Scrapbook Two Hundred Thirty Nine…


November, 2019


New Life From an Old Body

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This old juniper tree, adjacent to Shiloh’s house, was totally collapsed by the weight of snow about 15 years ago. It didn’t much care, it just grew sideways instead of up

In 1914, an archaeologist named Nels Nelson, working for the National Museum of Natural History in NY, took a photograph of a juniper tree at San Lazaro Pueblo. It was in full growth and seemingly in good health. I have that photo someplace but am too lazy to go into my basement and look for it.

Many years later, I took this photo of the same tree. It looked melancholy and forlorn, a stump of its former self. Well, here, you can see for yourself. 

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Sometime after 1914, someone cut all of its arms off, probably for no greater gain than to build a fence. It must have been a painful experience because an axe was used to do the cutting. Orange lichen soon covered its remnants as if to say “We’re helping you buddy, hang on.” It couldn’t, so it didn’t. 

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About 20 years ago I couldn’t stand it any longer so I brought that beautiful thing home. Now it relaxes under a growing pinon tree by my gate. It has earned a rest. 

Juniper is a hard wood that grows slowly and rots slowly. Nevertheless, I know that in another 100 years it will be gone. But in leaving, its decomposing body will fertilize a new generation of growth. I planted a small cluster of juniper berries near its soft underbelly, where they will get moisture from the ground, energy from the growing rays of sun, and nourishment from juniper decay.

Covenants on my 2 ½ acres say that no additional structures can be built on the property. So I expect the berries to germinate undisturbed, and enjoy full growth for many years. And every spring their own berries will residuate as the process renews.  

Please don’t anyone say I can’t influence the future? f







Scrapbook Two Hundred Thirty Three…


November, 2019


Prehistoric Corn

The following story is a paraphrase of what I wrote on pages 124-5 of my book, The Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo. I was on a roll with new discoveries. Only a week before, in a building across Del Charro Creek, I found a small corral that contained goat pellets. Not every amateur archaeologist can boast of having an important collection of 16th century Spanish goat droppings.

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16th Century Goat Droppings


Another educating moment. 

It was about noon on a cold, blustery day in 1989, when Charmay and I were completing the final work in a room on the north end of building l, not far from where I uncovered 2 unique prehistoric kachina dance masks, and a wonderful associated ceremonial assemblage.

It had taken us 3 days to carefully remove the room-fill rubble and only the final sweepings remained. A flagstone jar lid, broken in 5 pieces, was laying on the floor in the southeast corner, and I had seen no reason to move it in our excavation.

Because the wind was brisk, we decided to have our soup and sandwich there in the room where no one had eaten in more than 500 years. It was a rewarding moment and we were pleased to see this place almost as it had been when new, so many years before. 

One could not help but think of those who had lived here, and wonder what their dreams and aspirations might have been. Did they have enough food and water? What did they do for recreation? Our thoughts wandered…

While sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall, I placed my cup of hot tomato soup on the round piece of flagstone. It sounded a little hollow and different from what I had subconsciously expected. No matter, I thought, so we enjoyed a short break while the antics of several ravens entertained us, and a red-tailed hawk watched suspiciously from his high soar. 

As we rose to leave, Charmay said, “Just for the fun of it, why don’t you look under the jar lid?” After considering what I thought was the futility of doing what she asked, against a desire to favorably respond to a somewhat stern question, I carefully removed the five broken pieces of flagstone, one at a time. Before the second piece could be moved, we both felt something different was happening. To our astonishment, and utter amazement, we discovered a black, plain-ware pottery jar that had been buried up to its rim under the floor. 


Click to enlarge

Inside the jar rested a rectangular dragonfly-painted bowl, and both of them contained corn kernels. For us, this discovery added a whole new dimension to our knowledge of prehistoric life at San Lazaro Pueblo. 

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Charmay was a good friend and trusted digging companion. She excavated the beautiful emerald cross that I found with a metal detector at San Lazaro.


Together, we owned the One Horse Land and Cattle Co. (RIP) that published my San Lazaro book, and a few others. f

My treasure chest is not hidden at San Lazaro Pueblo.







Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Six…


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…


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…


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


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


Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Two …


APRIL 2017

The Sound of Bells

That’s the name of a wonderful book that Eric Sloane wrote in 1966. Later, he bought all of the remaining copies from the publisher so he could re-issue it into a special bicentennial edition. It never happened, and my copy, a gift from the author, is one of those he wished to modify, but didn’t.

Eric hand lettered most of the book

Eric loved bells, and noted that under ideal conditions their rings can be heard nine miles distant. He said, “The far-away sound of a bell could be both “forlorn and soul-stirring.” Funny I remembered that.

I acquired this generic cast iron train bell from Eric. He probably apprehended it from some old wrecked steam locomotive somewhere, but who knows? The bell has the loudest clang in our whole area. I know that from how many miles away I get complaints.

The support upon which the bell rests held up the roof in Kiva A at San Lazaro Pueblo. The Dendrochronology Lab at the U of Arizona said the tree was cut in 1475 plus a few years added for residual rottage. That means it was cut with prehistoric stone tools because metal did not come to the pueblo for at least another 65 years.

It was set 24” into the ground, and that’s about as deep as a man’s arm can reach and hand-dig the dirt out. At my home I cut the post to fit, tarred the bottom 24” and placed it back in the ground. Then I mounted the bell on top. My wife rings it to summon me when I’m working way out in the trees. One ring means come to supper, two means carry the trash out, and three means “Come at once, I need you.” I always do what she rings.

A cross section of the post. It still contains its ancient cedar scent

Because it personally cannot relate its history, my bell tower invites little more than a curious glance. I wonder if the owners of my home a hundred years from now will appreciate the dichotomy that stands just off the east end of my portal. f



Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy One …


APRIL 2017


My library contains a few hundred books on archaeology because that’s my hobby, and I’ve read or thumbed through all of them more than once. Most are highly researched, well written, too technical, and dull as cold oatmeal. C’mon you guys, it’s not like tornados are stopped in mid-air by archaeology, or famines prevented, or even terrible diseases cured for crimanny sake. Loosen up some.

In 2004, when I wrote a book about my excavations at San Lazaro Pueblo I tried to change the archaeological norm by adding some levity. The book is quoted in technical journals, but credit is not given. They don’t like land owners excavating ruins on their own land so they ignore me. That’s okay because I’m having more fun than they are.


Many archaeologists are really good guys, like David Hurst Thomas, who is Curator of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He is loose, and he’s analyzing the San Lazaro church bell fragments for me.

The secret is to not get too excited about the little things. f


Scrapbook Seventeen…



Forrest often has said that he was born a few hundred years too late. Although he uses a computer to write, he thinks he’s not ready for the 21st Century and all of the fancy gadgets that it brought along. Family members are moving apart, he laments, “because children today have so many distractions. They never use the telephone because there are faster and better ways to communicate. When he told me that his two daughters, both older than fifty years, don’t know who Clark Gable is, I suggested that it was more a reflection of who he is than who they are.

This picture of Forrest, leaning against a 600 year old wall at the privately owned San Lazaro Pueblo, reveals a man who is contented. He says it comes with being in a serenely remote place, alone or in the company of a special friend. His hand rests on a stone threshold, worn smooth over the centuries by the bare feet of countless humans, all of which are unknown to us now. The following words are taken from his book, The Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo.

“When I was just a kid, more than seventy-five years ago, my father and I often walked the wooded hills and along the creek bottoms in Texas, searching for signs of ancient man. We loved doing that together. The thrill of finding my first arrowhead ranks among my fondest memories. It was not the arrowhead alone that marked the event. It was also that my father was there to share it with me. I have long remembered the expression on his face as he watched mine. A few years before he died, he sent me this poem. Some words can be worth a thousand pictures.”


O’er fields of new turned sod

Communing with my God,

I tramped alone.


And in a furrow bed

I found an arrowhead

Chiseled from stone.


Then fancy fled on wings

Back to primeval things

Seeking the light.


What warrior drew the bow,

Sighted and let it go

On its last flight.


How oft this flinten head

On deadly errand sped

I do not know.


Nor will the silent flint

Reveal the slightest hint

How long ago.


Were its grim story told

What tales would it unfold,

Tales that would chill!


I know but this one thing

Beyond all questioning,

“Twas meant to kill”.


Ages have worn away,

Warriors have gone their way,

Their bones are dust.


Proof of a craftsman’s skill

Survives the ages still

Left in my trust.