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Monday, December 12, 2016

Nemesis: Facing Our National Demons

The older you get, the more precious are your childhood memories. They may be growing faint, but they are the last vestige of the innocence and trust born in your heart which have not yet been violated, a safe place in your personal hard drive where you still nurture those all-American hopes and ideals.

And heroes.

Peter Evan's 2004 revelation called Nemesis took my long-protected bubble of innocence and hammered it into an urn of ashes. I accept that it happened, but I am always mad at myself when I am the last to know...

But maybe there are some others who like me missed this story... some incredible way, probably THE BIGGEST STORY OF THE CENTURY. Peter Evans seems to have quietly answered all of our suspicions and fears, and many of the lifelong mysteries around the Kennedys... and nobody bothered to acknowledge his accomplishment. Some tried to call it rubbish and even an outrage, but it seems to have survived the test of time.

Evans wrote an authorized biography about Aristotle Onassis and then was told by several people very close to the famous husband of the former First Lady, that he had completely missed the real story. It was the story that Onassis took to his grave. It was the story that others closest to him must never admit. And in the telling of it, Evans takes down many of our lifelong American icons.

I found the book by accident after watching Bill O'Reilly's killing book made into a movie, made with tunnel vision, Killing Kennedy, where one scene grabbed my reclining intellect as I enjoyed memory lane. Jack and Jackie are cuddling and consoling one another after losing their third born, and President Kennedy says sweetly and trustingly, for her to go ahead on that Mediterranean cruise with that Onassis guy... to get some rest and enjoy herself... and come back to him so they can go to DALLAS... it was all so wholesome. And right then I knew that O'Reilly had done another slick spin on history as he wants to sell it. But I was unsure why I felt that way...

Perhaps it was because, no matter how much skeptics have dismissed the lingering suspicions about an assassination conspiracy, even as a nine year- old I knew that it was too much of a coincidence that Lee Harvey Oswald JUST HAPPENED TO BE EMPLOYED in a building right on the parade route which would give him maximum visibility to shoot the president. Too much of a coincidence that Oswald was found quickly hiding in a theater, where he gave himself up as if he expected an escort out of the country... Too much of a coincidence that a Dallas strip club owner was able to walk right up to him and shoot him LIVE on national television in the police station... Too much of a coincidence that Texas Governor John Connolly, once the trusted hatchet man for Lyndon Johnson, discreetly changed over to the Republican Party... knowing he had no friends left in the other one...

What did Connolly know? Perhaps he learned as I did from Peter Evans that Jackie, fed up with the Kennedy brother's sex-capades, wanted out of her Kennedy farce, had found a new champion in Onassis, a longtime nemesis of the Kennedys. And Onassis was a man that had no moral compass and was admittedly the most ruthless man on the high seas. Perhaps he found out that one of Jackie's trusted confidants was also a trusted confidant of...

Lee Harvey Oswald.

I just knew from Killing Kennedy that IF Jacqueline Kennedy was floating around with Ari, before the assassination, that fact opened up a lot of possibilities for the causes of future events. For more “coincidences.” And as it turned out, Peter Evans had been trying to tell me and you for a decade. Yes I am a conspiracy nut. Every mother's son from my generation is to some degree. We all knew growing up that the Warren Commission had been a whitewash to cover up the truth about the Kennedys, the assassinations, the ugly part of our national soul, and we would probably never know what happened. It was too big, too dangerous, too earth-shaking. And then Peter Evans dumps it out like moldy old gym shorts from a forgotten locker room. And damn it stinks.

And there are answers, and reasonable explanations, and yes, even confessions. In the end, none of the players is left standing, least of all Jackie O, our uncrowned queen.... our forever national widow, fallen from grace, and with Peter Evans's investigative skullduggery, she morphs into OMG, the wicked witch of the west.

Evans's account is scrupulously footnoted and backed by numerous first- person accounts and testimonies, and yes, tons of hearsay. But the bottom line is that it has the ring of truth. Onassis had volcanic hates, and irrational obsessions, and multi-layered sin scum at the bottom of the sea, and Peter Evans manages to dredge up just enough to make us beg him to drop it, for God's sake, back to where he found it.

But not before he has convinced me and others that he has uncovered the ugly truth about the Kennedys and “Camelot,” and the political forces behind their destruction. In the end, it all makes sense. The unexplained coincidences of the premature deaths of Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedys, Oswald, and others. Anyone who could hurt Jackie. And arranged by the ones who would avenge her. And then they tried to destroy each other. In the end she walked away with her reputation intact... and with much of the money.

But new questions emerge. How could the Media and our whole country for that matter, ignore this book and its implications? That question, and the possible conspiracy behind it is far more daunting now. How could O'Reilly make such a flacid regurgitation of old news, and perpetuate Jackie's spin of “Camelot”? To do that, his co-writer had to step over a lot of dead bodies. One wonders why, after all this time, and Evans's revelations, we are still nursing those childhood fantasies...

But I'm sure O'Reilly sleeps better at night, than those of us who have faced our national demons. We all have to choose between Peter Evans's noxious humus, the staggering corruption and decadence which was the cornerstone of the Liberal wing of our society, fifty years ago, or continued ignorance and bliss. It is obvious, America has already made its choice.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The SCANDAL about Lottie Moon that every Baptist should know...

Lottie Moon was a nut job. Born in 1829, she was the beautiful daughter of a prominent Virginia doctor, who relocated his family to Ohio. At one point she almost married a man named Ambrose Burnside, (future Union General) but jilted him at the last minute. During the Civil War she fearlessly smuggled messages for the Confederacy across enemy lines, gallivanting around with Union brass including President Lincoln, and took her nuggets from eavesdropping straight back to Confederate HQ. She was not terribly religious... or at least her lying and treachery would not support that assumption... and she never went to China, as a missionary or anything else.

That's right, Lottie Moon. Right about now a lot of folks are reaching for the phone to call the preacher... ;)

Well, it turns out, as history would have it, there were TWO Lottie Moons, during the same period in history. And sadly, plenty of quasi-historians have melted the two together, thinking they are adding something to history. Some have taken great delight in exposing a great perceived weakness in the SBC traditions inspired by Lottie Moon. You, know, one of those “REST of the story” revelations like Paul Harvey used to do on the radio. Plenty of would-be historians are erroneously claiming the famous Southern Baptist missionary was a Confederate spy. I am happy to report that our more plain-faced Lottie Moon spent the war helping to manage her family plantation in Virginia. She did get a wonderful education, spoke several languages, and helped to provide medical assistance during the war. And yes, she followed her sister to be a missionary in China when 32 years old.

But wait a minute Southern Baptists... you are not off of the hook. My research has discovered something just as troubling... 

Baptists do not agree on what our Lottie Moon looked like... and there is great discrepancy there. It appears that somebody did not like the visage of the old Lottie, and replaced it with a sexier 1920's Lottie in recent times. That face has caught on, and appears in many of the Lottie websites, and even on the cover of a book! 

So I have provided my expertise and some pictures to help set the record straight.

 The REAL Lottie Moon, about 1875

You can see for yourself, there is definitely a problem... and since truthfulness and accuracy are paramount in our Kingdom cause, I thought I would try to puncture the new improved Lottie as best as can, before more damage is done to history.

 Lottie is pictured in the center, much older, and on the right about the time she embarked. Lottie Moon (Sorry Lottie!) had an enormous chin... and protruding lower lip, probably from dental issues.

Bottom line, there are several key points to observe, with these facts in mind. Faces do change over time. The ears and skin and muscles may sag, eyelids and lips as well. Noses might get somewhat larger... jaws wider, face and neck broader... but the bones stay the same. So we compare faces with the constants... cranium, nose bridge, chin... jawline, and to a less degree the variables. More importantly we study the relative ratio between the eyes and nose bridge... and the hairline and the cranium. Beyond that, similarities are only similarities. The new improved Lottie is an impostor. 

   The pretty lady on the left has a classic, large cranium... hairlines do not get lower wit age, but maybe higher... Faux Lottie also has a very short nose bridge (which also does not change), and her ears lay back almost flush to the head.  Overall, a very pretty lady. The Lottie photographed in China is actually quite different... especially the hairline, and those extremely arched eyebrows. But they could be mother and daughter. But they are not...

How can I be sure? That is easy. Lottie Moon of Baptist missionary fame was born in 1840. The photograph of the new improved Lottie is of a young woman... say around 30.
That makes the portrait having to be made around 1870. (Lottie was dead by 1912). The new improved Lottie is wearing clothing and hairstyle from around 1920 to 1935. She would have been born around 1890- when Lottie was around 50. There is no way that photograph used on the cover of the book was made in the 19th Century. It saddens and scares me to think so few have noticed or cared, or knew better.

 These two Lotties line up perfectly (vertically). She gained mass with age...  (on the left) her face much wider, actually making her face more pleasing, not unusual at all for someone in their mid-sixties.

Baptists do have universities who might have been able to establish these simple facts and prevent all the confusion and misinformation. Instead we have to save Lottie's reputation as the Queen of the Knights of the Golden Circle!

We can do better than this! Can I get an Amen?!!!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ready to face the machine guns... of Mo McMorrow

SIX years ago I ran home to write my weekly music blog after a wonderful singer-songwriter performed at the Corner Cafe here in Navasota, and in a rare instance, I experienced writer's block. I'm sure now I was afraid I had lost my objectivity, and sure I would be too much in love with the performer to be credible... And also painfully aware that my take on her music might be appreciated by her the least... (I had gotten some angry feedback at that time from some of the visiting musicians who hated my reviews...)  So I let it brew awhile.  

And then I forgot about it. Sorry Mo! I am ready to face the machine guns!

I do not believe in re-incarnation. But sometimes a song comes along which seems to connect me with an eternal, primeval chain of souls who reach for me from out of the past-  and possesses me- hand-in-glove, through the singer. And I have to admit that when this happens, it is usually some kind of music which is derived from Irish traditions.

Sure I love folk and country and rock and roll, and I'm learning to appreciate blues. The first time I felt this supernatural Irish effect was listening to an Eddie Rabbitt 8-track. He sang a mystical song about Ireland like he knew and loved it with all of his being... and as I listened, I too became Irish. Man I went there! An exceptional musician can do that. The same way Blind Willie Johnson and Al Green baptized me African American, and Merle Haggard brought me into the brotherhood of ex-cons. It is something wonderful and spiritual and completely a divine fruit of the imagination. Music is a way we can all celebrate the brotherhood of man... and YES woman... I am a woman whenever I listen to Jewel, or Crystal Gayle.

But when my daughter introduced me to Steeleye Span... I was a goner. I became Irish in my soul of souls, and the rest was just quaint cultural exchange. I was grooving to words I could not even understand. You Tube then fed me an infinite dive into “my past.” The crying fiddles, the driving rhythms, and tenor ecstasies... and sometimes bagpipes that choke me up when they just begin to whine. They reset my emotions instantly. 

(Click below for Cam Ye O'er Frae Franc by Steeleye Span... several versions, I love the shorter studio version the best, second from the left, but all worth listening to)


When I discovered the anthem Erin Go Bragh (Ireland forever!), I was sure I was hearing the caress of my ancestral heartstrings...

When they sing FACE THE MACHINE GUNS for Erin Go Bragh, I am so ready! 

Still, I had no clue what these folks were so mad about... But it was inspiring to be exposed to such conviction, such unanimity, all shared through soulful poetry.

 Mo McMorrow

So if you understand or even relate to any of this you will probably enjoy Mo McMorrow... a darlin' lass of Irish extraction who sings here in Texas like a passionate angelic missionary. And you will grow to love her recordings like Irish Gold from across the sea. I heard her first in Schulenburg, Texas at a downtown festival... She had commandeered a beauty parlor for the evening and won everyone's hearts... and most of them were of hard-core German extraction. I played her first CD (Excellent: Mona Lisas Don't Cry) until it had so many dings in it that it became irritating... I had to find another one... That led me to her next album.

McMorrow's album called Hangin' from a Nail (2013) continues her weaving of American and Irish traditions, and within she does her own version of the Irish standard, Spancil Hill.

Just twenty-three, Michal Considine wrote this song in the 1800's while dying in the gold fields of California. A native-born Irishman, his gaelic impetuousness led him to seek riches in a faraway land. And there he perished. But before he passed away, his adventure over, his gift of Irish poetry captured his epic regret as he realized he would never see Ireland, or the love of his life, again. He sent the song on where he could never go, to say good bye to everything he loved about his beloved home.

It was a very sad song, full of poetic, cultural pride and ethos. Thank goodness, the Irish loved it, and it has become a national anthem, if not a warning to NEVER LEAVE, ever since.

 Spancil Hill is the site of a traditional horse fair in County Clare.

You see, Irish music traditions are built on the same foundation as blues; Oppression and depression and the human struggle to endure. The music is large, hearty, focusing on the “small” people with huge loves, hates and passions. It is a catharsis for its audience, salving their hurts, but finding oneness in corporate self-pity and identity in a people chained to their own negativity. Like blues it will never go away as long as oppression (and Ireland!) exists. When you hear this music you remember your own pains and sufferings, and find comfort and community in the music. And it is good every once in awhile to free this stuff, which we tend to internalize, out of our systems. Thus Irish music has a very liberating effect.

So the Irish will always be the proud custodians of bedrock melancholy and discontent. Maybe it is in their DNA. Thankfully some of us have escaped. Mo is one, one of those exceptional musicians, transforming her passion for life and lore into soulful, engaging, inspiring performances.

But some of us have never escaped, or even sadder, never known what we escaped. But if you want to know... If you have a restless, wandering soul, if you are feelin' a bit Irish... Get Hangin' on a Nail, and especially Spancil Hill... but fetch your box of tissues first. Click below to have your socks blown off!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"HERE is a way" - The Logic of One Pilgrim

 A couple of Cushman-Plymouth souvenirs.

My people have been in this land for almost four hundred years. Yes, my ancestors came over on the Mayflower. And after starvation and suffering from exposure and all kinds of suffering, the “Pilgrims” at Plymouth found gratitude beneath their blanket of hardship. What WERE they thinking?!

We should care what they were thinking, because no other migration ever set into motion the wealth of Providential events we have seen on our continent over the centuries. Largely under-utilized before its “discovery” by Columbus, the New World soon provided much of the food, inventions and progress which blessed mankind ever since. We as Americans have lived and celebrated the greatest, most advanced and prosperous nation in human history. So it is easy to forget that it all had a very ugly start.

A full half of the pilgrims died the first year. Those who survived shared homesickness, starvation, exposure to the elements and unbearable grief.

There were no doctors, or stores or letters from home. The Natives watched from the treeline and pitied them. Soon they were bringing them essential help. The first miracle God provided was a Native American in this remote wilderness who spoke English, and who could and would help them get through those first months.

At the first harvest on their primitive plantation, they instinctively threw a festival of sorts, and invited their aboriginal neighbors over for a thanksgiving feast! WHAT were they thinking! They could have been easily massacred right then. But their faith was strong that the worst was behind them, and God was in charge. Strangely, hardship and mortality bring us closer to our Maker. Instead of cursing God for their painful saga, they were singing God's praises. This suggests that a happy, prosperous people (like us) will never grow towards God, but away from Him.

A short while later the pilgrims held their first worship service led by one of their elected shepherds, (and my ancestor) deacon Robert Cushman. Cushman had helped expedite their adventure and originally embarked with them on a separate ship, the “Speedwell” which almost sank, and was forced to turn back. He had just arrived from England with supplies and welcome news from their homes. And he gave them a prepared sermon, recognized as the first (recorded) sermon delivered on American soil, in December of 1621.

It was a warning to avoid self-pity and narcissism, or “self-love” as he called it, and he challenged them to think not of themselves but the ultimate success of the colony. Deacon Cushman commanded them to be heroes, and nothing less. And this is why: Cushman had looked down the road at their home in Europe. A great deal was at stake. He wrote in the dedication of his historic sermon this rationale...

And if it should please God to punish his people, in the Christian countries of Europe (for their coldness, carnality, wanton abuse of the gospel, contention, etc.,) either by Turkish slavery, or by popish tyranny, which God forbid, yet if the time be come, or shall come (as who knoweth?) when Satan shall be let loose to cast out his floods against them, here is a way opened for such as have wings to fly into this wilderness...” He saw a grand strategy at work, and these pilgrims would serve an essential role... so a light may rise up in the dark.

To Robert Cushman, the world was going to hell in a corrupted European handbasket, and the fate of Christian civilization (and thus mankind) could very well have rested in those hands which cupped this “candle in the wind” in the New World.

Robert Cushman was right about Europe... long before Napoleon and the so-called “Enlightenment” and apostasy became the backbone of European intellect. America did carry the ball for Christ for the next few hundred years... and it all started with great sacrifice and discipline like that in Plymouth.

In hindsight, most of us would agree that it was worth it. We are the most fortunate of peoples to live in a land established by God's hand-picked heroes of Faith. And there is no secret as to how they accomplished this amazing legacy. The slogan “In God We Trust” had deep origins rooted in blood and tears.

The pilgrims were not just a random assortment of boat passengers. Even from the beginning, they were representatives of two very different lots. The leaders and believers in Christ were called “Saints” and the rest of the people, workers and sailors, were “Strangers.” The pilgrims understood that they must partner with and work alongside strangers who did not share their beliefs or value system. They kept their faith and obeyed God and let Him sort things out. That partnership gave birth to the greatest nation on earth.

Today we must remember how and what and WHO got us where we are. Humbly. Gratefully. On this Thanksgiving, as our country slips into cynicism and self-sufficiency, Americans must ask themselves, if they want to enter the next chapter in our history without the guidance and support of a God who has blessed us so greatly... Because without Him we will be no better off than most other countries in the world. And they had a huge head-start on us, but can never match American exceptionalism

And unlike in Robert Cushman's paradigm, there is no next place to fly.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The First Bag of Deplorable.

Normally I try to stay out of political discussions. And I enter this public fray only to try to encourage those who are afraid of President-elect Donald Trump... to not be.

First of all let me share a very personal moment. When President Obama was elected, I remember visiting with my father, very ill at the time, once a huge political activist, (both Democrat and Republican) and telling him my disappointment in the election results. I felt Obama did not have the experience or the leadership qualities to lead our country out of our financial or military mess. My father never hesitated... he said “I think you will be surprised... I think he may turn out to be a pretty good president.” Smiling, he went on to explain that Clinton had been a much better president than we (as Republicans) wanted to give him credit for... and Obama might surprise a lot of people.

My point is that many so-called “racist haters,” Republicans, were willing to give the man the BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. The fact that he was black was immaterial. I am serious. He won the election, and he had only to prove himself. I feel that my father represented most voters, because that is what Americans do. We fight hard for what we believe- then we support the results of the system. But the system has gotten uglier and uglier for decades...

The bag in the photo is a souvenir of my childhood. In 1964 my father took us to “volunteer” to work in Barry Goldwater headquarters in Houston to help get him elected as president. We worked hard for him. I remember licking stamps and listening over the radio to Ronald Reagan nominate him at the Republican National Convention. Reagan stirred my ten-year old soul. I tear up just thinking about it. Goldwater was a pretty boring guy, and I could not wait for then Governor Ronald Reagan to run for president!

Barry Goldwater was a distinguished Senator from Arizona. He was a man with an excellent record and highly respected by both parties. But President Johnson's campaign made a despicable TV commercial. It showed a little girl out picking flowers on a spring day, and then BOOOM... she was blown up by an Atom bomb. The world as we knew it suddenly came to an end... NOTHING like this had ever been seen on national network television.

The Democrats said that this might happen if Barry Goldwater was elected. We were all going to die! This strategy worked and they have been doing this ever since. Since then their commercials have shown all kinds of monstrous expectations from Republicans, including pushing helpless people in wheel chairs off of a cliff... Today they have young people stirred up with many outrageous accusations about Republicans, now led by Donald Trump, as if they are all maddened war-mongers who hate everyone who is not male or white or Christian. Don't let them make you a hater, who judges and persecutes people because they disagree with your political agenda. Ironically, it is Democrat extremists out beating people right now because of their beliefs...!!! The epitome of intolerance! The Democrat party ruined Barry Goldwater, and they have now almost ruined our country with their ruthless propaganda. Our country is mired in the worst class and race tension I have seen in my life.

Even Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest Americans and a stanch Clinton backer, has said that Trump will not have the kind of negative impact which drives so much fear in Hillary Clinton's supporters. Like my father was about Obama, he is willing to give Trump a chance. He understands the damage that could come from youthful over-reaction. These are young people doing what many jobless, disenchanted young people choose to do... act out their anger and frustration. But almost everything they are doing is either against the law or against civilized society... pure anarchy with a flimsy excuse.

Many of us on the Conservative side have endured President Obama, not liking his politics or his effects on this country... but we never acted out in anger, never called anybody names... I have even defended him at church because he was our president, and we are taught in the Bible to “honor the King.” The real intolerance, hatred and prejudice is coming from where it has come from all of my life... inspired by ruthless politicians who say anything to win and have no conscience about what they stir up in the process.

Donald Trump was not my first choice, but he will emulate Bush and have the most inclusive cabinet in history. He will be the most effective president in decades. He will do the most ever for the underprivileged and Veterans and yes, Blacks and (American) Hispanics. WHY? Because he is a problem solver, an experienced achiever, who is accustomed to having to deliver the goods... who does not enjoy the benefit of the doubt... (mostly due to his own misbehavior and democratic fear-mongering). He will eventually prove himself, and that will be the end of the Liberal stranglehold on this country. And that is why Harry Reid and others will relentlessly continue their uncharitable partisan attacks. They are going down... this time for good. Conservative Americans are tired of being called names, tired of the Democrats rallying votes by impugning our intelligence and humanity.

Get smart, see through this class manipulation. STAND DOWN, watch and listen as Pence and Dr. Carson and others join the most effective Cabinet in history... and maybe you will begin to understand that we are not “deplorable” haters or racist or whatever, and in fact we love YOU and this country and only want the best for all of us... and we know how to get it done!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Boessenecker: The Long Arm of the Law... and the TRUTH

The LAST thing I needed was another Texas Ranger book. At last count I had around thirty and stacks of related publications... Then John Boessenecker, hereafter referred to as “The Boss,” recently published his long awaited epic on Ranger Frank Hamer, boldly titled TEXAS RANGER. If you thought you knew about Frank Hamer, you don't. I sure thought I did. I have written a lot about my favorite Texas hero... he has been the subject of two of my bronze sculptures, and even a couple of my videos, but anybody can read books and summarize with colorful jargon. 

I am a history buff, Boessenecker is a historian. It is the difference between my seeing the historic moon walk LIVE on television, and Neil Armstrong.

I can do decent book reviews when I choose to... but I cannot even fake objectivity about this. I have too much personal involvement with the story. All I can do is offer by deepest thanks to John, who has written a beautiful, worthy book about a magnificent lawman. After a good cry, yes, even real Texas men cry, I raced to write this while the lump was still in my throat. There IS Justice, but sometimes it takes a long time.

This time it took too long. It irks me a little that it took a danged Californian to do that which some faithful son of Texas should have done decades ago... But maybe that is OK, since it helps me to see Californians a little differently. In truth, Frank Hamer and his story belongs to all of us.

If you have read any of the Boss's other fine historical books, you know that he is a dogged, objective researcher. A real history detective. He cuts it straight. This time he reached out of his traditional focus, across the Rio Grande, as he tells, and it made me nervous all this time waiting and worrying, the true story, warts and all. Frankly I did not trust anybody from California to give the legendary, controversial ranger a decent break. Few others ever have. 

But the Boss was fair and thorough, and what's more, debunked a lot of Hamer myths that we Texans have treasured for generations. We need to thank him for that. What we have here is a new, restored, impeccably factual Texas Ranger, and the good news is Frank Hamer stands as tall as ever. And Bonnie and Clyde, Ma and Pa Ferguson, Lyndon Johnson, and a cast of rowdy thousands... not so much. This was the book Ranger Frank Hamer, “...the greatest American lawman of the twentieth century,” deserved.

And now, thanks to the Boss, a man from California, Hamer's amazing story of courage, dutifulness and sacrifice will be told to all the world.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sam Houston: A Legacy of Lost Loves

Maybe there was a good reason why Sam looked so sad...
Sam Houston was a son of fortune on the battlefield. But he may have been the most unlucky of men in relationships. He fought bravely and was wounded for life for his beloved mentor General Andrew Jackson against the Creek Indians, only to become a political pariah in Washington. He was married to a beautiful young woman named Eliza Allen in Tennessee whom he unexplainably divorced soon after. He had been elected Governor of Tennessee only to resign in awkward controversy and with threats on his life... by his in-laws! And his trail of tears did not end there.

Houston fled to the Indian Territory, where he took up with the Cherokees. The Cherokees were part of a loose network of Native Americans, known to us as the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes.” There in modern day Arkansas he drank his troubles away and hid for awhile from civilization. As a young man he had lived with the Indians and learned their ways, and had been adopted into the tribe. He adapted quickly to life in the wilderness. About an eighth Cherokee, tall and statuesque Tiana (Talihina) Rodgers Gentry was the half-sister of two Cherokee chiefs, and niece to Cherokee Principal Chief John Jolly and related to the famous founder of Cherokee alphabet, Sequoyah. She became Tiana Houston in 1830. It is thought by many that Tiana was Houston's romantic interest before the Cherokee removal from Tennessee. Near Fort Gibson She ran his trading post known as Wigwam Neosho, and oversaw his interests while he drank hard- and occasionally fought in Washington D.C. for her people. 

 Sam Houston loved the arabesque attire worn by the Cherokees, and drove his detractors crazy with his Indian garb while in Washington D.C.....

Houston's earliest biographers chose to skim over this period in General Sam's life. In fact they often somehow forgot to mention Tiana, his legendary "Cherokee" wife. What could have been so bad about Houston finding love in his darkest hour? In fact those writers probably discovered and tried to avoid a scandalous harem left in the Arkansas Territory, of Native American wives that Texans even today will squirm at.

It was during these years in obscurity when Sam Houston may have woven his most intricate if not tangled web of influence. Houston was a very tall, commanding figure, and known as a powerful warrior from his days of fighting under Jackson against their sometime adversaries, the Creeks. Many historians still contend that Houston may have been assembling an Indian army as a U.S. Agent, intending to invade and secure Texas from Mexico using Native American mercenaries. Either way, Sam Houston became the great white hope for the civilized tribes. Houston refused to speak English, dressed and survived like an Indian. And he still had powerful medicine, especially able to fight in Washington for Native American causes and win the undying devotion of the Cherokees, and perhaps other tribes in their alliance.

Bye and bye, and certainly on schedule according to conspiracy theorists, Sam Houston left his idyllic life with the Indians, and followed his star into Texas, where his associations with the Indians would pay off later. He last saw Tiana, (actually Talahina) or Diana Houston at Fort Towson, when he left his adopted Cherokee homeland on a mysterious mission; The liberation of Texas. At the time he supposedly planned for his Cherokee spouse to join him, but she never did... and there may have been good reasons.

Incredibly, he would never mention Tiana or even bother to obtain a legal divorce from her. They had been married and separated according to Indian law. As far as what has been written about them for over a century, there was no issue out of this relationship. Whatever it meant to General Sam, it was in the past. Records show that she later remarried, so it may not be true that she waited faithfully and died of a a broken heart, as the legend goes...
But certain clues have emerged over the decades that shed light on Sam Houston's lost Indian loves. It is very possible, maybe even probable that he had other Native American “wives” during that time, from other tribes, as was Native American custom. This is nothing that the Houston family ever publicly acknowledged, but some Native Americans did, and did so discreetly, as they found the reality of it less useful than their white kinsmen. Here are the intriguing facts, and stubborn conclusions about Sam Houston's “lost” loves...

Texans take so much about the amazing Sam Houston for granted. He was the Governor of two states in the United States, a president of Texas, a hero of the War of 1812 and the commanding general in Texas Revolution. At the pinnacle of his illustrious career, he was impeached as the Texas Governor because he refused to join the madness of secession, the Confederacy and war against his beloved mother country. He died rejected and hated by many Texans. His legacy of lost loves is almost impossible to comprehend. That may be why so few have asked some obvious questions...

Like: Who was Talahina Rodgers? Who were the Alabama and Coushatta Indians, and why were they somehow overlooked when Texans routed and expunged all other Native Americans under President Lamar? All Indians but the Alabamas and the Coushattas, their kinsmen, relative newcomers to Texas themselves, were completely removed from Texas. But the Alabamas and Coushattas were eventually given a reservation and promises that were sort of kept. What kind of deal had they made? Who made it? Why and how was it enforced to this very day? Why did all of the Indian tribes trust Sam Houston so much, and why could he secure peace with them when nobody else could?

I believe that these and other questions that spring from these questions can be answered by Houston's Indian alliances and possible clandestine marriages while in Indian Territory. There are some intriguing possibilities. Prominent Indians from at least two different tribes have passed on traditions that they were “blood brothers” of Sam Houston. Indians either gave or took his name out of admiration, such as Sam Houston Benge, Houston Shaw, Samuel Houston Smith and Samuel Houston Mayes. Houston may have been the most admired and loved white man to ever mingle among the Five Civilized Tribes.

Cherokee Chief Bowles gave one of his daughters to Houston. This marriage was actually witnessed and recorded by Samuel Maverick. A Wichita woman named Melissa Houston claimed to be Sam Houston's wife as well.

Some of the research that brought these “native sons” to light was done by Dr. Joseph B. Mahan. A vastly pedigreed academic, Dr. Mahan wrote a fascinating book called North American Sun Kings, which fleshed out the complex inter-tribal alliances between the Civilized Tribes, and the religious and cultural core of their kinships. In his book Dr. Mahan reveals the mysteries of the ancient Shawano belief system, as understood by the Yuchi tribe, which included priest-kings and royal families and some mysteries very akin to that of the Masonic Order.

Like the Levites of old, the Yuchi Kings had priests who knew their genealogies going back many, many generations. The Yuchi were the priest class of the civilized tribes, embodied by the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Creek and Chickasaw tribes. Yuchi shamans were the official keepers of the eternal sacred fire for all the woodland tribes.

When Sam Houston met with these people, he no doubt would have recognized their significance and the similarity of their beliefs to ancient Judaism. He was perceived by them as a noble among nobles, and as he fraternized with many chiefs in the region, he no doubt was honored in many ways that would have been lost on the average Nineteenth Century person. And he may have been inducted into a secret Indian society known as the “Great Medicine Society,” and sealed these relationships through extra marriages. Dr. Mahan interviewed at length one such Yuchi chief, Samuel W. Brown Jr, who had no doubt that he was a grandson of Sam Houston.

Samuel W. Brown Sr., Chief of the Yuchi, always claimed Sam Houston as his real father.

Chief Brown unveiled to Dr. Mahan an elaborate network of spiritual tradition and practice, carried for centuries through many related tribes, from the Great Lakes region to the Smoky Mountains and later to Texas and Oklahoma. Dr. Mahan wrote everything down that Chief Brown said, and then spent the rest of his life trying to understand it all. In the midst of all of the mystic language and complicated tribal relationships, stood the unapologetic fact that Chief Brown was descended from General Sam Houston.

His father, Sam Brown Sr., had been born in Van Buren, Arkansas, in 1833, the son of a Yuchi princess from Alabama, named Suttah. Also known as Polly, she was a direct descendant of the famous Emperor Brim; the daughter of the Yuchi Sun King Timpoochee Barnard. Suttah was also the sister of two prominent Yuchi subchiefs, Tisoso and Fushudgee, both “Birdtail Kings.” All of them were grandchildren of "Cusseta" (Koasati/Coushatta) Birdtail Kings. They were royalty, at the top of their social order.

A fierce Yuchi partisan and statesman, Tisoso was hung by whites in Girard, Alabama in 1836, after Sam Houston had gone to Texas. He and his brothers had petitioned the Secretary of War, attempting to stop “the fraud being practiced upon our people.” These were the purportedly short-lived Indian brother's-in-law of Sam Houston and the uncles of Sam Brown Sr., who was of noble Yuchi blood and served as Yuchi principal chief for almost 50 years. His mother, Princess Suttah was murdered in 1861 by some of Quantrell's Raiders in Oklahoma during the Civil War. Fushudgee was killed the next year fighting under Creek Chief Opethleyoholo at Pea Ridge.

The fact that Sam Houston was the Senior Brown's father was a mere fact, nothing to be proud of, in fact it was rarely mentioned. In Creek and Yuchi tradition, royalty was passed down through the females, as in ancient Hebrew custom. Other Creek customs were unusual if not quite liberal to our Western, Victorian standards. Creek girls were expected to be sexually active before marriage. These were matrilocal societies, where polygamy was common, and chiefs encouraged favored candidates to bed with their daughters. Mixed-blood was actually desired. To add to the genetic pool of confusion, the Creeks were also exogamous, forbidding the marriage of individuals within the clan. Sam Houston would have been almost incidental to Sam Brown Jr.'s story, since his power and authority came through his grandmother Suttah. Still, Brown Sr. had admitted to his son that “...My father Sam Houston made two crops- and I rode on the horse's back...”

 Samuel W. "Billy" Brown Jr.

Billy Brown looked more like Sam Houston than his father did.

Old Chief Brown's contention that he was somehow spawned by General Sam Houston has its problems. It is doubtful that Houston made “two crops”... unless this was a euphemism for two conjugal visits, or even two children. Perhaps he might have once met Sam Houston later and “rode the horse's back,” the “horse” better translating into English as sire. Sam Brown was born in June of 1833, after Sam Houston abandoned his “Cherokee” wife Tiana and bought over 4000 acres on Karankawa Bay in Texas. In October, Nine months before, was exactly when Houston had settled his accounts and given the trading post and slaves to Tiana, and left forever. Intriguingly, Chief Brown would have to have been conceived during this last return to the Indian Territory and right before Sam Houston's legendary departure to Texas. So even though this relationship seems sketchy and improbable, it could have happened.

Houston filed his claim at San Felipe as a married man. If he had multiple wives in the Indian territory, he faced a real cultural dilemma. Which wife would he bring to Texas?

 Several Native American women insisted to their deaths that they were once wives of the famous Texan, and bore him children. This was nothing to brag about, as Texans were generally despised by Indians. Later the confusion led skeptics to allege that even youngest son Temple was one of the Indian offspring.

Houston did go back and forth in the early months of his adventure, offering opportunity for a tryst while reporting on his progress with the Comanches to American authorities. The Comanches were considered by the Americans as a possible natural military barrier to the Mexicans if they would cooperate, and Houston effectively placated them. If Houston had so many neglected and jealous lovers awaiting him back in the Indian Territory, no wonder dealing with Comanches seemed like a reasonable if not safer endeavor!

Sam Brown Sr. seemed to suggest that Sam Houston lived with his mother Suttah for at least two years, since “he made two crops.” He also suggests that he rode on the plow horse used on their farm, when just a toddler. It is not absurd to imagine this scenario, when we consider Houston's chronic alcoholism and escapism, and his popularity with the Cherokees. But a farmer he wasn't. Whatever strange fiefdom Houston had created, he could not sustain it.
 This portrait of Sam Houston reveals the similarity between Billy Brown and his alleged grandfather. Even Brown's daughter has Houston's eyes.

And there may have been a second, older son from this union, or a cousin or "half brother" out of an aunt of Brown's. No dates are known for a brother of Sam Brown's, but in the 1840's Brown's so-called “half brother” was kidnapped by the Osages, to be raised as one of their future chiefs! Houston had been instrumental in negotiating a successful and effective Treaty between the Osages and Creeks in 1831. This child may have been stolen when that treaty went sour. The stolen Yuchi boy was called Tsa pah ki ah, and became a major chief of the Osages. He was never rejoined to his Yuchi family. 

 Sam and Osage Chief Tsa Pah Ki Ah

The stealing of Indian children of royal blood was considered an intelligent thing to do! Is it possible that even a child of Sam Houston was considered powerful medicine? Or more likely, a great prospect for a huge ransom. There is no way to know what the Osages saw in the little Yuchi boy, but one look at him as a man and there is the instant impression of Sam Houston. Skeptics argued that Sam Brown Sr. did not look anything like Sam Houston, but then neither did Temple Houston, the last off-spring from Houston's most famous marriage... and yet Sam Brown Sr. could easily have been believed to have been Temple's brother.

The elder Brown took the name Brown from an Indian educator he admired. S. C. Brown took him under his wing and shared his love for education, which led to the founding of several Indian schools. If Sam Houston was his blood father, S. C. Brown was Brown's intellectual mentor. Still the acorn does not fall far from the tree. Sam Brown Sr was an original member of the Creek House of Kings, the Treasurer of the Creek Nation, a 32nd Degree Mason, and ultimately the last surviving Union Officer in Oklahoma. His integrity was unquestioned. Upon his death, Sam Brown Jr obtained a death certificate from the State Department of Health (Bureau of Vital Statistics) which verified that his father was indeed General Sam Houston.

According to Chief Sam Brown Jr., the Yuchis maintained close ties to many Indian brethren throughout the southeast United States, including those living in Polk County, Texas. These would be what we know as the Alabama-Coushatta Indians, once neighbors in Alabama over a century ago. Brown said that the “Cussettas” were the only tribe outside of the Yuchis who had ever been given all of the secrets of their elite religious order. The Cussettas (Koasati/Coushatta) were descendants of the Muscogee and Natchez tribes of the lower Mississippi Valley, and closely kin to the Creeks. They came to Texas around 1810. They brought the secrets and the alliances of the Birdtail Kings with them to the new land. Perhaps this ancient religious society was the nucleus of an blood covenant between General Sam Houston and his Indian kinsmen, which spanned from the Indian Territory to east Texas, and somehow protected these Native Americans from expulsion.

Whatever the reasons for it, kinsmen of Chief Sam Brown's seemed to enjoy the proverbial “king's X” in Texas. All other tribes were driven or burned out from east Texas before 1850. But even President Lamar, a veritable Indian exterminator, and the Texas Legislature passed laws and set aside large tracts of land for the Alabamas in Polk County, and they shared their good fortune with the Coushattas, and both live in peace in Texas to this very day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dr Palmer's Sanitarium

Before there was M. D. Anderson, there was...Yes, Navasota had a "sanitarium," at least that's what they called medical clinics in those days. Dr Hal Palmer was a Civil War-trained doctor who did treatments, without surgery, for cancer in the early 1900's. You can still see his name and signs on the old brick at the corner of McAlpine and Farquhar, in downtown Navasota. 

First Dr. Palmer had a private sanitarium in Plantersville, but he moved around to find patients. He had clinics all over the state, but always seemed to land back in Grimes County. He started his enterprise in this building in 1907.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

THIS is OUR History! The COOLEST Stinkin' Badges!

Navasota, Texas is especially blessed with interesting history, and was at one time the home of an impressive array of Texans. And there are no more celebrated Texans than the members of the Texas Rangers, both real and artistically interpreted. Most towns the size of Navasota might be able to boast that they were the residence of a Ranger sometime in history, but Navasota can boast of at least five... and three of which we actually know of the exact badges they wore. This is unheard of. History yes... legends sure, in the books maybe.. but the actual stinkin' badges? Hardly ever!

Perhaps one of the oldest authenticated badges known in Texas Ranger history belongs to Dr David Fruchtman, an Arizona forensic scientist and criminal justice professor, who has recently shared a badge in his collection... with provenance, which was the Ranger badge belonging to the legendary western lawman,  Jeff Milton...

Milton was the adventurous son of the Florida Governor who came to Texas after the Civil War to live with his sister, who had married a Navasota merchant. He did not stay in Navasota long, and became a Texas Ranger when just 18, with the endorsement of Navasota attorney and former Attorney General of Texas, H. H. Boone. Milton's career with the Rangers was cut short after some tragic gunplay, and subsequent legal embarrassment to the Ranger organization... but he went on to become one of the most noted lawmen of the Old West. J. Evetts Haley wrote his biography in A Good Man With A Gun. You can read all about this Ranger's career at my blog below... just click on the LINK, after your read this!).

But you will not see his badge in the book... in fact you will not see it anywhere but right here!

There are several exciting things we learn from this badge. And some of what we learn challenges the conventional wisdom concerning these beloved icons of Western lore. First of all, we learn that at least some of them, HAD BADGES. The common belief is that they rarely had badges, and few Rangers ever wore them, as they were considered invitations to be murdered. Only on the force for a couple of years, Private Jeff Milton had this handmade star, with his company designation. This badge is crude, cut out of a disc of nickel, yet the lettering has been fairly masterfully done, with a popular zigzag technique, which is seen on many old badges. Unfortunately, the finding has been lost. On this badge, the wearer chose to inscribe RANGER, (singular)... not Ranger Force or State Rangers (plural). These details may seem insignificant, but they help establish what I have suspected... that is a total LACK of a pattern in the early badges. And just as importantly, it is not cut out of a Mexican Peso.

The exclusive use of etching on the badge suggests several things. Out west where the Rangers were ranging, and where they were most likely to try to scrounge up a badge of some sort... they had to settle for homemade badges, or ones made by frontier jewelers, who had very limited tools and materials. The right metal was scarce, and the tools necessary to work metals were usually not available. If a mistake was made in the cutting of it... like the chopped-up star in this badge, that was just too bad! There were few or no stamps available to hammer pretty letters into sheet metal.

So an engraver might have been the closest thing to a badge maker available. My guess is that another Ranger of Company B had this one made, and had a better one made when he could, and passed this faulty one on to the young Ranger... who did not need it long. It was soon just a keepsake for the young Floridian who wandered the west for years as he tried to grow up and get the respect he craved. Now the badge is a direct link to his life and times... and another intriguing link in our study of Texas Ranger badges.

Texas Ranger badges are rare. Let's just say so rare that I went most of my life collecting antiques and seeing hundreds if not thousands of fake Ranger badges being passed off and nobody ever expected to really find one... You would find diamonds in a diamond field faster than you would find a real OLD Texas Ranger badge in an antique market. Yet my neighbor dug one up in his yard, right here in Navasota. You can read that story (later!) here at this LINK:

The significance of this badge is hard to fully appreciate. It belonged to the Navasota City Marshal around 1911-1915. M. E. Bailey was a Ranger buddy of Frank Hamer's out in Alpine and came to help him in Navasota as his Deputy City Marshal. He took over as marshal when Hamer left Navasota. Hamer was a devoted fan of Bailey's and when interviewed after his death, claimed Bailey had once single-handedly arrested a handful of Mexican generals who were in Texas recruiting for Pancho Villa. What Captain Bailey could not have fully appreciated were the number of Texans who supported Villa and his revolution, and who made money off of the gun trade. This arrest made him a huge target, with enemies on both sides of the border, and this event may be why he left the Rangers and migrated around 1910 to civilization on the Brazos. Some way, some how this badge got dropped, thrown and buried in the flower bed of his residence in Navasota, to be dug up nearly a hundred years later, from dirt a foot deep.

The Bailey badge also teaches us several things about Texas Ranger badges. By 1910, some were being ordered and made by real honest-to-goodness badge manufacturers. Some were brass or bronze, thin, pressed by machine, and featured the ranger's name and rank and company. These were official but fairly cheap badges. This captain's badge suggests that even a ranking officer would have no more fancy a badge than any regular city lawman. But it also may be one-of-a-kind.

The only common denominator between most early ranger badges is the star inside of a circle. Several companies out west could have been contracted to do such work as shown in Bailey's badge... But my pick would be Anson Mills, who had a large operation with big money government contracts in El Paso. They manufactured a wide array of military issue belts and beautifully ornate, brass belt buckles... for several governments. Mills was a former Civil War Union General who came out west to make his fortune and did so. With his fame and connections and his handy geography, it is easy to imagine T. C. Orndorff, his brother-in-law who did much of the “heavy lifting” doing business with many regional law enforcement agencies. In fact there are photographs of Texas Rangers wearing his famous Anson Mills woven cartridge belts... sporting those beautiful buckles. Understanding the Mills'/Orndorff interest in the socio-political situation along the Texas border, it is easy to imagine that Mills made this badge (had his people make it) and gave it to the young Ranger for his daring-do... but probably the fancy brass badge only got to him after he left the force.

Bailey had moved on, probably despising the regime that forced him out because of divided loyalties... I can easily imagine it arriving in the mail one day while he was working in Navasota, and as he unwrapped it, cussing it and chunking it in disgust into the shrubbery outside his home... where it laid for a century.

The Texas Ranger badge worn by Ranger Frank Hamer.

Because of various auctions in the past decades, we have also gotten blurry peeks at the badges worn by Ranger Frank Hamer, before and after he served in Navasota. I have written extensively about Hamer on this blog, but we do not know what his City Marshal badge looked like, and in fact he might not have had one. He might easily have chosen to wear his Texas Ranger badge, which by then was a symbol of deadly authority. 

Recently I acquired a fantastic facsimile of Hamer's earliest Ranger badge, thought by his son and the auctioneers to have been made of brass or bronze. Few people have studied metals enough to know that really old silver, when not allowed to blacken from constant rubbing, will take on a deep yellow appearance. I have seen this most often on spurs, where the patina said brass but the polish revealed SILVER! Anyway I purchased this silver badge, which is the spitting image of Hamer's badge down to the scars. Possibly made by Langenbacher, the legendary badge copyist, it is unlike any other Ranger badge I have seen, replica or real. The design of this badge is unmistakably related to the Mills Texas Ranger buckle design, assumed by many to be fakes.

Later around 1915 Ranger Frank Hamer had one of the first classic “Peso Badges” which have become the Ranger standard we all recognize today. They were literally cut out of silver Mexican pesos. On the back one could easily observe the Phrygian cap in a sunburst, and dates up until 1910 when the silver was discontinued. Later “Cinco Peso” badges were made in the 1960's which were reminiscent of these early badges, with (on the back) a Mexican eagle perched on a cactus, tormenting a rattlesnake.

This Peso badge must have been the badge he wore for around seven years until he became the Senior Captain over the whole organization in 1922. His captain badge is truly magnificent. It was a manufactured catalog standard, custom made, gold plated, and no name, it had only his rank stamped in the badge.

For a LINK to a WONDERFUL short video about Frank Hamer and his service here in Navasota, go to the You Tube address below:

You might be wondering what these badges are worth. After watching real Ranger badges sell at auction, I would say that because of identification, fame, and provenance, all of these would fetch in the thousands of dollars. Anything can happen at an auction, but I would be totally amazed if they did not bring $4,000.00 - $7,500.00 each. Maybe more.

These are just a few examples of the Treasures of Navasota. I will share more of them in the future. These things testify to an exciting and legendary era in human history, when men had to kill or be killed in a struggle between good and evil. And when a lawman's badge was a sign of lethal authority, and outlaws were pursued, captured and eliminated with prejudice. Let's hope and pray we never need those kind of lawmen again. But whether we do or not, this is what we come from, this is our history. And history almost always repeats itself.