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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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


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

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


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

My view: I love walking on Mother Earth.

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

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

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

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

All of them are magnificent!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The year 2017 is one for the California record books

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

Something needs to be said about earthquakes

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

I guess it’s all about perspective.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Front and center in an unbelievable story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See below for the continuation of this story. …

The creation of history

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara Hershey and a film I like

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

Last of the Dogmen

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

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

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

Sand Creek players have been pounded time and again …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and the Cheyennes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Territorial governor John Evans has been pounded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the reality of our times

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

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

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

Another story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and this includes some mixed-blood Cheyennes

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

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

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

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

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

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

A wonderful research surprise in Downtown LA

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

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

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

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

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

The people of Sand Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A small repetition

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

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

I love what I do.

An Errol Flynn tidbit

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

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

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

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

Closing thoughts

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

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

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

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

Sand Creek 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