Louis Kraft’s upcoming books: Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland lead the way

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2022

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


First, an ad for Kraft’s next blog,
which, as usual, will be long and detailed
(that is not this blog, as it isn’t a book)

This is the Wrangler that LK won for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. I won my first Wrangler Award in 2012. (photo © Louis Kraft 2022)

I haven’t written and posted a blog since September 2020 due to my ongoing work preparing for the first two deliveries to the new Louis Kraft Collection at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections (UNM CSWR). Pailin and I made the first delivery in a large rented Dodge Minivan in June 2021. Tomas Jaehn is the director of this huge and unbelievable archive. He flew to SoCal in December 2021, and in a rented SUV picked up the second delivery. He will also pick up a third (and smaller) delivery on 25apr2022.

The year 2021 was also a great year for my last published book, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (University of Oklahoma Press, 2020), as it won two best nonfiction awards:

  • Western Heritage Museum’s Wrangler Award (which is major)
  • Colorado Authors’ League Award

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway was life changing for me as former University of Oklahoma Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin said to me after it was published: “This is your masterpiece!” Regardless if it is or not, it felt good for after almost three years of us discussing how I wanted to write the manuscript he agreed. And it was a challenge to fit everything together in a linear fashion, bring the leading and supporting players to life, while completing a book wherein I delivered it with the final agreed upon word count. Not once, but twice I cut over 60,000 words from the manuscript.

I can’t tell you how many wanna-be historians stuff their error-riddled fabricated pieces of crap that they pack with fiction disguised as fact exist. One of these wanna-be she-wolfs with bottle in hand will dance in the street in delight if I die before her … I mean him … oh hell, I don’t know what this she-wolf is.

This blog will most likely go live in the fall. … Don’t worry for it won’t feature any she-wolves.

Now to this blog …

My wonderful bro Glen Williams took this great image (right) of LK in May 2012. For me it represents exiting the past and walking into the future. In my dedication for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (2020) I wrote: “For Glen Williams, my brother throughout time. Our friendship began in 1990 in a software company, and he soon became my best male friend ever. Our relationship has experienced a world of change that neither he nor I ever dreamed possible, but we have survived it. He is with me in life as he will be in deathforever linked.” Glen died on August 26, 2020, and my life has been a lot lonelier ever since.

(photo © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Perhaps an LK explanation would be nice

With my life, and my life expectancy, my upcoming books are my writing life. This portion of my future has been a long-time coming, and the shift in direction has been in my vision for decades. This means a number of things. ..

No more articles (I’m sick of my pitches being accepted and then an editor tells me he wants Gatewood,  Geronimo, or Custer articles—that’s past tense, as I don’t write about them any longer … not quite true with Mr. Custer (see below). Most likely there will be no more talks unless I receive my former fee of $750.00 and all expenses; no more writing for the software world and they eventually paid me six figures (I’m still approached multiple times each week) as I’m no longer Scrooge McDuck (of Donald Duck and Walt Disney fame). … This said, and when I quit the entertainment world cold turkey in the mid-1980s, I made it clear that I’d never act again. Oops! “Never say never,” at least for me, for in the first decade of this century I wrote four versions of a one-man show on Ned Wynkoop that played in Kansas, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma, and then a full-length play, Cheyenne Blood, that played for five weeks in Southern California. … What’s in my future? I don’t know.

Hopefully Olivia de Havilland enjoyed—as much as possible—her 104th birthday. I have every intention of enjoying my 104th birthday.

Key questions

As the years flash by at lightning speed there are two things that I now always ask myself:

  • Will I read the book or primary source material again for pleasure?
  • Do I need the book or primary source material for research?

If the answer is not “yes” to either question, the book/publication or primary source material has to go.

The Louis Kraft book list

The first three books in this list are most likely in the correct order, but after that it will probably turn into a flip of a coin numerous times before the following story ideas are ordered correctly.

Errol & Olivia (nonfiction)
This book has been in development since the mid-1990s. In case you didn’t know it, I’m “slow Kraft.” During this time the scope of Errol & Olivia has grown. This is good, as this manuscript will now include key events in their lives during the 1940s that are important.

Bragging aside, I have more primary source information about Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland than I have for any of my Indian wars race relation books. For the record I have a ton on George Armstrong Custer; Lt. Charles Gatewood/Geronimo/Apaches; Ned Wynkoop/Cheyennes; and the Sand Creek massacre including Cheyennes/Arapahos, whites who married into the tribes, their offspring, whites who craved Indian land at all costs, and the few whites who spoke out against the sexual mutilation of human beings books, … meaning I have an EF & OdeH goldmine.

LK introducing my then girlfriend Diane Moon to Olivia de Havilland at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (Beverly Hills, California) on 15jun2006. There’s a story here. Hell, there’s always story in LK’s life. Do I tell it here? No, for it will be in Errol & Olivia. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

I enjoyed a 20-year letter correspondence with Olivia, and she invited me to her Paris, France, home twice to spend time with her and to interview her, as well as inviting me to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences gala when they honored her life and career. A large portion of my research on her and Mr. Flynn (and I have more on EF) is now housed at the LK Collection at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections (it is the largest collection of them in the USA).*

Oh yeah Kraft knows the sword. I had planned on using art of Errol Flynn here, but got tired seeing my art stolen and then see it all over the internet. No one’s going to steal this collage for they couldn’t give a bleep about Kraft handling a blade. I will deal with EF’s swordplay in the books. I know that some people aren’t interested in this. I am, so they lose. This line of thought didn’t last long, for there is art of EF directly below. (all images © Louis Kraft 1970s & 1982)

* Any archival information I have, such as from the USC Warner Bros. Archives (Los Angeles, California), Arizona Historical Society (Tucson), or Colorado Historical Society (Denver), and so on, including photocopies, PDFs, and photos, belongs to the archive that I obtained it from and it can never be in the Louis Kraft Collection at UNM CSWR or in the first Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe (created in 2002).

I changed my mind from the above caption as I’m certain that this image will not appear in my books. Flynn and Livvie (as Errol and others called Olivia) made their last film together in 1941—They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros.). Flynn played Custer and Olivia played Elizabeth Bacon Custer (“Libbie”). I have much to say about this film and their lives while working on it. (art ©  Louis Kraft 2013)

As with my last four Indian wars books Errol & Olivia will be published by a university press. The reason is simple: University presses strive to eliminate errors while including notes that allow their readers to locate and view the authors’ documentation whereas popular presses reprint errors ad nauseam while also printing new errors that will also be reprinted by writers too lazy to do real research.

My Flynn/de Havilland collection is locked down until this book and Errol Flynn: The Defining Decade are published or December 31, 2031, whichever comes first.

**********

The next book is fiction, and thereafter there is more fiction in my future than nonfiction (I know, pure heresy) but I’m a writer. I have written screenplays, plays, talks, articles, and books, not to mention 20 years writing for the software world. I have always been in control of my writing life (and even when writing technical documentation). Here’s two examples:

Louis Kraft at the Western Heritage Wrangler Awards event in April 2012. This photo was taken shortly before the book signing on the afternoon of the twentieth.

In 2011 Wild West magazine sent me a proof of my article, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff.” When I saw it I called photo editor Lori Fleming, and told her to enlarge my art of Ned Wynkoop on the first page of the article as it was dinky and the story was about him. She told me that the issue had already been designed and there was no room. I told her to remove one of the two images of Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers that I had supplied, and she told me “no.” “Fine,” I said, “kill the article for you will no longer publish it.” There was a long pause. “You call Greg, and talk to him!” she screamed and hung up. Greg was/is editor of Wild West, Gregory Lalire. I didn’t call. A few days later he called me and said, “I hear you have a problem.” “No, I don’t have a problem, but Lori does.” I told Greg what I wanted, and he said, “I’ll take care of it.” He did and “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” won my first Wrangler Award.

In 1990 when I landed my first writing job in the software world at Infonet Services Corporation I quickly realized that the only thing the other technical writer did was edit engineer copy when provided. Otherwise he spent his time on the phone with his girlfriend. I couldn’t believe what I saw. On my third day on the job I walked into documentation manager Howard Burnaugh’s office and told him that I needed the software for the product I’d be writing about on my computer. “Why?” “How can I write about a product when I don’t know how to use it?” I then added that I wanted a list of all the engineers that I’d be working with—two days later Howard provided both to me.

**********

Navajo Blood (fiction)
Before saying a word about this story that has been dormant since the mid-1990s, I was in the process of preparing yet another delivery to the LK Collection in the Chávez History Library, when I uncovered a polished draft of my novel and all the accompanying documentation.

I prepped it for that delivery, but it never happened as Tomas Jaehn’s pitch to create a second LK Collection ended my deliveries to Santa Fe. … Am I a traitor/deserter to the first LK Collection? Maybe, but the newly created LK Collection at UNM CSWR is, and will forever be, the greatest honor bestowed upon this writer who learned his craft by the seat of his pants.

Marissa Kraft sitting near a ledge on the north side of the three canyons that are known as Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation on 7aug2012. In the background is Navajo Fortress Rock, which is a key set piece for Navajo Blood . This was her third, and my fourth extended trip to the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and the only national monument not on USA land. (photo © Marissa & Louis Kraft 2012)

Changing focus, in June 2019 my daughter Marissa Kraft and  I enjoyed a work and R&R trip to Tucson, Arizona, a city that I fell in love with in the 1970s, when my first wife and I spent a lot of time with her brother and his bride while he attended the University of Arizona. I can’t begin to tell you how much time I’ve spent there, but my research for the two Gatewood/Geronimo/Apache books kept me there for many months, and it is easily over six and a half months throughout the years. …

That 2019 June in Tucson Marissa and I saw and spent time with friend/literary agent Cherry Weiner at the Western Writers of America convention. We didn’t attend the event, but instead mingled with it at the hosting hotel. The polished genre draft of Navajo Blood was 65,000 words, and since discovering it I had been thinking about increasing its size by 35,000 words to make it an historical novel. Cherry totally agreed and might be interested. … The goal here is to add more Navajo words, culture, and mysticism, as well as more dialogue, character development, and action.

Colonel Kit Carson (right) receiving his orders from Brigadier General James Carleton in 1863 to launch a war against the Navajos, an assignment he didn’t want as the Diné were his friends. This is a detail of art displayed at the Bosque Redondo Memorial Museum in southeastern New Mexico. This museum is magnificent, and puts many national historic sites in the USA to shame.

The leading players are a Diné (as the Navajos call themselves) warrior, his granddaughter, Kit Carson, and his family during the early 1860s. I’ve shared more in the past, but not here. I will easily complete and polish a 100,000-word draft while continuing primary-source research on Errol Flynn: The Defining Decade.

Navajo Blood is also locked down at the Louis Kraft Collection, UNM CSWR, until it is published or December 31, 2031, whichever comes first, per my contract.

Errol Flynn: The Defining Decade (nonfiction)

I discovered Errol Flynn while in elementary school about two years before he died on 14oct1959. He grabbed my attention then, and believe it or not he has never let go. I’m going to say a few words that are probably in total disagreement with what has circled the news media, the internet, and in way too many publications since 1980 when Charles Higham’s heinous and untrue biography, Errol Flynn: The Untold Story, was published. In the United States you can defame the dead. In Canada you cannot defame the dead, meaning that in the USA Higham got away with murdering EF’s life and legacy. Not so in Canada where Higham’s despicable book was also published. Flynn’s two daughters Deidre and Rory with his second wife Nora Eddington sued him there. To avoid going to count Higham never again traveled to Canada during in his lifetime.

I hate to say it but there are other books as despicable as Higham’s or worse.

LK’s art based upon a 2009 photo taken at her home in Paris, France, in July 2009. Believe it or not years back a person accused me of creating this false piece of art us as I didn’t know Olivia. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

For what it is worth, Olivia shared only a few thoughts about Higham’s book on EF or his book on her and her sister film star and Oscar winner Joan Fontaine. I share her thoughts on Higham in Errol & Olivia. Beyond that, she refused to talk.

As stated above more archival research is still needed and it is ongoing as time permits. The title says it all, and, God willing, I’ll see it published. Sorry, no more information at this point in time as there are thieves out there who would love to steal my story idea and publish long before I do.

My Flynn/de Havilland collection is locked down until this book and Errol & Olivia are published or December 31, 2031, whichever comes first.

Everything that follows will be determined when it is time to choose a follow-up book to Mr. Flynn. .. At the same time I’m wondering how much I can share of upcoming fiction without giving away too much of the plots.

LK Memoir (nonfiction)
This has been an announced project a decade or more back. Will it ever be written? I don’t know but hope so. There’s been a lot of failure, a lot of tragedy, a lot of special people, a lot of idiots (including a racist pig—my view of this piece of slim isn’t printable), a lot of incidents that will make you cheer or laugh or cry or scream or cringe. Say it “ain’t” so LK! Alas, ’tis so. …

The LK Collection at UNM CSWR includes a large section called “Louis Kraft Memoir,” and it grows with each delivery. It includes everything from notes documenting an event to historical documents, such as my father’s discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps on 1aug1946 to a package of hair with one word on the outside of the 8½ x 11″ manilla envelope that proclaimed “SHAME” in large red letters that made me thrilled that I lived on the West Coast while the lady who sent me the package lived on the East Coast as the threat was real.

My beautiful wife Pailin Subanna Kraft at the end of our Thanksgiving dinner on 25nov2021. I have just completed preparing this image of her with a caption for the third delivery to the LK Collection at UNM CSWR on April 25. Oh, the second portion of the dedication in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway stated: “And for Pailin Subanna-Kraft, my lady, best friend, wife, and love, who has accepted my life and world without question. Without her I would have no life.” After she became a U.S. citizen in 2020 she removed the hyphen from her last name and made “Subanna” her middle name. (photo © Pailin Subanna Kraft & Louis Kraft 2021)

I was working on the third LK Collection delivery to UNM during the Oscar telecast on 27mar2022, but had a link for “Oscar Winners” on the internet so during breaks I could see what was happening. On live TV Jada Pinkett Smith was verbally insulted/attacked before a global audience. This was not an ad-lib by any stretch of the imagination. No! It was heinous in its intent and Will Smith walked onto the stage and slapped Chris Rock on the face and then returned to his seat where he later yelled: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” Mr. Smith has since taken a lot heat. On April 1st he resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. while humbly apologizing for his actions.

I understand his live apology when he accepted his Oscar for best actor, again the following day, online, and his announcement on April 1st. He’s a real human being, and I have nothing but praise for him. On April 8 the Academy banned Smith from and all events (not their wording) for 10 years. Will Smith had the perfect response: “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.” … When your lady, your wife, you loved one is verbally assaulted as Jada was, or as my beautiful wife Pailin has been, it is totally unacceptable. …

Pailin didn’t learn of Will Smith defending his wife until the following morning when she saw the news on a Thai broadcast. I was working on the delivery to UNM and was at my computer when she asked me what I would do? I followed her into the kitchen, and when she turned back to me I swung at an invisible figure with an open hand. She grabbed me with joy and we shared a long hug as I would defend her in the flesh against some of the heinous insults that have been directed at her and myself, and they will be in the memoir.

In Errol Flynn’s great autobiography/memoir he attempted to tell the truth—good or bad—but it was mostly (not all; but mostly) from his memory. There are some errors (and not all were created by him; read his publishers or ghost writer). How many celebrity memoirs have you read? How many were total gloss-overs wherein the subject never cursed, never lied, never stole, never cheated, never did drugs, never was a racist? In other words they were God’s gift to humanity. The absolute perfect person. Errol got it right (however, if he had been living when it was published in late 1959 he could have been sued). If ever I write a memoir my goal will be to tell the truth.

Finally, and like Mr. Flynn, I need to be dead when this book is published as I don’t want to be confronted by a mob armed with guns, knives, bombs, and an army of lawyers.

Muse Eternal (fiction)
Archaeologist Olivia Mitchel uncovers a disturbing array of Anasazi bones at newly discovered ruins outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Close examination leads her to believe what she has found could be an example of ritualistic cannibalism. As this is heresy she keeps this information to herself.

This image was taken on 8sept1989 at Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. In this image my daughter Marissa is six and a half years old. At this point in time I may make Elsa, Olivia’s daughter, six while also considering making her 10 or 12. This decision is still floating on the wind. (photo © Marissa & Louis Kraft 1989)

Olivia, her daughter Elsa, and renown archeologist Charles Fairbanks go to Albuquerque for a weekend of R&R. Charles is Olivia’s mentor and lover. During their three days of partying Charles is invited to a banquet wherein the keynote speaker is a noted Indian wars historian. The evening of the event begins fabulously but ends on a sour note in the after hours when the writer named Jon Werner wins over Elsa while Olivia and Charles party with the elite of New Mexico. Later that night Olivia hesitantly presents her mutilated bone theory to Charles. He warns her that she is treading on dangerous ground. Many in the archeological field prefer the status quo of the Anasazi—that of the peaceful, sedentary people of legend. Olivia discounts the warning as little more than hidden jealousy.

The above is just a tad of what I already have in place with what could be a story that hopefully pops off the pages. Originally Werner was set to be a song writer/country singer but recently I changed him to a historian, as that will ease him into the plot with a personal interest in what is, or is not, happening.

This story is close to me; real close in ways I can never disclose. Because of this, Muse Eternal currently will become reality before The Land of the Heathen (at least at this moment). My view, these are two novels that I must complete and see published.

Land of the Heathen (fiction)

Land of the Heathen is based upon the Chinese presence on the Monterey peninsula and Stockton, California, in the 19th century. It deals with race relations during the 1880s, and yes it is a western. I have a lot of research already in-house, including an outline, synopsis, and character descriptions.

This photo may represent the image that I use for Wade Hardin. (© Louis Kraft 1973)

Sheep herder Wade Hardin, brother Will, and his wife Emma defend their flock from white rustlers, but Will and his infant son are wounded. Hardin travels to Stockton to get a doctor and sell their sheep. To calm himself enters a saloon. Ling Cheng, a Chinese fisherman who was visiting friends, is pushed around by cattlemen. Normally, Hardin wouldn’t interfere, but still seething over the attack on his sheep he does and stands down the mob. Cheng departs, but Hardin is now seen as a Chinese lover and the town physician will not attend to his relatives and he receives no offers on the sheep.

When Hardin returns to camp, his young nephew is dead. Soon after cattle baron William (Billy) Johnson appears and offers a lowball amount of cash to buy the sheep. Although Johnson looks familiar Hardin accepts. He, Will, and Emma break camp and move south. At another Delta town, Hardin goes in alone for supplies. A celebrating Johnson is present and tells the sheep man, “I should have never paid for something I could have for free.” Hardin realizes that Johnson had raided his flock, and as he flees the cattle baron shouts out that Hardin “is in cahoots with the Chinese.”

Hardin finds Will murdered and Emma in shock. They flee toward Arizona but are tracked down. Hardin is shot, robbed, and  beaten. Just before Emma is raped she guts her attacker with a knife only to be shot to death. That night Hardin kills his guard and vanishes into the night on a stolen horse.

This image of Gong Li is from Zhou Yu’s Train (2004). Along with Olga Kurylenko, she is one of my top two actresses of all time. Mainly because both listen, react, and then speak. Way too many actors don’t do this. I’m using Li for my physical image of Tama.

Changing direction the wounded man rides toward the California Coast, eventually stumbling into a wooden shanty in Point Aloma, a Chinese enclave on the Monterey Peninsula. His arrival causes an uproar as the Chinese consider this white man a heathen, a devil, same as they do with all whites. Cheng arrives with news that the white devils hunt this heathen and that they make a gift of him.

An old man stands up for Hardin, as earlier he had seen him protect Cheng in the Stockton saloon. This brings the wrath of his Chinese brethren on him, but surprisingly Cheng agrees when white devils are seen riding toward the village.

Cheng hides Hardin in his house. But not all is good. The Chinese are wary of the devil within their midst and keep their distance. Hardin’s recovery is slow, and he has a difficult time adjusting to the cultural barriers. However, as he regains his strength, he attempts to fit in. Cheng’s children, and Tama, his sister, respond. The elders do not, and Cheng warns Hardin to keep to himself, as he is only welcome until he heals.

This is what a Chinese fishing town looked like on the Monterey coast about 10 years prior to Land of the Heathen.

When Cheng and the other men are at sea fishing whites invade Point Alones. Their assault includes rape of old and young. Hardin has recovered enough to step out from hiding and intervene, but Tama physically stops him. That night, after fishing, Cheng burns for revenge, but knows this cannot be. Then he sees the flicker of a relationship between Tama and Hardin. He takes Hardin aside and tells him that Tama is a rarity in the land of the heathen, the white man—a Chinese female who is not married and who isn’t a whore in the Devil’s world. She will marry one of her own. It’s simple: if Hardin touches her, he will die. … This is the beginning of the story.

Obviously this story is close to my life, and is a coin flip with Muse Eternal for which novel will be first. Best of all, and like Muse Eternal, I have a lot of research in house.

Reenter Howard Burnaugh,
LK’s documentation manager
at Infonet Services Corporation in El Segundo, California

I ought to say something here. In 1995 there was a major software convention in San Francisco that was free. ….  Howard had hired me as a technical writer in 1990 with zero experience (my background consisted of design and freelance writing).

I asked him if I could attend the convention, pitching that it would expand my knowledge on how to improve the look and feel of the books I currently wrote and designed. Without hesitation he said, “Yes.” … Before I left his his office he told me that he’d only pay for the airfare. The quotes I obtained were high. When Howard saw them he said, “No, instead I’ll pay your gasoline.” … That night I called great friends Tony and Cindy Graham, who lived in Santa Cruz, and asked if I could stay with them while I attended the convention. They said yes. I told them that I’d arrive on Wednesday evening and return home early Sunday morning. Tony and Cindy were oh-so key in my brother Lee’s life. Their children Sarah and Anthony were very young at this time. … On Sunday I detoured to explore Monterey, and stumbled upon a photographer’s shop that featured Chinese photos from the nineteenth century that he restored, printed, and sold. I spent three or four hours with him and bought Chinese Gold before I continued my drive south. All I could think about were the Chinese. By the time  I got home I had a story idea.

On Monday I handed my gasoline bill to Howard. At that time I drove a 1982 F-150 Ford pickup (which he knew), and it didn’t get good mileage. When he looked at the cost I thought that he would faint, but then his face turned beet red. It was a struggle not to laugh. “If you had agreed to the air flight.” I said, “I would have stayed in an expensive hotel in downtown San Francisco that I couldn’t afford, but you didn’t. I stayed with friends in Santa Cruz.”

Untitled Kit Carson/Indians (nonfiction)
This untitled, and most-likely my last nonfiction book that deals with race relations and American Indians on the frontier, will focus on Kit Carson.

As the caption in the photo of this LK art of Kit Carson states, it is already in the first LK Collection at the Chávez History Library, and it is copyrighted art. … The art shows how Carson appeared in the first portion of the 1860s. This portion of Carson’s life may or may not be in my nonfiction manuscript. Research will be the determining factor.

This manuscript has been in the works for a long-long time, and is of great importance to me. And doubly so, for like my previous Indian wars books, it is a story that has never been told as I hope to tell it, and then with only a paragraph or three that shares nothing or is so fictional or biased that it should have never been printed. Shame on the publishers!

As always I have a lot of information that is already in-house, and much of it is primary research. But it is not enough. More primary source research is required, and it is mandatory to proceed with this manuscript. If I can’t discover and mine what is necessary it will be a tragedy for then my last nonfiction Indian wars book will have already been published.

For the record, if I am lucky, obtain long lost information, and draft a decent manuscript, my publisher of choice will be the University of Nebraska Press. If this happens, the reasons will be shared.

The Pirate Drake (fiction)
“The Pirate Drake” is mostly what I call Francis Drake, but I doubt if it will ever be a book title. … A lot about the pirate Drake needs to be said (but not here). This said, I should begin with director Richard Steele Reed, who was my acting manager in1976-1977. Unfortunately Richard is long gone, that is he no longer walks Mother Earth. After I had returned to Los Angeles after a summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, we contracted. It was a good working relationship, but it wouldn’t last. During this time we partnered on a novel dealing with Drake’s early piratical voyages to the New World. I wrote, and even then I had all the books published on Drake to that point in time, while Richard, who knew nothing about the pirate, edited. Alas, this story went on hiatus in 1977, which was good for me as my future life as a writer had just exploded although I wouldn’t realize this for years. This sounds like fiction—unpublished Kraft fiction—but it isn’t.

This image shows Drake’s ship entering a small harbor. His vessels were much smaller at the end of the 1560s and into the early 1570s. It was during this time he befriended the Cimarrons, mixed-blood African slaves who escaped from the Spaniards and married indigenous people who lived in Panama. The art is in the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe.

This portion of Drake’s life isn’t well documented as there isn’t much documentation at this time of his life as he lived in obscurity. He sought revenge against the Spaniards who had promised that John Hawkins’ damaged fleet a safe harbor to repair damaged vessels but then attacked and destroyed all the English ships save two: a small vessel named the Swan that Drake captained and another that Hawkins had boarded after his ship was engulfed in flames. … As soon as possible Drake made exploratory trips to the Caribbean Sea and the Spanish mainland to decide how he would begin his private war against Spain. During this time he wooed and won Mary Newman, who became his wife in 1569. The pirate Drake’s war against Spain began in 1572.

The Pirate Drake (nonfiction)
… And he has the potential of jumping to the top of this list in a heartbeat but it won’t happen. This is no joke. No joke. Francis Drake has been with me since early childhood, but for some reason has always been pushed to the back of my writing life.

The second time was when the Golden Hinde II was docked in Oxnard, California, but I only have photos of the vessel and not of me on it.

For the record, I’ve always been a pirate, and have always walked shoulder to shoulder with Francis Drake. I’ve made a point of exploring the Golden Hinde II as this was the vessel in which he circumnavigated the globe (1577-1580). Folks, this was a major accomplishment.

LK photo of the replica of the pirate Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde II in Oxnard, California (June 1988). Unlike my first and third times aboard his vessel I didn’t have it to myself, as his ship was jammed with people. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

Francis Drake was an exceptional human being. If you study the second half of the sixteenth century and are aware of the racial and religious hatred that were predominant, and more the brutal and at times the savage butchery of human beings at this time, you may understand my attraction to Drake the pirate.

Yes, he was a pirate, and the Spaniards considered him a pirate during his entire life. But he wasn’t the typical bloodthirsty pirate who butchered other human beings. Instead he treated them with respect (even though he hated Spain for their heinous murder of indigenous people in the New World and Protestants whenever captured). By the end of my college years Drake had hooked me, and thereafter I have purchased everything on him that I could find.

What’s this book going to be about? I’m not sure yet, but it will not deal with anything in my novel about him. For more on the pirate Drake see: https://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2017/05/20/the-pirate-francis-drake-and-louis-kraft/.

Phraya Phichai Dap Hak, the soldier with the broken sword (fiction)

I discovered Phraya Phichai on my second full day in Thailand in November 2014 after I joined Pailin in her homeland, and it was her first visit since leaving in 2004. We mostly stayed with family and friends (one cottage on my first night after Joining Pailin and one hotel on our next to last night). Pailin’s good friend Colonel Daranee Konsin (retired) opened her home to us in Lompang. Her statue was the same as I would see time and again. Next we lived with Not and Font Subanna (they are Pailin’s sister and brother-in-law). We spent nine or eleven days with them in Uttaratt and the trip to Bangkok.

Art of Font Subanna & LK at his home in Uttaradit, Thailand, on his birthday (27nov2014). I created the painting in 2016. (art © Louis Kraft & Font Subanna 2016)

Sabrina Subanna, Not and Font’s daughter, and Pailin’s niece is her only relative in the USA. Luckily Sabrina and her hubby Carlos Castillo live near us as Pailin and Sabrina are sisters. Sabrina’s sister Lek and her husband Sophon, who live walking distance from her parents, gave us a tour of their city, and as I learned it featured Phraya Phichai. This included a huge museum that housed three paintings of him and finally the Temple where there is a huge statue of him (that the small ones replicate) plus a museum that featured him.

A boy named Choi (which meant “little one”) was born in 1741. While still a boy Thai boxing grabbed hold of his life and would not let go. Without his parents knowledge he studied it. At an unknown date he met Thiang, a master trainer who saw his potential. Although unknown at the time, their connection was key to the boy’s future. When twenty years old and now known as Thong Di he was in the town of Tak during an annual festival that included boxing matches. An unknown in the boxing world, he entered the contest but refused to fight anyone but the best. Arjarn Nai Hao, the town’s master agreed to the fight anticipating an easy victory. To the crowds’ surprise, the upstart defeated the master. Phraya Tak, who hosted the boxing matches and was an officer in the Thai army, asked Thong Di to enlist. He did.

Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand? Not true and I have photos to prove it. What you see here is Pailin Subanna in the front yard of Tujunga House in 2013. My bro in Thailand Font Subanna gave me his statue of Phraya Phichai in 2016 when Pailin visited. The soldier with the broken sword has been on my desk ever since. (photo © Louis & Pailin Kraft 2022)

Years passed, and Phraya Tak became King Taksin, “the great of Thonburi.” During all this time Thong Di never lost a boxing match. This impressed King Taksin and he asked him to become his bodyguard. But King Taksin’s kingdom was only a portion of Siam, much of which was under Burmese control. Between 1766 and 1769 Kao Tsung, the emperor of China, invaded Burma four times to stop its aggression but failed.

LK took the photo of the monument to Phraya Phichai Dap Hak. Lek and Sophon spent one perfect day with Pailin and myself in 2014, and it concluded here. They purchased the postcard (left) for me. The art at right was created by a monk (I have his name and need to find it). (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

During this time Phraya Tak/King Taksin saw an opportunity and began a revolt with 500 followers including Thong Di. at one point Taksin was forced to flee to the East Coast of Siam. It was here that due to Thong Di’s prowess in battle and leadership abilities Taskin made him commander-in-chief of the military. Total war was declared against Burma. Thong Di, who fought with two swords, at the front of his army, hadn’t broken his sword yet. When he did it would turn him into a legend.

With Pailin I am lucky to enjoy many video phone calls to family and friends in Thailand. I enjoy our talks with TookTa (Monrumpha Subanna), Pailin’s sister, who I didn’t meet when I visited their homeland. During a recent conversion with my lady and TookTa she asked about my projects. I told about “Phraya Phichai Dap Hak,” the soldier with the broken sword and of my desire to hire a Thai historian who was fluent in English to do primary source research with me when next I travel to a country that has welcomed with open arms.

LK’s office in the backyard of Not and Font Subanna’s home in Uttaradit on 26nov2014. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

TookTa told me that there isn’t much known about him. I replied that was what I thought. If true, and I totally strike out, it would eliminate any chance doing a nonfiction book on his life. Still hope burns eternal.

I have dueled with sabres in competition, I have learned swashbuckling/stage combat and have choreographed and fought duels on stage. When I return to Thailand I want to learn how to duel with two Thai swords.

Thai culture, language, religion, dialogue, action, character development and Phraya Phichai Dap Hak’s life will make a great novel.

LK’s future writing life has arrived.

Sand Creek and a Louis Kraft book update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


Kraft is slow because he wants to research
everything that makes it into his books. This takes time,
a lot of time. At times it is an ungodly amount of time
and yet it must happen before l can deliver a
manuscript to my editor.

I’d like to make a lot of money on my freelance writing, but that
isn’t the objective. What I really want is to write books that have value
and will outlive me. This is my goal, and it has always been my
goal. … The future will decide if I succeed or fail.

You may ask why I have so often talked about time.
The answer is simply that it is key to all of our lives.
For me, the clock is ticking at lightning speed.

I have work to complete …
and Ladies to protect.

This blog features Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers & Ned Wynkoop

Oops!!!! Sometimes it seems that nothing is easy in my life.

Dumb ol’ Kraft thought that William Byers would be a slam dunk. Since I just used a basketball term I guess that I should continue with the sport that has given me a lot of pleasure during this century. Let’s just say that I thought that Byers would be an easy layup. No-no-no!!!

This image was taken on 5mar2017. My face was lighted by a bay window while the two images on the wall were in almost total darkness. The top image is the poster for the publication of the Wynkoop book. My friend and editor Chuck Rankin gave it to me in 2011. The bottom image is of me as Wynkoop in Ohai, Calif., in 2002. … I have been ripped by a supposed friend, a supposed good writer friend originally from Ojai, Ca., for only writing about one subject—Ned Wynkoop. Pure BS!!!! I’ve written two books about Gatewood and the Apaches and one about George Armstrong Custer and one about Wynkoop. Nothing else needs to be said, other than I need to address this accusation by this oh-so-great writer friend (yes, I’m being sarcastic) who pounded me for not congratulating him for his most recent move from Williams, Az., to the Phoenix area, while asking me what happened to my Thai girlfriend. He failed to not only remember Pailin’s name, but also that I had sent him a long email about our marriage. That was the final straw for I could take no more from this egotistical prick. I had read all of his clichéd crap over the years (and was kind, an understatement), but no mas. I pounded his piss-poor subjects and inferior writing and said, “adios.” (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

When I started my current inter-library loan request I was shocked. The Los Angeles Public Library system is huge (100 branches, and the main branch in downtown LA is magnificent). There were no biographies on Mr. Byers, who was one gutsy fellow, and better one of the most important figures during Denver City’s birthing years. He knew what he wanted for the city, for Colorado Territory, and eventually for statehood. Byers shot for the moon and he had no problem going after his competition or those who opposed him. … I have a T-shirt that simply says: pen > sword. I agree with this, and I think that William Byers would have also. Byers was not a man who carried a gun and shot people, but he had guts and then some. I think that if I had had the chance to have met him that we would have gotten along as long as I didn’t oppose his plans. If I did, woe to Kraft for whatever good press he might have given me would have gone up in smoke quickly.é

Art of Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers in later life. Louis Kraft Collection.

Those of you who have read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (University of Oklahoma Press, 2011) know who William Byers was. For those of you who haven’t read my book on Wynkoop and who are clueless of who Byers was I hope the following introduces you to him. … I hope that the following introduces you to a magnificent man who had decided to publicize the new land that also happened to be to east of the Rocky Mountains in an area that would eventually become the boom town of Denver City. He, like Ned Wynkoop, would face many adversities for his views and, like Wynkoop, this could have led to a violent death on numerous occasions.

Byers and Wynkoop began their relationship when they met in Omaha, Nebraska Territory, in early January 1859. At this time Wynkoop provided details about the gold fields near the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, but these details were mostly based upon rumors as mining was then on hold until the following spring when temperatures warmed. Byers gobbled up what he heard as he was then writing a book that publicized the so-called “Pike’s Peak Region.” It and other books would send hordes of men west in the hope of becoming rich. Most would fail.

This is a variation of an image that I created of Wynkoop for an article I wrote for Custer and His Times Book Five. “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races” was published in 2008. The art has appeared in four or five publications since then, with the most important being an article that I wrote for Wild West magazine, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” which was published in April 2011. Again, this is a variation, for the image printed in Wild West was an oval and it wasn’t a duotone. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Byers and Wynkoop hit it off that January of 1859. It wasn’t long after their meeting that Byers would set off for the gold fields; he arrived in Denver City in April 1859 and began publishing the Rocky Mountain News soon after. Wynkoop, who had braved the dead of that 1858-1859 winter reached civilization shortly after meeting Byers. He presented the Denver City Town Company’s claim only to fail and not secure the reason for his trip. There was one thing about Wynkoop. Like Byers, he never turned his back on what he thought right, and he refused to quit even though the bid had failed. Wynkoop continued to push for the town company; he also negotiated with the St. Charles Town Company, whom his land group had claim-jumped. Even at this early age Wynkoop was good with words, had charm, and prevailed in merging the two land development companies.

Upon his return to Denver City in fall 1859 Wynkoop and Byers became friends even though Ned survived by the seat of his pants while Byers and his wife Elizabeth socialized with the elite of the booming town.

This would soon hit the fan when Byer’s wife went ballistic with Wynkoop’s future lady. For some reason Byers refused to take sides in this altercation. Actually Byers often allowed Wynkoop to get away with his transgressions wherein if someone else had done what Ned had Byers would have attacked that person in print. To me it appears that the two men had a good friendship to the point that Byers mostly turned his back on his friend’s actions and mostly kept those wherein he stepped outside the law out of the press. But then that terrible event of November 1864 happened, and Wynkoop, then an officer in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry but not present when Chivington’s command attacked the Cheyenne and Arapaho village circles at Sand Creek on 29nov1854, refused to keep his opinions silent. Byers had been able to turn his back to a lot of his friend’s antics and indiscretions but not his vocal view that innocent men, women, and children had been murdered and butchered.

This image dates to April 2012 and the Western Heritage Awards extended weekend in Oklahoma City. My article, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” (Wild West, April 2011) won a Wrangler, which is a cool bronze statue of a cowboy on a horse. This was a fun time with friends and people that I just met. Even though my connection with Wynkoop is deep and ongoing (and I do publicize our connection), to claim that he is the only un-racial person I write about is a joke. I’ve written two books about Charles Gatewood, one about George Armstrong Custer, and when I complete my trilogy on Errol Flynn I will have written more about him than anyone else. To date I have written one book about Wynkoop (although he will be a key player in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway). Two books are planned on Kit Carson and two on the pirate Francis Drake. Those of you who have no clue of what you talk about—and I’m pointing my finger at a writer who runs off at the mouth without knowing anything—you need to get educated, you need to do a little research, you need to prepare before you say a lot about nothing. Period! (photo © Ownbey Photography & Louis Kraft 2012)

Friends—good friends—became enemies. For all time. LK has been there and done that. Why? How? I don’t know the answer, but with the drop of a quarter good friends, people who I thought were friends until the end of time changed colors, and attacked with a vengeance and a hatred beyond imagination. They were friends of long standing and suddenly they bared their fangs and struck to kill. …

I have not yet survived the shock, or have recovered from their vicious verbal and written attacks of hatred. Most likely I never will. There’s a hole in my life that can never be repaired, never become whole again.

NEVER!

What I have experienced I am certain that Ned Wynkoop also experienced. The shock in my life was not as extreme as the shock that he lived through for he knew people who were murdered and I only deal with egotism, stupidity, and love turned into venom. How can a person I liked and respected for decades turn into a viper whose sole goal was to belittle another’s writing career? How can people that I have been close to create lies and then believe them as truth? How do I—or they—survive this? … We don’t. It’s just like seeing fresh roadkill lying in a broken clump with blood seeping onto the pavement. An innocent life had ended for no reason other than being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

LK as Ned Wynkoop viewing the butchered remains of the Sand Creek dead when he visited the massacre site in 1865, as photographed by my good friend, writer, historian, and editor Johnny D. Boggs in December 2008 during a dress rehearsal in Cheyenne, Oklahoma. (photo © Johnny D. Boggs & Louis Kraft 2008)

These are scenes that I have experienced and I have never forgotten. I’m certain that Wynkoop’s and Byers’ experience was much harsher on both of them than mine has been.

Wynkoop was not me, … nor am I him, yet we are joined across the centuries because of our views on race and racial equality (and not because we had good relationships that flamed out and burned). Does that make him evil … or me evil? Without blinking an eye—No!

Research is mandatory to writing a good book. No real research and a “so-called” nonfiction book is basically bullshit. That is crap, and let me tell you that there are a ton of these pieces of shit published every year. All I can say is: “Shame on these authors!” … “Shame on them!” for their goal was book sales and to hell with truth or reality. You do not want to know my opinion of these cretins for it really isn’t printable. … Ditto the publishers that printed their travesties.

Where am I headed? I’ll tell you …

Suddenly what should have been easy research on Editor Byers has gone belly up. This cannot be for William Byers must be a leading player in my manuscript, even when he is AWOL in book print. He was a major part of my pitch and I have no intention of deserting him or his cause. Trust me. This man had a vision for a new land, and it was a good vision if we view his roadkill attitude of taking no prisoners in print from his point-of-view.

Know this, I don’t give up. I want Arapaho chief Left Hand to be as large as possible. I also want William Byers to be a major presence in the Sand Creek manuscript. … Hint, hint, hint. Ha-ha-ha. … I know the answer but I ain’t a tellin’.

OU Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin speaking at the Western Heritage Awards banquet in April 2012. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

Last December I had a great phone conversation with Chuck Rankin, who had initially pitched me on writing about Sand Creek. It took us two years before we agreed upon a vision for the book and then more years  for me to create a 37-page proposal (that Chuck reviewed in progress and in which he had massive input) before we finally signed a contract in 2013. … Going into the project I knew I had bitten off a huge bite, but that would be worth all the wrong turns, dead ends, and honestly the struggle to use a select group of players to drive a non-biography to conclusion. … I don’t get headaches; never. That was then. Now is now, and now I get headaches. But then perhaps this is only because I have fallen on my head and cracked my skull open way too often.

I have an angle to follow. It is not where you might think. It is not where I would have ever guessed. But it is close to LK’s desires. My fingers are crossed that I can make my pitch and that my arrow splits the arrow dead center in the target. I’ll soon know, but not you for you, for regardless if it is an LK win or yet another failure you will have to wait—most likely years for an answer. Sorry, but that’s just life in the real world.

But an unforeseen problem

As mentioned above, I failed to locate a biography of William Byers in the Los Angeles Public Library’s 100 branches. Abebooks.com, which I often use for research, also had no hits. Ditto Amazon.com. At the moment I have a zero mark on landing a major biography on one of the most important players in Denver and Colorado Territory’s early years. Why? WHY?

I have some great primary sources on Mr. Byers. Hell, a week doesn’t go by when I don’t have my nose pressed against my computer screen reading an issue of the Rocky Mountain News. Someday this will cause me to go blind. Don’t believe me, read the sucker, that is the RMN, without glasses or a magnifying glass. Byers’ paper that he used to conquer all who opposed his vision is a magnificent document. Magnificent as long as you understand the paper’s stance and viewpoint. … That’s right, for sometimes you must read between the lines or more important question what you have just read.

Heck, the Los Angeles Times is a magnificent newspaper—today, in 2010, and in 1941 or 1937 or before. This does not mean that I buy what the paper has printed in well over a century sight unseen. Actually, just like I challenge the Rocky Mountain News, I also challenge the LA Times, and I do use it for historical research, today’s events, and even the paper’s selection of cartoons, which are first class (and often hit the target dead center).

This is an artistic rendering of the west coast of Costa Rica. It could have been the southern coasts of Spain or France, or, if I eliminated the water and changed some of the colors, New Mexico. … I love Los Angeles. It has more culture and artistic events than anywhere else in the USA, and that includes NYC and Santa Fe, which is my favorite city in America. Moreover, and much more important, Los Angeles has more people of ethnic origin than any city in the USA, and even more important has more Thai people than any city in the USA (and if you add all the Thai population in the other cities stretched across our great country together LA still remains number one). This is a major fact for my lady, and the major reason for us to not leave this great city. Put mildly, Los Angeles is our home and we don’t want to move. That said I constantly study Costa Rica and New Mexico. The future? Someday we’ll know. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

On 20mar2017 the Los Angeles Times led with “Trump’s immigration plan faces obstacles,” by Don Lee (pA1+). If you read the article and dig, just a little, you will see that the threat is much more than to just immigrants without papers and to immigrants with no criminal records and are in the U.S. as it offers them a much better life. … Actually the threat is frightening and it is much larger than you might expect.

This is one of my favorite images of my cowgirl, my lady, my best friend, my love, and my wife (although she wasn’t my wife when I took this photo in the front yard of Tujunga House on 7nov2013). This photo is framed and is placed in a prime position on my desk. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna 2013)

In my freelance writing I try to challenge everything that I discover and read and discuss with my network of writers, historians, editors, artists, and other creative people. The thoughts and ideas are lively. Many have helped me, and I hope that I have helped some of them. I use my network to not only widen my knowledge but to keep up our friendships. Besides some of what I learn or now understand might eventually make it into a talk, article, or book. … I also try to do this with my every-day life and world, but most of this I do on my own. I believe that eventually the United States will regain its senses and most of this ugliness that is currently in vogue will begin to fade away. If perchance it doesn’t make a major U-turn, most of my adult life will have been lived in vain and all that you and I have seen change for the good will have been for naught. What does that say about our time walking this earth? Without naming names my current view of our future is frightening.

A William Byers strikeout

At the moment I feel like one of the Major League Baseball players that whiff (that is strike out) 200 or more times every season while justifying their failure to hit the baseball and their piss-poor .245 batting average means nothing as they belted 37 balls over the fence (that is 37 home runs). Give me a break! I’ve seen great ballplayers perform on TV and in person, and there aren’t many that are great. One was Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers (who, and luckily for me, moved to Los Angeles when the Dodgers deserted Brooklyn, New York, after the 1957 season).

The signature to LK was on the cover of a magazine that printed a feature on the Duke by yours truly. I would write numerous articles about him, but when I pitched him to co-author his autobiography I stuck out for he had already contracted with writer Bill Gilbert. … I spent a fair amount of time with the Duke during a few years in the 1980s. He was a good man, gracious, and I treasure our time together. Not bragging, and I’m not a big fan of celebrity signatures, but I’ve got a lot of the Duke’s. (A side note on another great player, Barry Bonds: His swing was so compact and smooth. Regardless if he took drugs or not and I’m not going to state what I believe about this, he belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, he certainly grew larger during the second half of his career, and the extra muscle certainly helped his home run output. But he still had to hit the baseball, and if you’ve never attempted to hit a ball that is coming at you at 90+ miles per hour you have no idea of how difficult it is to do.)

I hate feeling like that ball player who hits .245 when he’s lucky. And I’m not talking about money or poor performance. Rather I’m racking my brain trying to figure out how I’m going to make Byers fully dimensional. … At the moment I have more strikeouts than hits, and this isn’t acceptable.

I know that a Byers’ bio exists and I hope that I’ll be able to see it. If not, Mr. Byers won’t get too much press in future LK blogs. A shame, for it would be fun to challenge him at times. And especially so, since I already know that he wouldn’t meet me on the field of honor at 10 paces with revolvers in our hands—something that John Simpson Smith would not have blinked an eye before making or accepting such a challenge.

This image was published in “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” in the April 2011 issue of Wild West. William Byers is standing in the upper right. This article was almost never published. When I saw a proof I wasn’t pleased. It had but two images of Ned Wynkoop in the feature, and the portrait on the first page of the article was dinky. I had suggested most of the images in the article, including two of William Byers. I spoke with the person in charge of the images and told her that I wanted the above group shot removed so that the portrait of Wynkoop on the first page could grow in size. She told me that the design was complete and nothing could be changed. I restated what I wanted. She refused to budge and the phone call went downhill. Finally I said that if the portrait wasn’t enlarged it wouldn’t appear in the magazine. She told me to talk with Greg Lalire, and then hung up. Greg L is a great editor, and probably the major reason behind Wild West’s success for decades. He is also my friend. I didn’t call him. Two days later he called me and asked if I had a problem? “No,” I said, “but one of your coworkers has a problem.” He already knew what was going on; still we talked it through. … I want to say this up front, Greg has done everything possible to print my stories over the years, and he didn’t desert me at this critical time. … A few days later he called again and said that he had cut the other image of Byers. I saw another proof. My art had grown but not completely—still I was pleased. The Wynkoop article saw print and out of nowhere it won a major award, the Wrangler.

Does this make Byers a coward? Absolutely not! He was a brave man who put his life at risk day in and day out. … A little change of subject: Los Angeles has returned to its modern-day version of Dodge City. That is people are again gunned down or knifed to death at an alarming rate. I haven’t been saving these articles in the LA Times for it seems that almost every day another one or two or three or more people die violently (and many of them are innocent bystanders, and that includes infants, children, women, and men). Will their murderers be apprehended, brought to trial, and convicted? The answer is sadly not always yes.

This is a sad state of affairs, but this is nothing when compared to the dark-dark days that California will soon face. Although the Golden State isn’t a country I’ve seen it listed as the sixth richest economical area in the world. Well that bold claim may not hold up too long if the presidential prejudice and anger that is aimed at destroying its economy becomes reality. … That said, I’m totally against California becoming a separate country (as many idiots are proposing and pushing to get onto an upcoming ballot).

I have a lot of favorite images of my lady, and some of them are two-shots. This photo is one that I really like (it is framed and in our living room). This image dates to 13nov2013. We were enjoying the opening of the Lily Pad Thai Spa & Massage in Sherman Oaks, California. For the record, we were sitting on the floor. (photo © Pailin Subanna and Louis Kraft 2013)

Folks, the country of California is a joke. It is also a frightening possibility for those of us who love the USA and are thankful that we live in the United States regardless of how bad and racist our land has become in just a blink of time.

A return to the Sand Creek manuscript in a totally different direction

The young Cheyenne woman (she was in her early-to-mid-teens at the time of Sand Creek) Mo-nahs-e-tah, and this is the phonetic spelling and pronunciation of her name (I say this for often her name has been written as Mo-nah-se-tah (and other variations), which is/are wrong). Dr. Henrietta Mann, a Southern Cheyenne, who’s entire career has been one of exceptional achievement, including being one of the founders of the Cheyenne [and] Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma, shared this with me in 2012.

Dr. Henrietta Mann speaking at the Washita Battlefield NHS symposium on 6de2008. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

I met and became friends with Dr. Mann—Henri to me—at the Washita Battlefield NHS in December 2008. … In April 2012 we smiled and joked, we shared gifts, and we talked about serious subjects when I drove to Weatherford to visit her in her office at the college. She ordered lunch in and our time together continued with a mix of good and bad.

The Cheyennes are unfortunately on the bad side (if you’ve read my writing or heard my talks or seen my plays you know why). I’m not on that “bad” side; actually I’m on the opposite side. The Cheyennes in the 1850s, 1960s, and beyond, were on the good side. Although the word wouldn’t exist until the end of WWII, they faced “genocide.” Genocide! White people craved their land, and they did whatever they could to secure it (a better word is “steal” it). … And this included murder. Of course, when the Cheyennes and their allies fought back they were reported as “vicious savages who murdered and raped.”

The lady 2nd from the left is Mo-nahs-e-tah, and I am certain of this. She is holding her child who was pure Cheyenne. Prior to when this image was created she accompanied George Armstrong Custer on his mission of peace on the Staked Plains of the Texas panhandle. Her child, which was then an infant, did not accompany her. I have used a full view of this image in Custer and the Cheyenne and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. … My great friend and bro for all time, Glen Williams (who is one-quarter Cheyenne), gave me this print of Mo-nahs-e-tah, and it is now part of the Louis Kraft personal collection. … During my visit with Henri in 2012 I asked her how she would phonetically spell and pronounce Mo-nahs-e-tah’s name. She gave me the above information.

When your total lifeway is at risk, and that includes your lives, what are you going to do?

FIGHT! Or in the case of Arapaho Left Hand, and Cheyennes Black Kettle, Lean Bear, and White Antelope they would do everything possible to keep the peace between the races with words and not weapons.

Does this make them a “savage?” Or did this make those who refused to fight for freedom without weapons traitors to their own race? The answer to both questions is: No!

LK art of Bull Bear, the great Dog Man chief, and of Black Kettle, who, in my opinion was the greatest Cheyenne chief of all time. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Until Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway goes to press I will struggle to define and document the Cheyennes (and to a lesser degree) the Arapahos lifeway and history. This time in their lives, this critical time in their lives must be recorded. And it must not be forgotten. … Also it must be recorded with an unbiased opinion.

I know that Mo-nahs-e-tah was at Sand Creek on 29nov1864, and I know that she escaped, but that was it. Now, thanks to my good friend, Gary Leonard, who is very knowledgable about this lady and the Cheyennes, I now know that she did not make her run for freedom that winter day before a soldier’s ball wounded her. Do I have enough to write about this? That is a big question at the moment. Perhaps Gary and I will be able to open a conversation wherein we can share and discuss, confirm some facts, and learn more about her. I hope so; otherwise this would be a tragedy for me.

I can’t begin to tell you how difficult this is to realize. Unfortunately this problem is generally the case, and that is that the victors write the history, and the losers’ stories are forgotten or ignored or buried. This should not be; it should never be!

As previously stated … 

I have to complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and Errol & Olivia. Fear not for I will do this. Know also that I am one tough cowboy. I will outlive my ladies for I must protect them, I must keep them safe (especially Pailin and Marissa). … This means that you will endure decades more of my writing. Smile, for you have good—or bad—reading a comin’.

The song remembers when …

The song remembers when …
Posted on February 9, 2016

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

My apologies for the long delay.
Much has happened since the last blog (on Errol Flynn),
including my work load, running out of physical
space on my website, deadlines and more
deadlines, and health issues.

Warning: This blog will wander in and out of my mind.

Songs and memories

I think the best place to start is with Tricia Yearwood’s song.

songRemembersWhen_wsYep, you guessed it: Her hit song, The Song Remembers When. It was released on an album that used it as its title in 1993. When I first heard the song on the radio, I said, “Yes! Yes, songs do remember when.”

I’m not a big fan of Trisha’s music, but her song (written by Hugh Prestwood) was dead-center with its focus and meaning. At least for me. Songs have always connected with me and my life. They have made me cry and laugh, they have made me contemplate who I am, they have been a call to action, and they have been melancholy. More important, they drive my life, and this isn’t a vacant comment for each day music and other impetus drives me toward my goals, which might range from spending time with my daughter to writing prose that at least I think is important to holding my lady.

That was then, … the following is now

My life has always been a juggle. … What is the next book or article or talk or play? I hate lists, but this type of list has always been with me. Always.

For the record, although I assume most of you realize that the blogs have been twofold: Publicity for Kraft projects and research for the LK memoir. Without pounding my chest, I’ve exceeded my hopes for both reasons of creating a blog. Instead of my world shrinking, which it has in real life, it has grown in the world of my writing. The people that have found me have blown me away. They, and you, have given me reason for living and pursuing what I do.

Male influences in my life …

This I can almost count the influential people in my life on my fingers. The pirate Francis Drake, actor Errol Flynn, soldier George Armstrong Custer, actor and singer Michael Parks, singer and songwriter John Lennon, along with my father Louis J. Kraft and my brother Lee Kraft. I think that these fellows sum it up, for they are responsible for who I have become (along with living life, which meanders all over the place). Oh, there are some late comers, such as Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apache Indians; Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, and the Cheyenne Indians. When I add my walk through life with people of all colors, races, religions, and politics … I guess that all I’m talking about here is that we are all people, and that if we cannot coexist perhaps someday there won’t be any people.

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I won’t live to see this (and I’m glad that I won’t).

LK as Wild Bill Hickok (left); someone I really want to play on the stage. Time will tell. But first I must deal with taxes, see the publication of The Discovery, prepare for Pailin’s and my second (and final) Green Card interview, and deliver a 135,000 word Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript to my publisher on October 1, 2016. My days are long now, and they are getting longer. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

I’m drifting from music, but not far. At the end of the 1960s the pilot for Then Came Bronson aired on U.S. television. In it, loner Michael Parks and runaway bride Bonnie Bedelia sang Wayfarin’ Stranger while various film angles watched them ride a Harley Davidson over the open expanse of the American West. It instantly became my favorite song, eclipsing everything by Tex Ritter, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Frankie Laine, or Elvis Presley. And it still is today. There are only two singers that I listen to more than Parks, and they are John Lennon and Alan Jackson.

Enter Ry Cooder’s magnificent film score for Geronimo: An American Legend (1993), and I had an instrumental version of Wayfarin’ Stranger. These two versions of one song will be with me until the end (and beyond).

LK’s music scope swells and shrinks as time passes

The singers that I like ranges from those mentioned above to Waylon Jennings to Janis Ian to Dido to Laura Branigan to Kris Kristofferson to Bob Dylan to Norah Jones to Johnny Cash to George Harrison to Rihanna and Rhiannon Giddens.

sukay_summit_wsThere are other types of music that I also like and often listen to while working. Sukay was a group that performed what they call Andean music using instruments native to the Andes Mountains (I have a fair selection of Andean music by them and others). I love Sukay as their sound—instrumental or instrumental and vocal—is the most alive music that I’ve ever heard. Alas, I never got to see them perform in the USA.

Ry Cooder also sings (many of his vocals don’t impress me, but I cherish his Cuban music). I’ve mentioned Cooder’s Geronimo: An American Legend above, but I certainly need to name other film composers such as Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and the recently deceased James Horner (who tragically died in 2015). I believe that the composers of film scores are the classical composers of our time (at least to me). Of the classical composers, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is by far my favorite.

nakai_island_ofBows_borderIt goes without saying that I cherish Native American flute music; my favorite is N. Carlos Nakai, and I have seen him perform in concert. When he performs traditional or original music or mixes traditional Native music with another culture, such as Japanese, I’m in heaven (but I’m not fond of his Jazz).

Chinese flute has always been a favorite of mine, as has been traditional Thai (recently discovered due to a very special person named Pailin), and mid-Eastern and African music. I can’t tell you how often someone has visited Tujunga House and demanded that I stop playing ethnic music. The soundtrack for the offbeat 1998 Kate Winslet film Hideous Kinky was one such instance. The story took place mostly in Morocco and had a mix of rock (such as Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit and Richie Havens’ version of George Harrison’s great Here Comes the Sun) to Moroccan and indigenous music from North Africa. I turned off the album, but struggled to keep my mouth shut. (You don’t need to hear my comment about this; perhaps in a future blog.)

There isn’t enough space in this blog to talk about all of the mentioned creative artists below. The plan is to focus on songs and scores that have had an impact on my life and memories.

The baritone from Texas

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I grew up on music, loud music on 78 RPM records. Patty Paige, Doris Day, Frankie Laine, and country singers Eddie Arnold and Jack Guthrie, some Gene Autry, but no Roy Rogers. Years later my mother told me that she and all her girlfriends swooned over Frank Sinatra during WWII. I don’t remember any of Frank’s 78s but Bing Crosby was big time in our house while I was young.

I’ll tell you who was king … Tex Ritter.

His music, which dated back to when my parents were young, includes some of my favorites: Rye WhiskyBoll Weevil. and Rounded Up In Glory. Years would go by before I realized how great his Blood on the Saddle was. During those early days we had a small TV set that played its programming on a green screen. I was glued to it, and loved Tex’s singing cowboy films. When I was about five my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “I want to be like Tex and ride a white horse and shoot bad guys.” She quickly spoiled my ambition, telling me that he was an actor and didn’t shoot anyone, that it was just make believe.

This revelation didn’t spoil Tex for me. Actually his impact on me had just begun.

A short diversion …

This is necessary to give you an idea of where I’m headed.

I grew up on Tex Ritter music. Many of his songs hit home with me when I was a boy and they still do decades after his death in 1972. There are only a handful of singers who grab my inner soul with their music. Tex was, and still is, one, as are Parks, Lennon, Jackson, Cline, Jennings, Kristofferson, Cash, Branigan, Ian, and Nelson, among others.

Michael will be with me until I die; so will be John and Alan but for different reasons that are close.

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While in junior high school a good friend my family, Lucille Ricks, obtained two signed photos of Tex dedicated to me. I’ve already posted one of the images on a blog. Here’s the other.

Back to Tex

I’ve talked about Tex Ritter in other blogs, but I didn’t really deal with his music. There is one song, The Cookson Hills, that was only released on a 45 rpm record. Hopefully I’ll fix this, as the time since I last heard the song is so long in the past that I don’t know why this song still grips me. Honestly, I don’t remember the tune or the lyrics (other than they were haunting). Yes, I have a quest to again hear this song.

Almost all of the cuts from Ritter’s great album, “Songs from the Western Screen,” including Remember the Alamo, The Searchers, The Bandit (of Brazil), and Wichita are treasures. One of my all time favorites is Cielito Lindo, which Tex included on an album that he sang completely in Spanish called “Border Affair.” Believe it or not, he also did a country-Jazz album with Stan Kenton.

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LK as a gunslinger in 1973 (a year after Ritter’s death). Certainly Tex influenced me, but so did Errol Flynn and some of the other westerners from the golden age of cinema. Looking at this image, Clint Eastwood and his spaghetti westerns (and what came later) also did. Heck, what goes around comes around; my hair today looks like it did in this image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

Tex’s music added love and loneliness, heroism and tragic defeat, life and death to my early life.

I was lucky to see him perform at the famed Palomino Club (North Hollywood, Calif.) around 1969 (and then about two years later at Disneyland). My father, mother, future wife, and I had a table on the dance floor at the Palomino. It was perhaps fifteen feet from the tiny stage where Tex and his band performed.* The entire environment  was intimate (past tense, for this great club is long gone as the cost of bringing in top-notch performers became cost-prohibitive when salaries skyrocketed). I danced a few feet from where Tex sang. When he took breaks I was able to shake his hand and chat with him.

* I also saw Waylon Jennings and Charlie Pride perform at the Palomino.

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This modeling image was shot in 1974, not too long after Ritter’s death. The knit cap and leather jacket were mine, showing that I’ve been equal opportunity with hats and clothing that I’ve worn through the years. Yeah, the photographer and I were selling sex. It was in vogue back then, and it is rampant today. I guess that our culture has evolved. (photo © Louis Kraft 1974)

Tex’s deep baritone moved me from my childhood to the reality of my acting life in college (and beyond). They were boyhood dreams that never faded. His songs are with me today as they were in a long forgotten past, and best, they affect me as they did when I was young. … I hate to say it, but at times in college some of my pals in the theater department called me “Tex.” Why? I have no clue for none of them knew that I listened to Ritter’s music. My guess is that the wide-brimmed hats that I wore at the time (actually throughout my life) were the culprit.

Tex Ritter’s songs have given me a childhood life, a youthful life, and they still hang out with me as I walk into the sunset. (I’ll always have Michael and Alan; but although their music pulled from the past as it moved into the future while retaining traditional country tones, they can never recapture Tex Ritter and what he gave my world).

Songs can be favorites or ones that I’m not crazy about. More important is that
they can generate a multitude of images in my memory.

Note that the timeline in this blog is not linear.

Two songs plus one

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Doris and Louis Kraft Sr. during happy times at their Reseda, California, home in 1972 (photo © Louis Kraft 1972)

At the end of 1979 I was filming on location in the Pacific Ocean. At four each morning we boarded small craft at Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California, for a two-plus hour ride to naval vessels before cruising another two to three hours (that is until the California coast was no longer visible). All of this was on the clock, and when you considered the return trip to Hotel del Coronado I had 10 hours on the clock without working a minute (Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching … money, money, money). And better, plenty of time to hang out and explore the nuclear helicopter carrier.

During the first week of location work my mother entered a hospital, and as we were filming six days a week I asked for that first Saturday off to fly home and see her. Granted, but she had returned home before I reached her. I returned to San Diego Sunday evening and six days later we completed the location work. The week before Christmas we shot pickup shots at the studio and that marked the end of principal shooting. Two days later I celebrated Christmas with my mother, father, and brother. My sister was present (but not there, if that makes any sense). The next day (26dec1979) my mother entered the hospital for the last time. Her death (on 4jan1980) gave my father and I a relationship for we spent every minute of our waking hours during this time together until the end (and every day went deep into the night). In our loss we found a friendship that would grow to love.

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Lee Kraft at LK’s house in Encino, Calif., on Christmas 1988. This image will hang in my house for as long as I am alive. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

My brother Lee had been injecting the experimental medications that would hopefully save our mother; they didn’t and this affected the rest of his life. My father had turned into the perfect husband during his wife’s last years (and she told me just before the end that these were the best years of her life). … When I asked my sister why she wasn’t around, she told me that she didn’t know that her mother was dying.

Ten years later I had a knee operation which marked the end of my baseball career. At the time I managed the Kool Aid Kids (see below). Two months later, on March 6, 1990, my brother Lee died in an auto crash (he was a passenger). My mother’s death had destroyed me as we were very close (I was a mama’s boy), but Lee’s death hit me like a sledge hammer to my head. I was a wreck, and still haven’t recovered from his passing. We worked together, fought together, played together, hung out together, partied together, loved each other, and were close.

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This is a two-CD album that was released long after Kris, Waylon, Johnny, and Willie stopped performing and recording together (Waylon died in 2002 and Johnny in 2003). I like the cover a lot better than their 1985 “Highwayman” album cover.

My sister (who didn’t know her brother) and brother-in-law wanted to use the Jimmy Webb composition that Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson recorded in 1985, Highwayman, at Lee’s service. That year they released an album that used the song for the cover title. I liked the song and didn’t object. Actually I have a lot of music by all four of them (I saw Willie perform at the Hollywood Bowl a few years back; Kris was present, but he didn’t sing). Lee’s service was so large that over half of the people that attended it couldn’t fit into the hall. The song, Highwayman, is about a bandit who died only to be reborn as a sailor who would die and yet again be reborn “around and around and around” within me (and I’m certain in others who also loved him deeply).

sarahMcLachlan_surfacing_wsNine years later my father died on Valentine’s Day (14feb1999). I had been taking care of him for years. I was a wreck, but insisted upon talking at his service. My sister didn’t think that I was capable, but I told her that I was (that is, I had been delivering talks for years and it was work). She and my brother-in-law wanted to play Tex Ritter’s religious song, The Deck of Cards (although my sister had already retired as an investigator from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office while in her forties, she had previously stolen an album of mine with this recording; she eventually returned it to me). I said: “Absolutely not!” This shocked her. “Why?” “He hated the song, and so do I.” “So what do you want?” she asked sarcastically. “I want Sarah McLachlan’s Angel.” I played the song for her and she was good with the choice.

reba_greatestHits2_wsAt this time Linda had been studying the ministry, which she hoped to go into, long distance. She lived in Lake Arrowhead, California, but only had to attend classes in person in the Santa Clarita Valley, north of the San Fernando Valley, for one or two weeks each year. During these times she stayed at Tujunga House. A year plus had passed since our father’s death. On one of the nights during the every-other weeks that my daughter spent with me the three of us made ourselves comfortable on the living room floor. I played another song for her, a song that also could have worked for our father’s service—Reba McEntire’s The Greatest Man I Never Knew (written by Richard Leigh and Laying Martine, Jr.) with lyrics, “I never really knew him. … The man I thought could never die has been dead almost a year. … He never said he loved me; I guess he thought I knew.” I’m not sure how my sister reacted as her face was passive and she didn’t say anything. Hell, she wasn’t close to our mother, brother, father … or me. This is something that I deal with daily for I loved her and must find a peace between us.

My father and I were at each other’s throats until his wife/my mother died. Her death gave us a relationship that became close until his death. He said “I love you” to me for the first time the night before he died. Reba’s song tears me apart every time I hear it, and it gives me everything bad and good in my relationship with him.

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Linda Kraft-Morgon was gorgeous, but unfortunately this image doesn’t confirm this. The reason is simple: For over 10 years I took pictures with throw-away cameras that I bought at drug stores, as a real camera wasn’t in the budget. The little one in my family shot this candid while my sis and I enjoyed a moment (15may1993). At this time she was five years away from retiring as an investigator for the LA County District Attorney’s Office. I have a huge photo archive, and not too long back decided that I wanted to use this image even though the print was small and out of focus and full spots and scratches (none of this was my daughter’s fault; it was the camera and the cheap development/printing). We are on the patio at our father’s Reseda home, and it was party time. I can’t begin to remember all the dinners and parties at Dad’s. His home was always open to everyone, no matter what your race, color, religion was (and that included Lee and I). (photo © Louis Kraft 1993)

My sister was gorgeous, and she lived her life. I’m good with that. Unfortunately she died young in 2006 from the same cancer that killed our mother. I was there for her during the last two months of her life  (thanks to Sudeshna Ghosh, who was then my manager at Sun Microsystems and is now my good friend). Days after Linda’s death Lake Arrowhead was clobbered with a snowstorm. Deserted autos littered the roads almost totally hidden by snow. Visibility was probably no more than five feet as the snow continued to fall. It was ghostly, almost unreal, and yet it couldn’t have been a better setting to say goodbye. I delivered a positive telling of my time with Linda with words that were from my heart. They were full of happiness and life, and they affected people. … I need to bring resolution to the talk, to her life, and to mine. This has not been simple and there are no easy answers. Linda is with me every day, and not one hour passes that I don’t think of her. Hurt and anger are present, but I know that she loved me in her way. Someday we will meet again and that meeting will be for all time.

A beautiful lady w/No future in LK’s life

I can tell a story, a short story of a beautiful blonde woman.

lynnAnderson_b&w_wsI was fortunate and won a Western Heritage Wrangler award in 2012 (for “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” an April 2011 Wild West article). It was a big shindig in Oklahoma City, a gathering of award recipients, presenters, rich donors, and adoring public. LK enjoyed his time in cowboy heaven.

This image of the blonde lady (left) was taken only a handful of years back, and although this is a publicity shot you can see the fun and life in her. I was lucky and got to spend time with her, if only for a little while. Looking back it was way too short.

A special lady that the Western Heritage Wrangler shindig allowed me to visit

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Dr. Henrietta Mann, speaking on the last night of the 2008 Washita Battlefield NHS symposium. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

Every minute was gold during that April 2012 visit to Oklahoma City, and I added to mine by driving to Weatherford to visit Dr. Henrietta Mann, whom I met in 2008 when I played Ned Wynkoop on stage a number of times and then both of us spoke on the last day of a Washita Battlefield NHS symposium. Henri’s resume would knock you for a loop. What she has accomplished during her life is extraordinary, but I’m certain that she’d say that the highlight of her life is being one of the founders of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Yes, she is Cheyenne. … The round-trip drive was long, but it was worth it as I got to hang out with her and talk about this and that. We shared gifts, and although the future was in front of both of us we didn’t talk too much about our projects. We talked of good and bad and hope.

Back to the Western Heritage Wrangler happenings

I arrived on Thursday as I had a lot to do, including seeing Henri.

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Ernest Borgnine and Nick Vallelonga, who produced Yellow Rock, the Wrangler winner for best western film of 2011. Ernie was full of life at the event, but unfortunately died three months later (he was 95 years old). (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

Upon my arrival in OK City I met Dean Smith, a retired stunt man, Debbie, his beautiful wife, and their young son (unfortunately I can’t remember his name). They took the time to make me feel welcome (and this was just about every time I saw them).

Ernest Borgnine MC’d and presented (along with others that I knew and didn’t know, including Dean and the blonde lady). On that first night, Thursday, two of Borgnine’s great friends who had flown in from Florida to hang out with him ate at the same time that I did in the hotel’s restaurant. We almost had the place to ourselves. They introduced themselves, and on Friday when Ernie arrived they introduced me to him. I’ve seen a lot of Borgnine’s films, and he can be sympathetic and he can be menacing. In person he was kind, open, and a giving fellow. I enjoyed every minute I spent with him. You know what, Ernie wasn’t as large as he looked on film.

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Art of Paul and Connie Hedren based upon a photo I took of them on April 20, 2012. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

There were a lot of events on that Friday (20apr2012), a book signing with finger food that was open to the public. There was energy all over the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum, which the Autry Museum of the American West (recently the Autry National Center; the name changes so often that my head spins) could learn a lot from if it only it swallowed its pride and took a gander. At the signing I had luckily been placed next to Paul Hedren, an Indian wars writer friend.

After the signing time ended I wandered the halls of the classy museum and saw the pretty blonde lady for the first time. She was petite, wore a great cowboy hat, and was exquisitely dressed in fancy cowgirl attire.

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Minoma Littlehawk and her husband Ivan.

As we passed I tipped my hat to her. She smiled, and I smiled back.

The day’s events on Friday ended before night arrived. We were bussed back to the hotel to get ready for a big party at a mansion. That is the award winners, the presenters, and the key donors of the Western Heritage Museum, and their guests.

Another special Cheyenne in my life is Minoma Littlehawk; I cannot ever thank her enough for the help she provided me on the pronunciation and spelling of the Tsistsistas’ (Cheyenne’s) language for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. She is married to a special man, Ivan Sills, but he decided not to attend a party at a rich donor’s mansion on Friday, but was good with Minoma being my guest (she would dress in traditional Cheyenne attire). But it wasn’t to be for something attacked Minoma’s health and she was rushed to the hospital. Luckily she would fully recover. Ivan, who had been so gracious to allow her to accompany me, was right there for her every minute of the way. Bless him.

lAnderstonART7oval3_wsThe award winners, presenters, and their guests were transported the mansion in mini vans for the private party somewhere in Oklahoma City. Debbie and Dean arrived, and she was knock-out gorgeous. The petite blonde lady that I had seen earlier in the day was with them, and she was beautiful. After Debbie and I hugged, she introduced me to the person who I didn’t know but said hello to every time I passed her in the hallway. She had a wonderful smile, and I wanted to know her. That night at the mansion party my fantasy became reality.

When we met, I asked her name. “Lynn Anderson,” she said.

“Are you the singer?” I stupidly asked.

“Yes.”

This petite blonde lady standing before me was famous and had huge country-western hit songs. My brain went dead. All I could think of was, You Never Promised Me a Rose Garden, which was a mega country hit in the late 1960s. I didn’t like the song, but I certainly knew it. Kraft may be brain dead, but he is not totally stupid. “Can I hug and kiss you?” I asked.

She smiled.  “Yes.”

I did. But, as way too often in Kraft’s life, what could have been, what should have been, could never be. I enjoyed my short time with Lynn, but life is short and we never know when it will end. Her days were limited, and what I would have liked to have happened never had a chance.

Later that night I sat at a table eating veggies, salad, salmon, and shrimp (delicious). Western hall of fame acting inductee Bruce Boxleitner sat down across from me with a plate of food, and said: “I know you.”

He did, for we had met I think in 2007 before a private screening of a live-action British documentary about the battle of the Little Bighorn in Sherman Oaks, California. The BBC documentary was quite good. After everyone ate and socialized Bruce and I sat together while we watched the film which featured Maggie Smith’s second son, Toby Stephens (of current Black Sails TV fame), who played George Armstrong Custer (the documentary was shot in 2006).

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LK with Bruce Boxleitner (21apr2012), after he was interviewed at the Western Heritage Museum. At this time we talked about his youngest son, who was at the awards, the museum, his win (his second) and Ned Wynkoop. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

At the Friday evening mansion party Bruce and I talked about the Indian wars. A woman sat down next to me with her food and immediately joined the conversation. The first thing out of her mouth was that Custer was a butcher and racist. No matter what Bruce or I said, she refused to listen. Bruce got fed up with her before I did and let her have it on the Indian wars and her stupidity. I thought that steam would erupt from her nose, but before it did she grabbed her plate and stormed away. “Well, we got rid of her,” Bruce said as he grinned.

Hedren’s After Custer won the Wrangler award for best nonfiction book; Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was the runner-up (and I have this from insider and good friend Chuck Rankin). The Wynkoop book would also be the finalist for the WWA Spur Award. … That’s life and I’m good with it.

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From left: Retired stunt man Dean Smith, Lynn Anderson, and actor Bruce Boxleitner at the April 2012 Wrangler Awards in Oklahoma City. On the evening of the twenty-first Bruce was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum acting hall of fame. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

Back to Lynn: Over the course of the next day and a half we saw each other briefly time and again and always they were good minutes. Nothing happened, and regardless of what some people think of me, I’m a gentleman.

I’ve always been a gentleman, so please disregard all the stories that in times long gone used to float on the wind that I have screwed hundreds of women, men, horses, mules, dogs, elephants, and even a cockroach or two. I’ve been guilty of a lot of things, but nearly everything that I’ve been accused of is fiction—and bad fiction at that, and with no redeeming words for the slimy creatures that have spread these stories. All I can say about these “stories” is that they hurt. After a while I stopped denying the stories. Why waste time and words on “people” (and I use this word sarcastically) who refuse to listen to truth or reason.

Cockroaches? Give me a break! I know what a pretty woman looks like, and it isn’t close to a cockroach.

Initially I had hoped to again see Lynn Anderson. When a man walks a lonely road he has lots of hopes and dreams. And I always take my time, but this time I took too long. … Lynn Anderson died on 30jul2015, something that I didn’t know until the Los Angeles Times published her obituary. I learned about the lady, her ups and her downs—yes, she was a human being and had all the frailties that most of us have. I’m certain that this petite lady that I briefly met was someone worth knowing. The Western Heritage Museum knew this, for in 2012 they featured all of her music in their gift shop (and some of my work too, which was nice). … A hug and a kiss, a handful of minutes, and perhaps a friendship or more that could never be—the song remembers when, … You Never Promised Me a Rose Garden.

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The following is my acceptance talk on April 21, 2012, at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Awards ceremony—a cool-cool tuxedoed event that was filmed in a massive banquet hall that sits 1500 people. After being introduced by actor Brad Johnson and shaking his hand I walked past the podium and picked up my bronze Wrangler from a pedestal and carried it to the podium—I was the only person to hold the award—guess the others were nervous over the weight, somewhere around 18 pounds.                                                                                                                                                                                                   “National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, thank you for inviting Steve* and myself to your shindig. We’re having a great time. (* Steve is Steve Mauro, who was an associate editor at Wild West magazine; he has since moved to Japan. He was introduced with me.) Some of my best friends are editors, and one of my good-good-good friends has been working with me since the late 1980s. His name is Greg Lalire, and he’s my editor at Wild West magazine. Wild West is one of a slew of great history magazines published by the Weider History Group (LK: Weider was bought by the World History Group in 2015). Over the years we’ve gone back and forth with a give and take relationship as we try to make the stories error free while also trying to make them page turners. I need to tell you something: If it wasn’t for Greg, I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. … I hope that by now some of you have heard of a fellow named Ned Wynkoop. He was just like you and me. He had a family he loved with all his heart. He had successes and he he had failures, and like some of us he struggled to survive. But there’s one thing that Ned Wynkoop had more than most of us—certainly more than me … guts. Guts to take a look at his world, a world of war and hatred and Cheyennes and Arapahos. He looked at his world and challenged it. He dared to reach out to people that were different from him and accept them as human beings. (Big applause, which I enjoyed.) Thank you. (I lifted the Wrangler award and kissed the cowboy.) Never thought I’d kiss a cowboy. (Silence, and I stopped breathing—I guess that the audience couldn’t believe what I had just done and said. Luckily, they eventually laughed; a big laugh.) National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum … Wild West magazine, Greg Lalire, Steve, and the magazine’s staff, along with myself—We’re honored. Thank you.”

All of the above said, LK had a great time at the Western Heritage Awards event. Good people, open people, … I met and enjoyed my time with co-winners (certainly Wild West’s Steven Mauro, who I hit it off with when I met him), Oklahomans including Chuck Rankin, my editor at the University of Oklahoma Press, and much of the press’s staff that I had never met in person before, including their great art director (Tony Roberts) and their marvelous production manager (Steven Baker*).

* Steven Baker is an absolute delight to work with; he is friendly, open to all suggestions (and demands), and he makes things happen during the production process (and long after). OU Press is lucky to have him.

I have written a lot of material for publication over the years and at times I have become public enemy No. 1 with my publishers. They claim that I overstep my position, that is, as a writer, and meaning that I am responsible for the words and nothing else. NO! No-no-no! I don’t care who the artist is—a painter, a singer, a composer, an actor, a writer … they, we, I, must push for the best product possible. If they, we, or I don’t, and the product is inferior they, we, or I cannot complain for we didn’t participate in the process—and the creative process is everything. As artists it is our job to do everything possible to make our work shine.

Yes, I am a demanding person who often oversteps the bounds of what is expected or desired from me as a writer. That said, everything I write has a vision and it is my job to ensure that my article, book, or blog (plays and talks are similar and yet different) is as true to my visualization as possible (this includes photos, maps, artwork, book covers and the text on those covers).

A lot of working relationships (and that includes writers, actors, and directors) in my past ended as I refused to deal with BS, lies, or verbal or written attacks upon me. … Yikes!!!!! I never would have guessed that the passing of a petite lady who had a good singing career led to the above tirade. I’m sorry, and yet I’m glad that my short amount of time in her presence initiated these strong feelings in me.

Enter my personal world and music that dominates it

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Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft at a Grover Cleveland High School reunion in October 2015.

Some 14 months after the Wrangler Awards I met a lady named Pailin Subanna. She was frail and hurt beyond belief, and she was beautiful. It was an instant attraction, something that I don’t think I have ever experienced before. On one of our first times together, we sat in a darkened screening room at the (then named) Autry National Center as a silent film played. Tears dripped down her cheeks. “I need time,” she whispered, “lots of time.” I knew then that I could wait for her as long as she needed.

Film scores, and selected compositions from them, are my favorite music. I know: What? ‘Tis true. Perhaps my favorite is Max Steiner’s The Final Goodbye from the 1941 Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland They Died with Their Boots On film score. Here Steiner mixes military trumpet calls with George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry’s theme song, Garryowen, and with the film’s love theme for Custer and his wife Libbie. For me it is terribly sad, and certainly doesn’t represent Pailin’s and my life. But then again, perhaps it does as it is very meaningful for me and represents love until the end of time.

tdwtbo_filmScore_wsErich Wolfgang Korngold’s score for Flynn’s The Sea Hawk (1940) contains the most romantic music that I’ve ever heard. It is included in a symphony that merges the film’s score but isn’t in the full score of the film that I have (why?). This is the music in garden after Flynn’s Captain Geoffrey Thorpe has been publicly chastised in court by Queen Elizabeth I of England (Flora Robson) for sinking a Spanish ship in the 1580s. After Flynn, in private, interests Robson in a piratical raid on the Spanish-held Panama peninsula he encounters Doña Maria (Brenda Marshall), in a rose garden. He had captured her when he sunk the Spanish ship, but here he calls her “My lady of the flowers.” This short scene is marvelous in how it deals with forgiveness and unsaid feelings. The music is intimate and caring and full of hope. There is one other Korngold film score that has a romantic love theme that I like a lot: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). After Maid Marian (de Havilland) is instrumental in planning Robin Hood’s (Flynn) escape just before being hung for treason, Flynn climbs the wall to Olivia’s private chamber. Again, Korngold’s score (for the Love Scene) hits the mark dead center, as if arrows shot from Robin Hood’s bow. Not violent, but instead sensual and tender.

geronimo_anAmericanLegend_wsThe Steiner and Korngold compositions represent my feelings for Pailin. But they are not alone, for Ry Cooder’s great score for the film Geronimo: An American Legend is loaded with a combination of music from the time period (American Indian wars; roughly 1860-1890) as well as his magnificent compositions that are totally in tune with the storyline and Geronimo’s life. One piece, La Visita, which features the guitar, is used in a cantina when Lt. Charles Gatewood, who is searching for Geronimo in Mexico, confronts scalp hunters. The scene turns bloody while the music remains melodic and peaceful. It is ethnic (something that Cooder excels at when he moves south of the U.S. border for his compositions). Pailin and I have totally different backgrounds, and even though the sound of La Visita isn’t American or Thai, it represents both of us (certainly me; more below).

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Stay

I’m a button pusher on the car radio, and have always been one. If I don’t like the song—adios. I hate to say it, but easily 70 percent of the songs I that hear I don’t like. Also, I’m not loyal to radio stations (two exceptions being two sports stations in Los Angeles). Colin Cowherd, who left ESPN to produce his own show on Fox and move himself and his family to LA, is an extraordinary interviewer and is as sharp as they come at getting to the core of a subject.

Shortly before I met Pailin on the afternoon and evening of June 15, 2013, at a dinner party at Tujunga House (looking back, perhaps one of the most important days of my life), I had scrolled between FM radio stations and came upon 97.1 AMP Radio in Los Angeles. It featured mostly new music (pop, hip-hop, and so on) and the sounds were alive. One was Stay by Rihanna (from her 2012 “Unapologetic” album). At that time Stay was dominating the airwaves. The first time I heard the song I was hooked. I still am, and as far as I’m concerned AMP Radio is the number one FM music radio station in LA. … I like a lot of the new sounds, for they have life and a heartbeat. … The word “stay” was certainly on my mind at the beginning of Pailin’s my time together, and it will be so for all time. Rihanna’s Stay is a song that I never tire hearing.

Sad SongsI Feel so Bad, and alley ways

My father used to tell me of his days of growing up in New York and walking miles through snow to get to school. The good old days? Hell, I have my own good old days when I walked 30 miles to school in torrential downpours with water up to my knees. ‘Tis true, except for the distance. … After some eight to twelve elementary schools I was able to settle into two steady years in one school for the 5th and 6th grades. But after graduation a handful of us were separated and yet again I found myself in a new world with few familiar faces. Sutter Junior High School in Canoga Park, California, was a three and a half mile walk or bike ride (a car ride if rain pounded mother earth before it was time for me set out for school). Mostly I walked, and I learned the alley ways that were empty and yet full of music that blasted from open windows in the early morning.

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It was at the beginning of my junior high years in 1961 that I heard Sue Thompson’s song Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) for the first time. She sang of a lost boyfriend, and although I was years away from having a girlfriend or any understanding of what love might offer, it touched something inside me.

Walking down the long alley brought me pleasure for many houses blasted their radios. Sue’s Sad Movies introduced me to Rock n’ Roll. It still gets air time at Tujunga House, and it certainly brings back memories of a car chase that had disaster written all over it.

Sad movies still affect me to this day, and there is no set reason why they tear my heart up, but they do. Some of Errol Flynn’s films and more recently Quigley Down Under (1990), Titanic (1997), The Bridges of Madison County (2000), and Blood Diamond (2006).

Soon after I heard my first Elvis Presley song, I Feel so Bad (also 1961). The song’s blues grabbed my soul and it has never let go. There’s something that drives me, and this has often made me a recluse. This is strange for I’m social and I like being around people, but for most of my life I’ve been a loner. … These two songs pushed me to ask for a radio in my bedroom so that I could hear rock ‘n roll and country music at my beck and call. I didn’t get a new radio, but instead the one that had been in my parents’ bedroom. … I was in heaven.

The walks continued to be long, as was the alley.

I was just a boy with visions of Duke Snider (the great Brooklyn Dodgers and Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder making glorious catches in the outfield and drilling home runs to right field), and of course toy pirates, cowboys, and Indians.

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A photo of LK taking practice swings before the seventh game of the first season of the Kool Aid Kids at Winnetka Park in the San Fernando Valley (8dec1980). The first three or four years we played in a city league and always played different teams. During our fourth or fifth year we joined the Chatsworth Park League. They had two leagues with playoffs and then a championship game with the winner of the other league. This was cool because of the playoff system, but also because we played the same teams in our league two or three times each season (there were three seasons each year). Good times for LK, my brother Lee, Tony Graham, and a great group of guys (and their ladies). We practiced together, played together, and partied together. (photo © Louis Kraft 1980)

The “Duke” ruled my world and influenced my immediate future like no other sports star of my early years with but one exception, “Mr. Quarterback,” Johnny U (Johnny Unitas) of the Baltimore Colts, who almost singlehandedly set the National Football League on pace to become “the” American sport of today. I met and spoke with the Duke numerous times but unfortunately I never met Johnny U. I’ve had articles published about the Duke (but have never written about Johnny), and even though I pitched the Duke on a biography, he was already under contract for what would be published as The Duke of Flatbush (1988; written with Bill Gilbert), and he had to turn me down.

There’s one thing about me; if I want something I go for it. Regardless of my success rate, I have never shied away. You can’t strike out in baseball unless you come to the plate and swing the bat, … you cannot hit a home run in baseball unless you come to the plate and swing the bat. I have never shied away from coming to the plate. Success has good stories, but often failure has better stories. … Just look at the people that I write about. … They stood for equality and human rights, and they had the shit kicked out of them by the U.S. government, the military, the press, and the American population on the frontier, but this didn’t prevent them from doing what they thought was right.

What I’m really talking about here …

Although I didn’t know it, there would be a lot of Sad Movies in my life. Here I’m talking landing acting contracts, publishing contracts, and my relationships with people. My life has been a long and winding road, and because of this my relationships have surged and fizzled (some friends are forever while others are for a piece of time). I cherish my real friends (and it is just like yesterday when we see each other, talk on the phone, or connect on social media). The others? Glad I knew you. Vaya con Dios.

Early on in my professional life I did everything I could to land an acting or writing contract. I quickly learned not to whip myself if I didn’t land the gig or the assignment while realizing that constructive criticism was one of my best friends and that I should never allow my ego to block or ignore it.

My personal life has been a different story. My success with women is probably no better than my success rate with acting and writing. However, with the ladies, the failures always hurt. What could have been, what I wanted, and what could never be has always remained with me. There have been ladies in my life that have never been part of it, for they have been in it for only for a flash of time. … Good, bad, or indifferent my memories—be them acting, writing, or personal—are always with me. They are in black ink and painted in blues and browns and lighter shades of color. They are in my writing—fiction and nonfiction (yesterday, today, and tomorrow). They are my past and my future. They, along with my lady and my daughter, are my life.

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This image was taken with my Brownie Kodak camera in summer 1965, shortly after Dennis Riley (right) and I graduated from high school. The little fellow in the background is my brother Lee. Dennis and I became friends in high school, but our relationship began when we attended different junior high schools but often found ourselves rivals in sandlot sports. (photo © Louis Kraft 1965)

Back to that alley that I walked through come rain or shine

One night in the late 1960s I drove to Dave Pittaway’s parents’ home in Reseda, California, and we went to pick up Dennis Riley at his parents’ house (also in Reseda) in Dave’s car to have a night on the town (they attended Pierce Junior College and I went to San Fernando Valley State College, which would soon become California State University, Northridge).

This was shortly before Dennis enlisted in the Navy. Dave ran a stop sign and cut a car off. Dennis was in the back seat, and when the other driver honked he leaned out an open window and flipped the bird. Suddenly the driver trail-gated us. “Is he crazy?” Dave or Dennis asked. “There’s three of us and one of him.” The race through the streets heated up, and it didn’t take us long to realize that there was another car behind the first and it was well occupied. As we sped west on Sherman Way Dave ran a red light and yanked the car north onto Corbin Avenue (one lane each way). The other two cars were right behind us as we entered the town of Winnetka. The speed had to have been close to 60 mph. I knew where we were, for this was just south of where I walked into the alley and heard Sue Thompson’s Sad Movies and Elvis’s I Feel So Bad. The first car sped by us and now had us sandwiched between our pursuers. We rushed toward the next intersection with a light (Corbin and Saticoy Street). “Dave,” I yelled, “just before we reach Saticoy there is an alley to our left. When we reach it turn into it and almost immediately turn left into another alley!”

The light at the intersection turned green and the first car flew across Saticoy as Dave yanked the wheel to the left and swerved into the alley. The second car, that now tailgated us, had no chance to stop and flew past us and through the intersection.

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LK’s office in Woodland Hills, Calif., in 1970. Not the best location (the property is worth a fortune today), but I didn’t have to pay rent. … I chose this image as it shows how I looked at the time of this infamous memory. Unfortunately I don’t have any images of Dave Pittaway or another that I can find of Dennis Riley (I should have few of him somewhere). And, alas, there are no images of the chase or of us hiding in the bushes. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

“Turn off your lights!” I ordered as Dave braked and fishtailed into the second alley. He turned off the lights as he sped down the pitch-dark and narrow asphalt. If an animal or person stepped in front of us, … it, he, or she would have been roadkill. Dennis and I watched our tail as Dave pressed the gas pedal; our pursuers probably got caught by a red light once they were able to turn around.

“When we reach the end of the alley,” I yelled, “turn right!”

Dave missed this order and the car blindly shot across a residential street and into the rear entry of an apartment building (luckily we weren’t broadsided). Before crashing into a staircase David yanked the steering wheel to the left and then to the right and swung into a vacant parking spot. He was slow with the brakes and the car crashed into the apartment building. Not much damage, but the impact sounded like a bomb. All three of us were out of the car in a flash and out of the complex and into nearby bushes.

Hours passed, and we saw and heard nothing. We ventured back into the apartment’s parking lot. All was quiet; it didn’t even look as if anyone had noticed a strange auto. Luckily our evening had ended on the bright side. That is, we didn’t have to engage in a brawl.

One of the greatest albums ever …

I liked Johnny Cash a lot at the time of his primetime TV variety show that aired between June 1969 and March 1971 (Michael Parks was a guest at the time of my favorite TV show of all time, Then Came Bronson (1969-1970)—more on Parks below). At that time Big John released a slew of impressive albums, but best I loved his duets with his wife June Carter Cash on TV (I could see the fun in their love, for it transcended whatever problems they struggled with throughout their lives together).

bitterTears_cash_wsEarlier Johnny had cut an album that was obscure, and yet he sang the songs with power and passion. It dealt with American Indians from their point-of-view (POV). Not a popular POV in the 1960s or unfortunately still in the 21st century. There are eight cuts on the album and seven of them are extraordinary. The album was called “Bitter Tears.”* This album grabbed my soul, and it has never let go of it. … Especially As Long As The Grass Shall Grow, Apache Tears, Drums, White Girl, and The Vanishing Race. Johnny had written Apache Tears and The Talking Leaves while folksinger and song writer Peter La Farge wrote five songs, and Johnny Horton wrote The Vanishing Race.

* In 2014 an album was released called “Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited,” with various artists including Kris Kristofferson, who sang The Ballad of Ira Hays, recreated Cash’s original recordings. Perhaps I’m too-closely attached to Johnny’s album, for even though I play this album fairly often I find it lacking passion and weak in comparison. Rhiannon Giddens wrote additional lyrics for The Vanishing Race, arranged and sang the song, and her performance is by far the best on the album. There is one additional song, Look Again To The Wind (written by Peter La Farge).

In the 1960s I had no idea that I’d become a writer, much less a writer about the American Indian wars. I had no idea that I would come to realize that the Indians (Cheyennes, Apaches, Navajos, and many-many-many other tribes) fought for their loved ones, their homeland, their religion, their culture, their freedom, their lifeway, and their lives). John’s voice was (and still is) alive, vibrant and, his POV on the album is clear.

Rhiannon brings back memories of Patsy

I first heard Rhiannon Giddens on the “Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited” album, and liked what I heard. I searched for her on Amazon and found that she was the lead singer for the Carolina Chocolate Drops. I listened to a lot of the short cuts from the group’s music (it goes back in time, and is alive with rhythms and emotions), but before making a decision to purchase one of the Carolina Chocolate Drops albums, Rhiannon’s first solo album was released in 2015 and I purchased it after listening to partial cuts.

patsyCline&rhiannonGiddensCollage1_wsRhiannon’s music has range and diversity. She also sang one of my all-time favorite pop songs from the early 1960s—She’s Got You—on her solo album. I loved this song the first time that I heard Patsy Cline (who tragically died in a plane crash on 5mar1963) sing it.

Patsy has always been my favorite female singer of all time, and Rhiannon has already become one of my favorites. If you don’t know these ladies’ music, you should.

Linda Ronstadt, cars, and Lee

Linda Ronstadt was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, and justifiably so. In 1974 my brother Lee (18 at the time) worked at a car dealership in the San Fernando Valley (if I ever want to talk about bullshit, I can certainly do it here). I was an actor looking for employment (read attempting to bring in money when not acting).

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This photo was taken at California State University, Northridge, and it is what I looked like when I drove American Motors autos, and later worked in the dealership’s auto body (where I was almost executed; the manager’s quick action saved me when he killed all the power in the shop and I dropped to the ground). (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

Linda’s You’re No Good sizzled on the radio. Regardless of what you think about me I do like to eat, and I’ve always provided for people in my life. Lee landed me a job at the dealership. At the time American Motors was limping down a dead-end road but the company hadn’t realized it yet (or maybe they did). The only car they produced worth anything was the Javelin, a fast pony car. The job was simple. Drive new cars to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) rental lots or newly painted police cars to their destinations (these were Matadors), and yes, I pushed those beasts to the limit w/o cracking up a one—hell, I had to ensure that the LAPD were getting cars that could fly. Good times with Lee, and within six years we would start a softball team with friends. Lee and I would play ball year round for the next 10 years. Ten great years until his untimely end.

We’ve all seen a lot of death, and I know that it is hard on all of us. The death of my sister in 2006 marked the end of my entire immediate family except for my daughter. Luckily I still have her, and my lady.

I’ve always been good with people. All races, all religions, all colors. I thank my parents for this, but until 1970 I never had an inking of the trail that my life would follow.

Enter two men whose music blows me away to this day

As said above singer/songwriters are front and center in my life, but there is one singer that stands before them—Michael Parks. That means that he, along with Alan Jackson and John Lennon are the major players in my musical vocal life.

Alan Jackson

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An early signed concert photo of Alan Jackson. (LK collection)

I was aware of Alan’s work early in his career; at that time Los Angeles radio stations still played decent country music. His sound is traditional, honky tonk, with a touch of blues. Unlike many performers he has again and again branched into other genres from blue grass to religious while remaining true to his roots.

In 1992 a divorce was final and my daughter and I moved into an apartment in Woodland Hills, California (I had her every other week, the result of a costly negotiation but worth every penny). At this time Alan had a major hit on the radio, Midnight in Montgomery (w/Don Sampson). Some of the lyrics are: “It’s midnight in Montgomery … Just hear that whippoorwill … See the stars light up the purple sky … Feel that lonesome chill … When the wind is right you’ll hear a song … Smell whiskey in the air … Midnight in Montgomery … He’s always singing there.” He is the legendary Hank Williams. This song grabbed me and has never let go.

alanJackson_angels&alcohol_wsMy daughter and I had a used mattress on the floor, a love seat, and folding chairs. I had my computer, two large book cases, and my books and research. Here I wrote a contracted novel about Kit Carson that would never see print. The publisher dropped their western line and when I threatened to sue, my agent talked me out of it. Tragedy? No! For I had my daughter and soon a contract with friend Dick Upton (Upton and Sons, Publishers) to write and design a nonfiction book on Custer’s peaceful roundup of the warring Cheyennes and Arapahos on the southern plains in 1869. … This time, this short time, in Woodland Hills (April 1992-January 1993), was, and still is, a major piece of my life. … Every time I hear Alan’s Midnight in Montgomery, it brings me right back to nine plus glorious months in my life.

Alan Jackson’s songs from I’ll Go On Loving You (by Kieran Kane) to Gone Country to Don’t Rock the Jukebox (w/Roger Murrah and Keith Stegall) to She’s Got the Rhythm (I Got the Blues) w/Randy Travis to (his song that deals with 9/11) Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) to Remember When (my favorite of all time) to Angels and Alcohol).

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Alan Jackson announces his “Keepin’ It Country” tour in 2016.

Alan returns to SoCal for a concert this year. I had seen him several years back in Orange County (a great concert). He’ll be at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on April 16. I prefer close seats, and prices have gone up since last I saw Alan (high $200s to low $300s per ticket for good seats). Doable? Doubtful. But Pailin likes his music. November, December, and January have been disasters money wise. February will be also. Still? …

Although I hate lists, I could easily come up with a top 10 songs of all time list. Ladies and gents, this list is totally personal. Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down would make the list, as would Michael Park’s rendition of Wayfarin’ Stranger. Definitely Tex Ritter’s The Cookson Hills and most likely Patsy Cline’s & Rhiannon Giddens’ renditions of She’s Not You (two for one here). I can’t forget Rihanna’s Stay. That leaves John Lennon and Alan Jackson. Certainly Lennon’s Imagine and Jackson’s Remember When are on the list. (John and Alan will claim the final three spots, and this won’t be easy). … Ladies and gents, I always remember when.

John Lennon

That’s right, John Lennon! He is major in my life, but surprisingly he was a late entry for me mainly because I didn’t much care for the Beetles. Oh, they had some great songs, such as George Harrison’s My Guitar Gently Weeps and the Sun’s Going to Shine. But for me the greatest Beetles song was Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s A Day in the Life. This song was an eye-opener—then and now. It grabs me every time I hear it. The shock of the tragedy is stunning, and it refuses to let go of me. After our brother Lee died, my sister and her husband wanted to use Highwayman at his service and I agreed, but it may not have been the correct choice. Looking back, I believe that the song should have been A Day in the Life.

jLennon9_border_wsIt was a cold night in December 1980 when the Kool Aid Kids had a softball practice at Winnetka Park in the San Fernando Valley. Lennon’s joint album with his wife Yoko Ono had recently been released and some of the songs had play time on the radio. I had heard one or two of the songs, which were different in that they focused on a relationship between a man and a woman (something that Alan Jackson has excelled at) and I liked them. Moreover, Lennon’s single Imagine, which he created after the Beetles’ demise, had never been a button pusher on the car radio, for I always listened to it. I was roughly 10 years older than most of the fellows on the ball team that Lee, his great friend Tony Graham, I, and others had created. It was just a night of practice late in the team’s first year of existence. One of the fellows mentioned that John Lennon had been shot and killed at the entry to his apartment in Manhattan, New York City. Most of the team didn’t react, didn’t care. I did. I was shocked. Death and murder always shocks me, and I suppose that is why most on my writing has focused on people who put their lives at risk to prevent or end war (and all the heinous crimes that accompany it).

Believe it or not more than a few people actually turn their backs to me when I am present at events as a writer or speaker. This always gives me lift, and sometimes a thrill, as I mind-play going for a walk with them down a dark and lonely road so that we can discuss their problems. … Alas, those days of mine are long gone and have faded into my past. My rebel rousing days are simply memories now. If in the presence of a racist in LA today I will verbally confront them. … I think that the last time this happened was at a late-night dinner after I was a guest interviewee on an hour-long local Los Angeles radio station in 2010. When the radio show’s host and I decided to go for dinner another radio show host wormed his way into joining us. During the evening his words (the other radio host) became more and more racial, so much so that they weren’t worth a comment. I started to grin, and this unnerved him. “What’s your problem?” he snarled across the table. “You,” I replied, “you’re a racist.” I don’t say words like this unless I am prepared to back them up. On this evening I felt combative, for the—the I don’t know what to call this person—the “something” had leaped to his feet as he verbally defended himself and attacked what I had said. I smiled, my best Clint Eastwood smile. This unnerved him and he sat down. The rest of the evening rushed toward conclusion without nary another comment from my new acquaintance. After we paid, he leaped to his feet and while keeping his distance from me he ran for the exit. As the radio host and I left the restaurant I apologized for what had happened. He accepted my words, adding that I had been correct.

Maybe, but although he told me that night that I’d again be a guest on his show I’ve never been invited back.

doubleFantasy_wsJohn’s murder pushed me to explore his music, beginning with his newly released album with Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy. At first I wasn’t certain how I felt about this album other than it was different and was from the heart (two hearts; John’s and Yoko’s). This album changed my view of music, and certainly of Lennon (and Yoko). Country ballads and straight rock ‘n’ roll suddenly needed a reason to exist. This immediately gave value to Kris Kristofferson’s songs and opened the door for me to listen to Alan Jackson’s great songwriting (see above). John’s music had range and power and focus, and when you add in his values such as antiwar and peace, women equality, love, and his work grabbed me like no others before or after. Alan’s songwriting is close, for he has certainly focused on the human condition and has touched upon our world of yesterday and today—his Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) is extraordinary—and he is often dead-on with his subject matter, but John took his views to the next level (and this was before Alan’s time).

US_vsJohnLennon_wsA former girlfriend (Diane Moon) latched onto Lennon and Jackson’s music and liked it. Later she would say that both had “tinny” voices. Correct, but it is the words and the performance and not the magnificence of the voice. Her voice was extraordinary. At the Methodist Church in Burbank, California, the members couldn’t believe the sounds coming from her when she sang at Sunday services. She had studied music in her native country, was a great piano player (and taught piano), but her voice was God-given. It had the power and intimacy of Adele’s in the current hit Hello.

Lennon, more than most people I have known or have respected, put his life at risk and pushed the envelope. President Richard Nixon had him on his hit list for Lennon dared to speak out and sing about peace and the end of the Vietnam war. God bless Mr. Lennon for daring to stand firm for what he believed. In a small way I have attempted to change attitudes towards the human experience in history, but John touched a nation (the USA), a good portion of the world, and perhaps even his homeland (Great Britain). His music affected me in 1980 and still does today. He, along with Alan, will be with me forever.

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The Final Showdown was published in 1992. This image was taken in the entry to my former home in Thousand Oaks. Afterward the photographer and I finished the photo session on a hill just south of the 101 freeway in Ventura County. (photo © Ventura News Chronicle 1992; used by permission)

A book sale and Quittin’ Time

The acting had been gone since 1985, but the years drifted forward at an alarming pace. The best thing I had going for me was the freelance writing. I had morphed into a publications manager and freelance writer for pay. Years passed and the year 1990 started poorly. It began with a knee operation (I used to run 3 ½ or 7 miles per day; I have one recommendation—don’t do it). Next I received a great review from the editor-in-chief where I was publication manager only to be told that I would receive an $8,000 pay cut (yeah, times were tough back then too—so much for the good ol’ days). I quit and within a couple of weeks I landed a technical writing job based upon my freelance writing and publishing background. But before I started my brother died in an auto wreck. A handful of days over two months into 1990 and I had begun to wonder if I would survive the year.

“The times, they are a changin’,” to quote Bob Dylan.

That summer my former wife and I bought a house in Thousand Oaks, California, without selling our home in Encino. The house was a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. It had a pool (I had grown up a fish and swimming has always been a part of my life) but I didn’t live in Wonderland and this new round of swimming wouldn’t last.

anderson_quitinTime_wsBut this went right by me.

It was still 1990 when a verbal pitch landed a contract for The Final Showdown. Life couldn’t be better.

I’ve always enjoyed entertaining, and the summer of 1990 was terrific.

At least on the surface, … I lived in a great new home, swam, had a book contract, and friends and family visited on the weekends. That summer  of 1990 was one I’ll never forget as my daughter learned to swim, and Dejah Thoris (a Doberman named after the princess of Mars, and the kindest and most loving animal I’ve ever known) also learned that she could swim.

… But the seeds were in place.

By the summer of 1991 things had changed. Pool parties and barbecues had become mostly a one-man show. When people came over to hang out, eat, and enjoy the pool, my then wife was mostly a no-show. When asked where she was I didn’t tell the truth, but simply said that she didn’t feel well.

At this time John Anderson’s Quittin’ Time, off his great 1987 “Blue Skies Again” album, got a lot of playing time in Thousand Oaks.

The 1982 Jerry Reed song She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft) summed up what would soon happen.

The divorce became final in April 1992. I remember feeling a release while driving my 1982 Ford F-150 pickup that day.

For the record, my former wife and I have done everything
possible to befriend each other and to make our daughter’s
life as good as possible. I don’t know of a song that
deals with this. If there aren’t any, there should be,
for salvaged relationships are important.

Michael Parks and his music

I had seen some of Michael Parks’ early films and I had been impressed.parks_HarleyPoster In 1969 a TV show premiered. It was called Then Came Bronson, and it affected my life more than any film or TV series has before or after it. Parks was the lone recurring character as every episode had different players. In the pilot, with Bonnie Bedelia, Parks, accompanied by Bedelia, sang Wayfarin’ Stranger. It is a religious song, and it became my favorite song of all time the first time I heard it in the pilot (unfortunately the duet version with Bedelia has never been placed on a record or CD).

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Ad in LK collection.

The producers followed up with what they presented in the pilot, and that is Parks sang songs—mostly country leaning toward country blues with some that were almost pop. This of course led to an album, Closing the Gap. Every cut on this album is classic, but my all time favorite (other than Wayfarin’ Stranger) is Oklahoma Hills, which certainly dates back to at least Jack Guthrie and 78 rpm records).

In 1995 Custer and the Cheyenne was published by Upton and Sons, and I had a major talk on George Armstrong Custer’s peaceful roundup of the Cheyennes and Arapahos in 1869 after the  battle of the Washita which resulted in Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle’s death in November 1868. My daughter accompanied me on the trip; first to Taos, New Mexico, where we hung out while I tried to figure out what I’d say, and then to Amarillo, Texas, for the talk. In Amarillo, a city I’m not thrilled about, there is a cool steak house, which is also a tourist trap as it is right off I-40. She and I had eaten there about three years earlier, when we tracked Custer, the battle of the Washita, and then his pursuit of the Arapahos and Cheyennes onto the Staked Plains of Texas. My memory of Amarillo is of wind and more wind. If you are going to wear a broad-brimmed hat you had better hold onto it or it will end up in the next county. On our first visit two strolling cowboy singers with guitars stopped at our table and asked if we’d like to request a song. I said,”Oklahoma Hills.” The two singers sang it without missing a beat (a nice job)  and my daughter was impressed (so was I). Every time I hear Parks’s version of this song, he brings me right to my daughter and all of our road trips over the years (so many that I can’t count them all). Every one of these trips has been a highlight in my life.

If I’m sounding a little melancholy here, my apologies. Sometimes things don’t go as you want and hope. I’m in one of those zones right now.

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LK art of Michael Parks in concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on May 22, 1970. I had purchased expensive tickets but we were seated about midway in the auditorium. B.S.!!! I talked it over with my then wife, who was a photographer, and we decided to move to the front of the stage and kneel down in front of the first row of seats. She had her camera and clicked away, and best, no one bothered us. This image, blasted from both high and low stage lights, and was unusable. I turned it into artwork. … Michael Parks is by far the best singer I have ever listened to perform (on records/CDs or in person), and this includes Tex Ritter, Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and the great Alan Jackson. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Years later I worked on a pilot called Turnover Smith, a proposed TV series with William Conrad playing the leading character, a detective, and Belinda J. Montgomery, a young actress that I personally knew at that time due to her family being my father-in-law’s patients (he was one of the leading general practitioners in Los Angeles at that time) played Conrad’s assistant. Parks was a detective in the pilot. I lucked out and got to work on the pilot. I hung out with Belinda, spent good time with Conrad, and best for me I hit it off with Parks. We spent a lot of time together over the course of three weeks; maybe four.

He was working on an album that he called “My Horse Came Back,” and asked if I had a tape recorder as he’d lend me a tape of the cuts in their current status. I didn’t have a tape recorder at that time and never heard the songs. Michael had four albums (plus a “best of” album) that dated from Then Came Bronson years and the aftermath. All were country and country blues and they are my favorite albums of all time.

Decades passed, before he released an album that I only heard for the first time in 2015. It was jazz (not my kind of music, but Michael’s), and in 1998 he released his final album (to date), “Coolin’ Soup.” It is mostly jazz, but there are two country blues cuts that I really like.

Back to Wayfarin’ Stranger …

I’m evil, and I will live a long time. I’m front and center in what I need to do to make this happen, and I work at it every day. There are two reasons, and  both are of major importance to me.

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“Nuch” is Pailin. (photos © Louis Kraft 2012 & 2013)

1) I need to ensure that my lady and daughter survive in a harsh world. They are both innocents and need someone to watch over their shoulders, to protect them, and to keep them safe. To do this I need another 40 or more years.

2) I have a stack of books I want to complete and see published.

Ladies and gents, the above is my life.

Of course the end will come. When it does, I want Michael Parks’ rendition of Wayfain’ Stranger to play at my service (if there is one). I also want Ry Cooder’s instrumental version of Wayfarin’ Stranger from his Geronimo: An American Legend film score, as well as his La Visita. These three pieces and no others. … Not to worry. This is a long way off in my future.

Six staples are about to be removed from my head.
Life is good, and I’m enjoying every minute.