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.

Sand Creek Massacre, Errol & Olivia, Pailin’s big day & Louis Kraft’s dark times

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
(All rights reserved.)

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


Pailin and I hope and pray that all of you, your loved ones,
and friends worldwide are healthy and safe.

I never thought I’d make it to this wonderful time in my life,
and let me tell you that I feel like the Devil’s got a strangle hold on my left leg
and isn’t about to let go. … Not a good feeling.

Pailin took this photo of me in our front yard—which is always a place of peace for me—after a sleepless night but a good early morning on 7mar2020. I chose to use it here as an introduction to my current writing world and hopefully the beginning of the end of a living nightmare that began in June 2019. Not a promising start for what will hopefully be a very positive blog. At the same time the last nine months have perhaps been the best in my life. My brain functions—it always functions—and it has been key to me maneuvering through a maze of dead ends and false leads while not only making my deadlines, but setting myself up for the best times of my life. If not yet, the answers are getting closer. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)


Sand Creek
and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
has become reality

I completed all of my work at the end of December 2019,
and damnit to hell I miss it! There is a big hole in my life but Errol & Olivia is
doing a good job of lessening the loss (see below).

Available at

University of Oklahoma Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
Target
and various National Historic Sites and museums

At first this project seemed like it was from hell, … a hell without end. Physically it has cost me a lot. If I had guts I’d post a recent photo here—an image taken between hanging from a limb and yet being able to scramble to safety yet again. When I was young and playing sports, we used to have a saying, “No guts, no glory.” Today I have no guts, which means no sharing of a photo wherein I’m hanging from that limb and it is starting to crack. … If I did, some of you might cringe, and I don’t want that.

Doris and Louis Kraft Sr. in Yonkers, NY, in 1947. Both were born in Yonkers, as I was, but in less than six years would migrate to Southern California, a state they had long decided would be their home after they had driven across the country twice to visit it. (photo © Louis Kraft 1947)

As the days pass, I’m good with where I am. However, I should share some words that I said at my father’s funeral in 1999:

“As my papa got older, his world shrank. By the time he died, the furthermost extension of his world was his neighborhood. And what a neighborhood it was. When I was growing up it was just like one of those fantasy neighborhoods in the ‘sixties TV shows. The world changed, got harsher, different—but not the neighborhood. It remained the same. It was still that fantasy neighborhood from a 1960 TV show. Pardon me, for I know I’m going to forget someone, and I don’t mean to. You all played a big part in my papa’s life, and Linda* and I will remain forever grateful.”
* Linda was my sister (24dec1950–1mar2006).

This was the only software badge that I bothered to capture. Sun Microsystems was flourishing when it purchased Seebeyond, but five years later it was spiraling toward oblivion when Oracle bought it for peanuts on the dollar.

My neighborhood isn’t like the one I grew up in, for it isn’t magical. That’s okay, for many people of different races and cultures surround me. I like this. My house was built in 1928 and I have lived in it since January 1993. It’s home, and I love it here, as my dad did his final home that he bought in 1955 (yeah, I’ve got a ways to go yet). Still, my life has begun to mimic his, for as I age, my world has also shrunk. (Certainly current events have impacted the previous sentence tenfold.) Maybe I’ll talk about it, and maybe I won’t.

Still, I should share that my life includes my small family of six (representing three races); Pailin’s family and friends in Thailand; our Los Angeles connections; and all of my friends that I met during my personal quest of knowledge, exploration, and creativity. This includes writers, historians, editors, directors, actors, artists, museum and National Park Service personal, the entire software world (which played a major part in my development as a writer and human being), and everyone else that has touched me in one way or another.

Sand Creek & the world it created for me

I am going to share photos of some people that have played key roles in bringing the Sand Creek story from the mists of Neverland to the reality of a book.

LK and Glen Williams, my bro for all time, on a road trip to Tucson, Arizona. On 15jan2012 we had just arrived at Mission San Xavier del Bac. I needed this trip with my good friend; some research (walking into the past and reliving it, if only for a short while), but more importantly doing some mending within myself.(a joke times two in 2011; if I ever share these two episodes from my life that are joined at the hip for all time you’d fall off your chair you’d be laughing so hard). … My sister-in-law worked with the Indian kids at the mission school in the early 1970s. I have some photos from that time, and need to find them. (photo © Louis Kraft and Glen Williams 2012)

Alas, there are many people who played major roles in this process but I don’t have images of many of them. This said, I don’t want them to be ignored or forgotten, and hopefully they won’t be.

An obscure beginning to the Sand Creek story in the 1980s

When I was preparing to walk away from the entertainment industry cold turkey in the early 1980s—and I was about to turn my back on writing screenplays as I had already had begun to write and sell magazine articles—I decided to write a novel about race relations during the time of the 1860s Cheyenne wars. By this time I was aware that some U.S. Indian agents were using their government-appointed positions to become rich by working with traders to steal from their wards. At this time my Indian wars knowledge was minimal other than my study of George Armstrong Custer, which was decent and growing.

LK walking with Leo Oliva (left) and George Elmore (right) on the parade ground at Fort Larned in Kansas on 12may2012. NPS ranger Ellen Jones shot this image as we were walking toward the reconstruction of the building that Ned Wynkoop rented from the post trader for his Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency, which was just outside the southwest perimeter of the fort. Since the early 1990s George, who is now chief historian of the National Historic Site, and Leo, who is a historian, writer, and lecturer, have played major roles in my understanding of the Cheyenne Indian wars. Ellen, after a long career in public service, which includes 17 years at Fort Larned, is retiring this April.

I had seen a little of the soldier turned Indian agent Edward W. Wynkoop in general Indian wars books (a paragraph or two here and another there with both saying basically the same thing), none of which I could recommend at this time for no matter how accurate or how inaccurate they were, the authors glossed over their subjects with a scattering of facts. Worse, much of the information was repeated from book to book with little that was new.

Jack Hines art of George Armstrong Custer and Sitting Bull in “Two Trails to Destiny.” I’m not crazy over his text, but I’ve always liked his portraits of Sitting Bull and Custer, even though he based his rendition of GAC on a famous Civil War image of the soldier. Oh, for those of you who aren’t  aware of it, Custer had his already short hair cut before setting out on what would be his final campaign in May 1876; he died at the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. I state this as some people who have seen the Warner Bros. 1941 film, They Died with Their Boots On with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland mistakenly think that the battle site was a short distance from Fort Abraham Lincoln, and it was not. (painting © Jack Hines 1985)

I was well aware of the Indian Ring (or tradership) scandal of 1876 due to George Armstrong Custer’s testimony in March and April of that year. This led to President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war William Belknap’s resignation, and his brother, Orvil Grant, being implicated. An angry president refused to see Custer, and when the lieutenant colonel left Washington D.C. without orders he was placed under arrest. This almost removed Custer from taking part in the 1876 Sioux war. Again, those film buffs who know They Died with Their Boots On (1941) intimately, Custer was punished, but it wasn’t for exposing a fake war due to gold being discovered in the Black Hills but for his participation in the Indian Ring scandal. Also, Custer wasn’t reinstated to command the Seventh U.S. Cavalry due to Flynn’s Custer confronting Grant. No! Generals Alfred Terry and Philip Sheridan requested that Custer be reinstated.

As Wynkoop was good looking, had risked his life to meet with warring Indians in an attempt to end a war, and had later become an Indian agent, I decided that he would make the perfect villain for my novel. I began to research him, and Oops! … He wasn’t who I thought he was, and he wasn’t on the take. I never wrote that novel, but my discovery of who Wynkoop really was led me on a journey that has continued to this day.

Portrait of Wynkoop that has been published in two books and I think three magazines. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Ultimately it would be how he reacted to the Sand Creek Massacre that allowed me to be open to writing a book about the subject. This said, it took roughly 25 years before a friend who had a hand in Lt. Charles Gatewood & his Apache Wars Memoir being published and who contracted Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek broached the subject of writing a book that I had no desire to write. He pitched that I had a lot of the required information in-house.

I didn’t have anything close to all the research in-house, but I didn’t know that then. Luckily then University of Oklahoma Press editor in chief Chuck Rankin didn’t give up.

LK with OU Press Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association convention in Oakland, California, on 15oct2011. Chuck gave me the Wynkoop book poster hanging behind us. I framed it and it has been displayed at Tujunga House ever since. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2011)

I said “no” numerous times, but Chuck—God bless him—refused to accept my answer, and the rest is history. … Meaning he won me over, we worked out a proposal that was acceptable to both of us, the contract was signed, and I quickly descended into the depths of hell as I struggled to locate mandatory information while at the same time trying to piece the jigsaw of facts and quotes and actions of the leading and supporting players into a readable story.

Although the beginning of the project was a disaster as I searched for what was mandatory to bring the story to life, I did find numerous leads that led to block walls and dead ends. At times this was costly, … not always in cash, but always in time—special time, which is oh-so fleeting for it is something that is gone in a flash never to return except in our memories. This said, some of these failures are worth their weight in gold, for they proved without a doubt that what appeared to be history was nothing more than fiction that had been reprinted so often that it is now accepted as fact.

Gordon Yellowman (left) and Harvey Pratt standing on the overlook to the Cheyenne Washita River village site where Chief Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman Later where killed by Custer’s troops when the Seventh U.S. Cavalry charged into the village at dawn on 27nov1868 without knowing who the occupants were. On that day Harvey spoke about Cheyenne warriors from the past and in today’s wars around the globe. Gordon blessed the village site on this day, and on the following day talked about what it was like to be a Cheyenne chief. (photo © Louis Kraft, Gordon Yellowman, and Harvey Pratt 2011)

Of course there is one instance of this that isn’t true. Actually the documents exist but the Oklahoma state government—in an effort to hide the theft of American Indian land—blocked the access to this valuable information from researchers such as myself as the dark past had to vanish to protect the guilty. This was also tragic to historian Dee Cordry, whose upcoming book on key players that I also write about will be must reading when published. Harvey Pratt, his good friend, and a man I was privileged to meet at the Washita Battlefield NHS during a two-day symposium wherein we both spoke in 2011, provided us with the citation we needed.

My memories of the entire process of creating Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway slowly morphed into the best project of my life. It far exceeded anything from my acting career, anything from my software writing career, and anything from my fictional and nonfiction projects (including articles and talks). This is a big statement from me. … One of the highlights was Gordon Yellowman allowing me to use his magnificent art, Sand Creek, on the cover of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

Pailin took this image on 3oct2014. Good friend and great Cheyenne and Indian wars historian John Monnett (center) and his wife Linda took us to the Sand Creek Massacre NHS in southeast Colorado. Before walking along the bluffs to the west of the extended village site Jeff C. Campbell (NHS ranger–interpretation) kindly spent time with us. I consider him the foremost expert on the village and the terrible actions of November 29-30, 1864. He has since provided me invaluable information in phone conversations, and by providing his documentation and commenting on mine. I can’t begin to tell you how much John has contributed to my understanding of the Cheyenne wars of the 1860s. This was a good day for me. (photo © Jeff C. Campbell, John Monnett, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, and Louis Kraft)

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

I’m already feeling the loss of having a day-in and day-out schedule that was non-ending. No matter what else I had to complete, and there was a lot going on during these long-long years that I had to deliver: talks, articles, software books (I think that my last full set of books at Oracle was 23, which I delivered on deadline—I think the cost for them was $100,000), and a novel from hell (but it contained many of the same obstacles as did the Sand Creek manuscript, and I used it as a training ground). I’m proud of The Discovery, a medical-legal thriller that goes in totally unexpected directions and of the Sand Creek story.

One thing that I have is a brain, and it functions on all cylinders at all times.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of people who help me, for there are, and they range from good friends from my Indian wars, American Indians, and Golden Age of Cinema connections. This also includes archival staffs, library staffs, and book and magazine editors and their staffs. Some I know in the flesh and have spent good times with them in SoCal and in many locations across the USA from Virginia to Tucson, Arizona, and in the case of Olivia de Havilland in Paris.

I have many-many more who have worked with me on the phone, via email, and with letters but have never met in person, and some of these people have become good friends, especially Dee Cordry, who, God-willing, I’ll meet in person later this year (at the moment COVID-19 has put that trip in jeopardy). For a number of years now Dee and I have enjoyed an open-door round-robin phone calls and emails wherein we’ve done everything possible to help each other out with our writing projects. Dee administers a terrific page on Facebook that I highly recommend: Cheyenne Trails & Tales. It is a wonderful location to learn about the “Called Out People,” the Tsistsistas (Cheyennes), and rub elbows with them and other American Indians, artists, writer-historians, and people who know and care about their lives, culture, and history.

Harvey Pratt, who, as mentioned above, came to my and Dee’s rescue with invaluable documentation that is related to his family, but is no longer available to writer-historians due to a law that the state of Oklahoma set in place years back to protect unscrupulous people that were thieves and worse. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am to him for his kindness.

I created this painting from a photo I took of Paul and Connie Hedren at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Awards in April 2012. Paul won a Wrangler for his book, After Custer (OU Press, 2011) and I won one for “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” (Wild West, August 2011). (art © Louis Kraft © 2016).

There have been many others who contributed, and one, Indian wars historian Paul Hedren did an in-depth peer review of the Sand Creek manuscript that was easily worth a bag of gold. So did my other peer reviewer but this person chose to remain unknown. As I know a lot of writers who distain or refuse to consider constructive criticism, I have just a handful of words for you—stuff your egos in a box and do what you can to improve your work. … Once there was a Custer historian who thought that he was God’s gift to Indian wars history. Decades back one of his books was being reprinted by another publisher, and I asked him if he would do anything to improve it. He answered, “No. It’s perfect.” He moved on to the other side many years back. Before he did, I never had the guts to tell him that I couldn’t get through the first chapter of “his masterpiece.” Back to Paul; he’s an award-winning author and a well respected authority on the Indian wars. Thank you, Paul, from the bottom of my heart.

I had hoped to post photos and talk about others here, but due the unfortunate truth that I don’t have photos that I had requested of many of them, along with the fact that I don’t have enough room to do so, I hope to address this in future blogs.

LK’s writing world is an ongoing swirl
of research & creativity

Errol & Olivia

Know that some of my copyrighted photographs have been lifted illegally; ditto some of my art. All I can say is that it is a sad state of affairs in the United States when distortion, lies, theft, and violence are condoned. A sad state. The current government is responsible for this (and I have little respect for most of the elected candidates in both major parties), for most of our elected officials think nothing about blatantly lying while doing everything to better the rich at the cost of the electorate, and in some cases doing everything possible to destroy anyone who disagrees with them.

I know, … a strange beginning to my current number 1 book project. I know.

This photo of Tujunga House was taken on 13oct2016 shortly before nightfall, and for the record our rooms are in constant change. One of the reasons is downsizing. To date the largest hit has been on books and research (and I hate to say it but they are in every room except for the bathroom and kitchen). It’s simple with the books. Do I need them for my current and future projects or will I perhaps read them again for pleasure? If no to either question—good bye. This is similar with the research, except some of the past as well as some that is still in the future is going to move to the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library (History Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe) later this year. I had hoped (and still hope) that this could be an in-person delivery. If not, it will be via FedEx. I sold a lot of American Indian (actually everything I had up for sale last year), Custer, Indian wars, and fiction. More has since been boxed for local bookstores but my health shut that down. COVID-19 has now shut down the local stores (although one bought four huge boxes prior to the Federal government waking up to the fact that the pandemic is real) and a surgery has shut me down until mid-June. More will be eliminated ranging from Custer (my collection is still huge), more Indian wars, probably some film stuff, certainly more fiction (including a first edition Steinbeck along with other key novels), and whatever else I dig up. … Back to the room, which enters into my office and then into a hallway. Change is good, but there’s always a part of me present (and now a part of Pailin is in all the rooms, and you can see some of it here). This said, some of what you see are key to my future writing. The Flynn posters have been up for a long time for two reasons: I like them and each time I look at them they remind me to get the work done! The two small framed images by the lamp are of the pirate Francis Drake for the same reason. The two swords I designed, and they are totally illegal in dueling competition. They are your basic sabres, except that the blades are for épées (where you score points by merely plucking a wrist or arm with the point of the blade) and they don’t bend like foils or sabres, the bells are for sabres but are oversized (and not allowed in competition). Almost all the good dueling you see on stage or in film is with both thrusting and slashing, which you do with sabres. (photo © Louis Kraft 2016)

Progress
Progress is slow, but good. … This is the only way that I work, and honestly I’m thrilled. Just so you know, I easily have enough research in house to complete this project, but believe it or not, since I have returned to Errol & Olivia full time in January 2020 (not counting about four weeks that I have lost due to my health and other work that had to be dealt with, including this blog) my research continues to outpace my writing by easily 75 percent of the time that I have allotted to this manuscript. This is good, for as my knowledge grows so does the twists and turns in the storyline. This  is how I work, and for me it is the only way to work. And this means that I must be focused at all times while being ready to change direction at the drop of a hat.

Scope
The scope has grown considerably, but there’s nothing new here for the growth was already in place in 2015—I just didn’t advertise it. More exactly I needed to sit on this growth for five years. Am I good with this? You bet! Currently this expansion is already over 30,000 words, and more is a comin’.

The reason should be obvious, and it is based upon how long it takes me to complete a polished draft, and the fact that I need to live a long time for there are other Flynn book ideas hovering on the horizon.

What I bring to the table
I wrote these words in August 2013, and they are appropriate here.
I think you need to know a little about me that relates to me being capable of writing Errol & Olivia. Obviously I write biographies, but more is required. I don’t want to drag this out with a lot of words, so we’ll use a few bullets:
  • I discovered Flynn and de Havilland’s films when a boy
  • Flynn’s acting and writing influenced my life
  • While a young teenager I studied fencing with Ralph Faulkner in Hollywood
    • This led to me learning sabre and dueling competition in college
    • It eventually led to me learning “swashbuckling,” or stage combat, and choreographing duels and dueling on stage
  • In junior high school I began studying acting and performing
    • This continued in high school
    • In college I majored in acting and directing
  • For about 15 years after college I attempted to survive in the acting world
  • After quitting acting I have survived as a writer
  • When opportunity presented itself in 2002 I returned to the stage but only in plays I have written
  • I have a track record of bringing historical figures to life in print, on stage, and when speaking before an audience … not to mention my skill with a blade

LK working out with a lady I loved crossing swords with on 3dec1981, as she was a good swashbuckler and fun to be around. That’s our coach on the right side of the image as he and a cameraman shot this workout. Alas, I never saw the filmed footage. (photo © Louis Kraft 1981)

I believe the above qualifies me to not only write about Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland but to approach their lives during a very short period of time in a different and perhaps avant-garde manner. These words are key, for they provide a hint to how I’m writing Errol & Olivia. … And better, I’m going into detail and it’s going to be fun detail; fun and multi-leveled. All I have to do is make it happen.

“Must See, Must Read”
Five intriguing books and five films about the Indian Wars
by Louis Kraft*
Wild West (August 2014)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941, on DVD, Warner Home Video): If Errol Flynn hadn’t played George Armstrong Custer, there would have been no Kraft writing about the Indian wars. Long years past through the present day, critics of this film have pounded it for its historical inaccuracy. Although true, let me invite you to actually research it—which I’ve done since the mid-1990s in preparation of multiple books on Errol Flynn (the first to be called Errol & Olivia). The thrust has been simple: In 1941 Warner Bros. feared being sued, and historical players and facts changed to fiction. Even though the film is fiction, it is so close to truths that have been disguised and altered that it’s scary. I can’t list them here, but trust me, for ’tis true. Don’t buy it? Do your own research. … Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer is magnificent, for he captured the spirit of the man; and Olivia de Havilland is perfect as Libbie Custer. It is arguably Flynn’s best performance, and by far their best performances in the eight films they did together.”
* This column is ongoing in Wild West (by contributors to the magazine).
Usually five books and five films have mini reviews. I made my comments personally related to my writing career. This issue also included two other LK articles.
One, a feature, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” was, I believe, the best
article that I have written about Ned Wynkoop.

Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On just before he sets out for Montana Territory and destiny, and the real Custer 11 years before his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. For the record Custer set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on his final Indian campaign on May 17, 1876. He didn’t engage Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians on the Little Bighorn River until June 25, 1876. This fact is here for, believe it or not, people have stated to me numerous times that Custer fought his final battle a day or two after setting out. (This image is in the Louis Kraft Collection)

A glimpse at Captain Blood

Here I’m talking about Rafael Sabatini’s great 1922 novel, Captain Blood: The Odyssey, and the classic 1935 Michael Curtiz-directed Captain Blood, which made Errol Flynn a superstar (this term wouldn’t be created until decades after his death) and Olivia de Havilland (and she said this), “a small star.”

This image is based upon a photo taken during a workout shortly before nightfall on 15sept2015. For the record, stage combat/swashbuckling is done with a minimal amount of protective gear, such as elbow and knee pads. Also, in case you didn’t know, the slashing offensive moves have numbers with the same numbers attached to the defensive actions to parry (block) the attack. It’s just like dance, and both combatants must know the moves in slow motion before confronting each other in real time. If not, and one of the duelists gets lost, he/she must get back on track by calling out the numbers so that both parties know exactly what is happening, or simply back off and halt the encounter. I know this for a fact, for while playing Miles Hendon in a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper in Northern California in 1982 I came within an inch of losing my left eye when the villain got lost and improvised. After the performance the other actors had to hold us apart as I wanted to tear his head off. … When allowed, the first thing I’ll be doing is strengthening my legs, midriff, and arms, and then working out with a blade. BTW, that’s my hair. Yep, sometimes I’m a little slow cutting it. Also I was trying to sell Johnny D. Boggs to allow me to adapt his great novel, East of the Border (Five Star, 2004), which was about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro on the stage. I wanted to play Hickok. Neither Johnny or my great friend and only director this century, Tom Eubanks, weren’t interested. After several years I gave up. You win some and you lose some. Oh, Mr. Eubanks, this image is for you. Guess why. (image © Louis Kraft 2020)

Sabatini’s Captain Blood played a large role in the creation of the Curtiz film, which is in stark contrast to his terrific novel The Sea Hawk. I’ll spend a fair amount of time with the story line of the film, as I think what I’ll say is important. Also, what I have discovered this year has improved my view of the film at least tenfold.

I don’t think that I’m giving anything away when I state that the only thing that Warner Bros. used from Sabatini’s The Sea Hawk, was his title.

That’s it? That’s all you’re going to say about Captain Blood?

I know, … I know, and I know, but I need to say something and it is important:

I could easily add 7,500 words to this blog discussing Captain Blood, my progress with Mr. Flynn, Ms. de Havilland, and the early part of their life and times working together at Warner Bros. The lead-in to this section guarantees that I must keep my mouth shut or face the consequences—the ongoing theft of my copyrighted material, and facts turned into readable prose is a much greater loss than the images. Besides if I share everything there would be no reason for you to buy the book.

I track the thefts. Obviously I don’t have the money to sue each and every cretin. This said, if I ever meet one of them in the flesh, I will deal with them exactly as Mr. Flynn dealt with columnist Jimmie Fidler. Those of you who know Flynn, know exactly what I’m talking about (but it will be juicier than what you know); those of you who don’t will be in for a treat.

E&O on a daily basis

I bought this book (left) when it was first published in 1962, and although treated with kid gloves it hasn’t aged gracefully. The pages have all yellowed and the cover has begun to darken on the edges. There are a lot of quotes in the chapter on Flynn, but I don’t dare trust any of them. That’s right, my view of this book is not worth stating here. All I’ll say is that it won’t appear in my bibliography unless I decide to use a small portion of it to demonstrate how amoral writers deceive their readers. Honestly, this isn’t going to happen for I’m not going to waste any of my word count on a book that should never have been published.

One Flynn historian (who was clueless on how to write nonfiction, and lordy-lordy help us for the fiction will fly fancy-free with zero documentation when his BOOK to END ALL FLYNN BOOKS sees print. I know this for a fact, for after he provided me with a great quote, AND after a month’s worth of my time searching the confirmed archival file for the proof of what he provided, I realized that he was F—g me in the rear end; his research was pure bullshit). This clown once asked me why I read everything that I can get my hands on that is related to my research on Flynn and de Havilland. My answer was simple: “If you don’t know what is in print, regardless if it is accurate or not, you’ll never know this unless you read it.” This was above his egotistical comprehension. Let me just say this, a lot of what has been published about Flynn and de Havilland is error-riddled crap. Lucky us, for there is yet another book moving toward publication that will join this club. If it is ever published buy it at your own risk.

For example, the nonfiction book, “Get Me Giesler” (above) by John Roeburt (the title of the book is a quote). Jerry Giesler was the famed defense lawyer who took on Errol Flynn’s statutory rape case in 1942. I don’t know what I thought about the book in the dark ages. However, now I view it is a sensationalized piece of crap. Of course it is loaded with errors, some of which are egregious. Outrageous might be a better choice of words here, for when the author introduces that Flynn was again confronted with sex with a minor when he had just married his third wife, Patrice Wymore, in Europe, the reader is told that this crime again took place on his ketch, the Sirocco. As Errol had sold the Sirocco not too long after he was acquitted of the charges in 1943, and didn’t marry Pat until 1950, this error pops off the page. Why? Was Roeburt shooting from the hip and didn’t confirm any of his facts? Or did he do it on purpose to make a parallel comparison? If yes, why? These types of errors also make me wonder how many other errors are present in the book. If ever you read the book, and see what I’m talking about, you should also ask the same question. Mainly, are Roeburt’s errors simply piss-poor research or did he create them on purpose? Trust me, this is an either/or question.

Although writing isn’t everyday, for the simple reason that the days aren’t long enough to get everything on my daily list accomplished. More, research is ongoing from day to day. It might be working on tracking down something that may have happened and may not have have happened. Regardless, I must know the answer. Or it might be rummaging through my massive collection of primary source documentation. When I do this, I’m usually looking for something that I know I have and want to add it to the manuscript. Or it might be spent reading selections from my massive library on Mr. Flynn, Ms. de Havilland, and the supporting players in their lives.

Errol, Olivia & the Sand Creek story

One of the things that took so long to complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway was that I needed to get the historical events in the correct order (no easy task) and bring the main and supporting players to life (and this was totally based upon their actions, their words, and what other contemporaries said about them). This is exactly how I intend to present Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland.

Pailin took this image Tom McNulty at our house on 11apr2014 when he and his beautiful wife Jan visited. (photo copyright © Thomas McNulty, Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

I’m certain that many of you who know anything about Errol Flynn’s life are acquainted with Thomas McNulty’s magnificent biography of him, Errol Flynn: His Life and Times (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2004). If you aren’t aware of Tom’s book, or haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and get your hands on it. I first read it when it was published, and immediately realized that it was—by far—the best biography written about Mr. Flynn, actor, writer, sailor, father. It was then and it still is today. I’m proud to call Tom and his wife Jan friends.

Tom went the extra mile with his EF book, he did a massive amount of research and added a lot of information that isn’t present in other biographies—that is, he did everything possible to bring Errol to life using his actions, quotes, and others’ thoughts about him.

**********

Like my writing about race relations between Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches (and soon to be Navajos), and whites, I have a fairly large network of Flynn/de Havilland archives and knowledgable people (and most are friends, but due to the distances between us some I only know long distance. Those of you in this category I hope to meet in the flesh someday. Flesh? Meaning naked? If you are a beautiful woman, yes! A man? Absolutely not! Regardless of your view of these words by LK, for true or not it was just my mind floating in Na-na land, Pardon me.

This photo of Selene Hutchison-Zuffi was taken in November 2019. She is a historian who works at the Duncan Tavern Historic Center in Paris, Kentucky, who loves to research, is an avid reader (“an avid reader” … my kind of person), and has a deep-rooted interest in the study of Errol Flynn. Because of this David DeWitt made her a co-administrator on his The Errol Flynn Blog on Facebook (also see below). (photo © Selene Hutchison-Zuffi 2019)

To repeat myself, E&O is about their life and times, and if all goes as planned I hope to add a lot that you may not know about them, and not just the good (although there will be good where you thought there wasn’t). All lives are not all good, although in many memoirs and biographies the subjects are pristine individuals without any faults. I have trouble reading these books for all of us—certainly me—have made decisions that weren’t good or mistakes we shouldn’t have made along the way. This is what makes us who we are. Errol and Olivia are no different, and by showing who they were/are will hopefully bring them to life. What I share will not be all positive and certainly not all negative, for the story will be about two people who thought they acted correctly when they did what they did. Trust me, Errol and Olivia were/are two exceptional human beings. Both were/are very intelligent; both were people of the world (Errol beginning with his early days and Olivia when she decided to change her life’s course); both were very desirable to those who knew/know them or wanted to know them; and damn, but both had/have great senses of humor. They were/are real people with real emotions and desires, and not clichés.


I am responsible for every word I write that is published. it doesn’t matter
if an editor messes up my facts or stuffs something into my manuscript that they
know nothing about but spit forth crap as if they are God’s gift to the published word.
When I fix their errors back to what is correct, I expect to see it in print. But sometimes this doesn’t happen. Sometimes the fixes make it into the proofs but then poof! They
are removed from a final proof that I wasn’t allowed to see. It makes no
difference why this happens, for whatever the reason for the errors,
theirs or mine, are now mine and only mine. Everything is on me.
Everything. … This said, I love my editors no matter how livid
I may become when something that should
have happened didn’t.


This is a library binding of Sabatini’s book that I purchased from a library used book sale in the San Fernando Valley decades ago. It is a 1950 reprint of the classic 1922 work.

As with all my writing, and I can’t stress this enough, is how much people help me during the entire process of discovery and comprehension while I slowly piece my manuscript together. The process continues until the work is published, and often never stops unless I decide to walk away from the subject. Selene (her photo is above) is one of these people who has kindly helped with E&O. Better, this has led to a friendship.

Oh, one more thing and it is important. Over the years I have talked about Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and some Flynn and de Havilland historians and fans haven’t been too pleased with some of my views—which I will discuss in E&O. This year I have spent a lot of time with both films digging through my primary source research, studying the scripts, and viewing selected scenes from the films that will be highlighted in the book.

To those of you who think that I need a good stoning or tar and feathering for my heretical views, mellow out. My opinions of both films* have improved considerably, and this, too, will be highlighted.

* When I complied a top 12 Flynn film list a number of years back Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood didn’t make the cut. I know, heresy. Neither did Four’s a Crowd, which I love and would have made the list if it been a top 13 list. Flynn and Livvie, as he called her, shine in this film.

Some thoughts that aren’t new

Before louiskraftwriter.com I had the long dead louiskraft.com, but I didn’t design or control it (I only supplied the words, images, and links). Eventually I couldn’t get anything updated (nothing—nada), and it didn’t matter what I offered $$$-wise to get the website updated. This was a joke, a bad joke, and there were other reasons that I couldn’t get it updated. Enough was enough! I walked away and waited for it to die a lonely death. A website (or blog) must be a living presence on the internet (and the administrator can’t disappear). A website/blog can’t be static. The end had been coming for some time, but when the website vanished—gone as if it had never existed I didn’t know it, as I wasn’t informed. It took months before I stumbled upon its demise. … A fleeting image, a ghost, remembered but no longer reality.

About two years later great bud and Errol Flynn expert David DeWitt visited LA and stayed at Tujunga House in early 2013. I had already been planning to create louiskraftwriter.com (even though I didn’t know what the name would be at that time), and he hooked me up with PressHarbor and set up the key information for the new website & blog. He also provided me with some training, a lot of tips, and information on how to proceed.

See David’s great The Errol Flynn Blog, and also his The Errol Flynn Blog on Facebook, both of which he administers. Selene Hutchison-Zuffi, who has become my friend, is also an administrator on the EF Facebook blog.

David_DeWitt_jan2013

I took this image of David DeWitt in the front of Tujunga House in January 2013 when he visited and helped me set up this website/blog. Great times for LK. (photo © Louis Kraft & David DeWitt 2013)

David is an extraordinary gentleman, funny, bright, and I can’t begin to tell you how many great hours we shared just letting our minds connect and flow deep into the night while we talked during his visit. Certainly we discussed Flynn and Olivia de Havilland during his visit, but we also chatted about our current worlds—his and mine—and our past worlds. David is one of my great friends and a go to-expert that I respect.

We live near oceans. I have a mountain range (Santa Monica Mountains) between me and the Pacific, which means if ever a tsunami assaults SoCal as has have happened to Thailand, India, and many other locations Pailin and I will survive the devastation (I shouldn’t say this, but will: there are a lot of stories to tell about LK and the Pacific and some of them are R-rated). David lives on a beach on the South Carolina coast of the Atlantic. When he shares some of his images that he has taken while walking along the sand it looks like heaven. I can’t tell you how envious I am, if I ignore the hurricanes. … Luckily we have a great relationship that grows and thrives. I just wish that we were both lived on the same USA coast.

As everyone who sees these blogs knows that louiskraftwriter.com deals with my thoughts on writing, history, work, life, opinions, and sometimes craziness. I don’t need to say anything else about it, other than when you visit I hope that I don’t bore you to tears.

The website has been updated; some pages have vanished while others have appeared, and certainly Errol & Olivia is featured under Projects.

psk_hallowween_2016_1_ws

Something that hasn’t happened—yet

Jasmine took this image of Taipae, her dog, and my beautiful Pailin at Green Day Spa on Halloween 2016. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2016)

In mid-September 2016 I learned that louiskraft.com would become available to purchase at a bargain, and I started the process to buy it. Why? I don’t know, but it didn’t matter, for after I had the winning and only bid I was told that they wanted more money. Adios, amigos. Viya con Dios (Go with God). End of subject. No loss for LK.

Timing is always everything. At that time when the website name became available, but before I realized it was a scam, Pailin had presented me with a Thai word that she told me meant “happy.” When I started using it, she laughed and laughed. Something smelled fishy, but what? Finally we agreed that I’d use the word as it related to a friend (forever unnamed) and she’d film it. Afterward she laughed and laughed. We viewed the video together and she again laughed and laughed. I had used an angry interpretation of the word but couldn’t understand why she was laughing. She enlightened me somewhat, but not totally. I told her that I needed a take no. 2. We taped it. Much better, as I came across sincere, but she couldn’t stop laughing when I viewed it with her. Why? She refused to share the reason. I said that I’d post take 2 on You Tube.”No! No!” she exclaimed, “You can’t do that!” “Huh?” Silence. … I pressed her for what was really going on and eventually she told me the word’s real definition. … What it really meant, … and it wasn’t close to what she had originally told me. The word actually meant something totally different—something good, something that’s always on my R+ rated mind (sorry, but no details are forthcoming).

Pailin at Tujunga House on 22nov2018—Thanksgiving. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2018)

My turn. I laughed and laughed. She was right. Neither tape could ever be posted anywhere. Ever!

*****

Still the two tapes gave me an idea on how to try to expand my writing projects to the public. Heck, you never know—it might even bring in extra money. Wouldn’t that be nice? More important, this idea might be another way for me to raise questions that I need to ask. How can I truthfully write about people if I’m unclear who they were or why they did what they did? … Alas, this still has not happened due to time limitations. Fingers are crossed that it may now be in my near future.

February 14 throughout time …

Time is short, and I don’t have much to spare, but this day has always played an important role in my life. … And it continues until this time. Actually the here and now is much-much more important than ever.

February 14 is Pailin’s day and it is my day, and nothing can
change this. Ever. Night has arrived. The Vette is ready to growl
(something that makes my lady nervous, but it shouldn’t as the car
and I have bonded over the years). We are off to celebrate not
only this special day but also our marriage on this day in
2014—time flies when you are in love for all time.
(photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)


Oh yeah, the wrinkles are deeper now, thanks to the past nine months.
Still, I’m grateful for each and every minute since June last,
for this time has been the most special in my entire life.

This image of us playing in the snow was taken in 1956; most likely at Mount Baldy, which is local to Los Angeles and was an easy drive from Reseda, where we lived in the San Fernando Valley. (photo © Louis Kraft 1956)

My mother was my first Valentine
And she was so for many-many years. As the song that Elvis Presley sang and excelled at, says, “Oh, mama liked the roses in such a special way …,” and mine did, especially on Mother’s day and Valentine’s day. I was a mama’s boy, and I can’t begin to tell you how close we were over the years. … We still are.

It’s hard to believe that she’s now been gone for over forty years.

Five women who played major roles in my life
I’m not sharing their names (but you know one of them for she’s in this blog—and she and one other are the only two people I would forfeit my life for in a heartbeat), but some of you may have known one of the other three. There are stories to tell here. Some would make you laugh; others might make you cringe. This said, I’m lucky to know or have known all five. … One I still have contact with and another currently plays a huge part in my life (our relationship has grown and matured over the decades).

My father
He was never my Valentine, but he was forever present in my life … as I was in his (and there are stories to tell here; I could write a book about our relationship). Over most of those years we clashed, and yet he always had my back. There was never a doubt that we loved each other, although at times our actions may have seemed to contradict this. … As the years passed and he grew frail I took care of him, and saw him three- or four- or five-times each week. We ate together, drank together, joked together, discussed our lives (past and present) and enjoyed each others company.

When this photo was taken I wrote for Storm Control Systems, a company that created software that controlled unmanned spacecraft after they were in orbit. We had one customer, the Hughes Satellite Wing of the Hughes Space and Communications Company, which was across the street from us in the South Bay of Los Angeles County in El Segundo. My hours began at 6:00 am and the 26-mile drive was a breeze, but it didn’t matter if I left at 3:00 pm or two or three hours later—the drive was a nightmare (at least an hour and a half to his house and two to mine). I did all his shopping and ate with him about four times a week. Although he was totally against me not following in his footsteps, he saw every play I did locally and read and commented on my drafts, screenplays, articles, and books. On this day (probably a Sunday) we were watching a Dallas Cowboys football game. Johnny Unitas was my man (and always will be). I did like Joe Montana, and Jim Plunkett looked like he played sandlot football (which I did often) but he won some big games. They were gone and I dropped football like a hot potato, except when with my dad—although I did enjoy John Elway’s perseverance. It took Tony Romo (near the end of his career) and Tom Brady to bring me back to football. In this image my dad was enjoying a glass of whiskey and water or Coke, and I may have had a glass of vodka and juice. (photo © Louis Kraft 1998)

My presence, along with a family with three boys across the street, did everything we could so that he could remain in his home. We almost succeeded, but he became so frail that he needed to spend time in an assisted living facility. He was there a week, maybe a little longer, and I could see he wouldn’t leave. I saw him and spent good time with him every day. On a special evening as I was leaving, he said, “I love you.” I always knew this, for during our entire lives together it was obvious. This was the first and only time he ever said this to me.

The next day, February 14, 1999, began early in the morning but quickly turned into a long day and night in living color—a nightmare without end. He died shortly before the wee hours of the fifteenth. This seems like a terrible memory. It wasn’t, for I was lucky to be with him to the end. It was as it had been when his wife/my mother died nineteen years earlier—just him and me (although on this late afternoon and evening three ladies/two are still major in my life) were with me even though a wall separated us when the time arrived. … Afterward my daughter and I were then able to spend time with him.

I’m one lucky cowboy,
for my father gave me the strength to follow my own trail.

Pailin’s perfect day

The following was mostly pulled from social media, but I posted it there so that it
was ready to place here. Those that have already read it, my apologies for
my lady’s perfect day was a major piece of her life and it belongs here.

As some of you knew I had problems beginning in late January before exploding into burning pain by mid-February. Unable to learn how to deal with it online I figured out how to work around this to allow me to escape from captivity even if only for a short time—don’t eat anything.

Pailin playing finger guns with me on 17jun2015. It’s a combination of hide and seek and shooting each other. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

Also, as some of you may know, Pailin and I are much alike. We are goofballs and we make each other laugh all the time. Perhaps this is because we are still kids at heart. We also have total focus on what we want to do, what we want to accomplish, and we do whatever is necessary to make this happen regardless of what we must overcome.

March 10 was an important day in my lady’s life and I wasn’t going to miss it. She drove while I chattered away, kept my legs as straight as possible, and applied pressure to the lower right side of my abdomen. The early morning rainstorm pounded her car while she maneuvered her way through bumper-to-bumper traffic while avoiding numerous freeways. She was heading to the USCIS building in downtown Los Angeles. This is a place that we both know well, and she intimately, for although I have been in key meetings there with her, on this day it would just be her. Oh, if you don’t know, USCIS stands for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The rain had stopped by the time we reached her destination, and this was lucky for us for after we took an elevator up to a courtyard in a mall I led us up the wrong staircase. Outside we should have been facing the USCIS building, but weren’t. Still we crossed the street to figure out where we were. As it turned out we had used the wrong elevator, and the courtyard looked the same to the east and west staircase exits. As we could see the building to the west we worked our way to it. The cane worked fine as did the pressure I held on the trouble spot. Once inside the building and in the correct room Pailin checked in and sat down to await her turn. I tried to get comfortable while standing, but couldn’t do it. We had discussed this, and had agreed that I would return to the car.

Pailin in the huge garage across Los Angeles Street from USCIS on 10mar2020 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

As it turned out Pailin’s interview was elsewhere in the building. As she reached the door for her interview the person before her exited the room crying. Pailin knew immediately why, for this lady only carried her passport and what looked like her appointment letter. In stark contrast she carried a large briefcase with all the required documentation, including five years of tax returns, all the original documents from her life, which also included our marriage license, photos, her and my passports, and on and on. She also had two books that I had dedicated to her. She had studied for months (including a document with 100 possible questions to a handful of films and slideshows that showed the process as well as presented different questions), and I can’t begin to tell you how much her spoken and written English had improved. She had a good idea of how the meeting would play out and was not upset by what she had just seen.

She called me after she returned to the courtyard, and I hustled to get to her. She was so excited and happy. We hugged and hugged, and I’ll never be able to tell you how proud I am of her for it is beyond belief.

Pailin and LK shortly after see aced her USCIS interview. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

Pailin’s interviewer was a Latina, and the entire meeting was casual; that is, they mostly talked about this and that in Pailin’s life with the USCIS agent randomly slipping questions into their conversation. Basically they chatted and got to know each other a little. The meeting focused on Pailin’s life, civics, U.S. history, and the English language.

Pailin told me that the USCIS agent asked her about the drive that morning and how long it took, her name, her employer’s address, why did she travel to the United States, what is the number U.S. senators, how long has she lived at her current address, when is the presidential election, how did you meet your husband, … There were no numbers to the questions, and she answered everything correctly. This also included few questions on a tablet that Pailin read and then wrote her answers. After a while the interviewer said to Pailin, “We don’t have to go on, for you have answered everything correctly, and I can see how much you love your husband and living in the United States,” … yes, my lady was enthusiastic and full of joy with some of her answers … “and I have recommended that you become a United States citizen. You’ll learn the answer soon.”

I took this photo of my happy lady shortly after we returned home from her USCIS appointment on 10mar2020. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

Before the day ended Pailin received notice that her application to become a U.S. citizen had been accepted. The ceremony wherein she would swear an oath to allegiance the U.S was set for March 19. Appropriately just days before she swore her oath of allegiance, the ceremony was postponed due to the novel coronavirus that has been sweeping across the USA (in particular Washington, California, New York, and now also Florida) and the rest of the world. Whenever it is rescheduled you can bet that I’ll be present with a huge smile on my face.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde or is it …
Dr. Kraft & Mr. Hyde, and a surgery

Some of the classic writers that were prolific in the late nineteenth century or the early twentieth century or both have been some of the writers that I’ve enjoyed over the decades, from Robert Louis Stevenson to H. G. Wells to Edgar Rice Burroughs to Rafael Sabatini.

John Barrymore as Mr. Stevenson’s creations on a video cover (BTW, it’s on Amazon Prime). My mother told me more than once that her father was amazed with the Great Profile’s transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde on the Broadway stage. I have yet to confirm that Barrymore played Jekyll/Hyde on Broadway and think her memory had been off and that her father/my grandfather (who died when I was six) was referring to the 1920 film.

Certainly Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) is a classic. At times I feel that I would be perfect casting to play both roles, and I could make the transition from Dr. Kraft by not getting a shot and nine days of declining pills; that is four pills twice for three days, three pills twice for three days, and two pills twice for three days. By the evening of the fourth day after the pills had ended I would begin to become Mr. Hyde. The transition would be complete by the morning of the fifth day.

The physician treating me (and he is special) and I realized that the only way for me to again become Dr. Kraft would be to administer a shot and begin another cycle of pills (BTW, these pills would differ over time). 

A little LK background before we talk monsters

Actually this is LK, but it is also the warrior/mystic Apache Geronimo and actor/writer Errol Flynn and the pirate Francis Drake and on and on with me listing everyone I have written about. That is, we are all human beings and we will be judged by our actions, our words, and what other people who know/knew us share. My life is totally different from Flynn, Geronimo, and Drake’s and their lives are totally different from mine. … When anyone writes about us or anyone else the goal should be to find the truth, for that is what defines the person—and not what has most often been printed, “goody-two shoe stories” or “an evil as dark as the devil.”

I’m no saint, and lordy knows I’ve been a hellion for a good part of my life. Does this make me a monster, such as Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde as created by Dr. Jekyll?” No. … For me, mass murderers, rapists, butchers of humankind, and out-and-out racists are or could be monsters depending upon how their actions, views, and words play out.

A long time back after completing roughly 12 days at sea on a Navy nuclear helicopter carrier while living at Hotel del Coronado—the historic beachfront hotel in the city of Coronado, just across San Diego Bay from the California city of San Diego—and better, just steps from the harbor. After location filming concluded I returned to LA. On December 14 of that year this image of me was taken while I was in makeup as Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. Other than dealing with death it was a good time for me. (photo © Louis Kraft 1979)

Slipping back in time I was for a short instant a monster, and so was the lady at my side. This slight detour should really be labeled “beauty and the beast,” for she was (and still is) gorgeous, and well, hell, the image of me in makeup is closer to my view of myself.

Yuck! Just nasty!

After years I’ve learned to live with what I look like, but also over this time I have covered my face with all sorts of mustaches, goatees, and beards—at least then I could envision myself as a pirate or a frontiersman. AND NO, I’m not looking for a comment here. I know, “Kraft, that’s a bad attitude.” What can I say, other than it has been present for decades.

In June 2019 during a trip to Tucson, Arizona, to meet with Stuart Rosebrook, editor of True West, to discuss me writing for the magazine, reality crashed into my world and totally upset the apple cart. No longer would I have to avoid mirrors as I didn’t like my mug, for something, and it is still unknown (although my key physician has worked his way down to a few obscure diseases that aren’t contagious), attacked my face. The dreaded mug that I have cursed until I’ve become blue in the face suddenly shocked me into a new reality. “You think that you’re ugly, cowboy? Well, hold onto your saddle, for you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

As I had announced elsewhere on social media I was considering talking about my health but only if I could play around with Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and somehow deal with my ongoing situation in a humorous way. … I had recently reread Stevenson’s 1886 classic work for the first time in decades and enjoyed it even more this time. Alas, what follows won’t be hilarious.

BTW, for those of you who know Flynn’s 1953 swashbuckler, The Master of Ballantrae, Stevenson wrote the novel that it is loosely—very loosely—based upon. The Richard Thomas (Henry Durie), Michael York (James Durie; the Flynn role) and Timothy Dalton (Col. Francis Burke) TV film (1984) is much darker and much closer to the storyline. … I had worked with Richard on the 1980 TV film, Johnny Belinda (1982) with Dennis Quaid and Rosanna Arquette, which updated the classic Jane Wyman and Lew Ayres 1948 film while making the leading player—Thomas—a member of VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). I had been a member of VISTA in 1970. When I told him in detail of how clueless the script was on how the volunteers worked with poor people in the continental USA, he said that he couldn’t get it changed. Still, it stated a friendship that lasted until we drifted apart several years later.

Robert Louis Stevenson (perhaps a year or two after he wrote Jekyll/Hyde).

Mr. Hyde is Dr. Jekyll
At the beginning of Stevenson’s story, Mr. Utterson (a lawyer), who is good friend of Dr. Jekyll’s, and who leads us through a good part of the telling of events, had this to say about Mr, Hyde: “He’s is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point.

And later Dr. Lanyon, upon receiving a letter from Dr. Jekyll, thinks his friend is insane, and yet follows his instructions and meets Mr. Hyde. He also described the gentleman: “This person (who had thus, from the first moment of his entrance, struck in me what I can only describe as a disgustful curiosity), was dressed in a fashion that would have made an ordinary person laughable; his clothes, that is to say, although they were of rich and sober fabric, were enormously too large for him in every measurement—the trousers hanging on his legs and rolled up to to keep them from the ground, the waist of the coat below his haunches and the collar sprawling wide upon his shoulders. Strange to relate, this ludicrous accoutrement was far from moving me to laughter. Rather, as there was something abnormal and misbegotten in the very essence of the creature that now faced me …”

Stevenson wanted to explore the two sides of man, good and evil. I could be talking about the evil in Kraft, but I’m not. I’m more interested in what Dr. Jekyll had stumbled upon with his experimentation.

Of course if you do some digging you might find that once I received a 10×13″ envelope with a 8×10″ envelope inside it. On the outside of the smaller envelope SHAME was printed in bold with a red marker. The envelope was filled with long dark hair. My heart missed a number of beats.

That delivery still makes my shiver.

People have asked about my heart and cracking my skull open more than once. The second time I photographed the scene of the crime after returning from the emergency room. Thirteen hours had passed since the incident and the blood had dried. I turned the result of falling on my noggin’ into art and posted it on social media (see above, © Louis Kraft 2017).

To learn more about cracking my skull, which led to an EEG of my brain, and ultimately me continuing to walk Mother Earth, see: Sand Creek Massacre, Errol & Olivia, Louis Kraft, and a perfect storm.

Most of my past, the really bad past is hilarious when I look back. In a time not too far gone I had been in a long relationship with a possessive lady; not the person above who scared the XXXX out of me. We had gone out to dinner; one we should have passed on. Later that night she was in her panties and washing her face in the sink in preparation to showering. I had just finished my shower and stepped to the sink to turn the water off as it was about to overflow. “That’s it!” she screamed. “I’m out of here!” … Nope, I don’t think I’ll share this here. Looking back I often ask myself do I dare present these events in a memoir? That’s a big question and I still don’t have an answer. This said, Mr. Flynn did his memoir the proper way (with a little help from a friend), and most likely will have the deciding vote. … I just need to make damn sure that I’m dancing with angels before it is published. If not, I’m certain that my rear end will be sued from here to kingdom come.

I’m going to focus on the transformation from doctor to mister and back. Again, I’m interested in the transformation and not the evil that Dr. Jekyll created.

I’m not a physician but my father-in-law, who became our family doctor shortly after we migrated to California in 1953, certainly was. Over my early adult years, many acting publicity photos were shot in his medical suite. The B&W image of me is one of them. I’m sitting in my father-in-law’s chair in his office (September 1979). This photo actually had a silent bit on the short lived TV show Tucker’s Witch (12 episodes, 1982-83) with Tim Matherson, Catherine Hicks, and Alfre Woodard. It was turned into a political campaign poster and gave me a nice payday for simply handing 2nd assistant director Pam Grant an 8×10. She was a dark-haired beauty and a sweetheart; I luckily worked with her on numerous projects.

This photo was taken on 4oct2019, the night after the assault returned with a vengeance. it would be nothing when compared to what was to come. (photo Louis Kraft 2019)

An ongoing problem without end
As the cyclic attacks occurred twice a month after the shot and pills ran their course, my problem shot through the months. Although the pill prescriptions changed slightly whatever invaded my facial skin and turned my back into a bumpy mess of itchiness, it did not affect any other part of my body. When I looked like Mr. Hyde I avoided all contact with the public except my physicians.

I saw my go-to physician who has been doing everything possible from obtaining various blood tests, biopsies (I wanted a “Z” cut on my face so that I could say that I crossed swords with Zorro; my doctor simply smiled and shook his head no), and referred me to other doctors for second opinions and/or to do additional testing.

LK with Dejah Thoris, my doberman pincher, in 1978. She was fully grown in this image, and was the kindest animal I’ve ever known. My sweetheart died in 1992, and I’ve never owned another animal since. (photo Louis kraft 1978)

Over three weeks last fall an allergist stuck 260 needles in my arms twice to see what might be attacking me. … Milk products (duh; this has been ongoing for decades). … Dogs and cats (I haven’t had a dog since 1992, … my beloved Dejah Thoris, whom I named after the princess of Mars in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s series of books on John Carter of Mars). After the second session he told me, “I don’t know what is attacking you, and I can’t help you. Good luck.” … AND goodbye.

The problem raced into December. I kept my doctors smiling, as I had as many appointments as five or six per week. Ditto my pharmacy, where I think that I became their No. 1 client. That was my social life. … No big deal, for I had to complete all my work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway no later that December 31, 2019, for it to see a spring publication.

I viewed this as do or die. It was that important to me.

At the end of December 2019 another physician took the lead. He discovered that I was bleeding internally, had a terribly low red blood count, and was anemic. To combat this he eliminated the shot and the drugs that controlled my mysterious skin disorder, which he wasn’t interested in, and replaced them with an expanding range of prescriptions—some of which affected my system but not totally in a positive way.

On subsequent visits with him he refused to look at my detailed printouts of my current health situation and would not listen to what I knew was now happening to me. This would cost me big time.

Dr. Kraft becomes Mr. Hyde & here we’re only talking about the transformation of the real me to the monster
The new drugs prescribed at the end of December 2019 were too potent and ongoing for way-too-long. Oh, they would slowly raise my red blood count. They also plugged me up; by the end of January 2020 I had a hernia. No matter what I said about the growing pain, the physician ignored it for I was now set for the first of two procedures that hopefully discover where the internal bleeding was located.

The drugs also did something else. … and somehow prevented the burning attacks upon my face from returning until the beginning of February. When they returned it was like nothing before, for the transformation was horrifying.

This is one of a series of photos that Pailin took on the evening of 3feb2020. It does not do justice to what I then looked like. Here you can see the bulging red puffs under my eyes, the frightening physical change to the structure of my face, and the arrival of wrinkles that are here to stay. I had become Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

The disease had returned with a vengeance, turning my face into a burning infernal. Like the flames that have destroyed a good part of California the past three years, my skin  burned around the clock. When the skin began to peel, the burning continued, creating new layers of peeling skin below the top layers (trust me, this would be difficult to recreate with makeup).

When Pailin returned home at 9:30 on February 3 I was waiting for her with my cell phone in hand. She cringed when she saw my skin for it was much worse than when she had left for work. I got in her face and asked her to snap a few photos. My next appointment with the physician now in charge was set for the seventh and I wanted proof of what was happening.

I can’t begin to tell you what this does to one’s hope for the future, and especially so since it had been ongoing since June 2019. But now, … NOW I had proof to show the physician currently in charge of my health, even if what had happened disappeared before my appointment.

Sometimes my faith in the medical profession is pushed to the limit. … Changes are a comin’.

I need not have worried, for my new look was going nowhere. Kraft had become Hyde and needed another medical concoction to reverse what I now had become. My  subsequent medical appointment on the seventh was ludicrous. The first procedure, which this doctor had not ordered, proved negative and did not identify the location of my internal bleeding. Still his only interest was the second procedure (which he also did not order). … Not that I was stuffed up, had a blossoming inguinal hernia that now burned, and had my skin problem staring him the face. … “You don’t look so hot,” he finally managed to say. “I don’t feel so hot,” I sarcastically mimicked. He wouldn’t even refer a surgeon for the hernia. The appointment had ended, for there was nothing more to say.

I ran to the office of my doctor that I trusted and walked in unannounced. He saw me immediately, gave me a shot and an old prescription. But this was just a stop gap; I would see him on the thirteenth to discus my future.

Another of the photos that Pailin had taken on 3feb2020, but this one is better for it shows that I’m a benevolent monster. This said, I wasn’t much in the mood for socializing (the U.S. government had downplayed the coronavirus to the point that I didn’t know anyone who felt at risk at that time). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

Throughout all this I remained Mr. Hyde
I obtained a reference for the hernia surgery, didn’t bother to tell my physician, and met the surgeon. The surgery was set for March 13. Would I make it to that date?

The second procedure was scheduled for February 27, but the hernia pain now grew by the hour. I couldn’t sit for more than five minutes, and standing was almost as bad. I frantically searched for answers without success.

Then, quite by accident, I discovered that if I lay on my back with my legs stretched in front of me the pain went away.

By this time the burning pain reached the point wherein I could no longer sit on a chair. I had to work on my iMac standing—and then no longer than five minutes (but even then I was at risk of not getting back to bed, my only sanctuary).

LK’s special doctor and a bed
On the thirteenth I met with the physician who had stuck with me throughout my skin ordeal, and who I have nothing but praise for as he has listened to me as he fought to figure out what is going on. We had already discussed perhaps me moving to the UCLA Medical Center to continue the testing. On this day he talked about obscure diseases that were hit or miss at best. I had another shot  but there would be no pills. He moved me to a non-steroidal cream. As he said, “It was a shot in the dark.” I couldn’t lose.

I took this image of my new office on 29feb2020. The room also serves as a work space for my delivery to the Chávez History Library later this year, as does the living room and my real office. A huge project that the hernia has put on hold. Oh, that’s a cavalry saber on the wall; you don’t duel with cavalry sabers because it is impossible to do so. (photo © Louis Kraft 2020)

The bed became so important that as soon as there was a hint of trouble I used a cane to wobble to it, for no matter painful the hernia became once I was flat on my back the pain would slowly subside. … But until that time (15 minutes? 20 minutes?), I couldn’t touch the area or push the hernia back into my body.

About two weeks before the hernia surgery I stupidly sat at the iMac as the work was so detailed I couldn’t do it standing. Like an idiot I ignored the pain as I frantically tried to finish the task. … As soon as I stood the pain blew out of control and I struggled to inch my way to the bed. I made it to the room and moved past a wooden cabinet (to the left of the above photo). That was it. I could no longer place my right foot on the floor and the cane couldn’t support my awkward balance with all my weight on it. I couldn’t reach back and grab the cabinet and I still had two large steps to get to the bed. It was daytime. I was alone, although the cell phone was in my pocket. I couldn’t move back or forward, and this left me one choice—dive for the bed. I’ve always been a good athlete, but not worth much at the moment. There was one catch; I had to land on my back. “No guts, no glory.” I dove for the bed, flipping as soon as I was in the air. I landed on my back on the bed, but not all of me. My knees were at the edge of the bed and my calves hung to the floor. The pain increased tenfold. Using my hands I slowly pulled myself onto the bed. Over a half hour passed before the pain subsided.

I needed an “after” photo for this blog to show that I no longer look like the “Kraft-Hyde” that I hope never to see again. Today (5apr2020) we enjoyed ourselves in the front yard of Tujunga House while she shot a few images. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2020)

I shared my heroic performance with my bro, Glen Williams, and he asked if Pailin had been home to film it. I told him that she hadn’t been home, and he said, “Too bad, for it could have gone viral on YouTube.” That was a first class idea. That night when she returned home I told what had happened and of Glen’s suggestion to film it for YouTube. “No,” she replied. “I think it’s a great idea and I want to reenact it tomorrow.” “No.” “I think that it would be a fun thing to do.” “NO!” … I’m not always the boss.

The second procedure found no internal bleeding. The pre-opt for the surgery showed that my red blood count was up to 13. Yes! The inguinal hernia surgery was successful, but was not robotic as anticipated. Scar tissue from a surgery in 2003 prevented this, and it became an old fashioned cut and slice performance. Unfortunately I wasn’t awake, for I would have requested a “Z” (I really don’t have a Zorro complex). Alas, I have pain, but then I won’t be fully recovered until mid-June (meaning no exercise, no yardwork, no heavy lifting, no bending … no bending? Give me a break!).

Best of all: to date the cream has worked wonders on my face. I’m certain that my physician will be as pleased as I am when I see him on April 6.

As the great New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” My heart surgeon, a technician from Boston Scientific (the company that manufactured my pacemaker and the device that sits next to my desk and monitors my heart 24/7), were in the room where I awoke from the hernia surgery testing my pacemaker.*

* This is a story I’ll save for the future.

I’m in my prime

I would  be remiss if I didn’t end this blog with Val Kilmer’s great quote from Tombstone (1993) when he played Doc Holliday, a thin, consumptive, alcoholic who played a large role in the 1881 shootout at the OK Corral and the vendetta waged by Wyatt Earp afterwards.

A card of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday that artist-actor Buck Taylor, who played Jack Johnson in Tombstone, sent me years back. (art © Buck Taylor)

Shortly after Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) and Doc have arrived in Tombstone and Wyatt has set himself up as a faro dealer, Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Boothe) and Ike Clanton (Stephen Lang) confront him at a gaming table, pushing for a confrontation.

Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn) steps up to Doc, who is drunk, shortly after Earp has said that he’s retired: “And you must be Doc Holliday.”

 Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer): “That’s the rumor.”

Johnny Ringo: “You retired too?”

Doc Holliday: “Not me. I’m in my prime.”

And so am I.

Through all this Pailin has been my nurse, my private driver, and an angel.
What more could I want?

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve missed giving talks …

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

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

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

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

Back on focus

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

Talk about a disappearing act. …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The real SoCal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An LK reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reality of this time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew! …

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

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

A return to the Woolsey fire destruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oops!

Recently I received this image on social media. I guess all bets are off. … For the record this is what historians really look like when they are in the field.

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

Fire devastation beyond human tragedy

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

Lizards

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

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

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

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

P-64

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another piece of Hollywood lost to flames

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

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

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

Wynkoop and the Sand Creek manuscript

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

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

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

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

That was then … this is now

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

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

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

Hey Kraft, this mess is your creation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My world! …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An example of lies in the real world

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

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

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

Two things that need to be said

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

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

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

LK writing and life in his world

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not going to tell about this book, except to say that it is one of the best books I’ve ever written. The reviews have been kind. If you want to see some background on the book, along with a few of the reviews, see: Books 2/The Discovery tab. Believe it or not, a number of the reviews state that it would make a good film or mini-series. This said, beware if you decide to read it for there is extreme violence, as well as sexual intimacy, and a darkness that at times is overwhelming, and would give the story an extreme “R” rating if ever produced as a film (perhaps stronger depending upon the script and director). A good friend, Tom Eubanks, read about 30 pages and stopped. He told me he knew where book was going. All I can say is that he was clueless, for the two leading players are on the book cover and he never met the newborn as an adult, and that is where the medical, judicial, intense character-study thriller begins. Begins. … BTW, the title is misleading while being dead on target. (art and book cover design © Louis Kraft 2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other influences on my writing life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Sun Microsystems badge was the only one I ever bothered to grab, and I had no clue at this late date why I did this. In 2005, when the company purchased Seebeyond Technology Corp., they had over 40,000 employees worldwide. by late 2008 that figure had dropped to 24,000 employees. Poor management had doomed the company, whose stock plummeted to obscene levels when in January 2009 69 percent of the former Seebeyond employees then in Monrovia, Calif., were laid off. Often they talk about loyalty in sports or the lack of. Take a quick look at the technical world and you’ll see that they make the sports world look like amateurs when it comes to eliminating personnel.I participate in all of my projects in every way possible. At times—and this is a major understatement—production teams from art directors to editors and everyone in between would love to lock me in a cell until the book is published. … And I’ve heard the comments (or read them) to know that this is a true statement. They’re professionals, and most of them are very good at what they do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In closing Global Warming is here to stay

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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 and a Louis Kraft book update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


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

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

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

I have work to complete …
and Ladies to protect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEVER!

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

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

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

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

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

Where am I headed? I’ll tell you …

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

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

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

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

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

But an unforeseen problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A William Byers strikeout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As previously stated … 

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

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.

John Smith, Gordon Yellowman, & the Sand Creek massacre

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


 

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“Sand Creek” (above) is Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman’s interpretation of what happened at the joint Cheyenne and Arapaho village that thought they were at peace with the U.S. military in November 1864. The results of this attack—read butchery—were horrific. In my humble opinion it says everything we need to know about that tragic day of November 29, 1864, in Colorado Territory. (art © Gordon Yellowman 1996)

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

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

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

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

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

I never wrote
that book.

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

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


* Actually I hate nicknames, but some people ignore this, and no matter how often I state that I don’t want a nickname they insist upon stuffing one down my throat. This makes me cringe every time I hear one or see one in print. For example, I’ve been called “Kit” Kraft, and nothing I say or do has killed this name. It’s not my name, will never be my name, and just thinking about it makes me want to vomit. Luckily the jerk didn’t call me “Wild Bill” Kraft. For the reason why see: https://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2016/09/17/the-tom-eubanks-louis-kraft-ned-wynkoop-errol-flynn-connection/.

Sand Creek is a story of people

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

A short detour

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(book cover art © Louis Kraft 2016)

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

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

Sand Creek hasn’t been easy

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

Word-smithing comes later—much later.

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

Dr. Gary Roberts and the beginning of a friendship

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

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

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

Buddying up to John Simpson Smith

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

But first a little of LK and my lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally to Mr. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A possible dust jacket

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

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

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

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

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

What do I currently have? Nada (Nothing).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally a dark side that we cannot ignore

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

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


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

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

Enter Tom Eubanks stage right

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

In spring 1990 my then wife and I bought a terrific house in Thousand Oaks, California (in Ventura County, the county north of Los Angeles).

At that time I had been selling magazine articles and giving talks mostly about race relations and the Cheyenne Indian wars of the 1860s but also baseball (current and history). I also wrote for a telecommunications software company.

Even though I freelanced nonfiction I studied fiction at UCLA at night taught by a visiting professional. … I met George Carmichael at UCLA. He was a retired aerospace engineer who sold magazine articles and had an unending curiosity in the world. We remained close friends until his death on 2apr2014. After the class ended George and I continued to study with the UCLA writer at her Westwood office/home. As at UCLA, she oversaw the discussions and critiqued the work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Final Showdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you talking about?”

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

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

“She is. Get on it!”

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

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

The lead players in The Final Showdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom’s Plays and the passage of time

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

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

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

A trip to Yuma & its importance

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Cover art © Louis Kraft 1999)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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While traveling to the still unseen Cheyenne and Arapaho village on a tributary of the Smoky Hill in western Kansas Wynkoop’s small command was confronted by a battle line of perhaps 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors on 10sept1864. Original art © Louis Kraft 2015, and first published in “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” August 2015 Wild West magazine.

As stated in the image caption above Wynkoop was confronted by a battle line. No violence happened at the confrontation and later that day he met in council with Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs in a grove of trees (he never saw the huge village of 2,000 people). Although threatened and at times in a desperate situation he would eventually receive four children prisoners and was able to talk seven Indian leaders into traveling with him to Denver, Colorado Territory, to discuss ending the war with Territorial Governor John Evans (the council eventually took place at Camp Weld, just south of Denver).

Wynkoop and the Indian leaders thought that peace had come to the land. They were wrong. Wynkoop was removed from command at Fort Lyon (Colorado Territory), and Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand moved their villages from the post and to Sand Creek, about 40 miles to the northeast. Wynkoop traveled to Kansas, where he expected to be cashiered out of the military for being absent from his post in time of war (without orders he met the Indians on the Smoky Hill and brought them to Denver). Three days after Wynkoop set out for Kansas Colorado Volunteers attacked Black Kettle and Left Hand’s villages—villages that thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military until it decided to end or continue the war.

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

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

I pitched the idea to Tom and he liked it.

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

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

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The image I sent Leo Oliva. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

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

As 2001 neared its end Leo Oliva requested a publicity photo of me as Wynkoop. This was impossible as the hat and costume were still being made. However, that November I spent some time in Nevada and had some photos taken at the Valley of Fire State Park, northeast of Las Vegas.

I printed it and sent it to Leo, and it was subsequently printed on the cover of the Fort Larned Old Guard newsletter, Outpost, promoting An Evening with Ned Wynkoop.

Of course it garnered me a complaint from California historian Eric Niderost. “Wynkoop didn’t dress like that!!!” he snarled.

“No shit, Sherlock!” Publicity with a photo is always better than publicity without a photo.

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

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

Kansas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did have my dress rehearsal just hours before showtime.

I was miked as the show was presented in a huge auditorium. … During my only run-through of the play the mike fell from the costume and slid across the stage. The rehearsal continued without the mike while not missing a beat, but I was well aware of what could happen. Luckily when we had an audience everything went soothly on stage (and I presume in the sound and light booth).

California

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

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

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

Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the pictured scene (above) LK as Wynkoop described what he saw:
“Bodies littered the ground. All were at hideous angles, … naked, …
frozen in time. I dismounted and walked toward the carnage. … What I saw
ripped at my guts and I had to struggle not to vomit. Wolves had come
and feasted, but their hunger didn’t obscure what had come before.”
The performances went smoothly on the first two days of the event, but for me the final day turned into pure Cheyenne heaven (unfortunately Tom had to drive to Oklahoma City, to catch a flight back to SoCal before the second performance, which was in the evening). I met Henri (Dr. Mann) after the first performance, and after my talk in the morning on the last day of the event we spent a lot of time together, and it cemented a friendship to this day.

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

LK with Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (left) and his nephew Jake in Ivan’s fully functional lodge during the last day of the Washita Battlefield NHS’s 140th anniversary of the destruction of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village. … It’s been too long since I’ve visited the Washita Battlefield (the last time was in 2012 when I flew to Oklahoma City for the Wrangler Awards), and methinks I need to pitch a talk for 2017. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008; note that before Leroy’s death on 21mar2014 he gave me full permission to use his photos)

Cheyenne Blood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheyenne Blood was a difficult play to learn, and I should admit up front that I’m terrible at learning lines. During one of the rehearsals I couldn’t remember a line or two and ad libbed what Wynkoop would have said.

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

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

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

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

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

The Elite Theatre Company’s new home

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

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

Pailin meets Mr. Eubanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Midst of All that is Good

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tom has written and directed a lot of plays that have been extraordinary, but this play is by far my favorite.

According to Tom (whose father, Sam Eubanks, is an evangelical pastor), he spent, “most of my early life planted in a pew.”

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

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

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


Adios Wild Bill … enter Errol Flynn stage left

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

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

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

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Errol Flynn circa 1940-1941. LK personal collection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft, the connection and a view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


For starters I should state that film has played an important role my life.

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Errol Flynn as Don Juan in the final duel in Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In my opinion Flynn’s sword fight to the death with Robert Douglas as the Duke de Lorca is by far the best duel captured on film. I’ve heard the criticism, such as all the takes had to be short as Flynn was out of breath. You know what? That criticism isn’t valid, for all that counts is what we see in the film. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing some of his performances on film (and this will include a few comments that will surprise and perhaps shock).

Know that my views don’t jive with popular opinions that have
been oft-repeated by writers and the media that do little original thinking
and buy into what is over and over again stuffed down their throats.

My opinion of reviews and reviewers is not sparkling

Reviews are opinions; some are based on bias while others are based upon sales or what the media has proclaimed and stuffed down our throats. … Also know that many reviewers base their opinions on what they saw on film or read in a book or viewed on a canvas (these reviewers should be praised and not considered brethren to cretins that have an agenda).

Film acting is a lot different than acting on stage. AND it must be natural, and let me tell you that sometimes this is very difficult to do—especially when you’ve got 35, 40, 70 people staring at you and you are now into your tenth closeup take for a scene and the producer is on set bitching about being over budget and screaming at the director why the idiot actor—you—can’t play the scene right.

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A publicity shot of Tim Matheson and Catherine Hicks from the short-lived TV show, Tucker’s Witch. (LK personal collection)

I saw this happen while working on Tucker’s Witch (1982-1983), which I thought was a decent TV show if it had had a chance to succeed. Already it had been canceled in its first season but the contract stated 12 episodes and we were then shooting episode number 11 or 12. The actor was a TV star with some film hits, charming, natural, and competent but now a producer had pulled the rug out from under him. The actor struggled, and bless him for he kept his composure as much as possible in a situation that should have never happened as he fought to perform as demanded by someone who should have kept his mouth shut and who should have allowed the actor and director do their jobs.

What the hell! Money is privilege and it rules.

As are reviews, valid or not. Believe me, they can make one feel good and they can also make one feel like slime that should be flushed down the toilet.

Money can “win” elections, or should I say “buy” elections? Reviews do more—much more—to individuals as they can hurt and destroy or build up and create. For the record reviews are sometimes biased. By that I mean that they can fry a performer (let’s say Richard Gere) or praise a performer (let’s say Bruce Springsteen) over and over again. When this happens it is based upon the reviewer’s bias. Here I’m talking about a Los Angeles Times film critic that eventually became the Times music critic. He’s not with us anymore. Ain’t that a shame.

The early days & a Tex Ritter influence

Film and I joined hands back when I was somewhere around four or five years old, and this time dates all the way back to Yonkers, New York. I lived with my father, mother, and infant sister in a wooden house that my mother had grown up in (my father and mother had bought it from her parents). Yonkers—at least where we lived—was in the hills and not far from the Hudson River.

LK&TexRitter_1950&1961_collage_wsWe had a small TV in a large wooden cabinet and the screen was green. I was often glued to Tex Ritter one-hour B-westerns that played all the time (as well as Buck Jones, who I liked; Wild Bill Elliott; Johnny Mack Brown; Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; and many others). Tex was a singing cowboy (as was Jimmy Wakely, Autry, Rogers, and others including John Wayne who made no impact on me for I don’t have any memories of him). Tex rode a white horse (White Flash) and caught bad guys (Autry and Rogers also did this, but often cars were in their films and I found that phony). I guess that it also helped that I liked Tex’s singing (Rogers’ songs were nondescript and Autry’s singing did absolutely nothing for me).

Before long my family migrated to California in a 1950 Hudson Commodore that my father had bought new in ’50. It pulled a 35-foot trailer. My father and mother loved the road and took every opportunity to explore the USA. This trip was no different than earlier trips that they had taken across the United States. It was my second to California for in 1949 my father, mother, and I visited it in a red 1949 Chevrolet convertible. I guess that the Chevy under performed as my father sold it in 1950 to buy the Hudson. He never owned another General Motors vehicle.

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I have a great photo of the Hudson and trailer in the background with my mother, dinky sister, and small me during the exodus to California (but I can’t find it). … Thus this collage. The Hornet was on a rural road in Northridge, California, in 1974. This area is now wall-to-wall houses (a shame). The Camaro was at the beach in northern San Diego County.

When I bought a new Camaro in 1998 my father told me that I’d regret it; I didn’t and the car averaged 24,000 miles per year until I sold it to buy a Vette in 2007. My father, who had been fragile since 1996 or 1997, refused to ride in the Camaro and didn’t live to see the first Vette (if I had been able to get him into the Vette I’m certain that he would have loved it for he liked cars that gripped the road and went fast). … I can’t remember the 1949 trip, but the 1954 trip took perhaps 60 days (there were no freeways, but we weren’t burnin’ rubber as we zig-zagged across the USA). In California we moved around hooking up the trailer in backyards with horses and goats and pigs and chickens and sometimes cattle in the very rural San Fernando Valley (most of which is in the city of Los Angeles and all of it is in the county of Los Angeles) before we settled in a trailer park in Van Nuys.

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Tex Ritter on White Flash. This image represents the first job description I ever had, that is I wanted to ride a white horse and shoot bad guys like Tex did. (LK personal collection)

About this time my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told her that I wanted to ride a white horse like Tex and shoot bad guys. She shook her head. “Tex is an actor. The bad men he shoots don’t die for they are actors too.” It was at that moment I decided that I wanted to be an actor.

During my early years I attended at least eight elementary schools, and perhaps more (the only two grades wherein I spent two years in the same school were the fifth and sixth grades). Sometime, probably in the fifth grade, I saw my first Errol Flynn film.

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I believe that this is the 1948 German one-sheet for Flynn’s 1940 film The Sea Hawk. I had originally liked this poster, but my view has changed over the years.

It was the 1940 Warner Bros. production of The Sea Hawk. I had already become a gunslinger (actually this had begun in Yonkers). There’s film of this, but my sister took it after our father died. After she died her husband dumped truckloads of stuff in my backyard but the old films from the New York years were not included. I guess that they hit the trashcan as he decided to start his life over and jettison his past. By now I was good with my cap guns. The pirate Flynn added swords to my repertoire (The Sea Hawk would add much more to my life, but that would be decades in the future).

Junior high school gave me three things: Better sports competition (although Dennis Kreiger, who would again meet up with me in high school and then our early college years was the perfect adversary in the fifth and sixth grades), acting classes with performances on stage, and best of all learning to duel with Ralph Faulkner. Faulkner had become the amateur world sabre champion in 1928 and competed as a member the U.S. Olympic fencing squad in 1932. Although he had come to Hollywood to become an actor (and he had silent film credits) his legacy was his long career in film as a stunt double and choreographer of film duels, which had directly led to him opening a fencing academy on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. I actually took a third place in a foil competition at his studio while in junior high school, and I competed against adults.

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This art is based upon a 1974 photo. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

There were no swords in high school, but in college I took fencing in my first year. I became a favorite of Muriel Bower, the coach, and she asked if I wanted to join the fencing team. I said that I would but only if I fought sabre. She agreed and I trained. … But we didn’t see eye-to-eye. You see I was a theater major, and this made my normal school day 7:00 AM until 10:30 PM or later during the week and often this included performances on weekends (backstage and when lucky on stage). This problem would haunt me over my professional life in the entertainment industry when I needed a job to earn extra cash. …. If it had been real life instead of a major 1966 multi-university competition at UCLA in which in real life I could have killed Bobby Crawford (Johnny Crawford’s brother; Johnny was famous for his part as The Rifleman’s son on TV and as the singer of decent pop tunes at the time such as “Cindy’s Birthday” and “Rumors”). I was still learning sabre and I only fought sabre in the competition. I held my own but I didn’t win. There is a running sabre move wherein the attacking duelist runs by his opponent and slashes at his shoulder or head as he passes. I hadn’t learned how to parry it yet (actually Bowers hadn’t even discussed this move with me). In an earlier duel that day an opponent scored a hit when I failed to parry (block) the attack. In my duel with Bobby Crawford, who at that time was one of the best sabre duelists in SoCal, when he began to charge with the cut that I didn’t know how to parry I dropped down to one knee as his sabre was raised to strike. As he launched his slashing attack I thrust with all my might and struck him in the chest. The impact was so great that it bent my sabre blade into an “S-shape.” The contact was forceful and he stumbled backwards four or five feet while his blade nicked me on my thrusting arm. Point Crawford as I hadn’t parried his attack. I was up in an instant and rushed to Crawford to ask if he was all right. He said that he was. He wasn’t, and this I knew for his chest would turn black and blue and he would feel the hit for some time. Hell, my sabre blade was in an “S” shape from the impact and totally unusable. If this had been a real-life sword fight Mr. Crawford would have died on that day.

College gave me actor Jeff Corey and actor-director Robert Ellenstein. They set in motion my quest to eventually earn money as an actor (see below).

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Errol Flynn’s great film, The Sea Hawk (1940), took its title from Rafael Sabatini’s magnificent novel of the same name, which Warner Bros. owned the film rights. But that’s all it took. You see, Sabatini’s novel dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery in Tunis who rises to become a famed Barbary pirate that preys upon English vessels. Sabatini’s story was loosely based upon an Englishman and seaman named John Ward, who was starving at the beginning of the 17th century, and who moved to Tunis and became a pirate lord (the famed Captain John Smith of Virginia fame was the last Englishman to spend time with Ward). … This image is of Flynn as Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, a pirate (BTW the term “privateer” didn’t come into existence until about 1640) who sailed with the blessing of Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I of England). The other image is my favorite romanticized painting of Sir Francis Drake (I have talked about the Drake connection to The Sea Hawk elsewhere).

Bob Ellenstein would play a major part in my world for five or six years after I graduated college. At times it seemed as if I lived at his house on the Westside of Los Angeles. I studied acting with him and he played perhaps the most important player in my life at that time. We did a lot together, including my introduction to an acting vogue at that time called psycho drama, which probed into an actor’s inner being. Coffee, breakfasts, and lunches at Bob’s home, plus talks, lots of talks, which, believe it not, included the pirate Francis Drake who to this day plays a major role in my research (often I leave him off my upcoming book lists but you should know that he is forever present with me).

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Three images of LK with a blade at different times. I’ve recently discovered other images with swords but they will take time to restore (if ever I decide to spend the time).

Years later I would study stage combat or “swashbuckling” from two people who approached this from different perspectives. This training would lead to me choreographing duels and dueling on stage.

Yes, Errol Flynn impacted my life (but much–much more than you can guess from the above).

Flynn was a natural actor when stage acting ruled film. Most of the so-called “great” actors over-acted and chewed up scenery. Many of these performances simply do not hold up. When viewing film from a time long gone one must consider the life and times of the film industry (just like one must consider the racial and social mores when studying the Indian wars). More important, one must consider and accept (and this is key) the technical world in which films from another era were created.

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Believe it or not, Flynn’s Escape Me Never (1947) is an outsider film that has the largest chance of making it into the LK top 13 Flynn film list. If this is true it means that the 1930s mega successes for Flynn (Captain Blood, 1935; The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936; and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938) won’t make the list. I know, pure heresy, but with my top Flynn films I’m talking about Mr. Flynn’s performances (and not big bucks). I’ll spend a little more time with Flynn’s Escape Me Never below. Here Flynn is with Eleanor Parker and Gig Young. (LK personal collection)

All this said, good acting survives time (and bad acting doesn’t). In Errol Flynn’s case other life ingredients would play havoc with his life, and because of this his life was extraordinary and worthy of study. Unfortunately long after Flynn’s death writers have written words that cannot be validated because they are out and out lies and this has continued into the twenty-first century. Unscrupulous historians who are little more than mud-slingers that create quotes, print facts that never happened, and often use notes that can never be confirmed because the cited documentation cannot be found. On this last sometimes obscure documentation is used and then totally falsified in the belief that readers won’t have it and if not they won’t make any attempt to find it. … There’s always a “YIKES” to this type of history writing for every so often another historian has the cited and oh-so obscure documentation.

Bullshit is bullshit and lies are lies and fiction is fiction and none of them are valid when writing biography, and trust me for just like my nonfiction Indian wars books I’ll document errors (regardless if they were created on purpose or not). The reason is simple, for these errors should have never seen print and must be corrected.

Damn, that’s a good lead-in to an Errol Flynn blog. Unfortunately my dear friends it isn’t the lead-in to this blog for the following words won’t be accusatory. Actually all I want to do is mention my list of the top 13 Errol Flynn films and three of them are part of the eight that they filmed together. All eight of their films together will be discussed in detail in Errol & Olivia, as well as films that that they didn’t make together.

eoImage_whiteAboveJust so you know Errol & Olivia deals with their life and times and will include additional films over approximately 15 years that they didn’t make together. The book will be a dual-biography and the word count will be at least 135,000, and most likely longer. It will be a biography like none other that I have written in the past and although I have two additional books planned on Flynn they will not be like Errol & Olivia.

For the record, and I think that those of you that have an interest in Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland, the following is of great importance. I have a novel that will be published in 2016 (The Discovery) and my work on it is almost complete. I do write about the American Indian wars (my interest is in people that risk their lives to step beyond racial prejudice and attempt to prevent or end war). Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway might be the most important book that I ever write. After the Sand Creek manuscript goes into production Errol & Olivia will become my major project until published. This is a major fact and you can take it to the bank.

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LK art of Ned Wynkoop as he sees the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line in September 1864. He and his small command faced death but he later that day, with words, convinced the Indians in council that they should secure peace. This rendering of Wynkoop first saw print in the August 2014 Wild West magazine. It may be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Every person that I write about in biography form was unique and dared to challenge his (or in Ms. de Havilland’s case, her) world. Errol Flynn was unique and he challenged his world again and again. Just like the Indian wars people that I write about, Errol Flynn had ups and downs and because of this he found himself under attack time and again. Like Ned Wynkoop & Black Kettle and Charles Gatewood & Geronimo from the Indian wars, Errol Flynn fought to survive in his world. All of them, including Flynn, stood out, and people from their times and thereafter did whatever was necessary to bury them. There are connecting links, and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I connected Wynkoop to Flynn. And it wasn’t that big of a stretch, and I didn’t need to use the race card. Wynkoop changed from a man who thought that Indians were close to animals. Events in his life changed this view and he dared to fight the press, the military, and the U.S. government to secure a fair deal for the Cheyennes and Arapahos. … Olivia de Havilland fits right into this category, for what she accomplished during her lifetime, and certainly in the 1940s when she dared to risk her film career and challenge Warner Bros. for treating their contracted actors as little more than indentured slaves, she became not just a strong person who dared to challenge a major company that had no qualms with destroying her but a legendary film icon for all time.

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This photo of Flynn dates to 1940-1941, and it is my favorite of him. That said, he probably hated it, for his physical image again and again garnered him less than satisfactory reviews, reviews that either stated he was a “pretty” boy and nothing else or hinted at this. He cared about his work and these criticisms hurt him immensely. (LK personal collection)

Flynn didn’t do this. But just look at his life: He wasn’t in the military and didn’t have to deal with the brutal murders and sexual mutilation of human beings. Why? Simple, for Errol Flynn people were people. As his eldest daughter once said: “He didn’t care what race you were. If he liked you he liked you.” Errol Flynn was the most un-racial person I have known or studied.

Alas, this blog is going to move away from man’s inhumanity to man, away from heinous crimes (and I’m talking about the Indian wars here), and simply talk about Errol Flynn the actor.

LK’s top thirteen Errol Flynn films

This film list has grown. See Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view. … The list has been updated.

(top four/alphabetical and firm)

1.   Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

2.   Gentleman Jim (1942)

3.   The Sea Hawk (1940)

4.   They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

(bottom six/alphabetical and not firm)

5.   Uncertain Glory (1944)

6.   The Dawn Patrol (1938)

7. Virginia City (1940)

8.   Four’s a Crowd (1938)

9.   Objective Burma (1945)

10.   Dodge City (1939)

11. Escape Me Never (1947)

12. The Sun Also Rises (1957)

13. That Forsyte Woman (1949)

I won’t be discussing the films on the list or this blog would turn into a book. That said, I will mention a few of the above titles. I’ll also spend a little time with Captain Blood; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Escape Me Never; Crossed Swords; and Too Much, Too Soon; among others.

Not to worry for what I say here won’t give away Errol & Olivia for there is only enough space to deal with a few points—important points—but if they make it into Errol & Olivia they will be expanded upon in directions that you won’t be able to guess from what you read in this blog.

Well-constructed words can always hide bias

As stated above I’m not big on reviews of anything, and even though I just presented you with a list I hate lists. They mean absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen lists that have been printed and much of the time I run to the bathroom to vomit. These lists were often created by people that I once considered friends, but turned out to be little more than charlatans. Most of them have egos so large that the wooden boy in Walt Disney’s classic 1940 cartoon, Pinocchio’s nose is minuscule when compared to their regurgitated baloney or worse. Often I see or hear their crap printed or stated ad nauseam (and it doesn’t matter if they merely reprinted what they had heard about films decades long in the ancient past or spouted the virtues of art that is so cliché that it is beyond comment. Did the person who created the list put any effort into creating their list? No! Absolutely not, for the simple reason that their brains no longer function.

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The perfect example of a film that I cannot stomach is Gone with the Wind (1939), a film that Olivia de Havilland risked her entire film career at Warner Bros. to obtain the role of Melanie after she was told that the studio wouldn’t allow her to work in the film. In this image you see Hattie McDaniel as Mammy (left), who deserved her best female supporting Oscar; OdeH as Melanie Hamilton; and Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara; who Clark Gable as Rhett Butler should have shot in the first reel of the film (of course then there wouldn’t have been a film). My view on this film: I hated it and was bored beyond belief, and even though I own it on DVD (mainly because I wanted the one-hour OdeH interview), I have yet to see this film from start to finish. (LK personal collection)

Of course you know that it’s risky to pick a film that was a huge bust at the box office, and most people who create lists steer clear of films that don’t make a lot of money. Although this isn’t always the case, often best film lists stick with films that were block-busters, Oscar winners, or were so artsy-fartsy that I’ve never been able to get through a complete viewing of them. Read 10 minutes, or if I have time to burn, 15 minutes before I close the boring slop. Goodbye! The plot hasn’t caught my interest and the actors’ performances have scored a zero with me. If the film in question had been a stage performance I would have been screaming “Get the hook!”*

*This is a not-too-kind expression from times past that means slipping a hook that is attached to a pole around a performer’s neck and then yanking them offstage.

I’ve got to care about story and performances. If I don’t, viewing a film is a waste of my time, … and I don’t give a bleep about how great a critic with his thumb stuck somewhere claims the film is or how a certain performance is one for the ages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Oscar-winning performances in the past and I’ve suffered through the film as I’ve wasted good money to see it in a theater. … While talking about the Academy Awards and other major acting awards I hope you realize that millions upon millions of dollars are spent every year to buy these awards. The awards season that begins late in the year and climaxes with the Oscars in February of the following year has been for years (nay decades) a three-ring circus with often the largest pocketbooks bringing home the bulk of the statues. My view of these TV extravaganzas? A joke. The last time I watched part of one was when I was recovering from a surgery a number of years ago. Glen Williams, my great friend was staying with me, and about two plus hours before the conclusion (and I have no idea what actors or films danced home with the gold that they had purchased) we turned off the television and enjoyed a good Mexican meal at a local restaurant.

It’s too bad that pro football players, pro basketball players, and
major league baseball players can’t spend millions of dollars each year
to buy Most Valuable Player awards. Heck, they earn enough in
salary and endorsements. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

The swashbuckler

In 1938 Errol Flynn became connected with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., when writers began saying that he had donned the swashbuckling armor and boots and followed in the silent film legend’s footsteps. As it turned out Flynn would go on to make nine swashbuckling films. Four of those films would secure his legacy as the swashbuckler for all time. I hate to say this but since Flynn’s death in 1959 no actor has come close to challenging his mark on this genre of film. None.

(For a little more on Flynn and screen dueling see: Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion.)

I love this poster of The Adventures of Robin Hood (but I’ve got a poster I like even more framed and on a wall). This poster was created for a video release of the film and I couldn’t believe it when I was lucky enough to obtain a one-sheet of it locally. (LK personal collection)

There are valid reasons why Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood aren’t on my list of 13 Flynn films, but they are not for this blog. Both films are in the scope of Errol & Olivia and trust me I will spend a lot of time with both them, and a good portion of what I present will be positive. As with my Indian wars books I don’t whitewash the major person or people or their actions. Errol & Olivia will not only focus on Flynn and de Havilland and their life and times but also the eight films that they made together.

Four of Flynn’s swashbucklers are classics: Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940), and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In the last three Flynn excelled in the dueling scenes. In one other film, The Prince and the Pauper (1937) Flynn’s duel with an evil captain of the guard (Alan Hale) who intended to kill the prince who was poised to be named king of England as his father (Henry VIII) had died near the end of the film is superb. It clearly demonstrated what was to come.

Unfortunately Flynn’s four swashbucklers in the 1950s don’t compare to his earlier efforts. The most popular reason that I’ve often seen is that Flynn had aged. He had, but he hadn’t lost his grace and skill, … simply his stamina and physical strength. What really impacted his dueling in these films: Against All Flags (1952), The Master of Ballantrae (1953), Crossed Swords (1954), and The Warriors (1955) were the lackluster staging (that is: choreography), film angles, and editing of the duels.

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I think that Against All Flags is at the absolute bottom of the nine swashbuckling Flynn films. Don’t doubt that it was a Universal production, which meant low budget. One of the half sheets for the film is absolutely gorgeous. This Spanish one sheet is well-done and I like it. (LK personal collection)

The sword masters that created these duels and rehearsed them with the actors and stunt men couldn’t compare to the great master Fred Cravens (and his crew) that Flynn worked with in the 1930s and 1940s. I have a caveat here. Early in The Master of Ballantrae Flynn duels with his brother (Anthony Steel). This duel is fast-paced and well-done by everyone involved in front and behind the camera (and this includes the editors). By the time that Flynn shot The Warriors his dueling days had passed him by and he said as much in his magnificent memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways (which is strange for he seemed capable enough in Crossed Swords). By the way, the British title for Flynn’s last swashbuckler, The Dark Avenger, was a much better title than The Warriors. I actually like this film much better than Against All Flags. Alas, Flynn’s duel in a tavern with a French captain (Christopher Lee) was mostly performed by a stunt double. Still the choreography was better than the slap-dash staged fights in Against All Flags, which had the look and feel of a B-film. The best thing about Against All Flags were the one-sheet and half-sheet advertising posters, which were quite good (as opposed to the American posters for The Warriors that did nothing to sell Flynn or the film).

Dancing between reality and a public image

In 1984 I worked on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times, shown on TV in 1985 (for a little background on it see an earlier blog: How race has affected my life & writing), with Errol’s Flynn’s first daughter, Deidre Flynn. At that time another miniseries was shooting called My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn, which was supposedly based upon Flynn’s memoir (which is one of the best books that I have ever read) with Duncan Regehr as Flynn. He sounded like Ronald Coleman, looked nothing like Flynn, and worst of all had absolutely no charisma (he could have been playing Daffy Duck with a British accent).

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LK connecting with Pat Wymore Flynn on June 6, 2006, when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences honored Olivia de Havilland (Beverly Hills, California). Deidre Flynn is center in the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

The production company had asked Deidre to be an advisor for the Flynn miniseries. She had read the screenplay and gave them a resounding response of “No!” She had no clue that I knew a lot about her father (believe it or not my research of him had begun shortly before his death when I was in elementary school). That said, we talked slightly about her dad. She told me that the screenplay was a piece of crap and that she wanted nothing to do with the production. I saw the miniseries when it first aired (and once again a dozen or so years later), and it was a bleeping joke! And I am being kind here. Only two performances were decent—Barbara Hershey as Lili Damita and Hal Linden as Jack Warner (and I’ve never heard Warner’s voice). Everything and everyone else was terrible or worse. If Olivia de Havilland saw Lee Purcell attempt to play her I’m certain that Livvie would have made a couple of runs to the bathroom to vomit. I was embarrassed for her and at that time I never dreamed that sometime in the future I would spend prime time with her. … Enough of talking about a miniseries that should have never been produced.

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The cover of Higham’s piece of Errol Flynn fiction says it all on the book’s dust jacket.

A few years before the Flynn miniseries aired Charles Higham saw the publication of Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Doubleday & Company, 1980). I bought it, as I have every book on Flynn that I can get my hands on, and read it. With notations that were so vague they were immediately suspect, Higham would have us believe that Mr. Flynn was both a bisexual and a Nazi spy. The fictional rantings should have been ridiculed; instead they were accepted by the media (which always jumps onto anything that might defame a human being). Oh, and I should mention this: You cannot defame the dead in the United States (at least you couldn’t in the 1980s). Not so in Canada, where the book was also published. If I remember what Deidre told me correctly, she and her sister filed a complaint about Charles Higham in Canada. I don’t believe that he ever dared to reenter Canada again. … Mr. Higham has since moved on to wherever people who fictionalize and distort history go, and I do hope that the flames are sizzling. His travesty of a book single-handedly destroyed Flynn’s reputation and for so doing awarded him massive book sales. Olivia de Havilland called Higham “despicable.” Believe it or not there are other Flynn writers and more than a handful of Western historians that think that there is nothing wrong with what Higham did—rewrite history at the cost of truth and reality. These cretins cite primary source material that is often so obscure that they are certain that no one can find the cited works even if they looked. Guess what: I have research material in every room of my house except for a bathroom and the dining room. Some of these cretins (I should use stronger words here, but I’m trying to keep a civil tongue) cite real documentation (thinking that no one has it or will look for it) with quotations that don’t exist except in their books of lies. When they don’t do this, they misinterpret what the primary source material states (again, always obscure in documentation that is hard to obtain). Their thinking here is that they have cited authentic documentation and it is beyond challenging. … In a word: BULLSHIT!

I’m sorry about the repetition of the above, but this is important.
Facts must always be questioned and confirmed. Alas, this
is so important that I return to it below.

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Susan Goulet art of a famed EF publicity photo (© Susan Goulet 2004). I’m not sure if she has the color of his eyes correct. She had created a wonderful portrait of OdeH and I had given Olivia a print of it in 2004 (I kept the original art). She loved it. This image is a copy of the original art in the LK personal collection. Most likely it will eventually end up in the Louis Kraft Collection.

I do know one thing: Mr. Flynn worked hard at being an actor, took an interest during pre-production and production although at times after the farce of a rape trial in 1943 he decided to give the public what they expected of him. This turned out to be a two-headed dragon for not only did he present himself as the lecher that the Los Angeles criminal justice system attempted to paint him as (read: behind closed doors political shenanigans then in vogue) but also that it marked the beginning of a huge downward life spiral that he mistakenly thought he could reverse whenever he wanted.

He couldn’t.

I’m not going to talk about what I see as the real Errol Flynn in this blog (this I’ll save for Errol & Olivia and the two follow-up books on EF). All I’ll say here is that the general population’s view of him as a man, a human being, a father, and as an actor and writer is incorrect.

Over the years Errol Flynn saw his Warner Bros. salary and say in his films grow. By the mid-1940s he had worked into his contracts that he could choose some of his films (his Thompson Productions produced three films) and as his phallic image grew (to his disgust) so did his efforts to break his heroic image. In doing this he easily demonstrated his acting range, but it cost him popularity at the box office.

Finally, and this is related to the above paragraph, Jack Warner would have never invested the amount of money he did over the years in Errol Flynn if he wasn’t sold on Flynn’s creative talents.

Views of a few of Flynn’s films

I’m just going to meander here as I talk about a handful of Errol Flynn’s films that are for the most part not considered among his great films.

Escape Me Never (1947)

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Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn work at hustling for money as they travel across the southern Alps in Escape Me Never. Their off-screen friendship gave their on-screen relationship an extra dimension. Over the years Ida would be one of Flynn’s greatest supporters. He was lucky to count her as a friend. (LK personal collection)

Flynn and his three co-stars (Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young) played off each other nicely. … Flynn and Young are composers in Italy. Gig’s lady (Parker) is rich while Flynn’s (Lupino and her infant son) are not. Flynn is a budding genius with an ego to match (which is understandable); he also has a roving eye for the ladies. I hated this film when young and I still hated it when I had last seen it about 30 years ago. Reviewers have always pinged the film on its lack of authentic shots of the canals of Venice as well as the backgrounds of the Alps (and the problem of the phony canals and background images of the alps were obvious the first time I that saw the film when a teenager) but Flynn’s performance was a major discovery for me when I again viewed it this past summer. His acting ability had grown in leaps and bounds in the 1940s and is right on in this film; that is right on in everything except for lecherous glances at women. There are perhaps a handful, and honestly I believe that these were director decisions (like The Adventures of Robin Hood direction discussed below). Looking back it is too bad that Errol and Ida only acted together in this film.

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A publicity shot of Ida & Flynn at the beginning of Escape Me Never. (LK personal collection)

For all of you Peter Blood (Captain Blood), Geoffrey Vickers (The Charge of the Light Brigade), and Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood) fans I’m going to shock you, so please sit down and hold on tightly. If a Flynn performance and film gets bumped from the bottom six of my favorite EF films most likely it will be by Mr. Flynn and his performance in Escape me Never. I know; heresy. Hey, I’m a former actor, a resurrected actor, and if lucky I’ll again be an actor. I’ve already stated what goes into making a film that grabs my interest. I need to state here that I’m talking about Errol Flynn the actor. I’m proud to say (other than the few director-pushed instances of over acting while eyeing a pretty woman) that EF’s internal system was functioning and his natural instincts were right on target. Perhaps working with people he liked helped, but for my money he was a hundred-fold better actor in the 1940s than he was in the 1930s.

That Forsyte Woman (1949)

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Errol Flynn and Greer Garson in a scene that is hard to watch in That Forsyte Woman. (LK personal collection)

This film was the first under another Flynn contract that allowed him to act in one film per year filmed at a studio other than Warner Bros. This stiff Victorian drama carried Flynn’s performances in Cry Wolf (1947) and the western Silver River (1948) to the next step of being as far away from the adventurous hero as he could possibly get. His performance was controlled and right in tune with the time period. Those who saw the film and expected to see Errol Flynn the hero must have been shocked by the time they exited the theater in 1949. That said, Flynn’s performance shows without a doubt that he really was a magnificent actor. If we can believe his words, and I do, this was one of his favorite performances (if memory serves me, Gentleman Jim Corbett, see the film list above, was another of his favorite roles). Greer Garson, Flynn’s co-star in the film, had heard a lot of trash talk about him prior to filming. After working with him she had nothing but praise for the actor and man.

Ladies and gentlemen, Errol Flynn had taken what he had learned during the 1930s, had crafted during the 1940s, and at the end of that decade put it all together. Regardless of what you think Flynn’s Soames Forsyte, it was perhaps the performance of his entire cinema career. I need to have a top 13 Flynn film list, and this film is on my list.

Here’s a quick thought for you
In 1940 Errol Flynn earned about eight times what
Olivia de Havilland earned. Why? They both became
stars when Captain Blood premiered in December 1935
but the level of stardom was evident by the end of the last
reel on that historic New York City night. … I can’t give
away Errol & Olivia but put the above sentences
together and you should be able to figure
out what happened as both of them
moved forward with their
professional careers.

Crossed Swords (1954)

This is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production. It had the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff (who had shot The Master of Ballantrae, which had been released the previous year, and who would be Flynn’s choice to shoot and direct his ill-fated William Tell). Flynn looked great (and much better than he did in Against All Flags, 1952, and The Master of Ballantrae) and his physical prowess hadn’t deteriorated (actually it looked better than in the two earlier swashbucklers) to what it would be in The Warriors (1955). Perhaps the Flynn-Barry Mahon teaming with an Italian production company was responsible for the result, which could have been much better. Worse, the production team couldn’t provide a decent script, a decent director, complete scenes (many could have used extra cuts and angles added to improve the final product), better action (some is quite poor) or decent actors (I’m not certain of what I think of Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida’s on-screen relationship other than it is definitely better than previously reported. … Alas, some of the acting other than Gina and EF is amateurish).

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The lines are on the DVD cover, which wasn’t too professionally produced.

My DVD was created using an Italian print of the film (Il Maestro Don Giovanni, which would translate to Master Don Juan, leading one to wonder who Flynn played in the Italian release of the film). The color is decent and not faded but not great. The entire film has had an English-language sound track added to an original Italian release print for the DVD. I’m certain that most, if not all, of the Italian actors were dubbed, but the sound (dialogue, sound effects, and film score) is not good. It is obvious that the editors attempted to get the words as close as possible to the actors’ mouth movements, but this meant that now Flynn’s words are slightly off, and it is definitely his voice. My guess is that the complete track was pulled from an English-language release.

For the most part Flynn (as Renzo), who was decent in the film, doesn’t seem to connect with the rest of the cast. My guess—and that’s all it is—was the language barrier while shooting the film, especially for the Italian-speaking actors connecting with Flynn. Cardiff and others behind the camera spoke English but I think that Flynn was the only actor saying his lines in English. Honestly, Flynn was a professional and I don’t think he had any problems with language during the filming.

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Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida are about to surrender to their fates (as is her father, who is in the scene but off camera in this still). This image shows Flynn’s typical involvement in a scene as well as his physical appearance. (LK personal collection)

Cesare Danova, who played Raniero, Flynn’s staunch friend in their misadventures with the fairer sex, immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1950s to play the title character in Don Giovanni (AKA Don Juan), which was released in 1955. He would go on to have a long career in American film and TV. My memory doesn’t shout out that he was dubbed in his American performances, but I could be wrong early in his U.S. films. Lollobrigida also began appearing in big American films in the 1950s. … The duel at the end of Crossed Swords was by far Flynn’s best climatic fight against the villain in all of his 1950s swashbucklers. And this is a massive understatement by LK. Flynn performed most of the final duel and his movements were fluid and well-done. His sword work was good and damn-near great (and there was very little stunt-doubling of Flynn in the final duel). Flynn’s swordplay far out-shined everything else he did in the 1950s. The only sword work that compares with his work in Crossed Swords was his short duel with Anthony Steel at the beginning of The Master of Ballantrae.

Again, this is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production.

BTW, swashbucklers co-produced in Europe with leading
English-speaking actors were often less than satisfactory well into the l960s.

Three more EF films and a return to Mr. Ellenstein

Errol Flynn made three films in which two were released in 1957 (The Big Boodle, The Sun Also Rises) and one in 1958 (Too Much, Too Soon). These films, all of which were American-produced after his long self-imposed exile in Europe. They contain, in my humble opinion, his best acting in the 1950s. This Errol Flynn was no longer the romantic hero who wins regardless if he lives or dies by the last reel of the film. Instead these performances were by a man who had lived life and had sunken to the depths of despair and yet had survived. These films presented a man who could no longer swing a blade or ride a horse and knows it as he nears the end of life. They are alive with sadness for an audience that knew what came before and yet they show a man who, if not quite a fighter to the end he does what he can to present as good an image as possible considering his situation.

Only Flynn’s Ned Sherwood in The Big Boodle is active and puts up a fight as he struggles to stay alive while clearing his name of a crime he didn’t commit.

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This image is based upon a b&w image in the LK Collection. Robert Ellenstein was one of the most important people in my life. See Bob’s comment about the acting and film world (below), as it gave my life focus at every step. I’m certain that he followed his simple rule as he lived his life and career. … I’ve known a lot of people who were not as they presented themselves. They had agendas that perhaps could be labeled as “heinous.” If yes, these people, if still alive, should be in prison. Bob Ellenstein was not one of these people. He was an extraordinary human being. And better he set my life on the course that it follows to this day. My father, my brother, and my mother influenced my life, and so did Robert Ellenstein. He was one of the most magnificent people that I have ever known during my entire life. Bob, thank you from the bottom of my heart. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I want to say a bit (probably a lot more than a bit) about actor and director Robert Ellenstein (who died in 2010). In the 1960s I was a theater major at what became California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The on-staff acting professor and I didn’t connect and I learned little from her. Luckily the university decided to bring in professionals to tutor the students. Jeff Corey, who had been blacklisted for 12 years in Hollywood during the communist witch hunts of the early 1950s, used his lost years to good advantage and began teaching acting. He became my acting coach while Bob Ellenstein became my directing coach. Bob and I connected and after I graduated college he became my acting coach, confidant, and good friend (as did his wonderful wife Lois). I can’t tell you how many happy and learning hours I spent with Bob and to a lesser degree with Lois.

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Errol Flynn as John Barrymore. Often it has been said that Flynn played Flynn in Too Much, Too Soon. I don’t know enough about John Barrymore’s life to know if this is true, but I intend to find out. For the record Flynn talked about how he played “Jack” Barrymore. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Bob Ellenstein played a key supporting role in Flynn’s Too Much, Too Soon, and of course I asked him about what it was like to work with Flynn (to this point in time I hadn’t seen the film). Bob’s lawyer entered the picture after Flynn’s John Barrymore had died. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: “My scenes were shot on days that he didn’t work. I never met the man.”

As the years passed and as Bob and I became close we shared more and more about our lives and as we did he guided me. … Acting is a lifelong study for a person must come in total contact with his or her being. That sounds simplistic; it is not. It is hard work. At one point Bob said to me while talking about the acting and film world, “Whatever you do, make sure that you can live with it.” I took this to heart. For the record I have never done anything that I can’t live with, and let me tell you that I have been presented with many unsavory propositions that would make you sick. I have never given in for the cost was way too expensive for my living soul.

An image of Mr. Flynn & yet another attack

On the late afternoon and evening of October 17, 2015, I was lucky to spend prime time with people from my past—people that shouldn’t be in my past, but friends that are still part of my life. It was a reunion, and honestly, if it wasn’t for a good friend of mine named Pete Senoff I probably would have passed, Thanks Pete, for it turned into a special time.

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From left: LK, Dennis Kreiger, and Ken Small at our high school reunion at the Sheraton Agoura Hills Hotel on 17oct2015. A good time for LK. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft)

Dennis Kreiger and Ken Small went to the last two years of elementary school with me, the three years of high school, and Dennis spent at least a couple of years with me in college. Ken became a police officer in Los Angeles and eventually a chief of police in Florida and then in Huntington Beach, California. Dennis had a successful tennis business in Encino, California, for decades. They are two of the good guys out of my past and present. I don’t know if they knew who they would become, but I didn’t know my future. Early on I did well with writing and essays but it didn’t mean anything to me.

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Former friend Dennis Riley, who was then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, shot this publicity photo in June 1969 at my parent’s house in Reseda, California, shortly after I completed my American Indian anthropology class, graduated from college, and began pursuing a career in acting. Oh yeah, broad-brimmed hats and I go way back. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

In my last semester in college I talked my way into an upper division anthropology class (with absolutely zero anthropology background). The professor gave in and I enjoyed myself in a class that dealt with American Indians that ranged from Alaska south into Central or South America. We had a term paper and I wrote about a young Apache’s journey into manhood. The professor set up a meeting between us. “Your paper is fiction,” she said. “It was supposed to be nonfiction.” “The instructions didn’t say that,” I replied. Her eyes looked up to the heavens. She shook her head, perhaps in the hope that I would go poof and disappear. I didn’t. Finally she chuckled and smiled. … I did quite well in that class. Still, I’m certain that if another hustler approached her without any anthropological background he would have fled for his life as she let loose with unbridled determination to never again deal with an outsider to the study of humankind.

Even when I wrote a screenplay about a shocking 1976 summer of acting in dinner theater (me), drugs (not me), racial prejudice, and bald-faced hatred wherein I was thrilled to escape the Lone Star state in one piece I still didn’t have a clue of what my future might hold. … Actually it had been preordained and was in place at least as early as 1970, and that experience was more horrifying, but as usual it didn’t register in my brain. Moreover, I still hadn’t realized what type of person Errol Flynn really was. This would still take me another decade or two to learn.

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I once wrote an article entitled “The Image of Errol Flynn” (Films of the Golden Age, Spring 2000), and even though I had made it clear the article dealt with Flynn in the 1940s letters to the editor attacked me for not including Flynn in the 1950s. Often editors will ask writers of articles to respond to letters to the editor. I should say that I hate letters to the editor for often they are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. In this case I simply said to the editor that there was no reason to reply as the ridiculous statement was out of scope of the article. … This hasn’t always been the case with some of my articles published in Wild West. These comments have often been flavored by racism or hatred toward me, but often I haven’t had to reply as I have viewed the comments an open invitation to attack. The editor, Greg Lalire, is first class and a good friend, but at times he walks a fine line between reality and insanity. More than once he has taken care of the problem offline (that is not in print or online). I love this! In 2014 an attack struck from a place that it shouldn’t have (and those reasons won’t be exposed until I go on an offensive that will initiate a war, a war a number of magnificent historians want me to start). Will I? Honestly, I don’t know. Guts Kraft, you need to trust your instincts and expose the lies and deception!

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LK enjoying champagne with Olivia de Havilland (“OdeH” as I often call her and “Livvie” as Errol Flynn often called her) at her home in Paris, France, in July 2009. The lady is alive, funny, informative (when she wants to be but secretive when she thinks it is best), bright, charming, and oh-so-sexy. Livvie is alive and I hope that she outlives me. For the record, she has been burned by unscrupulous writer-historians and agrees with my views on Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

What I have just stated above has also been true with so-called historians that write about Errol Flynn. They view him as open season, and fabricate facts and quotes while often citing obscure documentation that is hard to obtain at this late date. Worse, their facts and quotes are at times fiction (or, if you will, lies), with their lone goal to mislead their readers. You do not want to hear my opinion of these people, and I am using the word “people” here very loosely for these hacks aren’t “people.” I’m not going to call them what I know they are in this blog. Most likely I’ll never call them what they are, but I have every intention of exposing their fraudulent writing that has been created to destroy a human being’s life and reputation long after the fact without valid proof. As far as I’m concerned this is a heinous crime.

Back to the swashbuckling image

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A classic magazine cover; alas, they don’t make them like this anymore. This isn’t quite true, for Wild West magazine is moving to art for their covers (and this is something that I like).

Beginning with the release of Captain Blood (based upon the first portion of Rafael Sabatini’s novel, Captain Blood: The Odyssey, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1922) in New York City in December 1935 Errol Flynn became an overnight sensation—a superstar* if you will—and his co-star Olivia de Havilland became a star (but not as bright as she would have liked). Warner Bros. realized that they had struck gold with the Flynn and de Havilland combination and began looking for another epic to cast them in; it would be The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), inspired perhaps by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem of vainglorious defeat. Again the film was adventurous as it mixed a little history with a lot of fiction. Unfortunately a love triangle bogged the story down. Nevertheless Warner Bros. confirmed what they already knew—the combination of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in an epic romance meant big bucks at the box office. But for some unknown reason Warners ignored what they knew and began casting Flynn in films that were little better than melodramas in scope and delivery. Except for The Prince and the Pauper, but here Flynn was little more than a supporting player with a magnificent duel at the end of the film. By the end of 1937 Warner Bros. had finally realized their error of splitting Flynn and de Havilland apart. After almost making a major casting flub (casting James Cagney as Robin Hood), someone woke up and suddenly Errol and Olivia were once again cast together in a major motion picture. Filming on The Adventures of Robin Hood began in fall 1937.

* The word “superstar” was first used in relation to a great cricket team in the 1830s. Almost a century passed before it was used to describe great hockey players between the years 1910 and 1920. More decades would pass until the word hit its stride as we now know it today, but that wasn’t until long after Errol Flynn’s time.

One thing stood out in the 1930s and it is still true today—Errol Flynn appeared very natural on film. It, for the most part, looked like he wasn’t acting, and in a time when many actors came from the stage and their performances looked like acting, Flynn didn’t overact. At times the critics would chew on him for his naturalness, and judging by comments that he made over the years this hurt and bothered him.

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This is an original lobby card from the 1938 release of The Adventures of Robin Hood. (LK personal collection)

Oh, there were times when he did overact, such as in a scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood where his eyes go from left to right (or was it right to left?) in a closeup as he supposedly took in lay of the land (as to where Sir Guy of Gisbourne’s (Basil Rathbone) soldiers were waiting to jump him. I’d bet my life that this ridiculous closeup was insisted upon by the director. Actually one of two directors: William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, as I believe both had a hand in the major episode sequence in which the cut that I’m talking about is located in the film. I’ll have to go back to the script and match the closeup number with the call sheets to see when the shot was made.

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Published art based upon a studio still of the Rathbone and Flynn final duel in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I think that it is pretty good work by the artist that created it. (LK personal collection)

With the release of The Adventures of Robin Hood Flynn’s stature rose to new heights. I above discussed a shot that bothered me; there are others. That said, Flynn is magnificent as Robin Hood. His physicality and athletic ability is present at all times as is his capability with the sword. … My problem here is major, for no one can handle broadswords as presented in The Adventures of Robin Hood and I know this for I have swung a broadsword that was made of material that was considerably lighter than steel. It isn’t easy and there is absolutely no way that anyone can swing a broadsword as shown in Flynn’s 1938 film. That said, Flynn’s handling of the sword in that film was extraordinary (albeit they are rapier cuts and slices and thrusts). Basil Rathbone loudly proclaimed that he had studied the sword and “could have killed Mr. Flynn whenever I wanted.” (I hope that this quote is close; if not, it is a paraphrase). You want to know something? If in reality it was a duel to the death between Rathbone and Flynn, my money’s on Flynn. Reason: Rathbone was swinging the blade by the numbers. If what I just said is true, Rathbone was a student fighting with technique while Flynn fought to survive (and he had plenty of survival skills that dated back to his days in New Guinea … not to mention his dueling lessons that dated to Captain Blood). Again, and without batting an eye, my money’s on Flynn.

Alas, it will take three books to deal with Flynn’s swashbuckling and western and war and human experience films. If it becomes obvious that I won’t meet my goal of three full-fledged nonfiction books on his life I have every intention of writing a lightweight volume or two (similar to Tony Thomas’s superior film histories and genre-specific tomes w/photos books). This is easy for me. All the research is in place and I’ve got tons of images. This could be accomplished in half a year per volume (my average nonfiction book takes at least five to seven years to write when it is a major project). … If something happens and suddenly time becomes short I will move to plan B.

Mounting up with Mr. Flynn

In My Wicked, Wicked Ways Flynn called himself “the rich man’s Roy Rogers.” I didn’t check to see if I have the quote correct or if I have paraphrased it here. I’m not certain if he was talking about later in the cycle of his eight westerns or not.

A surprise named Dodge City

If memory serves me, and I didn’t dig for this blog (that said, I know Flynn), Mr. Flynn questioned being cast in a western film when he became aware that Warner Bros. was preparing a western to fit his screen persona (Dodge City, 1939).

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A relaxed and smiling Errol Flynn on the first or second day of Dodge City location filming. (photo in LK personal collection)

Of course he hadn’t done any research on the western expansion as the United Stated pushed to make the country extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t think that an Australian accent was present on the western frontier. Actually all accents were present on the western frontier and Mr. Flynn fit the mold of the adventurers that went a-westering to find fame and fortune. Trust me when I say the following, … Errol Flynn was more believable than the multitudes of “cowboy” actors that have been little more than clichés since the beginning of film. I’m certain that he would have enjoyed hearing this during his lifetime. He didn’t. If I meet him in the hereafter I’ll tell him this.

Like my knowledge of the sword I know the western experience. Actually a hundredfold more than the sword. I know race relations, I know the people that ventured West, I know the American Indians (certainly the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and Navajos), and I know the people that attempted to end racial war (I’m upfront and center with this topic).

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This art was created from a recent photo of Pailin Subanna-Kraft and LK. She’s my pistol-packing lady and I’m Mr. Hickok. BTW, the hair was mine as I needed useful photos with long hair. It was recently clipped for an event but don’t rule out the return of long tresses for now that it is gone I miss it. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write about the gunmen, I know a hell of a lot about James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok (who, if I get lucky, I’ll someday play on stage), John Wesley Hardin, and Doc Holliday. Errol Flynn would have fit in with all of these people, and if he lived in the 1860s or 1880s he would have been a survivor. His performances in western films, except for his next to last, Montana (1950), are all acceptable. Three are exceptional (Dodge City; Virginia City, 1940; and They Died with Their Boots On, 1941), two are acceptable (San Antonio, 1945, and Rocky Mountain, 1950), and one I cannot comment about (Silver River, 1948) as I haven’t seen it in decades. … While still on the subject of who I’d like to play on stage, add Errol Flynn to the list. In the case of Hickok and Flynn I need to convince my director and producer to buy into the project (which I’d write). The Flynn project would be original but the Hickok project would be based upon a great novel, East of the Border, by Johnny Boggs (and in this case I also need Boggs to buy into the project).

“Must See, Must Read”
Five intriguing books and five films about the Indian Wars
by Louis Kraft*
Wild West (August 2014)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941, on DVD, Warner Home Video): If Errol Flynn hadn’t played George Armstrong Custer, there would have been no Kraft writing about the Indian wars. Long years past through present day, critics of this film have pounded it for its historical inaccuracy. Although true, let me invite you to actually research it—which I’ve done since the mid-1990s in preparation of multiple books on Errol Flynn (the first to be called Errol & Olivia). The thrust has been simple: In 1941 Warner Bros. feared being sued, and historical players and facts changed to fiction. Even though the film is fiction, it is so close to truths that have been disguised and altered that it’s scary. I can’t list them here, but trust me, for ’tis true. Don’t buy it? Do your own research. … Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer is magnificent, for he captured the spirit of the man; and Olivia de Havilland is perfect as Libbie Custer. It is arguably Flynn’s best performance, and by far their best performances in the eight films they did together.”
* This column is ongoing in Wild West (by contributors to the magazine).
Usually five books and five films have mini reviews. I made my comments personally related to my writing career. This issue also included two other LK articles.
One, a feature, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” was, I believe, the best
article that I have written about Ned Wynkoop.
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Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On just before he sets out for Montana Territory and destiny, and the real Custer 11 years before his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. For the record Custer set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on his final Indian campaign on May 17, 1876. He didn’t engage Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians on the Little Bighorn River until June 25, 1876. This fact is here for, believe it or not, people have stated to me numerous times that Custer fought his final battle a day or two after setting out. (both images are in the LK personal collection)

Already this blog is fairly long and I don’t want to expend another four thousand or more words here. If you’ve read my Flynn articles you know what I think about They Died with Their Boots On (my best Boots article appeared in the June 2008 issue of American History). There had been a pitch to True West to write short articles on all eight of Flynn’s western films (which had been accepted at the time of the pitch in June 2012) but then, suddenly, as I prepared to deliver the first article the idea was dropped by the magazine. My view of the change without notice: Bullshit, which I made known. Because of this I’m on True West’s “S–list” and have no intention of again pitching them with another story idea. They can pitch me and if the story idea is acceptable to me I’ll write it for them (ditto, Wild West), but I have no intention of pitching True West until this less-than-savory event is resolved to my satisfaction. Wild West is another story, but it, too has something that we need to resolve. … Add that book writing is my major concern and honestly I don’t give a damn if I ever write another magazine article. Hell, I’m never going to write for Oracle or Yahoo! again (and they paid me a hell of a lot of money)—why should writing for True West or Wild West be any different (and they pay peanuts)?

Hey, that’s life. … At least that is my life at this date in time.

For the record Errol Flynn looks like he was born astride a horse. This was evident in Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and in all of his westerns (except for Montana).

The goal has been to hopefully catch your interest in Errol Flynn, but not to write a book within a blog.

A tease for The Discovery and a return to Sand Creek

A tease for The Discovery
and a return to Sand Creek
Posted September 6, 2015

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


  • Those of you who read my Indian wars writing will be shocked.
  • Those of you who know me but not my writing will also be shocked.

Kraft, what the hell are you talking about?

The Discovery

The Discovery fell into my lap while I wrote for Yahoo! and functioned as a consultant for the beginning of a medical malpractice-legal thriller by a physician I’ve known for 25 years—Robert S. Goodman.

… From the early 1950s until shortly before his death in 1987 my father-in-law was my
physician. 
He was one of the top doctors in the San Fernando Valley, and
had—believe it or not—been my family’s doctor since 1954 (I didn’t
meet my first wife until I was a junior in college). And let me tell you
there were perks. I guess that the major one was that after the
marriage and until after his death I never had to buy health
insurance. Other doctors didn’t charge me, and neither did
my dentist. My daughter’s birth had a total cost of zero
dollars. Yes, early in my adult life I learned of the
benefits of befriending one’s doctors.

Not that I use my doctors (all of whom are specialists), for I never have. I have befriended them, but this has always been a patient-doctor relationship. We talk about medicine, health, insurance, play scripts, fiction, nonfiction, their writing, my writing, and I share. They learn a little from me and are even open to learning more while I learn a lot from them (my side of the learning basically deals with my health).

A short diversion with my father, violence, and earning a living

Just before my father died (1999; 19 years after his wife/my mother died) he said to me, “If I knew I’d live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.” (All I can say to that is, “Me too.”)

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In the late 1940s and into the early 1950s my father climbed the Esso gasoline world. By the 1950s he appeared to be a person on the rise in the company. The Esso Gasoline Corporation did a round of publicity shots that they used in their advertising with him as the leading model. At that time he managed three Esso gas stations in Yonkers, New York. What the company didn’t realize was 1) My father hated being told what to do (shades of LK Jr) and 2) he hated the weather in New York. In the 1940s my mother and father, who had explored SoCal at least twice, did it once again in 1949 with your truly (but unfortunately I remember nothing). That trip ordained their and my future, and it wouldn’t be in New York.

On February 13, 1999, the last day I saw my living father as I knew him, he said to me as I left, “I love you, Louis.” Two of the words he had never used before: “love” and “Louis.” I had chosen to use “Louis” when I became an actor (he along with others struggled with this). As far as “love” goes, he always loved me, even when we didn’t get along, which stretched all the way to my mother’s/his wife’s death and decades before. The last 10 days of her life put us together during all of our waking hours. My mother/his wife’s last hours on earth gave us a relationship, that is her passing ended his quest to rule my life and accept that I would not march to the beat of his drum.

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LK at the time of these bullets. Actually this image was pulled from a three-shot of LK, Santa Claus, and another person. I have four of these photos. One is definitely the first of the four and dates to the end of the 1960s but the other three can be shuffled and all date to the early 1970s.

For example:

  • Once my father knocked me cold at home when a friend visited.
  • Soon after a girl who perhaps outweighed me by 50 to 100 pounds ran me over while I was going about three or four miles per hour on my motorcycle when she was running and broadsided me and hit me in the face with her hands. She broke my sun glasses which cut her fingers, but that was it—she didn’t even fall down. This was in Woodland Hills, California (then a rural area). The motorcycle shot across the street, jumped the curb, and went through a chain link fence that blocked entry to a field and hills. I was left hanging knocked out on the top of the fence (thank God for helmets!). I didn’t walk for weeks, and my father was there for me.
  • Another time I became a little too angry (the last day I ever lived at home) and aggressive (I’m being kind to me here), and I frightened him. He called the police. Within minutes three or four squad cars arrived with sirens blasting and guns in evidence when the officers stepped from their vehicles. I exited the house with hands raised. My father was right behind me and he talked the officers out of making an arrest. Even though there seemed to be a bloodlust pushing us toward a not-too-good ending he stood behind me, protected me, and pulled me to safety. (That night I slept in my girlfriend’s car in a parking garage below her father’s apartment. The next morning the infamous February 1971 earthquake destroyed portions of the San Fernando Valley. Jerked awake I ran out of the parking structure to see tidal waves washing out of the pool. The three-story apartment complex buildings waved in the breeze like 1930s cartoons. The view was unreal.)
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LK & LK Sr. in the back yard at Tujunga House on Thanksgiving 1995 (three years two and a half months before his death). He loved the garden at Tujunga House, and I’m certain he’d be shocked if he saw it now. This day is special to me, as are all Thanksgivings and Christmases (and I cook traditional meals). Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth and Thanksgiving is the celebration of the Pilgrims’ first harvest of crops with the Wampanoag Indians in Plymouth in 1621. They are not the extravaganza of sales that is currently stuffed down Americans’ throats today. Unfortunately business greed has overwhelmed America and has done everything possible to negate these special day’s true meaning. I’ll be damned if I’ll stand in line and elbow strangers to buy, buy, and buy more as publicity departments pound the American public to do from every direction that it is almost demoniacal. … On this 1995 Thanksgiving, perhaps 10 minutes after this image was taken, my father observed for the first time a grand mal seizure to one of the most special person in both of our lives. It shocked him, as it would you. There is a lot of harsh reality in this world, and much of it most people don’t experience. (photo © Louis Kraft 1995)

Eventually time would change even though we still had clashes, while I survived in a world that was different from his. He saw this, and although it would take years he accepted it. The point of this section is simple. My father gave me the strength to be me, and although at times it looked as if one of us could have killed the other we didn’t. If not for him I’m certain that my life would not have been as it has been. Our battles pushed me to challenge him. They also gave me the courage to follow my winding trail of life. I do as I please and my profession is what I choose. I have no regrets for everything in my life happened for a reason. You can bet that I believe in cause and effect. That said my life always has goals prominently leading the way. Someday the end will come and a goal or two won’t have been reached but if that is how it ends I’m good with it.

Back to The Discovery and physicians

This simple formula of how I relate to my physicians has opened doors to my life. It has given me friends in a world in which I haven’t known other than how it applies to my health. Bob Goodman is directly responsible for me walking this earth for the last 12+ years (as is urology specialist Malcolm Cosgrove, who performed a surgery that continued my life in 2003).

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One of many clipart images that symbolize medicine. This will not appear on The Discovery cover. It is here as I must soon begin thinking of cover art. I think that the doctor whose life spirals toward an explosive end must dominate the cover. I also think that a 1952 incubator needs to be on the cover as well as the doctor’s wife who is an essential key to the plot (but both she and the incubator must be secondary to the doctor. Looming behind the doctor must be a shadow that symbolizes the court system. Just like my studying whatever I read and every film that I look at I also study book covers. Simple is better, but it cannot be vague nor can it mislead the reader.

Trust me, these two gentlemen, along with other physicians, are people that I have befriended and helped whenever possible.

At the end of November 2013 Bob Goodman asked me to partner with him on The Discovery (read: I write the manuscript based upon his rough draft and great idea). I was hesitant as I write seven days a week on my books and blogs. He offered upfront $$$. I told him I’d think about it. I decided to turn down the offer (which I knew would hurt him), but then I received a bill for an uninsured operation that I didn’t know about until after the fact. This was a big ouch as I then earned about 20 percent of what I earned when Oracle and I parted company in 2012. The up-front money paid for my half of that unexpected operation. I accepted the partnership in his updated but still incomplete novel sight unseen.

That was a big mistake by me, but at the same time it eliminated a bill that I couldn’t afford to pay.

To repeat myself accepting the partnership was a big mistake, but it did eliminate a bill that I couldn’t afford to pay. I’m still putting in a lot of hours on The Discovery project (a recent week logged over 70 hours). But—BUT I’m in control and I’m working on a manuscript that I think will be one of the best that I ever write (the story spans over two decades, has multiple players, and yet I’ve figured out how to pull everything together and make it work while keeping it believable).

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This is the cover for the Variety section of the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle (15may1992). The Final Showdown was published in April 1992 and my divorce was final in April 1992. At that time I owned with my ex-wife two houses (one in Encino and one in Thousand Oaks), and she got both houses. The TO house, which is in Ventura County, was a gorgeous two-story home a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. Swimming has always been my favorite sport and at that time I swam 70 laps (no big deal when compared to the 30+ laps I used to swim at 24 Hour Fitness in an Olympic-sized pool). Nevertheless I loved living there. When the News Chronicle contacted me for the interview/article I lived in Tarzana (in Los Angeles County). The writer wanted to interview me at home. At that time I wrote for a telecommunications firm in El Segundo (south of LAX). I asked him to drive to El Segundo. He didn’t want to, so I talked him into two phone interviews. At the end of the interviews he told me that a photographer needed to take pictures of me at my TO home. “Why?” I asked. He said, “If you don’t live in Venture County we won’t print the story about you.” I called my ex-wife and explained the situation. She told me that as long as I didn’t enter the house I could take as many photos outside that I needed. Good for me. On the day of the photo shoot I arrived early at my former home and met the photographer outside. We shot images in the courtyard. He then wanted to go inside. I asked if he wanted to take pictures of me at my computer and he said “yes.” “I have a better idea,” I told him. “What’?” “Let’s shoot on the hill after you exit the 101 freeway and drive south into the Santa Monica foothills.” He loved the idea, and the Variety cover is the result. BTW the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle at that time was just like the LA Times. It even mimicked the Times’ entertainment section and was folded in half and opened like a magazine. (© Thousand Oaks News Chronicle 1992)

BTW, I’m not a novice at writing fiction. For almost a decade beginning in 1976 and extending to 1985 a screen writing agent and a TV writer/producer took me under their tender tutelage. Under their care I learned how to write dialogue, create characters, and design plots that move forward. By the late 1980s I moved on to fiction. The Final Showdown was published in 1992, and I had a follow-up contract for a Kit Carson/Navajo story (if you’ve read previous blogs you know what happened here and what my future became). Don’t doubt me, folks, my move to nonfiction has been the best working (not writing, but working) decision in my life for it directly led to my writing for the software world and eventually earning over six figures). It also gave me the best writing that I’ve ever done in the Indian wars nonfiction field, and believe me there are nonfiction books on the horizon that will be better than anything that I’ve written in the past.

All the above said, and as of the beginning of September 2015, I’m thrilled that I partnered with Bob Goodman. We will have a good story, and I think that it will be a page turner. What more could a writer ask for?

Bob Goodman had a great idea for The Discovery, but he had/has no clue on how to write characters, dialogue, plot, or a novel. Actually his spelling sucked and his research was worse. My new partner had told me that he had polished what he had and in which I had reviewed and had included my major suggestions on how to improve the story. I don’t want to say that his words were an understatement but they were. He had no chapters, just pages—some with one paragraph and others with a half page of text. Sometimes scenes would be repeated, … You get the picture. That said Bob Goodman’s idea for The Discovery was terrific.

My work was a challenge but one I embraced. And best, I had no restrictions. The manuscript will be published, and I know that I’ll take a lot of negative heat, and if you ever read the book you’ll know why. But The Discovery will open the door for my return to fiction. Fiction is a touchy subject to a number of people including me. Why me? Because I still have to complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, would like to do a nonfiction book on Kit Carson, and must finish Errol & Olivia (which is the first of a planned trilogy on Flynn). That’s a lot of nonfiction writing staring me in the face. In case you don’t know it nonfiction takes a lot longer as almost every day I’m studying the known facts (that is primary source material). It probably takes me at least five times as long to write a page of nonfiction than it takes me to write a page of fiction. For the record I use secondary nonfiction material only when necessary (for many-many reasons).

My first novel after The Discovery will deal with the Navajo Indians (or as they were called and as they call themselves, the Diné).

A return to Sand Creek

As hinted at in this blog The Discovery has absolutely killed me time wise (and there are other reasons that I’ll probably never mention). I’ve also said that I’m thrilled with the manuscript, and that’s good. … But Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is my main book project and it has been so since the contract was signed. It is now and must remain my number one priority until it is published. What I still need to do on The Discovery has now been regulated to extra work, by that I mean that it will happen after hours (just like these blogs are created; at night and after I’ve completed my day’s work).

Although I’ve said it in the past I’m saying it again here. When I work on nonfiction I write from primary source (and secondary source when necessary) information. I study the primary source information and compare to other primary source information that I’ve been able to locate and obtain from archives or from historian friends that share their primary source documentation with me. I make every effort to confirm what I think is what happened. For me this is a slow process, and it gets even slower when I attempt to write what I believe happened from my understanding of my research.

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The LK portrait of Gatewood was first published in Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). Over the years it has been printed three times. (art © Louis Kraft 2004)

The Charles Gatewood books and the Ned Wynkoop book were new territory as no one in the past had written about them with them as the focus of the book. Most often they received a paragraph here or a paragraph there or once in a while a few thousand words. Often much of what was said about them had already been printed and that mostly in anthologies. Primary resource books, especially for Gatewood, have contained nuggets about them that are invaluable but they were far too little (and often in obscure books that didn’t advertise their presence in the volumes). One of the reasons for this is that both stood up to authority: That is to the military, the U.S. government, and the press when they thought that they were correct in their beliefs.

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The LK portrait of Wynkoop was first published in “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races,” Custer and His Times, Book Five (The Little Big Horn Associates, Inc., 2008). Over the years it has been printed five times. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Both men accomplished extraordinary feats during the Indian wars—not feats in war with notches on their revolvers but feats of preventing war or ending war or attempting to end war. They actually accepted the people in conflict with the United States as human beings and not vicious subhumans that were capable of little more than theft, rape, and murder. This was not a popular view in the 1860s (Wynkoop) or the 1880s (Gatewood) and as such the press, the military, and even the U.S. government chose to ignore their efforts and exile them (Gatewood) or better yet bury them (Wynkoop) in an avalanche of negative press and criticism by a military ordained to control American Indians as the United States basically stole their land through treaties that the Indians didn’t understand and worse didn’t represent the agreement by most of the tribe (Cheyennes). For the Apaches it was different, for they had been forced onto reservations and when portions of them fled being little more than prisoners of war they were treated as if they were outlaws … and not people who were losing their homeland, their religion, their language, their children, the lifeway and their freedom.

When the colonists revolted against British rule in the eighteenth century they became patriots, but this was not the British point of view (POV), which is a film term that I explained in Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995). Why not the Apaches and the Cheyennes? Wasn’t their revolt similar? The soon to be Americans fought to free themselves from a tyrannical overrule while the Apaches and Cheyennes fought against a massive enemy that wanted their land at all costs.

Sand Creek is turning into becoming the most difficult book that I have ever written. Why? Simply put I’m attempting to tell the story through a handful of major players from five distinct categories. I want to bring the leading players (as well as major secondary players) to life through their actions and words. This is considerably more difficult than it sounds. Not because I’m viewing the lead-up to the attack at Sand Creek, the attack at Sand Creek, and the aftermath of the attack through the eyes of the players but because there isn’t a lot of primary source material on these players (and often secondary sources are light on information, or worse heavy on mis-information).

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After the speakers and music completed at the Washita Battlefield NHS overlook on 11nov2011 I captured this image of Moses Starr of the Red Moon Singers & Drum Group (left) and W. Richard (Rick) West. I met Rick for the first time before the event began and then spent a lot of time with him on the 12th, when we both spoke at the symposium and also lunched together. We had plenty of time to talk. Rick is a Cheyenne peace chief. He is also the founding director and director emeritus of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Recently he became president and CEO of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (I believe in December 2012). To date I have held off contacting him about my problem with the Southwest Museum. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

For the book to work I must find the required information, and this hasn’t been easy and especially so since the George Bird Grinnell archive at the Braun History Library at the Southwest Museum (Los Angeles that I mined in June 2014 for 12 days has still not delivered  material that I requested and was supposed to have received no later than September 2014. One might say, “Kraft, tell them to keep the damned material!” Believe me I’ve thought of this more than once, and it’s pretty bleeping hard to keep a civil tongue each time I approach the archive on the status of this important delivery. My guess, I’ll probably receive the material in 2017 (which is beyond my manuscript delivery date). I should know better, for the archive had missed a deadline for a single image permission I needed to use one photo (that’s right, one photo permission for an image that I had already used in Gatewood & Geronimo) for the second Gatewood book (and they had about six months to create the permission). That wasn’t enough time, and the Southwest didn’t deliver, … my deadline came and passed and I used another image from an archive that knows what deadlines are. Yes, I am well aware of their less than sparkling track record (and yes, there is a hint of sarcasm here). But It is now magnified as I’m trying to present the Cheyennes in a way that I’ve never done before, and here I must succeed for the manuscript to have any chance of working as I envision it.

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Regional National Park Service ranger Jeff Campbell (right), LK, and John Monnett on 3oct2014 at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS. Campbell, a former police officer, is writing a book about the Sand Creek Massacre as a murder investigation. On this day, he, John, and I enjoyed a good round-robin conversation. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Research is ongoing until the book will be published. The University of Oklahoma Press, my publisher, and I are well acquainted with each other and how we both work. My comment here? I’m one privileged cowboy for OU Press is the top Indian wars publisher in the world and I’m lucky to write for them. We are brothers (and sisters) in war. That is we both want the best possible product published and as such we push for this to happen, … and this means at times that we are in conflict. I wouldn’t have it any other way, for this is the only way to produce a product that has value.

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This is John Derek, a film star in the 1950s and early 1960s. Like Errol Flynn he had to deal with the “gorgeous” image, which he hated (like Flynn). Unlike Flynn he walked away from film stardom and became a director-producer-photographer. This image is from Massacre at Sand Creek (1957). I believe that he played the lead role in the film, but it isn’t currently available and I have not seen it. Sometime shortly after Derek walked away from his acting career I met him at his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., south of Ventura Blvd., in the San Fernando Valley, when I tried out for one of his independent films. His home was macho, and featured major animal game kills and trophies on the floors, furniture, and walls (it was the third such home I had seen like this among the Hollywood crowd, and if you’re into big-game hunting it was impressive). His wife was Bo Derek, and she was one of the stars of the major release hit 10 (1979) with Dudley Moore in the lead role. Derek was preparing for his next film. It wasn’t Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981?) and if my memory is accurate it was Bolero (1984). During my three visits I saw sides to the script, and easily spent six or more hours in Derek’s home during a two-week span). Bo was present at all three tryouts. During my first two interviews, which were more like visits, I hung out mostly with Derek as we spent time chatting and getting to know each other. On my final interview/visit I spent most of my time with Bo while she showed me nude slides of herself as we chatted. When I finally interviewed and read with Derek she went for a nude swim in the pool. A beautiful picture. Unfortunately I didn’t land the part. … That’s life—move on.

For the record I’m approaching the leading and supporting players in the Sand Creek manuscript through their POV. That is I’m attempting to present them through their actions, and honestly I believe almost everyone who has lived or lives believes that what they do is good (at least from their POV). Of course there are people, such as Charles Manson and Ted Bundy, who were massive murderers (I almost had contact with Manson as a place he at times lived at I used for a motorcycle stop and I worked on a mini-series on Bundy called The Deliberate Stranger, 1986). Oh, for the record, Los Angeles has returned to days long gone. August 2015 has a confirmed murder count of 39 per the Los Angeles Times (“Deadliest August in Los Angeles in 8 years,” 4Sept2015). Until 2015 the Times had been bragging about the decline in heinous crime in Los Angeles. I guess they spoke up too soon, and gulp, need to swallow a little of their misrepresentations.

Do not doubt it
The lead up to the massacre at Sand Creek was bloody from both sides, and a lot of innocent people died. The tragedy at Sand Creek in November 1864 is perhaps the most important event of the Cheyenne Indian wars on the central and southern plains for it made the Indians realize that the white man had one goal—To kill them and take their land. This single event marked beginning of the end of the Cheyennes’ freedom. It was an intense time for Indians and whites alike, and many innocents would die horribly. Lives and careers (of both races) would be put on the line. These people made decisions that were popular and not popular among their own race. Some of these decisions led to a loss of prestige, power, and at times death. Heroes would become villains and villains would be vindicated. … And still people would die. By the end of the 1860s the Cheyenne lifeway had come to an end.

Jerry Russell (see below image) did everything possible to advance my Indian wars writing career, including inviting me to speak at the Order of The Indian Wars 1st Annual West Coast Conference, Fullerton, Ca., on 28feb87 (it would be its last in SoCal).
Unfortunately Jerry is now long gone, but luckily the OIW continues to live.

Jerry Russell relaxes above where it was originally thought that the Sand Creek Massacre took place, which was then on private property. I had been doing George Armstrong Custer research in the north, called him up and asked if I and my family could join the tour and then the banquet that night. Without missing a beat, he said, “yes.” He would praise a Flynn/Custer article of mine that had been published, and a number of years later invited me to again talk at an OIW event. Unfortunately I later learned that my daughter’s graduation from high school would happen during the same weekend as the convention and I canceled the talk. Jerry’s response: “I’m glad that someone has their priorities in place.” (photo © Louis Kraft 1987)

Back to The Discovery

The manuscript moves toward production at an increasing pace. Two polishes have been completed. I’m excited. … Although I have kept the plot a secret I want to share a few lines of dialogue that deal with the first meeting of two key players in the story, and it is exploratory. Moreover it gives away nothing of the plot. Character development is usually created with action and dialogue, and in this example it is almost totally through dialogue.

I must again warn you, for I do believe that fully 60 percent of you that read The Discovery when published will be offended by the text. If true, I apologize. … But if not I hope that the text grabs you, holds you, excites you, but more I hope that it captivates you and that you aren’t able to set the book down.

The above is the hope of every writer.

A first meeting in The Discovery

The following is just a sample of how some of the dialogue flows in the working manuscript. This scene (of which only a portion is presented below, is the initial meeting between Greg Weston, who was born blind, and Gail Gordon, a lady eight years older than him. Both are key players in uncovering a discovery 20 years after the fact. It will lead to malpractice, infidelity, a court case, murder, and the destruction of major character’s lives. I have written story as a thriller. Sample text from The Discovery (© Louis Kraft & Robert S. Goodman, MD, 2013-2015) follows:

As Greg continued to talk to the waitress a young woman burst into the deli and raced to Ethel at the cashier station. “Could you tell me whose dog that is?” she said as she pointed at Boots, who was clearly visible through the front window.

“Sure, sweetie.” Ethel pointed at Greg. “See that handsome hunk in the second booth on the right?”

The woman nodded. “Yes.”

“It’s his seeing eye dog.”

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This LK portrait dates to 1973 when I was a member of the Melrose Theatre Company, a professional theater group on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood (Paul Kent ran the company). I worked on a lot of scenes with a redhead with kinky hair (whose mother then worked on Broadway in NYC). We hit it off in our personal lives and on stage. She was sexier than hell and I not only liked her I desired her. At that time I was married, meaning that intimacy could never happen. I know that this hurt her (and this would hit the fan about two years later, and what happened on that day ended our friendship and working relationship). Before the end we had spent a lot of time working on a then popular play called Butterflies are Free. It dealt with a blind man and the lady in his life. I learned a lot about blindness at that time and I used it in The Discovery. (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

“Thanks,” she replied over her shoulder as she walked quickly toward Greg. When he didn’t look at her she tapped his shoulder. “Is that your dog outside by the fire hydrant?”

“Yes. Is there a problem?”

“No—YES!” She inhaled deeply. “Please don’t get upset, but I hit him with the bumper of my car while I was backing out of my parking spot.”

“Was he in the street?”

“No.”

“Then how did you hit him?”

“I guess I turned the wheel too sharply and my right rear wheel climbed the curb.”

“Good driving.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt him. Look, I checked him over and he seems fine but maybe you should come out with me and take a look at him.”

Greg stood and waved his hand, but didn’t move toward the door.

“Are you coming?”

“In a minute.”

The waitress Molly reached his table. He recognized her by her perfume. “Yes, my dear boy, what do you need?”

“I need to check Boots. Please keep my breakfast warm for me.” He turned to the woman. “Let’s go.”

She took his hand and began to lead the way. He pulled his hand free. “Whoa! What are you doing?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t … I saw your … cane … and I thought that …” she stammered.

“Never mind. It’s an easy mistake. Look, I’m totally capable of walking to my dog.” He led the way using his cane and she followed him out the door.

Boots leaped up and gently nudged against Greg when he reached the fire hydrant. He smiled. “That’s a good sign,” he said to the woman. “Sit,” he ordered and the dog did. Greg began to examine his care keeper, pet, and best friend beginning with his snout. He then moved to his chest, abdomen, and back before moving to his legs and paws. “He seems fine,” he said over his shoulder.

The woman sighed. “Thank goodness! He must be one tough dog.”

“He should be. He spent two years in the army; he worked with a combat unit of the First Airborne Division. … I’ll check him again at home.”

“Can I take both of you to a vet?” she asked anxiously.

“No!” Although he couldn’t see her, he sensed that his sharp reply stung. “Boots is so damn smart that he would go there on his own if he felt hurt,” he continued in a soft voice.

She laughed but not loudly. “Can I at least take you to breakfast?”

“I was about to have it before you interrupted.”

“I meant …” she began, but couldn’t finish. “I mean, can I pay for your cold breakfast?”

He nodded and smiled smugly. “That you can, providing you join me.”

“I just ate—here as a matter of fact.”

“Understood. I still want you to join me … at the table.”

She smiled and nodded.

He waited but heard nothing. “Are you going to reply?” he asked.

“Oh! I’m sorry. I did, but I didn’t. Yes, I can join you.”

“Good. Lead the way.”

The woman opened the deli door, entered, and Greg followed her. As they sat down the waitress Molly appeared with Greg’s breakfast and coffee. “Now that’s what I call fast service,” Greg said.

“All of us poor waitresses here strive to please you, handsome boy.”

“Molly, give it a break.”

“Humph,” she mumbled as she walked away.

LK_tujungaHouse_3717_29aug15_ws

LK at Tujunga House in the late afternoon on 29aug2015. The hair is long and I have become a shaggy dog. What can I say, other than that’s life and that I need photos with long hair for various reasons. Pailin says that I look like a hippie. My view: Like an ugly hippie. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

“She’s been hustling me for over a year now.”

“I know why. You are handsome.”

“Enough of this!” He took a slice of toast and broke off a corner, which he dipped into his semi-hardened egg yoke. “You know a little too much about me. Tell me about yourself.”

She gulped in a small breath. “I’m—I’m a little over …” She paused and then started again. “I’m forty-seven years old, overweight, divorced, with two kids in college, and unemployed.”

“Right,” Greg said dryly. “Now give the real sales pitch.”

She chuckled. “Okay, but remember that you asked for it.”

“I like this.”

“Hold on to your seat, handsome boy.

“I will. But first your name.”

“Gail Gordon. I’m twenty-eight years old, …”

“…and are speaking the truth this time?”

A few thoughts about The Discovery and my world

The above incomplete scene is innocent. I assume that all of us have had innocent times in our lives regardless of the end result. More often than not—at least for me—a lot of good beginnings never went anywhere. With hopefully not sounding too cliché everyone’s lives are different. Things happen and those happenings often direct the future of our lives. Sometimes we’re in control of those changes but often we aren’t. Decisions and events are key to our everyday life but also to the flow of our lives. Did I choose the right course for me? If not, where did I go astray? Could I have done better or did my past life seal my future? We live in a violent world; hell, I live in what could possibly called the vicious world of Los Angeles in 2015. People die violently every day in LA. Robberies are ongoing as are rapes against innocent victims. How many children in their yards, homes, or cars need to die by bullets meant for someone else? I can dig much deeper into the dark area where the last few sentences head, but I won’t (or perhaps I’d silently place a target on my back). … I grew up in a much more innocent time, and those were the good old days (of course, where I lived didn’t deal with racism; actually it wouldn’t have mattered for my parents had no racist thoughts). Those of you that have read my books and these blogs or know me personally know my stance on racism.

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I took this image of Pailin on 3oct2014 as John & Linda Monnett and she and I walked along the western ridge that presents a good view of the land where the Cheyennes and Arapahoes camped along Sand Creek in November 1864. It is a long walk just to reach the southern portion of where the village once stood. She is doing what she loves to do and that is documenting the people, events, and happenings in her life. Not too long ago she asked when our next research trip would happen. I know for a fact that it won’t be this year as our work loads are too large (and hers now includes six months of classes). When the time arrives I know that she’ll be ready to hit the road. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

The coming novel doesn’t deal with racism but there are hints of it on the edges of the pages. Rather it deals with a physician who has had a pristine medical career. Suddenly an event so far in his past that he can’t remember it triggers events that may end his life as he knows it. For someone who has always been in control he must now face a future in which he has little say. It’s more than frightening as his entire world disintegrates before his eyes. There’s really only one question: Will he and what is most important to him survive?

The Discovery is a medical malpractice thriller that is both intimate and truthful. It deals with subject matter that once was taboo in poplar fiction but perhaps is no longer so. That said it is harsh, to the point, and it will shock many of you. … I hope that you read it for it deals with real people in real situations. If not I understand.