Louis Kraft talks about what drives his writing and life

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


Terrible times beyond belief

First and foremost I need to say a few things that have impacted, and are impacting, my life (and one of them has become a curse on all of us the world over).

  • The COVID-19 pandemic (by now way too many of us know someone who has fallen prey to this heinous virus).
  • We still have two more months of fire season in California, and already 2020 has been the worst season on record, and this includes the worst air quality in LA County in 40 years (at these times wear a mask to protect your lungs).
  • A great friend and one of the most talented people I’ve ever known has suffered a terrible tragedy in his family (it is not for me to share).
  • Olivia de Havilland died (I had thought that she would outlive me; certainly that was my hope but it was not to be).
  • My great bro throughout time, Glen Williams, has died.
  • Not to brag, but this has been a dreadful year for me. Although it has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has cost me 24 months of no exercise, no lifting, no yardwork, no walking, … no—you name it.
  • My brain functions at all times, and believe it or not, at this sad time of woe that all of us will remember for the rest of our lives, … I have more freelance writing, related work, and deadlines than ever before (to the point that I’ve had to turn away work).

I’m the luckiest guy you know.

A request to review a Ned Wynkoop document by the National Park Service

LK playing Ned Wynkoop in a five-week run of Cheyenne Blood in SoCal in 2009. Folks, this was a highlight in my life. Yep, LK knows a hell of a lot about this extraordinary human being. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Whoa cowboy!!!!! Yeah, the NPS was doing a flyer on ol’ Ned for a few of their National Historic Sites (NHS), such as Fort Larned NHS, Sand Creek Massacre NHS, and the Washita Battlefield NHS. To say that I was honored is an understatement of major proportions.

I treated this as a major project, and it took weeks to complete. The response from the NPS? Zero!!! Not a peep. Ha-ha, you know exactly where my view of the National Park Service went. Yep, right into the trashcan. I need to say, that regardless of what I wrote—and it had to have been hard for NPS management to swallow a review that was less than a thrilling kiss-ass of love for every piece of bullshit that they came up with—but what pissed me off was that the NPS never replied, never said we disagree with everything you wrote. Hell, that would have been acceptable.

Nada! Not anything from the National Park Service. Of course, your pal Kraft couldn’t keep his mouth shut. See my review of the travesty of BS that the NPS would eventually print: National Park Service, Ned Wynkoop, & a bad taste.

LK with Shawn Gillette at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS headquarters in Eads, Co., on 3oct2014. I think that Shawn is an upstanding person, and I’m lucky to know him. Our relationship has nothing to do with the National Park Service and I hope that this remains true as our lives move forward. (photo © Shawn Gillette, Louis Kraft, & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

In 2014 great Cheyenne wars historian John Monnett and his wonderful wife Linda invited us to visit them in Lafayette, Colorado, and this included them taking Pailin and myself to the Sand Creek Massacre NHS. After walking the grounds (as much as we could, but this wasn’t much), we went to Eads, where the headquarters for the Sand Creek Massacre NHS was located. Here I met Shawn Gillette, chief of interpretation, in person for the first time. He told me that the chiefs of interpretation agreed with my review but upper management ruled the day.

I could agree with this. … But my bad taste for the USA government grows by the day (I need to say that the National Park Service isn’t at the top of my list—the Federal government is, and from all indications this isn’t going to change for the rest of my life).

An LK interview that was to accompany a review of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

This was a book that I didn’t want to write, but my good friend and former editor-in-chief at the University of Oklahoma Press refused to accept my “No, I don’t write books about war” refusal. To this date in time—egotism aside—this is not only the best,  but also the most important book that I’ve ever written.

The interview was to accompany a review of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a LIfeway. I’m wordy, so it appeared in two editions of the paper (August and September 2020), but everything personal, everything that led up to why I write about the American Indian wars, everything that directs what I write and why, along with my next major writing project (which was a major question) was totally cut from the two issues of the newspaper.

Oh, the review of the Sand Creek book was five sentences. Five sentences! It was okay, but why bother? A silent parting of ways. Been here before.

I spent a fair amount of time writing what follows but the paper wasn’t interested in the Sand Creek book. It wanted information on Lt. Charles Gatewood and Geronimo, while totally uninterested in why I spent 10 years to write two books about Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches, and follow them through to publication. Additional questions wanted to know what drove me to write about the Indian wars and racism.

As I stated in my submitted draft of the interview, I retained the copyright to my words and that I intended to use them in a memoir and in my blogs. As two procedures and two operations have knocked my health for a loop this year, not to mention the coronavirus pandemic, a major delivery to the Louis Kraft Collection, an upcoming talk on the Sand Creek Massacre, among other deadlines—and I haven’t even mentioned Errol & Olivia.

What follows are words that will give you an inside peek at who I am and what drives me.

In late spring 2020
I received two requests to do an interview

I stupidly agreed to the requests. The first one is still floating on the wind somewhere on the lone prairie. But this is no longer true, for that person is a human being by the name of Bob Reese, who, if I get lucky, will someday meet in person and spend good time with him. Recently he confirmed that changes in personal and that this slowed the production process; this also included his health. Bob Reese is one of the good guys in this world (hopefully he is again healthy). … As said above the other person purged every word that I shared that was personal and would have given his readers an understanding of who I am and why I write what I write. My opinion of what was printed in the two editions of that publication is unprintable. Will I ever read another word published by that publication? probably not. Will I ever write another piece for that publication? No.

LK with great friend Lt. Col. Paul Fardink, USA, Ret., in the Beverly Hills Hilton dining room on 16Jan2015. He and his wife Cheryl had flown to Los Angeles for a huge military awards ceremony at the hotel. The three of us had a terrific time enjoying each other’s company and discussing Lt. Charles Gatewood’s chances of being awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. Paul had brought several of my articles and books for me to sign. I brought his terrific article on Gatewood and myself in On Point, which would play a key role in his upcoming presentation (which also included an amazing amount of primary source material). (photo © Paul Fardink & Louis Kraft 2015)

This person used me to comment on his hot topic/a major writing topic from my past that is dead and will never happen—that is, present the Medal of Honor to Lt. Charles Gatewood for the part he played in ending the last Apache war in 1886. Years back I had worked closely with Lt. Colonel Paul Fardink, USA-Ret., to create a major submission to obtain Gatewood this honor. Paul had a major general, and a handful of other generals, supporting the project. They had forewarned us that the answer would be “no,” and it would forever be “no.” Will this person—who wants to be a crusader but is always too busy; hell, he couldn’t even provide the publication dates for the two issues of the paper—ever contact me again? Honestly I don’t think so (his silence has been golden).

Was this wasted time lost by me when I’m in a zone wherein I have no free time?
Yes! and No!

My brother Lee Kraft in fall 1988. I can’t begin to tell you how close we were (whether at war or as buddies). We partied together, we worked together, we played ball together. Like our father, who was always there for both of us, he was for me and me for him. His premature death in March 1990 is still the most devastating day in my life. (photo Louis Kraft 1988)

This paragraph initially shared my views on the above—and certainly of the second interview. Unfortunately it got a little too personal, a little too gunslinger-like with LK walking the Southwest looking to put yet another notch on his Colt.

Hell, I’m a Kraft, and like my brother Lee, we were spittin’ images of our father—that is we always walked our own trail, come hell or high water. … Always.

ALWAYS.

I deleted what was to be the following text also.* Too bad, for it was lively and zinged off the page. …

* I should state that when I delete text that is on point or too personal I usually drop it into a potential blog that serves as a holding tank, as it will never be posted. Sometimes I go digging and discover gems that I had buried.

Maybe I should return to some of my favorite Arizona and New Mexico haunts and strut about and play-act doing what I don’t dare saying in print. Oh yeah, Kraft can still do this. That said, I have allowed my life experiences determine the trail that I would follow through life.

The following isn’t bragging; it’s simply fact. I’ve been knocked cold by my father (who was, and still is, the most important person in my life). I’ve taken my motorcycle over a cliff. I’ve had a knife at my throat (in Austin, Texas). I’ve had guns pointed me (and I’ve never been to war). I’ve survived high-speed crashes in fast cars that defy description and yet I walked away from them unharmed. I’ve had 24 surgeries; that’s right 24, and let me tell that wild cats, rats, and possums that cross my path in the wee hours of morning run for the hills when they see me. Am I the devil?

(I’m smiling) I don’t think so.

At my age, macho is good, for it means that I’m still breathing.

My bro Glen Williams would love the above—hopefully he sees it in heaven.

The Tombstone Epitaph
Interview, Louis Kraft
June 2020

Interview © Louis Kraft 2020. This said The Tombstone Epitaph has full right to publish
all or part of this interview in print and online. Also know that I intend to use portions of the following interview in a memoir and in my blogs and I retain the right to do so.

I signed no contract for my FREE interview,
and the words are mine. I am reprinting them here.

TE: Talk about your new book Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. What inspired you to tackle the history of the Sand Creek Massacre?

LK: This answer can be short and sweet. I met Chuck Rankin, former editor-in-chief of the University of Oklahoma Press (OU Press) at the beginning of this century. No Chuck, no Sand Creek book. Next question. …

Just joking but not about Chuck. More’s a comin’.

This image is from the 2012 Western Heritage Awards ceremony in Oklahoma City in April 2012.

At that time when we met I was in the process of trying to work out a contract with the University of New Mexico Press for my second book dealing with Lieutenant Charles Gatewood; actually piecing together his incomplete and failed attempt to write a memoir about his experiences with the Apache Indians in the 1880s. I had a terrific contract for the first Gatewood book but this contract was peanuts in comparison. I countered, but the publisher refused, I said goodbye and never looked back. In retrospect this was a very good day for LK. Chuck was interested, but the two OU Press peer reviews were negative and he sent me a short letter saying that Oklahoma would pass. I took what I agreed with from the reviews, incorporated it into my manuscript, and sent a proposal to the University of Nebraska Press. They quickly requested the manuscript, liked it (as did their peer reviewers), and added an advance to my first Gatewood contract.

During this time Chuck and I continued to discuss a book about Ned Wynkoop, a soldier turned U.S. Indian agent due to events that surrounded the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory in 1864 (he wasn’t present at the massacre). He had migrated to what would become Colorado Territory in 1858 at the beginning of the gold rush, and as many who migrated westward harbored the typical racial hatred of American Indians. Although he didn’t realize it at that time, he was different than most of his comrades. … By fall 1864 he was a major in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry and commanded Fort Lyon (southeast Colorado Territory). That spring events led to the Cheyenne war of 1864, and the hatred and violence escalated as the summer moved toward fall. He had already stated that he intended to kill every Indian he came across, but to date (and this included a command he led against the Utes in 1863, and during which he never saw the enemy) he had not fired his revolver at a Cheyenne or Arapaho Indian.

This LK art of Black Kettle dates to 2015. It has appeared on these blogs but has never been published (the reason is simple: I never liked it enough to submit it to a publisher). Maybe I’ll think about repainting and improving it. Time will tell (or not tell). (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

That September 3, he received two letters (to the commanding officer of Fort Lyon and the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian agent) dictated by Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle that stated that there was a large village (about 2,000 people) of mostly Cheyennes and Arapahos on a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas. Black Kettle and other chiefs wanted to discuss ending the war while juggling a carrot that they had white prisoners that they would give up if he met with them. His officers viewed it as a suicide mission, but Wynkoop refused to listen to them. A village that large couldn’t remain in one location for any length of time due to their huge horse and mule herds as well as supplying fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables that grew in the area. To send a courier to headquarters in Kansas would take at least a week (most likely longer) and the same amount of time for a return answer. Wynkoop couldn’t wait, and without orders set out for the village with 127 men. …

Much would happen, including facing a large warrior battle line; speaking with angry chiefs; eventually talking seven chiefs into traveling to Denver to meet with John Evans, the territorial governor; and receiving four children. During the council, which took place south of the city at Camp Weld, Evans made it clear that the war would continue. However, when Colonel John Chivington, who commanded the District of Colorado, verbally passed the Indians to Wynkoop to oversee them at Fort Lyon, the major, Indian chiefs, and Rocky Mountain News editor and publisher William Byers thought a tentative peace had been reached until the military command in Kansas decided what action it would take.

By early November Wynkoop was removed from command at Fort Lyon, and replaced by Major Scott Anthony. Before setting out for Kansas, where he anticipated being cashiered out of the military, Wynkoop was present when Anthony told Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand, among others to move to Sand Creek, about forty miles northeast of the fort. Anthony also told them that he would inform them of the military’s decision in regards to the war ending or not.

This was my first attempt at creating a portrait of Ned Wynkoop. The pin and ink portrait is framed and is displayed at Tujunga House. It was based upon a woodcut of him in 1867, and has been printed at least once (I need to check, for it may more than once). (art © Louis Kraft 1990)

During Wynkoop’s brief time with the Cheyennes and Arapahos he had realized that they were human beings. When he learned that Chivington and Colorado Volunteers attacked the Sand Creek village and brutally butchered men, women, and children who thought that they had been removed from the war, he was outraged. He considered the massacre heinous, and it changed his life forever. By 1866 he was well on his way to becoming an U.S. Indian agent for the Cheyennes and Arapahos, … and perhaps the most hated white man in Colorado Territory.

I had discovered Wynkoop when looking for an Indian agent on the take for a novel I intended to write; that is defrauding the U.S. government and the Indians he represented to become rich. I never wrote the story, but by 1987 my first article on him had been published (this was my first Indian wars article). Two years later I delivered my first talk on him. By the mid-1990s I was moving forward with a planned biography on him.

Chuck Rankin was definitely interested in my Wynkoop manuscript. There was one problem. Chuck didn’t want was a duel biography like Gatewood & Geronimo; in other words, no Wynkoop & Black Kettle. Actually this was not a problem, for I never considered a joint biography—this book would focus on Wynkoop.

This is a portrait of interpreter/trader John Simpson Smith. It is one of numerous portraits that I’ve done of him (to date none have been printed). This man spoke many languages; this man had numerous wives and none of them were white. Was he a racist? I don’t think so. If you ever read Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway you’ll get to know Mr. Smith. Trust me: he was a combination of good and evil, and more important he was a human being. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

Over the coming years we often talked about how to handle the massacre in the book. As Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek went into production (OU Press published it in 2011), Chuck returned to that tragic November when men, women, and children were murdered and savagely hacked to pieces. This led to us discussing me writing a book about the massacre. At first my reply was “no” for the simple reason that I consider myself a biographer as opposed to a historian (even though history has a large presence in all my nonfiction and fiction). At that time I still wrote for software companies—meaning that travel and research were never a concern—and we talked in person, on the phone, and with email. We both listened and between us we discussed a book that would be acceptable to both of us. The massacre was a key piece in the proposal, and we both agreed that I would deal with it similar to how I did in the Wynkoop book. But people, their words, and actions would drive the story to conclusion. I wanted to write the book through the eyes of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos, whites who married into the tribes, their offspring, whites who coveted Indian land to the east of the Rocky Mountains, and whites who dared to speak out against the Sand Creek Massacre. Once we were in agreement on how I would approach the storyline everything else fell into place. …

That is until I began to write the book. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed more research, a lot more research. As always, I allowed my research to drive the flow of the manuscript, and the more I learned and understood, the deeper I had to dig. There were surprises—big surprises. People that I thought would have leading parts became supporting players and people I thought would have smaller roles became the focus. Two huge examples here are Arapaho Chief Little Raven (who I really didn’t know that much about) became the Indian lead, along with Black Kettle, whom I always knew would have a large role. But digging into Black Kettle also presented a lot of information about him that I never knew existed.

Arapaho Chief Little Raven examines journalist Albert Deane Richardson’s revolver in this 1859 woodcut. New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley relaxes in the background (woodcut in the Louis Kraft Collection)

For me it is the process of research, writing, more research, more writing, rewriting, research, writing, editing, and more research, until the manuscript begins to take shape. Then comes the hard part, and that is trying to make all the facts, events, and people flow together in hopefully a readable manner. It doesn’t stop there, for I play a large role in the production process.

For the record if I ever become homeless and can have only one of my books, it would be Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Yeah, and this was a book that I initially didn’t want to write.

TE: What challenges did you face while researching American Indian history?

LK: This is a wide open question, but my answer is simple: how to locate information that gives life to (in my case) the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and, if I live long enough, the Navajos’ side of their history and culture. A good portion of the life and times of these people has been told by the white man, and much of it has been biased, but not all of it. Often raiding warrior numbers have been inflated, as has been white casualties. And this goes the other way also, and the Sand Creek Massacre is a good example of this. I’m going to stick with my current book for this question.

Colonel John Chivington wrote two official reports of his November 29, 1864, attack on the Cheyenne village circles and the Arapaho village, which may have had two camp circles on Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. On the day of the massacre Chivington reported that he killed between 500 and 600 Indians, including Black Kettle. Sand Creek Massacre NHS ranger, and the most knowledgeable person on what happened on those two days, Jeff Campbell’s calculations places the death count at 230 with 75 percent of the dead being non-combatants. This means that approximately 67 of the dead were chiefs and warriors. By the way, Black Kettle wasn’t even wounded.

Not all the soldiers present took part in the carnage, and some refused to fire their weapons. Two of them were Wynkoop’s subordinates, Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer. Both dared to speak out against the massacre during the investigations, and Soule was later murdered on the streets of Denver. Wynkoop, who was exonerated in late December 1864 might have shared the same fate, but was again in command of Fort Lyon. Even so he was called “Black Kettle’s puppet.”

Honestly, the hardest part was trying to remain in the point-of-view (POV, a film term) of the person I was currently writing about. We already know all the negative prose directed at Black Kettle regardless of his efforts to maintain peace. There were many leading and supporting players in the Sand Creek story, including Black Kettle, Cheyenne chief and Keeper of the Sacred Arrows Stone Forehead; Dog Men (“Dog Soldiers” is a white-man term) Tall Bull and Bull Bear; Arapaho chiefs Little Raven, Left Hand, Neva; trader William Bent, and his mixed-blood Cheyenne sons George Bent, Charley Bent; mixed-blood Cheyennes Edmund Guerrier and Jack Smith, and his father, trader John S. Smith; and Byers, Evans, Chivington, Soule, and Wynkoop to name a few. The goal has always been to present them with their words, their actions, and views of them by their contemporaries.

Regardless of my views—and those of you who read my writing know what they are for I mostly focus on people who try to end war or keep the peace. These are people who reach across racial boundaries to do this. Some of them understand this and become friends, while others do what they think is right regardless of their racial feelings. Bottom line: these are the people I write about. That said, I view the Los Angeles mass murderer Charles Manson as a heinous villain; ditto Adolph Hitler. … None of the people that I write about in the Indian wars do I consider a heinous villain. I believe that what they did when they did it they thought that they were doing what was right. If I do my job correctly, you will be able to make your own decision about them. That is my goal.

TE: What is the legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre today?

LK: To begin with there is still a large divide between white-Indian relations. And certainly a lot of what I’ve watched move forward with racial equality since the 1960s, although slow I thought that it was steady. Over the last three and a half years we have a national government that fosters racial hatred, and it’s almost as if the last 60 years of progress never happened.

LK speaking about Ned Wynkoop’s efforts to save the joint Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota Pawnee Fork village in Kansas from destruction in April 1867 on the preserved land where Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock refused to listen, destroyed the village, and began the 1867 Cheyenne war (September 2012).

A truthful reporting of what happened on that bloody ground on November 29 and 30, 1864, is shocking. It affects my psyche and brings tears to my eyes every time I think about the details. Most of us are lucky to have loved ones, children, parents, friends. The words that describe what happened on that bloody ground are horrifying. Do you get the gist of what I’m talking about?

I have a talk coming up with the University of New Mexico on the afternoon of October 21 titled “An attempt to kill every Cheyenne man, woman, and child: The Sand Creek Massacre, Colorado (November 29, 1864).”* I thought that the novel coronavirus had killed this talk, but luckily Tomas Jaehn (Director, Special Collections/CSWR University of New Mexico Libraries) who hosts monthly talks at UNM saved the day when he decided to have them continue live via Zoom. I don’t want to share much about the talk other than to say that I intend to focus on the scramble from within the various Cheyenne village circles as people attempt to survive sexual butchery. A number of Cheyenne mixed-bloods were in the village. Over the years many of them have gotten a bad rap, as traitors to the white race, and worse, little more than renegades and pure evil. All I’ll say here is that they saw what happened. Some of them grew up walking between the two races and indeed attended school in Missouri. This dark time would remain with them for the remainder of their lives. To this point in time, they had moved back and forth between the races. Not any longer (although Edmund Guerrier did well working with the white man, and he was present) for young men like George and Charley Bent were horribly affected by what they saw and from that time forward they considered themselves Cheyennes.

* LK: This wasn’t in the interview: If you would like to see the talk, which will be live on October 21, you need to send Tomas an email with your name and email address (tjaehn@unm.edu). He will add you to the attendee list, and the Zoom information will be emailed to you two days before the talk. Signing in will be between 4:00 and 4:30 pm Pacific time/5:00 and 5:30 pm Mountain time, with the talk beginning at 4:30/5:30, and so on depending upon your time zone.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (art Louis Kraft 2016)

Racism has been different during my lifetime than how it was in the 1860s. The twentieth century saw lots of theft, incarceration, brutality, rape, and murder—so much so that I’m not going to even attempt to talk about it here. I don’t want to go into the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond, other than to say that I do not consider their continued fight to protect what was theirs while fighting racism as criminal activity. What was in place when I was young has never ended. Hopefully what is happening on the streets of America today can somehow lead the USA to become one country where every man, woman, and child are treated the same, and that is as human beings. When I was young, I thought that I’d live to see that day. As the days grow shorter, I’m doubtful. But hope burns eternally.

The legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre is present today, and it will most likely never end, never fade away. What happened on those two days of horror will live forever in infamy. Certainly for every Cheyenne, Arapaho, as well as many other American Indians living today. It is burned in their souls. It is also front-and-center in the lives of a lot of people I know, people I call friends (and some of them are Cheyennes), and they damn it.

This is how it should be, for November 29-30, 1864, were two days that can never be forgotten. This said, we cannot and should never censor history. If we do, this plague on humanity will continue to tear us apart until we figure out how to destroy life on earth as we know it. History must be told from all sides—from all sides. We’re all people with our views. Just because you disagree with me, or I with you, doesn’t make either of us evil. This is our world, and regardless of what we look like we’re all human beings.

What is the legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre? Don’t hate me, for I believe that the racial hatred of the 1860s is alive and thriving in the year 2020. It is on us to end it.

TE: Your career as a historian and writer has been hallmarked by books dealing with the intersection of the U.S. military and the American Indian. What prompted this interest in you early on?

Olympian and champion duelist, actor, stunt man, sword choreographer, and fencing instructor Ralph Faulkner in the late 1950s, and just a few years before he coached me at Falcon Studios on Hollywood Blvd.

LK: I like this question, but it is a question that you shouldn’t ask me for you are going to get a mouthful (please delete this sentence, for it was only for you).

I think that I discovered Errol Flynn and his films while in the fourth grade. Two Warner Bros. films stood out: The Sea Hawk (1940) and They Died with Their Boots On (1941). Many people think that The Sea Hawk was based on Rafael Sabatini’s classic novel. No. Warners Bros. had the rights to his book, but it wasn’t about an Elizabethan pirate during the time leading up to the Spanish Armada and the invasion of England in 1588. Instead it was about an English nobleman sold into slavery in North Africa, who later became an infamous Tunisian pirate who raided British ships. I highly recommend Flynn’s The Sea Hawk.

This film led to me studying fencing with the U.S. Olympian Ralph Faulkner, who turned actor, stunt double with swords on film, and eventually taught fencing in Hollywood, California. While in junior high school I studied under him, and in the only competition at his studio that I took part in I placed third in foil (my competition were all male adults). In college I took fencing in my first semester, was good enough with the foil that the coach asked me to join the team. I consented, providing I could learn and fight with a sabre, and only a sabre. Reason: almost all the great duels on film are shot with a combination of thrusting and slicing. She agreed. … This Flynn performance is important for it led to me studying acting in junior high school, high school, and college. Eventually I learned “swashbuckling” or stage combat, and would choreograph duels and swordfight on stage. Great times.

CD cover of the film score.

Now to They Died with Their Boots On, and on looking back, it, although not at first, has had a much greater impact on my life. Errol Flynn played George Armstrong Custer and Olivia de Havilland played his wife Elizabeth Bacon Custer (“Libbie” is the correct spelling of her nickname). I have written at least four articles about this film (including a cover story for American History (February 2008), and have spoken about it five times in four states (Missouri, Montana, Texas, and California). Mr. Custer and the American Indian wars (as depicted in this film) grabbed my interest and refused to let go. Back in those days long gone there were many bookstores in Hollywood, California, and one featured nonfiction western history books. I bought a lot of Custer books, read them, enjoyed them, but then the anti-hero worship again struck (at least in Southern California) in the 1960s. Custer was one of the people hardest hit, and he became a caricature that stood for racism and butchery of American Indians. By the end of the decade I boxed up all my Custer books. Luckily I exiled them to a closet and didn’t throw them away. In the late 1970s I visited Arizona (over the years I would spend between six and eight months of my life in Scottsdale, Tucson, and elsewhere hanging out, doing research in archives and on the road). On this trip I discovered Aaron and Ruth Cohen’s Guidon Books in Old Scottsdale, and immediately fell in love with their store. It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship with them. During that trip I visited their shop at least three times. They had a bookshelf that was perhaps seven or eight feet high that featured Custer books. I bought some, and before heading home I bought more. I read them all, and then rescued my exiled books and reread them. I was hooked and knew where my future headed.

Be patient, for everything that I do (or now more important to my writing) is interlinked. Everything.

In summer 1976 I played the lead in two plays in Lubbock, Texas.

Before moving forward here, let me say that I grew up with parents who had an open door to anyone, regardless of race, color, or religion. I had marched for Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1970 I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). This was like the Peace Corps but in the continental United States. I had hoped to work with American Indians (the other two choices were with Blacks and Chicanos, as they were called during my tenure). The training was in Austin, Texas (we housed in the dormitory where a sniper way back shot and killed people on the University of Texas; women on one floor, men on another). At that time they rolled up the sidewalks at 10:00 pm. Before that time we loaded up with beer and wine before returning to the dorm. One night in one of the dorm rooms I said something to a married couple that I liked. It didn’t bother them, but it did a Chicano leader who would soon pick volunteers to work with his people.

LK rehearsing Eat Your Heart Out, a play about an actor who is forced to wait on tables while trying to survive in Hollywood. The week before it opened we rehearsed every day until about two hours before the current play, What Did We Do Wrong (a generation gap comedy that led to a father and son (me) swapping places), was performed (we had seven performances each week). This was during summer 1976 in Lubbock. (photo Louis Kraft 1976)

Suddenly I had an arm around me, and a knife at my throat. It was about 2:00 am and there were between 15 and 20 people in the room. I told my attacker (and I knew his name, but not now) that if he killed me he would destroy his cause. He laughed and called me a number of choice names. I continued, and asked him if he intended to kill everyone else in the room, that is to eliminate all the witnesses. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the words worked and he released me. Breakfast began at six, and to my shock I was a hero. Bleep no! I was one scared person who was thrilled to see the sun come up. When the time came I was quickly chosen to work and live with Blacks in Oklahoma City.

Back to Lubbock … During our first week we stayed in a motel (the director and three leading actors were from LA). My roommate was a Black actor named Jim Reynolds. We hit it off immediately. However, our first visit to the motel’s restaurant let me know what was coming. The waitress gave me a menu and a cup of coffee. When she returned, I said: “Where’s his coffee and menu?” She gave me a dirty look but did as requested. During my three months there I saw a lot that turned my stomach upside down (some good too). When I returned to Los Angeles I wrote a screenplay about my experience. The agent I submitted it to, said, “This is terrible, but let’s talk.” We did, and he became my agent for the next seven years. We came close to selling and optioning screenplays, but never did. Often I dealt with race relations. My favorite was called Wonderboat, which dealt with a U-Boat commander during WWII, the downfall of Nazi Germany, and his Jewish girlfriend. A producer wanted to produce it, but only if I moved the story to WWI and removed the Jewish connection. I refused.

This image is of Boston Red Sox 1st baseman Bill Buckner just before he hit his first home run of 1985 on April 4 at Fenway Park. If my memory is good, this was an image that I used in one of my articles about him. (photo © Louis Kraft 1985)

In 1984 I decided that I needed to make money with my writing. I quit writing screenplays and began selling magazine articles. Since I played competition softball year round, knew baseball, and spent time with Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers great Duke Snider (and even pitched him on writing his biography with him; unfortunately he had already signed a contract to coauthor what would be published as The Duke of Flatbush, 1988). I had a number of articles on the Duke, as well as my favorite baseball player of all time—Bill Buckner. Most of what he accomplished during his career he did on one leg, and my articles about him were all published while he was still playing.

The baseball writing was just to get my foot in the published writing door. I did an about-face and began writing about the American Indian wars. A feature on George Armstrong Custer would be my second published article in this category.

This opened a floodgate that would soon blossom to talks, a novel, and finally to nonfiction: Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995; and God bless Dick and Frankie Upton, for without them my nonfiction book future would have never been). The focus of this book dealt with Custer’s efforts to roundup the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos without further bloodshed after his November 27, 1868, surprise attack on Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle’s Washita village in Indian Territory (almost four years to the day had passed since Sand Creek, but this time the chief and his wife didn’t survive the attack). Custer had two armies behind him and they craved blood. Custer pulled off his task with no additional deaths.

The above is all key to who I am as a writer today. I’m lucky for I’ve been in control of my writing path every step of the way.

TE: What about Geronimo? What kind of a man was he?
LK: I think that this question should move above the Gatewood question, and have moved it upward. The reason is a film, Geronimo: An American Legend, for without this film there would have never been two Gatewood/Apache books. Hope that you agree.

LK: I know film intimately, and study it all the time. The reason is simple: I can’t begin to tell you how much it helps me as a writer—plot development, character, dialogue, and transitions from one plot point to the next. Yes! This is totally valid for a nonfiction writer.

Left: A German lobby card of Geronimo: An American Legend with Wes Studi portraying the Bedonkohe Chiricahua Apache mystic and war leader. If I never saw this film I never would have written a word about Geronimo, Lt. Charles Gatewood, or the Apache Indians. (entire lobby card set in the Louis Kraft personal collection)

In regards to Geronimo, I think that we have to start with a film about him: Geronimo: An American Legend (Columbia, 1993), with Wes Studi playing him. I saw the film twice when it opened in Los Angeles in December 1993. I loved the grandeur, scope, and some of the character development, but hated the lack of focus. That title states that it is about Geronimo but there are too many other characters that have major focus, and shouldn’t. If there was to be a second lead it would be Lieutenant Charles Gatewood, and he had plenty of focus in this film. I was good with that, but not the large focus on scout Al Sieber and General George Crook. Also, there were too many other players that shouldn’t have been in the film. Read that much of this film was total fiction (perhaps even more than Flynn’s They Died with Their Boots On). Oh yeah, fiction dominates this film, although I didn’t know this in 1993. Actually I knew nothing about Geronimo or Gatewood at that time. Zero! Two years later in April 1995 I visited Aaron and Ruth Cohen at Guidon Books to sign Custer and the Cheyenne. Our talk turned to film and how it impacts book sales. Tombstone (1993) with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer had been a major hit at the box office and increased Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday sales while Geronimo: An American Legend failed at the box office and had no impact on Geronimo sales. During the course of our conversation Ruth told me about the Charles Gatewood Collection at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. The following month I took a week off (nine days), visited the collection, and was blown away. In June I took two weeks off (16 days). At that time Gatewood put Wynkoop on hold and became my next nonfiction project. Two years later it became a joint biography about two men on collision course—Gatewood & Geronimo. I can never begin to tell you what this book has meant to my life and career.

Before moving forward, I want to say that Wes Studi’s portrayal of Geronimo was magnificent, as have been some of his other filmed performances. He is great actor, and his honorary Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement award this year was long overdue. I luckily met him shortly after Dances with Wolves (1990) was released in an American Indian gift shop in Tarzana (a suburb in Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley) in 1990. He was excited and I enjoyed our half hour or so of time together. Alas, I’ve never seen him since.

LK talking about Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico and talking him, Naiche, and the remnants of their people into returning to the United States and surrendering at the Festival of the West in Scottsdale, Ariz., on 18mar2004. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Every time I have written or spoken about Geronimo I have tried to be in his viewpoint. Trust me, for this hasn’t been hard to do. Beginning in 1851 when he lost his first wife and family in a raid in Río de Janos in Mexico until his final surrender in fall 1886 he would lose more wives, children, family members, friends, and tribal members to death or abduction. His outrage was instantaneous and totally justified. There were major cultural and political ideologies at stake during the Chiricahua Apaches’ long fight with Mexico and the United States to keep their land, their culture, their lifeway, their language, their religion, their children, and their freedom. Geronimo was a mystic and war leader, and more—for he was a survivor.

LK portrait of Geronimo. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

What happened to him and his loved ones over the course of his lifetime was unbelievable. Often he, the Bedonkohe (his band of the Chiricahua Apaches) as well as all the other bands of Chiricahuas have been branded as aggressive outlaws who raided, raped, stole, and killed at random on both sides of the American-Mexican border. There are some good historians who made it clear that the Chiricahuas considered the land that they claimed was theirs. They had nothing to do with the Americans’ land grab from Mexico, but suddenly their land wasn’t their land in the north (and ditto in the south). They didn’t sign any treaties giving away their land. It was still their land, and Geronimo, Naiche, and those who dared to fight for their freedom and lifeway became murderers, robbers, and worse. What about all the murder, rape, abduction, and constant fear of attack that they had to deal with, live with, during their lives? They were in the way of American progress, and what the hell! They had no rights! I’ve often seen Geronimo listed as a chief. He was never a chief. I’ve also seen him listed as little more than a hellion who never came close to becoming a leader, for all he cared about was himself and his immediate situation. Read the facts about his life, and you’ll quickly see what he had to deal with. He reacted with hate, anger, and vengeance. How would I react in the same situation? How would you react? How are many people in the United States today reacting?

This question is about Geronimo, but I’m sorry, for it is also about me, you, and everyone else in our homeland today. If this generates hate and anger at me, that’s life. I’ve been there before, and I deal with it more often than I want in my life. Way too many times I’ve been called a racist and traitor to my own kind and my homeland. What a bleeping joke!

Geronimo was a patriot, and he had the guts to fight back against what he considered wrong. He lived during a time of violence when his lifeway was coming to an end for all time. We’ve all suffered tragedy during our lifetimes, some of us more than others, but when looking at Geronimo’s life it was an ongoing hell without end. Regardless of what you think about him, he was a very intelligent man. He knew how to fight, when to fight, and when to run. Moreover, he had no intention of giving up the fight for his freedom until that fatal day in September 1886 when he, Naiche, and the remnants of their followers discussed surrendering with Lieutenant Charles Gatewood and returning to the United States to become prisoners of war. As Gatewood had told Naiche and him, surrender, for if not all of you will die.

Geronimo, Naiche, and their followers (less than 40 men, women, and children) surrendered. They would be lied to, but not by Gatewood. For the rest of Geronimo’s life he was a prisoner of war. Still he learned how to survive in the white man’s world of incarceration. Actually he became a celebrity, and realized that if he could sign his name he could earn money. He extended his marketability and began signing photographs of himself (as well as maps). He had not only learned how to play the white man’s game, he excelled at it. Unfortunately General Nelson Miles’s promise that he and those who surrendered with him 1886 would only be exiled to Florida for two years was a lie. When he died in 1909 he was still a prisoner of war.

I have often been asked if I could pick one American Indian who would you select? I don’t have one, I have two: Geronimo and Black Kettle.

TE: Let’s talk about Lt. Charles Gatewood who was the subject of two of your earlier books. Who was he and why do people today not remember his contributions to the taming of the west?

Gatewood (Jason Patric) reaches the top of the mountain at the bend of Río Bapispe in Sonora, Mexico, to meet Geronimo in Geronimo: An American Legend (another German lobby card). A bunch of problems here, including everyone that accompanied Gatewood into Mexico weren’t in the film, Naiche wasn’t in it, and the meeting took place near a bend in the river where there was trees, shade, and water. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

LK: First Lieutenant Charles Gatewood (Sixth U.S. Cavalry) convinced Naiche (the last hereditary Chiricahua chief), Geronimo, and the remnants of their people still with them in Mexico to return to the United States and surrender in fall 1886. He was known as a (General George) “Crook man” as he had served under him, but they had a huge falling out in 1884. At that time Gatewood, who had been a commander of Apache scouts, was in charge of the White Mountain Indian Reservation, headquartered at Fort Apache, Arizona Territory. That year Arizona Territorial Judge Francis M. Zuck defrauded Gatewood’s wards (the White Mountain Apaches), and the lieutenant arrested him. The judge was outraged. Crook agreed with Zuck, and ordered Gatewood to drop the charges. Gatewood refused. When the trial began, the presiding judge dismissed the case on a technicality: Zuck was a judge and should be in his own district presiding over his court. Zuck immediately arrested Gatewood for felonious false arrest. Gatewood appealed to Crook, who turned his back on him. When Gatewood’s trial began, the presiding judge tossed out the case, as the arrest of Zuck had taken place on an Indian reservation and U.S. courts had no jurisdiction on Indian land. For all intensive purposes this destroyed what had been a good working relationship between Gatewood and Crook.

In March 1886 Geronimo and those with him appeared at Cañon de los Embudos, Sonora, to speak with Crook (Gatewood wasn’t present). On the 25th Geronimo told the general why he left the reservation in 1885 (he thought that he would be murdered), of wanting peace, while unhappy with newspapers stating that he should be hanged. He wanted his actions deleted. While he spoke Crook refused to look at him; this angered Geronimo. When Crook did speak, he called Geronimo a liar.

LK tracking Gatewood and Geronimo in Arizona and New Mexico (23jul1996). My daughter Marissa took this image. I can’t begin to count all the trips that we have made together over the years. Good times. (photo Louis & Marissa Kraft 1996)

The following morning Geronimo told Crook that he, Naiche, and the others wanted to return to the White Mountains as they had in 1883. Crook refused; they had to spend two years in Florida. After agreeing to surrender and return to the States, and at a camp while traveling northward, Geronimo, Naiche, and some of their followers feared being killed. In the wee hours they vanished into the night.

Crook had failed and was soon gone and Miles now commanded the mop-up operation of the Chiricahua Apaches that had refused to surrender. Many troops patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border, while others from the Fourth U.S. Cavalry were in Mexico hunting the warring Indians (less than 40 men, women, and children) with one goal—to kill them. Many of these officers would win Medals of Honor for their actions. Not Gatewood, who was ill when Miles summoned him to his headquarters in July 1886 and ordered him to find Geronimo in Mexico and get him to surrender.

Gatewood wasn’t part of Miles’s campaign of capturing and destroying the warring Apaches, but the first lieutenant would pull off an impossible task while the Fourth Cavalry continued to hunt the Apaches. After talking Geronimo and Naiche into returning to the USA and ending the current Apache war, he did everything possible to get them back to the United States. This was not an easy task as both the Mexican authorities and the U.S. troops wanted them dead. This included convincing Geronimo to meet with Jesus Aguirre, the prefect who commanded the Sonoran district of Arispe (headquartered at Fronteras, Mexico), and defusing an attempt by two officers in the Fourth U.S. Cavalry (Surgeon Leonard Wood and First Lieutenant Abiel Smith) that plotted to kill Geronimo. For more on this see Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000) and Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). Gatewood was a first lieutenant in 1886; he was still a first lieutenant when he died in 1896, while many of Miles’s officers (captains and lieutenants) in Mexico that summer and fall of 1886 were colonels and generals when they retired or died. Miles totally wrote Gatewood out of the last Apache war. To quickly get an idea of Gatewood’s contribution to what happened in Mexico in late summer-early fall 1886 see a talk that I gave at an Order of the Indian Wars Geronimo symposium in Tucson on September 26, 2013: “Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo” (on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3AaI2l8J6I).

TE: What is next for Louis Kraft?

(magazine in Louis Kraft personal collection)

LK: My next nonfiction book is Errol & Olivia, which deals with the life and times of actors Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland during their time at Warner Bros. in the 1930s and 1940s. Between 1935 and 1941 they made eight films together, and their onscreen chemistry was real and vibrant. Three of their films were westerns: Dodge City (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On. (By the way, I talked about Flynn, de Havilland, and the Santa Fe Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2005. Afterward I realized how important this talk was to my upcoming manuscript, and have never again shared this information. Luckily the talk wasn’t filmed.) Surprisingly Errol and Olivia seldom had any personal contact except on their film sets. There were many reasons for this, and much of what has been printed about their relationship is false. Shockingly some of the untruths have been reprinted so often that they are no longer cited and worse, accepted as fact.

As stated above I discovered Errol Flynn while in elementary school, and he has remained with me all these years. Luckily in Los Angeles Flynn’s films still play in movie theaters (although not in 2020 due to the theaters being shut down). Without realizing what I was doing I began researching Flynn at an early age. At first just for myself, but in the early 1990s I began thinking about writing a book about him. This led to the articles and talks.

Art based upon a photo of Olivia de Havilland and LK at her Paris, France, home in July 2009. It is in the Louis Kraft Collection. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

In 1995 professor, historian, and friend Eric Niderost knew of my Flynn project and shared Olivia’s address in Paris, France. I wrote her once, twice, and perhaps three times with no response to questions about Flynn. This obviously wasn’t working, so I turned on my charm and began sending her Christmas and birthday cards, gifts (mostly my books and articles), and another letter dealing with an article that would soon be printed that dealt with They Died with Their Boots On, which as it turned out would be the last film they made together although neither knew this at that time. She did reply to this letter, but too late for that article. … Everything changed for the better when I sent her a hardbound copy of Gatewood & Geronimo in 2000. She liked the book and my approach to the Flynn manuscript, and answered quite a number of questions I had sent her in 1999. This opened a floodgate that led to her inviting me to visit her at her Paris home to interview her (first in 2004 and again in 2009), and to her big 2006 shindig at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, when the Academy honored her and her film career. It has included roughly twenty-plus years of correspondence, and this influenced me on how I would move forward.

I believe that it was sometime in 2002 that my Flynn book became a story of two people over the course of roughly 15 years—that is Errol & Olivia. Over the last 25 years I have accumulated a massive amount of primary source material. Los Angeles is a goldmine for those who write about the Golden Age of the Cinema, and for me the center-point is the USC Warner Bros. Archives. For the record, I’m approaching this book just as I have with all my nonfiction Indian wars books.

Another heart surgery

What follows could be a book, and I have been struggling to cut it to pieces. I think it is best to lead with a sentence or two, maybe a short paragraph of 2016-2017, and then focus on the most recent.

As soon as Carlos Castillo, who is a key part of Pailin’s and my small family  in the USA, got me home from Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Ca., Pailin helped me get out of my clothes so that she could take this photo (which has been cropped). Although you can’t see it in this image there were three locations on my left arm and one on my right that were set up to handle multiple needles and drains. Also there were also a number of patches that the hospital didn’t bother to remove. … In 2017 Pailin had taken a similar photo. It, also, was cropped, but only as I didn’t want to shock you, for in that photo I was au naturel. For the record there will never be a nude photo on these blogs. I’m not a prude, but they simply don’t belong here. (photo © Pailin Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

I have had some health problems (an understatement), but I’m alive. I should have died in 2003, 2006, 2017, and this year. … I really don’t want to talk about the past now, but I also don’t want to leave you hanging. Long story very short. I’ve had two procedures and two operations this year. When I awoke from the first operation in March, my heart surgeon and a technician from Boston Scientific, the company that manufactured the pacemaker that saved my life in 2017, were monitoring my heart and pacemaker. My surgeon confirmed information that I already knew, mainly that a lead had separated from the lower right ventricle of my heart. Originally the pacemaker was supposed to last 13½ years. By fall of 2019 the pacemaker was down to 4½ years of life. My heart surgeon told me that this was no longer so, for the pacemaker now moved toward the end of life. There was a good chance that it wouldn’t make it until the end of the year. He also told me that the loose lead had punctured my heart, and that the pacemaker no longer functioned properly. He told me that I needed to replace the pacemaker when I had healed from the March surgery (that is, in mid-June). One problem, the coronavirus made elective surgeries no longer possible in Los Angeles. All my heart appointments in March, April, May, and June were canceled. This changed in mid-June. My pacemaker is monitored whenever I’m home 24/7 by a Boston Scientific Latitude device that sits next to my computer. What was happening during the March surgery was now constant and my heart rate was rarely above 40. When I met my heart surgeon on June 23 he told me I needed the surgery ASAP, but that he couldn’t perform this operation. He recommended the best surgeon for the task in LA. I met with him a little over a week later, and we discussed my X-rays on two computers, he informed me of all that could happen (negative and positive), and that he wouldn’t know how to proceed until he cut me open on the day of the surgery. He then asked if I wanted to proceed. “Yes, I want your next available time.” The surgery was on July 10, and there were problems but I didn’t learn about them until August 4 when we met for a post-OP examination and he gave me the official surgical report. This said, the surgery was successful. I again have a new life.

To repeat part of the interview: When wild cats, possums, or rats see me at night, it is as I am the Devil staring at them and they run like hell. We have mountain lions (my favorite animal) and coyotes pass by at times. If I show my face I hope that they don’t run but allow me to talk to them.

They say a photo is worth a thousand words

The year of 2020 has been one of the COVID-19 pandemic; massive unemployment and the drastic loss of savings; outrage over systemic racial prejudice that is fueled by white supremacists; debunked and yet widespread conspiracy theories; and the continuation of horrific climate change. The United States as I and perhaps you once thought we knew it is coming to an end. Granted much of what is happening today is simply a continuation of what has been ongoing for a long time. A good part of what is now is on us, and I’m talking about human beings; that is I’m talking about me, you, and everyone else on earth. We’re all people regardless of our race, color, religion, or if we are rich or poor. We need to work together and not for our specific agendas. Our leaders must work to bring all of the countries together and not work at destroying relationships and creating enemies. Our local leaders must work to eliminate the huge and growing gap between the haves and the have-nots; they must work at eliminating homelessness and not just talking about it and raising taxes; they must stamp out the ongoing violence that is most often directed African Americans and people of Hispanic decent. Supposedly our country is the land of the free. Well I’ve got to tell you that today this is little more than a bad joke, for it is the land of the rich, and more specifically it is the land of the white rich and to hell with everyone else.

This photo of No. Hollywood, Calif., was taken from Burbank, the city that borders it from the east-southeast by Kent Nishimura of the Los Angeles Times on 4jul2020 (and printed in the California Section of The Times on the 26th, pB5). For those of you who aren’t aware of it, fireworks are totally illegal in Los Angeles County, and can only shot off at events in parks, country clubs, or at large locations such as Universal Studios Hollywood or Dodger Stadium, and then only with permits. On this July 4th there were no fireworks at parks, clubs, Dodger Stadium, and so on because of the ongoing fire season that had been raising havoc since May. Every explosion you see in this image was totally illegal. The Times reported on July 6 that “L.A. firefighters responded to thousands of emergency calls.” I live in No. Hollywood and the joke here has always been that the LAPD takes the evening off (The Times also reported that supposedly over 300 police officers called in sick that day/night). I live about a mile and a quarter from the closest fire station in No. Hollywood and about a mile and a half from the closest police station. Every year Pailin and I are surrounded by illegal fireworks that last deep into the wee hours, and the following morning I clean up all the burnt-up debris in our yard. Now here’s the kicker (and this is not news in No. Hollywood), on this year’s July 4 evening I did not see or hear one fire or law enforcement vehicle. (photo © Los Angeles Times 2020)

Regarding my thoughts on the illegal fireworks as California burns or all of my concern (whining to conspiracy aficionados) in the previous paragraph, it’s on us. Our country is a mess. It’s none of my business how you vote. This said, how are you doing; are you unemployed; can you pay all of your bills or are you living on credit or out of the bank; are you fearful of becoming homeless; how do you feel about your neighbors who are people just like you and me but are being murdered and under attack because their language, religion, or color is different; how many people do you know that have died from COVID-19; have you been affected by climate change? Dig into your soul, your humanity, and make a choice: is today’s world the one you want … or not? Follow your conscience and vote for what you know in your heart is right.

Oh, for the record, Pailin and I earn about 40 percent of what we earned last February.

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


More’s a comin’ …

Gordon Yellowman’s art symbolically shows the Sand Creek village on November 28, 1864, and then on November 29, 1864.

More’s a comin’ … and this has been a comin’ for a long-long time. The University of Oklahoma Press will publish Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway in March 2020. The book cover design has been completed, and the art is the only image I ever considered for the dust jacket. In 1999 I met Cheyenne chief Gordon Yellowman, when we both spoke at a major event at the Fort Larned National Historic Site in Kansas. During the conference Gordon and Cheyenne chief Lawrence Hart blessed the Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village, which is some 35 miles to the west of the fort (it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 17, 2010). During the day of the talks, Gordon was selling prints of his painting, “Sand Creek.” I bought one, framed it, and it has been displayed at Tujunga House ever since. He was thrilled when I called him to ask if I could use his art on the cover. When he said, “yes,” I was more thrilled.

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

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

The scope and the problem that it presented

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

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

The Sand Creek manuscript status …

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

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

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

The copyedits of the Sand Creek manuscript

The day before Pailin’s birthday (July 5), we hosted our second annual July 4th party. I began my edit of the first Sand Creek copyedit on the evening of her birthday and delivered it on deadline (August 5). This wasn’t easy for I was blindsided by an editor who was clueless (and I’m being very kind here). Without communication or warning, I received all the pieces of the entire copyedited manuscript in one delivery—and faced the massive task of fixing what was initially correct in my draft but was now was a massive collection of errors. Trust me when I say that this copyeditor pushed me to the boiling point. I actually called University of Oklahoma Press managing editor Steven Baker and screamed at him: “Does she know anything about the Cheyenne Indians or the 1860s Cheyenne wars?” “No,” he replied, “but she’s a good copyeditor.”

I insisted upon a second copyedit and got it. By this time I had no trust in what might happen, and my seven-day weeks have been long with no end in sight. But this is little more than a two-headed dragon, for sometime—hopefully no later than now late-October—I will complete my work on the second copyedit. At that time my future will be before me.

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

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

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

Back to the copyedit; my editor did improve my manuscript when she stuck to copywriting and stopped spouting nonsense and crap about people, culture, and facts that she knew nothing about and located haphazardly on the internet. This is exactly what copyediting is supposed to be—improving the delivered manuscript’s word usage and paragraph structure. While fine tuning my wording, she questioned events and facts (which is good), presented ideas, and so on. … Some I accepted, some I rejected; but I always shared my reasons for what I did. Always. This is what a copyedit is all about—fixing, improving, polishing. There is one goal for the copyeditor and the writer, and that is to make the final book as good as possible. … As far as I’m concerned, every writer who disses this has his or her thumb stuffed where the sun doesn’t shine.

The blurb for the dust jacket

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

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

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

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

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

The maps

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

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

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

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

The designed Sand Creek book proof and the index

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

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

The LK 2020 Sand Creek future … 

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

Five speaking pitches are underway

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True West and LK’s magazine writing future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(LK art of Black Kettle © 2015)

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

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

Gordon Yellowman

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

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

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

Major update!

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

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

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

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

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

LK’s book-writing future is out there

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A hint of the future

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

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

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

Until then, vaya con dios, amigos y amigas.

Louis Kraft, SoCal fires, earthquakes, Sand Creek Massacre, & an Errol Flynn tidbit

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


For starters Pailin and I hope that the day we celebrated Jesus Christ’s birth was a peaceful and loving one for you with your family and friends. … Also that you had a safe and uneventful New Year’s Eve. Ours was at Wat Thai (Thai Temple of Los Angeles in North Hollywood) praying and seeing some friends as we welcomed in 2018.

On 20dec2017 Mimi took this image of us at Jantana (pronounced Jan-ta-na) and Richard’s (pronounced Ri-chard’s) apartment in Northridge, California. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2017)

The year 2017, more than any other, has made me realize how
fragile life really is. For the record, I have a family of four—three ladies
and yours truly. I’ve survived some horrific car crashes, I’ve had guns
pointed at me, a knife at my throat, I’ve taken a motorcycle over a
a cliff, I’ve been knocked cold (I don’t know if this counts), and
I’ve survived cracking my skull open more than once as
well as surgeries that had to succeed or I would I have
been dancing with Angels long before now.

My view: I love walking on Mother Earth.

Fire, wind, more fire, & more wind … a SoCal story

Elsewhere I’ve documented the frightening Los Angeles and Ventura County fires of December 2017. It’s rough when you can watch flames billow into ever-growing puffs of brown smoke that obliterate the sky. You know that property is being destroyed and animals are dying.

This image in the Los Angele Times dates to December 6, 2017, and is of a man attempting to calm a horse during the Sylmar/Creek fire. These fires in SoCal were absolutely devastating on horses and over livestock. My great friend and Apache scouts expert Layton Hooper commented numerous times about this image (as he also cares about animals). I couldn’t agree more with Layton’s views on horses and how they are innocent bystanders to man’s destruction of our world.

But often the men and women who combat these horrific Santa Ana winds that range upwards to 80 MPH and fuel the fires that ravage SoCal year-in-and-year-out fall under the radar. These people, these heroes, risk their lives on a daily basis. During the recent Sylmar/Canyon fire in the San Fernando Valley that put Pailin and I at risk (a December 6 LA government text read: Strong winds over night creating extreme fire danger. Stay alert. Listen to authorities.”), they worked 24-hour shifts to combat an enemy (wind and fire) that is a hundred times more devastating than the earthquakes that are associated with SoCal. These brave human beings deserve all our respect and thanks. Believe it or not, they aren’t alone for volunteers joined them along with fire fighters from other states as well as people serving jail time in California.

All of them are magnificent!!! Perhaps some of these heroes serving jail time should see the remainder of their sentences commuted.

… and the Thomas fire continues to burn (as of 30dec17).

I have favorite animals. Just five: Mountain lions (pumas), horses, wolves, coyotes, and doberman pinchers, The last are dogs, and they are the most gentle animals I have ever known. The Pumas are beyond belief, and they are a major part of my life as I follow their struggle to remain free in SoCal. Today, tomorrow, and always. These photos are from an article in the 27Dec2017 issue of the LA Times. This young Puma was burned while attempting to flee from the Thomas fire. It has been rescued and is on its way to recovery.

Ye-ough!!! (a sound) … For California 2018 will be back to normal if what the LA Times just published is accurate, mainly that this winter would be one of the driest in California history. If true next year’s fires will again ravish the Golden State. Pailin’s and my home was at fire risk twice in 2017 (June and October).

This image of a condor (left) and its chick was on the front page of the LA Times on 1jan2018, as it featured a story on endangered species chick no. 871, who should have left its cave and flew for the first time in December. It didn’t as the Thomas Fire ravished the Los Padres Sespe Condor Sanctuary. Scientists have recently seen its parents near the cave and hope that the chick has survived.

If fires attack Los Angeles in 2018 it is not going to be 1,000 homes destroyed, it is not going to be 2,000 homes destroyed, … it will be thousands upon thousands of homes destroyed. The homeless count in LA is currently 55,000 (how large is the city you live in?). If, and I pray God this never becomes reality, … if the 2018 fires destroy the San Fernando Valley (one of numerous valleys in the county of Los Angeles) 1.3 million people will become homeless; the threat was ominous in 2017. … Will it become reality in 2018?

Earthquakes? What are they? Fire is the numeral uno enemy to the Golden State.

Oh, I forgot to mention that global warming is little more than fiction. My view on this: Everyone who thinks global warning is little more than a left wing piece of baloney have got their fingers firmly stuffed somewhere.

The year 2017 is one for the California record books

It is official, 2017 has been the hottest year on record for California. It has also been the worst fire year on record, and the Thomas Fire that started in Ventura County (which borders Los Angeles County) and has raged north and into Santa Barbara County is the largest fire in California since they began keeping accurate records in the early 1930s. This fire began on December 4; it was still burning on December 30 (but although it is supposedly 65 percent contained … homes are still threatened).

Something needs to be said about earthquakes

I have lived through the last two major earthquakes in SoCal: 1971 and 1994. I can’t tell you how often I have been quizzed about the horror of an earthquake when outside California. People I have met when giving talks or performances or on research trips are forever interested (some of them are terrified of experiencing one). … Let’s start this conversation with LK isn’t keen on living through a hurricane or a tornado.

I guess it’s all about perspective.

Let’s start with tornados. In 1974 I flew to Missouri to buy a 1951 Hudson Hornet, a great automobile that ruled NASCAR racing during the first half of the 1950s (I even wrote a screenplay about them cleaning up at the racetrack called Hornet; unfortunately my agent couldn’t sell it).

The Missourian picked me up at the airport. After checking out the Hornet and taking it for a test drive I bought the car. Tornado warnings were live on Missouri TV that morning. He and his family didn’t want me to leave. I ate his wife’s homemade ice cream and then allowed the family to show me the house where future U.S. president Harry Truman was born. I am a patient and polite cowboy. During this time I had visions of Judy Garland’s classic film The Wizard of Oz (1939) dancing around in my brain. If you don’t know the film, a tornado transports Judy’s character to the land of Oz. It was 1974 and I was picturing me and the 1951 Hudson Hornet being transported to the land of Oz.* Honestly, this was a living nightmare for me. When the seller’s family finally gave me a tearful goodbye about eight-thirty that morning I pushed the Hornet’s accelerator pad to the floor, … and hightailed it out of Kansas as quickly as I could.

Time is short, and this blog is about four months late. Thus this old collage. This picture of the Hudson that came from Missouri was taken in the still-rural Northridge in the San Fernando Valley. The photo of the Camaro was taken overlooking the Pacific Ocean in northern San Diego County. … BTW, bets were out that I wouldn’t make a wedding in Tucson, Arizona, which was a little over a week after I bought the car. I covered the bets and won.

From left: Hattie McDaniel, OdeH, and Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind. Olivia was nominated for a supporting Oscar in this film. She didn’t win. At first she was angry, but later was thrilled for Hattie’s win. I couldn’t agree more with her view. (photo in LK personal collection)

* The Wizard of Oz should have won the Oscar for best film of 1939 (I know, heresy). Gone with the Wind did. I have a large connection with Gone with the Wind due to Ms. Olivia de Havilland. Writing about her connection with this film will take up quite a number of pages in Errol & Olivia, and these words have and will flow speedily forward on the keyboard. Her story here is good stuff. No-no-no; it’s great stuff! All I want to say here is The Wizard of Oz, which took me decades to accept and like, is a great film, while Gone with the Wind, which I’ve hated since the first time I attempted to see it is not. For the record, I have never seen this film completely in one screening (and that includes seeing it in a movie theater; I walked out before falling asleep). I doubt this is a high recommendation.

Let’s get back to earthquakes. On February 8, 1971, I needed a place to sleep. My then girlfriend. Joan McGirr, was living with her father. I parked my motorcycle next to her car in the apartment building’s underground parking lot and slept in it that night.

This image of LK was taken just months before the 9feb1971 earthquake. I’m sitting in my office just north of the apartment building where my then-girlfriend lived with her father. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

The next morning I was awake and reading the newspaper in her car when the earthquake struck. I was out of that parking structure in a flash and as far as I could be from the surrounding apartments. In front of me was a large swimming pool with tidal waves pounding the sides. The surrounding complex consisted of three-story apartments. They looked like old-time cartoons as they swayed back and forth in rhythm with the pool’s pounding waves.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake caught me asleep in bed in North Hollywood. It struck about four-thirty in the morning on January 17. Let me say one thing here. When a fairly large earthquake hits there is no guesswork. You know immediately what is happening. Get away from windows and anything that can collapse or fall on you.

Earthquakes don’t last long. One minute, two minutes, maybe three minutes and it’s over. There are after shocks that can go on for days.

Front and center in an unbelievable story

LK image choices are now being selected for Sand Creek and the Tragic
End of a Lifeway, and they will add great value to the book.

Pailin took this photo of me relaxing at home with guests on 13sept2017. This is one of the last images of me as I looked like this. A joke? I wish, but alas, no. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2017)

I know, I know, I’ve always known (nothing new here). For the record I’m working on the Sand Creek manuscript seven days a week until I deliver a first rough draft to the great editor-in-chief of the University of Oklahoma Press, Chuck Rankin at the end of January. He has always been my friend since we met years back. By that I mean that he has done everything possible to see that my manuscripts saw publication, … and this was long before we signed the Wynkoop contract. Folks, in case you don’t know, OU Press is the largest and best publisher of Indian wars books in the world. In the world! They are my publisher, which makes me one of the luckiest guys in the world.

At times events happen and they affect all of our hearts in different ways. …
31dec2017 was one of those days, but with life there’s always hope.
Pain over the loss of a cherished person is always private. … Life
can be fickle. One day we’re here and healthy, but there is
no guarantee for tomorrow (I’m not talking about me).

A bashed-face and worse … that’s me!!!

Ouch! … for it is worse, and I hate to say it but this is the story of my life.

Christopher Juarez at the central Los Angeles Public Library in downtown on 19nov2017. I cannot begin to tell how much this young man helped me during my two days at the library studying the Nancy Morton microfilm from the Nebraska State Historical Society. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

On 11nov2017 I took the subway from the North Hollywood hub (the Red line) to the main LA Public Library. My bad from the beginning, but it was worse than that for good ol’ LK got lost. What should have been three miles of total walking turned into six + miles of walking. Huh??? Take one guess. LK was clueless and got lost. If you know downtown LA there are good places and there are bad places and I got to see all of them, including a male urinating in pure daylight (I know, this is not a major selling point for Los Angeles). When I finally reached the library I was in for a shock. It was November 11—Hello cowboy! … Veteran’s Day—and the library had shut down Friday, the 10th, through Sunday, the 12th, for the Veteran’s Day weekend. What can I say other than keep your views to yourself. That’s right, I don’t want to hear them.

My day excursion, which began at nine in the morning ended at 12:25 in the afternoon with roughly two and a half hours spent as LK walked as fast as he could. Again, and by my calculations, it was over six miles. … You do not want to know what my feet felt like that afternoon, for all you’ll get from me is a bunch of XXXs and !!!s.

See below for the continuation of this story. …

The creation of history

If I chose to list all the historians who have shaped history in their image you would be shocked. I know a very good Indian wars historian who once told me that he wanted to turn history upside down. Say what? Basically this person wanted to push Indian wars history to the extreme.

That’s right, and more often than you would ever guess historians do this. Facts don’t drive what they write, sensationalization does. Most of the time they choose people who are no longer with us as you can’t be charged with defaming the dead in the USA. This is not hard to do when you write about the American Indian wars or the Golden Age of the Cinema.

LK at Tujunga House on 5mar2017. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

This blog, as most in the near future, features events that led to the attack by Colorado Volunteers on people who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military on 29nov1864.

For the record I’ve been giving talks based upon reality for thirty years, since 1987. These are talks wherein I know my subject matter and I don’t read. At the moment I’m on self-imposed sabbatical. The reason is simple: I have a book to complete that is of major importance to me.

Believe it or not, I have been persona non-grata for more years than I’d like to count. You do not want to know about people who turn their back to me when I walk past them. What’s their problem? Hell, I don’t know. I’ll say this, they ain’t my friends.

Barbara Hershey and a film I like

What can I say about Ms. Hershey other than I’d like to know her well enough that we could share our views on the world, living, and creativity. Given decent parts in film or class TV productions she has time and again proven how good of an actress she is.

Last of the Dogmen

Barbara Hershey played an anthropologist whose expertise was the Cheyenne Indians in Last of the Dogmen (Savoy Pictures, 1995). In this film, which always makes my top 50 (now 60) film list had a great quote that Barbara said. But first she had to deal with a modern-day bounty hunter played by Tom Berenger.

As stated some of Barbara Hershey’s performances are top-notch, and certainly  in Last of the Dogmen and Defenseless. Also she is someone that I wish I knew. This, in the Kraft world, is a high recommendation for more reasons than one. (photo in LK collection)

Berenger had found evidence that points to Cheyenne Indians from a time long gone killing escaped criminals, and he’s trying to learn if people from the mid-nineteenth century could have survived undiscovered into the mid-1990s. Hershey finds his quest ludicrous. And it is, but it opens a door to explore race relations between people from a time dear to my heart with those living in the mid-1990s. From the get-go the film is fantasy for the simple reason that there were few Cheyenne Dog Men (whites called them Dog Soldiers) at the November 29, 1864, massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians on Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, an attack that saw children used for target practice, an unborn child cut from its dead mother’s womb and scalped, … it gets worse, much-much worse. … Before the story can take off Hershey gives Berenger a history lesson on the Cheyennes along with their struggle to retain their freedom, land, and lifeway before again making it clear that Dog Men could not and did not murder the escaped convicts as there were no “Dog Men” from the 1860s living as they had in 1864 in modern times. Lordy-lordy, you have got to love this premise as it is a good one. Barbara’s quote in the film was great, but you’re not going to read these words in this blog. See the film, … and when Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published read the book. Here’s a big hint: Barbara’s quote is the final two sentences in the book.

Sand Creek players have been pounded time and again …

Certainly Ned Wynkoop has been labeled a “traitor” to his race, and an Indian-lover. This pounding centers on his acting without orders (not cool when you are in the military) to save white prisoners and bring seven Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs to Denver to discuss ending the 1864 Cheyenne war with John Evans, the second territorial governor of Colorado. One premise holds that the massacre at Sand Creek would have never happened if he had not done this.

LK as Ned Wynkoop in an one-man show seeing the sexually dismembered bodies of the Southern Cheyennes months after the butchery at Sand Creek on 29nov1864. (photo: Johnny D. Boggs during a dress rehearsal for performances at a Washita Battlefield National Historic Site symposium in 2008).

Really? All I’ll say here is that illogic follows and stampedes its way into the foreground.

This isn’t worth talking about, other than to say there were many participants in the events that led up to the attack on a Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Sand Creek in November 1864. It was not just one player, it was a combination of multiple players and all their actions. People make choices. You make choices; I make choices. So did Evans, Wynkoop, Colonel John Chivington, Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, Arapaho Chief Left Hand, and on and on.

The tragedy of Sand Creek is much more than an officer (Wynkoop) acting without orders to rescue four white children and bring seven Indian leaders to Denver to discuss ending a war. If illogical thinking rules the day, why not say that the Sand Creek village was “easy prey,” like some of those hunting estates where macho men with big guns can hunt big game that can’t escape as they are trapped within the preserve?

These people had their vaginas cut out, their penises hacked off. Their children had their skulls bashed in. The term “war crime,” didn’t exist in 1864, but it does now. What happened in 1864 was a war crime regardless of what it might have been called then. Pure and simple. You do this today, and you happen to be an American soldier, you will be tried for war crimes. … I’m not certain when this came to pass but it was certainly in place at the end of World War II when Nazis were charged with heinous crimes of genocide against the Jewish people. BTW, “genocide” became a word in 1945.

These crimes live into the twenty-first century when on March 12, 2006, an American soldier (Specialist James Barker) raped and murdered a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. He and five soldiers with him then murdered her father, mother, and six-year-old sister in Mahmoudiya, twenty miles south of Baghdad. They burned the bodies in an attempt to cover up their crime.

… and the Cheyennes?

For starters there were a number of Southern Cheyenne bands trusting Chief Black Kettle’s efforts to remove them from the on-going war. Unfortunately their approximate location was known, making them an easy target. Chivington’s goal was never to fight Cheyenne Dog Men and Lakotas who rode the war trail farther north. Instead, he wanted a target that never expected to be attacked. That’s right, he wanted “easy prey.” Chivington would claim a lopsided victory with a huge death count that perhaps exceeded the total number of people that could have possibly been living in this Sand Creek village, and for a short time became a great Indian fighter.

From left: Leo Oliva, LK, and Fort Larned Chief Historian George Elmore. We are walking the on the parade ground, and we are heading toward the building that Wynkoop rented for his headquarters when he was a U.S. Indian agent, which was just outside the perimeter of the post. Good friends Leo and George have helped me oh-so many times over the years. Both have been instrumental in getting me to Kansas time and again to speak and perform, as well as aiding my research. … I can’t begin to tell you how much George has aided my Sand Creek research. This photo was taken on 20sept2012. Two days later Leo and I spoke on the now protected Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village that Major General Winfield Hancock destroyed in April 1867. … This part of Kansas is in my blood. It is one of my homes away from home.

What can I say. My Sand Creek proposal was 37 pages long. I presented a detailed outline of what I thought the final manuscript should include. It also stated that nothing was set in stone, that my research would define the flow of the manuscript. … Boy, is this a true statement.

Actually Chivington is going to have a smaller role than planned. Such is life. This said, his impact on the story is huge.

On 24apr1999 Cheyenne Peace Chiefs Gordon Yellowman (kneeling) and Lawrence Hart (standing right-center) blessed the Pawnee Fork village site. The lady with the robe wrapped around her is Connie Yellowman, Gordon’s wife. This was the first time that I spoke at Fort Larned. That’s George Elmore in the sergeant’s uniform at the left of the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1999)

Fort Larned plays an important role in the Sand Creek story. Black Kettle, Neva, Left Hand, Little Raven, William Bent, George Bent, John Smith, and Wynkoop all spent time there. The destruction of the Pawnee Fork village (about 35 miles west of the post) was a continuation of what began in the early 1860s.

Territorial governor John Evans has been pounded

But should he have been? I’m not so sure, and although I hate to admit this, I don’t totally agree with the University of Denver’s study of Evans, and his part in the disaster. Still, they uncovered key information regarding the governor ducking the issue while in Washington D.C., and he didn’t return to Denver until spring 1865.

As I didn’t use an image of John Evans in the Wynkoop book, and have not decided what image(s) of him that I’m going to use in Sand Creek, this color portrait of Black Kettle is good here. The chief and the governor met at Camp Weld on 28sept1864, and both walked away from that meeting with totally different views upon what had been decided. For all the chief’s efforts to avoid or end war he has been pounded as hard as the governor. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Let’s be up front, some of John Evans’ words and actions led to his downfall (which has been frighteningly similar to the racist backlash we have seen against the Southern states fight to remove themselves from the United States of America in the 1860s. Yikes!!!! How can the USA banish and remove one of the most important pieces of our history, the war between the states? Without a doubt slavery was (and is) heinous, and it has always been so. Owning another human being and playing god with his or her life is evil (but I’m talking from a modern POV). Times have changed in regards to racism for the better, but from what we have seen in 2017 we still have a long way to go.

Some of Evans’ proclamations are damaging. However, his attempts to avoid or end war were something he tried to do. More important, he left for the east on November 10, that was nineteen days prior to Chivington’s massacre of men, women, and children, and he didn’t learn of the battle until days afterwards. Evans wanted war and wanted the Cheyennes and Arapahos removed from the territory but he had no clue that this would happen to the people who tried to end the war.

Art of Mr. Carson dating to about 1845. (LK personal collection)

Evans’ fall from grace is similar to Kit Carson’s. … Folks, Kit was a good friend to the American Indians. He spoke seven languages: English, Spanish, and five native languages. If he were the butcher that modern times attempts to label him, why would he speak (at least partially) the words of the Navajos, Mescalero Apaches, Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Utes? Oh, I forgot to mention that he had three wives: Arapaho, Cheyenne, and a Latina of Spanish decent. One more fact, he converted to Catholicism to marry his Spanish wife. Does this sound like a racist? I think not. … Pray God I live long enough to complete two books that deal with Carson and his relationship with American Indians. … One fiction; one nonfiction.

John Evans has become an evil person. … Really? Guess what? John Evans was a human being who thought he was doing right when he did it. I’m not going to tell you that he was a good person or an evil one. If I do my job his words and actions will allow you to make your own decision of who he was.

Ditto everyone else, and this includes John Chivington. BTW, he will be the last piece of the manuscript to be completed. Oh, he has a presence now, but it is not close to being finished. Like Evans and everyone else, it is my job is to show what he said and what he did. There is nothing worse than an author (history or fiction, it matters not) who has a preconceived premise on an historical personage and will stay the course regardless of how much discovery disproves their premise. God forbid they shy away from their damnation of a human being because they see facts that shoots arrows into their task of destroying a person’s life. And especially people who are gone and cannot defend themselves. Yep, folks you can defame the dead in the USA (but be careful if you attempt to defame the living, for then you might set yourself up to join the homeless wandering the streets of LA).

Back to the reality of our times

Is it ethical to sell out truth for greater book sales? Honestly, you don’t want to know my opinion on this. Many writers have done this over the years, and it isn’t confined to the Indian wars. The most infamous—in my opinion—was Charles Higham. Higham, a film biographer, printed despicable lies about two of his subjects (see below), for the simple reason that he wanted to sell books. Other biographers and historians in modern times have mimicked Higham’s practice of creating false facts that bleed red for the same reason, to pocket as many greenbacks as possible. There’s one difference, these hacks of recent times (that is post 1980) stoop so low with their fictional creations that they are little more than cockroaches that run rampant in their readers’ minds as they spread filth that has no basis in reality.

In his 1980 best-selling piece of slop called Errol Flynn: The Untold Story, without proof Higham wrote that Flynn was both homosexual and a Nazi spy. Over the years real historians have debunked all of Higham’s falsehoods. Still the general public, if they remember anything about Flynn, it is that he was homosexual Nazi spy. Hell, the media still sells this as there is nothing better than trashing a star’s name for the simple reason that the public gobbles it up. As said above there is no punishment for defaming the dead in the USA. Not so in Canada; Higham’s book was also published in the land of our neighbors to the north. Flynn’s daughters Deidre and Rory went after Higham in Canada. To avoid going to court and potential prosecution Higham never set foot in Canada for the rest of his life. … I can’t speak about Higham’s other film biographies save one—Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (1984). I presented Olivia with a lot of questions about this book in letters and in person. Olivia made one reply in writing in which she dismissed Higham with three words (and none were profane). In person the only thing she said about him and his book on her and Joan was that he never contacted her, never asked her one question.

Was Higham a charlatan? Are other historians charlatans? I believe in challenging history. I also believe that it must be done ethically and not by presenting outrageous statements that are fiction-based on preconceived premises with the lone goal of destruction.

Another story

He was flesh and blood, had a deep baritone voice, was a college professor, had lived through the revolution of the 1960s, had evolved into the 1970s, and when I met him in the 1980s he had fine-tuned his persona. Oh, I forgot, he was also a writer. Charm oozed from him. He instantly became a friend (think 1989 in San Diego).

Years passed. It was now 1995 and we were at the Western Writers of America (WWA) convention in Cheyenne, Wyoming (I’m foggy on the location but think the timing was with the publication of Custer and the Cheyenne).

I’m going to pull from a major lesson I learned from Errol Flynn’s magnificent memoir, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, which was published shortly after his death in 1959. Mainly, that at times one must remain vague to protect friends, former lovers, and yours truly. I hope that what I share here is okay. I’m back to the writer that evolved from 1960s to the 1980s. He was working on a book wherein he claimed his subject—Billy the Kid—outlived his death by decades. “Do you believe he wasn’t murdered?” I asked. He honestly replied that he did believe that the Kid was murdered. “Why are you writing this manuscript?” He again honestly answered that it would sell books. This author’s name was W. C. Jameson.

Kudos to him for his honesty. At the same time his words now mimic the truth of today’s world. If the truth gets in the way of your preconceived premise, dismiss it. If someone confronts you on your lie, one-up them and call them “little Billy,” or “bullshitting Johnny,” or “sex stalker Alex,” or “lying Donald.” The new key words here are: “Fake News.” Point your finger at them, scream, and if possible see that your hateful rants explode all over social media.

Luckily for me the Dennis the Menace cartoons continue to live in the Los Angeles Times (this cartoon appeared in the 22nov17 edition of the paper). Although cartoonist Hank Ketcham is long gone, his wonderful creation continues to live at dennisthemeance.com and in various newspapers. The North America Synd. holds the 2017 copyright.

Good Lord, is this really today’s world? If yes, I need say no more.

The struggle to bring the Tsistsistas (Cheyennes) into their new world

Ladies and gents, separating myth and fiction from fact is an hellacious task, and one I’ve struggled with for years now. Also, unfortunately, no one is ever going to get all the facts straight. It is an impossible task.

Believe it or not the Cheyennes have been mostly painted as villains throughout their history. Their views and their facts have been almost totally ignored as little more than lies. There’s an adage, and it is that the conqueror writes the history books. … The vanquished are savages or worse and the winners are heroes who have saved mankind.

… and this includes some mixed-blood Cheyennes

I’ll mention two here: Julia Bent and her step brother Charles (Charley) Bent. Their father was trader William Bent, who plays a fairly large role in my Sand Creek manuscript, but surprisingly wasn’t as I expected him to be (this statement should have a few exclamation points as the William Bent I now know is not the William Bent I thought I knew). … I can’t begin to tell how many hours I’ve spent on Julia and Charley. I know them somewhat, but I wish more. She is little more than a beautiful image that appears and disappears during the tumultuous times of the 1860s while Charles has been pounded to hell as little more than a vicious killer.

George Bent was Julia’s older brother and Charley’s older step-brother. He lived well into the twentieth century and left a wealth of information for anyone willing to dig into and understand, and by that I mean cross-reference and closely check what he wrote.

If you believe just half of the recordings of supposed Cheyenne raids between 1864 and 1867, Charley Bent was named way-too-many times as a traitorous leader of perhaps thirty percent of these raids, and yet when he died he had not yet reached his twentieth year, and this is an easy fact to prove regardless of David Lavender’s fanciful words without a drop of proof in Bent’s Fort (1954) or Halaas & Masich’s tons of research citations in Halfbreed (2004), which simply muddies the water while providing little support for important text in their biography of George Bent.

I don’t have much on either Julia or Charles, but what I do have will be in the book for both were exceptional young people during a time of death and destruction. I won’t come close to sharing who they really were, but I will present them to you in an honest way while at the same time destroying some of the undocumented baloney that has been printed and reprinted about them ad nauseam.

There is Sand Creek Massacre research coming that will open some eyes

The misinformation and out-and-out fabrications of reality in the Sand Creek story is mind-boggling. These ongoing fabrications range from Laura Roper becoming Black Kettle’s sexual object to Isabelle Eubanks being five when the Cheyennes gave her to Wynkoop on September 12, 1864 (a date that is erroneously documented easily sixty percent of the time).

A wonderful research surprise in Downtown LA

A young wife was captured one day after the Cheyenne raid that captured Isabelle, her mother, younger brother, a relative, and Laura Roper. This young woman, like those taken with Isabelle, also plays a key if small role in the story. I had seen most if not all of the published documentation about her. Her name was Nancy Morton. During an horrendous string of a few days mostly along the Platte River Route she, along with many other whites, survived while seeing her family murdered and hacked to pieces. Traveling settlers, ranchers, station employees were attacked, many murdered, while a small number of whites were taken prisoner. There is an old cliché, “Save the last bullet for yourself,” as death or captivity by Indians was not something anyone wanted to experience. … Nancy and a boy named Daniel Marble survived the attack on their wagon train.

I have spent a lot of good time with Marty Vestecka Miller, of the Nebraska State Historical Society, who secured the interlibrary loan of a microfilm reel on Nancy Morton for me. As the only library in the 100-library system of Los Angeles that still had microfilm readers that could also print was the central library in downtown Los Angeles I had to set up the loan there as the microfilm could not leave the library.

The west entry to the Central LA Public Library in downtown Los Angeles on 18nov2017. The library is a treasure, both inside and outside. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

On November 18 I got wise and looked at a map of the subway exit and the downtown library. They looked shockingly close to each other. On this day I used the Hope Street exit from the subway, looked to my left and could see the library two and a half blocks distant. On this day I worked closely with Christopher Juarez (pictured above), who not only got me set up on the microfilm machine but made me aware that I didn’t have to pay for printouts of the pages, but could scan them and email them to myself free of charge. Folks, when you are looking at over 250 images this is a pretty cool savings. Christopher worked closely with me on this day and then the next day as he ensured that I obtained every image that I needed. I have nothing but kudos to say about Christopher. The city of Los Angeles should give this young man a pay raise, and I’m not joking here. Los Angeles is lucky to employ him. Good work needs to be rewarded. Mayor Eric Garcetti, if you see this post or if you hear of this post, know one thing: Christopher Juarez is an extraordinary employee and the city is lucky to have him.

LK’s workstation at the Central Los Angeles Public Library in the History Department on 19nov2017. Cool times for LK. (photo ©  Louis Kraft 2017)

The people of Sand Creek

The major players range from the second territorial governor of Colorado Territory, the chief editor and co-partner of the most successful newspaper in Denver during the 1860s and beyond, the commanding colonel of the District of Colorado, the official U.S. interpreter for all four major treaties with the Cheyenne Indians between 1851 and 1867, a major partner of the most successful trading post who married into the Cheyenne tribe, one of his mixed-blood sons, and the one man who dared to act for he thought was for the good of mankind and has since been termed a traitor to his own race. They were ambitious, had views of success in their dreams, but like you and I had to survive in a world beyond their control.

I know. Where’s Cheyennes Black Kettle, Lean Bear, or Bull Bear; and Arapahos Left Hand, Neva, and Little Raven? Trust me, for they are a comin’ to life, … I want them to be surprises; I want them to explode off the pages. Actually Black Kettle and Little Raven will surprise you, but unfortunately I simply don’t have enough on the others to allow them to also dominate. Still Left Hand was a person I wish I could have known in life.

More important, and like most of us, they thought that what they did was right when they did it. … What I’ve learned is not what I wanted to know. I’m writing the manuscript as a biography through the eyes of (currently) nine people. I’m doing everything I can to be in their point-of-view (POV), a film term.

This is my lady, Pailin, on the bluffs to the west of the 1864 Sand Creek battlefield. Our terrific friends John and Linda Monnett took us to the isolated site in 2014. You want to read good history pick up some of John’s books that deal with the Cheyennes. … Pailin and I are totally different in all phases of our lives, and yet she supports everything that I do. I pray to my God that I am capable of supporting everything that she does. Life and love is a two-way street. You won’t believe what is in our future. (photo © Louis Kraft & Palin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Where the hell am I? Simply, I’m treading water in the middle of pure hell. Does this sound negative? Probably, but it shouldn’t be as I’m inching closer to completing perhaps the most important manuscript of my life. If true, I must see Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway through to print. Folks, I can’t see this happening before 2019. This means I need to live another two years. Doable? I think so, … I hope so. Time will tell.

This is the OU Press dust jacket for the Wynkoop book; I’ve had some great covers over the years but this jacket is by far my favorite. It was an image that I requested, and the art director turned it into a terrific duotone.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has 37 contracted images. Three will be maps; that leaves 34 photos or art. Good times for LK to fill in the blanks. At this moment I have chosen 16 (as I don’t own the rights to all these images the process to purchase and determine the use fees is under way. Actually several have already been procured, and all that needs to happen is working out the publishing details and paying the use fees. I hate to say it but at this point in time I must become secretive. Of the 16 I’ve previously used six of them. This is more than I hoped to use, but the images that will again be used are mandatory to telling the story of the events that led up to the Sand Creek attack and its aftermath.

For the record Chuck Rankin had requested I place as many women in the manuscript as possible. My research leading to the creation of the proposal and its acceptance was less than sparkling, meaning that there were no women who would be in the manuscript. Over the last three years of research this view has changed. I mentioned a couple of young ladies above. This is, for me, great news. Hopefully they will come to life when the book is published, even if their presence is small, for they are oh-so important to the Sand Creek story.

A small repetition

My Sand Creek proposal was a very-detailed thirty-seven pages, but it also included a “get out of jail” pass. This simply means that as a writer-historian I track all the usual suspects and try to follow where the trail leads. That is, the documentable facts. Actions and words define character. My job is not to create villains and heroes; rather it is to present people to you. If I do my job correctly you will make your own decisions of who they were and what happened.

As said above, this is a seven-day-a-week job. I’m up between four and four-thirty and often don’t get to bed until nine, ten, or later. … You guessed it. Sometimes I have to crash. But even on these days I must research and/or add word count.

I love what I do.

An Errol Flynn tidbit

I want to go off course here while still tiptoeing the straight and narrow. Thank you, Mr. Flynn. I’m not being sarcastic here, for Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways is the best book that I’ve ever read. His book dealt with time and memory, it dealt with good and bad, success and failure, and protecting the innocent in more ways than one (for example: Not saying much about a person or event, changing a key fact or two, or names of people that Mr. Flynn did not want to hurt, or perhaps because he did not want to be hurt). But sometimes it also included that his memory failed him, or worse a publisher changed facts or names.

The Flynn photo used on the dust jacket for the first printing of My Wicked, Wicked Ways. (photo © Esquire, Inc. 1958)

For the record, a successful writer named Earl Conrad was hired by Flynn’s publisher (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) to spend time with him at his home in Jamaica. Flynn had received a good advance to write his memoir, but he was almost at the end of his time on earth, was having trouble completing the manuscript, and needed help. Flynn was self taught, literate, and well published. He always had a story to tell, forever stood firm for what he believed, and never shied away from anything in his life. Without checking, and perhaps it is in Conrad’s memoir of his time with Flynn or in Thomas McNulty’s Errol Flynn: The Life and Career (by far the best biography on Flynn), but I think Flynn shared about 200,000 words during a handful of weeks with his guest Conrad. Flynn would see and sign-off on the galleys of his memoir but then died before seeing his last book published. (I’ll deal with this in my third book on Flynn; perhaps my second if I get lucky and something I want to do happens.)

My friends, … those of you who fear that I’ll never complete the first book
on Errol Flynn (and Olivia de Havilland), relax, for that book is closer
to publication than you think. Moreover, the two other planned
books on Mr. Flynn will happen. The second or third
books—there is no order here—will blow you
away in many ways.

Closing thoughts

There are pieces of my life, and luckily they didn’t deal with life and death on a major scale or decisions that would affect hundreds and thousands of people. Luckily I’ve lived in the shadows of time. Honestly, I think that this is a better place to be … for if I lived in earlier times when I would have had a target on my back as I would not have stepped in line and said, “Yes sir!” Luckily I didn’t live in the 1860s, for if I had, I’m certain that I would have been murdered on the streets of Denver as Captain Silas Soule was.

Still things have happened and they have affected my life in more ways than I’ll ever admit. During those times I wasn’t smiling. Looking back I can’t stop chuckling.

The little angel sitting on my right shoulder just whacked me in the face. The little devil sitting on my left shoulder simply snickered and said, “You wimp, you deserved that!”

What it all comes down to is life—my life.
My view is simply that you and I have different views of
our lives. … I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sand Creek, Louis Kraft, and pushing to step out of the box

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


You know me, or you don’t know me.
If I dared to publish a memoir right now and you read it you
would proclaim: “No! Absolutely not! Kraft writes fiction, for what he has
written could never have happened!” … At the same time you might fall out of your
chair as you were laughing so hard. And again you would proclaim: “No!
Absolutely not! Kraft writes fiction, for what he has written could
never have happened for it is too funny to be true!”

I’m not a clown, but at times I think I need to paint my face.

I knew this lady, an actress, but please accept my humble-humble apologies for I don’t remember her name; one thing is certain, … she is not John Smith. We were working out in North Hollywood Park in preparation for a series of sword-fighting one-act plays that would be performed in 1982. Actually I’m lunging with a slashing attack to her breast and she is parrying my saber. … If John Smith and I meet up in the afterlife and he isn’t happy about what I have written about him I’m certain that he’ll attack me (not with sabers; more likely Bowie knives, which I also know how to wield). … Going in another direction I need to say something. I have been accused way too often of being intimate with ladies when nothing happened. We were friends. Friends! I hate to say it, but men and women can be friends without being intimate. This lady is a great example. Don’t believe me? I can provide a long list of ladies who have been my friends over the years and nothing else. Enough said. (photo © Louis Kraft 1982)

A return to John Simpson Smith

As I claw and struggle to figure out who I am, I am attempting to figure out who the leading players are in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. The research is ongoing and relentless. Hours and hours sweep by while I try to figure out what happened in a flash of time. I am about to get my paws on a letter that John Simpson Smith would deny, hate, and swear vengeance upon me if ever we meet in the hereafter if the information ends up in my manuscript. The information in that letter will see the light of day in my Sand Creek book (and it is in place now and will remain so regardless how much a copyeditor might want to delete it).

… So if Mr. Smith and I do meet, I had better be ready to parry (that’s a sword-fighting term; see the above image) his assault on my person as it won’t be pretty.

If you have read any of my writing, heard any of my talks, or seen any of my plays about Ned Wynkoop that deal with Mr. Smith you know that they weren’t bosom buddies.

I’m not picking on John Smith here. Actually my appreciation of him has grown ten-fold in the last year. He was one-tough dude, and believe me he was light years ahead of his time and place. … He did some things that I view as heinous. Heck, perhaps I’ve done some things that he might consider in a less than positive light, or perhaps even laughable (and I’m not laughing here). A better word for both of us looking at each others lives might be “cringing.” What he did and what I have done will not nimbly move back and forth between two different times and place.

AND …

It is a done deal that John S. Smith will play a leading role in my Sand Creek book, for the simple reason I can’t stop researching him (my apologies for much of the text in this paragraph previously saw life elsewhere on social media). This is a mouthful, but fear not for Black Kettle will have a large roll and Left Hand will be as large as possible. The incomparable Ned Wynkoop will play his part as will Colonel John Chivington, Editor William Byers, and Governor John Evans. Mixed-blood Cheyenne George Bent has given us so much with his letters over the course of decades as he filled in the blanks with what he saw or with what his Cheyenne friends saw and shared with him. … Back to Mr. Smith: He performed perhaps the most heinous event I’ve ever documented and to repeat myself it is now in the manuscript. Rape, murder, sexual butchery is certainly there big time but not performed by Mr. Smith. By now I have experience dealing with the dark side, and if I didn’t the world that I immersed myself in during the writing of The Discovery finished me off, for it got dark, real dark, and perhaps too explicit. Nevertheless Mr. Smith has landed himself a place in infamy for doing something that at least to me is unthinkable.

This is a detail from the great art of the 1939 USA one-sheet for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with James Stewart and Jean Arthur. (one-sheet © Columbia Pictures Corporation 1939)

… And yes, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (this is actually the title of a 1939 James Stewart film but Jimmy S. wasn’t playing John S.). John Smith took Indians to the capital city at least three times (and maybe four). Actually there is a novel by Bruce Cutler, The Massacre at Sand Creek: Narrative Voices (University of Oklahoma Press, 1995) that is also poetry when dealing with the Cheyennes. Believe it or not way too often historians have quoted and cited this work of fiction as fact. I’m chuckling here for this is totally absurd. Near the end of the novel John Smith has an eight-page conversation with the Devil while returning to the frontier after his last trip to Washington, D.C. I wish that I could cite this book as it has a lot to offer on Smith and other Sand Creek players, but I can’t for the reason already stated.

Huh?

Can John Smith document Louis Kraft’s life? Can Louis Kraft document his? At the moment I’m the only one who will be called onto the carpet to produce fair and unbiased prose about Mr. Smith (for he doesn’t get his chance to talk about me until I join him sometime in the future). Ha-ha! Upper hand: Kraft!

What I’m talking about in this blog is simply that it isn’t easy to piece together mini biographies of eight or ten people (and at this moment this list is shrinking) and merge them together and tell the story of an event in November 1864 that reverberates to this day (and long beyond).

Add Left Hand to “Why John Simpson Smith?”

What has the Arapaho Chief Left Hand have to do with John Smith? Actually he had a lot to do with Smith, but much of it is in a very grey area. By that I mean that this connection raises more questions than the few answers it supposedly confirms.

I’m certain that you are wondering why I have spent so much time in these blogs dealing with Mr. Smith. The reason is simple: He was part of the Sand Creek story before there was a Sand Creek story. And better he walked on both sides of the Sand Creek story, and that includes being in the village when it was attacked.

This is Margaret Coel’s cover page on Facebook. Very nice! She is a long-time writer who has focused on fiction. Her work should be honored, and I do honor her for her fiction and for her groundbreaking work on the great Arapaho Chief Left Hand. (art © Margaret Coel 2017)

A novelist/two-time nonfiction (?) writer Margaret Coel labeled Smith as “Lyin’ John” in her biography of Arapaho chief Left Hand (Chief Left Hand, Southern Arapaho, OU Press, 1981). I have problems with her book, including her research, her citations, and information that was created without any supporting evidence. My copy of her book (and it is the only biography to my knowledge that deals with Left Hand, or Niwot, and for this reason alone it should be in every library that deals with the Arapahos, the Cheyennes, and the 1860s), which is paper, and will not survive my Sand Creek manuscript. By that I mean that it will fall apart in the not-too-distant future. This is good for it means that I am using it and trying to understand it and challenging it.

For the record there are no photographic images of Left Hand (a terrible shame).

With luck someday I’ll meet Ms. Coal. If so I have every intention of giving her a big hug for she chose to write about a very important person (that shockingly many historians have ignored). Why? WHY? Left Hand was a major player in the Sand Creek story. A MAJOR PLAYER! Regardless of my view of her book on Left Hand, kudos to her for writing it!!!!! Ms. Coel, I hope that someday I am lucky and that in our future we do meet.

The piss-poor art of John Smith that I used in 2016 continues to grow (and darken). He’s coming closer to reality, and I still have a lot more work in front of me (light paint strokes, more dark?, and his eyes—I need to bring his eyes to life), and there’s even more for if I choose to use this portrait of him in the Sand Creek book my color art must transfer to grayscale decently (this means the contrast of dark and light must work well together). (John Smith art © Louis Kraft 2017)

But I’m wandering from John Smith, and I shouldn’t be. Ms. Coal’s Left Hand is of major importance to Smith as it paints him in a not-so-good light. To date the two things I take away from her book is that Smith lied and that Left Hand, who spoke English, knew this. What I have just said has launched me on perhaps a wild goose chase (similar to a bitty at Arizona State University (Tempe), who, while supposedly aiding my Lt. Charles Gatewood research (for Gatewood & Geronimo, University of New Mexico Press, 2000) plotted a misdirection and wasted my time and money looking for key information in a state where it never existed).*

 * I found the needed information before I completed work on second book dealing with Gatewood (Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir, University of Nebraska Press, 2005) and it was roughly a two-hour drive from my home in Los Angeles.

But in the case of John Smith, and I must learn the truth about him (and this is also so for Left Hand) for much of what I currently know about him is totally illogical (and the “illogical” is also true for Left Hand). I raise my own questions and track the answers until I find them or realize that 1) There is no answer, or 2) I’m searching in the wrong place.

Yeah, I’m slow, but that’s just me.

Smith and Left Hand’s roles will be as large as possible. Smith has become a leading player; I’m worried about Left Hand’s presence in the manuscript.

“I Stand By Sand Creek!”

Supposedly Colonel John Chivington said these words sometime after the 29nov1864 attack on the joint Cheyenne-Arapaho village and the booming proclamations of “Great victory” had begun to lose its luster and “Indian massacre” tainted Chivington’s fame.

The Sand Creek manuscript flies forward, and this makes me one happy cowboy. … This blog won out over a blog that again deals with racism in my life that is also close to publication. … John Chivington, that is Colonel John Chivington, who led the attack on the peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, on 29nov1864, plays a role in the upcoming book. I needed an image of him. This is it, and it represents him near the end of his life. Not to worry for it won’t be in the book unless I can figure out how to improve it. Fat chance; this is awful. (Chivington art © Louis Kraft 2017)

Actually Chivington’s quote, “I Stand By Sand Creek!” became the title of a book about him (“I Stand By Sand Creek”: A Defense of Colonel John M. Chivington and the Third Colorado Cavalry by Lt. Colonel William R. Dunn, The Old Army Press, 1985). I didn’t remember my impression of the book until I looked at it for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (University of Oklahoma Press, 2011), wasn’t impressed, and didn’t use anything from the book. … The search is under way for finding the colonel’s quote, and I believe it was later rather than earlier. Good friend and terrific Indian wars historian John Monnett suggested that I check the Rocky Mountain News during the 1890s for the quote.

This is on my to do list.

I’ve been discussing the Sand Creek manuscript with Steve Schmidt, a knowledgeable and literate person I met in Kansas a number of years back. Steve has kindly been offering me leads to research and raising questions that are valid. One, pertaining to Mr. Chivington, is right on target. He put it in my head, and let me tell you it “ain’t a goin’ away.” My dear colonel, you and I will be walking hand-in-hand for the unforeseeable future. This said, John Chivington, I have no comments to say about you. You are who you have proven to be, a man of guts, a man who reached for his own future, a man who was totally in-tune to his own world. Mr. Chivington, you are a great challenge for me, and I must—absolutely must—walk in your boots, get into your head, and present you as you viewed your life. Anything less will be subpar and little more than crap. … However long this takes me I must do it. And, … and if, … OU Press bashes me in the head for taking too long—shame on them for I must become one with you, John Chivington.

Luckily it ties in with the Methodist angle on the Sand Creek story, which is the basis for Gary Roberts’ latest book on Chivington’s attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village in 1864.

Other media and this blog

Although what I share on these blogs are the real LK, I have placed a lot of background information elsewhere. This said, the “elsewhere” destination is clean cut, meaning the Walt Disney version. On the blogs I have at times pushed to cross a line that perhaps I shouldn’t cross. But still I haven’t gone any farther than an “R” rating (in other words, not appropriate for anyone below the age of 17 without their parents’ permission). Duh!! I know, I’m still doing a balancing act between goody-two-shoes and a real “R” rating (which someday may be pushed to perhaps “NC-17” in other formats).

LK in the living room at Tujunga House on 5jan2017 just before nightfall. Egotism aside, I like this photo for I look alive and happy. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

What can I provide for you here? Actually nothing, for LK censures LK.

Actually I’ve made great strides into moving into the “R” zone (and beyond, and again I have toyed with going beyond this rating in both my fiction and art). If you think that I’m joking here—I’m not. For the record I constantly attempt to push the limits of my creativity in all directions whenever I can. This is not just for creativity’s sake but for me forever trying to expand my capabilities in the various medias in which I work. Be it words or art I must be true to myself. At the same time I must observe the limits of the various media that publishes my work; meaning that at times words or art that is acceptable in one media (let’s say fiction) is not acceptable in another media (such as nonfiction). This is a juggling act for me with the center point being my blogs, but not completely, for no matter how much I push myself on the blogs there are words and art that I cannot share with you (at least not today). … I’d like to, but I’m frightened of the response.

For the record I paint portraits of human beings (including myself). I view them as art. … For a long time I have debated what I can share on the blogs. LK nude? I could share this. Will I? Don’t know, but most likely never. The ladies in my life? … Not the major ladies in my life (Anglo American, Japanese, Korean, and Thai) for they would not want this (and I am in total agreement with them). That said, others who will remain nameless shed their clothes and posed for my camera, but even if I created art of them it would not appear here.

LK at the Louvre Museum in Paris on 1jul2004. I visited the Louvre twice (2004 and 2009). This is what I looked like on the first visit (photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

This brings me to a great piece of art that I have seen twice at Musée D’Orsay in Paris, France (2004 and 2009). It had to have been shocking when Gustave Courbet created and first displayed his “L’Origine du Monde” over a century ago. I could describe the painting, but I won’t. This said, I think that it is magnificent and deserves its permanent exhibition at Musée D’Orsay, which is by far the best museum of art in the world that I have ever been fortunate to visit. The painting is still shocking to this day. This said, it is glorious and should have not been hidden from the world for years and years. Is this painting, which I’m not describing or sharing, art? Yes! Yes, and yes without a doubt. What does this say about Courbet? What does this say about Kraft? What does this say about you?

I know what this says about Courbet and about me. I don’t know what it says about you, and honestly I don’t care. Obviously—or not obviously—I’ve been talking about sexuality and nudity in my life. I don’t know about you, but sexuality and nudity has played a large role in my life. This huge part of perhaps many of our lives has given my life the energy and the desire to survive and cherish each and every moment I have walking through our so-called “world of woe.”

Am I evil? No, I don’t think so.

The LK blogs …

The purpose of the LK blogs from the beginning in early 2013 was to push my writing capabilities beyond what they had been in the past. That goal is still front and center as you and I move forward in 2017 and beyond. Why? This is a simple question but without an answer, at least not an answer that I can provide at this time.

All I can say is that I need to be true to me, true to my vision of nonfiction, fiction, and art. I actually have a major question that is front and center every day. Mainly, Kraft, how many days do you have left? What can you complete before the end? What do you have to do? In a nutshell I must protect my beautiful wife and daughter (and my daughter’s mother), and this includes living for as long as I can to accomplish this. So you know, I work at this every day (and often this is three to four hours of my time every day). I have one other reason for living, and that is my writing. Without blinking an eye I must complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and deliver the manuscript to my great friend and editor Chuck Rankin; I must also complete Errol & Olivia.

The reason for completing these two manuscripts is simple: They will be the most important books that I write in my lifetime (while my favorite has already been printed by the University of Oklahoma Press, Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek). LK’s writing world does not end with these two manuscripts, for I will have a long life as I move forward in my writing (this includes two additional nonfiction books on Errol Flynn; two books on Kit Carson, one nonfiction and one fiction; two books on the English pirate and knight Francis Drake (again one nonfiction and one fiction). Ladies and gents, this is a mouthful. But—BUT—on the plus side it will ensure that I live a long life as I protect the women in my life.

The above is my future, and it is a good one.

Back to the Sand Creek manuscript

All I can say here is that I need to walk with the leading players in the Sand Creek manuscript as they move forward with their lives. I’m getting close to Mr. Smith, perhaps a little too close (but I’m thrilled with what is current in the manuscript). I’ve known Ned Wynkoop for decades, and even though I’ve written about Black Kettle for the same length of time I’m only now doing what I can to walk in his moccasins. This is not a small comment about BK, for he was an extraordinary man and I need to know him intimately before the Sand Creek manuscript goes to press. I need to repeat these words in another way—I need to bring Black Kettle to life, something that has still never happened in my books or any other books.

Add Left Hand to my list, but here I’m fearful that I won’t find enough primary material (or accurate information) to fill out his life.

This woodcut of the Camp Weld 28sept1864 meeting is a total joke. It is a available in numerous archives. From left to right: Black Kettle (in clothing and with a hairstyle that he never wore or had; a bearded John Smith (I have all of the known photos of Mr. Smith, including the famed 28sept1864 image with Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Bull Bear, and other key players at Camp Weld, and in all of them he is clean shaven). Finally, Wynkoop never dressed in this totally fictional uniform. Worse, none of these three players look like the artist painted them. I have toyed with using this art in the Sand Creek manuscript, but only to list all the errors in it. I have 37 contracted images for the Sand Creek book, three of which will be maps. Time will tell, but at the moment using this image is doubtful.

As the days pass numerous players cement their positions as leading players while others continue to fall by the wayside. Fear not, for John Chivington, John Evans, William Byers will all play their parts. As will George Bent. All I can say about George, other than “God bless him for what he has given us—you, me, and every other person that gives a hoot about the Cheyenne and Arapaho people while writing about their history during the 1860s owes Bent one hell of a lot. George Bent was one special human being and I pray that I do him justice.” His brother Charles was just as noteworthy but unfortunately his life was way-too-short and poorly documented (other than volumes of fiction; that is naming him leading raids and killing a lot of whites). If a white person under attack (or captured) by a war party heard a warrior speak the English language who do you think they named even though they had never seen that person before (or later) in their lives? You got it: A name they had heard once or twice or nine times before, … George or Charles Bent or Edmund Guerrier or Jack Smith. Without knowing what these young men looked like (by 1864 two were teenagers and two were in their early twenties), but still they were named for killing and raping again and again. All four were accused of many “crimes”* that most likely they never performed. …

* Crimes? A lot of these so-called “crimes” happened in retaliation for military actions that included, among other “crimes,” attacking peaceful villages and murdering Cheyenne leaders who attempted to speak to the soldiers (one of the attacks, that on Sand Creek, also included killing Arapahos, and especially Left Hand, who, like Cheyennes Lean Bear, White Antelope, and Black Kettle who also died violently, did all he could to keep the peace between the races). … Yes, the Cheyennes, Arapahos, and their allies the Sioux (Lakotas) fought to save their families and loved ones, the buffalo, their land, their religion, their language, and their freedom. CRIMES???? Let’s call it war, a war of survival with the end result never in doubt.

As this blog is hopefully giving you yet another taste of what is coming …

… Lets mention the ladies? A few will have supporting (unfortunately small supporting) roles, but they are key to the Sand Creek story. Chuck Rankin and I have discussed bringing them into the story, but there just is not enough information to make any of them full supporting players (much less leading players). This said, there will be a few surprises in the Sand Creek manuscript—good surprises (I promise).

This is artwork for the mini series Centennial (which premiered on American TV in the late 1970s). From left Richard Chamberlain, Robert Conrad, Sally Kellerman, Michael Ansara, and Barbara Carrera. I decided to use this art because there were two-mixed blood Cheyenne brothers in the early episodes of the mini series that represented George and Charles Bent. Played by Stephen McHattie (as the mixed-blood Cheyenne Jacques Pasquinel, and an actor that I thought would become a star as every performance of his that I have seen has been exceptional, including playing the acting legend James Dean) and Kario Salem as the mixed-blood Cheyenne brother Marcel Pasquinel). Their characters were totally fictional, but the two actors and the parts they played were riveting. I want to say a little more here. Richard Chamberlain was a pretty-boy TV star in Dr. Kildare in the early 1960s, but refused to be who he was and studied acting (including classical theater) and recreated himself as a very good actor and he became the king of the mini series. My favorite actress of all time is Gong Li (who is Chinese), and the reason is that she is totally in the moment—she listens, she thinks, and she responds (just like Errol Flynn). There are a lot of actresses that I like, including Barbara Hershey, Olivia de Havilland, Meryl Streep, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Barbara Carerra, among others. Carerra, who is Nicaraguan, was a model, and she is beautiful but not a good actress except in two mini series, Centennial (as the Cheyenne Clay Basket) in 1978-1979 and in Masada with Peter O’Toole (as the Jewish woman Sheva) in 1981.

And this is the same for others who play specific parts but are only fleeting in the flow of the story before they unfortunately exit the story. I have learned how to do this when I wrote The Discovery between January 2014 and April 2016. Some of these players are mixed-blood Tsistsistas (Cheyennes) Edmund Guerrier (mentioned above and an all time favorite of mine), who will soon move into the forefront with an upcoming book on him by a good friend of mine named Dee Cordry (and I do not want to share any information about his his work until he gives me the okay to do so) as will Jack Smith (John Smith’s son, and also mentioned above). Trust me, for there are others.

I’m not ignoring my Indian players, but other than Arapaho Niwot (Left Hand), who, as I said above, I am struggling to find real documentation to confirm his life (don’t ask, for you won’t like what I say), and Arapaho Little Raven. Others who I thought might be leading players are slipping through the cracks of my research. I still hope Dog Man Bull Bear plays a larger role than now anticipated, and ditto Cheyennes White Antelope and Lean Bear. My favorite Dog Man is Tall Bull, but to date I have very little of him during the 1863-1865 timeframe. … Suggestions of where to research these gentlemen are always welcome.

Silas Soule’s wedding photo in April 1865 as restored by LK per the permission of Byron Strom for publication in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. Hopefully Byron, who controls the Anne E. Hemphill Collection in Des Moines, Iowa, will again agree to me restoring yet another great image of Silas Soule that must see print.

One white man that I hope whose role can grow is Captain Silas Soule. The reason is twofold: Much that has been written about him to date is bogus. More important he refused to fire his weapons at the Cheyennes and Arapahos camped at Sand Creek on 29nov1864, as did Lieutenant Joseph Cramer, and those of their men who obeyed their orders not to fire on the Indians (as documented in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek). … Cramer would survive his damning testimony and letter to Wynkoop; Soule would not for he would be murdered on the streets of Denver weeks after his marriage at the beginning of April 1865.

Colonel George Shoup of the Third Colorado Volunteers is a mystery. Can I bring him to life? My fingers are crossed. As they are to bring some of the whites to life in supporting roles who held firm with Chivington’s proclamation: “I stand by Sand Creek.”

William Bent, one of the founders of Bent’s Fort, and more importantly a leading player in the development of the Cheyenne and Arapaho domination of the central plains, their lifeway based upon the buffalo, and their trading to the south, the north, and the east, and their horse-based culture that had evolved less than a century before Sand Creek. A lot of work is coming here, for this man’s life and world is a major part of the story.

These players and the tragic events of November 1864 affected a lot of people during the 1860s, they have affected a lot of people since that tragic day of 29nov1864, and they have affected me for decades.

These people, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., African Americans, Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apaches, and believe it or not the English pirate Francis Drake have played major roles in my writing decisions and my chosen path in my writing life and future.

It is what it is

… And my life is good.

A Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


 You should know that when I write blogs I’m not writing plays,
articles, talks, or books. When drafting a blog I function as a journalist.
I have points to make. Sometimes I deal with the past but often I deal with
the present. The goal is to present an opinion on events (past and present) while getting my facts straight. When I deal with the past I’m researching an LK memoir or I’m trying to understand historical people from Black Kettle to George Bent to
John Chivington to Olivia de Havilland to Errol Flynn and on and on. When I
deal with the present I’m focused on events that affect my life, and I talk
about them as they are important to me. Regardless if I write about
the past or the present the goal is to inform and entertain you.


The times are boiling …

One of my best friends of all time went under the knife on September 23. A wonderful friend of mine in Thailand has just lost her brother. …

An anticipated call did come on September 23 from a
wonderful lady who is my best friend’s sister.

A language translator totally messed up reality
as to my Thai friend’s brother’s situation
and tragically he died.

Life is precious and I make an effort every day to cherish the time I still have.

As promised in a previous blog I’m keeping my Sand Creek project up front with status updates. Ideally these will be shorter blogs (and not books, as my friend Vee has often reminded me about many of my posts). What follows will mostly deal with the trials and tribulations of LK attempting to make progress on an Indian wars book that dominates his life. All I have to do is complete the manuscript and then work closely with my publisher to ensure that the printed book is as good as we can make it.

You should know that when I draft a document I
have an idea of what I hope to present. When I write fiction
the characters take over and move the plot, but in the blogs
it is the subject matter that controls the flow of the text.

A return to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

During 12 days in June 2014 I performed intensive primary Cheyenne research at the Braun Research Library at the former Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, California. I had been promised my extensive photocopy request in September 2014. And don’t ignore the word “extensive,” for it was. Read a massive amount of work for Research Services Assistant Manola Madrid, who had worked with me closely on previous visits to the Braun. There would be a delay, but this was not Manola’s fault, and I truly believe that the delay was not caused by the Braun. …

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The Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, Calif. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

Changes at the Autry National Center, to which the Southwest Museum merged with in 2003, were about to become reality. In July 2014 people that had landed research grants (if that is the correct term) would dominate the Braun staff’s time, and then the reality of the closure of the Braun and ultimately the final closure of the Southwest Museum (which still hasn’t happened as it is still open on Saturdays for people to visit).WestResearchTripMontage_sept-oct2014_wsSeptember 2014 came and went. Actually the rest of 2014 came and went; great times for LK as I was able to take Pailin on her first research trip to the West in the Vette. Almost 4,000 miles in 19 days. She researched Sand Creek in Colorado with my good friend and great Cheyenne wars historian John Monnett and his wife Linda (they kindly welcomed us into their home). In Santa Fe, New Mexico, she got to hang out with my wonderful friend Tomas Jaehn, who is responsible for creating the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library, which is part of the New Mexico History Museum (if you saw the historic artifacts that the history museum has hidden away you’d faint). Pailin was again put to work at the Chávez and then locating the last place that Ned Wynkoop lived at in Santa Fe (this last thanks to Tomas’s right-on tips on how to find the building), and again came through with flying colors. We next headed for Texas to see my great friends Glen and Ellen Williams (and Glen’s pretty sister LInda), and like Mr. and Mrs. Monnett, the Williams opened their home to us.

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This is a detail of a painting that is one of many placards at the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner in southeast New Mexico (unfortunately I don’t know the name of the person that created the art). Here Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson (right) is agreeing to command Gen. James Carleton’s (left) Mescalero Apache campaign in 1863. The Mescaleros would be removed to the Bosque Redondo before Carson’s burnt earth campaign against the Navajos began later that year. BTW, the Bosque Redondo Memorial is magnificent. If you have any interest in the Apaches or the Navajos’ forced confinement in a deadly environment a visit to the memorial is well worth your time. If you are a Mescalero Apache or Navajo cultural or Indian wars historian-writer it is mandatory that you visit. … BTW, Kit Carson was not the racist-butcher that so many uninformed people stuff down our throats. For starters he had an Arapaho wife, a Cheyenne wife, and a Spanish wife. He also spoke six or seven languages: English, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Spanish, Ute, Mescalero Apache dialect, and I believe Navajo. Not bad for a person who is now often slandered and libeled as a butcher and racist by people with their thumbs stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

On the way to Texas we visited the Bosque Redondo in southeast New Mexico where the Navajos were incarcerated after the “Long Walk” in 1864 when they surrendered to Kit Carson’s burnt earth campaign that had few fatal casualties (I believe under 30 deaths). This area now thrives but in the 1860s it was a land of pestilence and death. This was must see for my next nonfiction Indian wars book will feature Carson’s relationship with Indians (but most likely not the Navajo campaign or its aftermath).

Yeah, I’m up to my usual evasion tricks. Sorry.

Back to my line of thought. January 2015 arrived and I still didn’t have any of my Cheyenne research that I had been promised in September 2014. If you know me well you know that in the past (actually my dark past) I had a short fuse. Time has mellowed me, but at the beginning of this year I needed to calm the rest of me down (not a small task).

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Liza Posas, who is archivist and head librarian of the Braun Research Library, played a major role in my 2014 research time within the George Bird Grinnell Papers held by the Southwest Museum. She is professional, open, helpful, and kind. I have enjoyed every moment working with her, and look forward to when we again work together. In this image of her on 20jun2014 she is showing me the scope of the George Bird Grinnell Collection. (photo © Louis Kraft & Liza Posas 2014)

On August 6, 2015 (13½ months after I made the request), I picked up photocopies for what amounted to a little over a third of my order at the Autry National Center (a short surface-street drive as opposed to a three-freeway potential nightmare). Email communication at that time stated that the rest of my research had been digitized. I was quoted a page cost for the digital pages and told that I would hear more in a week. The week passed. Actually over a month passed. Believe it or not I have deadlines, but worse it takes me at least five times as long to write a page of nonfiction than it does a page of fiction (to be honest, I believe that this is an understatement for I’m thrilled when I get a full page of Sand Creek text written in a day (granted that day may only be five or eight hours, but heck sometimes I can crank out two or three pages of fiction in an hour). Remember that none of this writing is polished for I’m only talking about rough drafts. That said, nonfiction polishing easily takes a lot longer than fiction polishing as I’m again concentrating on facts and dates and making sure that a polish doesn’t turn the nonfiction into fiction.

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This image of Pailin and LK is now from a time long gone (although the art is based upon a photo taken a handful of days ago). I’m playing with it and trying to use it to figure out how I’ll create a piece of art that is required. It is an ongoing search for me to figure out what I need to do to create artwork in the very near future (and believe me it has nothing to do with gunfighters or frontiersmen). I’m a firm believer in doing plenty of research before a word is written, or in this case playing with color, line, and technique before doing anything (other than researching the subject) before attempting to create art for a book cover. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

The Sand Creek manuscript deals with five types of people: Whites that saw an opportunity in a new land (Colorado Territory) and did what they could to secure the land and their fortunes at the cost of the American Indians that claimed the land as theirs; the Cheyennes and Arapahos who called this land theirs; the whites that married into the tribes; the mixed-bloods that walked between two races; and the whites that dared to speak out against the butchery of Cheyennes and Arapahos who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military. … Add females whenever I have enough information to bring them to life. … Oh, I should add that racism was rampant in the 1860s.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is not an easy manuscript to write. The research is massive, and worse I have to bring the leading and major supporting players to life with a minimal amount of primary information. And just as important I need to make the text flow seamlessly between the various people groups and their actions, while at the same time attempting to keep all the players’ points of view (POV) in focus. The goal is to have the reader make their decision on all the players’ actions.

Doable? You bet! Can I do it? I don’t know, but I hope that I can.

For the story to work the people must be real. They must live and breathe and have objectives as they react to their life and times.

Back to the immediate present

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Manola Madrid working on the first floor of the Braun Research Library for LK in June 2014. She’s a hard worker, very knowledgeable on the subject matter, and most important an absolute delight to know and call friend. For what it is worth, Manola and I can talk about anything. That’s a real nice feeling, and worth keeping. With all the massive changes that the Southwest and the Autry are undergoing she has chosen to walk away and retire in mid-October 2015. I’m thrilled for her, … my lone hope is that our relationship can continue and that someday I’ll meet her husband and that she’ll meet Pailin. (photo © Louis Kraft & Manola Madrid 2014)

In mid-September my fear threshold began to reach its eruption peak. The Sand Creek manuscript is due at OU Press on October 1, 2016. Hell, I’m light years away from completing a rough first draft, a first draft that I’m still collecting primary source material to complete (again, I did my research at the Braun in June 2014).

LK is thrilled (and angry) but thrilled is the bottom word. I’m writing a book about the end of the Southern Cheyenne lifeway. This primary research; useable or not is mandatory by me. There was so much to see in just one archive that there was no way I could get through all of it in 12 days. Thus my costly research request, which—and to repeat myself—was due in September 2014. September 17, 2015, arrived and I again complained. I was told that my complaint was confusing. Confusing? Well maybe, but I wasn’t obscure. More important my complaint garnered results for on September 21 I picked up a CD with the remainder of my research request of June 2014.

This was a joyous occasion for I got to spend two hours with Manola Madrid, a long-time research service assistant at the Braun Research Library at the former Southwest Museum in Los Angeles.

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Marva Felchin, director of libraries and archives at the Autry National Center. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I also spent prime time with Marva Felchin, director of libraries and archives at the Autry National Center. I met Marva while researching obscure and yet mandatory primary source material for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. She would attend an Errol Flynn talk locally in Burbank, Calif., soon after (I think in 2008). On September 21 I delivered a promised Geronimo magazine article, as well as two Ned Wynkoop articles that I knew that the Autry didn’t have to Marva for the Autry Resources Center (ARC). I believe that the ARC, a 105,000 square-foot research center that will house the former Southwest Museum archive and research material (over 500,000 artworks and artifacts + archival material) and the Autry’s library and archive (not sure how large this is). Although the private opening might be in late 2016 most likely the public opening won’t happen until 2017. On this day Marva told me that if needed I could perform research before the ARC opens.

That was very kind of Marva. I don’t think I’ll need to do any research before the opening, but it is good to know that the door will be open to me if I need to do additional research. This is a good feeling. Thank you, Marva (unfortunately I have no images of Marva to share).

Autry National Center is magnificent … almost

The Autry National Center is magnificent, but it doesn’t compare to similar facilities, such as National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Not too many years back when the Autry decided to merge with the Southwest Museum, this action opened the door to major respectability. Do not under estimate this, for the Southwest’s holdings are a major coup for the Autry.

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Over the years the Autry National Center has had many names (Why? I have no clue why, but can guess that the rich and famous continued to spout their view and progressively have worked to remove not only the westering experience from the museum’s name but also—God forbid—have tried to push the legendary Gene Autry, who is responsible for the museum, into the dark shadows of a long-gone time). I’m not a fan of Gene’s one-hour B-westerns, his 1950s TV show, or his singing. That said, he was a major influence on his world and if it wasn’t for him there would be no Autry National Center. The “Inventing Custer: Legends of the Little Bighorn” exhibit was brilliant and was by far the best exhibit that I have ever seen at the Autry (or elsewhere). It ranged from Custer and his times (artifacts, including his hair, which his wife Libbie had clipped prior to an expedition on the Plains and BTW he was a strawberry blond and nowhere close to being “Yellow Hair,” to photos, to Custer in afterlife, which included film, toys, and memorabilia). As already stated I have never been a fan of Mr. Autry, but more recently (22Jun2007 through 13Jan2008) the Autry presented a marvelous exhibit that focused exclusively on “the Singing Cowboy’s” life and times (“Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007”). Unfortunately I have inside information that confirms that many of the elite members of the Autry were unhappy with the exhibit and refused to support it. SHAME ON THEM! This was by far the second best exhibit I have ever seen at the Autry, and in the future it should be repeated! Unfortunately “Inventing Custer” was pieced together with artifacts, photos, toys, books, and film memorabilia from multiple archives and private collections (and would be almost impossible to bring back for an encore). (photo of “Inventing Custer” banner © Louis Kraft 1996)

Still you need to realize that people who light their cigarettes with $1,000 dollar bills, shall I call them the “major” Autry donors, bitched. As far as they were concerned money counts, such as their designer clothes, their $10,000 necklaces, the glitter of the Autry … I used to attend 2nd (or was it 3rd) tier openings at the Autry. Those days are history. You want to attend an opening, fork up $1,700 or perhaps $1,800. I wouldn’t call these openings ones that the general public can attend. What can I say? You get the picture, other than these elite people don’t give a bleep that the Southwest goldmine is now part of the Autry. … American Indian culture and artifacts mean little to them. “Why are we wasting our money on an institution that was dying?” (this is a quote based upon words that I recently heard but wasn’t able to jot down exactly for prosperity). Lucky them! Bottom line, they don’t give a bleep about the wondrous treasure that the Southwest (and its now dead and gone Braun Research Library) once was.

You want to know the truth? The Southwest Museum (which includes the Braun) was special. The Autry has always reeked of money, and the facility has always been gorgeous. Unfortunately when compared to other institutions of a similar type it can’t compare. Now it can, for regardless of rich bitching it now controls the massive collection of American Indian artifacts and research that the Southwest once owned. Ladies and gentlemen I have been off and on (at the moment off) a proud member of the Autry. To quote one of only three TV series that I have liked (The X-Files), “The truth is out there.” And it is for the Autry National Center.

The Autry National Center is poised to claim its position as one of the great western history and cultural museums in the United States. I certainly believe that the person leading the way, President and CEO W. Richard (Rick) West, Jr., will ensure that this happens.

Some views; wanted or not …

Los Angeles is currently divided between the extremely rich and everyone else, who struggle to pay bills.* The middle class? What’s that? Actually it is a name that represents a dead and departed race of people that has ceased to exist and that is the middle class. Worse, and I’m not talking about racism; rather I’m talking about the future that has, alas, arrived. Specifically to the Autry’s major donors, the extraordinary and exceptional artifacts housed at the Southwest don’t count. What is at risk here is the American western experience, which includes the Plains Indians, Southwest Indians, Pacific Coast Indians, Alaskan Indians, and the massive conquest of their homelands and destruction of their cultures.

* This statement is simplistic at best. What isn’t simplistic or overstated is that the city of Los Angeles (North Hollywood is a town in LA)  is quickly becoming a modern-day Tombstone, Arizona. Los Angeles had a confirmed murder count of 39 in August (LA Times, “Deadliest August in Los Angeles in 8 years,” 4Sept2015). This past weekend (September 26-27) 19 people were shot and five died (LA Times, “19 Shootings, A Call for Help: LAPD appeals to community after new bloodshed,” 30sept2015). Although I have had guns pointed at me I have yet to witness shootings in North Hollywood. That said, I no longer walk at night for violence often stalks the streets of NoHo.

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I don’t have an image of Kevin Tighe as Miles (damn!!!). Tighe, along with Wes Studi (who was at least 30 years too young to play Geronimo) were the two outstanding performances in Geronimo: An American Legend. I don’t know either man but shortly after the release of Dances with Wolves (1990) I spent good time with Studi in an American Indian shop in Tarzana, Calif. Unfortunately the shop is long gone and I never met Studi again. My guess, both men did their homework, … something Bob Duvall (who I worked closely with for about four months in the 1980s) didn’t do. This image of Miles is in the LK personal collection and was published first in 1886. It has since been published in Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (2005) and in “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” (Wild West, October 2015).

This is America and it must not be forgotten! American Indian lifeways count, and so do the racial interactions between invading whites and the people that initially welcomed their presence. During this time very few whites accepted American Indians as human beings, and those that dared to are American heroes; not those that stole, incarcerated, and if need be butchered people that they felt were below them on the evolution scale. … If I am even close in my opinion I am predicting a “Pandora’s Box” that when it is opened will initiate the end of America’s heritage. As Kevin Tighe, who played General Nelson Miles, says to Matt Damon’s Lieutenant Britton Davis (who BTW had resigned his military commission in 1885 and lived in Mexico at the time of Geronimo’s and Naiche’s surrender in September 1886) near the end of Geronimo: An American Legend (Columbia Pictures, 1993): “Lieutenant, you’re more worried about keeping your word to a savage than to fulfilling your duties to the citizens of this country. We won and that’s what counts. It’s over with Geronimo, the Apache, and the whole history of the West, except for being a farmer.”

You want my opinion? Honestly, you don’t want to hear my opinion for much of it isn’t printable.

I’ve been cramming on the digital files from the September 2015 Braun delivery since I’ve received the CD from Manola. I’m looking at the files to ensure that they are readable. I’m also spot reading and searching for primary information that might be included in the Sand Creek manuscript. Let me tell you that this is slow going.

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This is Black Kettle, and for the record I constantly attempt to create portraits of him; this image will not appear in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (and you can take this to the bank). … It looks like Black Kettle, Little Raven, John Chivington, John Evans, William Byers, Ned Wynkoop, William Bent, William Bent, and George Bent are my leading players. Left Hand is also but no images of him exist (my loss). There are other Cheyenne and Arapaho players who could become leading players such as Bull Bear and Tall Bull (and I hope that they can; alas, no images exist of Tall Bull). … Back to Black Kettle. Folks, he was not an elderly fellow that dropped out of the most important time of his life or his people’s lives. He was up front and center, and he had more guts and courage than any of the Cheyenne warriors that fought the overwhelming might of the United States. His life was always at risk, by both his own people and the invading whites. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

However, when I do find a jewel I’m right into the manuscript and adding the information. The other day I found pure gold on Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle that I had no idea existed. Honestly, this is what I’m looking for as Black Kettle is one of the leading players in the Sand Creek manuscript and I’m desperately trying to find events that happened in his life to fill in the gaps. This is directly related to my view that actions define who people are and not what someone says about them.

Again, I’m thrilled. … But the purpose of this post is threefold: Bitch, which I’ve done; praise, which I’ve done; and alert Indian wars writers to wake up to a massive archive in SoCal that will reopen in a blink of an eye (hopefully 2017, but this is questionable) that there is material available that can be added to your manuscripts in ways you wouldn’t believe. If you are a historian doing Plains or Southwest Indian research wake up and add validity to your writing. … The former Braun Research Library (at the former Southwest Museum) along with the former Autry National Center library and archives will provide you with a research center that will blow you away (American Indian research and including the Indian wars).

I’ve again been harsh, and believe me I have been pounded in the past by companies that I write for that I’m an ingrate that bites the hand that feeds him. True? Probably. … Know that I care about everything that I do. This means that I can’t take prisoners, that I must fight for the best product possible at all times and that includes receiving requested documentation when promised and not being forced to complain again and again until I receive a comment that I’m unclear in what is owed me. I have deadlines and I can’t afford to miss too many of them or I won’t be hirable.

For the record

“There’s gold in them ‘thar’ hills!” I have no clue if this is a real quote of not. And, by God, I have struck it! Mining the Cheyennes at the Braun Research Library in June 2014 has already proved worth every hour I put in, every complaint I had to make to receive requested documentation, and every dollar that it has cost me (and it wasn’t cheap).

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This image is from 1997’s Titanic. Here Leonardo DiCaprio (as Jack Lawson) proclaims at the beam of the mighty vessel on its maiden voyage: “I’m king of the world!” Danny Nucci (as Fabrizio, Dawson’s friend), joins him. When this film was released it was storied to become the largest financial disaster in film history. Instead it became the largest grossing film worldwide ever (to that point in time). Almost everyone I knew loved the film, which went on to win a ton of awards including the Oscar for best film. Many of these people have since dismissed the film. … For the record I have two film lists: a top 13 Errol Flynn films (and The Adventures of Robin Hood isn’t on the list) and a top 60 films which does not include Flynn films. For what it’s worth, my top 60 films list (which isn’t close to being completed) is not based upon the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Oscar for best picture, director, actor, actress, script, and so on. Perhaps Kevin Costner’s magnificent Dances with Wolves (1990) should be on my list but it isn’t, and never will be. I believe that Costner’s Open Range (2003) with Bob Duvall and Annette Bening is a much better film, and it has a chance of making my top 60 films list. … Even though I work on “The Song Remembers When” blog whenever I have free time there is a chance that a short blog, like this one, can sneak in. And I’m going to announce it here: “Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft, the connection and a view” will be my next blog. Be warned that it will include prose that might anger you, hopefully enlighten you, but certainly will be based upon a long-time film knowledge combined with a deep-seated gut-feeling that is present whenever I view film. For what it is worth I study film four to five times a week as it a great way to understand how dialogue; plot; script; editing; direction; cinematography; film scores, which is my favorite type of music; and good production values influence every word that I write for print (and that includes these blogs).

At the moment my every waking hour is dominated by one thought: Kraft, when are you working on the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript? The short answer is daily. Research takes time; comprehension takes more time. Once both connect, my fingers pound the keyboard. At those times, and to again quote Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, “I’m king of the world!”