Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chiaventone Wins Wrangler Award

Fred Chiaventone has won another Wrangler Award.

Well, we are NOT surprised!!
Fred (pictured above with long-time friend, Gen. David Petraeus) is among my top 5 favorite writers of all time. Two of his books, Moon Of Bitter Cold and A Road We Do Not Know are two of my top five favorite books. I've turned so many people on to Fred's work, I should get commissions. I'll settle for the satisfaction of knowing that other people have been touched by Fred's work. He's a fine historian and a fine writer.

This latest Wrangler, bestowed by the Western Heritage Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame, is given to Fred for an April 2010 article in Wild West Magazine on the Pony Express. Fred's first Wrangler award in 2003 recognized Moon Of Bitter Cold and was presented to him by actor, Ernest Borgnine.

Wrangler award winners are a prestigious lot: Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood, and Robert Utley among them. I'm thrilled to see Fred recognized yet again as he continues to make valuable contributions to literature and history. During his Army career, Fred specialized in counter-terrorism and national security issues. Since retiring, he has written and lectured widely and appeared in numerous documentaries and consulted on feature films, including Ang Lee's "Ride With The Devil". His articles have appeared in American Heritage, The New York Post, Armed Forces Journal, and Cowboys & Indians. He was a contributing editor to the Historical Dictionary of the U. S. Army and to the Oxford Companion to American Military History.

Yaay, Fred!

More News From Talented Friends

Louis Kraft is doing the final edits on his Ned Wynkoop manuscript and I can hardly wait to see it. Just picked up the April issue of Wild West Magazine and Louis has a really excellent article on Wynkoop, who was serving as sheriff of Arapahoe County, Kansas Territory. What a life! Louis may be the best biographer going and he brings Wynkoop back from the past with color and clarity and compassion, just as he did with Geronimo and Charles Gatewood.

Be sure to grab this issue of Wild West and watch for the upcoming biography from the University of Oklahoma, Ned Wynkoop: Walking Between the Races.

We hope to get up to Hardin this summer to hear Louis (above with me at the Kansas City Civil War Roundtable) and good friend, D. K. Clark, on the 135th anniversary of Custer's Last Fight.

The History World spins on.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cowboy Adventures

"Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction."

I wish I had heard that advice before my first two marriages.

Kansan Robert "Cowboy" Culbertson (above, and below right) is a purveyor of cowboy wisdom. He is a wrangler/actor who has appeared in more than 20 documentary and feature films. Titles include Ride With the Devil, The Only Good Indian, Rough Riders, Bloody Dawn, and American Experience "Jesse James."

Of all the adventures Cowboy has been on, however, the one coming up may the best. Cowboy and his bud, filmmaker/screenwriter D. R. Pedraza, are going to ride from the Canadian/North Dakota border to San Antonio in order to raise money and awareness for drug abuse. Visit for details. The is an incredible event for a unusual cause --helping the kids of parents with substance abuse issues. So often, these children are uprepared for college and get overlooked by society. This ride is designed to change that.

Check out the site, and if you feel it in your heart, support what these guys and this organization are doing. There's real wisdom in that.

Oh yeah, and "when in doubt let your horse do the thinkin.'"

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Farewell to Texas

A hundred and fifty years ago today, Texas left the Union.

It had barely joined the Union.

There is not enough room here to tell the story of Texas. Heck, there's not even enough room in Texas to tell the story of Texas. Texas is big, Texans are big, and the story of Texas is bigger than them all. In all that bigness, we sometimes lose sight of the sadness.

It was a sad day when Texas voted to secede, just as it was a sad day when her sister states cast those votes. Even though some celebrated, others mourned the dissolution of the hard-won United States. The American Revolution was not that distant; the sons and daughters of patriots held the fate of the young nation in their hands. They did not not always decide wisely.

Fired up by . . . who knows? Who knows what fuels the thirst for war? Power, glory, conquest. . . whatever. It is rarely worth the cost. Sam Houston (right) warned his colleagues there would be "rivers of blood." They did not listen. They did not listen all over our nation and rivers of blood did, in fact, flow.

When Mississippi seceded in January, 1861, U. S. Senator Jefferson Davis concluded that his services were terminated. When he bade farewell to Washington, there was great excitement in the capitol. Crowds arrived by 7 a.m. and by 9, even the hallways and meeting rooms were standing room only.

According to his Jefferson's wife, Varina:

I . . . looked on this festive crowd and wondered if they saw beyond the cold exterior of the orator -- his deep depression, his desire for reconciliation, and his overwhelming love for the Union in whose cause he had bled, and to maintain which he was ready to sacrifice all but liberty and equality. We felt blood in the air, and mourned in secret over the severance of tender ties both of relationship and friendship. . . our hearts were "exceeding sorrowful even unto death."

That night, Varina heard her husband pray:

May God have us in His holy keeping, and grant that before it is too late peaceful councils may prevail.

Of course, peace did not prevail Jefferson Davis was soon elected the head of a rebel nation. Probably not until death did Davis or Houston know true peace after that war had taken place.

Wise men still pray that "peaceful councils may prevail."

Email correspondence with T. J. Stiles:

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T. J. Stiles won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. I came to know T. J. through his work on Jesse James. The result, Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, is well-researched and well-written -- both of which are woefully lacking in scholarship it seems. I have to admit I was tickled to read T. J.'s note. We were discussing the ridiculousness of some Jesse James lore:

By contrast with Jesse James, no one claims to have a family story about Cornelius Vanderbilt , or a picture of him that they want me to authenticate, even though Vanderbilt lived far longer, interacted with far more people, and was photographed many more times. If all the purported photos of Jesse James really were him, he would have spent every hour of his short life in front of a camera.

T. J., I've been meaning to ask you about this photo I found in an estate sale. I think it's Jesse James and Billy the Kid robbing a train with Cornelius Vanderbilt on board and John Wilkes Booth is a passenger . . . . Maybe I'll just take it to Rick at the Pawn Shop in Vegas. . . .

Check out and follow T. J.'s appearances and blog.