March 2020 publication date for Louis Kraft’s Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

More’s a comin’ …

More’s a comin’ … and this has been a comin’ for a long-long time. The University of Oklahoma Press will publish Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway in March 2020. The book cover design has been completed, and the art is the only image I ever considered for the dust jacket. In 1999 I met Cheyenne chief Gordon Yellowman, when we both spoke at a major event at the Fort Larned National Historic Site in Kansas. During the conference Gordon and Cheyenne chief Lawrence Hart blessed the Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village, which is some 30 miles to the west of the fort (it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 17, 2010). During the day of the talks, Gordon was selling prints of his painting, “Sand Creek.” I bought one, framed it, and it has been displayed at Tujunga House ever since. He was thrilled when I called him to ask if I could use his art on the cover. When he said, “yes,” I was more thrilled.

Gordon Yellowman’s art symbolically shows the Sand Creek village on November 28, 1864, and then on November 29, 1864.Gordon Yellowman’s art symbolically shows the Sand Creek village on November 28, 1864, and then on November 29, 1864. The book is now listed on Amazon; it includes the dust jacket copy, which gives you a good idea of what the book is about: Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway on Amazon for pre-order.

To keep this short, … I show, that is show and not tell, the story from all sides. Cheyennes and Arapahos, whites that married into the tribes, their offspring, whites that coveted Indian land, and whites who spoke out against the massacre at Sand Creek (Colorado Territory). There are no good guys and no bad guys; they are all just people. I use their actions and words to show you who they were …

The scope and the problem that it presented

LK portrait of Chuck Rankin, which is based upon a photo of him that Pailin took of him at the WHA convention in Newport Beach, Calif., on 17oct2014. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

From the beginning when former OU Press editor in chief Chuck Rankin and I were working on trying to come up with a story idea that that both of us would agree to, this has been pure hell. To begin with, I didn’t want to write the book. However, if I did, the scope would be large and not focus on an attack on Cheyenne and Arapaho village circles camped on Sand Creek in Colorado Territory on November 29, 1864. These people thought that they had been removed from the 1864 Cheyenne war, and were at peace until they heard otherwise from the U.S. military. This I made clear to Chuck, and we talked and then talked more and more. I’m one lucky cowboy to have had Chuck in my corner, for without him I would have never have agreed to write this book. Egotism aside, and regardless of what anyone thinks of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, it will be the most important book that I ever write. Chuck, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The Sand Creek manuscript status …

I don’t know. I hate to say it, but this is the story of my life—I don’t know.

This photo (right) was taken in early 1980. Shortly after the time of our mother’s death (4jan1980) my brother Lee and I, along with some of his friends (all of whom I knew), created a ball team—the Kool-Aid Kids. It was the beginning of a golden decade for both of us as we eventually had three seasons and played year round. We had always been close, but these years linked us forever. This ended on 6mar1990 when Lee died in a car wreck (he was a passenger). This day was, and still is, the most devastating day of my life.
(photo © Louis Kraft 1980)

I know what I’m doing to try and make something happen in 2020. Will I hit a home run (we’re talking baseball here)? My batting average is pretty good, so whenever the opportunity is in front of me I swing for the fence. Sometimes I hit a home run, and sometimes I strike out. There’s a saying in baseball, and it is important. If you don’t come to the plate and bat, you can’t strike out. At the same time, you can’t hit a home run. The risk of striking out is worth the chance of hitting a home run.

The copyedits of the Sand Creek manuscript

I began my edit of the copyedit on the evening of July 5 (Pailin’s birthday) and delivered it on deadline (August 5). Since July 5 my days have grown longer, after my lady’s and my second annual Fourth of July party it has been back to working seven days per week with no end in sight, but this is little more than a two-headed dragon, for sometime—hopefully no later than now late-October—I will complete my work on the Sand Creek book. At that time my future will be before me.

I can’t begin to tell you how important the copyedits of my books are.

I do a lot of research, and luckily have a wealth to explore from my family (trash to others but luckily given to me; much of which I never knew existed). I created this art from a totally degraded b&w negative that could never be restored or printed that dated to 1972, and better I used it as the feature art for a blog that dealt with me being trapped in the bathroom on 18jun2013.  I played it for laughs, and if you choose to look at it (A gunslinger in a bathroom), I hope that you chuckle. For the record, I don’t think much of writers who view their writing as God’s gift to the world. This said, methinks I should use this art whenever I again talk about them. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Believe it or not, I know writers that are clueless to what a copyedit is, or worse writers who aren’t open to constructive criticism to improve their work—if we can call their writing work—for the simple reason that they claim that they are brilliant. For the record I have never completed reading a book by a self-proclaimed “brilliant” writer, and all of their tomes that I unfortunately bought (or they gave me) have either been trashed or donated to the Vietnam Vets. All of them.

Back to the copyedit; my editor was Kerin Tate, and this lady was diligent and did everything possible to improve my manuscript. This is exactly what copyediting is—improving the delivered manuscript. She fine tuned my wording, questioned events and facts, presented ideas, and so on. … Some I accepted, some I rejected; but I always shared my reasons for what I did. Always. This is what a copy edit is all about—fixing, improving, polishing. There is one goal for the copyeditor and the writer, and that is to make the final book as good as possible. … As far as I’m concerned, every writer who disses this has his or her thumb stuffed where the sun doesn’t shine.

The blurb for the dust jacket

Let’s be clear here: the dust jacket blurb, and it doesn’t matter if it is on the back of the DJ or on the inside flaps—it is a selling tool. … A major selling tool, and a good one can sell additional books while a not-so-good one will not help sales (and may perhaps hurt them).

LK is easy going. I am also intense with a take no prisoners attitude. I’m sorry for this, but it’s just me. I have a vision for everything that I write, and I want to see it through to print. This said, I love my editors and my art directors, but will always challenge them whenever I think it necessary. The photo for this image was taken at Tujunga House on 30may2013. (image © Louis Kraft 2013)

This moves us into the land that I have invaded time and again as I insist in taking a major role in the entire production process of my books (and articles). Editors and art directors do not like this, for, I believe, that their view is that the writer’s work is complete when the final edit is accepted—meaning that the writer fades into the background. Not so with this writer. Good or bad, the book or article is my vision and I want t do everything possible to insure that my vision will see print.

In August I received the draft of the blurb for the dust jacket flaps. It was a good draft with only 10-plus words that were vague or I objected to as they were off target or erroneous. I completed my edits before my August deadline, and am happy with the prose. The final draft is on target and it hits home for the entire book. Luckily I have a get out of jail ticket, for all of the writing and copyedits (which are also first class). Done deal, and the dust jacket blurb will grab potential readers as much as the great dust jacket cover will.

I really want to share what I consider the final dust jacket blurb, but it must be a surprise come March 2020. Regardless of what you think about what is on the dust jacket flaps, I do believe that it will generate book sales to anyone who reads it. Yes, it is that good.

The maps

The three maps are complete, and again Bill Nelson created them from my drafts. Magnificent work by him, and I’m thrilled. Two are similar in design to the maps in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. The third map was a major challenge for me and for Bill. It is complete, it will be two facing pages in the printed book, and it will be an eye-opener.

My bro Glen Williams (left) and his brother Joe Franklin Williams during a September 1976 road trip in his 1974 Pontiac TRANS AM (400 cu inch V-8). A cool photo taken during one of their trips, and as Glen told me, on “dirt and gravel backroads of the Arizona desert making frequent trips … in Apache territory [while] search[ing] old towns, railroad track beds, Apache sites and generally spent our week exploring Indian land and points of interest.” I wish I could have joined them, and more, had known Joe (who was 16 months older than Glen). (photo © Glen Williams 1976)

My great bro, Glen Williams, you are going to like this third map—it’s for you.

Sorry folks, but no mas here (meaning in English, nothing more is going to be said about this map on this blog). I do love being a tease. Buy the book and see the map, for it will not appear in my blogs.

The designed Sand Creek book proof and the index

The designed Sand Creek book is in my near future. I had thought that I would see it in mid-September. That has turned out to be wishful thinking, to my disappointment.

The first draft will include where I have indicated that the photos, art, woodcuts, and maps will be placed in the printed book. I will, if lucky, now see this draft sometime in late September, but I’m getting antsy on this. Originally I thought that I would see it before now—this isn’t on me, as I’m making my deadlines to get Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway published in spring 2020. This reason is not for these blogs, although there may be a small LK headline in the future that I don’t want to happen. The page numbers for the book will be in place and firm. This means two things. I will review the text, but with all edits not increasing or decreasing line flow of the draft. At the same time I will begin to create the index (something that I have done for all of my nonfiction books). I currently have a 26-page mockup index that is ready and waiting for me to complete. If, and as with previous books, I will then see one final proof, wherein I can still make small corrections before the book goes to publication.

The LK 2020 Sand Creek future … 

There are three things in LK’s Sand Creek future: talks, articles, and a major delivery to the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe.

Five speaking pitches are underway

I am only going to pitch five talks for 2020. All will require my usual salary and all expenses (except for LA—it won’t have expenses, as I live seven miles from the location). All are major destinations, and I am taking my time to make certain that the proposals are specific to each venue and are clear why a talk is important. I am only considering speaking about two subjects next year:

  • The attack on the Sand Creek village on November 29, 1864
  • The life and times of Cheyenne chief Black Kettle

Photo of LK (left) accepting the 2012 Western Heritage Award in Oklahoma City in 2012. I’m good at talking engagements. I’m also good when accepting awards, which are much more impromptu. This mounted cowboy bronze (you can  barely see him in the lower left of the photo) weighs about 18 pounds (and I kissed him during the talk, which garnered me a nice laugh).

How I’ll handle both talks (Sand Creek and Black Kettle) have been in place for a long-long time. Both will be unique, and I hope to develop them into long features for magazines (minimum of 3600 words). These article pitches are not yet in development.

One of the talk proposals was a verbal pitch to Kevin Mohr, chief of interpretation & operations at the Washita Battlefield NHS (see Gordon Yellowman below), and two written proposals have been delivered (the other two written proposals will soon be mailed).


Believe it or not, this September 2013 Gatewood/Geronimo talk in Tucson was the last that I ever gave. Good times for LK, but times long gone—times I hope to bring back to life. Time will tell.

Those of you who follow these blogs know that I stopped giving talks in 2013. This was because of two reasons. I needed to complete the research and writing of my Sand Creek manuscript, but also, and just as important, I had stopped writing for software companies in April 2012. … But there’s more here, and I should say something about this. In 2012, I earned a lot of money. This meant that I could talk anywhere I wanted that year and the next. Some of these talks pulled in my requested salary and all expenses, but others did not and cost me a lot to appear. This was fine, as I felt that the venues and my subjects were important and I wanted to do them. So much so, that I did them while knowing that they would impact my bank account. This was how I felt then, and this is how I still feel today. All those talks in 2012 and 2013 are good memories for me (and will forever be so). Life goes on, but today is not yesterday. The past is the past, and it will never be the future.


This Sun Microsystems badge was the only software badge that I ever ever scanned. My relationship with them ended in January 2009 when the company spiraled toward end of life.

I can’t understate the impact this has had on my life. No matter how good, or how bad, or how much I totally enjoyed the thrill-ride to deliver accurate prose on deadline for companies on the cutting edge, there was a bottom line. They allowed me to travel for research and deliver talks to my heart’s desire. I can’t begin to tell you what a loss this was, and how it has effected my entire writing life.

It’s September 2019, and I know where I would like to speak in 2020. Oh heck, silence isn’t golden here. My cities of choice are Los Angeles, Denver, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, and Cheyenne. Cheyenne? Cheyenne? Where the hell’s Cheyenne? For those of you who don’t know, Cheyenne (Oklahoma)—or more precisely the Washita Battlefield NHS—has been a destination of mine for a long-long time.

Jerry Russell relaxing on the private land that would eventually become the Washita Battlefield NHS (Cheyenne, Okla.). (photo © Louis Kraft 1987)

The first visit was in I believe 1987 when Jerry Russell’s Order of the Indian Wars ended their yearly meeting by visiting the Washita battle site that was then on private property. At that time I was tracking George Armstrong Custer in the north for articles. I called Jerry and asked if I and my family could join him for the trek to the Washita and then attend the banquet. We had a good relationship, and he said, “yes.”

My daughter and I flew to Oklahoma City before the 1991 Western Writers of America convention and drove to Cheyenne to get the lay of the land. The Washita battle site was still on private land, but I wanted to get a feel for it, and approached it from various angles. Binoculars gave me detail, but I didn’t know what I was looking at. I saw the hills, the valley, bits and pieces of the river, but none of it was usable. As we began to return to OKC a rainstorm pounded the earth. It was so bad that the windshield wipers were useless and there was zero visibility—a long 30 minutes waiting on the side of the road wondering if we’d be rear-ended by a driver pressing onward when he/she should have waited while Mother Nature thrashed the land. … I had previously been there in 1970 when I was a member of VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). I lived in a converted garage owned by a single mother who had a teenaged daughter on the east side of the city. I was assigned to work with African Americans (they weren’t called this then), and two VISTA recruits also lived in the garage with me (one white and one black; we had had four female coworkers, one of whom was black, but they they lived elsewhere). I quickly learned that blacks had no love for cowboys. I wore cowboy boots, but luckily brought a pair of black laced shoes; my supervisor—Cheetah Gates, who had a large Afro—told me that if I wanted to live I had better ditch the boots. I did. More importantly, I became one with the Black community. I walked the streets day and night; safely. I hung out in bars, restaurants and front porches, spoke with everyone, and bonded with the people I worked for, as well as some American Indians. Good memories here—memories that would influence my future, although at this time I was clueless of what my life would become.

After the WWA convention my daughter and I drove to Kansas to see Medicine Lodge Creek, and most importantly the Fort Larned NHS. This trip was one of the keys to my entire writing future, although again I didn’t realize it.

This photo of George Elmore (left) and Leo Oliva dates to 28apr2012. I was again speaking about Wynkoop at Fort Larned, and on this day we had walked outside the perimeter of the fort to the building that Agent Wynkoop rented from the post trader for his Cheyenne and Arapaho agency. George was one of the key players in recreating the building on its exact location. Leo has also been key to restoring and retaining Kansas history, and this includes the Pawnee Fork Tsistsistas-Dog Man-Lakota village that Maj. Gen. Hancock destroyed in April 1867. Both have been major players in my writing life. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

We met then ranger—now chief ranger—George Elmore. It was the beginning of a friendship that is ongoing to this day. He gave us a complete tour of the fort, which I photographed and was key for The Final Showdown (Walker and Company, 1992). He asked if we could stay at his home and revisit on the following day. We couldn’t, as we had a flight to catch in OKC.

The last pitches are slowly moving forward. They will be long, detailed, and specific to the venues. If I land one, great; three, much better; all five, and I’ll be in talk heaven (at the moment I’m considering adding sixth pitch, as I know that one no longer has funding). I’m treating them with the same seriousness as I present my book proposals. Although two had been discussed on the phone multiple times (and one has been followed up with a full-blown written pitch), they aren’t a slam-dunk (a basketball term) for the people who opened the door to me must make a decision (see below).

True West and LK’s magazine writing future

My relationship with True West magazine ended when my article, “The Good Ol’ Boys,” was published in June 1990 (see the below caption for details). Before the article was published the then owner/publisher killed it until one of the featured people in it was purged from my story. I considered the owner’s decision heinous and never wrote for True West again. Yeah, I’m clear on who I will write for, and they are my decisions. I pitch them, they contract my stories/books, but the bottom line is that they work for me. This has been in place for a long time and has caused a lot of anger directed at me by them.

Early on then True West editor John Joerschke and I became friends. I pitched him on this article about people who presented history to the public in different ways, and he bought it. It dealt with four people: Gary Helms and his re-enactor cavalry regiment; Jerry Russell, who created the Order of the Indian Wars (and it is as we still know it today); Jim Court, former superintendent of the then Custer Battlefield National Monument; and Mike Koury, who is one of the best speakers I’ve ever listened to and current head of the Order of the Indian Wars. Yes, back in the day, this magazine was little more than newsprint and the pages bled. I had many pictures in this article to illustrate the stories, but just prior to publication, and, repeating myself, the then owner of the magazine—who, for some reason didn’t like Mike killed the section on him. The article was printed two issues after Mike had been purged from the story. This didn’t sit well with me, and again repeating myself, I never again wrote for the magazine again until Meghan Saar approached me in 2011 (see below). For the record LK knows how to ride a horse, and has for decades. (photo of Jerry Russell on the first page of the article & LK on horseback © Louis Kraft 1987 & 1989)

Hey, I write for me. My subjects are mine, and when I buy into them they are a marriage until death due us part. The books have beginning and ending lives, but articles and talks (whenever I am lucky to land them) can continue until I’m 130 (this is a joke, and yet it isn’t, for I’m doing everything possible to make this happen—the key is my brain, and it functions with my Corvette pedal to the floor every day). Don’t believe me? I have tinnitus, which is nasty. Since July 5, 2019, when I began the Sand Creek copyedit, and until September 22, my brain has been so-keyed into what I’m doing, the twenty-second of this month was the 17th day wherein my tinnitus was gone—totally gone. You don’t know what this feels like until you experience it. … The clear sound you hear, and that is without a buzz. Let me tell you that It’s heaven. How? Why? For me, total focus!

But, but, when Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011) was published the then True West managing editor Meghan Saar pitched me on doing a one-page article that would be printed along with a a surprise for me (good stuff by her). She came through big time, even though we never hit it off. She’s gone, for whatever reason, but I am forever grateful to her for reaching out to me.

LK art of Wynkoop that has been published in numerous books and magazines over the years. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

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

Hey folks, no Wynkoop book; no Sand Creek book. The connection is huge,
and inter-linking connections have been key to my entire writing life.

True West editor Stuart Rosebrook and I connected in May via emails and a good phone conversation, and the focus was LK writing for True West. My daughter and I traveled to Tucson, Arizona, in June for much-needed R&R for both of us, a chance to just be us and hang out, and for LK to do some work. We succeeded on all fronts, but the key to this trip to Tucson was Stuart. We didn’t attend the Western Writers of America convention in Tucson, but Stuart did. On one of the evenings we got together in the convention hotel’s bar. I was prepared for pitching a series of articles on “The Key Players of the Sand Creek Saga.” Some of them definitely interested Stuart.

That was then; this is now (24sept2019)
Stuart and I spoke about my Sand Creek article proposal for True West’s 2020 schedule that he has been preparing, and about our working relationship moving forward. Let me say this: LK is one happy cowboy as he dances around Tujunga House.

(LK art of Black Kettle © 2015)

Starting with what we had shared in May, June, and then my official August 29 proposal for a series of articles, we discussed the direction of the magazine next year and how I might fit into it on an ongoing basis. Hey friends, this is good stuff for me. Let’s put this another way—I’m looking forward to partnering with Stuart and True West in 2020 and beyond. The offer is there, and it is something that I want to happen.

I know some of the details, and certainly about the various pieces that I’ll be writing in the future. Some will be based upon my proposal, and some will not (they’ll be from my book-writing past). We discussed True West becoming a home, a base, with an ongoing relationship with me as a correspondent, contributor, and editor. This is a win-win for me and hopefully for Stuart and True West. I know some of the early details of what we’ll be doing, but now is not the time to share them. One thing is certain, Cheyenne chief Black Kettle will be my first feature for True West.

Gordon Yellowman

Gordon and I have known each other since 1999, and we respect each other.

Photo of Gordon Yellowman (left) and Harvey Pratt. Both are Southern Cheyenne chiefs, and I took this photo of them on the Washita Battlefield NHS overlook on 11nov2011, after Harvey spoke about Cheyenne warriors in the past and during modern USA wars, and Gordon blessed the Washita village site. … You know my relation with Gordon, but I also have one with Harvey, due to his great friendship with historian Dee Cordry. There was, and is, key documentation that I had but in the 20th century Oklahoma blocked it from researchers. Harvey had this documentation and kindly allowed Dee and myself to use it. Harvey’s action is one of the kindest that I’ve experienced during my entire time as a writer. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

As said above, Gordon’s “Sand Creek” painting is key to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and to repeat myself, I’m thrilled. This has opened the door to hopefully a friendship, and perhaps the possibility of us talking together and doing signings. He originally pitched me on joint signings; I countered him on doing joint signings and talks. He agreed, and we’re doing what we can to make this happen.

Major update!

Kevin Mohr, chief of interpretation and operations at the Washita Battlefield NHS, called me on 19sept19 regarding an oral pitch I had presented to him a while back. Yes!!!! He wants Gordon and I to talk at the Washita in November 2020. Their bookstore will handle ordering the books (which I love, as I don’t have to do anything to get them to Cheyenne) and they already have prints of Gordon’s magnificent art of the Sand Creek village. … Ladies and gents, next year I will re-emerge from my forced retirement from giving talks. And honestly, I love doing talks more than acting on the stage, as I know what I’m going to talk about (and only attempt to memorize quotes), and it is a one-shot occurrence wherein my focus cannot waver. For me, talks are a big part of my life, and returning to doing them is long overdue.

Better, I am absolutely thrilled that this event will happen with Gordon and myself.

Gordon Yellowman and LK (right) after the completion of the Washita Battlefield NHS symposium on 7dec2011. (photo courtesy of the Washita Battlefield NHS)

I can’t say enough about Kevin’s efforts to help me obtain permission to use two details from artist Steven Lang’s magnificent mural of the attack on Black Kettle’s village on 27nov1868 that is displayed at the battlefield; a tragic day, for on it the chief and his wife (Medicine Woman Later) died (my opinion is a little stronger than “died”). The two details will add great value to the Sand Creek book, and I will forever be grateful to Kevin for his efforts to make this happen, as well as bringing Gordon and myself to the Washita next year.

Oh, I’ll be talking about Black Kettle in November 2020.

LK’s book-writing future is out there

I have certainly discussed my writing future on these blogs and elsewhere on the internet. It is my proposed future. … But as the legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” This is a paraphrase of his great quote, but in regards to LK’s writing future, it is right on the money: “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

This LK portrait was taken in August 2018 when OU Press Marketing requested photos for the dust jacket and publicity. Pailin shot them on the 4th, and they were exteriors on the Tujunga House back porch with a hat as well as interiors in front of a bookcase without a hat. She captured a lot of a great shots, but this was not one of the closeups that I delivered to OU Press (perhaps as it was my favorite and I wanted to use it elsewhere). I have since sent it to them, but without a response. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2018)

This means one thing: what I said in the recent past, what I say here, and what I say in the future may change for one simple reason—Kraft is fickle as he travels that road where the research and words lead him. My future is before me, and I’m going to walk into it with open eyes.

At the moment, and this has been since beginning the Sand Creek copyedit on the evening of July 5, I have been working seven days per week every week. This has caused health problems, and I’m worn out, but these days are not about to end in the near future. I have a lot that I must complete for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway to see publication. Trust me, for this is number one in everything that I do at this time. Number two is setting up articles and talks, for this is major for my 2020 life. Finally I intend to put my future book writing in place, and it will not supplant my Sand Creek talks and articles in 2020. At the same time it will dominate my book writing future.

Finally, and for those of you who don’t know who I am or what I do

I am simply a person who has followed my winding trail to today. I have always had focus, but when I have been faced with a projected goal that is beyond my grasp, I have never—never—continued on a path that has no chance of success. Again, never!

My entire life has been interconnected since I was a boy. Everything was in place by the time I graduated from the sixth grade, although I didn’t know it until perhaps two decades later. Everything. The key was my parents, both of whom were open to all people regardless of race, color, or religion.

Doris & Louis Kraft at their Reseda, Calif., home in 1972 (photo © Louis Kraft 1972)

The house I grew up in was an open door to everyone. I never realized this until many years later.* My mother and father also supported every choice I made during my growing years. It didn’t matter if they agreed with what I wanted to do or not, for they backed me 100 percent. But not with money, for here I was on my own. I learned the importance of greenbacks early on. My first paying job was delivering newspapers (the Los Angeles Daily News; think it had another name back then; the Green Sheet????) while in elementary school. I would eventually be laid off when the paper decided to transition from bicycle delivery to automobile delivery, but then worked throughout high school and collage as I wanted a university education. Early on, my father had told me that he couldn’t and wouldn’t pay for my education. Back in the dark ages obtaining a good education was doable (we all know how times have changed and the cost of education is now obscene). I wanted it, and I worked all through high school and college, graduating in four years, and without checking completed between 16 and 18 extra credits. In my final semester there was an upper division anthropology class on American Indians. I had not had any anthropology classes, and this bothered the professor. I told her that I didn’t need it for graduation, and that I wanted to learn about Indians. She allowed me to join the class. However, near the end of it she shook her head and smiled. “Anthropology is nonfiction, and your term paper is fiction.” “The class description and your handout on the term paper didn’t mention the word, ‘fiction’ or ‘nonfiction.'” She wanted to grind her teeth; she wanted to rip me to shreds. She didn’t. “I’ll accept your paper, but it will cost you a grade.” “Thank you.” I received a “B” for the paper and a “B” for the class. My paper was about an Apache teenager who was on a journey to become a man (based upon facts). In spring 1969 I was clueless of my future.

Shortly after my family migrated from New York to California, Doris Day had a song that my parents bought on 78rpm, “Que sera, sera, what will be will be.”* They played it all the time in our new home in sunny SoCal. They loved it, and so did I. This could be my theme song. I don’t have it. … Maybe I should get it so that I could listen to it again.

A hint of the future

Years back I had stopped listing future blogs, for the simple reason that some of them never happened. Today is special for I’m going say a little about the next blog.

I based this art of Olivia de Havilland and myself from photos taken at her Paris, France, home in 2009. When I posted it elsewhere on social media I was accused of creating it from scratch, and that was that I had not spent time with OdeH (the implication was that I did not know her and had never met her). For the record, I never say I do or did something if I didn’t do it. She is a wonderful person, and I’ve been lucky to be a part of a small portion of her life. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

I know exactly what the next blog will discuss—my writing future. It is going in directions that have been in place for decades. This is no surprise for me, but it may be a major shock for some of you. As always I’ll mix and match subjects that are of importance to me. Pailin pitched me on a subject she wanted me to photograph and document. It was right up my alley, and I immediately agreed to her request, but health and deadlines prevented this from happening. My loss (and certainly Pailin’s, for I let her down). At the same time some of what is ongoing scares the hell out of me. This blog will go live in the late fall. Hopefully it grabs your interest. Until then, vaya con dios, amigos y amigas.

Sand Creek Massacre, Errol & Olivia, Louis Kraft, and a perfect storm

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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


Rod Taylor, Michael Parks, Sam Shepard. OUCH!
Three actors who have played roles in my life are
all gone in one godawful 2017.
Who’s next? Me?

Parks* and Taylor have been favorite actors since I discovered them, and this has continued throughout my life even though some of their films and appearances on TV weren’t in top-notch productions.

In LK personal collection.

Still, fully ninety percent of their performances that I saw shined.

Michael Parks also has the distinction of being my favorite singer of all time.

* Kevin Smith directed Red State (2011), a film in which Michael Parks delivered one of my favorite performances of all time. If you don’t know anything about Parks see Kevin Smith’s memory of Michael Parks. Warning: There are some foul words, but the interview is from the heart of a director who viewed Michael Parks as a good person and an acting genius—something I agree with. Better, Parks’ performance shows how a person can play evil on screen while being charming, charismatic, and certain that everything he does is absolutely for the good when he does it.

I haven’t seen all that many of Shepard’s films and I don’t think I’ve seen any of his TV work. Still he always adds intense credibility to every performance that I’ve seen.**

** All three have films on my top 60 film list.


Time moves forward at lightening speed, and as the years have passed I have had a few-too-many encounters with the grim reaper.

As the body grows frailer, and as it is harder and harder to swing a blade with deadly intent I have come to cherish life. Shockingly, this is new to me as I have always been “charge forward with guns blazing.”

Two projects that are a long time coming

  • Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
    I plan on delivering a first rough draft to my editor, Chuck Rankin (OU Press), in December or January 2018, and the final draft before 2018 ends.
  • Errol & Olivia
    Research is continuous, and every so often when I have a few spare minutes I open the draft and add information. Right now I’m trying to confirm if Flynn’s first wife, Lili Damita, earlier had married the great film director Michael Curtiz or not. This must be confirmed without a doubt.

Below is an update on both.

Wandering through a life rife with change

I’ve been walking between the races since 1970 (but really it had been earlier as my parents had an open door policy no matter what a person’s race was). That year I joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which is/was like a continental Peace Corps. I had wanted to work with American Indians (even at that age), and the two other possibilities were African Americans (Blacks back then) and Latinos (Chicanos then). There was a lot of training at the University of Texas in Austin, … and afterwards we—the other candidates and I—partied. Big time. We were housed in tall a dorm (ladies on one floor and guys on another), and the celebrations went deep into the night in various dormatory rooms (two rooms that shared a bathroom).

Great friend Dennis Riley, then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, took this image a few days after my last final at SFVSC (now CSUN) in June 1969. That day was my first acting publicity shoot, and this image represented how I often dressed while earning my BA. I had picked up the god-awful nickname of “Tex” in college as I often wore a cowboy hat. “Tex”? Yee-ough! (a sound; not a word) (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

One night in the wee hours I said something to a married couple that they enjoyed but a Chicano who would eventually select people to work with Latinos didn’t like. Suddenly I had a knife at my throat as he grabbed me from behind. I was scared to death but had my wits and kept calm. In between his bursts of rage I pointed out that he had fifteen and perhaps twenty witnesses. Did he intend to kill them too? I also pointed out that if he killed me his cause was DOA (dead on arrival).

He let go of me, and let me tell you that I was one happy cowboy to see the sun rise that morning. Surprisingly at breakfast, which began at six, I had become a celebrity. This was stupid, and I hated it. From my view I was damned lucky to be alive. … A few weeks later the American Indian, Black, and Chicano group leaders chose their candidates a la choosing a sand lot football team. I was chosen early by a Black group from Oklahoma. A week of living with a Black family in Sapulpa (Oklahoma), more training in Austin, back to Sapulpa, and back to Texas before being assigned to Oklahoma City. My supervisor in OK City, Cheetah Gates, told me to ditch the cowboy boots when he saw them. I asked why. “The brothers don’t like cowboys,” he said. “If you want to live don’t wear the boots.” I took him at his word.

During the summer of 1976 Kitty Moore was playing one of the leads in a Texas Tech theater department play (Lubbock, Texas). She was about to begin her junior year in college. What I saw that summer was an eye opener. Lubbock was a mass of racial inequality and hatred, it struggled with what appeared to be a drug culture that grew by the day, and a theater department that was split by two different cliques. Some of my not so-good  experiences in Lubbock initiated the writing of my first screenplay, and surprisingly it landed me my first screenwriting agent. I based the female lead on what I viewed as the essence of who Kitty Moore was (she eventually read a draft of Laird Francis and liked it).

This was just the beginning. By the mid-1970s I was writing screenplays and a number of them dealt was race (this came about after a summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, a place I was lucky to put in my rearview mirror without being tarred and feathered as racism in the city and factionalism in the Texas Tech theater department was rampant that that time). Most of my screen plays were current day, or at least historically based in the 1970s. The two exceptions included 1) Wonderboat, an epic tragedy that dealt with U-boats during WWII, and 2) Corsair, which dealt with the Englishman John Ward who became a feared Tunis pirate during the early seventeenth century.* By the mid-1980s I was writing and selling baseball articles, but soon changed focus to the American Indian wars (writing for periodicals and speaking at symposiums).

* Drafts of my screenplays are housed in the Louis Kraft Collection at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, New Mexico). For more information about Wonderboat see Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view.

In 1999 I wrote for a space industry firm that had one customer: Hughes. My major deliveries usually consisted of about 1,000 pages of documentation (and you would choke if I told you what Hughes paid for it). My editor worked in the company’s headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, as did my manager. Most of the documentation department was in Herndon except for one writer in Colorado, one in Northern California, and yours truly in the South Bay of Los Angeles County. That summer all of us attended week-long demonstrations at headquarters that dealt with using code-based software to create documentation that could be delivered to multiple types of output while discussing the difficulty of such a massive change while still making our deliveries on deadline.*

* This didn’t happen during my time in the space industry, but I later experienced moving from WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) book design to code-based production tools that could deliver documentation in various formats at the now defunct Sun Microsystems and later at Oracle.

The editor and I had a great long-distance working relationship, and during the evenings she became my tour guide, dinner companion, and drove me to Leesburg where I spent time with Wild West editor Greg Lalire at Primedia’s headquarters (they then published a great grouping of about 12 history magazines).

While there I verbally pitched and sold an article on Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyennes to the then editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History (it was published as “Between the Army and the Cheyennes” in the Winter 2002 issue).

Being so close to Washington D.C. I had negotiated not flying home until Sunday. That Saturday my space-industry editor took me to the National Archives and we worked together. I liked her, but she had a dual-personality that I didn’t know about until I returned to Los Angeles. She had told me about the “good ol’ boys” at headquarters, but after I flew home I became one of them. I think that this was all in her head, but that doesn’t matter. She began calling my home phone but her voice had turned demonic and threatening. Eventually I received and unmarked package. Inside was an oversized mailing envelope with one word in bold red ink: “SHAME” (there was hair inside the envelope). Creepy. I kept it for DNA evidence.

My father Louis Sr. (left), brother Lee, and me. I’m on a 1970 Triumph Trophy 500. The bike survived both accidents described below, although the collision with the girl that outweighed me turned me into a gimp for a couple of months and the Triumph required a lot of work to fix. For the record I was wearing a helmet during both crashes. (photo © Louis Kraft, 1972)

While racing around turns on a narrow mountain dirt trail, the motorcycle in front of me suddenly stopped when the path ended. To avoid ramming the motorcyclist I attempted to slide around him as I braked. I almost pulled it off, but instead took my Triumph over a cliff. On another occasion an oversized girl who was running hit me broadside as I exited a driveway at low speed. My hand jerked the accelerator, the Triumph shot into the street, jumped a curb, and left me knocked out and hanging from a chainlink fence. Car wise, the worse was hitting the center divider of the CA 134 freeway headfirst at high speed, the car spun and took out the left side on the center divider, spun in the opposite direction and destroyed the rear end, and this is where the car stopped. Shockingly I walked away from the crash (what helped was that it was two days before Christmas 2010 and traffic was light).

Being vague has become a way of life to protect numero uno—yours truly

I’ve been coy, or rather vague, elsewhere on social media. That’s just me, but the horror of an end stares me in the face, and for multiple reasons. … I have three ladies to protect, three lives to see long into their futures. You know one of the ladies but the other two will remain unknown. I also have multiple books to complete. This is a massive task but I have every intention of completing it. Unfortunately there are pointers that hint that the future may not be as I envision it.

LK and Pailin on 2sept2016. It was just minutes before I would be prepped for throat surgery. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Actually I’m staring at something that I cannot possibly complete today as the story is ongoing and without end (unless …?). This leads me to a place that I have ignored, been vague, or worse I have refused to discuss. I’m going to try and do that in this blog, and hopefully with a minimal number of words while still talking about Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and Errol & Olivia status.

In September 2016 I had my second operation that year (both were in my ear, nose, and throat specialist’s surgery center in Northridge, California). It was the twentieth surgery to date and was a throat operation (in April I had my second sinus surgery there). As advertised it would improve my breathing. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprising as I had been warned that the recovery would not be fun, it easily took two weeks of pure hell as the drugs to mellow the pain flat out didn’t work.

LK joking while waiting to be prepped for throat surgery on 2sept2016. I was relaxed and enjoying myself. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Two previous operations had eliminated cancer, and if they had not happened I would have long ago begun dancing with angels. One removed a portion of my spine, and if this didn’t happen I would have stopped walking fourteen years ago. … I have other problems now, for earlier this year breathing again reared its ugly head, but this time he brought his pals with him. Walking had been making great strides between late September 2016 and the beginning of June 2017 as I averaged fourteen miles per week. … The phrase, “all things must pass,” has been around forever, but for me this couldn’t happen soon enough as it began to get scary in mid-spring 2017. By this time isolated incidents slowly began to become ongoing events to the point of concern. Worse, I hadn’t been able to figure out why this was happening and neither could my specialists.

I know … still vague! Sorry, but I have to ease into this.

I’m a fighter. I have three aforementioned ladies to protect,
I have books to write, and I have every intention of willing myself to do this.

A quest for truth

Many books contain errors that have been perpetrated for decades or longer. Sometimes this is because the “so-called” fact has been printed so often that it is accepted as truth. Other times it is because of laziness, or worse because it propels a writer’s story forward even though he or she knows that the fact is fictitious. This leads directly to writers who ignore proven facts simply because it blows holes in their set-in-stone premise. And it gets worse than this, for sometimes writers create facts and quotations and cite obscure material figuring that most readers don’t have the source, and the handful that might have the documentation won’t bother to check the citation. … The above is a mouthful, but not my point. Like medicine, history is not an exact methodology and the reason has always been in place. Simply stated, if five people participate in a specific event there is a good chance that their views on what happened differ. Sometimes slightly but at times considerably. Occasionally a known fact can confirm truth in a documented event while at other times deciding upon what really happened is not an easy task.

A couple examples follow:

  • Edmund Guerrier and Julia Bent were two mixed-blood Cheyennes who were young at the time of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory on 29nov1864. They were both in the village on that tragic day, but luckily both escaped death and sexual dismemberment. Some books have them married on that tragic day, but without any proof. Actually they weren’t married, and wouldn’t be for many years in the future (and I can prove this).
  • LK speaking about Errol Flynn, Olivia Havilland, and The Santa Fe Trail (1940) at the Festival of the West, Scottsdale, Arizona, on 19mar2005. (photo by Johnny D. Boggs)

    Olivia de Havilland is a good case in point. Fortunate enough to spend time with her I know firsthand that she is a warm, kind, and caring person. She is also charming and very intelligent, and can easily shift from topic to topic without hesitation, such as moving from being cast in Gone with the Wind to Jack Warner to modern-day USA politics. To be precise she specifically told me how well she knew Warner (great stuff here, but not in agreement with what has been published). In regards to Gone with the Wind, she had a “take no prisoners” stance. On the visit wherein we talked about her landing the role of Melanie I was well prepared for the conversation. By that I had notes with me relating to her landing the role including the points-of-view of fired director George Cukor and producer David O. Selznick, along with additional storylines. She listened intently to what I shared, and then proceeded to inform me what really happened. Like most primary sources—and I don’t care if it is 1860s Colorado Territory or 1930s Hollywood—everything must be considered in an attempt to piece together what happened. At times I have placed conflicting, but just as valid, points of view of an event in my notes. I’ll give you one guess of what is going to happen here.

An Active Person am I

Always! I learned how to duel with a foil with the great Ralph Faulkner, who won the World Amateur Sabre Championship in 1928, and represented the USA at the Olympics that year and in 1932. He had come to Hollywood to become an actor in the early 1920s (even playing Woodrow Wilson in a silent film) but soon began his great career as a stunt double and as a choreographer of duels for decades, as well as having has own Falcon Studios on Hollywood Boulevard where he taught fencing for over fifty years.

My partner parries an LK slashing sabre lunge to her midriff at North Hollywood Park in December 1981. Although mostly cropped, our coach and the cameraman dominate the foreground of this image as they taped the workout. (photo © Louis Kraft 1981)

I grew up with a pool, swam in the Pacific, and up until early 2013 swam (the last years in 24-Hour Fitness pools, which are great!). A lot of sandlot football, and this resulted in my first real injury in the late 1960s. Ditto sandlot baseball (my parents refused me playing on a Little League team), but between 1980 and 1990 I played ten years of year-round softball (for the Kool-Aid Kids), but this ended in early 1990 with a knee operation and my brother’s sudden death (the most shocking event of my life then and it still is today). At that time I had also been running since the late 1970s, usually doing three and a half miles or seven miles per day. Let me tell you that running and swimming (and I was doing thirty-plus laps at 24-Hour Fitness without a break when I ran out of time) keep you in shape. Think the 24-Hour Fitness pools are Olympic sized (they were certainly the same size as the pool that I used in college). Oh, I also learned swashbuckling, or stage dueling, in the early 1980s ( and fought and choreographed duels for the stage), and I still work out with a blade when all is well.

A change of pace

In fall 2015 I redid the front yard during my spare time (I had previously removed the grass and already had a lot of drought-resistant vegetation growing in the yard). I leveled the ground, put in walkways of rock and stones and wood chips, and created a maze of cactus, aloe vera, and other plants that provide beauty (at least to my eyes). Every time I stand or sit in the front yard I feel as if I am in New Mexico or Arizona or the original SoCal. This was easy work and I never broke a sweat.

Drag the image to your desktop if the font is too small for your computer or iPad.

Still, a lot of the work was on my knees, and this is where I discovered a problem for in this position I began to huff and puff. I completed the work about the second week of December but the breathing problem bothered me. I began searching for answers, and the only one I came up with of pointed to my heart.

My heart has always skipped a beat and my cardiologist and I have tracked it for decades without any problems. Early in January 2016 I visited him (he’s also my internist), and he ran all the usual tests and everything came up negative.

How? Why? Something was going on. … Finally he had me blow into a breathalyzer. I failed—twice. He prescribed an inhaler and pills to control blood pressure, which he felt would climb (my blood pressure had always been good, but soon it would become a challenge).

Final LK art of my internist/cardiologist of over twenty years, and writing partner on The Discovery. (art © Louis Kraft 2017). If I ever complete The Discovery page on my website I intend to use this image on it.

Late on January 16 while using the inhaler for the night dose I fell backwards into the bathtub and cracked the top of my skull open. Blood flowed onto the wall and into the tub. My legs were hooked over the side of the tub, my ass was in the tub, and my back and head propped against the back of the tub and the wall. The blood was slippery and it continued to flow. I couldn’t get a firm grip with my hands and had become a turtle stuck on his back. Pailin, who had had just gone to bed, heard the crash, and rushed to help me get out of the tub. Afterwards she cleaned me up and I cleaned the bathroom. She asked if should go to the ER. … I shook my head. My brain functioned and I had performed a few simplistic concussion tests. I felt I okay, but told her I’d go to the internist/cardiologist in the AM. Before going to bed I called my PPO’s nurse line, and she recommended a night in the ER. … Pailin had a long day in front of her and I didn’t think the injury was that bad.

The following morning in my doctor’s office the nurse cleaned the wound as well as possible. She told me that I’d need staples. After checking me over the doctor asked if I was dizzy, felt faint, or had passed out before I fell. I told him no, that I was wide awake when I hit. He confirmed the nurse’s view, I walked across the driveway that separated the medical building from Providence Tarzana Medical Center, and checked into the ER. … The wound required six staples.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

Folks, this manuscript dominates my days. As said above a delivery is due to my editor in December 2016 or January 2017. Alas, the word count grows and grows and grows. This is similar to the situation I had with the Wynkoop book contract. I luckily had then Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin behind me then, and he was again responsible for the Sand Creek contract. Actually Chuck pitched the story to me. I refused, but he refused to accept “no” for an answer. It took us two years to work out a proposal that was acceptable to both of us. … It is still acceptable to me, but this story has been pure hell to write. The research is ongoing, and as I’ve said elsewhere I put in about eight hours of research to about two hours of writing. And this is probably an understatement on the research side.

Pailin studying David Mann’s painting, “First of Five Thousand,” at the then Autry National Center on 7mar2015. Unfortunately the Plains Indians are not identified, something that I would have liked. The painting’s story is about a raid that is returning home to Canada with horses stolen in Mexico. Two thoughts: 1) That was one hell of a raid, and 2) That was a long trek to complete and return to their village safely with 5,000 horses. Considering that unknown Indians have successfully driven 5,000 horses from Mexico to Canada sounds like a movie plot and not reality, I like this painting. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

For the record, the Cheyenne storyline is now jumping forward in leaps and bounds. John Chivington and John Evans move forward at a good clip. As do Black Kettle and Arapaho Little Raven. These two chiefs are coming to life through their actions and words. But these four aren’t the only ones: Ned Wynkoop, Rocky Mountain News owner and editor William Byers, and John Smith are also beginning to shine. Alas, William Bent is a little behind schedule, but this should end soon. Although Chuck Rankin was pleased with the Sand Creek fight that was in the 37-page book proposal years back, it too has changed considerably as I know more now. Better, a lot of people are coming to life in what is currently chapter 13 as the fight turns into a scramble of single events that merge together to create the whole.

Pailin took this image of LK and Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association Conference in Newport Beach, California, on 17oct2014. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2015)

Earlier this year the manuscript lost a chapter when I decided merge chapters 1 and 2 together. The reason was simple: The manuscript is people driven regardless if they are major players, supporting players, or simply players who appear and then are never seen again. Too much time was being spent before I introduced a Cheyenne who emerged from the mists of time. Unfortunately his life ended tragically. And of course I’m struggling to confirm his presence at an early meeting with William Bent or reject it.

As in the past I take my time and challenge what I write and what I consider required for the manuscript. And time is ticking, … tick, tick, tick. It is time to walk the walk, that is it is time to put up or shut up. …

Right after I learned of Sam Shepard’s death I again watched his and Barbara Hershey’s film, Defenseless (1991). It has been on my top 60 film list, off it, back on it, and off it ad nauseam. When you have a chance, do yourself a favor and see this film. Nice performances by Hershey and Shepard.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I learn by studying film that I respect. For one thing, and this is important to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, as decent film constantly provides ideas on how to smoothly move from one event to the next.

Left: The DVD cover for Thunderheart (1992), another film I watch often.

Val Kilmer, Graham Greene, Shelia Tousey, Ted Thin Elk, John Trudell, Fred Ward, and Shepard are the key players in this thriller that deals with a murder on a Sioux reservation around the time of the 1973 takeover of the town of Wounded Knee (27feb1973-8may1973) and the standoff with the U.S. government. For the record, and in stark contrast to Defenseless, this film has constantly been in my top five. On Thursday, 17aug2017, I asked Pailin if she’d like to join me in the Kraft Theatre and watch Thunderheart with me. She accepted and was glued to the screen.

Better, the Cheyennes and Arapahos are moving forward. We’re talking about raids and treaties and death and peace. We’re talking about a people who were led by chiefs that stood firmly for peace to save their people from murder as well as chiefs that stood firm for freedom at any cost.

Back to the healthy world of Kraft

This heading sounds facetious, or at best a big fat lie, … but this isn’t so. I have taken good care of myself over the years, and even more so after the cancer and spinal surgeries. As stated the first cancer surgery was to keep me among the living and the spine surgery (some four and a half months later) to hopefully keep me walking. … After I fainted the morning after this cancer surgery when three nurses attempted to help me to a chair by the window all hell broke out. A neurologist at the hospital (not one of mine) thoroughly examined me and afterwards proclaimed that I would not walk in the near future … to which I told him to F-himself and get out. Additional testing continued deep into the night, and without checking I remained in the hospital nine days.

Dejah Thoris (named after the princess of Mars in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter/Martian novels). Fully grown in this 1978 photo, she was the kindest and sweetest animal I have ever known. (photo © Louis Kraft 1978)

Not all was well when I returned home from the cancer surgery on a Saturday for on the next evening the catheter fell out of position and required a trip to the Encino Hospital Medical Center. The ER doctor told me he didn’t know how to put the catheter back in place. I told him to look it up in a medical book, which didn’t please him. Too bad! I then insisted he call my surgeon (who is also my urologist, who I’ve seen every three months since fall 2002) and he replaced it in less than a minute. The catheter was finally removed twenty-one days after the surgery. No fun.

There would be additional surgeries over the coming years, including an implant of animal tissue. I never asked, but have since hoped that it was Doberman tissue and not rat tissue.*

* See above photo for reason.

The next biggie …

My sister, Linda-Kraft-Morgon, lived in Lake Arrowhead with her husband Greg. They were supposed to come to my house for Christmas 2005 but I was under the weather and Linda’s immune system could not be put at risk. The second week of January Linda called and told me that she would soon die of the cancer that she had been fighting for several years. On the fifteenth I drove to Lake Arrowhead and we celebrated Christmas. On that day she told me that she had six more weeks to live.

Sunday, January 15, 2006, was a day that I’ll never forget. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

Sudeshna Ghosh, my documentation manager at Sun Microsystems, did one of the kindest things anyone has ever done—something I’ll never forget—for she allowed me to take a few hours off to drive to Lake Arrowhead two-three times a week during weekdays to see Linda, which gave me three to four days each during the remaining weeks with my sister. Sudesha’s compassion gave me a lot of memories captured in a handful of stolen hours, and they will be forever cherished.

During drives up the mountain to see Linda a sharp pain in my head became so intense that on numerous occasions I had to pull to the side of the road until it subsided. I didn’t think much about it as I figured that it was stress. … It wasn’t, for after Linda died on March 1 it continued in Los Angeles. That April I had my first sinus surgery, and I was lucky I did for if not I would have been heading for big trouble. Greg was right there for me, as was a former girlfriend and her son.

The years continued

I swam laps at 24-Hour Fitness, worked out with sabres, wrote for companies (Yahoo! and Oracle), did my research in the field as well as in archives, spoke about the Cheyenne and Apache Indian wars as well as Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, saw articles published, finished a book (Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek), and signed a new contract (Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway).

March, Pailin’s good friend Daranee’s son, took this image just before we went through security at the Thailand International Airport on 1dec2014. We had spent the previous evening with Pailin’s great friends (Noi and Wichen) in Bangkok. Two of her brothers Pum and Mana, and Mana’s wife Pen, who had taken care of me during the wee hours before dawn when I arrived in Thailand weeks before and made sure I made my next flight, also joined us (along with other friends). Mana, Pen, and Pum took us to the airport the next morning.

Life was good. …

And on June 15, 2013, it got better. On that day I hosted a dinner party for five at Tujunga House. I invited a good friend and Errol Flynn expert and his beautiful wife (Robert and Annette Florczak) and another twosome. The other couple brought a lady for me. She was petite, pretty, quiet, and yet totally aware of her surroundings. Oh yeah, she was born in Thailand. Before that afternoon and evening ended I knew that I wanted her in my life. Yes, “That Lucky Old Sun” (my favorite rendition was Frankie Laine’s, released for the first time in 1949) is about long days and struggle while the sun shines. I find this very positive. Soon Pailin Subanna entered my life permanently—making me the luckiest guy in the world. And this feeling has easily quadrupled over the years.

Errol & Olivia is reality

I know that by now many of you think that my book on Flynn and de Havilland is little more than a pipe dream. Not so. I’ve been researching Errol & Olivia since 1996. The research is ongoing although the writing is light (but that is only because of what has been going on in my life and the major task of completing Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway).

In spring 2013 I spoke about Ned Wynkoop at the Order of Indian Wars symposium in Centennial, Colorado. I think that the trip was eleven days, and most of them I spent with Layton and Vicki Hooper in their then Fort Collins home (it was my pleasure, although most of the time we were snowed in). Before the symposium I enjoyed a great morning, lunch, and afternoon with Mike and Dee Koury. Before leaving I pitched Mike on a Gatewood/Geronimo talk in Tucson for the OIW’s 34th Annual Assembly, and he kindly said yes. This image was taken in Tucson on 26sept2013. This was Pailin’s first Indian wars event (and to date her last).

For the record my last article, “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” was published in the October 2015 issue of Wild West. At that time I informed editor Greg Lalire that there would be no more articles until the Sand Creek manuscript was in production. In September 2013 I delivered my last talk, “Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo,” before the 34th Annual Assembly of the Order of the Indian Wars in Tucson, Arizona. Again, this is related to the writing that I must complete (Sand Creek and E&O).

You’ve waited this long, a little while longer will only build your anticipation and that might be good. I can’t begin to tell you what I have found about Flynn and Livvie (Flynn’s pet name for Olivia) over the decades but it is massive. When Errol & Olivia is finally published it will be an eye-opener for numerous reasons (and this is not braggadocio). There is a lot of new information to present, there are egregious errors that need to be corrected, and the presentation will not be like any book you have read about either of them before.

This is a publicity shot for They Died with Their Boots On (1941). It won’t make into Errol & Olivia.

Hint: If you have read one or more of my biographies you have an idea of what is coming. Continuing this thought, if you have read any of my nonfiction books you know that I don’t just tell one side of a story. While saying this, I must add that I don’t take on long-term projects (Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches as well as Wynkoop, Cheyennes, and Sand Creek) without being 100 percent behind my topics. By that I mean that I do not explore major players in my writing without a deep commitment to write the best book possible. Also, I never write a book or article with the intention of trashing someone. As far as I’m concerned just about everyone (and there are exceptions, such as Charles Manson or Ted Bundy—both of whom were mass murderers) believes that they were right when the did something. Sometimes events overwhelm them and they act rashly, but this isn’t often.

A staff artist for American Classic Screen, John Tibbetts, created the art of Flynn and de Havilland in Captain Blood in 1978, and it graced the cover of the Jan/Feb 1979 issue of the journal (right). Tibbetts’ art grabbed my attention decades ago. However, as the journal is long gone it might be difficult to track down who currently owns the rights to the painting or more important obtain a good digital copy of the original art.

If you’ve missed it, Errol & Olivia deals with their arrival in Hollywood, landing the leading roles in Captain Blood (1935), their life and times during their eight films together (1935-1941), and an epilogue. Like my Indian wars research I question a lot of what is generally considered fact for way-too-often information that has been sold as truth for decades is taken as truth, when in fact it isn’t. Ten, twenty, even a hundred printings of a supposed fact doesn’t guarantee anything if the source is unknown. Heck, it could have originated in a Daffy Duck cartoon. … I’ve seen numerous photos and a handful of paintings that feature Flynn and de Havilland together that would work for the cover of the book. Currently I’m leaning toward images dating to the 1940s.

For the record two other books are planned on Flynn. I already have the art that I want for the cover of one of these books.

A year of uncertainty—2017

The year began as any other, and for the most part I felt good. Walking the fourteen or so miles each week had done wonders for me. I even had different routes (half mile, mile, mile and a half, two miles, two and half miles, and three miles), and with this range I could take care of a lot of errands from grocery shopping to needed items at the drug store to dealing with the post office and the public library.

And this includes Sand Creek progress

Research and writing of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has made decent progress. Actually it finally started to have a life of its own as certain historical personages began driving the manuscript. I let them take control and followed leads until they revealed events and more important certain players’ roles in these events in ways I never imagined. But sometimes the leads led to dead ends, but this is always good as it lets me know what I thought happened never did. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable this is to know.

But for me there’s always that bleepin’ BUT

I stopped walking two or three days before July 5, 2017, as my left heel hurt. Worse, during the last handful or so of walks I often began to breathe heavily. At times I felt dizzy. Each time I halted until my breathing returned to normal. Also, if there was still a hint of dizziness or lightheadedness I remained stationary until it also passed.

As July 4th fell on a Tuesday our trash pickup was the following day. The first trashcan was picked up about 6:30 but I didn’t retrieve it immediately for on this day I felt dizzy and was wobbly on my feet after taking my one medication and using the prescribed inhaler. This had happened before (but sometimes it was later in the day). At these times I sat down until the feeling passed (sometimes at the computer). By seven that morning I felt great, and went outside to put the trashcan away. When the trashcan was in place I let go of it and looked west toward the garage. Without warning I fell over backwards, crashed onto the driveway, and cracked the back of my skull open.

I took the photo that I based this art on nine hours after the fall. I was only a handful of inches from a huge prickly pear cactus that a friend gave me in 1992. I shudder when I think about landing on that cactus. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

I had difficulty rolling onto my stomach. Luckily Pailin had taken the day off as it was her birthday. Hoping  that she was still relaxing in the dining room I called for her. She heard me, rushed to help me roll onto my stomach, stand up, and into the house. A bloody trail followed us all the way to the bathroom, where she cleaned the wound. Without her I’m certain that it would have been a struggle for me to get off the asphalt. Nervous, she called our close friends, and the three of them took me to the Providence Tarzana Medical Center emergency room.

This is how I felt when admitted to the ER. This photo of me was taken on 14dec1979 while in makeup at Universal Studios. (photo © Louis Kraft 1979)

Surprisingly, and certainly after a holiday where firecrackers and other nasty things light up the sky deep into the night, there was no waiting line. The wound continued to seep and I quickly stained the sheet behind my head. After I was cleaned up more, the ER doctor examined the damage while she asked all the usual questions: Did I feel faint, dizzy, or light-headed before the fall. I didn’t feel anything before the fall, absolutely nothing. This was just the beginning as hours would pass while tests were performed and studied. The doctor finally returned and informed me that the test results (including a CAT Scan) were good. She left and my scalp was cleaned yet again. The doctor reappeared and inserted three staples into my head. I was released, but before leaving I asked the attending nurse to clean my scalp and wrap my head. “Why?” I held up my right hand; my fingers were red with fresh blood. “So I don’t ruin the car seat.” She did as requested.

It was pushing three in the afternoon when I was released from the ER. No one had yet eaten, and everyone asked if I was up to a food break on the way home—something quick? “As long as it isn’t McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., or something similar, I’m okay.” We settled on Sharky’s Woodfire Mexican Grill. Until seeing this image by a good friend I didn’t realize how red I was at that time. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2017)

The head healed slowly, but the dizziness increased and the blood continued to seep. Over the next week or so I saw my internist/cardiologist and my pulmonary specialist and presented them with detailed notes and told them the highlights. My pulmonologist told me that my one medication could cause dizziness (I already knew this per the prescription’s documentation but was happy to have a verbal confirmation) but my internist/cardiologist would have to change the prescription. The inhaler was his and he told me that it didn’t cause dizziness. “What about the potency of it?” When I had tested several inhalers in May they had a higher dosage. Since I already had another appointment with him early in September he suggested we discuss it in more detail then. I agreed. … My internist/cardiologist didn’t think that the medication caused my dizziness.

I still didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that I wouldn’t be doing any walking in the near future, and that my six-plus hours of yard work would be less. … On the plus side I had more time to research and write.

The Sand Creek tragedy is in my blood

Oh yeah, you can bet it is! Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and now forever. I’ve known Ned Wynkoop intimately for decades. This meant that I knew something about Black Kettle, Little Raven, John Evans, John Smith, George Bent, John Chivington, Bull Bear, Left Hand, Silas Soule, and on and on, but not as much as I would have liked as I had previously focused on their connections to Wynkoop. This is no longer the case, for now I need to know them as much as I possible. Some of this has been easier said than accomplished.

In this “hunting party” image Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers is standing at the right (as printed in “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” Wild West, April 2011). From the moment I saw the photo during a research trip I have liked it. Alas, Byers is the only person in the photo that has been identified to my knowledge. I had suggested the image to Editor Greg Lalire, but then had second thoughts about using it as at the time I was considering it for the Sand Creek book. When more room was required at the beginning of the article for a portrait that I had done of Ned Wynkoop that was smaller than I felt it should be and suggested to Greg that he cut the “hunting party,” he emphatically said,”No.” “Why not?” “Because I like it.” I could understand his view as I still like it. However, I have decided that it isn’t for Sand Creek as it dates to the mid-1870s (which is interesting as Byers looks younger here than in the 1860s).

At one time the word “survival” was in the title of this blog. It no longer is as it appeared to relate just to me. Nothing could have been further from my intension. For most of the leading players, including everyone listed above, and a good number of the supporting players in the Sand Creek story, dealt with survival often. For the Cheyennes and the Arapahos it was a part of their daily life, be it food, the weather or tribal enemies, such as the Pawnees. When the white man—the vi’ho’ i—came they were presented with an even greater danger to their survival. It was no easier for the Anglo Americans who were lured to their world by the dream of golden riches, or those who followed and discovered a magnificent land. They too, were at risk, but not only from the people whose territory they craved, but each other while experiencing the same daily problems as the people they wanted to eliminate (food, weather, and so on). Doubt not that those who survived in the land that became Colorado Territory were strong, focused, and had no intention of ignoring what they saw as their future.

Byron Strom, custodian of the Anne E. Hemphill Collection, graciously allowed me to use this image of Captain Silas Soule on 1apr1865 (his wedding day) in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. Actually he had given me permission to use two images, but the other I failed to restore in a timely manner. My skills have improved over the years and with Byron’s permission I plan on taking another attempt at an image that is terrific although terribly deteriorated.

The Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway contract states that the book will contain 37 images. Three will be maps and I’ll deal with them when the manuscript is in production. I’ve been looking for images for the book for years now. I prefer to use images that date to the time period of the manuscript. Hopefully there are photographs that will support the text, but in some cases I have used them in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. I really don’t want to duplicate many of these images but know that some will be reprinted as they are key to the storyline unless I can locate similar images. At this time there are four photos that I’ll probably reprint, including the great portrait of John Chivington.

I’ve often used art (woodcuts, paintings, or line drawings). Also I have no problem with creating collages, as they count as one image. … I’ve been looking at the work of Cheyenne artists, and some of their work is descriptive and tells a story. If I decide to approach any of them, they will have to understand that I’m just a writer who would like to use their art and that I will provide them with a first edition of the book.

The cover for the October 2015 issue of Wild West. Really nice work by the art director.

There’s a story here (there’s always a story). I did two books on Lt. Charles Gatewood (Sixth U.S. Cavalry), Geronimo, and the Chiricahua Apaches’ struggle to remain free in the 1880s over a ten-year period. During a longer spread of time Wild West printed two stories of mine dealing with this subject. One of Gatewood finding Geronimo in Sonora, Mexico, and talking him, Naiche, the last hereditary Chiricahua chief, and the remnants of their people into returning to the United States and surrendering (“Assignment Geronimo,” October 1999) and Geronimo’s struggle to remain free (“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” October 2015). Both magazines featured the great painting by Howard Terpning (“Legend of Geronimo”) on the cover.

Guy Manning’s Geronimo painting (El Prado Galleries, Sedona, Arizona).

For both articles I recommended Guy Manning’s terrific oil painting of an alert and squatting Geronimo as he watches for trouble in a night scene with blue dominating the painting. Both times either Editor Greg Lalire or the art director went with my suggestion. … The point of this story is that I contacted El Prado Galleries in Sedona, Arizona, and inquired about using Manning’s Geronimo art in Lt. Charles Gatewood & HIs Apache Wars Memoir. “Sure,” the person I spoke with said. “The cost is $2,000.00.” “No thank you,” I replied as I chuckled. … The above image is from the 1999 Wild West article. Unfortunately the text bled through from the following page. The presentation in the 2015 issue of Wild West was terrific but it took up the first two pages of the article (and I didn’t feel like taking the magazine apart to scan the image).

Images already in place for Sand Creek

I have several images long in public domain that I own and they will be in the book when published. I also intend to use two images of white captives, and one of a Cheyenne girl captured at Sand Creek. I’ve also seen an earlier portrait of John Chivington that I might use. … In regards to large art there is a painting of the Battle of the Washita (27nov1868), that although stiff in presentation, features Black Kettle and Medicine Woman Later attempting to escape death.* I plan on looking into the rights to use it but only if it can be printed as a detail as the entire painting is way-too large to be of any use in the Sand Creek book.

The Battle of the Washita is in the scope of the Sand Creek as the manuscript concludes at the end of the 1860s.

There will also be a new portrait of Black Kettle. A good friend of mine is Jeroen Vogschmidt, an artist and historian who lives in the Netherlands. He specializes in American Indians. He does a lot of portraits of especially the Plains tribes, and he has written books that also deal with them. Unfortunately they are in Dutch, although he told me that he is trying to get one of his books translated into English. Earlier this year he asked some of his friends which Indian portrait they would like to see him paint next. Motor-mouth Kraft jumped at this: “Black Kettle!” Jeroen liked the idea and completed the portrait. I liked his art, especially BK’s eyes which are focused on someone who is slightly to his left. Not shy I pitched him on allowing me to use the image in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Jeroen immediately agreed. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of Jeroen, and I need to rectify this.

Chief Yellowman (left) and Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Harvey Pratt near the battlefield overlook during the first day of the Washita Battlefield NHS 2011 Symposium on November 11. On this day Gordon blessed the sacred ground and Harvey spoke about what it was like to be a Cheyenne warrior in the 1860s and to fight on foreign battlefields in modern times. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

Those of you that have read my Sand Creek blogs know that I like a painting that Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman painted years back (a framed print is displayed in one of the rooms in Tujunga House). When we near production I plan on sharing it along with other paintings for the book cover (to date I only have Chief Yellowman’s art on the list) with Chuck Rankin and current OU Press Editor-in-Chief Adam Kane to hear their thoughts on the painting.

A perfect storm

I saw my neurologist near the end of July 2017. As the CAT Scan had been negative at the Providence Tarzana Medical Center on 5jul2017 and a Brain MRI and X-rays of my lungs had been negative in May, he remained concerned and ordered a Brain EEG. After the EEG test on August 8 (in the medical building across the drive from the medical center) the technician told me that my brain looked fine. He then called me to his monitoring device and showed me that my heart rate was low. It ranged between mostly 35 and 36, and at times it dropped as low 30 while never reaching 40.

Knowing that my neurologist wouldn’t see the results for two or three days I took the elevator up to my internist/cardiologist’s office and told him the Brain EEG results. His nurse did an EKG (the heart rate was 39), and then attached a device on me that would record my heart rate for the next 24 hours. The next day when I returned it I was told to call the following morning for the results.

About 11:30 AM on August 10 I called for the test results, but there were none yet. I called back at 11:55 AM. “You have severe heart blockage, and need to get to the ER immediately,” my internist/cardiologist said. “Do not drive.” He also told me the name of my surgeon. My surgeon?

For the record, this was the first time I was aware that I might have a heart problem.

After the surgery, and until just before I was released, my vitals were watched closely. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

The next four images
precede the flow of text but
do not ruin the telling of what
has recently impacted my life.

As Pailin was en route to West LA, I called our close lady friends. They didn’t answer but returned my phone call within minutes. They arrived at Tujunga House at one and drove me to Providence Tarzana Medical Center ER. … In the ER my heart rate remained low while my blood pressure shot off the charts (for me) and well above 200 and sometimes reaching into the 240s plus. After about two hours of the ER doctor studying my medical records and speaking to at least one of my specialists I was admitted to the hospital.

About 4:30 the doctor who would be my heart surgeon met me and showed me the printout of the 24-hour heart study. … My heart rate was skipping three and four heart beats at a time, and these were not isolated instances. The hospital had been monitoring my heart rate and blood pressure since my admittance, and I’m certain that the gap between these two readings increased considerably.

Pailin took this image of me holding the device that captures and displays my heart rate in realtime early on the morning of 12aug2017. At that moment it was 74. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Through all of my surgeries I had been calm and collected except for two cancer surgeries, and they frightened me. The calmness has mainly been because I have always had full trust in my surgeons and surgical crews. I’m forever curious with everything that happens as events move quickly toward the anesthesia entering me. Knowing that when everything is over I’ll wake up, … or perhaps not. Surprisingly this is soothing to me.

If not, I’ll never know what happened. Trust me for I am aware of potential disaster as Dr. Robin Cook’s medical thrillers scare the hell of me (am currently reading Charlatans, which was just published). Still he is my favorite novelist. … We can now add a third surgery to my nervous list as I had entered the unknown world of the heart—my heart.

Pailin, who visited me at ten the previous night was back at seven on the morning of the eleventh. She had taken the day off. Her company was a godsend. As the day dragged by with uncertainty, my heart rate remained low, and the thought of my heart continuing to miss three and four beats at a time kept my blood pressure out of sight. … The unbearable sluggishness continued. I was supposed to be in surgery at four, but an hour passed without a peep out of anyone. I rang for the day nurse and asked for an update. She left but returned shortly and told me that the surgeries before mine proceeded slower than anticipated.

Breakfast with my lady on the morning of 12aug2017. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Long story short I was wheeled to surgery a little after six and my procedure began around six-thirty but moved slowly as my blood pressure remained high (I was not told what my heart rate was while under the knife). A bi-ventricular pacemaker was attached to my heart.

I had never seen what a pacemaker looked like until Pailin brought me home on August 12. Not a pretty sight but a thousand times better than a probable alternative. Pailin took this image of the pacemaker and scar above it as sunlight blasted through a bay window early on 27aug2017. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Like the previous night I barely slept as the night nurse kept on top of my vitals. Again, a device that read my heart was attached to me (the same one as the previous two days) and it was plugged in as soon as my bed/gurney was back in place. The intravenous line was again attached and I was again put on air. My blood pressure remained high until four-thirty on the morning of the twelfth, and from that point on it slowly returned to normal. The monitoring continued all day, but I was finally released at four-thirty. Like the day of surgery—and it was a terribly long day for Pailin—she was back with me at seven on Saturday morning. On this day, which she again didn’t work, she informed her various managers that she would be taking the next six days off.

Free at last, and with hopefully a new outlook on life. Although I didn’t realize I was in big trouble until August 10, I am absolutely thrilled that a perfect storm set me in motion to get the pacemaker before something terrifying happened. I’m one lucky fellow.

The future?

Mine is now.

I met with my heart surgeon on 18aug2017 and had a lengthy description of what had happened between August 10 and 12, and what I had experienced since. The bi-ventricular pacemaker is currently set to 60, meaning that ideally it will trigger my heart to function whenever the heart rate drops below 60. However, I have atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat. As I had shared that I had some chest pain and slight lightheadedness, he told me to use Aspirin to thin my blood and that I would probably be put on a blood thinner. The mild chest pain continues off and on, at times my heart races*, and my breathing is heavy, but the lightheadedness is gone. The next two weeks will be key.

* My heart surgeon is mainly concerned about my lower heart chambers not having a regular rhythm and beating faster than they should, which could cause clot-related blood flow problems. Honestly, so am I.

LK on the morning of 27aug2017. I’m getting a little stir crazy, and there’s weeks more of this, but I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

That same day my internist/cardiologist ordered a second 24-hour heart test for September 1, and on the fourteenth I’ll enroll in my heart surgeon’s heart monitoring clinic. Once set up, the clinic will be able to monitor my heart when I’m home.

My neurologist, who I have a sparkling relationship with (medically, life interests, and personally), has kept up with what is going on with me via the phone (he has the surgeon and hospital records). I also see him in early September.


Will I live to see our future, our country’s future? My friends, the answer is yes!
On May 31 I told my pulmonary specialist that I planned to live to 130.
He chuckled and said that he did, too.

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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


 

gyellowman_c1996_sandcreek1vibrance_ws

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never wrote
that book.

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

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


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

Sand Creek is a story of people

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

A short detour

D_coverProof_6apr16_ws

(book cover art © Louis Kraft 2016)

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

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

Sand Creek hasn’t been easy

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

Word-smithing comes later—much later.

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

Dr. Gary Roberts and the beginning of a friendship

grobertsmassacresandcreek_ws

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

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

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

Buddying up to John Simpson Smith

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

But first a little of LK and my lady

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

ps&lk_skywalk_29sept13_2_ws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally to Mr. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A possible dust jacket

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

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

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

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

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

What do I currently have? Nada (Nothing).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally a dark side that we cannot ignore

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

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