Talks

Although I’ve said that books are the key to my professional life and everything lives through them, this isn’t quite true. One of my favorite activities is talking before audiences. 

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This is Southern Cheyenne chief Gordon Yellowman standing next to me at the conclusion of the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site two-day symposium in November 2011. He is a very special person. Just knowing him—if only slightly—gives me perspective of where I stand on race, humanity, genocide, and the human condition. We, as human beings, need to reach out, for we are all one. It doesn’t matter if we are white or Southern Cheyenne, Korean or Chinese, Indian or Persian, for we are all one. I have spent a very small amount of time with Gordon over the years. With luck, my luck, we will someday work together on a project dear to my heart–a documentary that explores race relations and humanity through Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyennes. Time will tell. (Photo © Washita Battlefield NHS 2011)

I know what I’m going to talk about, for I set up a bulleted list for myself and use it to prepare. I’m a charming fellow and get along with people. All good to this point in time. However, those of you that have hired me know that my social ability disappears as the date of the talk nears for at this time and right up until showtime my full concentration is on the talk. Talks are not acting performances. I’m good with time (from both experience and preparation), but I don’t read and have no intention of doing this—ever. Actually, to be truthful, I can’t read for even if there is a piece of paper in front of my nose I can’t see the words on it unless they are printed in 50-point font for I’ve taken my glasses off. No glasses? Is this vanity? Yes, … but actually no. No, it isn’t. Although I want to see the people in the first and second rows, I don’t want to see anyone else (and trust me, the removal of my glasses makes everyone, including those in the first two rows, a colorful blur). Blurs don’t interrupt my concentration. And concentration is the key to delivering a focused talk that has value for an audience.

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This image is based upon a photo taken by Linda Andreu Wald, on June 25, 2011, in Hardin, Montana, after I talked about the Flynn-Custer connection. Two people in my life are pictured (Mike Koury and Marissa Kraft). Marissa you know. Mike entered my life in 1987 when I spoke before an audience for the first time. On that day, and during his talk, Mike, without realizing it, grabbed me by the throat and squeezed. Although I had previously observed talks I had yet to see how it should be done. On this day I saw my future for on this day I saw Mike’s talk, a talk that was a million times better than all the other talks I had seen put together. Two years later Mike and Marissa met during a trip to perhaps the inaccurately located Sand Creek site when both of them were whippersnappers. On this alternately sunny and cloudy Hardin day, a day wherein the Little Bighorn grass was tall and still green, they met again (and of course neither remembered the previous meeting). Not a good talk by me on this day, but a good day for me for I spent time with Mike, Fr. Vince Heier, Mike O’Keefe, Ms. M, and two good friends, Bob Williams and Linda Wald. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

No two talks are ever the same, even when subject matter overlaps (for example: Custer/Sweetwater Creek, Custer/Flynn, Flynn/Olivia, Wynkoop/Cheyennes, Wynkoop/Pawnee Fork, Gatewood/Geronimo, and so on) for although I work at preparing an order to the talks and attempt to learn quotes (“attempt” is the key word here), I never know what is going to come out of my mouth. When I see a filmed version of a talk I am often surprised. … I said that? Ouch! But true.

I’m alive when talking. Everything is juicing through the electrical connections that make me function. It is “do or die” time, a one-shot opportunity to entice and stimulate people, and there is nothing more exciting than this. Nothing.

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lk talking about Ned Wynkoop and his relationship with the Cheyennes at an Upton and Sons Publishers symposium in 2008. Dick and Frankie Upton were my good friends long before they published Custer and the Cheyenne. They knew that I intended to push the limits of nonfiction writing, they knew the risks, and they took a chance with me—no questions asked. Their trust opened the nonfiction book world to me, and for this I’ll forever be grateful. Over the years they have kindly invited me to talk at their symposiums. Hope there are more; Dick & Frankie, … hint-hint. (art © Louis Kraft 2012)

I can feel/sense the pulse of the audience. For me, this is living on the edge, and these times become, by far, the highlights of my life (other than the key times when I am totally in tune with the special people in my life). I never short-change preparation for I know that it is the key for me connecting with people and getting them motivated to the point that they begin to dig into the subject of the talk for that is the goal, the only goal of my talks.

If people like what I’ve said and talk about it, I’ve succeeded. When this happens, and the subject appeals to me, I add the talk to my must do-again list. It becomes mine and will grow and change as I grow and change.

A lot of preparation goes into creating a talk, and this continues right up until it is time to deliver it for I’m constantly thinking about what I’m going to say. Tweaking it, changing it, fine-tuning it. When traveling I require all expenses and a minimum of $1000.00. Sometimes this cost is negotiable.

Topics include

  • Ned Wynkoop
  • Cheyenne Indians
  • Sand Creek, Pawnee Fork, & the Washita
  • Errol Flynn
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Golden Age of Cinema
  • George Armstrong Custer
  • Charles Gatewood
  • Geronimo
  • Apache Indians

For more information or to discuss an upcoming event, contact me.