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Friday, March 11, 2011

Guest Blog: Larion Wills: History More Fascinating Than Fiction

In White Savage I mention an incident involving Cochise, an Apache Indian war chief. Though my story was factious, historical facts were as accurate as I could make them during McGee’s narrative. Reading about Cochise while researching for background for White Savage, I found him to be a fascinating man. Cochise was described as a tall man (for his time) either 5’10” or 6’ depending on which account you read. He had broad shoulders and though no pictures were ever taken of him, no one argued that he had an imposing appearance. Until 1861 Cochise had coexisted peacefully with the encroaching white men. The following quote is his reason for going to war.

“We were once a large people covering these mountains. We lived well: we were at peace. One day my best friend was seized by an officer of the white men and treacherously killed. At last your soldiers did me a very great wrong, and I and my people went to war with them.”

His best friend was among several who were either killed or taken prisoner when they met with Army officials under a white flag. They were accused of kidnapping a white child, which they denied, called lairs and attacked. The child, it was discovered later, had run away from an abusive father, but those who had not escaped the attack had already been hung. The war incited by an inexperienced officer lasted for a decade with Cochise’s attacks contributing to, if not causing, the end of the Butterfield Stage mail runs across the southwest. Until that time, the coaches had run unmolested and never been late. The Lieutenant, fresh out of West Point, thought he was going to discipline a dog. He woke a lion instead.

Cochise surrendered in 1871 but refused to move to the reservation in New Mexico and escaped again.


"Nobody wants peace more than I do. Why shut me up on a reservation? We will make peace; we will keep it faithfully. But let us go around free as Americans do. Let us go wherever we please."

In 1872 he surrendered for the final time, taking his people to the reservation in Arizona where he died in 1974. He was buried in secret, the location of his grave never revealed. One last quote from a fascinating man:

"You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts. Speak Americans. I will not lie to you; do not lie to me."

Though McGee in White Savage barely touched on Cochise in his narrative, Cochise played a large part in the history of the Arizona Territory. Or rather, I barely touched on it. I had to pull myself away from doing more research, not just on Cochise but the Butterfield Stage. To have done a fair job of telling the stories I discovered on the stage line or Cochise’s life, would have taken another book for each, without McGee, Clay or Te and no romance. Instead, a very small section was used to give the reader a feel for the time and place. The same with the narrative on the ‘coming of age’ test the Apache boys took part in during the prologue. That as well barely touched on the Apache culture. Oh, I could go on, but I believe my point has been made. Tidbits of history give a historical writer a foundation to support their stories, fillers that are often more fascinating than fiction.

BLURB:
He said his name was Clay. The Hoodys said he was Jimmy, returned after ten years for revenge, theft, and murder. They said he lived with the Indians too long before he was rescued to ever learn to be white again. She had to make a decision, keep her secrets hidden or help the White Savage

313 comments:

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L. K. Below said...

A wonderful post, Larion. I'm a huge fan of history, myself. I can get lost in it, like you. Thank you for sharing this tidbit about Cochise. Fascinating :)

Best of luck with the release of White Savage!

Linda Kage said...

Now I want to do research on Cohise. What a fascinating story. It's sad but amazing how one abusive father sprialed so many events to happen.

Mary Corrales said...

Quite fascinating, Larion. Sounds like you've got plenty of great research for several books. Will you be writing a sequel to White Savage?

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