Tag Archives: apache

Bonfire of the vanities

Hi Readers:

I’ve got this box of US Archives microfilm of all the US Army Civil War correspondence for the Department of New Mexico and Arizona staring at me.  Wasted a phone call to the  Arizona State Archives, talked to a clerk who’d have her boss get back to me if they wanted them.

Microfilm of Yankee Army Civil War correspondence

No joy.  I suppose I might yet find a university, or the NM or Texans might want them for their State Archives.  It’s got the California Volunteers activities, and the Union perspectives on what all those Texas troops were doing raising hell up the Rio Grande.  Nice description of how, when the last Texans had retreated to Fort Davis, left their wounded in the hospital there for the Union to treat when they arrived.

Apache got there between the exit of the Texans and the arrival of the Union troops.  Slaughtered them all in their beds, mutilated the corpses.

We’re talking good stuff here.  Somebody sure as hell ought to want it.

Maybe I can swing up by Ruidoso and blackmail the Mescalero with it.

Or maybe it’s time for all that stuff to go into the burn pile.

Old Jules

The Boy Captives – J. Marvin Hunter – Book Review

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming for a read.  I bought this tome in a thrift store in Kerrville before I knew it’s the hottest piece of literature to be had in TimeWarpVille [Junction], Texas. 

I suppose that qualifies me to brag I have a nose for cool, an instinct for hot, to boast that I was also country when country wasn’t cool, same as the song said. 

Over in TimeWarpVille every business in town has a stack of these with a $10+ pricetag.  And customers standing in line to buy soft drinks, potato chips, deer corn, and steel fenceposts will each answer verbal quiz questions about it, when asked. 

They likes it.  They likes it real good.  They know the family heirs to the publishing history.  This I know to be true because I asked and was answered.

I’m reasonably comfortable some of the other parts of this non-fiction book are also true.  There’s a fair amount of documentation and affidavits from people alive at the time of the incidents certifying various parts of the story they had personal knowledge about.

I’d guess the older brother, Clinton’s part of the tale he’d possibly be able to pass a polygraph on 75-80%.  Maybe higher.  Most of the details he gives don’t conflict with anything clearly different and known under more verifiable circumstances elsewhere.

Brother Jeff’s part of the tale, however, has a somewhat different air about it, to my suspicious mind.  I ain’t going to say he wasn’t traded to the Apache, not going to say he wasn’t adopted by Geronimo.  But if I had to stake any money on the truth or fiction of it I’d put my large bills on most of his story being lost in the dust of history because it ain’t on these pages.

Not that it matters.  Fact is, the book is a hoot, an interesting read, a flashback to a time when Brother Comanche still rode southeast under a Comanche moon, killing, taking captives, stealing horses.   Good descriptions from a couple of kids of settlers before their capture about their lives, the family.

And both brothers succeed in spinning yarns Marvin Hunter could put on a printed page well enough to keep the reader turning them, not putting the book aside for something with more potential for holding the mind in place.

You Texas readers would almost certainly enjoy this tome, thinks I.

Old Jules

Gamblers, Gambling and Risk-taking

Previously blogged May 17, 2005

Saturday a recently acquired friend and I revisited one of the sites I spent a lot of time puzzling over during the search for the lost gold  mine.  The place was the focus of the ’98 search  and a good many years prior to that.  Sometimes it amazes me how many times I climbed and unclimbed the west face of that mountain, always finding something new and puzzling.  I spent most of a month camped at the top, friends coming in for a week or so, then heading back to their lives elsewhere without finding what we were looking for, but finding enough adventure, fellowship and mountain air for a while and remember as one of the good times.This was Jim’s first time up there.  We went in mainly to look at a rock pillar that’s peeling away from a cliff face.

It’s a formation that fascinated a man I’ve come to know awfully well by his work; a man I never met, but whom I followed around that mountain puzzling over what he did, how he did it and why he did it.  A man who lived and died 150 years ago, roughly.  A man who knew a gamble when he saw one, went into a canyon spang in the middle of Apache country at a time when the best he could hope for if he was a quick death, or if his luck was bad, hanging upside down over a slow fire.

I’ve been wearing the arrowhead that almost certainly killed him hanging from a leather thong around my neck for a decade or more.  The ruin a few charred logs high, a long-tom sluice he carved with an axe out of a three-foot diameter log, a 400 pound rock he chiseled down to use as an arrastra and a hundred or so signs and symbols he made on rocks, along with his various diggings are all that’s left to tell what kind of man he was.

A gambler, he was, gambling on being caught by Apaches, gambling a broken leg in a place where such a thing was sure death.  A man who believed in himself so thoroughly that in that setting that he pecked away at the base of a 50 ton pillar of rock trying to get at what was underneath until it gives a man the fantods even today to walk beneath it.

One of the things I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating as I watched Orion chasing the Pleiades across the night sky to the background music of wind in the treetops is the thought of how a man of that sort would feel about a world where low-level risk-taking is a criminal offense.

A time when edging the nose of  a vehicle onto the pavement without fastening the seat belt probably won’t get you hurt, but it will almost certainly get you a conversation with an armed pair of mirror sunglasses.  A time when risk is defined in how many years it might take you to get cancer from whatever you’re eating or smoking.  When excessive gambling is betting the grocery money at the blackjack table.

I wonder if he’d have played a wheel, or just picked a few numbers that suited him and bought a hundred tickets with the same six numbers on them, going for broke on something he believed in, the way he did in life.

One of the ways we define who and what we are includes what we’re willing to give up to travel around the sun a few more times.  That guy on the mountain wasn’t inclined to give up much.

Old Jules

A Sobering View of Y2K

That tribal talk a week or so ago got me thinking about an old Mescalero bud I’ve known on and off through the parts of this lifetime that matter. We go long times without seeing one another, but we top off the long spells by bumping into one another in unlikely places.

Kurtiss and I first met working on Skeeter Jenkins’ ranch near Kenna, New Mexico. Must have been 1958, ’59. Skeeter wasn’t a joyful man on his ranch-hands. He’d berate Kurtiss by comparing him to us white lads, then he’d turn around five minutes later and tell us we weren’t half as good cowboying as that damned Apache over there.

I guess the only good that came out of that job was the bond that formed between Kurtiss and me, and the lifelong lesson I learned about not trusting ranchers. Old Skeeter cheated all of us spang out of a hard week pay and spread around the word none of us were worth the board he’d furnished working for him.  Fortunately, he’d done that sort of thing before, so nobody paid him any mind when it came to hiring us for other jobs, which we frequently got screwed out of our pay on, same as with Skeeter.

The last time I ran into Kurtiss must have been 1998, ’99. He and a couple of Arizona broncos were sitting on the tailgate of a truck parked for a powwow in Albuquerque when I came across them and a case of beer that was too close to gone to be any good.  When we’d killed what was left of that case we kicked out of there and spent the night singing ’50s rock and roll songs, getting roaring drunk and filling in on the minutia of our lives since we’d last met.

Spent a good bit of time talking about Y2K also, which was much on my mind at the time, and they’d never heard of it.   I expected that and explained to them. Those Apaches thought that just might be something really fine.

Kurtiss immediately thought of a state cop over toward Ruidoso who’s bad about kicking around folks who’ve had a bit much to drink, “I hope nobody gets to that prick before I do.”

Those Apaches demonstrated some rich imagination concerning the nuances of Y2K aftermath.  “We’ll be able to run raids on the Rio Grande tribes like the old days!”   This didn’t interest the Arizonians.  They were fairly sure Mexico would be open for a bit of raiding, though, and better pickings.

Then Kurtiss went thoughtful.  “I’d sure as hell like to kill me some Navajo.”  He told the old story of Bosque Redondo and all the slaughter the Din’e did to the less numerous Mescalero during the decade years they shared the reservation.   Apache numbers there were decimated until only 1800 were left alive when they escaped the rez and went back to Mescalero.

Bosque Redondo was fresh on his mind because of Navajo whines he heard at the Gathering of the Tribes Powwow. “Mescalero’s too large for such few people.” (The enormous Din’e Rez is getting jam-packed these days, by comparison.) “They ought to take some of that land away and give it to us,” was the general theme.

We fought our way down,” Kurtiss quoted himself. “And you guys multiply like rabbits.”

This led to some laughs and sneers about the theme of the Gathering of Nations Powwow, “Celebrating 400 years of unity (among the tribes)“.

I wonder where that was,” one of the Coyoteros grunted. “The Apache never saw it and neither did our enemies. Those Mexicans and Pima and all those town Indians were lucky the whites came along to save them.”

Mostly those guys were in agreement in their scorn for other southwestern tribes. “They don’t know how to use the land,” gesturing with a nod and a slight pucker of the lips.

A whole different view of the end of life as we know it.

Old Jules