Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Three…


APRIL 2017


The Prince of the Comancheros

Jose Tafoya

They said that Jose Tafoya was 7’ tall, and that he stuck out of both ends of his blanket. Maybe he couldn’t decide which part he wanted to keep warm. I don’t know about that, but I do know that in the 1860s, and 70s, he struck a pretty wide swath through Eastern New Mexico and across the Staked Planes of North Texas. From south of Lubbock to north of Amarillo and into Oklahoma, the land was table-flat, and almost totally devoid of trees. You may be able to guess how the little town of Plainview got its name. The women who travelled the long miles across that brushless country on horseback were frequently embarrassed to the point of mortification, but the men probably didn’t care.

That was Indian country, and the Comanches under Chief Quanah Parker were raiding, and plundering with resolve. Jose didn’t care. He traded the Indians cattle, horses, rifles, ammo, whisky, and anything else he could steal.

Quanah Parker, 1879

President Grant got fed up, and the order came down, “Control the Indians no matter what you have to do.” In September of 1874, General Randal S. Mackenzie and his 4th US Calvary went looking for Quanah and couldn’t find him. So they tied Jose Tafoya to a wagon wheel and tortured him until he revealed where the Comanches were camped in the Palo Duro. With that knowledge the soldiers swept into the canyon, routed the Indians, burned their lodges, and killed 2,000 horses. With winter coming, and their stores gone, the 1,500 Comanches were forced to seek shelter under Army supervision at Ft. Sill.

Quanah at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma

Quanah was mad at his old friend. “If I ever catch Jose Tafoya I’ll boil him in oil.” With that said, the big Comanchero, his wife and four children, retired to his sheep ranch in New Mexico where he died in 1913.

The life or death of a Comanchero on the Staked Plains in those days often hung on the whim of a trigger finger. Rarely is it written in the annals of western history that someone like Jose would live to be 83 years old.

A personal note:

I was about to cast this 28” portrait of Jose Tafoya in an old abandoned grain elevator in Lubbock. It was 1969, and I was still in the Air Force. Bill McClure, the artist, was standing there as I put finishing touches on the wax model. “I’m not happy with his shirt,” Bill said. So I soaked an old piece of potato-sack burlap in hot wax, and with thick rubber gloves, I draped it around Jose’s shoulders. Bill was laughing at me.


When I poured the piece in bronze every detail in the burlap came out perfectly, and gave me the effect I wanted. Bill too, and he agreed that I should be credited as co-artist.

We sold that bronze, and both Bill and I made a few bucks that were badly needed. More than twenty years later, I was happy to buy the bronze back from the man I sold it to. Being a pioneer is really fun. f


121 thoughts on “Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Three…

  1. That burlap sack does have amazing detail and texture. Way to go, Forrest!

  2. I really like the effect of the burlap and the wax on the bronze. The detail really adds a lot.

  3. Love these stories. (Helps pass time here in Diagnositic Cancer center for sure!)

    Why kill 2000 horses? What purpose did that serve? Render Indians with only foot transportation? Poor Jose!

    As Cheif Joseph’s gt gt gt grand daughter, I hurt for the pain and suffering that man puts upon man.

    Sculpture is awesome!

    • Just an uneducated guess; it appears to be a Ruger. Am not certain of what model. ( 22) ?

    • I would say that rifle is either a Winchester Model 1866 (the first Winchester rifle) or the Winchester Model 1873 (The Gun that Won the West). My dad used to collect vintage guns and had a few of each of those, I wish I still had them today.

      • Another great collectible vintage rifle that was used back in those times was the Henry Model 1860, Winchester modeled their 1866 and 1873 on the Henry, but the Henry didn’t have the wooden forearm/forestock, the wood covering the barrel like this one does that is why I am pretty sure it is a Winchester and definitely not a Henry.

      • Does your father still have them? I would love to see the firearms at the Buffalo Bill Museum. One day, while planning a camping trip to Yellowstone, the operator was telling me about them. Haven’t been there, but hope to.

        • No pdenver. He sold almost everything when he and my mom divorced when I was a kid unfortunately. And he died a few years later when I was 15 so I never got to fully appreciate everything he had collected. I do still have some old polaroids pics around here somewhere though. He had and amazing vintage gun collection.

          • I’m sorry to hear about that, Mark. I hope whomever owns them, will appreciate what they have.

          • Those Winchesters you speak of Mark are great firearms…
            Up until 5 years ago i had one manufacture in 1924, rear flip sight, 30/30… That was my hunting rifle. The old girl could out shoot all the modern Brownings, Remington, Mossbergs, you name it, with their fancy etchings, gold plating, nickle casings, stainless steel barrel and high cost… I was glad she could because I wasn’t the best shot. But she always made me look good.
            Had her for 30 years, purchased for 200 $. Unfortunately the stock was replace with a newer version when got it. When I sold it {no longer hunt} I still got 1300 $ at 70% condition. If the butt stock was original 2600 in very good condition. I would gander your father’s collection had the octagon barrels?

  4. I wonder how long it took Jose to get the wide brim of his hat to make that cool curve so he could wear it low and still see forward….
    Definitely an attitude going on there!!

  5. Well there’s a familiar name! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, Forrest. Another beautiful bronze sculpture. Looking only at the camera angle of picture #4, I could swear that Jose is gazing upwards across a vast plain, but it’s clear in picture #1 that he’s intently gazing downwards. Is he studying tracks, or is he hanging his head in a bit of shame?

  6. Mr. Fenn,

    Looks like you found a simple, practical, and novel approach to solving a problem, with great results. It’s nice that you found it again to add to your collection of bronze pieces.

    It is fun to be a trailblazer. Societies are built, and strengthened, by the pioneering spirit.

    • At the Top – and I suspect a simple, practical, and novel approach will be how his chest is found.

  7. What a great story and history lesson all in one!
    I love the bronze sculpture!
    Thanks for sharing!


  8. Interesting history & story as always Forrest….and fun to see the details of your sculpture close up. I hope you will continue to share stories of your life here on Dal’s and Jenny’s blogs. I enjoy them so much!

    (Comanche Moon: The Story of Qiana Parker is an excellent historical read which parallels Forrests story).

    • “Comanche Moon” as presented by Red Steagall in his album “Born to this Land” is a very good listen to an old western storyteller and balladeer. Could listen to this type of cowboy poetry and prose all day. A style of campfire tales no longer regaled and being forgotten today.

    • He looks it…like the Quivira. They were noted for being tall, athletic and beautiful. Forrest recommended a book in a vignette that talks about these Indians. It’s fascinating. It’s called “New Colorado and the Santa Fe Trail.” It’s noted on the bottom of the vignette about prehistoric thoughts. Seems a little out of place there….

        • Sparrow,
          I made a mistake. The story of the Quivira Osage are in a book called “It Happened on the Santa Fe Trail.”

          But the book F recommended is super interesting in its own right. It might even hint toward the TC. 🙂

    • F is one of the building block members of the Llano Estacado group- they are dedicated to preserving the folklore of the staked plains area. Stories like that make me so happy guys like them exist…if youre ever looking for a diversion the Llano Estacado is a nice one, his probably too humble to mention its heart.

  9. Mr, Fenn, I know what your next career can be…….comedian!! I have hidden behind a bush on occasion,

    Beautiful sculpture.

    • Yes, it feels like eyes are all around when one has to, ummm, without any… (blush).

  10. Thanks Forrest,
    I like your “pioneer” qoute, could it relate to the big picture ” The Pioneers”? There seems to be some connections in this western film. Kit Carson- Santa Fe Trail, Comanches, Sharp, just to mention a few. But I do see the important connection, but this is just my thoughts. Thanks for sharing that wonderful bronze and photos. Bur

  11. I like this scrapbook a lot. Beautiful bronze and I love what you did to it. Reminds me of the story you told about the pokers.

  12. The name Jose Tafoya probably means “May God add/increase measure of land,” or “He will add/increase measure of land.”

    Great. More math. Lol. 🙂

  13. nice story and pictures,the bronze is beautiful,but i swear,he is looking down,chin down,and then he is looking up,chin up.sum’n strange here.his legs look like two poles.that burlap really looks good.nice idea.I know you are an original,major.but I claim number one,first.your the title holder,but i’m going to be the titleholdie.I can be a trailblazer too.I’m a doer,i ain’t giving gypsy,I’m a player.that brave in the picture looked like he became a scout.I’d like to be like you .your my begetter.

  14. Sorry, but this SB is too good.

    The line where F mentions that President Grant said “Control the Indians no matter what you have to do,” is very reminiscent of the vignette called “Kyetena’s Tobacco Pouch.”

    In it President Cleveland says “Rein in the terror (referring to Geronimo) at whatever cost.”

    Two Presidents giving the order to stop at nothing to control the Indians….

    • From True West:

      The beginning of the end of Quanah’s warrior days occurred at Palo Duro Canyon, America’s second-largest canyon and, at 120 miles long, 20 miles wide and with a maximum depth of 800 feet, almost as impressive as Arizona’s famous hole in the ground. In September 1874, Mackenzie got revenge on the Comanches when he led the 4th Cavalry in a surprise attack. Casualties were light, but the Comanches and their Kiowa allies lost food supplies and some 1,400 horses—most of which Mackenzie ordered destroyed.

  15. From True West Magazine:

    The U.S. government, Donna tells me, built Quanah a two-bedroom home in 1878, but by the 1880s, Quanah needed something larger—he had six or seven wives—so Texas cattlemen led by Burk Burnett began building the two-story Star House, named for its roof patterns.

  16. I have a great idea! Speaking of pioneering and f’s casting of the piece, I’d like to make a request of I may. Mr. f, could you please make your next Srap Book be about one of your first adventures out fly fishing? It is a new fishing season here in New Mexico and the new fishing license just went into effect April 1st. I’m guessing that you were going to talk about the sport soon is all. With all due respect sir, tell us a fly fishing story… Please. 🙂

    • Slurbs,
      Reread SB 170, start with the paragraph that begins with the word problem. IMAGINE Forrest is the fish, the defense attorney is a Fly (Fly fishing lure), the judge is the man fishing, the jury is other fishermen along the bank, and the spectators are other fish. It tells the story of Forrest getting hooked, caught, and then eventually released. Let me know whether you agree. I just can’t let one of the most clever stories he has written fly over everyones head. You may have to read it several times ,but almost every line follows the story line I have described. Forrest Fenn is Highly Intelligent . IMO

  17. This is just so fascinating to me.

    Quanah was a feared Comanche raider in his younger days. He killed white men mercilessly in raids. He blew the brains out of a young private who came too close.

    However, when he matured, he lived a life of peace. He was a folk hero I. Texas. There’s a statue of him in the Hyatt. He has a town named after him, and was asked to bless the town. This is what he said:

    “It is well, you have done a good thing in honor of a man who has tried to do right both to the people of his tribe and to his pale faced friends,” Quanah said. “May the God of the white man bless the town of Quanah. May the sun shine and the rain fall upon the fields and the granaries be filled. May the lightning and the tempest shun the homes of her people, and may they increase and dwell forever. God bless Quanah. I have spoken.”

    You can read the article here…it’s amazing….

  18. I hunt deer with my model 73.

    Nice story to add depth to the sculpture, Mr. Fenn.

  19. Thank you for sharing this story ! and thank you i found out something new about history I did not know .

  20. S C Gwynn’s Empire of the Summer Moon tells the epic true story of the last band of free Comanche’s led by Quana Parker

  21. Good thing he retired into sheep farming….I mean mutton stew is one thing, but Chicken Fried Tafoya??? No way, Jose.

  22. Anyone notice how f learned what Toponymy is a few days ago and is then uses it in this scrapbook?

    • Oh Brad,

      Do tell… who is your #1 Indian? (and I really mean Native American).

      • Cochise of course. He’s the greatest Warrior Arizona ever had. His people were ruthlessly tortured and murdered by the Spanish, the Mexicans and the U. S. Cavalry, yet he refused to give in and fought on and was the last great American to die free and unconquered, refusing to live under the Tyranny and Lies of Washington D.C. ..


  23. Apply the poem to this scrapbook, fast forward a few decades, and looks like Joe B. Matthews made out with the title to the gold.

  24. “its ironic that the Park Springs Ranch is now owned by a family who first established their cattle operations in Shackelford County, Texas, where the Comanches raided and stole cattle that were brought up the Comanchero trail to Gallinas Crossing more than a century ago”
    – Jean Brittingham

    …maybe theres a little irony in F’s statue as well….(?)

  25. A very subtle clue in this Scrapbook to one of the places named in the poem. If you have not seen it already, look at the latest Q&A post on Jenny’s site. Forrest makes mention to places named in the poem. I found six. Make like a kid and join the dots folks.

          • The places mentioned in the poem are a fair distance apart. The places dont even have to be in the same state, or country, or planet even.
            Find the six places named in the poem, then join the dots, just like we did as kids.
            Once you have the dots joined, you will have the shape and location of the blaze.
            The chest is located 1 mile from the start point as revealed in the poem.
            This is IMHO.

  26. There by are 9 words starting with the letter “B” in the last paragraph. I know—I know—I have been entirely too much time on my hands. 🙂

  27. Yet another hat trick. Gosh, those are fun. In his latest vlog, cowlazars revealed “try the wheel”…seemed pretty complicated but hey, he’s not the first one to left justify! End of a rope is what I heard. Anyway, I think weiner (dogs) may also stick out of both ends of their blanket, lol. Little Tesuque is probably toasty by the fire right about now. Interesting angles to this story, all around. I know FF can spell, and knows his geography and toponyms better than anyone… so what is it with the plane/plain? I can’t quite put my finger on it….but I don’t think it’s Montana.

  28. I would be hard pressed to believe the pics of the bronze castings are the same bronze casting. Look close at the burlap draped over the shoulder. Look at the angle of vision too.

  29. I think the potato-sack and the hat really make the piece. I’m picturing it without them, and I don’t think it’d be as interesting. The blanket offsets the rifle and gives it an added dimension. Very nice.

  30. I went to visit a friend north of Questa yesterday. His land is so special. It’s like being in a big magic bowl. He happened to tell me a story about Quanah Parker. I made a funny comment and excused myself to go use the bush. I wasn’t mortified at all. LOL! But maybe I will be more aware next time where I “go”. He gave me a really cool feather when I left.

    • Somebody Ask Shidoni if they want to sell (some of) their foundry equipment. I’d like to learn how to cast bronze ..


  31. I thought I understood things really well after this SB was posted.

    But then 174 and 175 came and made me think I had missed something.

    Now 176 is posted and makes me think I’ve made a critical error. I may be starting to see/understand it now, but I’m not sure it will be easy to rectify.

    • Or my solve is perfectly fine and I just need to think about ‘the middle’ some more.

  32. I can see, if you fall down or feel ill it is important to have heroes. Before history is written each side has a fifty percent chance who will be the hero it seems it can never be a tie. The winning side decides the final story, ultimately becoming the rat. If you were to read each person’s personal bio., they would both be heros. While scholarly interpretation seems to only choose one side of a dichotomy. Who gets the riches and who will never collect on a debt; it’s all in the words we accept. You can’t buy history with cash in my phillosophy. But maybe you can trade for a small piece of it. Perhaps offer a song and a prayer if you have nothing and your clothes are threadbare.

    • HMA,

      You brought this to my attention… which lead into yet another rabbit hole, but the good news is I found a really cool military map of the ‘Staked Plains’ from the era of Quanah. (187x)

      I love the old maps like this one. Fun to look at and interesting with respect to US / Native American 19th century history.!AqZp2Tkfr2EPiznhOY1URkQyYKgr


      • Hi Fennatical – I like old maps too. Thanks for sharing.

        It interesting that you mentioned Quanah since Forrest likes to write things about Quanah and his family.

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