Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Return of Olive Oatman

June 18, 2017
   Everyone agrees Olive Oatman left out some of the more sordid details of her five years in captivity. 

"Much of that dreadful period is unwritten, and will remain forever unwritten."
—Royal B. Stratten, Captivity of the Oatman Girls, 1857

   But did one of the unwritten periods include having children?

Daily Whip Out: "Olive Oatman's Despair"

   Her release from captivity was complicated. A faction of the Mojaves saw her as their property. (In her later lectures, Olive told spellbound audiences that her chin tattoos marked her as a slave. This claim is undermined by the fact that almost all the Mojave women had chin markings especially if they were married.) 

   The head chief's daughter, Dakota, accompanied Olive to Fort Yuma, partly as a friend (the two had grown close) and partly as an emissary of her father and the Mojaves. Part of the trade included a horse, which Dakota was promised on delivery of the American captive.

   Before she left the Mojave Valley, Olive was approached by the chief's son, who told her she could not take certain trinkets. Might these trinkets have to do with their relationship as a couple?

Daily Whip Out: "Olive's Rough Transition"

   After a nine day journey, the small party arrived on the eastern bank of the Colorado, across from Fort Yuma. The Colorado River in the old days—before the five dams—was a muddy, silty, roaring quagmire. 

Daily Whip Out: "The Lower Colorado: Too Thick to Drink, Too Thin To Plow."

   Most historians believe Miss Oatman was put in the care of Sarah Bowman. However, several accounts avoid giving The Great Western credit, the most obvious one being Royal B. Stratten's account in the best seller, Captivity of the Oatman Girls.  Stratten writes that Olive "was taken in by a very excellent family residing at the fort." The choice of the word "excellent" appears to be used to exclude Ms. Bowman.

Daily Whip Out: "The Great Western Stands Tall"

   To confuse matters even more, Olive herself told a reporter in San Francisco, four months after her arrival at Yuma, "I was taken to Fort Yuma and remained there a month in the family of Sergeant Reuben Twist." Twist was stationed at Fort Yuma at the time, but other than that we know nothing about him. Some believe Twist could have been boarding with Sarah, but that is just speculation. It's probably safe to say, even if she did care for Olive, Sarah was denied the credit in some circles because of her shady past.

   The one person who could have told us exactly what happened, was not asked, did not write anything down and died too soon. That would be Sarah Bowman, herself, who died of a spider bite on December 23, 1866. She was 53 years old.

"This is the last I shall see of you. I will tell all about the Mohave and how I lived with them. Good bye."
—Olive Oatman, shaking the hand of Tokwatha (Musk Melon) at Fort Yuma on the day she departed

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The History of Political Correctness vs. Seeking the Truth

June 20, 2017
   Gore Vidal once commented wryly, "Political correctness is tyranny with manners." That sentiment seems almost quaint today, considering the hatefest we are now witnessing.

   My whole deal from day one has been to find out the truth, warts and all. I was asked to come speak to a group of horse enthusiast publishers last Friday in Scottsdale and here is their report on what I said:

Surviving the New Media Landscape
Bob Boze Bell took over True West Magazine in 1999 and quickly was losing $30,000 a month. “If you try to do something different, it takes a while for people to catch on,” True West’s CEO and Executive Editor commented. “Content is king. Ask readers what they want and give it to ’em.” The enthusiastic Bell discussed survival in today’s digital world, including the use of Facebook to invoke reader feedback, and also shared some of the mistakes that he’s made along the way. True West is now in its 64th year of production telling tales of the Wild West. “My job here today is to tell you what not to do,” he said to a room of laughs.
   End of newsletter report.
   I can't tell you how refreshing it is to be quoted correctly. On the other hand, if you chanced to read my take on the swinging Mojaves (blog post "Enter The Talking Vaginas") I knew it would get some blowback, like this remark on the True West Facebook page:


   The inference being, evidently they didn't have any sex in the Old West, or, at least this woman doesn't want to hear about it. But the discouraging blowback from the post, at least to me, are these two comments:

"I call Bull Crap. Neither the first nor last time a "scientist" has made up lurid tales re the sexual practices of primitive cultures."
—Andrew Gribble

"Totally agree about your comment about scientists. The adding of lurid tales were found in many of the anthropology books I had to read while in college."
—David Quin

   First a clarification is in order: Koebler was not a "scientist" but rather an anthropologist, and he was not alone in his conclusions about the sexual practices of the Mojave, and, in fact, Mojave historians (that would be Mojaves who are historians) concur with the major points.

   What I read into these two comments is that the rejection of seeking the truth is part and parcel to the current culture wars. 

   Here's another attack on "revisionist history":

"McGinty's book ("The Oatman Massacre") is revisionist history. While he did his research, there is a definite slant to his conclusions that Olive did want to stay with her captors while if you read her book, page after page details her longing to leave, her hate for her captors and her desire to be free. It's a little too convenient to dismiss all the things she says in the book Stratton helped write as his 'editing.' McGinty and folks like him try to filter her experience through 21st century glasses when it was a totally different time back then. As Olive describes in the book, the Indians hated the whites."

   About half true. Not all Indians hated "the whites," just as not all whites hated the Indians. I really hate—he said ironically—how we have arrived at this cultural crossroads where anything that even hints at inclusiveness or PC is automatically rejected as only something a "libtard" would buy into.

   That said, I too am tired of lockstep PC as it relates to In-dins (I refuse to use Native Americans, or, Italian Americans because it smacks of Vidal's quip: "tyranny with manners"). But, then again, I do see where it came from and the desire to regain some pride in one's ancestry. At the end of the day, we are all human beings and at least some of us are merely trying to look for clues at the scene of the crime.

“Unless you’re ashamed of yourself now and then, you’re not honest.” 
—William Faulkner

   I'll let a historian have the final word:

"A decade and a half into the 21st century, what do we love in common? The painful but unavoidable answer is: not enough."
—historian Jon Meacham

Monday, June 19, 2017

Slim Pickens Goes Long

June 19, 2017
   Our cover story on Slim Pickens hit a nerve with the actor's daughter, Daryle Ann Lindley Giardino. Here she is with the issue. Special thanks to Page Williams for sending along the picture. Page told me the cover story brought back many memories for Daryle and she misses him every day. 

   He was a special guy and we are getting rave reviews on the piece, written by Henry Parke.

"What in the Wide World of Sports is ah-goin' on here? I hired you people to get a little track laid, not jump around like a bunch of Kansas City faggots."
—Slim Pickins in "Blazing Saddles"

The Hard Nurse Meets The Captive Gone Native

June 19, 2017
   Spent the weekend noodling images for both The Great Western and Olive Oatman who famously met at Yuma Crossing in late February of 1856.

Daily Whip Out: "Captive Audience"

   This would be how Olive looked when The Great Western took her in after the famous captive arrived at Fort Yuma in February of 1856. As would be expected, Miss Oatman was quite distraught and confused. She couldn't remember her English (both the Yavapai and the Mojaves forbade her and her sister from speaking Engish to each other and after Mary Ann's death, the year before, Olive had not heard nor spoken English since then) and she often resorted to Mojave, blurting out she wanted to return to her Mojave family and trying to escape. This happened more than once. Each time she tried to flee, the strong and gentle giant, Sarah Bowman, reeled her back in.

The Perfect Nurse for Olive

    Sarah Bowman had a saber scar across her cheek from the Mexican War. She was a giantess—well over six feet—and she a reputation for being a hard woman. But at the same time, she was known far and wide as a gentle soul, and she was beloved for being a nurse to wounded soldiers from Texas to Mexico and back. She was the perfect fit for Olive Oatman's return to anglo culture after five years in captivity and one can only imagine the challenges Sarah faced with her wild, hysterical charge. It took her a month of tender loving care to bring Olive back to some form of normal.

   To give you an idea of how difficult this transition was, when Olive's brother Lorenzo showed up to reclaim her, the two did not recognize each other and sat in silence for an hour, before either one of them spoke!

Daily Whip Out: "Sarah The Hard Nurse"

"I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.
—Florence Nightingale

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Real Life Wonder Woman Finally Gets Her Due

June 18, 2017
   The Top Secret Writer is coming back for another round in True West. Paul Andrew Hutton has written up the adventures of a real life Old West character who somehow—for the life of me, I don't know why—has escaped big screen treatment.

  She was a pistol-packin' Mamacita. She had no children of her own but she adopted numerous Indian and Mexican orphans who stayed with her for life. One eye-witness claimed she was seven foot tall. That seems like an exaggeration to me, so we'll go with the next tallest observation: "she was six foot six."

   She founded two towns: El Paso, Texas and Yuma, Arizona and she was adored by all the soldiers in the Southwest for "her bravery in the field and for her unceasing kindness in nursing the sick and wounded." She was wounded herself in the war with Mexico with a saber scar across the cheek, and allegedly she shot and killed the Mexican soldier who cut her. She was awarded "rations for life" by the Fourth Infantry.

   The accolades didn't end there: 

"She packed two six-shooters, and they all said she shore could use 'em, that she had killed a couple  of men in her time."
—Jeff Ake, who met her in 1856 at her "house" in the Sonoita Valley called Casa Blanca

Daily Whip Out: "The Two-Gun Mamacita"

Daily Whip Out: The Great Suggestion"

   And, to boot, Sarah Bowman (The Great Western's real name) was the one who received and nurtured Olive Oatman when she was brought to Fort Yuma in February, 1856, after five years of captivity with the Indians.

Daily Whip Out: "Olive Oatman"

Daily Whip Out: "Topock Marsh From Memory"

"I will tell all about the Mohave and how I lived with them. Good-bye."
—Olive Oatman to Tokwatha, a Mojave who shook her hand before she left Fort Yuma

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Olive Oatman Swims Her Way to Freedom

June 17, 2017
   After five years in captivity, it looked like Olive Oatman was finally going home. It was February of 1856 and after two nights of heated negotiations with the Mojaves, in which threats were made on both sides, the head Mojave finally relented and said the captive could go back to the Americans.

    However, there was one additional problem: Olive and her savior, an Indian called Francisco who had come to gain her release, had to travel 250 miles south to Fort Yuma, and even though he had help from a brother and two cousins (all four were Yuma warriors) there would be rough sections of the journey where they would have to swim through rugged canyons that choked the passage right down to the water. The area around Parker Dam comes to mind.

  According to Olive, they had to swim in the frigid water ten different times in order to make it through. Fortunately for her, in her time with the Mojaves she had learned to swim as the river tribe spent most of each summer in the water to escape the heat and they were known far and wide as superior swimmers.

Daily Whip Out: "Olive Swims to Freedom"

   This brings up an interesting dilemma: assuming her guides carried firearms (this is early—1850s, and many of the Indians still carried primitive armament), how did Francisco and his crew keep their weapons dry? If someone has to wade into the Colorado River and swim downstream, for a mile or two, they really couldn't prop their rifles, knives, or even their bows and arrows, on their heads. Could they? It's unclear if they had horses or were all on foot. Of course, horses would complicate the logistics even further. Were they swimming their horses for long stretches? Seems a bit crazy to me. Any ideas?

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't really make him a flotation device."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, June 15, 2017

In Search of The Real Curly Bill

June 15, 2017
   With the passing of Powers Boothe last month we made a commitment to build a wonderful tribute to him and to one of the most intriguing Old West outlaws, which he portrayed to perfection—Curly Bill Brocius. We have some new research on the historical outlaw's backstory, from the late great Paul Cool, and that scholarship will anchor the issue, but we will also feature a fitting eulogy to the actor best known for his role as the leader of the cow-boys:

Curly Bill & The Red Sash Gang, Sabino Canyon, June 1993

   When we posted this photograph on Facebook (which ran in my Wyatt Earp book) it was viewed by more than 1.1 million people and received 2,121 comments and 6,149 shares. I'd say it struck a nerve.

Daily Whip Out: "Curly Bill Cover Sketch"

So Dan The Man Harshberger whipped out a few cover ideas to look at:

Dan The Man's first four passes at the cover.

He did two more this morning, and they are looking good.

Dan The Man's Color Pass

Still moving things around in terms of type, but we're getting closer to the final. Stay tuned.

"I should warn you that underneath these clothes I'm wearing boxer shorts and I know how to use them."
—Robert Orben

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Olive With Child

June 14, 2017
   Got up this morning and took another run at a theme I have been wrestling with for a couple months now. This time, rather than showing her topless, I gave her a discreet blanket. Perhaps, too discreet.

Daily Whip Out: "Olive With Child"

More Praise for Fly at Embudos Issue:
   I don’t know how you do it, after reading True West since my childhood in the 60’s, it just continues to get better. 
   As a professional photographer I was captivated by C. S. Flys technique, (glass plates-really), his composition, (using an 8 x 10 view camera), and his skillful posing of subjects who likely didn’t want to be photographed and didn’t speak the same language. Just when I thought I’d seen all the great photos in this issue, along came “Tombstone is Shaking!” and I recalled that day in 1971 in an east Los Angeles high school when the earth shook during the Sylmar Quake. I spent the day shooting throughout the San Gabriel Valley and even managed to get a couple shots like the one in the article.
Many thanks again for your great magazine. I read it cover to cover, I have to- I wouldn’t want to miss a thing.

Rick Higbee
Bandera, TX

The July issue is now on newsstands

"Better that a girl has beauty than brains because boys see better than they think."
—Old Vaquero Saying