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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course there are welcome interruptions

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

Good enough for me, but not for her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A glimpse into the LK creative world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When it comes to writing progress is king

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A publicity blurb

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

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

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

Upcoming blogs

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

Approach to Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland’s acting + more

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Ladies and gents, this is an important blog in that it was supposed to share how I’ll write about Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s acting in Errol & Olivia. An intriguing thought, but alas, it isn’t about to happen, at least not in the way you expect. Why? Simply, it’s a touchy subject for me—what to share or not share. This blog will discuss some of my background while giving you a hint of how I’ll address their acting (and in Flynn’s case, his dueling). But that said and you frowning, read on for I think the following is important.


Some bitching … or should I call it free advertising?

AT&T U-verse, the scourge of the LA internet, struck again while I was prepping the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway blog (which was supposed to go live before this blog.
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A ghost lk image, for this is how I’ve felt for the last week and a half. I’ve been struggling with deadlines and a contract negotiation. I don’t need software/internet failures. If this B.S. happens again, a company is going to be fired. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)


Oops! Actually that is OOPS!!! This blog went live first. No fanfare and in totally incomplete first rough draft form. Someone even liked it (not me; you can take that one to the bank). I could have totally destroyed it, but too much work had already been given it, and I decided not to. Kudos, AT&T U-verse, for you have another notch to add to your bloody dagger. Or was it PressHarbor, which teams with WordPress, and is responsible for this website-blog, as they had just performed a software update. If yes, as Caesar said as he was being murdered in Shakespeare’s play (Julius Caesar), “Et tu, Brute.”This blog on Errol & Olivia was planned for next week. My apologies for this error (give thanks to that dastardly villain, AT&T U-verse). They have become my Darth Vader. You’re getting a little more meat here than was originally intended (plus a free plug for AT&T U-verse). If AT&T U-verse crashes my internet connection after 5:00 PM Pacific Time, I’m dead in the water. No Chrome, no Firefox, no WordPress, oh, and that also includes no att.net (but who cares about att.net?), which all means one thing—no lk website/blog on my computers.

 To help you feel better there will be a quiz at the end of this blog,
and it will be easy.


Another dueling quiz

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A publicity image of Errol and Olivia for Dodge City. Take a close look at Mr. Flynn’s mustache. It ‘taint the one he wore in the film.


I know, some of you are thinking oh hell!!!, not another dueling lesson. Alas, I’m sorry, but ’tis true. I like the blade and want to cross it with living flesh and blood. That means you. (Or perhaps one of the key people in my life—hope burns eternal.) If I can’t secure victims—oops, I meant “volunteers”—locally I need to expand my horizon for would-be heroes. Smile, for you are again presented with the opportunity to enjoy swinging a saber for an hour, an hour and a half, or however long it takes me to wear you out. ‘Tis fun; trust me.

I’m not joking about the time limit with the sword. Again, this is fun for me. I’m good with the time. I’ll supply the water. If you want more punch, you supply the vino (however, this isn’t recommended).

What I bring to the table
I think you need to know a little about me that relates to me being capable of writing Errol & Olivia. Obviously I write biographies, but more is required. I don’t want to drag this out with a lot of words, so we’ll use a few bullets:
 
  • I discovered Flynn and de Havilland’s films when a boy
  • Flynn’s acting and writing influenced my life
  • While a young teenager I studied fencing with Ralph Faulkner in Hollywood
    • This led to me learning saber and dueling competition in college
    • It eventually led to me learning “swashbuckling,” or stage combat, and choreographing duels and dueling on stage
  • In junior high school I began studying acting and performing
    • This continued in high school
    • In college I majored in acting and directing
  • For about 15 years after college I attempted to survive in the acting world
  • After quitting acting I have survived as a writer
  • When opportunity presented itself in 2002 I returned to the stage but only in plays I have written
  • I have a track record of bringing historical figures to life in print, on stage, and when speaking before an audience
I believe the above qualifies me to not only write about Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland but to approach their lives during a very short period of time in a different and perhaps avant-garde manner. These words are key, for they provide a hint to how I’m writing Errol & Olivia. … And better, I’m going into detail and it’s going to be fun detail; fun and multi-leveled detail.

Some views you should hear
You also need to have a warning here, especially so since some of you may not read my Indian Wars blogs. Not pitching you, but I’m alerting you to the fact that I don’t just pound out words based upon secondary books that may or may not be riddled with errors. This paragraph is important, for it informs you that I live with, walk with, and study my subjects until I know them. I don’t trust anyone. I must dig, dig, and then dig more. What is the truth and what is B.S.? Let’s drop the politeness and use the word—there is a lot of bullshit published with no documentation, or worse, documentation that is little more than smoke and mirrors created only to fool the reading public. This is totally unacceptable, and writers that are guilty of doing this are little more than cretins or worse. … Maybe they should win a dueling lesson—crossed blades with deadly intent could be fun. (I’ve been sliced just below the right eye; I know the adrenaline rush and what the cut feels like.)
dc_ah&efStreetRibbonART_wsFlynn having fun with Alan Hale in Dodge City. Obviously I’m playing around while I decide how I want to deliver photos/art for the next four books. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m not a knight in shining armor but I do research my subject matter in all ways possible. And this doesn’t include a week or two or a month or two at an archives. I’m talking about years and years of research. For example, for Errol & Olivia I have been researching them at the USC Warner Bros. Archives since the mid-1990s (and elsewhere). I haven’t finished this research. And yes, there have been interruptions, sometimes lengthy. That said, putting food on the table, paying bills, and having a life are also important.Research time is limited, not only by me surviving but also the USC WB Archives limited availability. Currently they are open to historians and college students three times a week from 10:00 AM until 4:30 PM except when they are closed. At the moment they have been closed since the last week of July until September. Also, and this is key, they usually have only six spots open for researchers, and these are by appointment. …. Research, wherever it is happening, will continue up until the book is published.

In no way am I criticizing the USC WB Archives. It is a goldmine,
and over all these years the archivists have been so good to me. Everyone, … everyone. Jonathon Auxier runs the archives now. I’ve known him for a
number of years. Not only has he gone out of his way to make my
research experience successful, he’s just a great person.
Charming, funny, bright, caring. The archives are lucky they have
him running the show, for I’m certain he has helped many
people find the information they crave.


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Olivia and Flynn during the forrest banquet scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

Not to worry, for I write as I research. Originally I had told a number of people that this blog would deal with E&O’s acting. Unfortunately this was a false statement by me. My apologies, for I have realized that I can’t give away key elements to the book (even though it would only be related to say They Died With Their Boots On or Four’s a CrowdThe Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, and Dodge City. These films will dominate the acting and writing in E&O. Certainly Santa Fe Trail is important as Flynn and his Livvie have moved to a new level in their relationship. The Adventures of Robin Hood is mandatory as it is key to their lives. Captain Blood introduced them, but they were little more than amateurs at this time. Captain Blood is important for the raw emotions that are captured on screen (ditto Robin Hood). The Charge of the Light Brigade is an exceptional film in that it not only clearly documents their giant steps forward as actors (especially Flynn) but it also continues/cements a relationship that is fragile.Trust me, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland became attracted to each other from the moment they met during the casting of Captain Blood. No matter what happened or the directions their lives would take, they would remain connected regardless of their problems with each other over time.
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Swordsmen just wanna have fun. … and nothing is sacred. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m sorry for not talking about their acting in one of their films but this seemed to be wrong at this time. I want to keep your interest … I need to keep your interest. I can’t give the book away. One thing is certain—who they were and how they felt influenced their performances on screen. I will view their acting from a multitude of layers, which includes their growth as actors (and both did grow on film), as well as raw emotions that at times were captured by the cinematographer. Regardless of what happened with their real-life relationship, they were always drawn to each other. The sexual desire was always present, regardless of the hurt or anger in their lives. This led to friendship, and this eventually gave them their best performances as an acting duo. I will discuss their acting using my acting background. Ditto Mr. Flynn and his handling of a sword. This will be a book of their life and times, but it is also a history of their times and that includes their films and their acting in their eight films together. What I share will be lively. One final note, Errol & Olivia will be different from any book you have ever read about Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland. It will change your thinking about them.

Now for your quiz
This is a two-part question that deals with Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling films (TV performances don’t count here). He made eight of them. 1) Name them, the year they were released, and the characters Flynn played. 2) He made another film that could have been a swashbuckler. Certainly he swung a blade on camera. Name this film, its year of release, and who Flynn played. Like I said, easy. Email me with your answers. Remember, you’ll have to live locally or travel to cross blades with me. There is no rush to collect your winnings, for there is no time limit (other than me continuing to walk and swing a sword).

Olivia de Havilland birthday, update, & quiz

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Friends have been contacting me all day regarding OdeH’s 97th birthday (July 1). On Sunday good friend Paul Fardink, who has written a terrific article on Lt. Charles Gatewood and his military service in the Southwest with Apache Indians (which includes a cool interview of me), let me know that he had seen OdeH on 60 Minutes this past Sunday night (June 30). He said: “David McCullough was in Paris doing a book signing and she shows up unexpectedly—96 years old and sharp as a tack!” Just what I want to hear!!!! What a great present from OdeH to the world that enjoys her classic films.

Here’s a personal note on Livvie: In a letter I received from her in December 2012 she requested information regarding her life; what I thought was important and who she should talk about. I sent her a detailed list. Hopefully some of it will work its way into her autobiography.

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Original artwork of OdeH in Louis Kraft collection.

The original artwork of OdeH seen here is in my personal collection. In 2004 when my daughter Marissa and I visited her in Paris, I gave her a print of it. She immediately recognized who she was playing. If you recognize who she’s playing, let me know.
The first person with the correct answer will receive one free dueling lesson with sabers. ‘Course you will need to live in the Los Angeles area for I don’t travel to train people on how to run other people through with a blade. 

I should add that the only local person who might identify this portrait correctly will be my buddy Robert Florczak. Unfortunately, or fortunately for you, I don’t think he’ll step forward as I don’t think he wants to cross blades with me. I wonder why.

Do your research and submit your answer to the email address at the bottom of this page. Good luck to all!

The good news is that Livvie at the time of her 97th birthday looks well and sounds great. Happy Birthday to a wonderful person!

Sand Creek Massacre and Errol & Olivia updates

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


You wouldn’t believe what my day entails if I told the truth; heck, you wouldn’t believe it if I lied. Let’s put it this way, the days are long. Long days are good, for nights can be hell … even though sometimes decent work bounces trippingly off the keyboard during the wee hours.

Images and ideas constantly dance before me; still it is often lonely. A hard and yet inevitable decision made 14 months ago set my book projects key to my future. This has locked me into “an outside forever looking in world” of my own making. No regrets, for it was a decision of choice (but surprisingly not new just dormant).

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lk watching daughter Marissa K. at the historical park where the Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association’s banquet was held the day after their annual symposium on June 24, 2011 (I spoke about Flynn, de Havilland, & Custer). Weather was great; not hot, not cold … nice. During the trip, Marissa and I hung out with good friends Linda Andreu Wald and Bob Williams. We tracked Custer at Pompey’s Pillar where he had a firefight with the Sioux in 1873, explored Billings (like the city, but don’t think I could survive a winter), saw a great piece of art on Kit Carson I had never seen before, and of course walked the Little Bighorn National Historic Monument (first time I’ve seen green grass there). Good times. … Here Marissa is checking her phone for something that Linda sent her. Bob Williams took this photo on June 25, 2011, and I like it for it captured a moment of time in my life that was at a crossroad (and I didn’t know it). More important at this late date, it shows me doing one of the few things I’m good at—observing.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

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Marissa Kraft exploring Sand Creek below the bluffs at the big bend of the dry riverbed on the Bill Dawson property in September 1987. (Photo © Marissa & Louis Kraft 1987)

Work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has picked up speed and intensity. Research is now ongoing and daily (except when I visit the USC Warner Bros. Archives). An historian’s search never ends and it is forever ongoing. William Bent, a trader who would play a major role walking between two worlds (Cheyenne-Arapaho and white), is seeing his part in the story grow while at the same time seeing portions of his life debunked.

The question here is how to present information that puts the lie to supposed known “truths” that have been repeated so long that they are no longer questioned? George Bird Grinnell’s work with the Cheyennes is standard. How can his writing be challenged without outraging the multitudes that have accepted it without question? Me included … until now.

Battle or massacre? For years I have held steady that the attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village on Sand Creek in November 1864 was a battle. Within the last two months I have changed my opinion. I recently read Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (2013) and am disgusted and yet thrilled with his book. His facts and conclusions based upon listed primary source material confuses me. How could he have good information and yet interpret so poorly that his sections dealing with 1864 and 1865 are loaded, and I mean loaded, with errors. This isn’t excusable. How? Why? But this only accounts for 20 percent or less of his text.

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The rest of the book, fully 80 percent, is a page-turning exposé of the struggle to find the Sand Creek battlefield and the ongoing fight between property owners in southeast Colorado, Cheyenne and Arapaho massacre descendants, politicians, local residents, National Park Service personal, historians, would-be historians, government officials, and so on before the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site could become reality.

This portion of Kelman’s book is not about that terrible day of November 29, 1864, when people who thought they were at peace were attacked by Colorado volunteer troops, killed (and in numerous cases murdered), and then hacked to pieces (but Kelman understands and captures the devastating wound that still burns within the soul of today’s Cheyennes and Arapahos). On that November 29th day volunteer troops used small children for target practice, an unborn child was cut from its dead mother’s body and scalped, three women and five children prisoners were executed by a lieutenant with his saber as their guards backed away in horror and while they begged for their lives. Many of the bodies gave up between 5, 7, and sometimes 8 scalps. Penises, vaginas, and breasts were cut from the dead and displayed as ornaments and trophies. I have been talking about this and writing about this for years. AND I’m always disgusted (as was Ned Wynkoop when he learned what had happened). BUT it was Ari Kelman’s book that made me realize that Sand Creek was a massacre—not because everyone died, for many people escaped the bloodbath and survived, but because of the heinous intent of the onslaught, the heinous intent to remove a race of people from the face of the earth.

Yes, I’ve been outraged for years, and that outrage is front and center right now.

That said, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will be told from all sides and in the POV (point of view, a cinematic term) of the participants. I will paint no villains; you will judge the participants by their actions, and when I know them by their motivations. It took Chuck Rankin, editor-in-chief at OU Press, and myself years to piece together a story idea that both of us are enthusiastic about. Over these years Chuck has become a good friend and a calming element in my life. Sometimes I push too hard, and he growls back. But that’s good for it gives me a release on frustrations and at the same time keeps me focused and in line.

Errol & Olivia

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Cool ef & odeh art from a magazine that no longer exists. I want art for the cover of Errol & Olivia, and if not I already have the photo I want to use (believe it or not, I already have the cover art for the second Flynn book).

Research for the manuscript on Errol & Olivia continues, and although I’m not writing as many words as I’d like I’m thrilled with the direction and focus in which the manuscript moves. I have constantly stated that this book will be “different,” and this remains true. The focus is certainly on Flynn and de Havilland, but it is on so many levels of their lives and times that I can’t remember reading a similar type of biography. The search for them is ongoing and intense as I use every means I’ve learned over the years (from the theatrical, technical, and historical worlds) to bring them and their world to life.

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As with all previous books, it is the entire research, writing, and production process that gives me life. … This guarantees that the upcoming years are going to be one hell of a good ride.

Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Custer, & Sand Creek

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Captain Louis Edward Nolan carried the orders that launched the infamous charge of the Light Brigade. Flynn’s Captain Geoffrey Vickers is based upon Nolan.

Those of you who think that Errol & Olivia will never see the light of day—shame on you, for it is perhaps the most important book that’ll I’ll ever write. Certainly it will be the most challenging, and that is because of what must be mixed into the telling of the story of E&O. This isn’t an easy mix of detail for if nothing else their eight films are a mix of reality and fiction. In their eight films together, three of Flynn ‘s characters were originally based upon the pirate Henry Morgan, Louis Edward Nolan, and the gunman Wyatt Earp.

In three others, he played J. E. B. Stuart, Robert Devereux, and George Armstrong Custer, while only one of Olivia’s characters was based upon a real person—the magnificent Elizabeth Bacon Custer.

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Elizabeth Bacon Custer in 1864 or 1865. Libbie, as Custer and all her friends called her, was an exceptional human being. She could accept Custer, her man, her love, for what he was, and for 57 years after Custer’s death at the Little Bighorn, she preserved his image. When, in 1867 Custer risked all to confirm that his Libbie hadn’t become a victim of cholera, when he appeared and they they spent a wondrous day making love, she would forever call it that “one perfect day.”

Of course, Maid Marian and Robin Hood are based upon legend. I have read that Flynn’s character, Robert Lansford, in Four’s a Crowd is also based upon a real person during the early part of the 20th century. To date, unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm this.

In case you aren’t aware of it, my toying around while creating blogs is in realtime in my life looking for directions that may drive the manuscript. How do I dig, how do I explore? I’m constantly on the alert for a Flynn/de Havilland connection. Did he smile at her, did she slap him, did he inappropriately touch her and better did she enjoy it? But here, I’m constantly searching for the spine of their films–the screenplays. Make no mistake, Warner Bros. paid their screenwriters a lot of money to create. These writers were constantly under high pressure to write sparkling dialogue and plots that advanced at lightning speed. Screenwriting is an artistic craft, but like all writing it is a collaborative effort. Don’t doubt this, for I know this from what seems a lifetime of seeing words printed. The only time wherein I can take full credit is when I speak, for then it isn’t the written word; rather it is how well I have prepared and how well I keep my concentration for I don’t know what I’m going to say until I say it. I’m never more alive than at these moments, … the only exception being when I’m with a special lady.

We all need that “one perfect day.”

Doubt it not, Errol craved to explore Olivia’s delights and she in return wanted to taste him. It would never be, and that alone is enough to write a book. But there’s so much more that it’s mind-boggling. The major question here is how do I mix and match facts in a way that results in a page-turning manuscript that captures Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland?

From the moment they saw each other during the tests for Captain Blood in 1935 their physical attraction for each other was in place, and it would drive their lives in eight films. It wasn’t to be, but that doesn’t distract from their reality or the film performances they created. The Lord only knows how many books have been printed about “how to act.” Probably 90 percent of them are avoidable (at all times). Simply put, acting is grabbing your gut feelings, your soul, your inner being and bringing it to life on stage or on film. This isn’t easy to do, but Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland did it. And that is why their scenes together are so alive with life. A simple fact with one bottom line—great acting.

They made eight films, three westerns, two swashbucklers, one comedy, one historical-adventure w/tragical overtones, and one historical tragedy. In all of these films one thing shined though and sizzled with life, their real-life feelings and desires for each other.

I discovered pirate Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk and his shy love for Brenda Marshall while a boy. Soon after I found again him in They Died With Their Boots On. He was George Armstrong Custer and Olivia de Havilland was the love of his life, his Libbie. Although unknown at the time, these films would dictate my future.

They would dictate how I would view womanhood and love, they would dictate my view on life, and ultimately they would dictate my career (if one can consider “writing” a career).

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This image, slightly reworked and the beginning of art, was taken during the filming of Errol and Olivia’s last full working together as actor and actress. The scene didn’t exist when they shot their famous and often thought their last screen performance when they shot the so-called “diary scene.” There’s a great story behind this scene; it will be in the book.

Of Flynn and de Havilland’s films, They Died With Their Boots On is the most important for the simple reason that it celebrates their acting capabilities on film. They had aged, had accepted each other as human beings while knowing that their earlier desire for each other would never come to pass. This was a major accomplishment in their lives for it allowed them to not only move forward but gave them a relationship that was real and not based upon physical desire. They could pinch and squeeze and hug and caress and not feel threatened, … they could accept each other as a man and a woman that had desires that would never reach fruition.

When two people realize this about each other it allows them to become friends for all time regardless when they see each other. It gives them a love that transcends time regardless if they had ever been intimate.

You are again front and center to how I research a writing project. I must grasp for my players’s souls as I attempt to know them. Know this, I can only write about what I discover. Errol and Olivia are much more accessible than Ned Wynkoop and his Louise or George Armstrong Custer and his Libbie. Why? How? Simple, … there is a million more documents related to E&O as opposed to Ned & Louise or GAC & Libbie. As a writer/historian I must explore everything I can find on E&O, digest it, figure out what happened that dictated their life, times, and relationship.

This isn’t an easy project, and worse, it’s loaded with false leads and out and out lies. On the plus side as OU Press stalls with its progress in moving toward completion with a signed contract for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, E&O gains momentum as research and writing move forward. My desire to complete E&O is huge, and if the press’s passive approach to their desire—me completing a final Sand Creek manuscript from date of signed contract—stalls to the point of E&O driving toward manuscript delivery, I won’t sign the Sand Creek contract unless it is rewritten to state that my delivery will be three years after the conclusion of the E&O manuscript.  There are two major driving forces behind the above statement. The most important of which is at the moment I am working on E&O five-six days per week, and I’m having one hell of a good time.

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You are looking at one of the images that will appear in Errol & Olivia. Most likely all the images will be colored artwork. Since I like breaking rules, this is the current plan (and let me tell you right now that if this comes to pass I will take some heat, venomous heat). Most likely the book will include 30 images when printed. Will soon submit a series on Flynn’s westerns for magazine publication, and the submission will include this image. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

1) FIRST AND FOREMOST, I could dedicate the rest of my book-writing future to writing about Flynn and de Havilland. 2) Although there is a novel wherein Kit Carson will play a major character and a major novel with Ned Wynkoop the leading player, in the nonfiction world, after Sand Creek, only a manuscript on Kit Carson looms in my future. Although I have written and spoken about George Armstrong Custer for years, all pitches to do a second book on him have been greeted with negative response. To date all talks about a nonfiction book on Carson have also met with negative response. I want to write a nonfiction book on Carson, and I want to tie my professional life to Wild Bill Hickok (but in a theatrical way). If these projects falter (if Sand Creek stalls only the publisher can address the reason why, for both they and I have worked diligently to move this book to reality), by default E&O, all future book projects on Flynn and one on de Havilland may well be my future.

If so, ‘taint too bad of a future.

Buying time … Errol Flynn, Ned Wynkoop, & a bad word

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


I thought that tomorrow I would return to the USC Warner Bros. Archives to continue research on the Flynn/de Havilland book. Not to be, for USC has entered finals, which means that the library system shuts down. As the archives is now part of the library system, it also shuts down. I now won’t be able to research at the archives until May 22 and I’ve signed up for all three available days (Wednesday through Friday, May 22-24).

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lk, Diane Moon, & Olivia de Havilland. We are at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Ca., in June 2006. Olivia is being honored. “She,” Olivia would whisper to me upon meeting Diane this night, “is exquisite.” And she was–hell, Diane is beautiful. I have tried so hard to eliminate her from my past, but she is front and center in much of my writing projects, and I can’t do it. This isn’t because of the memories, for they are good. All I can say, is that we are no longer a couple; it ended in 2011 (and I hope that this satisfies her). My past is mine, mine, never to be jettisoned to the circular file, and doubly so when related to what I write about. I have stated the truth about Diane’s & my past, we are no longer a couple. Enough said about a relationship that no longer exists. I should add that Diane and Olivia liked each other and spent time together again in 2009.

 

I’m good with this; hell, I’m good with everything. There is absolutely nothing to get upset over.

Look on the bright side, …

I delivered the final Sand Creek proposal to Chuck Rankin at OU Press last Sunday, April 28. This will lead to him pitching the proposal and us agreeing to and signing a contract. Until that contract is signed, I have time to complete a bunch of articles that are long overdue.

At the moment I’m struggling to remember what I said about Wynkoop in Centennial, Colorado, last month. Read that I’m trying to write an article based on the talk. This is important stuff, for it defines Wynkoop, it defines his guts to stand firm against the press, the military, and the U.S. government, for he absolutely refused to again be what he called an “accessory to the crime” of systematic slaughter of American Indians. This, my friends, took guts.

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This image was created during a rally for Grant’s bid to become president of the USA in October 1868 at the Cooper Union in New York City, two months before Wynkoop also spoke before a standing only crowd at the same hall. Image from Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (November 7, 1868). lk collection.

When questioned about solving the “Indian problem” at the famed Cooper Union in Manhattan in December 1868, Wynkoop dared to say that the best way to solve the situation would be “to extend American citizenship to the Indians and allow their representatives seats in congress.” Oh yes, this man was light years before his time.

And Mr. Flynn—he had to deal with nasty stuff in the 1940s that not only didn’t go away, but after his death worse accusations surfaced that he never had the chance to contest. If you have read a lot about him, you hopefully realize that some of what you may or may not know but have read is not true. Of course, a lot of what you’ve read is true. The good and the bad (don’t know if “bad” a good word choice here), are keys to why people are interesting. (More about this in another blog.)

I’ve told you a little of about Mr. Wynkoop but really nothing about Mr. Flynn. … But my views are strong here and they are going to lead to the usage of a foul word (more than once). If you will be offended, stop reading right here.

And Wynkoop’s reward? The circular file for he refused to march in line with the extermination of a race of people. Fuck that!

Flynn’s reward? Bullshit and lies that his family has not been able to question in court for the simple reason that you can defame the dead in the USA. Great court system we have. I don’t need to repeat the offending phrase here, for you already know what it would be.

New York publishers push the bullshit of the American frontier that the public has knowledge of and buys. There are only a handful of story ideas dealing with the American past (for example: the Alamo, Custer’s last stand, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, among a handful of others). They’re not interested in the truth; rather they’re interested the rewording and reworking of the same stories over and over again. Their goal is to sell books. Since this is the only way they can avoid going out of business, I must agree with their policy. I can agree with it, but I don’t have to like or buy into it. Do you want that infamous word one more time? Why not? Fuck them! (BTW, this four letter word that begins with an “F” is now in the dictionary, so it shouldn’t shock you.) Ladies and gentlemen, some of you (and certainly me) have used this word to the extent that it is now a part of our accepted English slang word usage. Congrats! And thank you, for I’m no longer a gunslinger using a foul and unacceptable word.

In life, we have a choice. What matters, or lies and bullshit that we at times (certainly me) must sell out to and swallow because we want to put food on the table.

There is a lot of crap that has been written, published, and accepted by the public as truth. As the saying goes, “If it is published, it must be true.” Hog wash! And those of you that believe that if something is published that it must be true—shame on you. Shame on you!

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Wynkoop in 1867. (Art © Louis Kraft 1990)

The intent of this blog was simply to say that due to the shutdown of the Warner Bros. Archives I would have the time to complete a Wynkoop article, two shorter articles on Geronimo and the Apaches, and to finally pound away on a Marilyn Monroe article before returning to the land of Errol & Olivia (2 days a week, and sometimes 3, until completion) and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (4 days a week upon signing of the contract and delivery of the final manuscript three years from the date of the contract signing), along with 1 day a week for talks and articles (thus me needing to get as much of this done now). There is a Gatewood/Geronimo talk coming this fall (and I’m going to have to figure out how to cheat on time here, figure out how to buy extra time). … And I haven’t even mentioned Navajo Blood. Yikes! Perhaps it is good that there is no lady in my life, for I don’t think she’d be very pleased with me.

Other than being lonesome at times, all is good and I’m enjoying walking into my future.