John Bullis…

by forrest fenn

These vignettes from Forrest’s collection are only to share. To see 294 additional pieces  please visit



bullisShe called and said, “Hi Forrest, I want you to come down here to my garage sale.” Yeah, sure, she was in San Antonio and I was in Santa Fe. I said, “Josette, wake up, you’re having a nightmare. Did you really ask me to come 619 nautical miles great circle route against the wind just to attend your garage sale? What’re you selling besides tamales?” “Yes, Forrest, it’s because you’re such a class act, and the tamales are delicious. Call me with your ETA and I’ll pick you up at Stinson Field,” and she hung up.

Well, what do you say to a woman like that? Then I remembered her fawn-like brown eyes, and the tone of her complexion that was ardent enough to attract the admiration of even the most indifferent. And she was an old friend, and she was a no-nonsense antique dealer, and she had sold me some nice things in the past, and she did have a “you’d better come along sonny” sound in her voice.

On the way from the airport to her warehouse she explained that she was liquidating the estate of General John Bullis, whose distinguished career was not unknown to me. In 1886, he served with General Nelson A. Miles in his quest to capture Geronimo. Camp Bullis in San Antonio was named for him. I was suddenly so thrilled with Josette that we stopped at McDonald’s and I paid for lunch. I said she could order anything on the menu.

Thirty-minutes and twelve-bucks-fifty later we were looking at the Bullis Collection. In a small box was a letter dated March 12, 1886, from the general to his wife, “…we swept into a large Apache village and captured eight ollas full of grain. I kept a nice woman’s perforator bag for you.” The letter was resting on the bag.


Perforator bag or awl case

In Josette’s quiet and unobtrusive way, she announced that, because the sale had been advertised, she was honor-bound to hold everything until her warehouse opened at 0700 the next morning. The decision displayed the integrity that was idiosyncratic of her nature, and it gave me time to review the inventory and prices. There were Navajo blankets and jewelry, Plains Indian beaded things, two painted buffalo robes, a nice Tesuque dance kilt, some Hopi pottery, and lots of other stuff I liked.

That night Josette prepared a wonderful meal for me and her family, and the dessert was bread pudding; my all-time favorite.

At 07:01 the next morning I handed Josette a check for the entire garage sale. She agreed to pack everything in a U-Haul and deliver it to my gallery in Santa Fe. I felt good because her commission was 40% from the estate, plus expenses, and another free meal from me.

This time we dined at the Bull Ring and I hinted that she should have another burger. When she started ordering, my sense of frugality dwindled, then vanished as my wallet slid rapidly into the dark abyss of commitment. It was like the rattling of tea cups before an earthquake. “To start I’ll have a glass of 2005 Valandraud, St-Emilion, and then for dinner, a cobb salad, prime rib end-cut au jus with horseradish, potatoes au gratin, and sweet crepes.” And she had to have crème brulee for dessert. Then of course she needed an expensive French liqueur “to freshen my palate.” I had a lettuce salad without dressing.

That blew my budget pretty quick, but she did promise to call me again, and she was great company, and she did me a couple of important favors, and she did help me resell some of the things she sold me. So I guess it was okay. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and carry on. f