Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Three…

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APRIL 2017

Forrest Gist and the Waning of Art

There was this really good potter I used to know in Lubbock. Forrest Gist was his name, or Forest Gist, I don’t remember which so I’ll call him Forrest because I like that name better.

I had purchased one of his bowls from a store and gave it to my wife for her birthday. She liked it so much I thought it might be nice to get her another one for Christmas. (I hate that her birthday and Christmas are just 38 days apart).

So I went to see Forrest at a time when I knew he was firing about 30 pottery vessels in a large outdoor kiln. I arrived just in time to see him remove a still hot jar with a stick, look at it for a few seconds, then throw it on a cement sidewalk where it splattered. What th…?

I approached Forrest cautiously, not completely cognizant of his mindset, and remembering he had a hot stick in his hand. “Whatcha doin’, Forrest?” I asked respectively. He didn’t answer, but instead, threw another hot jar on the pavement. This went on a couple of more times before I decided to be rude to my friend.

“Stop, you idiot! I’ll buy some of those things from you.” He turned to me and politely said, “Look Forrest, I’m experimenting with a new glaze here, and that’s why I didn’t sign the pots in this firing. I want quality to be my signature, and if they don’t measure up to my standards I don’t want my name on them.” Gee, and I thought they were really good.

I helped Forrest clean up the mess caused by the demise of one kiln-worth of fired clay “Junkers.” And I had to admit that Forrest was the consummate artist. Although I didn’t agree completely with his quality control methods, I respected his philosophy.

What he had done prayed on my mind for a few days. I had already decided to be a world class bronze sculptor, and was sure my first two efforts were excellent platforms from which to launch my career.

What I lacked in talent could be compensated for in other ways. For instance, since I couldn’t get the hooves on my buffalo just right, I solved the problem by having him stand in mud. And my pilot self-portrait, well surely my talent would improve over time, maybe over a long time.

Going to Forrest Gist’s pot firings ruined my promising art career, so I decided to be an art dealer instead. The two bronzes remain in my collection to remind me to not to ever try that again.

Quality matters, and although no one should be allowed to set a standard for art, common-sense propriety must come into play at some point. My gallery purchased a drawing from a Yahoo artist for $15 because he wanted to buy a sandwich.

Over the next several years no one wanted to buy that sad sketch from us at any price.  One day Mr. Yahoo saw it in a storage drawer with a price of $15, and he became irate. He didn’t think we should be offering his early work because he had gotten better since then, and that sketch embarrassed him. When I offered to sell it back at my cost, he wasn’t interested. I’m sure he knew non-quality when he saw it. He should have thrown it in the fire years ago instead of bringing it to me.

My first impression of The Scream was that it should have been thrown in a spewing volcano. Never mind that not too long ago a pastel on cardboard version of it sold for about $120,000,000.00. Guess I don’t know as much about art values as I thought I did. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty Two…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

Rusted Remnants of History

My son-in-law, David Old, owns the 2,400 acre Viveash Ranch. It is just northeast of Pecos and up. Up to 10,637 feet. In 1977, his father died in a plane crash in Alaska, leaving David the ranch.

The 45 minute drive from pavement up to the first gate is a shock absorber crushing ride over rocks that feel a special disdain for any modern conveyance.

The ranch contains some of the most beautiful landscapes in America, with house-size rock outcroppings, 5 spring-fed ponds, and far-seeing mountain vistas. Animals are everywhere: elk, deer, turkey, and bear. Mountain lions, porcupines, and bobcats are also present.

Shiloh with a turkey he shot 4/22/17

Bears have been known to break a window in the main cabin and thrash everything inside, including the refrigerator and pantry, causing general mayhem. Several years ago David shot a rifle bullet through the front door to stop a bear that was clawing, and close to getting in. I think little Piper frequently peeped through the hole to see what might be lurking just outside, lest she open the door to a big furry surprise.

Each of the ponds contained trout that were fat from eating grasshoppers, crawfish, and unlucky water dwelling insects. Elk ate the cattails we planted, but the lily pads thrived. Fishing was good.

Three pet llamas and five horses grazed the wooded high country, undisturbed for years. Then all of a sudden there were only two llamas. Shiloh blamed a mountain lion.

There was always some grass, but occasionally during the dead winter months when the snow got deep, the pets retreated to the barn to wait for a chinook or a more enjoyable temperature. When necessary, Shiloh took hay up by snowmobile.

Then came the Viveash fire that started May 29, 2000. In a terrible few days the ranch lost 17,000,000 board feet of standing timber. The sky turned so black that the animals must have thought midnight had arrived twelve hours early, and just stayed. Billowing clouds of smoke could be seen from as far away as Pike’s Peak. Commercial airliners were diverted.

Scorching heat disappeared the vegetation down to hard pack, and below, destroying root systems that held the soil tight, and leaving a thick layer of ashes on top.

Then the June monsoon thunderstorms arrived on schedule and washed the ashes downhill in a flowing mass that covered the ponds, and suffocated the fish. The smallest pond was boiled to its muddy, steaming bottom.

Two historic one-room log dwellings stood in the fire’s path.

The Viveash cabin was built in 1885 by Lionel Viveash, who suffered from leprosy. He lived in the cabin for 27 years before New Mexico became a state, and died a year after, in 1913. I hoped the fire would spare the cabin that had stood for 115 years, but it didn’t.

Only fire-rusted nails now remain to tell that man had once lived there, and soon they also will disappear as the land residuates, and no one will remember where they were. The history of that cabin, and another one, was deleted from the world.

The beautiful sky-reaching ponderosa, pictured here being hugged by Shiloh, and many others like it, also succumbed to the heat and flames.

In the fire’s aftermath thousands of jet black ponderosa pine skeletons still stand erect, but without needles, as if to underscore the tragedy.

I had walked across those timbered mountains and witnessed the wild, pristine wonders that were there: majestic pine trees, douglas firs, aspens and scrub oaks. And to punctuate the expanse, a decoration of flowers: reds, yellows, purples, and the ever present white day’s eyes (daises). The green stalks of wild onions that we like to pull and eat were found throughout that colorful bouquet.

And then to see it later, as miles of rusted cinders and grotesquely shaped rubble, was a shock that surpassed my ability to describe, or a desire to even try.

The last vapors of smoke were still fading toward the Eastern Plains when the promise of a new beginning appeared. Someone said if your ship hasn’t come in, swim out to it, and that is exactly what David and Shiloh did. They hired lumber crews. Chain saws began to buzz through the mountain quietness. A sawmill was quickly erected, and trucks laden with logs pounded the ashy roads. Thousands of trees that had endured for decades, then killed by nature’s unreasonable wrath, were harvested.

When faced with a catastrophic event, the father-and- son team didn’t cry about the dead trees, they cut them down and made plank flooring, end grain wood blocks, and stylish three-dimensional wall paneling.

A market was waiting, and the demand was met. Customers for major hotels, government buildings, and eight Starbucks stores as far away as Kuwait, are now walking on Viveash wooden floors supplied by Oldwood.

And then, in 2013, as if to display another of nature’s irritating moods, the Tres Lagunas Fire flashed through the trees, burning 860 acres on the west side of the Viveash Ranch.

But again the Old family looked to themselves for strength and ingenuity, and expanded their business. This year they will supply 130 semi-trailers of split firewood to a major retail outlet.

Nature frequently takes away, and in doing so she always looks at the big picture. Five-hundred years from now no one will remember the fires. But I’ll still be thinking about that great little Viveash cabin that disappeared. f

Personal note: The Fenn treasure chest is not hidden on or near the Viveash Ranch.

Photos by Lacee:
http://www.ellepeaphotography.com/viveash

Additional ranch photos can be found HERE

 

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty One…

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APRIL 2017

 

Doug Hyde in Full Flourish

Doug and I happened upon the art scene at about the same time, my gallery in Santa Fe was a little behind him maybe. That was 1972, and his sculptures had a small, but budding following in Scottsdale.

Doug Hyde

Over the next few years Scottsdale was where most of the money for contemporary western art was coming from. About 20 collectors held up that market, and if there had been an art marquee in town someplace, a few names would have been at the top: Eddie Basha, Henry Topf, the wonderful widow Kieckhefer, Kay Miller (Miller Brewing Co), and more, but mostly Eddie Basha, who owned a large chain of grocery stores.

Doug and I were a good combination, and we serviced those Arizona clients with an adroitness and polish the likeness of which I never witnessed again. Doug made hundreds of stone sculptures, Scottsdale wanted them, and I did the accommodating.

My wife and I liked Doug’s work so much we kept two pieces for ourselves.

Lady Pretty Blanket

This alabaster lady is not tall, just 2’, but she’s really heavy. That’s why she has been sitting on our living room fireplace without moving for almost 30 years. I couldn’t lift even half of her. She was isolated and lonesome. But then our great-granddaughter Arden came along, and at age two, fell in love with Lady Pretty Blanket. That’s what I named the stone pueblo woman holding a pot. When the house was too quiet, we’d look over there and see Arden and “Lady” sitting side by side talking to each other, and sometimes hugging. So of course we gave the sculpture to Arden, but she can’t take possession until my wife and I are gone. Ha!

Doug Hyde

Doug Hyde is mostly Nez Perce, and he possesses bold native features and a strong code of ethics. During the many years we worked together, mostly without contracts, there were nothing but handshakes and pleasantness.

My other Doug Hyde sculpture is 27” tall. It epitomizes a dignified Nez Perce chief whose name has long been forgotten. His feather fan and drop-alongside ear rings testify as to his stature in the tribe.

He stands facing the wall in my kitchen now because the sight reminds me of the great Henry Farny painting, The Song of the Singing Wire. 

The Song of the Singing Wire by Henry Farny

To me, both figures personify the west at a threshold moment when the first faint sound of change was beginning to resonate across the soundless mountains. The western atmosphere was moving fast to make room for the “giant horse that gallops on iron rails.” There’s the same sadness in the painted Indian’s face that I notice in Doug’s sculpture.

Can you see tears of sorrow building in the eyes of those two Plains warriors? I can, and I wish my inadequate words about that sentiment were more eloquent.

Senator Al Simpson, Joe Medicine Crow and me.

Joe died at age 102 and was the last War Chief of the Crow Tribe. His great uncle, White Man Runs Him, was a scout for General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Many years ago, Joe said to me in a wistful moment, “When I was just a little Indian kid running around, my elders told me about our history. I asked them if the government would ever give our future back to us.” f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Eighty…

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APRIL 2017

 

The Unfortunate Hiccup

While walking around my office a few minutes ago I paused to look at this thing. It’s a hip pocket flask that was made to hold a “3/16th pint” of libation. It says so right there on the bottom. The silver overlay on the bottle is applied by a complex chemical procedure. If it was a Russian icon, you’d have to call it an oklad, but this is different.

The swirly engraved initials near the bottom were adeptly applied, ostensibly to identify the owner who will always remain a mystery to me because I can’t read the fancy letters.

Sam Snead

At the 1949 Master’s Golf Tournament I observed a nattily dressed gentleman use a pair of binoculars to watch Sam putt on the 10th green. It was a little strange because the man was standing less than thirty feet away from where the putt was about to be made.

And then I noticed something. The fan wasn’t watching golf at all. He also held a flask in his hands, and every time he raised the binoculars to his eyes, he took a swig from the bottle. It was a subterfuge that very effectively disguised his odd drinking practice. No one seemed to notice but me, and just as Sam drew his putter back to make the stroke, the natty guy hiccupped, causing the putt to jerk left a few inches and unceremoniously roll past the hole. I felt partially to blame just because I was watching it.

The binoculars guy

As the crowd moved to the next tee the binocular guy was noticeably teetering to the starboard side. That’s why I moved to the 13th fairway and watched Jimmy Demaret hit his mashie niblick shot to the green. Sam Snead won the tournament so I went home happy.

Surely it won’t be long before our government enacts legislation that prohibits anyone from drinking and watching golf at the same time.f

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Nine…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

Heck With Those Guys

In high school I don’t remember anyone giving me instructions on how to write. They probably did and I just wasn’t paying attention. So in later life, when I became interested in words and how they were used, I naturally gravitated to a trial and error style of writing that suited me best.

In 2011, when my book, The Thrill of the Chase, co-won an award for best independently published book of the year, I received a letter from the judges. It said my entry was among other things, childish, which they must have thought was pretty good because otherwise how could I have won the award? It started me thinking about how different people write.

William F. Buckley Jr.

William F. Buckley Jr. was one of my heroes. I saw him once in an airport in Newark and he looked straight at me, so I’ll call him Bill. Bill had a daily column in the NY Times. When he got on the commuter train in Connecticut each morning he didn’t know what he would write about, but when he alit an hour later in New York City, his creation was finished. He rarely rewrote, he said, and no one ever dared to edit him. While his method is on the Technicolor end of the writing spectrum, mine is on the black and white. That’s okay with me because our composing modes are diabolically opposed to each other.

My habit when writing something short, is to decide on a subject, then start gathering sentences together with some kind of focus, but not much direction. They need to stay close to the topic and carry my theme or plot to the end of the story. Often, the thoughts come rushing out as I think along. One notion propagates the next. Sometimes I can’t type fast enough.

Then I retreat to the beginning and try to reorganize my words into some kind of acceptable cohesive unit. How can I say a line better and keep it in the same flavor as the others? Is this sentence too predictable? Do I want to misspell a word to make the reader stop and look it up, and maybe feel a need to respond? It’s okay if the reader wants to work with me. I use other techniques too, like corrupting a word or idea. In my Thrill book I wrote about courting my wife. “Everyone knew she was too good for me, but tenacity was never one of my shortcomings.” That sort of thing causes the kind of word-of-mouth publicity that I need because I self-publish and don’t have any distribution. And it’s my way of keeping a reader’s attention fresh. If one knows exactly what I mean then who cares what the word is, or how it’s used. Educated editors disapprove of me en-masse, but they don’t have a Pulitzer either.

I am frequently criticized for where I put commas. My reply is that I don’t want to use anybody’s book-writing rules. It is my prerogative as the writer to decide when I want the reader to pause, not the reader’s, and certainly not the critic’s. Cormac McCarthy was known to write a story and then go back and remove all of the commas.

The hardest part of writing for me is sitting down and getting started. Some of my techniques develop themselves as I write along. For instance, I learned when researching my J. H. Sharp biography that the elderly Taos Indian models wouldn’t answer my questions about the artist. I quickly discovered that if I said something to them that I knew was wrong, they would correct me, on and on, and tell me things I wanted to know. Success sometimes hides in squinting wrappings, but a delicate new bow, if tied correctly, can widen eyes.

I wrote this someplace a few years ago and maybe you’ll think it’s worth remembering, Imagination isn’t a technique, it’s a key. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Eight…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

The Graciella Experience

Pony Ault was the only important client our gallery had in Santa Fe, and she seemed to know everyone. It was not unusual for her to bring celebrities in to meet me, and I loved that. And I equally loved that she could write a check for nearly anything she wanted, a fact that did not go undetected by my banker.

Everyone loved Pony, especially me. She was a chatterbox conversationalist so I always gravitated to her at parties, dinners, and art openings. She took chitchatting to an intellectual plateau that was several layers above where I normally felt ease. Our discussion time found me mostly listening, smiling, and nodding. Being seen with her was always good for my sometimes flailing ego.

Robert Henri

Pony said she wanted a painting by Robert Henri (1865-1929), so I started looking. The problem was that she had a great eye for art, a trait that never worked to the advantage of art dealers. When discussing art Pony nearly always knew more about the artist whose work was hanging on my walls, than I did. So when we talked price I was somewhat disarmed and usually capitulated to what she delicately described as her “medicinal discount.”

Henri paintings were very important and quite valuable so my eyes were always on alert for his name in auction catalogs. After a few weeks I bought one. It was a picture of a little girl named Graciella. But for some unknown reason it didn’t appeal to me. Her face was, well, I don’t know.

Graciella by Robert Henri

So we hung it on the wall in my office opposite my desk. Every time I sat in my chair, there she was, her stern face staring at me. I didn’t expect to actually warm up to Graciella, but at least I hoped we could establish some kind of meaningful rapport.

When I called Pony she made an appointment for the next afternoon. She wanted me to meet Cary Grant. I couldn’t have been more thrilled because To Catch a Thief was one of my favorite movies.

When they entered my office, introductions were made and I shook hands with the debonair Mr. Grant. We talked for several minutes and then Pony turned around.

And there it was in grand lighting, the Graciella Henri. It was hanging where it had been for a month while I tried to warm up to that little girl. No other clients were allowed to see her because I was saving it for my special client.

Well, Pony immediately recognized the artist’s style, palette, subject, and personality. She wasn’t impressed, and as if possessed by the spirit of Thor, she turned to face me. “Is that what you called me down here for, to look at that thang?” Her face looked unsympathetic as her nose pointed toward the 17th century wooden door to my office, beside which one must pass to exit, and out she strode, the sensitive Mister Grant silently following in close trail. Neither of them even said goodbye.

Gulp!

I went to my refrigerator and took a long pull of Worchestershire Sauce to clear my head.

Pony liked to show off our gallery to her lunching friends and house guests, so over the next few weeks she strolled them into my office and acted as docent. Often she was seen to glance at the You-Know-What that was hanging on the wall opposite my desk. Each time she left without comment. I didn’t care because Graciella and I were becoming friends.

During an evening art opening at our gallery Pony open the door to my office and sneaked in. She was in there for a minute or more. That’s when I started to worry.

A week later she called me on the phone. “Forrest I want that painting, and I’ll be there in thirty minutes to get it.” My heart sank. “Pony,” I lamented. “You didn’t say anything and I’ve grown to love that “thang.” I’ve decided to keep it in my own collection.” There was a gravid few-second pause in our conversation, necessitated by a requirement for Pony to recover. Then a loud sound vibrated against my ear drum. “What?” she sputtered. I felt like my tail was under a rocking chair, and Pony was sitting in it.

What could I do but capitulate? After all, she was a good friend and she was a good client, and I did offer it to her, and I sensed that she was about to have an unfortunate physical issue. Not to mention that I needed the money.

An hour later my wife walked into the office and asked why I was reading my bible. I didn’t mean to be rude, I just didn’t want to talk about it. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Seven…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

The other side of Eric

I wrote a book about Eric Sloane that most people who read this blog haven’t seen. It’s called Seventeen Dollars a Square Inch. If you think I talk too much about Eric please try to overlook this effort. It’s just that I think about him a lot. He died ten years into our relationship, but they were significant times for me, and I hope they were worthwhile for him. In a perfect world everyone would have their very own Eric. Maybe it would be fun to show parts of Eric that no one knows about anymore:

Eric could be dapper.

Or he could be pensive.

Eric could be serious with a bite.

Sometimes he was playful. He didn’t drink.

Or he could be all business.

Here he is with Jimmy Doolittle and Neal Armstrong.

Showing his talent with a pen and ink.

Modern art was like an itch to Eric.

And he could be overboard generous. One year for Christmas he gave me a copy of his book I Remember America. It had 59 original drawings in it. This is one of them.

No one knows for sure how many books Eric wrote but I have forty-five, most of them with doodles or a personal note to me from him. Once I asked him about his total output of paintings. He didn’t know, but he said “If you placed them side by side they would stretch five miles.”

As what I thought would be a fitting ending to my book about Eric I wrote this poem. I called it a Quadplet:

Mighty oaks from little acorns slowly grow
Then finally fall and wisp to naught,
But those who plant a seed of words
Live on in groves of human thought. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Six…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

The White Fox

Every store needs a client like Dr. Gene Scott. He was fun, decisive, and he had money. His long chalk-white hair didn’t abide by anyone’s decorum, certainly not his own.

He always came into my gallery with a male assistant who carried a large humidor. While he was in coat and tie, Gene wore a relaxed collar and a thread-bare cashmere sweater. Everything he was or did made you like him. He was especially fond of my wife and she always came running when his call for her boomed through the gallery.

Gene collected art, and when he bought a painting the humidor lid came off, and a top thin tray of cigars was set aside. All that remained was two layers of paper money so tightly packed in that you couldn’t tell what it was.

At our first meeting, he left me with 350 one hundred dollar bills. As they were counted out on our front desk, I felt a little uncomfortable. I had not seen anything like that before. A check doesn’t look like much money, but 350 big bills spread out was a different view for me.

Gene was a preacher with a long list of important religious achievements. I often watched him on his Sunday morning television program. His chair was on the front edge of a huge stage and he sat there each Sunday wearing a different hat. It was almost like he wore them chronologically by type. His stage was bare, but for his chair, a small table that held a pitcher of water and a glass. That’s all.

The preacher almost looked swallowed up. But he spoke with a melodic voice that was mesmerizing as the golden bible verses rolled through his lips and were distributed to his audience of thousands. They sat rapt as he talked about human frailties, apostles, scriptures, prophets, and sin. I wondered if his viewers were paying him by the word.

During the commercials, which were rare, Pastor Scott was at his best. Quite often he would say something like, “Okay my friends, I need a new car. Please send money to our church,” as an address flashed on the screen. They responded in droves, and Gene probably had a lot of automobiles. 

Everything they gave him was legal and tax free, to both him and them, but not me. When I walked into my bank carrying a big sack of money, other customers stared and the tellers smiled.

When I sold my gallery, in 1988, I lost track of
Gene. He died seventeen years later. But the memory of that indelible man has not faded. It has been easy for me to hold his image. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Five…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

The Iron Rooster of Santa Fe County

Years ago I got a bargain on two old cast iron chickens. They’re probably 20th century Spanish or from over there someplace. The rooster weighs 70 pounds, and is almost 2’ tall. Here’s a photo of the hen. Both were rusty brown and ugly-dull finished.

Joe Anna Arnett

I really liked those things, but my wife saw them on our kitchen table asked if I was okay, and felt my forehead to see if I had a temperature. That suddenly gave me terrible buyer’s remorse. I looked at the chickens again and out in the garage they went. It really bothers me to make art mistakes like that. And then I thought of my friend Joe Anna Arnett.

No one in the world is better at painting still life florals than she is, and you have to love her as a person. That’s an envious position for anyone to be in.

Joe Anna Arnett painting

Joe Anna Arnett painting

A call to Joe Anna brought her running with her husband, Jim Asher, who also is a world class painter, a watercolorist.

Joe and Jim

Jim Asher painting

Jim Asher painting

Joe Anna took one look at my rooster and groped for the nearest chair. I’m sure she was thinking, “Oh my, what did I do to deserve this?” She had never put paint on an iron rooster before, at least not a tall, heavy, cold, brown one. She was not smiling when I put that thing in the back of her car. At home, Jim put it by a heater to warm it up, probably hoping it would melt.

I didn’t hear from Joe Anna for a month, then one day an email came in. She wanted to bring my chicken home. I just knew she was weary of it, and whatever catastrophes that occurred in her studio would probably be my fault. Maybe it fell over and broke her paint box, or the weight of it collapsed a leg on her Woodbridge table and sent her coffee cup splashing across the floor. I didn’t feel too good.

The iron rooster was covered with a black garbage bag when Jim put it on my table, and stepped back behind the counter. I looked at Joe Anna and she looked at me, neither of us smiling. After a long few seconds, she nodded toward the plastic bag, insinuating that I should pull it off.

Wow, this is what was under the bag. When Joe Anna saw me grinning she started laughing, and we hugged. I love it when I make really great art decisions. f

Google them and look at their paintings.
James Asher Santa Fe
Joe Anna Arnett

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Four…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

 

The Quahada Chief on a Black Pony.

I was born and raised in Central Texas where the Comanche Indians often ranged and plundered. Being an early student of their history, and an avid collector of their clothing, weapons, and photographs, my imagination long ago fell prey to their way of life. Historians call them the “Lords of the Plains,” and that name is well-merited because no other tribe could sit a horse and ride with such a handsome manner.

Quanah and Wekea, one of his seven wives?

Of special interest to me is the Quahada band, and Quanah Parker especially. His father was Peta Nakona, chief of the Quahadas, and his mother was Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman who, in 1836, was captured by the Comanches. She lived with them for 24 years, and had three children. When she was “rescued” by Sul Ross, a Texas Ranger, and returned to her people, Cynthia Ann couldn’t speak the language. She yearned to go back, a plea that was repeatedly denied. After a few years she stopped eating and died. The doctors said it was influenza.

On October the 10th, 1871, during the Battle of Blanco Canyon, Quanah Parker rode up to Trooper Gregg of the 4th US Cavalry and shot him with a Smith and Wesson American. The trooper was interred where he fell and rocks were placed on his grave.

Blanco Canyon

Captain R.G. Carter, a witness to the event, said Gregg’s horse was faltering, and gave this written account:

A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal-black racing pony. Leaning forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal’s side, with six-shooter poised in air, he seemed the incarnation of savage brutal joy. His face was smeared with black war paint, which gave his features a satanic look. A large, cruel mouth added to his ferocious appearance. A full-length headdress or war bonnet of eagle’s feathers, spreading out as he rode, and descending from his forehead, overhead and back, to his pony’s tail, almost swept the ground. Large brass hoops were in his ears; he was naked to his waist, wearing simply leggings, moccasins and a breechclout. A necklace of bear’s claws hung about his neck. His scalp lock was carefully braided in with otter fur, and tied with bright red flannel. His horse’s bridle was profusely ornamented with bits of silver, and red flannel was also braided in his mane and tail, but, being black, he was not painted. Bells jingled as he rode at headlong speed, followed by the leading warriors, all eager to outstrip him in the race. It was Quanah, principal war chief of the wild Qua-ha-das.

 

Captain Carter, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action in the fight, drew a map of the battle, which loosely identified the burial location. Ninety-five years later, when I was stationed in Lubbock, a friend, Bill Griggs, and I searched relentlessly for the trooper’s grave. The evidence showed it to be somewhere about 46 miles north of where I lived.

With Captain Carter’s original map in hand (I didn’t want to carry a copy.) Bill and I hiked on weekends. Back and forth across the grassy rises and rugged dips we walked, binoculars in hand. We were ever watchful for the errant pile of rocks that were deliberately placed to keep scavenging animals from digging.

Blanco Canyon

Twenty days or more we did that, often finding remnants of the fight, a canteen, a rusty knife, a brass cavalry uniform button, lots of bullet casings, but no pile of rocks. We replaced everything as it lay, lest we betray the sanctity of that battle ground.

Comanche beaded moccasins

We didn’t locate Trooper Gregg’s resting place. My wish now is that the chaparral and long-living creosote bushes will protect that soldier and permit him to rest in the dignity of the North Texas soil where Mother Wind will forever wail the long mournful sound of Taps.

Did this Comanche bow and arrow set belong to Quanah Parker?

My motive for searching was important to me. I just wanted to stand there and render one last salute to the fallen fighter, and to “watch” as hundreds of yelping natives and Army troopers fought one of the most decisive battles of the Indian Wars. I would like to have thrown a rock at Quanah as he sped by on his “coal-black racing pony.”

Please allow me to explain something.

I would like to have known R. G. Carter, but he died when I was 5 years old. I collected his personal papers, letters, documents, and books, so I probably have more information about him than anyone alive today

Now, about Quanah Parker. J. Evetts Haley and I went to the spot in the Palo Duro Canyon where, in 1874, General Mackenzie routed the Comanches, including Quanah. Visiting his gravesite at the Ft. Sill Indian Cemetery where he’s buried beside his mother and daughter (Prairie Flower), was a spiritual experience for me. I just love the Indian history of this country. Thank you. f