldiers were waiting to jump him. I’d bet my life that this ridiculous closeup was insisted upon by the director. Actually one of two directors: William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, as I believe both had a hand in the major episode sequence in which the cut that I’m talking about is located in the film. I’ll have to go back to the script and match the closeup number with the call sheets to see when the shot was made.

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Published art based upon a studio still of the Rathbone and Flynn final duel in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I think that it is pretty good work by the artist that created it. (LK personal collection)

With the release of The Adventures of Robin Hood Flynn’s stature rose to new heights. I above discussed a shot that bothered me; there are others. That said, Flynn is magnificent as Robin Hood. His physicality and athletic ability is present at all times as is his capability with the sword. … My problem here is major, for no one can handle broadswords as presented in The Adventures of Robin Hood and I know this for I have swung a broadsword that was made of material that was considerably lighter than steel. It isn’t easy and there is absolutely no way that anyone can swing a broadsword as shown in Flynn’s 1938 film. That said, Flynn’s handling of the sword in that film was extraordinary (albeit they are rapier cuts and slices and thrusts). Basil Rathbone loudly proclaimed that he had studied the sword and “could have killed Mr. Flynn whenever I wanted.” (I hope that this quote is close; if not, it is a paraphrase). You want to know something? If in reality it was a duel to the death between Rathbone and Flynn, my money’s on Flynn. Reason: Rathbone was swinging the blade by the numbers. If what I just said is true, Rathbone was a student fighting with technique while Flynn fought to survive (and he had plenty of survival skills that dated back to his days in New Guinea … not to mention his dueling lessons that dated to Captain Blood). Again, and without batting an eye, my money’s on Flynn.

Alas, it will take three books to deal with Flynn’s swashbuckling and western and war and human experience films. If it becomes obvious that I won’t meet my goal of three full-fledged nonfiction books on his life I have every intention of writing a lightweight volume or two (similar to Tony Thomas’s superior film histories and genre-specific tomes w/photos books). This is easy for me. All the research is in place and I’ve got tons of images. This could be accomplished in half a year per volume (my average nonfiction book takes at least five to seven years to write when it is a major project). … If something happens and suddenly time becomes short I will move to plan B.

Mounting up with Mr. Flynn

In My Wicked, Wicked Ways Flynn called himself “the rich man’s Roy Rogers.” I didn’t check to see if I have the quote correct or if I have paraphrased it here. I’m not certain if he was talking about later in the cycle of his eight westerns or not.

A surprise named Dodge City

If memory serves me, and I didn’t dig for this blog (that said, I know Flynn), Mr. Flynn questioned being cast in a western film when he became aware that Warner Bros. was preparing a western to fit his screen persona (Dodge City, 1939).

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A relaxed and smiling Errol Flynn on the first or second day of Dodge City location filming. (photo in LK personal collection)

Of course he hadn’t done any research on the western expansion as the United Stated pushed to make the country extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t think that an Australian accent was present on the western frontier. Actually all accents were present on the western frontier and Mr. Flynn fit the mold of the adventurers that went a-westering to find fame and fortune. Trust me when I say the following, … Errol Flynn was more believable than the multitudes of “cowboy” actors that have been little more than clichés since the beginning of film. I’m certain that he would have enjoyed hearing this during his lifetime. He didn’t. If I meet him in the hereafter I’ll tell him this.

Like my knowledge of the sword I know the western experience. Actually a hundredfold more than the sword. I know race relations, I know the people that ventured West, I know the American Indians (certainly the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and Navajos), and I know the people that attempted to end racial war (I’m upfront and center with this topic).

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This art was created from a recent photo of Pailin Subanna-Kraft and LK. She’s my pistol-packing lady and I’m Mr. Hickok. BTW, the hair was mine as I needed useful photos with long hair. It was recently clipped for an event but don’t rule out the return of long tresses for now that it is gone I miss it. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write about the gunmen, I know a hell of a lot about James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok (who, if I get lucky, I’ll someday play on stage), John Wesley Hardin, and Doc Holliday. Errol Flynn would have fit in with all of these people, and if he lived in the 1860s or 1880s he would have been a survivor. His performances in western films, except for his next to last, Montana (1950), are all acceptable. Three are exceptional (Dodge City; Virginia City, 1940; and They Died with Their Boots On, 1941), two are acceptable (San Antonio, 1945, and Rocky Mountain, 1950), and one I cannot comment about (Silver River, 1948) as I haven’t seen it in decades. … While still on the subject of who I’d like to play on stage, add Errol Flynn to the list. In the case of Hickok and Flynn I need to convince my director and producer to buy into the project (which I’d write). The Flynn project would be original but the Hickok project would be based upon a great novel, East of the Border, by Johnny Boggs (and in this case I also need Boggs to buy into the project).

“Must See, Must Read”
Five intriguing books and five films about the Indian Wars
by Louis Kraft*
Wild West (August 2014)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941, on DVD, Warner Home Video): If Errol Flynn hadn’t played George Armstrong Custer, there would have been no Kraft writing about the Indian wars. Long years past through present day, critics of this film have pounded it for its historical inaccuracy. Although true, let me invite you to actually research it—which I’ve done since the mid-1990s in preparation of multiple books on Errol Flynn (the first to be called Errol & Olivia). The thrust has been simple: In 1941 Warner Bros. feared being sued, and historical players and facts changed to fiction. Even though the film is fiction, it is so close to truths that have been disguised and altered that it’s scary. I can’t list them here, but trust me, for ’tis true. Don’t buy it? Do your own research. … Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer is magnificent, for he captured the spirit of the man; and Olivia de Havilland is perfect as Libbie Custer. It is arguably Flynn’s best performance, and by far their best performances in the eight films they did together.”
* This column is ongoing in Wild West (by contributors to the magazine).
Usually five books and five films have mini reviews. I made my comments personally related to my writing career. This issue also included two other LK articles.
One, a feature, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” was, I believe, the best
article that I have written about Ned Wynkoop.
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Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On just before he sets out for Montana Territory and destiny, and the real Custer 11 years before his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. For the record Custer set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on his final Indian campaign on May 17, 1876. He didn’t engage Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians on the Little Bighorn River until June 25, 1876. This fact is here for, believe it or not, people have stated to me numerous times that Custer fought his final battle a day or two after setting out. (both images are in the LK personal collection)

Already this blog is fairly long and I don’t want to expend another four thousand or more words here. If you’ve read my Flynn articles you know what I think about They Died with Their Boots On (my best Boots article appeared in the June 2008 issue of American History). There had been a pitch to True West to write short articles on all eight of Flynn’s western films (which had been accepted at the time of the pitch in June 2012) but then, suddenly, as I prepared to deliver the first article the idea was dropped by the magazine. My view of the change without notice: Bullshit, which I made known. Because of this I’m on True West’s “S-list” and have no intention of again pitching them with another story idea. They can pitch me and if the story idea is acceptable to me I’ll write it for them (ditto, Wild West), but I have no intention of pitching True West until this less-than-savory event is resolved to my satisfaction. Wild West is another story, but it, too has something that we need to resolve. … Add that book writing is my major concern and honestly I don’t give a damn if I ever write another magazine article. Hell, I’m never going to write for Oracle or Yahoo! again (and they paid me a hell of a lot of money)—why should writing for True West or Wild West be any different (and they pay peanuts)?

Hey, that’s life. … At least that is my life at this date in time.

For the record Errol Flynn looks like he was born astride a horse. This was evident in Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and in all of his westerns (except for Montana).

The goal has been to hopefully catch your interest in Errol Flynn, but not to write a book within a blog.

For those of you that doubt me and what’s a comin’ …

I have one thing to say. Don’t! I have always delivered in the past and I will deliver in the future.

Upcoming Blogs

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

The Louis Kraft writing world differs from other writers’ worlds

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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


On July 8 Pailin and I went to a dinner party with two friends who date back to my college days in Los Angeles just east of the 405 freeway. I believe that Saul Saladow has lived in his split-level townhouse for 20 years (and I don’t blame him, for it is nice). I believe that he joined me in the theatre department for the four years I attended college. He went on to a very successful career as a film editor. Veronica Morra became the girlfriend and future wife of a very good actor-singer in the theatre department. We met in college and the relationship continued after those years ended. Eventually they moved to the East Coast to be near their son and his family. At that point (or before) I lost contact with Vee (as Veronica prefers to be called) until she found me on social media several years back. Our friendship has grown.

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Taken at Saul’s townhouse in Los Angeles on 8jul2015. From left Vee Morra, Pailin, and Saul Saladow. Photo by Louis Kraft, and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Veronica Morra, Saul Saladow, and Louis Kraft 2015)

Pailin met both Vee and Saul when they visited us for dinner at Tujunga House in December 2013. Vee had traveled to Los Angeles to see Saul (who is a lifelong friend of hers) and other friends from long-gone days. Luckily they had one afternoon and evening free to visit us. Good times.

Nearing the end of our visit to Saul’s home Vee told me about a writer that she not only knows but likes the lady’s writing. She told me that this person spends nine months researching a book and then writes it in three months. Although I have continued to work on the Thai blog, which continues to grow, this writing schedule grabbed my interest. It is something that I want to discuss for although it is related to my writing life it is in stark contrast to my writing world.

This means one thing—lucky you—for this blog should be relatively short by my standards. At least I hope so. … Fat chance.

Not too long back in the past …

Over the course of my life I have met and known many writers, editors, agents, and other talented people that have played small and large roles in my writing world. Some have taken me under their wing and nurtured me and have done everything to further my career (and that includes in the software world). Others have been less open or friendly. I’ve always rolled with the punches.

In 1987 I learned of a Western Writers of America convention in San Diego, California, and contacted one of the hosts of the event. He made it possible for me to know exactly what I needed to do to attend the event. By this time I had been selling articles and giving talks about the American Indian wars since 1984. I had also had some eight or nine intense screenwriting years with an agent and a writer-producer between 1976 and 1984, both of whom marked up my manuscripts and then discussed them in detail. These two fellows played a huge role in my future. The agent and I came close to optioning or selling on several occasions without success and this included me pitching my film contacts, which were numerous back then. The writer-producer loved a screenplay that was about the destruction of Germany in WW II as seen through the eyes of a U-boat commander and his Jewish girlfriend (yep, I was dealing with racial content way back then), but he wanted me to rewrite it and take out the genocide on Jews and change the war to WW I and he’d produce. You can guess my answer: “No.” By 1987 I had also taken a ten-week fiction class at UCLA and had continued private lessons in Westwood, California, with the writer that taught it. I had a completed and polished novel called The Null State, which dealt with bootlegging on the modern-day Navajo Reservation. It was a thriller that also dealt with race, and my research marked the first time that I would spend an extended time on the Diné (as the Navajos call themselves) reservation.

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LK doesn’t have many images from the years 1987 through 1989 (and none of the writer I’m talking about—later in our years of friendship I have a lot of images but decided that none would be featured on this blog). This 1989 image was taken at Encino House (the first house I owned with my first wife). Dejah Thoris, named after Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Princess of Mars (Burroughs first novel in his John Carter of Mars series) was the most affectionate and kindest animal I have ever known. Yep, she’s giving me a big kiss. I loved her with all my heart and have never owned another animal after her death in 1992. When fully grown she was 55 pounds. My brother Lee had two Doberman Pinschers and they were both about 110 pounds. They were kind animals too, and they always greeted me by leaping up on me—this meant that I would back up a couple of feet as I tried to regain my balance. That said they were kind and loving dogs. Certainly animals can be trained to hurt and maim but that’s on the owner and not the animal. … That is my father to my left. BTW that’s not straight juice that I’m drinking, as I don’t think that I drank straight juice at that time. It was probably a Screwdriver. (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

At the San Diego convention I met an Apache expert (Danny Aranda and his beautiful sister, who would have a short life—when I learned of this decades later it destroyed me but luckily I kept control of my emotions) that would become a long-time long-distance friend to this day. I would also meet a woman that would soon become my agent. She tried to sell The Null State but couldn’t. In 1989 she would sell an unwritten story that I pitched with her one night to an editor. I hadn’t written a word of my proposed The Moon of the Changing Season, which focused on race relations during the lead up to the October 1867 peace council at Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas between the whites and the five major plains tribes on the central and southern plains. The “moon of the changing season” was what the Cheyennes called October. Walker and Company published my manuscript as The Final Showdown in April 1992. She and I also sold a follow-up western that dealt with Kit Carson, a Navajo warrior, and his granddaughter (but that contract ended when the publisher decided to drop their western line).

The writer that had helped me attend the 1987 WWA convention became a friend. He had sold a lot of novels, but most were hack genre fiction that if I remember correctly he wrote it in one or two months and did one review pass after he competed his draft. These stories became part of a number of genre series of books of which one was published each month under pseudonyms that represented four or five or maybe six writers creating the 12 books published each year for the various titles. I didn’t spend much time discussing this business with him as I really didn’t want to write fiction that I didn’t like reading. …

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In 1980 after our mother died on January 4 my brother Lee and I decided, with a group of friends, to create a baseball team. For the next 10 years Lee and I won a lot of trophies with our team the Cool-Aid Kids. During those years he and I played illegally or legally for other teams. A team had to have enough players to compete on any given day or night. If not they forfeited the game. Often brother Lee and I played for the Warriors (and we didn’t pay to play but were legal members of the team). They called us when they needed extra players. On this day in 1989 I played third base for the Warriors. I’m right handed (with the sword, in tennis, and certainly when writing with a pen), but I learned early in life that I was a better hitter left-handed. Over the years I didn’t bat right-handed often, but when playing for other teams I would practice my right-hand swing in a game situation. On this day I had rolled a couple of ground balls to the third baseman or shortstop. Easy outs. I wanted a hit. In the softball that I played there were four outfielders and this opposing team had a left-center fielder. He moved in, and I hoped for an outside pitch. I got it and drilled hook to left center field and as he raced back it sliced away from him. An easy home run. (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

But this novel writer I met in 1987 always had to be right. He was light on research, but knew everything. Worse, whenever he decided to tear into my family or people close to me he would lead off with, “I’ve got to tell the truth.” He would then get to his point, which ran along the lines of “I never liked her,” “She was too negative,” “Your sister has no right to say what she did about religion” (I believe that he had told me that he was an agnostic). Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap. … In 2014 I had offered to visit him for the umpteenth time to introduce him to the lady who would become my wife (both phone messages and email). No reply (I should add that whenever he visited SoCal he refused to visit me—he was only passing through and always too busy; I was always passing through Arizona on the I-40 and always made the time to visit him.

Oh yeah, an explosion was a comin’.

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This art of PS-K and LK is based upon a photo taken by our great friend Glen Williams in Texas on 13oct2014.

In 2014 a chief historian in the National Park Service asked me to review a document on Ned Wynkoop that the park service was preparing for the Sand Creek NHS and the Washita Battlefield NHS. I did and it was constructive … and ignored (If you ever see the document and know something about Wynkoop you would cringe). I sent him a link to a blog that took the National Park Service to task. His reply, and this is a paraphrase: Why would they read an unsolicited review? He then blasted me for being an expert on Wynkoop and not writing about anything else. Hello? Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches don’t count? Two books, and he has one and perhaps both of them. I had just delivered a major talk in Arizona on Gatewood and Geronimo and was working on the October 2015 Wild West Geronimo article (“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude”), both of which have been publicized on my blogs and elsewhere on social media. Or George Armstrong Custer; one book, a fair amount of talks, and numerous articles (some of which had been requested by editors). Hell, there have been Errol Flynn talks in five states, numerous articles, and plenty of publicity on social media not to mention two additional books on Flynn (documented on these blogs). I’ve been pushing The Discovery since I moved away from being a consultant (which began in 2010, but ended in 2011) and became a partner at the end of 2014.

Yes, this relationship has ended as he didn’t like my reply.
For the record, I have been advertising a future blog that deals
with this writer but as of the posting of this blog that is now history.
Reason: I don’t need to go into detail and hurt another writer
regardless of my feelings toward him. End of him and end of subject.

Michael Blake, a special person and writer

I met Michael Blake, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for Dances With Wolves (1990) in 1991. On 2dec2006 when we both spoke at an Upton and Sons Publishers Symposium in El Segundo, California (“Voices of the West”). On that day I spoke about Errol Flynn and George Armstrong Custer, and he spoke about the Bison. Michael loved the horse, but on this day he shared his love for the buffalo and the natural world. Afterwards we hung out on the hotel’s balcony and talked and got to know each other—where we’ve been and where we hoped to go.

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Michael Blake talking at Southwestern Oklahoma State University on 8nov2006. This is pretty much the Michael Blake that I met in El Segundo, California, in December of that same year.

We had previously known each other when Michael initiated the relationship by phone when he was writing Indian Yell: The Heart of an American Insurgency (Northland, 2006). He had asked me to review his chapter dealing with Custer’s November 1868 attack on Black Kettle’s Washita village. He had read my Custer and the Cheyenne while recovering from an operation and had contacted publisher Dick Upton to obtain my phone number. This began our relationship, which was confirmed at Dick’s symposium when we got to hang out together.

One thing that we compared over the years were our operations. I have had a lot, but Michael’s count made me sound like an “also ran” or “rookie.” My good friend Dick Upton let me know that Michael had unfortunately died on 2may2015. On Michael’s Facebook page his wife Marianne wrote: “We miss him very much but take strength in the fact that he is at peace now, reunited with his heroes – animals and humans alike.” I never knew his wife or children, but we continued to communicate mainly through letters and the phone. He was a survivor who had a clear focus on his life, what was important to him, and what he wrote.

He kindly gave me some of his published writing and I gave him some of mine. Michael wrote two autobiographical nonfiction works that I am aware of, and they were magnificent. In my humble opinion they were his best nonfiction books. You’ve got to realize that when I read a book I’m paying attention and taking notes of why or why not I like the book. This was and is a learning process that continues to this day. Whenever I coach or hire out to novice writers or wannabe writers I always tell them to think about books they’ve read and decide why they like or don’t like the book. … I have no comments on Michael’s Like A Running Dog, Vol. 1: Los Angeles, 1970-1972 (Hrymfaxe LLC, 2002) and his follow-up book Like A Running Dog, Volume II—Los Angeles 1979-1982, other than that they were great reads.

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As I said in the flow of the text I couldn’t find Michael’s memoirs, but time is short and I couldn’t tear the house apart for I have too much on my plate at the moment. Put mildly I’m not pleased with myself. I decided to grab an image from my talk on the day that Michael and I met in December 2006. It was slightly out of focus but I could have fixed that. Instead I decided to play around with color and turn it into art. What you are looking at here fits my life quite well. Mainly that I cherish a lot of people who are writers or artists or directors or artistic people or just normal folks that I love. I love their creativity, I love their thought process, I love their friendship, but most important I love knowing them. That said I can’t tell you how often I have missed out because I didn’t call, didn’t visit, didn’t take that extra step to spend time with special people. (I saw my brother Lee Kraft three, four, five times a week but his sudden death has torn me apart to this day and destroyed our father; Dale Schuler, my father’s best friend and partner who was like a father to me; Mark Hendrickson, an actor and magician who grew up next door to me; and Doug McGirr, my ex-wife’s brother and my friend since I met him in 1967—his death has shocked my daughter Marissa and awakened her to how precious life really is. These were sudden deaths, but there have been friends who didn’t live close that fought for their lives that I called once but waited too long to call again; Tony Graham and Doug Matheson are just two.) … I don’t walk with the devil but red is the color that represents the end to me. This image is to remind me not to pass off until tomorrow calls, emails, or visits that I could do today. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I have both in hardbound editions but it looks like only Volume I was published (but the two books Michael sent me look close, and certainly my Volume I looks like the printed book). I have an admission to make; I have books and research in every room except for the bathroom. I know, a sad state of affairs and Pailin reminds me of this. I can’t find these two books, but I have them and they are mine. They “ain’t” going nowhere, unless you gut me with your Bowie knife (I should add that I’ll nail you first, so don’t even think about it). Let’s take that “great reads” comment to the next level, if you are going to write an autobiographical piece do yourself a favor and read Michael’s two books. I don’t care if you are a novice writer, a bad writer, or a good writer, you’ll learn content flow, word usage, and composition from Michael’s text. You’ll also see a damned good way to write an autobiography or memoir.

I really should mention Michael’s Marching to Valhalla (Westminster, Maryland: Villard Books, 1996). I read this book when it was published, and this happened before Michael and I met via phone. At the time I saw at least one review that stated that Michael pulled his storyline from Errol Flynn’s film, They Died With Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941). Flynn’s film is one of my favorite films of all time (see Wild West, August 2014 for “Must See, Must Read” by LK), and as far as I was concerned that review was pure bullshit. By that I mean that I don’t think that Michael’s book and Flynn’s film were similar. I liked Michael’s novel about George Armstrong Custer. I wasn’t crazy about it but I liked it, and more important I thought that it would translate to the screen. Years later, in one of my better articles in a national magazine, (“Custer: The Truth Behind the Silver Screen Myth,” American History, February 2008) I pitched Michael’s quest to get his book onto the screen. If memory serves me back in those days he had a few big-name actors attached to the possibility but alas nothing happened. A shame, for it could have been a good film.

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Michael Blake as he appears in his DVD The American West: On the road with Michael Blake (image © Wolf Creek Productions, 2008)

Moving forward Michael sent me a “Screener Copy” of a great filmed nonfiction documentary series idea that he shot with director John Carver (Wolf Creek Productions, 2008) titled The American West: On the road with Michael Blake. It was slow and meandering—perfect for this type of Indian wars documentary as Michael, on horseback—a place he loved—talked about the end of the Apache wars as he took you to various historic sites.

Michael wanted me to write a comment for the DVD label. I did, and it appeared on his website for years (don’t think that it is there now), and he never sent me a DVD that he sent to potential backers.

Bottom line: Michael was a great human being who cared about people; living in our past; animals (he loved horses and had a great respect for the American Bison); and when he wrote he did so from the heart. Every writer should do this. … We have lost a great writer and I have lost a good long-distance friend. If you read his works he’ll be with you, and more important for me is that he’ll always be with me.

Teaming up with Tom Eubanks for a pitch

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Several years after Michael’s The American West: On the road with Michael Blake DVD was completed my great friend writer-director Tom Eubanks and I teamed and tried to sell a Ned Wynkoop/Southern Cheyennes five-episode documentary. I lined up top-notch Indian wars historians and Southern Cheyennes to take part in the project.

The image at right is based upon a photo that writer Johnny Boggs took at the final dress rehearsal for the Wynkoop one-man shows contracted by the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (Cheyenne, Oklahoma) in December 2008. That’s director Tom Eubanks on his knees begging LK to remember his lines. I like that sentence but it’s not true. We’re 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.

I made sure that Tom saw Michael’s DVD and he loved it. I added Michael’s horseback riding to the storyline to bring the viewers into the location and land that played a major role in what happened. Like Michael, we struck out. Probably in both Michael and our proposals the cost of location production killed us. As in the past, I have learned to “never say ‘never.'” If the chance arrives I will again toss Tom and myself into the ring.

Helping other writers + LK books & plays

One thing I’ve become quite good at over the years is not ripping another person’s writing. When asked to review I’ve generously given my time and constructively marked up manuscripts. In the past I had done a fair amount of free reviews with constructive mark-ups and a letter of comments of what the writer should focus on when improving his manuscript.

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My daughter Marissa (left in image) would meet and spend quality time with writer/historian Eric Niderost (right in image) over the years. On 15mar2003 it poured rain in Los Angeles. This used to happen in the past but during recent years Los Angeles and all of California has fallen upon hard times, actually the worst drought in over 100 years. On this day we went to see the museum at the La Brea Tar Pits next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and then visited magazine publisher and collector of science fiction film art and collectables Forrest J. Ackerman (center in image). Eric had set up our appointment with Forrest and his open welcome to unknown people into his Hollywood home that was really a museum became a major film history highlight. I am not a fan of horror or science fiction films, but let me tell you Mr. Ackerman had major framed posters of the key films from the silent era and into the golden age of cinema. He also had major artifacts such as Bella Lugosi’s original Dracula cape and the miniatures from the filming of The War of the Worlds (1953). (photo by Louis Kraft and © Marissa & Louis Kraft and Eric Niderost 2003)

One was a 100-page draft of a period thriller that took place in 1930s Shanghai by professor, historian, and author Eric Niderost, who has been my friend since 1995. It took me over a month to mark up the 100 pages (and I not only worked 40-50 hours I also had a roughly 10-hour drive weekly, and I worked on my writing usually between 20 and 40 hours every week when writing for companies). Eric had/has I think a great story idea and I hope that he pursues selling it, as he now has a completed manuscript.

I also completed a full review of Tom Eubanks’ PK (“PK” stands for “Preacher’s Kid”), which took place on a Caribbean Island (if memory serves me). Tom has been a good friend since we met at a Ventura County Writers Club weekly readings in 1990. Although we were at odds at times I saw his writing talent immediately. The group didn’t end, but I dropped out when a divorce removed me from Ventura County. I had then lived in a great house with a pool (swimming is my favorite exercise sport) a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains in Thousand Oaks, California. The divorce moved me back into Los Angeles County, but the end of my marriage did not mean the end of my friendship with Tom. He is one of the few people I know that whenever I see him it is just like we saw each other the previous week.

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Pailin and my great friend Tom Eubanks at his Elite Theatre complex on the Pacific Ocean in Oxnard, California, on 24apr14. That night we saw the final dress rehearsal of a play that Tom wrote and directed called The Art of Something. Over the years Tom and his wife Judy have played a major place in my life. On that evening Pailin met Tom, Judy, and their youngest daughter, Hannah (whom I’ve known since before she was born). A good night. (photo by LK, and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Tom Eubanks, and Louis Kraft 2014)

Tom is perhaps the most talented person I have ever known, and his energy blows me away. He’s also a wiz with words and the copy I reviewed of PK was polished. Many pages (somewhere between four and five hundred), but I completed my review of his preacher’s kid story draft in about two+ weeks. Upon my suggestion Tom changed his book title but I don’t remember what he changed it to as I never saw the printed book.

Beginning in 2002 he became my director for all the Wynkoop one-man shows and Cheyenne Blood (2009).

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This art is of LK in 2002 at Fort Larned, Kansas. I worked on it as I hope to turn it into art of Wynkoop for the Sand Creek book epilogue. I think that this is doable, and it is certainly a good start. …. BTW the goal of all writers is to create a manuscript/book that earns money. University presses are by far the best nonfiction publishers in the USA, and I consider myself lucky to write the best Indian wars publisher in the world (OU Press). (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

To date he hasn’t commented on an Errol Flynn play with perhaps seven actors but hope burns eternal that someday I’ll catch him at a weak moment. And I still haven’t given up hope of getting Johnny Boggs’ great novel East of the Border on the stage. Yeah, I want to play Flynn and Wild Bill Hickok while I still walk this earth.

I don’t edit for free any longer. I just don’t have the time unless I work as a contractor for a reasonable salary which is usually more than most writers or would-be writers want to pay. … The offers come, but usually with attempts to reduce my salary. Bottom line: I don’t write for companies any longer and my writing focus is now my books, let me repeat that—my books, and although I could use the money, if I work as a contractor I will receive an acceptable salary and the contract will be juggled with my book projects. … For the record, my partnership with Bob Goodman on The Discovery began as a contract, but changed to a partnership upon Bob’s request and my realization that I wanted to write his story idea.

Simple, and there will be no arguments or major negotiations.

LK as a minister

For almost 10 years my girlfriend was Japanese (born in Hawaii). At the time I met her, her two girls were adults. One had dropped out of college and would soon move back to Hawaii while the other was just beginning her college career. I did my best to befriend both of them. The younger daughter and I connected, and her boyfriend and I became buddies. This relationship began in late 1994.

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LK marrying Chelsea Tengan & John Fortuna at Balboa Park in San Diego, California, on 9Aug2003.

By 2003 my health was in great distress and there were two major operations that year (without checking I believe that my operation count is currently at 14). Between those operations (which cost me 4 1/2 months of downtime and learning to walk again) my lady’s daughter asked me to marry her to her boyfriend. I read her draft of the ceremony and said that I would if I could rewrite the words that I would say (she and I reviewed the draft numerous times until we mutually agreed on the text). I then laid it on her: It would be an acting performance. “What do you mean?” “I mean that I won’t read a word.” As far as I was concerned I would be playing a minister, and as such I would be performing a ceremony that I had previously performed hundreds of times. Oh yeah, Kraft was about to step onto the stage one more time. A three-person ceremony with one performance. She agreed, and we were off to the races.

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You are looking at Cindy Tengan on the day of her daughter’s wedding on 9aug2003. She was a special lady and I’m lucky to have known her for almost 10 years. She was never more beautiful, alive, or happy than I saw her on the day and night of Chelsea’s wedding. (photo © Cindy Tengan & Louis Kraft 2003)

I had one hell of a great time marrying Chelsea to her boyfriend. I was front and center and watched the tears of joy up close. Good stuff, and one of the highlights of my life. Afterwards a lot of people commented, and they wanted to know how many marriages I had performed.

“One.”

“Get out of here!”

“And it is my last one.” This scattered most of them. Others pushed, and I pushed back just as hard: “There will be no more weddings performed by me!” The reason was simple: I didn’t and don’t have the time.

My writing world and welcome to it

My writing world is mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. What other writers do is part of their writing world and it has no connection with my world. I take years and years and years to research a book, and then years and more years to write the book. For example research on Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway began in 1985. The Wynkoop book was published in 2011 and the first draft of the Sand Creek manuscript is due on 1oct2016 (both books were/are contracted). If someone can research a major nonfiction work and write it in a year, kudos to them. All I’m saying here is that I will never create any of my books in a year.

cookCell_boggsKill_Indian_collage_july15_wsI haven’t read a lot of the nonfiction or fiction that is published each year (actually this is a major understatement). I can count all of the novelists that I respect over my entire life on my two hands. There are a lot of nonfiction writers whose work I respect. The above said, it would take me two or three hundred pages to discuss nonfiction and fiction writers that I don’t think are very good.

Yep, this is my world, and I have no intention of agreeing to bullshit, lies, and errors, and I care if it comes from a publication house or a writer that deceives his or her readers and either repeats errors or creates nonfiction that is based upon lies and fiction. END OF SUBJECT.

Researching and writing a book in a year …

I’m certain that good novelists can do this. However, knowing my track record and how long it takes me to uncover the truth I don’t think that nonfiction writers can do this unless they have a huge staff performing their research for them. A recent book has done quite well, and the writer’s prose dealing with the here and now with the tragedy of Sand Creek seems to be right on the money. However, the writer’s historical research into 1864 and 1965 is error-riddled.

I say the above, as people shouldn’t take popular nonfiction as gospel for more often than not it perpetuates errors that have been in place for decades …. or worse creates new errors that will now be repeated ad nauseam.

Back to Vee’s comments on her writer-friend, … I thought she was talking about nonfiction but she had said something that her friend told her: “Characters drive plot.” This sounds like fiction to me, and if yes, I totally agree with her writer friend. The characters move the plot, and a writer must allow them to do this. … Again I haven’t read this lady’s books, so I can not say anything about them. Going with the above, perhaps I should read one of her books, for she is right on here. … Nine months of research seems reasonable for a novel, however I believe that research for fiction (or nonfiction) should continue until the copyediting has ended for one never knows when new information that wasn’t known is found or what was thought to be factual was in fact wrong.

My problem remains with writing and delivering a polished 125,000-word fiction manuscript in three months. That’s a mouthful—no more comments.

Other than to say that I can’t and will never be able to do this.

But that’s just me.

Let’s deal with the research

Research for writers vary, but unfortunately way too many writers write books that are based upon secondary books that may or may not have faulty information. This perhaps can work in fiction, but not always and especially not when it is an historical novel or a medical thriller that require facts. Today I’m going to stick with historical fiction, which often presents itself as being based upon fact when often just the reverse is true. That is the writer didn’t perform decent research and the story is loaded with factual errors. Often I have read a novel and went “Wow! This is good stuff.” Unfortunately when I read novels that are based upon historic or modern subjects that I know intimately I am bent over in agony and screaming at the gods for the pitiful research that now unwary readers think is factual. I’m going to provide two examples here with the caveat that I don’t know how long it took the writers to research or write their books:

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Cahill’s paperback novel cover.

Sand Creek by Kevin Cahill (Bloomington, Indiana: Author House, 2005): Mr. Cahill has a good website that Northwestern University used when they explored John Evans’s actions at the time of the Sand Creek tragedy (see Report of the John Evans Study Committee, May 2014). BTW, I do believe that Mr. Cahill’s site (Kevin Cahill’s Lone Wolf Sand Creek website) is well done and of value to researchers as it offers valid links to historical documents that are available online. Evans was governor of Colorado Territory at that time. Back to Mr. Cahill’s book. He even uses historical images in his novel, and the total presentation is that his book is factual. No! The reason is simple: His research is incomplete. I know Ned Wynkoop and his life like the back of my hand. My study of him began in the mid-1980s and it continues to this day. … It has oft been stated that Wynkoop fell off his horse during Captain Silas Soule’s funeral procession in Denver in 1865 and that this injury would affect him for the rest of his life. True, the injury would affect him and it would worsen with time. However the year of 1865 is totally wrong.

I don’t know when Wynkoop’s fall from his horse and the horse covering him on the ground in Denver in 1865 first saw print in secondary books, but it has been around for decades. Writers that don’t perform good research grab this 1865 horse incident and run with it. Hell, if it is in print it must be true. No!

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Many of you have seen this Wynkoop portrait that documents him confronting the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line on 10sept1864 near a tributary of the Smoky Hill River is western Kansas. It originally saw print in the August 2014 issue of Wild West magazine in an article entitled “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War.” It is totally copyrighted and protected, and as a grayscale image will be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (OU Press). Some of my articles have won awards. My opinion: This is the best published article that I have written.

There are three major pieces of primary source material that show that Cahill is wrong (as are nonfiction writers that have repeated this piece of fiction). They are:

  • Newspaper accounts that document a funeral procession in Denver in 1863 wherein Wynkoop’s horse was spooked, reared up, and when he was not able to control the animal it fell backward and onto him (not one but many articles).
  • Wynkoop’s military file. For the record Wynkoop was at Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory, during the entire month of April 1865 and not in Denver—thus he couldn’t have attended Soule’s funeral.
  • Newspaper accounts for the entire Denver area for the month of April 1865, which contain absolutely no mention of Wynkoop being in the city at that time, attending Soule’s funeral, or having a horse mishap.

I didn’t get far in Cahill’s novel, and after I stopped reading I spot read certain areas. That’s it. Perhaps if I didn’t know anything about Sand Creek I might have loved his story.

Ladies and gentlemen I can’t tell you how often I have been shocked by errors that are not only caused by improper or incomplete research, but worse—and here I’m talking about nonfiction—the creation of facts (that’s right, creating facts that are fiction to dupe the reader); the misrepresentation of facts on purpose or because the nonfiction writer didn’t bother to complete his or her research (Read: They read one or two or three secondary books); inadequate documentation (that is their cited notes are so obscure or vague or inaccurate that the reader cannot find them to view them). There will be two upcoming blogs that will discuss this in detail and they won’t be vague.

oswaldWynkoopBookAnother book is, believe it or not, a young readers book, Edward Wynkoop: Soldier and Indian Agent (Palmer Lake, Colorado, LLC, 2014). The author, Nancy Oswald, kindly said the following in her Acknowledgments: “I would like to acknowledge Louis Kraft, biographer and author of Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. Without his book and his in-depth research and knowledge, my own understanding of Wynkoop’s life would have been far less complete.”

Wow!!! The above is more than kind. Moreover her Wynkoop book won the Western Writers of America Spur award for best juvenile nonfiction for the year 2014 (SEE BELOW: For this in itself is reason enough for me to drop my membership to this organization as I have been totally embarrassed—anyone who reads her acknowledgment and knows anything about Wynkoop will think that my book is a total piece of crap … say what?).

There’s only one problem. I don’t think that author Oswald read my Wynkoop book thoroughly, for if she did she decided to ignore many of the known facts in the book and replace them with often-repeated errors that are prevalent in popular nonfiction. For example:

  • Wynkoop worked as a bartender in the Criterion Saloon in Denver to earn extra money. This isn’t mentioned; instead it is replaced with the oft repeated error that Wynkoop earned money as an actor on the stage (page 12). For the record Wynkoop acted on the Denver stage but as an amateur; he never earned a penny as an actor.
  • Wynkoop resigned his commission as U.S. Indian agent while still en route to Fort Cobb, Indian Territory, on November 29, 1868. Although he didn’t know it and would not learn of it until he returned to civilization, Black Kettle’s village on the Washita River in Indian Territory was attacked and destroyed on November 27, 1868. Black Kettle and his wife, Medicine Woman Later, died that day. On page 53 writer Oswald states: “When Wynkoop learned of Black Kettle’s death, he wrote a letter of resignation.” This statement is absolutely incorrect!

There’s more, much more but not for this blog.

Nancy Oswald’s writing flows nicely and her book is a page turner. Unfortunately she included major errors about Wynkoop. With her kind words about me she implies that these errors came from me. They did not. Web pages that profess the truth aren’t always accurate and primary information should be consulted to confirm everything on these websites. This takes time—lots of time and many writers prefer to take short cuts when researching. Many nonfiction books are error-riddled, especially popular nonfiction which doesn’t bother with notes (and believe it or not even more so with some of the major pieces of popular nonfiction that have notes).

What can I say other than I’m embarrassed (Yeah, I’m repeating myself—but damn it to hell I am!), and wish that Nancy did not say the kind words about me. Believe it or not I am considering dropping my membership in Western Writers of America (My apologies, for I’m again repeating myself.) for the simple reason that when judges are selected to review nonfiction they should make an attempt to confirm what they are reading before casting their votes.

People are my life & my writing world

People from times long gone, people from the more recent past, and people in the here and now are with me every day. I care about people, and their lives. Everyone’s life is unique and it shouldn’t be treated cavalierly nor should their lives be forgotten because they weren’t a king or president or sports hero or a soldier that was responsible for the death of innocent people or just an evil person that rapes, steals, and murders.

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My ex-wife’s and my gift to my sister, Linda, was that I would shoot her wedding to Greg Morgon on 3dec1988 at their church in Long Beach, California (others shot some photos but they were catch as catch can) and give them prints. My ex-wife worked for a number of years as a professional photographer. I learned from her, directors of photography on films and TV, and from fashion photographers that I worked with over the years. Here I’m trying to get a little too “artsy-fartsy,” but I liked my attempt (even though it is out of focus). My ex-wife, Marissa, and my father participated in the wedding ceremony. My brother Lee refused to attend (no matter what my father or I said to him), and his reasoning was valid (but this is for the memoir). I was present, but there are no photos proving this. My sister was radiant and beautiful, but then she was always beautiful. This image is full frame as I captured her in the mirror of the bride’s dressing room before the ceremony. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

I grew up with two parents that accepted people regardless of their race. But in those times during my school years and for decades after I saw a lot of racial prejudice. Sometimes I closed my ears. At other times I didn’t but depending upon the person I might have just scratched them off. My sister, Linda, served as a deputy sheriff in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and then as an investigator for the Los Angeles District Attorney. When she knew that the end had arrived she gave me both of her badges, and I cherish them. I saw racial attitudes in her at times but placed them on her career path. Strangely she kept her distance from our family for most of her adult life (and my ex-wife has suggested a reason that I think may be correct).

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Doris & Louis Kraft Sr. at their home in Reseda, California, in 1972. Photo by Joan McGirr.

During the last two years of our mother’s life, my brother Lee who then lived at home gave our mother multiple shots every day and our father drove her to San Diego for experimental cancer treatments monthly. Our mother went into a hospital three weeks before Christmas 1979. On a Saturday morning I took a day off and flew home from San Diego where I worked on a film shooting at sea. She was released that day and I spent almost two days with her before returning to the location. Linda wasn’t around. I had one more week at sea and then a couple of days at the studio for pick up shots. My work ended three days before Christmas. Linda, who’s birthday was December 24, arrived. Mom wasn’t good, and the day after Christmas she returned to the hospital for the last 10 days of her life. I spent those 10 days and deep into the nights with my father, and this cemented our relationship for all time. On New Year’s Eve after he and I left the hospital we returned to his and my mother’s home and drank and smoked and and talked deep into the wee hours. I finished my last cigarette just before the midnight hour and have never smoked since.

Lee, who was 23 was distraught, placed the blame on himself for the inevitable, which happened on January 4, 1980. Linda wasn’t around. When I asked her about this later, she said: “I didn’t know Mom was dying.”

Our father died 19 years later. I had been taking care of him for years, and just before the end he said to me, “If I knew that I’d live this long I would have taken better care of myself.” I called Linda on a Friday night and told her that dad wouldn’t make it through the weekend. He died two days later on Valentine’s Day. Early on Monday morning she called me. “Where were you?” “I didn’t believe you. Besides, it was Valentine’s Day.” Oh yeah we had our ups and downs but I loved her—I always loved her. (No room here, but there were good times too. I have some great memories.)

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Lee Kraft and his girlfriend Robin Fried at the first house that my ex-wife and I owned in Encino, California, on Christmas day 1988. He was a good looking fellow and the best athlete I ever played with or against. He had a great smile. Robin was a lady that I always liked, and even more so after Lee’s death in a little over a year for she was absolutely terrific with my dad. Luckily she found me on social media and we have reconnected (after a long separation that I had nothing to do with and didn’t know about it until after the fact after my father died in 1999). I took at least one other photo of Lee on that day, and that photo is my favorite of my brother. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988).

Although Lee was nine and a half years younger than I was we were always close. We shared a bedroom during the entire time I lived at home. One night when he was still young our mother caught me climbing out the window with him my arms. “What are you doing?” “The Martians are coming. We’ve got to get out now!” (I never did well with horror and science fiction films.) When he was about 10 or 11 I told my mother that he was stealing my clothes. She questioned him. “No,” Lee said. We lived on half an acre in a rural area of Reseda, California. One day I was going out the back door and Lee was stuffing one of my coats into an old washing machine that our father hadn’t gotten rid of yet. Oops!

Our relationship grew even stronger once he reached 18 or so. But Lee also had some racial tendencies (which I saw when we played sports, and this I found surprising for our ball team had players of various races and they were his friends). And you know how it is; brothers would be brothers and they would fight and this grew as he also became an adult. When a friend of Lee’s, Ron Powell (who I liked), was redoing my roof in Encino with Lee and I assisting he didn’t finish the job and when I had to hire another roofer to finish the work I kept Powell’s tools. This angered Lee and we didn’t speak for quite a number of months (eventually I returned the tools). On another occasion we had a ball practice on a holiday before Lee and his wife Teresa or his long-time girlfriend Robin (who adored our dad until his death) and Tony and Cindy Graham were coming over for a barbecue. After the practice Tony (who I believe was Lee’s best friend of all time) told me he decided to do something else. We got into a fight and then suddenly it was Lee and I wrestling around on the ground with Tony trying to drag us apart. Another string of months with no communication. But then it was over and was just like nothing had happened.

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Pailin asked to take a picture of me as I cooked dinner for four good friends that visited Tujunga House on the Fourth of July 2015. The front of the house faces east but it was a sunny day and sunshine still blasted through the dinning room windows. We had good lighting but for some reason her phone camera messed up big time. I liked the image for it both told a story and gave a good rendition of what I currently look like. Some people cringe (I can see it in their eyes); others like this look. Me? It’s my shaggy dog look. Sudeshna Ghosh, Robin Fried, and Pailin all like it. When I growl at Pailin and ask her opinion about getting my hair cut, she refuses to answer. Silence is golden. To use the image I used my paintbrush and healing brush tool in PhotoShop. I decided to use this image here as shows you how close Lee and I looked. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Lee was always there for me.

The memoir is coming. The question is, how do I write it? I know the answer. Truthfully. I haven’t read many autobiographies or memoirs that are truthful; many are gloss overs or sometimes attacks. There is good and there is bad. There are good times and there are bad times. Certainly for me. Relationships begin and unfortunately many end. Why? What happened? Why did I get that acting job? Why didn’t I get those 50 acting jobs? Before he died Edward G. Robinson, a big star from the golden age of film, said that he wished that he had a nickel for every time one of his films played on TV (actors didn’t receive residuals in those days). I wish I had fifty bucks for every job interview and writing pitch or query that I’ve made over the years. … I’ve been knocked cold; I’ve taken a motorcycle over a cliff; I’ve had a knife at my throat in Austin, Texas, in 1970; six years later I was lucky to get out of Lubbock, Texas, without being tarred and feathered; I had a revolver pointed at me while driving Marissa to school (I told her to get off the seat and onto the floorboard); I took a fast car into a freeway center divider at high speed after it hydroplaned and spun out at about 65 mph. After hitting the center divider it spun two more times and took out the passenger side and then the rear end of the car. Surprisingly I walked away from the crash with my spine still functioning (my Vette died but it saved my life).

They say that the good die young, … but I don’t look at myself as evil.

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This is my lady, wife, and best friend Pailin in the front of Tujunga House on 24oct2013. … A little over a week ago she asked if we’d do a research trip this year. Alas, this isn’t in our timeline as she has continued schooling for her California Massage Therapy Council certification and I have major writing work staring at me. She experienced a research trip for the first time in fall 2014, loved it, and she is ready to go when I need to do another research trip. This is a first for LK!!!! (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m not telling you anything that you haven’t seen or experienced personally. My goal is to tell this story truthfully, and by the way this memoir has been in the works for years. You would be floored if you saw how much research I have. That said I haven’t written a word. … You know that’s not true for you’ve seen stories about my past or present that mean something to me in these blogs. That’s right, I use them as a research tool for myself.

All of the words in this section are here for one reason. I must know as much as possible before I develop a talk, write an article or a book, and the research never ends. There are answers out there and I want to know them. This has been in place since the Custer/Cheyenne book, for both of the Gatewood/Geronimo/Apache books, the Wynkoop/Cheyenne book, the Flynn and de Havilland book (which is on hold at the moment), and so it will be for the Sand Creek book (Cheyennes and Arapahos and their lifeways, whites who want to develop a great new land, whites who married Indian women, their mixed-blood children, and whites that spoke out against the killing of Cheyennes and Arapahos who were told that they were under the protection of the military when they were attacked and in many cases sexually hacked to pieces at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory on November 29, 1864). These books are hard to write for I want the people to come to life, and to do this I must find what made them tick, what made them do what they did. Actions and not words define who people are.

A lot of research, a lot of edits, and a lot of rewrites went into the creation of this blog. Writing is what I do. It is work and it takes time to get it right.

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t quite call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it.

Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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


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

Just for fun, a quick change of pace …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Progress on the Sand Creek manuscript

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

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

Nope. Not today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kit Carson is in LK’s future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few words on long overdue blogs …

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
    Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it.

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

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


Warning: This blog is long.

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

Colorado here we come

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some background on John and this trip

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

Research and hanging out with John and Linda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocky Mountain National Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An end to the Colorado visit 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomas Jaehn & the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wynkoop’s last job 

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

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

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

Pailin’s introduction to Santa Fe

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

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

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

Eldorado & the International Museum of Folk Art

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

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

**********

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A trip to Taos to introduce Pailin to Kit Carson

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

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

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

Taos

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

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

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

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

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

Taos Pueblo 

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

La Hacienda de los Martinez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kit Carson House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A long overdue detour to the Bosque Redondo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Glen, Ellen, and Linda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda drove home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sad goodbye to Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One final thing

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

Today is a good day to be alive. …

Upcoming blogs

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

National Park Service, Ned Wynkoop, & a bad taste

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

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


Warning: This blog is different than previous blogs

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Early April 2014 and a request

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A change of focus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two sides to every story

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

Another story

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

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

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

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

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

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

mk&lk_lbh_25jun2011_lineArt_ws

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

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

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

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

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

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

My smile grew.

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

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

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

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

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

No comment.

A July 25 email and the response

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

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

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

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

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

What to do?

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

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

“What to do?’ … yeah I sometimes vacillate

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

NPS Wynkoop brochure errors & omissions

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

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

Early Years (1836-1861)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ERROR: Wynkoop never earned money as an actor.

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

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

greene_monnett_apr2013website

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

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

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

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

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

Civil War Years (1861-1865)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sand Creek Massacre

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

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

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

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

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

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After the speakers and music completed at the Washita Battlefield NHS overlook on 11nov2011 I captured this image of Moses Starr of the Red Moon Signers & Drum Group (left) and W. Richard (Rick) West. I met Rick for the first time before the event began and then spent a lot of time with him on the 12th, when we lunched together. We had plenty of time to talk. Rick is a Cheyenne peace chief. He is also the founding director and director emeritus of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Recently he became president and CEO of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (I believe in December 2012). (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian Agent (1866-1868)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later Life (1869-1891)

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

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

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

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

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

LK suggested rewrite of NPS Wynkoop brochure

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

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

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

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

Wynkoop brochure heading

Edward W. (Ned) Wynkoop

Wynkoop brochure subheadings

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

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

Early Years (1836-1860)

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

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

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

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

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

Civil War Years (1861-1863)

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

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

Sand Creek Massacre (1864-1865)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian Agent (1866-1868)

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

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

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

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

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

Later Life (1869-1891)

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

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

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

Upcoming blogs

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

Sand Creek Massacre, The Discovery, Errol & Olivia and Ned Wynkoop Updates

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

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


Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

The Sand Creek manuscript differs from my previous nonfiction work in that it features multiple leading players as opposed to one or two.

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lk in costume as Billy the Kid (sans the revolver and gun belt). A 1969 publicity photo taken by best pal Dennis Riley, who was then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy. This photo session was the first of many over the years. Dennis and I became close during our high school years and this lasted through my four years of college, his college and military service, and long after. Although we don’t see each other often now, it is always like yesterday. We were constantly in trouble but he was always there for me and me for him. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

This includes my written plays in which I have performed. They date back to 1969 with Lew and Billy (Billy the Kid’s meeting with New Mexico Territorial Governor Lew Wallace); 1982’s The Fencing Lesson (a man and a woman cross sabers with deadly intent in a battle of the sexes); the Wynkoop one-man plays that have played in four states, and 2009’s Cheyenne Blood, which again featured two characters—Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyenne woman Mo-nahs-e-tah, who survived bloody attacks on Cheyenne villages (Sand Creek, 1864; and Washita, 1868). This is the phonetic spelling of her name.

Yes, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is going to be a stretch.

How do I bring the leading players to life? How do I mix and connect the leading players’ story lines? And how do I create text that flows while remaining true to the facts and not putting the readers to sleep?

These are big questions, and they live with me every day.

And of course there are welcome interruptions

In 2001 Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (part of the New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe) curator Tomas Jaehn (pronounced “Yen”) began the process to create “The Louis Kraft Collection.” A number of years later a former girlfriend wanted to know why Tomas was interested in my work and associated documentation? I told her I didn’t know. “Didn’t you ask?” “No.” “Why not?” I told her that I had been associated with the library since the 1980s, Tomas was interested in my work and letters, and that was good enough for me.

Good enough for me, but not for her.

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I met Tomas Jaehn shortly after he replaced Orlando Romero at the New Mexico History Museum. Eventually the archival portion of the museum would be renamed the Chávez History Library. We hit it off immediately. There’s really nothing more to say here other than I’m lucky to know my good friend.

In 2006 I did a 10-day road trip to the Chávez to make an archive delivery and near the end of the trip talk about “Gatewood’s Administration of the White Mountain Indian Reservation” (during the 1880s Lt. Charles Gatewood, 6th U.S. Cavalry, commanded a troop of Apache scouts and administered the Apache reservation headquartered at Fort Apache, Arizona Territory). The former girlfriend flew to Albuquerque on July 2 and spent a few days in Santa Fe before flying home on July 5. She met Tomas when I made the delivery on the third.

I knew what was coming. “Why him?” she asked Tomas when he gave her a tour of where and how the collections were preserved. She insisted upon seeing the LK Collection. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but knew something would. As it turned out Tomas liked my body of work. More important he felt that since a good portion of my work dealt with Gatewood and the Apache wars and Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyennes that it was ideal for the Chávez, which houses the most complete Edward W. Wynkoop Collection.

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lk in front of the original entry to the NM History Museum (4jul2006) during the trip to Santa Fe to make a delivery to the archive. This entry still exists but is no longer used to enter the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library. Times have changed, and I think for the better. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

Before and since the creation of the archive Tomas has done everything to aid my writing and speaking efforts, as well as help me obtain documents and primary source images. Over the years he and his family have become good friends.

This month Tomas alerted me of a primary source Sand Creek battle participant document that the Chávez is considering purchasing from a private collection. I reviewed it for Tomas. During the course of our conversations he said I could use this to-date unused view of events in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (if the library buys the document; and if not, he thought he could convince the document owner to allow me to use it). Fingers are crossed, as there is information worth sharing. I should know the final outcome soon. Unfortunately I can’t share any details at this time.

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George Bird Grinnell completed a massive amount of research over his life documenting American Indians (mostly Cheyennes and Pawnees, but other tribes also). His papers are at the Braun Research Library, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, California. The Grinnell Papers take 77 pages to list the folders and diaries. I have 10 days booked at the Braun in the future and have submitted the first round of documents that I must read. Twenty-seven folders and diaries, and this is just the beginning of what I will view before completing my Grinnell research for the Sand Creek manuscript. Earlier I had mined the Grinnell Papers for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, but that research centered on Cheyennes that played roles in Wynkoop’s life. I have a fair amount of Grinnell’s writing in-house, but from past experience his research notes are where the gold will be found.

A glimpse into the LK creative world

Add my ongoing high wire act while juggling a life that is so crowded that at times it feels as if I’m being yanked in four directions at the same time.

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Pailin at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Ca., on 15may14 for a screening of Errol Flynn’s last A-film (and his next to last film), the 1958 release of director John Huston’s The Roots of Heaven. I caught a great shot of her here for I was able to eliminate the crowd (the screening was co-sponsored by the French Consulate in LA). We joined my great friend and Flynn expert/writer Robert Florczak (unfortunately his gorgeous wife and my good friend Annette couldn’t join us due to work commitments), and Nam & Greg Maradei (I hate to repeat myself, but if not for Nam, I would have never met Pailin). Pailin is very aware of my Flynn/de Havilland writing, and this wasn’t my choice for her first complete Flynn film (she had caught the tail end of Adventures of Don Juan and San Antonio when she arrived home from work earlier than expected (and was glued to the TV screen), for I had been carefully plotting her initial introduction to Mr. Flynn’s screen persona. That said I couldn’t refuse seeing Roots on the big screen. At this time Pailin prefers adventures (and is certainly drawn to the American West), but the film has scope and didn’t bore her. BTW, I study film five nights a week. Reason: A writer can learn a lot about plot, character, and dialogue viewing good films. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Pailin’s application for a Green Card has been filed and moves forward. This means that I have begun preparing an extensive photo album that shows that she and I are who we claim. At the same time she and I need to prepare carefully for our immigration interviews.

Let’s not forget my writing projects: The Discovery, Errol & Olivia, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and that Geronimo article I owe Greg Lalire at Wild West. It now has firm deadline and publication dates. (I will make the deadline if it kills me; unless he takes aim at me first.) In addition to the article I need to complete a portrait of Geronimo that I promised. To date I’ve created two of Mr. G, but don’t like either. This means back to the drawing board. The Flynn projects (E&O + the second book on EF) are major pieces in my life. They must be completed and published. Like Wynkoop, Charlie Gatewood, and the Indians and their lives, Mr. Flynn has influenced my life. Actually EF, his film roles and life, have played a major role in my life. Certainly he opened the world of the Indian wars and racism to me.

As the subtitle of my website reads, “Follow the winding trail of a writer as he walks a solitary road …” implies I have spent a lot of time alone. At the same time I’ve never been lonely. Boy, talk about two sentences that state opposites. My friends are good and they are always with me even though most don’t live nearby.

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lk at the 2012 Western Heritage Wrangler Awards in OK City. An article of mine, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” won a Wrangler. A cool and fun three-day event. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

For me writing is a fight and a struggle. This is a constant, and it is every day. If it weren’t a fight and a struggle why bother? Creativity and finding what is hopefully close to truth doesn’t happen with reading a few facts and then typing a few paragraphs. That’s just the beginning. What has been read may be wrong, which in turn makes my paragraphs wrong. The creativity results from years of not buying into “the easy” or worse “the set premise that must be confirmed at all costs,” but by maintaining an open mind and allowing the discovery of truth and often this isn’t what I expected to find. And this must dictate the story line. Writing, and I don’t care if it in nonfiction, fiction, or whatever, needs a number pieces to work together seamlessly. We’re talking facts, hard cold facts combined with prose that propels the story and doesn’t put the reader to sleep. Sometimes I’ll spend hours on a single paragraph, and if not satisfied more hours. Merging the facts with writing style takes me years to complete, and knowing this has made it mandatory for me to buy into my subjects 100 percent before I write a single word of the manuscript. If I don’t buy into my projects 100 percent, I would walk away from them long before they reached completion.

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The Santa Barbara, Ca., art was created in 1977 for my then theatrical manager, Richard Steel Reed. This was a commissioned work (for $300.00), but eventually the art would return to me. The sketch of Patric Spann, was one of many I created for Infonet in the late 1990s when I served as editor-in-chief, art director, designer, staff writer, and photographer for an engineering newsletter that I pitched and created, and which was distributed to Infonet’s offices in 68 countries. A cool job that I had one hell of a lot of fun doing (art © Louis Kraft 1977 & drawing © Louis Kraft 1997)

Over the years I have learned that there are additional ways to add value to the story and bring in extra cash. Money is a necessity. In the past I lived in a world that handed me bags of greenbacks. This allowed me to do whatever I pleased whenever I pleased. Extended research trips with stays in first-class hotels (when available) were the norm.

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These images represent my wanderlust without a money care. The top image is of me at the helm on the half deck of the pirate Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde II, a replica of the vessel he circumnavigated the globe in between 1577-1580. Originally the helm had a whipstaff; the wheel didn’t exist in Drake’s day. I’ve been aboard this vessel three times (its maiden voyage to San Francisco, Ca., in 1976, it’s voyage to Oxnard, Ca., in 1985, and in London, England, in 2009). I’m one with the sea and hope that I will live long enough to write about Drake. The black & white image was shot by my great friend George Carmichael, whom I met at UCLA during the early 1980s. Initially George and I butted horns in a fiction class, a clash that resulted in a 30 year friendship. George died at the age of 90 on April 2, 2014. I’m still struggling with his passing, as he was one of the major players in my life. (photos © Louis Kraft 2001 & 2009)

Mr. Shakespeare aptly said in his soliloquy about the phases of life:

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players … “

… and I have entered one of the later stages of life. This point of my life has changed my entire outlook and has made my focus not on money but on what is important to me.

I don’t write for companies anymore. I only write for me and the companies that contract my freelance writing. The select few publishing companies that I choose to write for will continue to pay me as long as I write cutting-edge prose that is hopefully close to truth, prose that moves and doesn’t put their readers to sleep, and of course don’t piss them off too much. As long as I can do this, my publishers (and they are top notch) will continue to print my words.

They may cringe at my opinions, and at some of my blogs (when they read them), and even worse when I commit heresy and submit my attempts at art and question designed layout that is considerably less than sparkling (I’m being kind here). Although rough around the edges (and I’m being kind to myself here), my art (no matter how juvenile or simplistic, or worse) has brought in money dating back to 1976. … In 1996, and while still an employee of the first software company that I wrote for, Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet), I watched the documentation department disappear (similar to the dreadful play, and worse films, Ten Little Indians). But as I wasn’t ready to become history I reinvented myself and created a web-based system that documented one of Infonet’s major tools for in-house consumption. At the same time I pitched a newsletter for Research & Development that would be distributed worldwide with me as editor-in-chief, art director and designer, staff writer (I already had design and newsletter experience in a hands-on and management capacity), photographer, and artist. This wasn’t ego-based, rather it was simply keeping me employed and earning the almighty buck. More important, I learned to go after what I wanted (or in this case what I needed). It bought me a couple of years, good years, until I decided to move over to the space industry.

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This image is a work in progress. It displays Cheyenne warriors talking before setting out to hunt. Although I may use it in a publication someday, I am almost 100 percent certain that it won’t see print in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. But then again, who knows? (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

This leads to creating art for publication, which can lead to multiple printings in various formats (and extra cash). Of course there is a downside. Sometimes snide critics frown upon a writer using art that he created in his written works. I guess they support the system of using often used images (which is unfortunately the case) one more time as opposed to adding something new to a publication. I’m big on collages too, for collages count as one image in book or magazine form. More important, they can visually support the text and add value to the printed work. Another no-no? Probably, but I’ve moved beyond nitpicks that are based upon a long in-place vision on how nonfiction should be presented.

Currently I’m considering using art for illustrating Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. When I restored and fine-tuned (with documented permission from the various archives) all the images and photos for my submission to OU Press for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, my friend and editor Chuck Rankin told me that I didn’t need to do this. Moreover, he said that he wanted his writers to write. I ignored him. If he reads this blog I hope he’s sitting. That said, Chuck, at the moment the above is just a consideration for the image delivery. Will it happen? Probably not. Of course I’m a firm believer in never saying “never.”

When it comes to writing progress is king

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Celebrating Olivia de Havilland’s 93rd birthday in her Paris garden on July 3, 2009 (her BD is on July 1). She is a pure joy to know: Bright, funny, sexy, political, and oh-so caring. In this image she is looking at her birthday card. Two of her gifts are on the table (others included flowers, photos, and various writing). As every time I’ve been with her, this day and evening did not disappoint. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Errol & Olivia
At the moment Errol & Olivia lags behind. For those of you interested in this book on Ms. Livvie and Errol, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter how far I may fall behind in word count, for whenever I write the fingers dance over the keys. This book has two goals: Bring Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland to life while detailing their life and times between 1935 and 1941. The manuscript includes a prologue and an extensive epilogue. I am attempting a biographical approach that I’ve never seen before. Most of the writing about Flynn and de Havilland in book form (fully 60 percent) is repeated cliché, by that I mean that often the tomes merely repeat what has already been written. Truths and errors, and sometimes out-and-out lies, are repeated over and over again. Flynn and de Havilland were not, as unscrupulous writers have proclaimed, who you think they were (or in OdeH’s case, as she is). This book, and the following book on EF, will be the best two books I write. Patience is the key.

The Discovery
As the readers of my blogs know, I have partnered with Robert S. Goodman, MD, to produce a malpractice novel. The Discovery is Bob’s story idea and Bob has done a lot of work on the plot, including creating first class medical and legal detail. My job is to wordsmith and bring the characters and plot to life.

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Robert S. Goodman, MD, in his office on 30may2014. Bob & I had a good review/update meeting on May 28. We spoke on the phone on the 29th and per my request he was answering questions I had and reviewing the manuscript. I told I wanted additional photos of him and we agreed on the following day. On the 30th he had his review and answers ready for me. I have never partnered before, and I can’t tell you how happy that I have with Bob for I think that between us we can create a good novel. (photo © Robert S. Goodman & Louis Kraft 2014)

To do this I’m approaching it as if it were a thriller. That means that I must make the pages turn and hopefully prevent our readers from going to bed at night. For this type of writing to work, really work, and capture a reader’s imagination it must have a voice. To do this I’m using an approach I’ve never done before: I’m writing as I read and mark-up Bob’s text. Before each time I meet with Bob to discuss status, I read my current draft and edit and rewrite it. The early chapters have been rewritten twice and the latter chapters once to date. This process will continue as I work my way through Bob’s manuscript. On May 28 Bob and I met for the second time to discuss the manuscript’s current status and to ensure that we are in agreement on how I’m proceeding and re-imagining his characters and plot. Currently my draft of The Discovery is 236 pages, and there’s still a long ways to go before I have a completed first draft. But trust me for my goal is doable and will happen.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
As stated above work is ongoing on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and the month of May has seen the best research and writing to date.

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OU Press Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin at the 2012 Western Heritage Wrangler awards in Oklahoma City. Chuck has always been there for me, and over the years he has had the patience to listen to me. He has taken the time to discuss matters in which we don’t agree and has given me the room to experiment and grow. Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was the runner up this year. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

And, like The Discovery, the story is character-driven, and as such I’m approaching the writing as much as possible as if the story is a thriller. Obviously the writing can’t be totally that of a thriller, but the goal is again to not put the readers to sleep. Although this has been in place for a while a good portion of the text doesn’t reflect this yet. The reason is simple. Facts must be in place and hopefully as close as possible to what actually happened. If facts must be deleted or fixed there is no point in rewriting them until they are as close to truth as I can make them.

Fingers are crossed that the upcoming time spent digging through the George Bird Grinnell Papers at the Braun Research Library will prove to be a goldmine for my Cheyenne research.

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I hope the above provides an update to my writing progress and provides at least a hint of my creative world. …  There is only one constant in my life and that is Pailin. She is my life, and as a good friend of mine named Vee in Massachusetts said, “Pailin is your muse.” She is, and as long as I do everything possible to ensure that our relationship thrives and grows my writing will continue to thrive in its “golden age.” Reality? I don’t know. Probable? Bet on it.

A publicity blurb

The August 2014 Wild West magazine will reach newsstands in early June.

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People often ask if I win all my battles with editors and art directors. The answer is, “No, I don’t.” I lost a big battle with the Wynkoop art, for the art director insisted that it could spread over two pages without affecting or destroying the reason why I created the painting. I fought to keep my art on one page but lost. I had the option to kill the article; yes, the anger directed at me was strong and hateful (and I had faced it in the past) but I didn’t want to do this and luckily production moved forward. I had given into what I knew would ruin the image I created, and unfortunately my previous 20+ years of design work proved correct. Egotistic incompetency would never survive in the software world (too much money is involved; for example, the cost of my documentation suite in the space world was $100 Gs). Wynkoop’s face is so close to the spine of the magazine that the curled brim of his hat is lost which destroys the effect of his dramatic gaze toward the Indian battle line. That’s life. There’s a big lesson here for me and believe me I will never forget it: The essence of the work is always more important than the money it can earn. Always. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Egotism aside, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War” is perhaps the best magazine article I’ve written. I pitched it to Greg Lalire in 2012, and he later pitched me on two short pieces for the August issue. I agreed as long as I could write what I wanted. “Must See, Must Read” is usually a plot summary of five films and five books. Greg agreed that I could deal with what the films and books meant to me. The other is ‘Wild West’s Top 10 List.” Usually this list is one column and less that a full top to bottom page. I counter pitched why Wynkoop was a major player during the 1860s Cheyenne wars, and he agreed to the idea. You know by now that I’m wordy. It’s two columns top to bottom of page and Greg needed to point to the Wynkoop/Gamble article to make it fit.

Upcoming blogs

  • Cheyenne research at the Braun Research Library: Success or failure?
  • The song remembers when
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geronimo & Gatewood together again + an EXPLOSION of opinion

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


I know that my mind meanders all over the place. Unfortunately all the time. … My lady and my daughter always head the list—always.

Currently Gatewood and Geronimo dominate. I’ve got what I consider a major talk on them approaching quickly. Way too quickly. If you knew how I approach talks and prepare for them you’d have a major heart attack.

What about Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Charley Bent, Tall Bull, Left Hand, John Chivington, Sand Creek, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, … slave labor? SLAVE LABOR? Stop!!

Will I address slave labor here? Don’t hold your breath. …
Perhaps on another social media.

As for Ned, BK, Charley, TB, LH, Chiv., Sand Creek, and E&O,
not too worry for they’ll return in October.
(Actually Ned has some wordplay below.)

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Artwork in progress of Geronimo. … I want to mention a person I met earlier this year (long distance) who is a filmmaker/director. His name is Dustinn Craig. In 2009, PBS Home Video released We Shall Remain: America Through Native Eyes, a collection of five documentary films. Dustinn directed Geronimo. It is a good film (let me repeat this: It is a good film.). He is currently working on a film that deals with White Mountain Apache scouts, and has kindly shared over 20 minutes of film with me. All I can say is, “Wow!” If his final film matches what he currently has, it is going to be extraordinary. Unfortunately I don’t have any images of Dustinn to share but hope to someday, for I know that I’ll be speaking about him in the future. Dustinn has shared great information with me that is his copyrighted data that he doesn’t want shared. I certainly understand and agree with this. He has also pointed out to me that Geronimo is not a hero among many Apaches (and Dustinn has an inside track for he is a White Mountain). Dustinn, thank you for a point well-noted. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

‘Course, Mr. G. is my guy, and has been since I discovered him in the mid-1990s. No one—no one—compares to him. Not Black Kettle, not Roman Nose, not Tall Bull. Yep, all Cheyennes. That must tell you something about me and my close connection to the Cheyennes (they’re special). Let’s not forget Bull Bear, Little Robe and others, … and definitely include Mo-nahs-e-tah (how her name is phonetically spelled, and it is about time people begin pronouncing her name correctly).

Before moving on, I want to make one thing clear—the Apaches are also special. And the leader of the pack is Mr. G.

Names and how they are pronounced
I need to speak about Mo-nahs-e-tah, and I will soon. Count on it!

Most of you pronounce my name correctly. A few of you don’t, and I don’t think you have speech impediments.

My name is “Louis” and not “Louie” or “Luis.”
I take offense when people who are supposedly my friends
mis-pronounce my name on purpose. It isn’t because their
tongues don’t function, it is because they have no respect.
Maybe I should begin calling them “Sissy-poo.”

Geronimo: An American Legend
In December 1993 I saw Geronimo: An American Legend with Wes Studi playing Mr. G. and Jason Patric playing the other Mr. G. (Lt. Charles Gatewood). I liked the grandeur and scope but I hated the lack of character focus in the film. The writer(s) and director couldn’t figure out who the film was about. Worse—although I didn’t know this at the time—they decided that fiction was better than fact; too many people buy into this bullshit, including director John Ford. Ford supposedly said something like, “If you have the choice between fact and legend, print the legend.” At best, this quote is a paraphrase (at worse he never said it), for I made no attempt to confirm it. I don’t agree with Mr. Ford, for often fact is much more interesting than legend. That doesn’t mean that “legend” doesn’t play well on film.

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Geronimo (Wes Studi) and Lt. Charles Gatewood (Jason Patric) await the approaching Tombstone posse (read: lynch mob). Geronimo wants Gatewood’s binoculars as they are better than his and offers a turquoise rock (valuable to the Apaches). They are about to shoot at the approaching Tucson posse, and it is Geronimo’s first shot that wins the day. Although I hadn’t thought about it, this scene actually is the backbone to the Geronimo article I’m trying to create at the moment. This event never happened in Geronimo’s life, so I’m not reveling much here. This is a German lobby card from Geronimo: An American Legend (1993). The Germans do much better film publicity than the USA, and they’ve doing this since the late 1940s. … Anyway, a great scene that never happened in real life. lk collection.

The three best scenes in Geronimo: An American Legend are 1) When Geronimo and Gatewood shoot at the Tombstone posse at the beginning of the film, 2) Gatewood accepting an Apache warrior’s challenge and killing him in single combat, and 3) Gatewood’s shootout with scalp hunters in a cantina in Mexico (BTW, none of the people in the cantina scene were with Gatewood in Mexico in 1886). So what’s the problem? Just this: None of these events happened. Other than being perhaps 25 years too young, Wes Studi was perfectly cast as Geronimo while Jason Patric (as Gatewood) attempted to do a southern accent, but that was as far as his research went. And—AND—this film is total fiction in detail. If you buy any of this film and cite it, you’ve made a major error. End of subject. Again, per John Ford, let’s print the legend!!!! My humble opinion, pure bullshit for the simple reason that (at least in this case) reality is much-much more dramatic than fiction.

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Ned Wynkoop in 1867. Originally in Custer and the Cheyenne, published by Upton and Sons in 1995. (art © Louis Kraft 1990)

Not quite end of subject: George Armstrong Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Any film or book that has him surviving that battle is bullshit, … it is not printing the legend. Ned Wynkoop did not participate in the massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians at Sand Creek in 1864. Any film or book that places him at that tragical event is bullshit. A major miniseries of a few years back did exactly this. A great historian and a friend of mine justified this—he claimed that the merging characters and placing a real person in an event that he had nothing to do with is fair game. NOOO!!! YOU CANNOT TAKE A REAL PERSON AND PLACE THEM IN AN HISTORICAL EVENT THAT THEY DIDN’T PARTICIPATE IN. THIS IS NOT CREATIVE LICENSE, AND IT SURE AS HELL ISN’T PRINTING THE LEGEND. ALL IT DOES IS CREATE FALSE HISTORY THAT WILL EVENTUALLY BECOME REALITY AND CITED AS TRUTH IN THE FUTURE. I’m sorry folks, but this is a sore point with me. Let’s put it another way, I hate lies and I hate liars. As a filmmaker, historian, novelist, or playwright you can deal with Wynkoop and the events surrounding Sand Creek and Custer and the march to Little Bighorn and the battle that resulted in his death, but you cannot place Wynkoop at Sand Creek and you cannot have Custer survive Little Bighorn and make it appear to be truth.

Have any of you heard a recording of Orson Welles’s great 1930s radio
broadcast of a 
Martian invasion of earth? Even though the radio station
advertised that the dramatic presentation was fiction,
supposedly people committed suicide.
True? I don’t know.

Certainly the Wynkoop and Custer inaccuracies have happened in film and in fiction. Did the filmmaker or the novelist point out the untruth to the facts presented? The filmmaker didn’t (I haven’t watched any of his produced or directed films since and have no intention of watching any in the future). I’m too far removed from the novel (by the great western novelist Douglas C. Jones), but think Mr. Jones made it clear that his story was a “what if.”

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Jurgen Prochnow played the U-boat commander of U-96 in Das Boot (1982). Simply put, this is a great anti-war film, and Prochnow’s performance was under-played brilliance. I’ve seen him in a number of American films, and unfortunately the parts weren’t right for him. Like The Searchers, Das Boot is one of my favorite films. Das Boot differs from my “Wonder-boat” screenplay in that it details a single U-boat voyage while the screenplay had a larger scope. I hadn’t been aware of the film until touring The Prince and the Pauper in Northern California. I was living on the east side of San Francisco Bay when the film was released and saw it immediately. My agent loved “Wonder-boat” but had told me it was unsellable because of the subject matter. As soon I returned to LA I fired him. lk collection.

I read a great novel about 30 years ago that had Hitler survive WWII and become a model citizen. Great story telling. However, as soon as I finished reading the book (I don’t remember the author or the title of the book) I donated it to Vietnam Vets. Why? What if this is all someone reads about Adolph Hitler? They will think that he was a good person who had been maligned. No! No! He stood for genocide of races of people. This can never be condoned.

I’m not picking on Germans here. The best screenplay I ever wrote dealt with the destruction of Germany as seen through the eyes of a U-boat commander (who wasn’t a Nazi—many Germans were not members of the Nazi party) who was in love with a Jewish woman. It was a tragedy, for the simple reason that WWII resulted in horrific consequences for the German people, many of whom had nothing to do with the heinous crimes committed by Hitler’s regime.                                 

Let me put this another way. If someday a writer/historian places me at
the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam war, he or she would be in error
for I have never been to Vietnam. Moreover, if I had been present
when that heinous crime happened, I would not have survived
(and you can guess why). … I should add this, if a writer does get creative
and places me at My Lai, he or she had better disappear pronto!
For as Kurt Russell (playing Wyatt Earp) said in
Tombstone (1993),
“Hell is comin’!

The bottom line (and this unfortunately includes nonfiction books) is that untruths and out-and-out lies become truths.

A John Ford opinion
John Ford made one great western, The Searchers (1956) with John Wayne and Geoffrey Hunter, and one good western, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) with John Wayne. I’m not going to comment about any of Ford’s other western films, including Stagecoach and Fort Apache. My silence should give you a good guess of what my less than sparkling views of his western films might be. I have nothing further to say about Ford’s westerns, other than to say I’m certain I’ll not see any of them again, other than The Searchers and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Why waste my time?

The Searchers is one of my favorite films.
John Wayne’s 
performance is extraordinary and will hold up for all time.

Why Gatewood & Geronimo?
In 1995 I signed copies of Custer and the Cheyenne at Guidon Books (my favorite bookstore) in Scottsdale, Arizona. BTW, Aaron and Ruth Cohen, who owned and ran Guidon Books, played a major role in my Indian wars writing life.

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On August 25, 1886, Lt. Charles Gatewood negotiated ending the Apache war with Geronimo and Naiche. This scene, from Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) is totally wrong. Gatewood (played by Jason Patric) has climbed up to Geronimo’s stronghold. One problem: Geronimo insisted upon meeting at a bend of the Río Bavispe where there was shade, grass, wood, and water. Do you see any of this here? Of course not! Also, note that Chatto (as played by Steve Reevis) is just reaching the top of the mount. One problem: Chatto wasn’t with Gatewood in Mexico in 1886. Again, another great German lobby card for the film. lk collection.

 On that 1995 day Ruth started a conversation dealing with recent films and how they impacted book sales. Tombstone with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday had been a hit and greatly influenced book sales while Geronimo: An American Legend had not done well at the box office and didn’t influence book sales. Since I wrote about race relations and the Indian wars our talk focused on the Geronimo film.

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I wrote roughly 2/3 of the words in the Gatewood Memoir. About a month and half before publication date, Mr. Big Shot (notice that I didn’t call him Mr. Big Shit) at U of NE Press decided to change credits, thinking correctly that I wouldn’t walk (as I could have due to the contract). Obviously my anger still seethes. So be it! Here are the facts, other than the U of NE Press formatting some of my words so that they appear as if Gatewood wrote them, and the nasty contract crap at the midnight hour, this book is by far my best selling book (and I’m proud of it, even though I’ll never write another word for the U of NE Press). Actually, I love it when Gatewood gets great reviews for his writing skills. Without bragging, I hacked the hell out of Gatewood’s passive text that included 100-word sentences and paragraphs that easily flowed over pages. A few years back my good friend Greg Lalire, editor at Wild West magazine, called me and said that Gatewood’s words in the Memoir didn’t match his words at the AHS. “Greg,” I said, “did you read the intro to the Memoir, which makes it clear that I edited Gatewood’s passive words?” “I did! I forgot. Sorry,” Greg said. Ladies and gents, let’s put it this way. Charley Gatewood had a great story to tell; he just didn’t know how to tell it. I helped him. BTW, I think this dust jacket is cool. Love it!

I told Ruth and Aaron that all I knew about Charles Gatewood and Geronimo was what I saw in the film. Ruth told me that the Arizona Historical Society (AHS) in Tucson housed the Gatewood papers. Even though I wasn’t thrilled about the film (I had seen it twice in theaters), the story had grabbed my interest. I needed to know more, and at this point I had no idea what the truth might be. At that time I wrote for a telecommunications firm in the South Bay (in SoCal). The following month I took a week off, drove to Tucson, and began to explore Gatewood and his world at the AHS. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Suddenly Gatewood became my next nonfiction book project. After a very rough first draft I realized something was missing. I thought for a week, maybe two. It hit me: Gatewood needed Geronimo. Suddenly the book had focus.

Custer and the Cheyenne put me on the nonfiction map and opened doors, but it was Gatewood & Geronimo that changed my presence in the Indian wars writing world. It made me a player and gave me name recognition. Dick and Frankie Upton at Upton and Sons and Durwood Ball, then editor-in-chief at the University of New Mexico Press, are probably the three most important people in my nonfiction Indian wars writing life. If it wasn’t for them I’d probably still be floating in a dark netherworld fighting to sell my nonfiction story ideas. All three have become my friends. My “thank you’s” are usually quiet when they should be public. Frankie, Dick, and Durwood—thank you.

That land of snow they call Colorado

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Layton Hooper and his wonderful wife Vicki in their backyard in Fort Collins, Co. They kindly put me up for 11 days in April 2013 when I visited the land of snow to give a Wynkoop talk for OIW and do Sand Creek research. Although snow storms eliminated much of my research time, it gave me the bonus of getting to hang out with Layton and Vicki and getting to know them. They were perfect hosts, making me feel welcome at all times. This image was taken fairly early on one of the mornings after the second snow storm had passed. To this point in time I didn’t have any photos of Vicki, and she kindly agreed to put on a coat and step outside with her hubby. … Layton is one of the key players in the Order of the Indian Wars (OIW), and will be one of the leaders on the tour tracking Geronimo September 27-29. See the Events tab for more information. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

In April 2013 I spent 11 days in this falsely advertised wonderland of 300 days of sunshine (Colorado). During my last two trips to this sun-filled salesman’s pitch I’ve been snowed in. If you want to see 300 days of sunshine, real 300 days of sunshine, visit SoCal. You want to see snow with no visibility, visit Colorado. … It wasn’t that many years ago that Colorado (read Denver), was a possible place for me to live. Colorado has great history (love it!), great people (love them), but 300 days of sunshine? Hell! You want the truth? I’ve got some ocean-front property in Arizona that I can sell to you at a reasonable price.

What is a talk?
A long diversion to get to this point. Sorry. More importantly why am I talking about Gatewood and Geronimo? I haven’t spoken about them in years. My first talk was about Ned Wynkoop back in the mid-1980s, and I have continued to talk about Ned. That said, believe it or not, it wasn’t until 2011 or 2012 that I actually spoke about Ned  more often than I did about G&G. Yep, I gave a lot of talks about them. But it ended when the Wynkoop book became reality. So why return to Mr. G. and Mr. G.?

Ned Wynkoop dominated the 1860s, even though the press, the military, and the government did everything possible to relegate him to the circular file. Why? Simple. He didn’t kiss their asses, and dared to speak out against what he considered the wanton murder of human beings—human beings that weren’t white.

gatewood_ftBowieMerge_wsThe Gatewood character in Geronimo: An American Legend says, “The Apaches are special.” And they are!

 

Mike Koury has been a friend since the 1980s. He has done whatever he could to help. When I visited the land of snow last April I spent a morning and afternoon with Mike. We lunched with his pretty wife Dee and hung out in his library/computer room. Good time. On that day I pitched Mike to talk about Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico for his OIW event in Tucson. I did this for one reason, and one reason only. Mike is one of those people who believes that the Indian wars begin and end with the Plains Indian wars. My sole goal for speaking in Tucson is to wake Mike up to the fact that the Apache wars are exciting times with much at stake (just like the Plains Indian wars).

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lk speaking at one of Dick and Frankie Upon’s symposiums in El Segundo, Ca. (art © Louis Kraft 2012)

Mike gave me a thumbs up.

My goal on September 26 is to get my facts as good as possible and not to put Mr. Koury to sleep.

Actually this has always been my goal when talking: Get the facts right and don’t put anyone to sleep.

I like giving talks. Actually, I like it a hell of a lot better than writing magazine articles. I like the one-shot to be good, boring, or deadly. There are no holds barred. It is one on one times X. The key is concentration, … preparation, relaxation, focus, and more concentration. Of course there are always “chilly twitching movements,” to quote Gatewood when he met Geronimo in Mexico and demanded his surrender. But they’re fleeting. There is a rush, an exhilaration, and a zone. When I enter this “zone,” it is another world. The only other thing that approaches this live thrill is performing on the stage (actually I like the stage better). A talk is a one-shot performance. Whatever happens can’t be changed.

Good progress on the G&G talk, but YIKES I’ve got to complete that damned Geronimo article for Wild West. Enough!

Sand Creek (update #2), Wynkoop, & 2 special people

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


Well here we are approaching the end of August 2013. Some—actually most—is very good, while some of you don’t want to hear about (or maybe you do, but I’m not tellin’). As you’ve seen in past blogs I like to mix and match subject matter. The reason is twofold: 1) This is how my brain functions, and 2) Writing is a continuous experiment. We have one other thing to add to this blog, … my life again has balance. I have great friends. Some close, some hundreds of miles away, and some thousands of miles away. I’m lucky. But although they play a major part in my ongoing life and growth, my life requires two key people (there are no surprises here).

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway contract

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Obviously lk is happy, and this image represents my feelings. It was taken while I spent prime time at Fort Larned, Kansas, in September 2012. A lot of the time was spent with my good friend and Fort Larned chief ranger, George Elmore. He took this picture while I leaned against the reconstruction of Wynkoop’s home-U.S. Indian Agency that has been reconstructed at the post. During this trip I spoke about Wynkoop’s efforts to save the Cheyenne-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork (35 miles west of Fort Larned) when Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock threatened to destroy it in April 1867. I delivered the talk on the pristine village site, which is protected. I also represented Wynkoop when he was inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Association hall of fame. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

Great news: In mid-August Chuck Rankin, editor-in-chief at OU Press, and I worked out a Sand Creek contract that is acceptable to both of us. Since then OU Press has sent me the final contract. I received it on August 28, and saw one final fix that must be in place before I signed the contract. I emailed my request to Chuck and he got right back to me to hand write the change into the contract, initial the change, and send it to OU Press. I did. Bottom line: lk is one happy writer.

If you have read some of the previous blogs you know how much I like and respect Chuck. He has been the backbone to Sand Creek for years, and if it wasn’t for him this project would still be floating in na-na land while I tentatively dogpaddled through quicksand.

Oh yeah, if you didn’t know it, the Indian wars nonfiction field can be a minefield wherein one must tread carefully. I’ve already mentioned key people, friends who will become my bosom buddies over the next three years (contract term begins on October 1, 2013, with a polished manuscript delivery date of October 1, 2016). Doable! I’m sorry, but no contract details other than we have agreed upon 130,000 words. Am only going to mention one person here—John Monnett. John walks some of the same roads I do (not all, for our lives have been different), but we have a lot in common. John’s got fire plus a good sense of humor, not to mention a firm grasp on humanity. My only regret with John is that he lives in that far-off land of snow called Colorado. He would be a perfect fit for Los Angeles (if he sees this, I’m certain his head would bounce off the ceiling in his living room and that’s a long bounce).

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This art by Robert Lindneux (dust jacket for Greene & Scott, Finding Sand Creek, 2004) is totally wrong. Every primary source I have seen discounts this art. I have total control over the images in the Sand Creek book, and there is no way this art will be on the dust jacket for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. If the art director at OU Press even hints at this being on my dust jacket, he won’t have time to blink for I will be in Norman, OK, so fast he won’t have time to gulp in air.

Many of you know that Ned Wynkoop has played a key role in my development as a writer and historian over the years. He has not gone away. To the contrary, he will play a key role in the Sand Creek book. … As will Black Kettle and the Cheyennes, including—depending upon what I can find—Bull Bear and Tall Bull, and to a lesser degree other Cheyennes, such as Little Robe (and cross my fingers, Roman Nose if he drifted southward at this time), and Arapahos Left Hand and Little Raven (among others), and the Oglala Lakota Pawnee Killer (and if I get lucky and can link the great Crazy Horse to the central plains). …

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Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankler. I met Ivan at a convention at Fort Larned, Kansas in spring 2004. We immediately hit it off and I spent most of my time with him during the two- or three-day event. During this time we hung out and talked (in his tipi and on the Fort Larned grounds). I learned a lot, but best of all gained a friend. This is my favorite image of him from 2004. During the event I spoke about Custer finding Stone Forehead’s village on the Sweetwater in the Texas Panhandle in 1869, and the peaceful negotiations that followed. Ivan didn’t think he could attend the talk, and I told him (and Kiowa James Coverdale) to attend, that they would be my guests. They did. Good times. Unfortunately Ivan has moved on; perhaps I shouldn’t mention his name and share his image here, but I decided to break the rules for he will always be a part of my world. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

Those of you who read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (2011) know that I worked with Cheyennes. This association will not only continue to grow with Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, it will include other key Cheyennes I know, like, and respect. Certainly John Chivington is a leading player, as are Rocky Mountain News publisher and editor William Byers and territorial governor John Evans. The Bents (William, George, and Charley) will have key roles, and, if I can find enough information, Edmund Guerrier will be featured. Indian agent Samuel Colley, Interpreter/trader John Smith, soldier/enemy to Chivington Samuel Tappan, and soldiers Scott Anthony, Silas Soule, and George Shoup (again depending on information) will have key parts. Yep, there is a lot of research staring me in the face (and some of it will be with people and institutions that I have not yet worked with). …

I can’t speak for other writers, but for me the hope is always that the next book I write will be my best. Certainly Chuck Rankin has worked closely to put me in a position to make this happen. We have played with a voice, and if I can control it, Sand Creek will bridge the gap between my earlier and later nonfiction. Will the prose border heresy? I hope so! Will it survive reviews? Ouch! Don’t ask. Only time will tell. Will the text be blue? Depends upon what I can get away with and what you consider blue. Will it be controversial. You can bet on it! Where I couldn’t push the envelope with Wynkoop, I intend to approach Sand Creek with both guns blazing.

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Here are some of the usual suspects that will play roles in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Ned Wynkoop and Silas Soule are kneeling in the foreground. Bull Bear is sitting left in the middle row and Black Kettle is sitting behind Wynkoop. In the back row, John Smith stands between Bull Bear and Black Kettle.

The Wynkoop contract allows me to write anything in any medium about him at any time; the Sand Creek contract limits what I can write in the future. These two contracts are both good for me even though they differ in what I can and cannot do. Chuck Rankin couldn’t remember how I landed the Wynkoop contract w/o limitations (simple: I wouldn’t sign it w/o an open slate to write what I wanted about him in the future). This future, in relation to Sand Creek, has changed. Chuck has rightfully stated that he must protect OU Press from me writing a competing manuscript to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. I totally agree with this. I don’t know what I’ll write about Ned Wynkoop in nonfiction book form (most likely nothing), but I had to protect that. This nonfiction book on Sand Creek will be the only one I write. This piece of the contract was important to Chuck and OU Press, and I agree with their view 100 percent.

All said, I’m going to have one hell of a good time writing this book. I’m thrilled. Period. I’m thrilled!!! The next three years of my life are going to be a wild ride of discovery. And like Errol & Olivia, I plan on sharing some of it with you. And there will be what I’m currently calling “information exchanges,” but they will have a different intent. The E&O quizzes focus on alerting you to who they are/were and what they did. The prizes will be dueling lessons (hey folks, I’m a poor writer and must be careful with what I give away). Here I hope to dig into people and actions with you, and the giveaways will be books.

Mr. Wynkoop updates

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View of the building that Ned Wynkoop rented from the post trader at Fort Larned, Kansas at the end of the 1860s. It served as both his home and as the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian agency. Due to space limitations this (or another image) didn’t make it into the Wild West article. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

A quick update on Ned, … The next article, “The NPS Has Rebuilt Ned Wynkoop’s Indian Agency Home at Fort Larned” will appear in the December 2013 issue of Wild West magazine. Editor Greg Lalire and I have completed our final fixes to the layout and copy edit. I’m pleased. It should be on newsstands in late (?) October.

I still owe Greg Wynkoop art for the August 2014 issue of Wild West, which features Wynkoop meeting Black Kettle for the first time in September 1864. it has been in progress for a long time, … and for a long time I have backed away from it. Why? Honestly, I’m a piss-poor artist who attempts to sell only because he likes to eat on an almost-daily basis.

This Wynkoop art is important because this is, from my point of view, an important article and I need illustrations for it. It is also important, for if I like the final product I intend on using it in the Sand Creek book (It will give critics that claim to be purists another Bowie knife to fling at me. Sobeit!).

Sand Creek information exchanges w/giveaways

These Sand Creek information exchanges will be different. Bear with me for a short while. Other than a few radio stations that deal with new music in Los Angeles (and air Rihanna and Lana Del Rey), most LA radio stations suck. Probably 85 percent of my time is spent on news and sports talk radio. ESPN AM 710 shines.

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This image of Kobe and Vanessa Bryant appeared in the Los Angeles Times on August 25, 2013.

Of course ESPN is Lakers-centric in Los Angeles (Kobe and the Lakers dominate). However, there is a good focus on USC football, and recently—and I mean real recently (the LA Dodgers have been a laughing joke since Kurt Gibson’s miraculous home run and Orel Hershiser’s pitching mastery during the 1988 world series—a golden moment in time that marked the beginning of the end of their careers). Until June 2013 the Dodgers were hard-put to find air time on ESPN AM 710. No more. They are now challenging the Lakers’ dominance (forget the Clippers, for they are little more than bridesmaid wanna-be’s until they win a championship). Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, and Clayton Kershaw (who is quickly placing his name next to the great Sandy Koufax) have taken LA by storm.

Back to the Sand Creek information exchanges. They will be like the phone calls to ESPN AM 710, in that they aren’t quizzes at all, but will be prizes awarded to the best comments based upon subject matter that I make public. I hope this isn’t obscure. If it is, ping me and I’ll try to clarify. For example I might create a discussion subject such as mixed-blood Cheyenne Charley Bent. He’ll be an open target, but whatever you say that is controversial you’ll need to back up with citation. I’m not looking for bad and I’m not looking for good. Rather, I’m looking for discovery. If you’ve read any of my nonfiction books you know that I don’t shortchange people who help my research. Yep, … that’s the key here. I’ll be looking to expand my knowledge of people and events. Again, I’m not looking for good or evil, or right or wrong, but what happened and who did what. You don’t have to provide complete details, but I would like a clear direction to where I can dig and discover what happened.

My hope is that the above will be different and that it will generate responses from you.

This entire website/blog has been an experiment to find and connect with you. It has also been an experiment for me to find out who I am and where I’m heading as a writer and person. To date I’m pleased with the results. I have no intention of backing off and hope to challenge both you and myself.

The prizes will be Indian wars books from my library but not Kraft books (sorry, but I’m a starving writer). They will be books that I probably won’t read or use again. This doesn’t mean they aren’t good books; all it means is that I won’t use them again and need to add space to my home that has grown terribly tight over the years. When this becomes reality I will announce the book titles and publication dates along with subjects that are hopefully of interest to you.

The future?

That’s it, other than to say that Sand Creek will dominate my writing life. E&O will advance, but all magazine article-writing will stop, as will all talks unless I receive my full salary and all expenses. Actually a sad state of affairs, my writing affairs, but this is nothing new.

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George Elmore at Pawnee Rock State Historic Site, Kansas, on September 21, 2012. A number of cool presentations of people who played roles on the Santa Fe Trail were performed by actors (including John Carson, who portrayed his relative Kit Carson). Unfortunately the Kansas sun was deadly that day. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

One exception might be a break to be a writer in residence at Fort Larned, Kansas (an invitation, if still open, that is of great interest to me).

George Elmore, chief ranger at Fort Larned, has played a key role in my Indian wars writing life since we met in the early 1990s. In September 2012 I spent a lot of time with him during a major three-day Kansas event wherein I spoke about Wynkoop trying to prevent Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock from destroying a peaceful Cheyenne-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas on the protected and pristine village site (my favorite of all the key Cheyenne village sites). George shared stories about men and events that are right up my alley—men and events I had no knowledge of. If ever we can put our heads together and I have the opportunity to explore these stories, my writing will take on an entirely new direction while surprisingly stay the course with everything I have written in the past.

Two people

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of great people in my life, people I enjoy seeing and hanging out with at the drop of a hat. This can happen with my friends in LA and attached counties (and I can count them on my fingers and toes). Expand to Northern and Southern California, the West, and points east, and this number noticeably grows. No matter when I see any of these people, it is just like yesterday. They are all talented, artistic, and vocal. In a word, they are really cool human beings. Some share my interests; others don’t. Some share my political views; others don’t. They are of a multitude of races, and not all are American born. They are just people, … people I’m lucky to know.

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There are two other people, and they are core to my soul and to my very existence. One I’ve known for many years (and some of you know her). The other is new to my life (and some of you know her). They give my life balance, they give my life validity, and they give my life a future.

A stressed Kraft

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


I thought that three things kept my life in balance: writing, friends, and the ladies in my life (currently only my daughter). This, as it turns out, isn’t true, for there is a fourth piece to my life—my computers and how well they perform with programs (Microsoft’s Word, Adobe’s Photoshop, and WordPress’s website/blog template are the three I use the most). I depend upon the internet and the phone to land work and deliver work. The website/blog (along w/my buddy the internet) will hopefully become my best selling tool. But I never say “never.” … What does that mean? Yikes!!!! Maybe below I’ll explain, but then again, maybe not.

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May 30, 2013. The face of total frustration, as I live with and test the total shutdown of this website/blog when I changed internet providers (the land phone hasn’t been performing with raves either). Yesterday (June 3) I had a very good 2½ hour session with a bright engineer from the East Coast named Wensor as we kicked ideas back and forth on what could be the problem. A lot of testing and a lot of failure for the first 1½ hours, but perhaps success. All tests closing out of programs, shutting down the computer, restarting it, and most important getting to the website/blog and being able to log in at the end of our meeting succeeded (kudos to Wensor of AT&T). He and I’ll again talk today after I do more tests … but first I wanted to do a blog in case we had just entered a short safe time zone of false hope. (Art © Louis Kraft 2013)

The last week of May has been hell—pure and simple hell—and it has continued into the first week of June. A learning experience with patience (trust me, I’ve improved with this over the years).

I’m not going to bore you with the problems—which have been ongoing—of changing internet and land line providers, but this has drastically impacted my work. Research for Flynn/de Havilland and Sand Creek as well as emails with editors have continued during these dark days that began on May 24 (no writing except for four-five hours on a Geronimo article), for the rest of my time has been spent trouble-shooting internet/phone/computer problems and working with my new provider. Enough said!!!

In the previous blog I posted an image of Errol Flynn that I’m working on. It isn’t complete, as I’m juggling artwork projects. I’m behind on some promised Ned Wynkoop images, and I need a Geronimo piece to accompany that article submission. Two bottom lines here: I like submitting artwork for articles and books as they can provide an image that supports the text (an image that doesn’t exist or isn’t obtainable); and they bring in additional money. I’m not big on money, but I like eating.

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This Ned Wynkoop image first appeared in an anthology that printed a Wynkoop article of mine, “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races” (2008). It has since appeared in Wild West, True West, and has just appeared in Symphony in the Flint Hills Field Journal, Volume V (2013), that accompanies the orchestra’s concert, which happens each summer at historical sites in Kansas. This year they are featuring classic western film scores at Fort Riley. I had an open invite to the concert, but unfortunately couldn’t land a writing gig in Kansas at that time, so I won’t be there. BTW, this is a terrific book; well designed, nice range of articles with a wide selection of photos and artwork. I was pleasantly surprised. (Art © Louis Kraft 2007)

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Pardon the bragging, but my floppy-hat Wynkoop portrait sees print for the fourth time this month in a book dealing with a live concert in Kansas this summer. This isn’t ego, for it gives me the chance to invite friends over for dinner, to see a play, to walk in the park with a friend, to pay a bill.

Believe it or not (and no this isn’t a Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” cartoon from the Dark Ages), … I have at times been pounded for using art I created in my books and magazine articles, and worse I’ve been pounded for being an actor (in days long gone—I only appear now when I write the script). You see actors can’t be historians. This came with the Custer book, and for years after I hid my past life in a closet. Editors and publishing houses had no clue I had been an actor. After I came out of the closet and began acting onstage again (again, only in scripts I write), I decided to hell with hiding a past I had no problem remembering. It’s out in the open; now I get pounded for artwork and not acting. Go figure.

Ouch! I’ve probably put a curse on myself. Most likely the image of Ned Wynkoop in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will be of him riding a horse. Ladies and gents, this image doesn’t exist. If I’m going to use it I’m going to have to create it. I’ve begun illustrations of him in Indian Territory in November 1868 surrounded by snow and another of him on the parade ground at Fort Larned, Kansas. Actually, the Wynkoop/horse image is under way, but alas, in a very early stage of development. Slow progress and actually these images may not be shared until they are published (or at least in a presentable view as was the Flynn/Custer image from the last blog).

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April 2013 view from the front porch of Vicki and Layton Hooper’s home in Fort Collins, Co. I am beginning to believe that I am the “Snowman of Colorado.” When Governor Hickenlooper needs more snow, all he has to do is call up ol’ Kraft, pay a decent salary, all expenses, and I’ll be on my way. I’ve already created a snow dance that guarantees success. Why wait for Halloween to begin the Christmas season? Why not July 4th? I can guarantee days upon days of the white stuff obliterating the sun. I’m not mean, … I’m just having fun, justifiable fun for being snowed in the last two times I’ve visited Colorado. Hell, the “gov” likes the Wynkoop book; that makes him a pal. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

I had planned this blog to deal w/my thrilling time last April in the land of 300 days of sunshine—Colorado … dealing with people, my favorite subject. The above problem (internet/website) again ruled yesterday and will do so again this day, I walked away from my planned subject even though images and artwork were ready. … That said, and in a totally unexpected transition from what I’ve been talking about, I may enter that coolest of zones, that place from which I thought I had walked from—a place that forever excites me for the challenges are huge, the environment a maze of electricitya world in which I’m at home. What?? Good interview yesterday. I never hold my breath, … we’ll see.

Is Kraft fickle? I’ll never tell, … but I do like to tease.