Monday, March 18, 2013

Prairie Roses

 My dear  friend, June Windscheffel ( below left, photo by Topeka Capital Journal photographer Thad Alton), was honored by the American Business Women's Association last week. It was a lovely tribute to a woman that makes everyone feel like they are the most special person she has ever known. I am blessed to call her my friend! She has long been an advocate for history and came to our book launch party in February. She is a long-time member of the Westerners and is always laughing and learning! We love  you, June!!!!

Friday evening, I headed to Wichita for Lone Chimney Films next production -- The Road to Valhalla. I attended Ken Spurgeon's booksigning at Northfield School where he teaches and coaches. His book, just released by the History Press, is A Kansas Soldier at War: The Civil War Letter os Christian and Elise Dubach Isley. Ken is the best thing to happen to Kansas history since Lewis and Clark.

The Prairie Rose Chuckwagon, just outside Wichita, was the location for our filming on Saturday. Old friends Joe Houts and Paul Stuewe were the other "talking heads." It was great to visit with Joe and Noreen and they brought a bottle of wine with them as a wedding gift for Gary and me. (Yes, we have our third anniversary in May but keep the gifts coming!)

Other than being fed and feted like rockstars, the best part of this gig was visiting with the legendary Orin Friesen. We have so many friends in common and have been Facebook friends for a while, but this was the first opportunity to really visit. We talked music, music legends, cowboy movies, "Home on the Range," mutual buds -- it was a great time! Bonus: A copy of "Tales from the Trail" by the Prairie Rose Rangers. Orin's son, Jesse, proves he is his father's son with some fine picking and vocals. Kim Coslett and Jolynn MacIntyre round out this talented foursome.

While Joe and Paul were filmed in the rather cool room just off the greatroom at the Prairie Rose, the boys kindly built a fire for me. Being a girl has its advantages.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

No Greater Calling--a Review

I have had Eric Johnson's new work, No Greater Calling, for a few weeks now waiting for a review. It was difficult to get around to actually reviewing it as it was on constant loan. I carried it with me to talks and stopped to share it at historic sites. The jacket is already showing signs of wear.

"You have to see this!!!" I have enthusiastically informed my history buds. "You have to have this!"

No Greater Calling is a labor of love in the truest sense of the word. Nowhere is this about Eric; it is all about A Chronological Record of Sacrifice and Heroism During the Western Indian Wars, 1865 - 1898. The amount of dogged research that went into producing this 400-page volume is staggering. There is no editorializing, save for the quotes selected by the author throughout or the brief introduction and conclusion. It is simply a chronology of engagements and the resulting casualties of more than three decades of America's asserting control of the western United States. The dozens of photographs are those of graves. . . a quiet, compelling, black and white testament to the soldier's life.

It is one thing to know that George Custer's command was annihilated at the Little Big Horn River; it is another to see each man's name, five pages of names, each a real man. What is most startling however, is the sheer number of engagements and their vast geography. Take, for example, these two minor events, separated by a few days and hundreds of miles:

Skirmish, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona Territory (August 6, 1872) -- Company A of the 8th U. S. Cavalry; Action near Prior's For Montana Territory (August 14, 1872) -- Eight companies of the 2nd U. S. Cavalry and 7th U. S. Infantry. Sgt. James McClarren and a citizen, William Francis, were killed.

In all, Eric (right, while in the Navy) chronicles more than one-thousand, three hundred engagements. Some, like Little Big Horn, remain embedded in the national psyche. Others, like those just mentioned, were forgotten until Eric blew the dust from the records. A veteran himself, Eric thought the veterans of this era between the Civil War and the turn of the century were lost to history.

"For men who did all their nation asked of them," he wrote in the preface, "for those who willingly answered their nation's greatest calling, this cannot stand."

Historian John Monnett said, ". . . the American soldier of the frontier army has all but been forgotten or portrayed in  pejorative contexts. Eric Johnson has brought their names and story back to life as the men they were, doing their often undesirable, often controversial duty, a story of individual veterans who deserve the dignity of being remembered. The statistics Johnson brings to the fore in this excellent book will serve as a needed resource for writers and historians for years to come."

I concur. Let me add, this is the most valuable, most un-selfish book to land on my desk in years. Writers and historians have a desire to express themselves, to share their passions and prejudices and thus they insinuate themselves in the story by one means or another, if only through editing. Eric's ego is nowhere to be found in this book. This is a simple, straight-forward, long overdue tribute to men who served in a mostly thankless place for a mostly disinterested nation. This should absolutely be in every public and school library, as well as the shelves of Indian Wars enthusiasts.

It is no surprise that Eric's work has been nominated for the Army Historical Foundation 2012 Distinguished Writing Awards, the Reference Category. A hearty congratulations and a nod to Schiffer for publishing this valuable work.

No Greater Calling: A Chronological Record of Sacrifice and Heroism During the Western Indian Wars, 1865 - 1898. (Schiffer, 2012) hardcover, 408 pages, b&w pictures.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pine Ridge Perspective

Paul Brown (above,  Verlin Clifton, Tommy Jarrell, Paul Brown and Frank Bode) of NPR fame is an old friend. Paul came to Surry County, North Carolina, to make music with Uncle Tommy Jarell. (I could write a book on Uncle Tommy; there will be other posts.) When I left the position of news director at WPAQ Radio in Mount Airy (where Sherry Boyd was the morning dj), Paul took my place--really well, I might add. He was much better than I. So, now that Paul has hit the bigtime, I thought it might be useful to remind him of a little Pine Ridge (NC) perspective and I sent him this message on Facebook. It was so popular that I thought I would share it with all y'all as well:

To Paul Brown -- The news of Hugo Chavez's being embalmed and put on display reminds me of a "conversation" Grandpa Coalson had with a cousin who was bad to drink. He brought his mama to visit Grandma and Grandpa. While the women were in the kitchen visiting, we grandkids were watching Bob Gordon Theater on TV and Grandpa was having his weekly treat--Dr. Pepper. My cousin talked nonstop for hour and Grandpa didn't even nod much less talk to him. Grandpa did not suffer fools and the conversation was pretty ridiculous. Finally, my cousin said, "When I die, I want to be put in a glass coffin so people can come see me." Grandpa looked at him and said, "Nobody wants to see you now. Why in the hell would they want to see you after you're dead?" Yep, Pine Ridge.

Yes, Buffalo Bill used a cell phone. . . .

Gary took this picture of Kirk Shapland and his son Ethan at the Lincoln Days Annual Reeanctment, Lincoln, Kansas. Kirk does an awesome job portraying "Cody of the Plains" and his bud, Mark Berry is just a showstopper with California Joe.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Topeka Library--Best Staff Ever!!

It was great fun visiting with Diana Friend and Lisa Coble Krings at the library yesterday and the above video is the result. Had I realized there would be video and not just audio, I would have fixed up a little bit. Ah well.

A plug for our library: they are just the best. Jeanne Mithen, in the Topeka Room, serves on the Board of Trustees of the Shawnee County Historical Society and I owe her big time, all the time! She and Doug Wallace are responsible for the contents of our newsletter (Carol Yoho then does the heavy lifting). They always do good work.

I am so looking forward to talking about the Civil War in Kansas at the library on Sunday. Hope to see y'all there!