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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve missed giving talks …

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

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

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

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

Back on focus

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

Talk about a disappearing act. …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The real SoCal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An LK reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reality of this time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A return to the Woolsey fire destruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire devastation beyond human tragedy

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

Lizards

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

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

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

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

P-64

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another piece of Hollywood lost to flames

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

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

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

The Wynkoop book and the Sand Creek manuscript

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

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

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

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

That was then … this is now

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

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

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

Hey Kraft, this mess is your creation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An example of lies in the real world

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

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

Two things that need to be said

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

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

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

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

LK writing and life in his world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other influences on my writing life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In closing Global Warming is here to stay

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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


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

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

Enter Tom Eubanks stage right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Final Showdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you talking about?”

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

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

“She is. Get on it!”

lk_jj91_cropSmartSharp_wsUSE

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

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

The lead players in The Final Showdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom’s Plays and the passage of time

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

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

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

A trip to Yuma & its importance

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

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

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Cover art © Louis Kraft 1999)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I pitched the idea to Tom and he liked it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California

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

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

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

Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheyenne Blood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Elite Theatre Company’s new home

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

Pailin meets Mr. Eubanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Midst of All that is Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adios Wild Bill … enter Errol Flynn stage left

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

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

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

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Errol Flynn circa 1940-1941. LK personal collection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

Writing, swords, Michael Parks, Errol Flynn, George Custer & gunfights with a pretty lady

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2019

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


Whoa baby, does time fly. Already we’re racing toward the end of June. By now I’m certain that some of you think that I am too harsh on writers, editors, art directors, and other people who play a part in my writing life. You may be right, but I must stand firm for my vision of my work. At times this means speaking up. And here all I’m talking about are my writing and art projects.

Unfortunately I live in a world that doesn’t take prisoners. … and I have friends—good friends—who also live in this world. Unfortunately there are people in our 2015 world that thrive by destroying writers and publications that don’t agree with their views while creating books and articles that aren’t even bad fiction.

Yes, I am harsh. The reason is simple: What I write I want to be as accurate and as good as possible. I’m slow, and this is one of the reasons why. Is this acceptable? I don’t know, but for me it is.

My life is busy. I have multiple projects, but as you have seen from the last blog I have eliminated time-consuming projects from my writing life.

A writing life

For what it’s worth my writing life has a schedule with deadlines. These deadlines all have long timeframes, and this is an absolute must for me for the reason stated above. Ladies and gents I have learned over many years the effort that is required for me to write hopefully a decent book. … That’s right, I’m only talking about myself here. I’m slow and my editors know this. They also know that I question everything. If I don’t agree with something that has been changed in my text I challenge it (and there’s always research first to confirm what I challenge).

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This Charles Gatewood painting is dated (art © Louis Kraft 2004). It has been printed four times, and it has earned needed dollars. Ladies and gents, we both know that I’m not a very good artist, But I keep trying. My best seller, believe it or not, is a portrait of Ned Wynkoop. It has been printed five times, and it has brought in a lot more money. I don’t give up for the simple reason that the efforts can earn additional money, and more important they can illustrate an event that is totally lost to the mists of time. For the record, I gave actress Olivia de Havilland an 8×10 print of this Gatewood painting and she liked it.

I do have a fuse, and at times it is a short one. I love my editors, every one of them except the clown assigned to Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000). His edit of the book put me into cardiac arrest. I wrote the manuscript and I do like simple language (short sentences when I get away with them, for the simple reason that they help making books page-turners. This edit of G&G angered me so much that I called the editor-in-chief, Durwood Ball, who had jumped upon the book query and stood behind the book every step of the way. Durwood listened to me, he would survive my demands, and we became good friends. For example, this copyeditor assigned to G&G took four or five of my paragraphs and merged them into one. Shorter sentences became long sentences. I wrote the manuscript, but now I couldn’t understand what I supposedly wrote. I had told Durwood that I was going to edit the copywriter’s edit. He accepted this, and I did. Some historians still believe that G&G is the best book that I have written. Maybe, but it’s not my choice. That said, I’m proud of the book for it placed Charles Gatewood on the map; that is it pulled him from the obscurity that General Nelson Miles damned him to for eternity. For the record (and I love the Cheyennes) if I could spend an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year with an American Indian that I have written about, … It is, and it will always be, Geronimo. He was a magnificent human being (and I don’t give a damn about other people’s opinion of him). I wish I could share the portrait I recently painted of him. I can’t, for the October 2015 Wild West magazine may print it. Honestly, my fingers are crossed that they do. Until I do, and if it is positive, the image is off-limits until the magazine is printed and distributed.


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This is the Pailin that I see every morning (and this morning happens to be 17jun2015). Happy, sexy, and ready for anything that I might toss at her. I’m convinced that she thinks that I’m crazy. That’s okay, for crazy is good if it doesn’t hurt anyone. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll give in and learn to swing a blade. Maybe. Hope never flickers out. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write for companies any longer, my life comprises a lot more than just research and writing—It also includes four-to-five hours of yard work per week; doing housework (I’m home; why not?); most of the grocery shopping; completing the process of turning the front yard into a desert (Ongoing for a long time); creating the new driveway to where Pailin now parks her car (Good progress); and finally working on my health (A multi-leveled process that I created over the years, along with recommendations from my physicians; currently this takes close to four hours average per day—I’ll discuss it in the Thailand blog).

For the record, I’m not complaining for Pailin does more than her share of chores. More important, she had negotiated two days off, Wednesday and Thursday (a few weeks back she worked 21 hours on her two days off, and yes I was cursing). Wednesday and Thursday turned into Tuesday and Wednesday. Last week she worked on Wednesday and as of now she only has Tuesday off. This Tuesday (June 23) she goes into work at noon! I use off-color words, and we both know it. I’m biting my tongue, but not hard for there’s no blood squirting. The only plus is that she has made it clear that she really doesn’t want to go into work until the afternoon, and this seems to be working. At least so far. This cuts into my writing time, but it also gives me additional time with my lady.

Yeah, my days are long. They are also very fulfilling and I enjoy each and every minute.

“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” nears publication

Wild West editor Greg Lalire and I have a draft of the article that we are both good with, and fingers are crossed that there is enough space for the words.

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My daughter Marissa Kraft at the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in Arizona on 25jul1996. At the time I was writing Gatewood & Geronimo and she joined me on a 16-day research trip in Arizona and New Mexico. Great times. (photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 1996)

In late May I completed three edits of the map that Wild West contract cartographer Joan Pennington created from the map that I submitted. I okayed the third draft the last week of May. I have nothing but kudos to say about Joan’s work. She accurately added what I considered key locations in Geronimo’s life that have never before seen the light of day in map form (see the map that I created for Joan to work from: Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript). It took hours and hours for me to pinpoint three of the locations: 1) The Valenzuela attack on Geronimo’s camp, 2) The Geronimo and Prefect of Arispe near shootout, and 3) The Gatewood confrontation with Lt. Abiel Smith while Geronimo watched.

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On 25jul1996 my daughter Marissa Kraft and I walked to the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in Arizona. If my memory is decent it was about a mile and a half walk each way. The previous night after she went to sleep the news announced that a mountain lion was seen in the area. That morning I wore a knife and when we started the walk I picked up two large branches from the ground. She asked me why and I told her that the branches could help us walk if needed. “What about the knife?” “I just felt like wearing it today.” It’s a great walk, but I remained alert the entire time but saw no evidence of the cat. We saw this memorial to Geronimo’s two-year old son as we neared the fort ruins. I never checked on the little boy, but if the dating is accurate he most likely took part in the final Chiricahua Apache outbreak from Turkey Creek in spring 1885. (photo © Louis Kraft 1996)

As everything is new with the World History Group and the Los Angeles design group that are calling the shots on the photos, art, and maps there are no guarantees of what will make it into “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” for the October issue of Wild West. I feel confident that Joan’s map of key Mexican locations in Geronimo’s life will make the issue. Fingers are crossed that my portrait of Mr. G will also be printed.

I have seen the August 2015 issue of Wild West (this is the first issue published by the World History Group) and I want to say up front that the August issue is one giant step forward. I love the look and feel of the magazine! More below on the new Wild West magazine.

I’m working on a bucket list in reverse order, as follows:

  • My last play, Cheyenne Blood, ran for five weeks in 2009. Although nothing has been officially pitched this is one place where I’ll never say “Never.” Here are two big reasons why:
    •  I have a great idea for a play on Errol Flynn.
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Johnny B. gave me this first edition of his story of Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro on the stage for one season when we got together in Santa Fe in 2005. It is a great character study. What I really like is when Hickok realizes that the flame from his revolver burns the dead actors on the stage. After that whenever possible he bends near a “dead” actor and fires his revolver so that the flame burns the deceased and brings them back to life on stage. Hickok finds his ad-libbing a hoot. It’s a funny bit and I’d like to do it too. I’m not sadistic; just fun-loving, especially with the knowledge that no actors (dead or alive) would be harmed.

•  Johnny D. Boggs wrote a terrific story about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody’s theatrical troupe in East of the Border (Five Star, 2004). Since I read Johnny’s novel I’ve wanted to play Hickok. Most of my writing ideas take forever to become reality. For this to happen will take a miracle of selling on my part. Johnny Boggs and director Tom Eubanks if you read this open your ears to me.

  • I have ceased giving talks. My last talk dealt with Lt. Charles Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico in August 1886 and talking him into returning to the United States and surrendering for the last time (Order of the Indian Wars, Tucson, Az., September 2013). See Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo.
  • At the moment it appears that “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” may be my last article. No others are in progress and I have stopped pitching stories to magazines.

I’m good with the above, and trust me I never hold my breath for something that may never happen. There have been a lot of projects over the years that have gone belly up or never happened. Not because of me, but because of others. When I commit, I commit and deliver. In the acting and writing worlds much happens with great aspirations, but then far too often—Poof … Nada.

The new Wild West magazine, books & changes

First and foremost, the look and feel of the August 2015 Wild West magazine is terrific. This is the first issue of Wild West with the new design since the World History Group purchased the Weider History Group and its stable of history magazines earlier this year.

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The August 2015 issue.

I like the cover paper and interior paper, which have a different texture (the gloss is gone from the cover). Love the cover makeover! Simple design with a cool new Wild West banner, including “The American Frontier” subhead. I really like the cover art of the young outlaw Jesse James. Artist Robert Hunt created the portrait based upon a 10jul1864 image of the teenager.

The August issue contains five features, and they are well designed with photos and art. A portion of a Thomas Hart Benton mural the artist created for the Missouri state capitol building in 1936 covers the first two pages of “The State of Jesse James” by Jim Winnerman, and shows the James gang robbing a train and a bank. Another feature, “Allan Pinkerton: ‘They Must Die'” by Ron Soodalter also begins with an image (Pinkerton on horseback in 1862) covering the first two pages of the article. But in this article, which deals with Pinkerton’s efforts to end the James-Younger gang’s lawlessness Soodalter’s text begins on the first page in white ink over the dark shades of the image behind Pinkerton’s horse. I think these two pages are really pleasing to the eye. The magazine also prints images that cover a full page. For example: In the Pinkerton article there is three-shot of Frank James sitting between Jesse and Fletch Taylor, who posed for the image in a studio (perhaps in 1867).

I know a number of historian-writers that focus on the Indian wars, and on social media some of them have been critical of the change of hands of Wild West from the Weider History Group to the World History Group. What will happen to their articles? What will be the word count, and it has shrunk for features? Will their articles see print? Heck, what about the Weider History Group staff in Leesburg, Virginia? Will they survive? At the moment it looks as if they will, which is great news for all of us: Them, the freelance writers, and the readers of the magazine.

A few thoughts on change

Change is always nerve-wracking, and I know of what I say for I have lived through it in my writing career way too often. Sometimes I survived and sometimes I didn’t survive. The following are a few examples.

What should have been my first published nonfiction historical piece was accepted by a British history magazine, and it was a feature on George Armstrong Custer. This came about when the magazine did an article on Custer which included publicity photos from the Robert Shaw star turn in Custer of the West (1967) and I wrote the editor telling him that I didn’t write letters to the editor. I then banged the hell out of the article while pitching an article about “The Real Custer.” The editor jumped on the story, but the magazine went belly-up before publication and I had to track him down to get my photographs back. There’s a lesson here; if one publication was interested in a written piece most likely another publication will be interested in it—the writer just has to find another buyer. “The Real Custer” saw print in the December 1988 issue of Research Review. (At that time Research Review paid $100, which was a large reduction from what I would have made from Britain magazine, but the layout and design was much better than the British magazine was capable of doing.)

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LK with Jackie Johnson in Jackson, Wyoming, at the Western Writers of America convention in 1993 (Jackson Hole is the valley between the Snake River and the Teton Mountains). She liked the idea for The Final Showdown in Oregon in perhaps 1989. I was so dumb that when some three months later my agent asked if I had drafted three sample chapters. Oops! No. Jackie became friends with Marissa and I. We ate together at conventions, saw a play, And I spent good time with her at her office in Manhattan just before the first novel was published. (photo © Louis Kraft 1993)

My second novel was under contract but the publisher decided to drop their western line. I threatened to sue, but my then-agent talked me out of it as she was afraid that she’d be blacklisted and did what she could to convince me that I would be also. I consented but weeks later we parted company. This was a genre western that dipped into Navajo culture and history. I liked it (I still like it), but I never attempted to resell it. Reason: I felt that the story needed more than 65,000 words to tell it properly. It has since waited until I decide when that the time is right to expand it into a full novel. That time is getting close.

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LK with a coworker at Sun Microsystems. Actually I am sitting at the coworker’s desk but he wasn’t present. One or more of my coworkers, people I enjoyed knowing and respected, created this life-sized cutout of this fellow, who might have been on vacation on this day. I believe that the year was 2007, and one of three fellows took this image but I don’t remember who. BTW, I chuckled the entire day. Talk about being vague, … just one of my talents.

The software world is ever changing. Companies appear and succeed or fail, and often they sell out to larger companies (which usually makes the owners rich) or merge with larger companies or large companies purchase smaller companies (a reverse of the above). When this happens, often jobs disappear, and even more so in the 21st century when one job—let’s say a writing job—in the USA becomes two or three or four writing jobs in India or elsewhere. Or perhaps the USA job transfers to only one job in India, and the U.S. company pockets the rest of the salary (and perhaps makes a killing in benefits savings).

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Sun Microsystems bought SeeBeyond Technology Corporation in 2005. If my memory is correct this badge was created that year. Every software company that I worked for had tight security—something that I’ve always appreciated.

When this type of change happens it creates a nervous time, and I don’t care if it is in the space industry or elsewhere. I’ve seen huge cheers when a satellite is shown blowing up on TV news footage and the staff realizes that it wasn’t a satellite that they worked on and that their jobs are safe. In case you don’t know, space failure (and sometimes other IT failure) means that heads will roll as millions upon millions of dollars suddenly vaporize.

Don’t forget that when a company begins to flame out and spiral toward oblivion such as Sun Microsystems, or when a powerhouse (no example, … to protect the innocent—yours truly) operates on lies (I have proof but have no desire to go to war, a war I could never win regardless of what the documentation proves), heads roll and these deaths are not based upon quality of performance.

Back to Wild West magazine and other publishers

My hopes and prayers are that the staff in Leesburg, Virginia, survive the magazine transition from the Weider History Group to the World History Group. At this point in time it looks good for all concerned.

Will any of the above affect me? Doubtful. Life is what it is, and it always moves forward. Do I lose? Probably. No more publicity wherein I receive money for my efforts. Will I regret my decision as I move forward? Probably. Hey guys, I like magazine articles and have always done whatever was necessary to make the articles as good as they could be.

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LK talking about “Cheyenne Indian Agent Edward Wynkoop’s 1867 Fight to Prevent War” at the Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, N. Mex.) on 15sept2004. The reason I have used this image here is because my views on race and Wynkoop have garnered me anger and hate over the years. At times when I’ve appeared—let’s say in Colorado—people will turn their backs to me. The Discovery isn’t about racial hatred, but there is a crime in the story that isn’t racial, and yet it is. Bob Goodman and I are happy with our manuscript. At the same time we are aware that the content may anger people. The story of my life. Hell, ladies & gents, if I can’t push you as far as I can, why bother? (photo Louis Kraft 2004)

Yes, but I have always angered staff members at publications. It wasn’t because I wanted to upset or threaten staff members but rather because I wanted to challenge them and myself to create the best story and design possible. Egos are involved, and often people don’t realize that I have a lot of experience in what they consider their expertise. They don’t like being challenged, for as far as they are concerned they know what is acceptable. They don’t want to push words or a design layout to the extreme; they just want to get their job done and go home.

I’m sorry, but for me this isn’t acceptable.

And the above isn’t limited to magazine articles, for it extends to talks (which I believe must turn on listeners and not put them to sleep) as well as books (which for me are my main focus). Book production teams think a lot less of me than magazines or those who have been brave enough to allow me to speak for their events.

The bottom line, and I’m talking about anyone and every speaking engagement, magazine, or book publisher that has hired me. All I care about is the best product possible. That’s it; I’ve never said or done anything to hurt you. Never. The final product, be it a talk, article, or book is and has always been all I care about.

For those of you who have hired me. Thank you, and I say this from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

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PS-K and LK returned from an extended research trip to the West on 16oct2014. The next day we drove to the Western History Association convention in Newport Beach, Calif. I knew that John Monnett would be there (John and his wonderful wife Linda welcomed us with open arms at their home in Colorado during the trip). I wanted to see him. I also wanted to see Chuck Rankin (editor-in-chief at OU Press), had hoped that Durwood Ball who is now editor of the New Mexico Historical Review and a good friend would be present (he was), and spent prime time with Clark Whitehorn (current editor-in-chief at U of NM Press). … Pailin saw the Wynkoop book, which Chuck and OU Press still push, and she snapped this image. … Good news to report from OU Press. Managing editor Steven Baker recently contacted me and Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek will be published in paper in mid-July. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

As for my book publishers present and in the future, you know me. But if you don’t, it’s on you for not doing your research and learning. I’m certain that you want the best book published, and I’m with you on this 100 percent. Know that when you contract with me that I intend to do everything possible to ensure that the book that you and I have partnered on will be the best publication possible. You need to know that I will take an active part in the entire publishing process. There are no shortcuts for me, and I do know the process (and have lived it for some twenty plus years, and I’m not just talking about my freelance publishing experience, which is thirty years). I have actively made the choice to eliminate pieces of my writing life as I consider books the major part of my artistic world. The future is out there and I have made my decision of what my future is.

Book publishing departments I’m not your enemy; I’m your friend for my goal is the same as yours. Don’t get upset and don’t attack, for I’m working with you to get the best possible product printed. This has nothing to do with ego and has nothing to do with me trying to show you up. I’m a part of your team, and everything I write, submit, or suggest is to improve the final product. That’s it, … that’s all.

TV, swords, Michael Parks, Errol Flynn, and George Armstrong Custer

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In the pilot for Then Came Bronson Michael Parks sang “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” which is my favorite song of all time, with Bonnie Bedelia singing backup. BTW, the pilot for the TV series was released in Europe as a feature film. The producers quickly realized that they had another element in the development of a loner coming to terms with life as he explored the western USA on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and that was adding a Parks’ song to each episode. It worked, for Parks sang country blues like no one before him (and to my knowledge no one since). Michael apparently prefers blues linked to jazz (moving away from the music that I love). This image of Parks, which was taken on 22may1970 (and is completely copyrighted, and trust me you don’t want to steal it for in court you will lose) was shot at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. I had paid good money for what I thought would be good seats. No! We were halfway back in the auditorium. I had a bright idea, and suggested to my guest that we kneel down in front of the first row and lean against the stage. We did this, weren’t asked to leave, talked with Michael, and obtained some great images from his concert. I would luckily work with Parks in the future, and got to know him.

I’ve been around for a long time, and over the years I haven’t been impressed with TV shows. There are only four TV shows that have caught my interest over the years. Michael Parks’ Then Came Bronson (1969-1970); The X-Files with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (1993-2002); The Mentalist with Simon Baker and Robin Tunney (2008-2015) may be my favorite of all time, but this is a toss up with Then Came Bronson; and The Musketeers (2014-2015) with Luke Pasqualino (as d’Artagnan) and Santiago Cabrera (as Aramis). Other than Then Came Bronson (which I tried to watch, but unfortunately couldn’t catch all of the episodes), I haven’t watched any of these programs when they aired. I saw a handful of episodes of The X-Files and maybe four or five episodes of The Mentalist. My viewing TV count of The Musketeers is zero. Great plots, actors, and series, but luckily none of them had (or have) counted upon my loyalty to survive.

Something needs to be said right here. I’m only writing about one actor, Errol Flynn (and in the first volume Olivia de Havilland is a major supporting player). If ever I were to write about another actor, it would be Michael Parks. He was a rebel who could act, and best yet he dared to stand firm for what he believed. His story should be told. I luckily got to work with Michael in 1978 on a TV film that hoped to lead to a series. It aired in 1980, but didn’t lead to a series, and that is too bad. Good times for LK, and there are stories to be told here, among which is the rap against Parks for what I saw it was pure bullshit. … Michael is still working and looks physically great. That said if ever I am to follow up on this book idea I need to get off my rear end and re-connect with him. Now.

I presume that by now you know that I love the sword and swashbuckling. At the beginning of this year I was in a Best Buy (which I think may disappear in the not-too-distant future; another victim of changing times) and saw the first season for The Musketeers on sale for ten bucks. It’s a BBC production and I hadn’t heard of it or any of the actors.

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DVD cover for the second season of The Musketeers. From left on top image: Santiago Cabrera, Howard Charles (as Porthos), Luke Pasqualino, and Tom Burke (as Athos). I’m looking forward to seeing the second season later this year.

But how can you go wrong with Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. The story is a classic. Although Errol Flynn did a recording of one of the ongoing plot lines he never played d’Artagnan on film. Too bad, for at the time of Flynn’s The Prince and the Pauper (Warner Bros., 1937), he would have been perfect casting for this role. Ten bucks. Hell, if it was the worst TV show that I ever saw it would certainly be worth the expense just to study the swordplay (good or bad). This comes from a cynic, for easily 90 percent of the swashbuckling productions that I’ve seen on film or on TV are little more than jokes. Poor scripts, bad or low budget production values, and worse—piss-poor acting and swordplay. Yeah, I’m a cynic for easily nine out of ten films or TV productions that I have seen are an embarrassment. They aren’t classic, they aren’t good, and I don’t give a damn how much money they earn, or don’t earn (for profits mean nothing when talking about quality). Apples and oranges, no more and no less.

And this carries over onto the stage. After Dr. Kildare (1960s TV series) Richard Chamberlain went off and studied acting. He became a good actor, and since he chose to be classically trained he would soon play leads on stage and in historic films, TV movies, and mini-series. A number of them would be swashbucklers and eventually he landed the role of Aramis in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. Two films shot at the same time but then split into two films. That’s right two films for the price of one. The actors didn’t agree, took the producer to court and won a second salary for their efforts. I agree with this judgment. Chamberlain, Oliver Reed, and Michael York, among others, excelled. The films are exciting, and I like them. However, if any of these actors attacked me and thrashed around with their swords as they did on film I would have simply stood there and watched them slash and swoosh with their rapiers and then would have simply extended my arm and pierced their hearts without raising a sweat. Adios amigos. Ve con Dios (Go with God).

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A publicity photo from Chamberlain’s less than spectacular performance as the world’s greatest duelist at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in 1973.

The bottom line: I saw Chamberlain play Cyrano de Bergerac on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles (eighth row center) in October or November 1973 (I also saw Mr. C play Henry IV in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I in 1972 at the Ahmanson). Cyrano has a big nose; he is also the greatest duelist in France. This is a classic play, and every actor who swings a blade wants to play Cyrano. The key duel in the play begins and it is fought as if the actors hold foils (parry and thrust; no slashing) even though it looks as if they hold rapiers. It is boring (and I’m being kind here). Chamberlain’s blade brakes. Oops! I don’t know if we call performers who have zero lines or only as few extras on the stage or not. Anyway, an extra or an actor with a minimal role walked to Chamberlain and handed him his blade so that Richard could continue the duel. Hell, he should have flipped his blade to Chamberlain and Mr. C. should have caught it with a flourish before charging his opponent. No such luck. The dull duel continued and ended as expected and I wanted to go to sleep. I can name two Chamberlain performances that I think the world of; as mountain man Alexander McKeag in the miniseries Centennial (1979) and as Father Ralph de Bricassart in the miniseries The Thorn Birds (1983). Chamberlain is a good actor, and he has proved this time and again. Unfortunately I never worked with him.

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Wayne Maunder as George Armstrong Custer in Custer (or The Legend of Custer, 1967; 20th Century Fox pilot plus 17 episodes). The pilot was a joke. I don’t think I’ll waste any words talking about it and the TV series was worse. That said Maunder played the ideal Custer, as this newspaper clipping from the 1960s shows. Maunder is wearing a cool hat; methinks that perhaps I need Baron Hats in Burbank, Calif., to create it for me, … or should my next hat be Flynn’s hat used in the early scenes of Dodge City (Warner Bros., 1939)? Decisions, decisions. What’s a writer to do?

What do I mean? Simply, most productions have B-film scripts and most of the actors aren’t A-actors. Forget the production value, for often there isn’t/wasn’t any. Swinging a blade (like riding a horse on film) requires that the actors to learn how to do it. Unfortunately most don’t. A perfect example of this is Gary Cole playing George Armstrong Custer in the mini-series based upon Evan S. Connell’s The Son of Morning Star (Republic Pictures Television, 1984). Connell’s book was loaded with factual errors (Over 150 and counting in the first printing; I believe that most of them were fixed in subsequent printings), but he was a good writer and could tell a story. His book, published by an obscure publisher, became a national best seller and did wonders for Custer and the American Indian wars. What can I say about the mini-series? Many of the supporting actors were much better than Cole, who had no clue of who Custer was. Ditto Rosanna Arquette, who played Libbie Custer. She actually stated that she didn’t respect the historical figure she portrayed. Too bad, but hell I don’t respect her, and I spent perhaps four weeks working with her and Richard Thomas in a TV film remake of Johnny Belinda (1982). Good money for me, plus Thomas and I became friends, which would almost impact my screenwriting career—almost, but no cigar. And Thomas tried, for he liked several of my screenplays but didn’t have the clout to get enough money people interested to raise what was needed to move the scripts into production. …

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Errol Flynn’s They Died With Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941) and Robert Shaw’s Custer of the West (Cinerama Releasing Corporation, 1967) played at the Beverly Cinema on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles on June 14 & 15, 2015 (and this was the theater’s ad).

They Died With Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941) is one of Flynn’s best films and it constantly juggles with Adventures of Don Juan (Warner Bros., 1948), The Sea Hawk (Warner Bros., 1940), and Gentleman Jim (Warner Bros., 1942) for EF’s best performances on film. His role as George Armstrong Custer links with the boxer Gentleman Jim Corbett, the lover and swordsman Don Juan de Maraña, Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (read the pirate Francis Drake), and the aristocratic Soames Forsyte (in The Forsyte Woman, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1949) as roles that he wanted to perform.

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I had taken some photos of the Beverly Cinema in daylight as the box office opened at six o’clock (got one or two good daylight shots of Robert that’ll use in the future), but decided that I wanted a night image. More dramatic. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

They Died With Their Boots On (TDWTBO) is a great film that played a major role in my future. I’ve always liked Robert Shaw, and he made some good films, including Jaws (Zanuck/Brown Productions, Universal Pictures, 1975), and The Deep (Columbia Pictures, 1977). Unfortunately Custer of the West isn’t a good film. Let’s just flip that statement, Mr. Shaw played Custer in a bad film.

On Sunday, June 14, Robert Florczak picked me up and drove us to the Beverly Cinema to see TDWTBO. A good time as we got to hang out together, something that time and circumstances has prevented for too long. We saw Flynn’s Custer on the large screen for the first time in a long while (for me, at least two decades and maybe more). Afterwards we talked about Custer and Flynn, and as we got trapped in a major traffic jam after seeing Flynn’s Custer (we didn’t stick around for Shaw’s Custer) it gave us more time to chat. Actually Highland Avenue was a total mess and Robert detoured to the south before moving east to attempt getting out of LA via Laurel Canyon.

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The February 2008 issue of American History.

BTW, I hate this 1941 Warner Bros. one-sheet of TDWTBO. In February 2008 American History published a feature of mine (“Custer: The Truth Behind the Silver Screen Myth”) that compares Flynn’s Custer to the real GAC, and the findings are surprising (this was the best of three articles I wrote about the comparison: Errol & Olivia will deal with this in detail). The art director for American History clipped an oval of Flynn from this one-sheet (see image above) and used it in the article. I hated it and fought to have it removed. I lost. That said this is one of the best articles I have ever written.

Let’s pick on Johnny Depp and his Captain Jack character.

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Signed photo of Depp from the first Pirates of the Caribbean film (2003) in LK collection.

Johnny’s a good actor, and he takes chances. Period. Unfortunately he didn’t learn how to swing a blade for what will probably be the character we remember him for playing (and he’s made four Pirates of the Caribbean films, and there’s a fifth on its way to release). I like the first film a lot for it was inventive, had a few good (and non-cliché characters), and it grabbed my interest. Depp couldn’t sword fight, and neither could the insipid young actor who played the love interest (he’s not worth mentioning). It would get worse in the following three Pirates films (and it is painfully obvious that Depp isn’t doing any sword fighting). I’m picking on Depp, but he’s not alone. We can go back to a pretty big film star from the golden age of film (the 1930s and 1940s and 1950s) and look at Robert Taylor’s swashbuckling films. Guess what, Mr. Taylor wasn’t doing much with a blade either.

Hey, the bottom line on film is: If you can’t see the actor’s face on the screen,
the actor didn’t perform what you are watching. I don’t care if they are
naked or are riding a horse or are swinging a blade. To repeat, if you
can’t see their face they didn’t act in the scene (or at least not all of it)
that you are watching. Simple; a film double or a stunt double
played the scene (and I know what I’m talking about).

Ladies and gents, there are only a handful of actors (heroes and villains) who could wield a blade. This is a very short list. Of the actors from the golden age of film (Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Stewart Granger, Basil Rathbone … four fellows; and maybe the dancer Gene Kelly and heartthrob Tyrone Power; I’ll have to check Kelly but other than The Sun Also Rises, 20th Century Fox, 1957, I have none of Power’s films in-house). That’s it. From the 1960s to the time of Richard Lester’s series of swashbuckling films in the 1970s, zero. Lester’s actors, who were mostly English (Oliver Reed, a good actor at all times; Michael York, Frank Finley, and Christopher Lee) and the American Richard Chamberlain worked at preparing for the Lester films.

Basil Rathbone said in a recorded interview that, “I could kill Mr. Flynn anytime I wanted.” (I don’t know if this quote is accurate but it is close.) Really? I chuckle over this every time I hear or read the quote.

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Mr. Rathbone is stiff on film, and it is obvious that he is/was concentrating on what he learned in his fencing lessons (and according to him, he studied the sword for years away from the studios). Sword fighting—real sword fighting—is considerably more than learned technique. It is taking what you have learned and using it to not only stay alive but to disable or kill the person attacking you. In film, the actor must sell this to the audience, and Flynn could do this. Knowing Flynn’s life cycle intimately I’ll take him any day in a real duel to the death with Rathbone. … But Rathbone does hit the mark with his words of his capability to kill a fellow actor but we must wait until the 1970s and Lester’s swashbuckling films for here the movements by the swordsmen are so large and exaggerated that Mr. Rathbone could have easily eliminated Chamberlain and the other heroes without breaking a sweat.

Too bad, … I guess, as I like Lester’s two Musketeer films and have nothing but praise for his Crossed Swords (a much better retelling of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper than Flynn’s 1937 version with Oliver Reed playing Miles Hendon). I like Reed’s acting, and in my humble opinion his Miles Hendon is the best role he played. Totally convincing.

Gunfights with a pretty lady …

I hope that my schedule as listed above doesn’t throw you off or give you the wrong impression. I’m thrilled with my life. I have Pailin, hopefully Marissa, and my writing. That’s a lot. I’m thrilled and very happy. What more could a man ask for?

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Oh yeah, this is LK’s pistol-packin’ lady at Tujunga House. This is not a Photoshop enhancement. I’ve been seeing a lot of people on social media blame this great program for doing things that it didn’t do. Just so you know, I’ve been using Photoshop since the mid-1990s and it is my favorite program. This image was created in the camera and is a total operator error by LK. That’s right, yours truly messed up big time. I had no intention of turning the 1860 Army Colt into a canon or of shrinking Pailin into a dwarf. That said, I had to share this image as PS-K and I laugh every time we look at it. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

Pailin is game for almost everything. Almost everything, but not sword fighting. Never say “never.” Trust me, for I have no intention of giving up trying to get her to cross blades with me. Someday I’ll get my way. When that time arrives I’m certain that she’ll enjoy herself and ask what took me so long to get her to change her mind.

How many of you have a shootout deep in the night when your lady returns home? Sometimes she shoots me; sometimes I shoot her. … With our fingers, which become pistols when we see who has the quickest draw or who exhibited the best stealth on any given night.

“Bam, bam, bam!” Pailin yells. “I got you!” I grab my chest and fall against the wall before sliding to the wooden floor, or Pailin grabs her stomach and slumps onto Saltillo tiles. This gunfight could have happened on a boardwalk in early Denver or in a former hacienda outside of Santa Fe.

psk_lk_fingerColtMontage_4jun15_wsRecently, after working on balance and strength while studying The Mentalist, I sat in a leather chair beside the piano, which is to the left of the front door, while I iced my feet. The night was early; before ten-thirty. I heard a click. Or did I? All it took was a split second. Too late—too late … before the sound registered. I fired with my left hand, but Pailin had opened the door, saw where I sat, and shot before I did. She smiled as she added another notch to her revolver.

It is always different, always. Not long back I prepared for bed and I heard her car pull into its new parking place behind the house. I raced for the kitchen and waited in darkness. A minute, perhaps two or three passed before I heard Pailin enter. She entered the computer room and carefully leaned through the archway. What she saw confirmed that I wasn’t in one of two possible locations. She slowly stood upright from her crouched stance. I stepped from the darkness behind her and fired, “Bam-bam-bam.” She turned around, laughed, and dropped onto the tile.

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PS-K gunning for LK in Tujunga House on 17jun2015 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

My favorite happened not too long back. I had already gone to bed, but always leave a light on in the bedroom so that Pailin can see. I hadn’t gone to sleep when I heard the front door open. I didn’t have much time and quickly stuffed a bunch of pillows under the blankets to hopefully represent where I slept. I then tiptoed to the right of the door entry into the bedroom. Leaning against the wall I waited for when I would shoot my pretty wife. HA!!! … And for those of you who live in dangerous areas or who write fiction (or fact) take note for what follows. I heard Pailin move through the archway and slowly, carefully step toward the bedroom. Seconds ticked by, but there was no sound, and yet I knew that she had to be moving forward. No matter, for as soon as she stepped through the doorway I’d shoot. So much for best laid plains, for Pailin leaped into the bedroom as she whirled to her left and shot me. Afterwards I asked her how she knew where I was. She pointed at the mirror above a small table that faces the doorway. She had seen me lurking and waiting to ambush her as soon as she stepped into the hallway. … Talk about feeling like a tenderfoot. How would I have survived in Dodge City? Probably not. I would have been an easy mark for John Wesley Hardin.

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LK turning and fanning his revolver at PS-K in Tujunga House on 18jun2015 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

One more gunfight. At the time of this shootout I do believe that Pailin had more notches than I did. I’m the man. I’m Wild Bill Hickok, I’m Doc Holliday, … I’m supposed to win. And I wasn’t. I decided to plan our next engagement. When Pailin hadn’t arrived home by eleven and I was still awake, I decided what I’d do when she arrived. I pulled one of the chairs out from the dining room table and went back to bed. I dozed but couldn’t drift into a good sleep. Nearing the midnight hour the headlights of Pailin’s Honda caught my attention. I reacted slowly. Finally it registered that she had arrived. I stumbled out of bed and hustled to computer room, just as I heard a key in the front door. I ran to the dinning room and struggled to get under the table. I waited in the darkness. Minutes passed. Where was Pailin? I knew, while not knowing. She stalked me but everything came up blanks for her. Finally she walked into the kitchen and turned on the light. She then stepped into the dining room and placed one of her packages on the table before returning to the kitchen. I knew that she intended a careful search and didn’t want to wait. I pushed the chair with its back to the kitchen and opened fire. She turned, took the blanks and fell backwards against the archway to the laundry room before slowly dropping to the tiles. “You’re bad,” she whispered as she laughed. “You’re bad.”

After all our gunfights we laugh and hug and kiss. Great fun, and best of all it adds another level to our relationship.

Upcoming deadlines & comments

The Discovery still dominates my life (and will for some time yet), but some of my tasks on my plate have become inflated, and they shouldn’t be (see below). I had initially misjudged how long it would take me to write a character-driven medical malpractice novel (based on Dr. Robert Goodman’s story) using a thriller writing style. As the plot stretches from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, the novel is a period piece, and as such has required a lot of research on my part to keep the place and time accurate. For example, the California 101 freeway, that begins east of downtown Los Angeles, cuts through the Cahuenga Pass and into the San Fernando Valley (BTW, if you don’t know the “Valley” is a major piece of both the city and county of LA), before moving northward to Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Bob had the lady who would give life to a major player in the plot riding on this freeway in 1952. One problem, the freeway hadn’t been completed yet.

The Discovery

Before talking about The Discovery, I want to say something about Bob Goodman. I’ve known him for almost 25 years and he has played a major role in my health. Over time we realized that we liked each other and our time together began to include subjects other than medicine. Beginning in 2010 I began doing writing consulting for Bob, and in November 2013 he asked me if I wanted to partner on The Discovery. Although I didn’t know where his manuscript was heading I was familiar with the first 100 pages. I liked the story idea and its potential and agreed (but there was an extra incentive—I needed money to pay for a surgery I didn’t know about). This decision has cost me a lot of time in the last year and a half but I’m thrilled that I accepted Bob’s offer for I think we have a unique story that will be a page-turner. … I had been considering a major return to fiction and The Discovery has become the perfect starting point. I couldn’t be happier with our collaboration, and what I now know is getting close to the final product.

Disclaimer: If The Discovery were a feature film it would carry an R rating.


I thought I had begun my polish of The Discovery on 21may2015 (I had hoped to start it in April but I had not yet collected the reviews I requested). That said, I figured I had an outside chance of finishing my polish early in June.

No!

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LK walking on the San Diego coast when the sea and beach are fogged in. This is one of my favorite things to do—having  the California coast almost to myself. The beach is empty as it usually is in early morning (and sometimes in the evening), and my companions are the roll and sound of the incoming sea. I’m at one with me, and this is where I want to be. I can smell and watch and think, and this is a glimpse into my writing and real world. A great friend of mine, George Carmichael, took this image. I lost George in spring 2014, and I still struggle with his moving on. We met at a fiction writing class at UCLA in 1997 and we were at loggerheads. Who could have guessed that for the rest of his life we’d become great friends. I need to talk about George. Soon. This image is full frame and is as George shot it in March 2001. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

On 23may2015 I began to slowly polish chapter 9, which is the introduction to Greg Weston, who is a key player in the story. The chapter heading states Motor Avenue, but on the first page Weston is walking toward the deli that he often visits with his dog. He is walking on Pico Boulevard, which is a major east-west street in Los Angeles.

Yikes! How did I miss this? Motor Avenue starts at (or dead-ends at Pico Boulevard, at the Fox Studio, which was formerly 20th Century Fox). Moving south Motor Avenue cuts through a golf course and then turns west before meandering west and south. When a street name that Bob had created and I discovered didn’t exist anywhere south of the golf course he told me that he knew the area and it was perfect for the story. We decided to go vague on the street name for Weston’s house. But the house and its location (as is key in later chapters) was two short blocks from a deli where Weston is a semi-celebrity (again, this is on LK, for I totally missed Weston walking on Pico Boulevard at this point in the story, and Pico was in Bob’s text that I used as an outline for the manuscript).

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A George Carmichael portrait of LK at Tujunga House in 1994. Two images from this session would be used in Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons Publishers , 1995). This image, along with others, has been exiled to obscurity for decades only to be recently found. It was taken in the Tujunga House computer room, and the desk still exists. If the photo was taken today, framed images would be seen on the wall. (photo Louis Kraft 1994)

On that same May 23rd it finally sank in that Weston walking on both Motor and Pico was wrong as it was just too long of a walk. This realization sent up a red flag and I started to study maps again. Maps showed no businesses and I moved to the Google maps that are aerial photos. The entire area is totally residential. No businesses, and I kept moving south and west, … and I passed the Beverly Hills Country Club.

Before saying what I saw, I had sometime in 2014 questioned people watching golfers while eating at the Beverly Hills Country Club and Bob confirmed that this was true and that they could. Beginning with chapter 8, the Beverly Hills Country Club plays a major set piece in the story, and it is often listed as the “Beverly Hills Country Club, Cheviot Hills, California” in the three-line subheadings to the chapters. The Beverly Hills Country Club is instrumental to the story, and it has been in place since I partnered with Bob. I can’t tell you how many reviews Bob Goodman has performed, but there are a lot—five, or maybe six.

When I discovered the Motor/Pico error I began looking for information. … The Google aerial photo of the Beverly Hills Country Club shows that this club offers tennis and swimming. Going to their website I learned that it opened in the mid-1920s and that Errol Flynn, among other film celebrities, often frequented the club. This makes sense as Flynn was a great tennis player and often paired with Bill Tilden and other tennis pros of the 1930s and 1940s or played against them in single competition. Also, Flynn loved to swim and did until his death.

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This is John McGirr, MD. He became my family doctor when my parents moved from New York to California and settled in Reseda about 1954. His office was originally in Encino but would eventually move to Tarzana, named after novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs most famous character, Tarzan of the apes. He was a physically fit man who loved golf, and was a good golfer. I believe that this image was taken at the Calabasas Country Club. I knew club intimately as Dr. McGirr would become my father-in-law (1971) and would remain so until his death in 1987. I don’t know who the other two people in this photo are. (photo © Joan McGirr 1970s)

You can’t watch golfers while eating at the Beverly Hills Country Club. Period!

More digging, and guess what—sometime in the past the Beverly Hills Country Club partnered with the Calabasas Country Club, which is in the hills south of Ventura Boulevard on the west side of the San Fernando Valley. I know this country club, as my father-in-law, John McGirr, M.D., was my family physician since the mid-1950s. Dr. McGirr remained my physician until shortly before he died in 1987.  He was a major physician in the San Fernando Valley until his retirement about a year before his death. He was a great golfer and a member of the Calabasas Country Club (which opened in 1968). The club had a minimum amount that a member had to spend in the restaurant each month. I don’t know what that minimum was, but probably six times a year my ex-wife and I would join McGirr and his wife for dinner at the club. Great food.

The above was not a small blip on what I thought would be a polish of the manuscript, for it now required a major rewrite by me, which also included Doris Goodman’s three comments: 1) Make one of the doctors 62 and not 52, 2) Reduce the amount of the Spanish dialogue, and 3) Allow the leading player to have two drinks at the end of the story. Doris’s comments are valid. The doctor aged by 10 years, but I had to be careful that this played forward smoothly. The Spanish I dealt with as I saw fit. My reason: I didn’t want to write cliché gang members (read: Evil people). Instead, I wanted the golf pro to deal with his situation and a foreign language, which in itself can be frightening when a person doesn’t know what is being said. As for the leading player drinking at the end of the story, it meant a major rewrite of his wife and unfortunately not a satisfactory answer to alcoholism. I came up with what I considered a decent fix here, and hopefully Bob and Doris will agree.

Two deadlines with dates

I have a contract with OU Press to deliver the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway  manuscript on 1oct2016 (and it included a nice advance). Luckily progress is being made with both research and writing.

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Art of the tower of the great building that became the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, California. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

That said, photocopy requests of the research I performed at what will soon be the former Braun Research Library at the Southwest Museum in June 2014 still hasn’t arrived. Although staff worked on my copy requests during my 12-day visit, the estimated date of delivery is now August 2015. That says it all, other than to add that my thoughts aren’t printable. This is not good for me, but that’s life and I must roll with the punches (and excuses). I have another delivery almost a month earlier—Pailin’s and my application for her permanent Green Card. This will require a lot of work by LK and PS-K, and there is no room for error. I know how much effort it took both of us to land Pailin’s initial two year (but temporary) Green Card in September 2014, and I know how much of our time will be devoted to the September 2016 meeting with U.S. Immigration. Failure is not an option. … Unfortunately, when Immigration set the second Green Card deadline, the Sand Creek deadline was already in place (honestly, I don’t think I’ll be sleeping the entire summer of 2016).

Back to The Discovery

I’m sorry, but I’m not the happiest person at the moment for during the rewrite, which was supposed to be a polish I made the Beverly Hills Country Club discovery (which unfortunately has been in place since before I came on board). This, along with a vodka discovery, which like the Beverly Hills Country Club I didn’t research as I had mistakenly thought that Bob had his facts correct here. … I checked a lot of the words and locations for historical and factual accuracy but I didn’t check the club or the vodka. That’s on me (hell it wouldn’t have been more than an hour or two of work, but I didn’t do it). I’m glad that I discovered the country club error and that Bob’s daughter-in-law, who wasn’t on the reviewing list (a surprise to me) pointed out that the vodka in the manuscript didn’t exist yet. If ever I meet her, she is going to get a big hug from me.

I still need to perform a polish, and that will begin on July 3 as I need time and space before reviewing the manuscript again. With luck I’ll get through 50 pages per day, which means that the polish will take approximately 10 days. … Fingers are crossed that there are no more surprises.

Upcoming Blogs

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

Wild Bill Hickok, Geronimo, & that ‘Bad Man from Kansas’ called Ned Wynkoop

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


Image of Wild Bill Hickok in 1867 (lk personal collection)

Not quite the blog I thought I’d publish today (no big deal, for I’ve been shooting from the hip since I was five). An unexpected phone call changed today’s direction. The phone call dealt with gunfighters. Hell, if I have any say in my future I will someday play James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok. Not holding my breath, but fingers are crossed. … hell, my fingers are always crossed. I know Wild Bill, and I’ve tried (apparently not forcefully enough) to play Bill in a stage production of Johnny D. Boggs’s great novel East of the Border, which deals with Hickok doing a season of theater with William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody in the East. Not to give the plot away, but when Wild Bill realizes that when he fires blanks too close to dead extras lying on the stage floor that the flame burns them. Bill thinks it is a hoot to see dead men jump and scream out in pain. This is a part I could dig my teeth into.

Neither Johnny D. or my director, Tom Eubanks, have demonstrated much interest in me playing Mr. Hickok. I can’t figure out why, for this is type casting. (I guess that there’s a sadistic streak in me—No! I shouldn’t say that; bad advertising.) Another director/producer pitched me on doing a feature film (a la Twilight Zone) featuring a meeting/standoff/shootout between gangsters and gunfighters with me playing Wild Bill (and with me writing the script). This is a no brainer, for I’m Wild Bill.

Holding my breath? No. I never hold my breath, unless it is for a lady I want in my life.

I just enjoyed a cool phone call from a documentary film company, regarding a series of films dealing with gunmen. They actually came to me because of a peripheral gunman who eventually was hung for a murder, he may or may not have committed, named Tom Horn. He played a minor role in Lt. Charles Gatewood finding Geronimo, Naiche, and the remnants of the warring Apaches and getting them to surrender to the U.S. in 1886, which ended the last Apache war. I know Gatewood, and I know Geronimo. Alas, I don’t know Tom Horn, for he was a minor player in the dramatic end of the Apache wars.

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This is Mr. Johnny D. Boggs, one of the best writers working today. However, after he reads the next line or two, he’ll belt on his trusted Peacemakers, grab his favorite Stetson, and climb into his favorite Mustang, and drive to California with blood in his eye, … and it won’t be for past mistakes by your pal Kraft. No sir, Mr. Boggs will be a headin’ to clear the air. I’m already boarding up Tujunga House. First, let me point out that Mr. Boggs is a deadly shot, in print or in person, and he has been gunning for me for at least the past year. ‘Course you can see by this nice portrait of Mr. Boggs, that he has changed the look and feel of the gunmen we have come to love and cherish. He has done it with not only color, but with design. … I can just picture the next costume design for the next feature dealing with Wild Bill, Billy the Kid, Wes Hardin, or the Sundance Kid. Not to push my luck too far, let me add that if you want to read not a good, but a great book of fiction that deals with those long gone days of yesteryear, those long gone days when a man was a man and a woman was a woman, you owe it to yourself to buy any Johnny Boggs book you can get your hands on. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ve got my word on this. Mr. Boggs is one of our writing treasures.

I viewed their video advertising the upcoming series for the Military Channel, … impressive!! No overstatement. Great quality, focus of subject, and featuring Johnny Boggs, my good bud. Boggs is such a good friend, that when next I set foot in New Mexico I’m certain that we’ll stand each other off with fingers twitching inches above our Army Colts.

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lk art based upon a Johnny Boggs photo in 2008.

Mr. Boggs and I’ll saunter toward each other, lips tightening, broad-brimmed hats yanked low over our squinting eyes, breath thinning, and pulse racing. Payback time has arrived. Feet separate us, and there is no way either of us could draw, cock, fire, and miss. The time of reckoning will have arrived … But instead of yanking our irons and spitting death, … we’ll embrace each other. Two friends, glad to see each other again. Johnny smiles, as do I. “Good to see you,” he says. “And you, amigo,” I murmur. ‘Tis true. Two friends … together again. He smiles a second time, but there is an evil tint that clouds his smile. His grin widens, The color of his eyes darken; it is almost as if the sun has lost its sparkle. “Hell’s still a comin’,” he whispers. “Am lookin’ forward to it,” I drawl. Two friends—today, tomorrow, forever. …

Tom Horn … OUCH!!!!

Cool project for the Military Channel, one I’m in line with, but one I can’t buy into from what I’ve just heard from Jerry Holleran (a good conversation, one that instantly caught my interest). But? There’s always that damned “but” … But, Jerry hinted that they found me via my new website/blog, hinted that he was aware of my writing dealing with Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the final Apache surrender to the U.S. Government. … That’s good! What the hell are you complaining about Kraft?

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Geronimo in Texas, mere months after his standoff with the Prefect of Arisipe in Old Mexico. He is cool in his new boots, breechclout, coat, button shirt, and brimmed hat. He is also a concerned man—concern for his peoples’ future. This is a portait of a man facing his future and wondering if he had made the right choices. (artistic rendering © Louis Kraft 2013)

If they want a gunfight—I can deliver one (or two). Not with Tom Horn, but rather with Geronimo (or Ned Wynkoop; see below). That’s right, Geronimo (with Gatewood backing him) as the old warrior/mystic confronted the Prefect of Arispe, Jesus Aguirre. Geronimo had become the most hated man in two countries (the U.S. and Mexico). Aguirre burned to eliminate the Apaches (murder them), while Geronimo lived to protect the remnants of his loved ones. Geronimo gripped his Colt. According to Gatewood, his eyes turned red; an ungodly mix with yellow. Aguirre gripped his revolver, sweat dripping down his temples. Tense seconds passed. In a flash someone would die. …

I know where my money would have been placed.

Ned Wynkoop fought for Indian rights. This turned him from being “a badman from Kansas who wore buckskin britches and carried a revolver and Bowie knife in his belt” to perhaps the most hated white man in Colorado Territory. Before daring to stand firm against what he considered the murder of innocent people, Ned Wynkoop, who, as a sheriff in Denver, thought nothing of breaking pals out of jail or standing up to a friend on the “field of honor” with the intent of killing him.

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Portrait of Ned Wynkoop. (© Louis Kraft 2007)

Good with guns, but also a man before his time, Wynkoop not only dared to stand firm in his beliefs but had no problem with stating that the best way to end the Indian problem (in 1868) would be to extend American citizenship to Indians and allow their representatives seats in congress. Johnny Boggs, in his review of Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, commented, “No wonder Wynkoop wore a gun.”

I am in that good spot where I want to secure a gig, but can’t for I can’t talk about something that didn’t exist or happen. Can I push Geronimo, Wynkoop, or maybe even Wild Bill? Hope so. We’ll see.

You can bet I’ll contact the producer and chat.