Category Archives: Book Reviews

Luncheon at the Ladies Club

And Scotty went on soliloquizing:

“I was down in San Berdo the other day, and a man got me into one of them women’s afternoon fandangos;  you know, one of them afternoon affairs where they all talk and don’t say nothing.  And a “fly-up-the-creek” woman came up, all “a side-winding,” and said: ‘Now Mr. Scott, I’m sure in your desert travels you must  have lots of opportunities to do kind  deeds. What you tell the ladies the kindest deeds you ever did?”

Death Valley Scotty

“Well, lady,”  I says, ” let me think a minute. One time several years ago I been traveling all day on a horse, and I came in on a dry camp way up in one of the canyons. There was an old road leading up to it; hadn’t been used for years; but I noticed fresh tracks on it. When I got to the camp, there sat an old man and an old woman.  They must have been 70 years old  apiece. When they saw me they both began to cry, and I said: ‘ my goodness, how in the hell did you two ever get up here?’ Well,  they said, they were driving through the valley, and it was so hot they thought they were going to die, and they come up to this road and they thought it led to a higher place where it would be so hot, so they took it and got up there, and it was night, so they camped there all night in the morning they found their horse had wandered off. They had looked for him but he was gone, and they’d been there most a week and had no food. Well, I open my packet built a fire and made them a cup of coffee and fried some bacon and stirred up some saddle blankets (hot cakes)  for them, and say, you ought to see them two old folks eat! It cheered them up considerable. 

We sat around the fire all the evening and powwowed, and they was a nice old couple. We all slept that night on the ground. They was pretty cold, so I gave them a blanket I had. The next morning I made them some more coffee and gave them some breakfast. I had to be going, so I packed up and got astride my horse. I sort of hated to leave the old couple; they seemed kind enough sort of people; but there was nothing else to do; so I said goodbye, and they both was crying; said  they’d sure die; no way for them to get out. They couldn’t walk. It was 100 miles from help, and there was no automobiles in those days. But I got on my horse and started off, and then I looked around and saw them to old people a-standing there crying, and, you know, I just couldn’t stand it to leave them to old people there alone to die, so I’d just took out my rifle and shot them both. Lady, that was the kindest deed I ever did.”

wagon

“Oh, Scotty,”  I said, “Why did you tell those women such a tale as that?”

“Well, you know all them bandits you meet when you go out; you got to tell them something,  ain’t you?”

“I suppose so, but it seems to me you might think up something better than that to tell at a ladies club meeting.”

“Well, that’s what I told that bunch, anyway. You’ve got to send up some kind of a howl if you’re going to be heard. There are so many free schools and so much ignorance.”

And Scotty lighted another fifteen cent cigar (he always smoked the best), …

from Death Valley Scotty by MabelBessie M. Johnson
– Death Valley Natural History Association

Death Valley Scotty

Some Thoughts

To the uninitiated there is something rather uncertain about the reasons why a person will take time to view a location or an artifact. Ask the visitor why they make the trek or handle an object. The  response may take the form of a smile, and perhaps the timeworn cliché ” because it was there.”  That smile in phrase only does  partial justice in explaining personal gratification.

Why should we visit sites where history of any magnitude happened?  Perhaps it is because a fresh vista creates a more objective insight in pursuit of historical knowledge. Personal enjoyment and related benefits require one to approach a subject with a receptive and determined mindset.

In stories about stagecoaches and freight wagons  we may be entertained or learn about animals, load, dust, storm, good, evil, driver, passenger, comedy, sadness and so forth –  a whole range of emotions. a writer may have captured our imagination in words, but obtaining a complete and satisfying grasp of the event is a personal quest.

Often our inquisitiveness may provide answers only by standing on the spot, embracing the environment, and getting the feeling of how it may have been back when. Imagine sound, smell of man, equipment noise in animals doing the work. Anticipate the next riser dip the road and how it must have affected progress. Consider the impact on those traveling in good, bad, or indifferent weather.  Envision people, dress, available tools, and reasons for passing this way. Think of small but important details, such as animal harness, conveyancing station construction.  Perhaps the preceding thoughts may help create for you a new perspective and enjoyment of history.

from:
Indian Wells Valley Stage and Freight Stops 
1874 – 1906
Comments and Directions by Lou Pracchia
Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert

Review of The Hunt for Willie Boy: Indian Hating and Popular Culture

by James A. Sandos and Larry E. Burgess
Review: Linda S. Parker – San Diego State University

Willie Boy - Desparado

Willie Boy – Desparado

The authors have written an enlightening historical ethnography of the Willie Boy episode. By illuminating the frontier myth and Indian-hating inherent in the dominant story of Willie Boy, and using Chemehuevi ethnographic literature and oral traditions, Sandos and Burgess have separated myth from fact. This permitted them to develop a new white version based on historical documents. Importantly, they also present a Chemehuevi version of Willie Boy’s tale. Additionally they present Willie Boy’s own story relating to the episode.

In examining the development of the Willie Boy tale, including the stories told in Harry Lawton’s book Willie Boy: A Desert Manhunt and Abraham Polonsky’s film Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, Sandos and Burgess show how Indian hating “shaped” the talc into a “triumph” of civilization over savagery. The authors persuasively argue that Willie Boy was not drunk when he killed William Mike. The story of alcohol involvement was accepted because it fit the stereotype of Indians who turned to liquor to solve their problems. Sandos and Burgess also suggest that one of the Indian trackers accidently killed Carlota.

After determining that Willie Boy was a mixed blood Chemehuevi and raised in that culture, the authors were able to use Chemehuevi cultural data and oral tradition to explain certain elements of Willie Boy’s story. Knowledge of Chemehuevi culture and its impact on Willie Boy make his ability to outrun the posse understandable. Sandos and Burgess indicate that bride capture, an important component of the standard story, was not practiced by the Chemehuevi. They indicate that this practice and the alleged kidnapping of Carlota was an Anglo creation. Instead she accompanied Willie Boy as a free agent who loved him and was willing to break with her culture and family by violating the tribal kinship taboo prohibiting their marriage. Although both Lawton’s book and Polonsky’ film tell about the taboo and an earlier alleged abduction of Carlota, neither are seen as significant. Sandos and Burgess explain why.

Willie Boy's girl friend

Isoleta/Carlota/Lolita

Based on circumstantial evidence, Sandos and Burgess determine that Willie Boy was a Ghost Dancer. If one accepts their conclusion, which this reviewer found somewhat tenuous, then the authors’ reasoning that Willie Boy’s Ghost Dance beliefs influenced his behavior and the actions of William Mike is also plausible. In discussing the murder of William Mike, the authors suggest that one of the reasons Mike opposed the marriage of his daughter to Willie Boy was that Mike, a shaman, rejected the Ghost Dance. Acontest over spiritual power was involved. Sandos and Burgess also maintain that Willie Boy’s suicide is understandable given the influence of the Ghost Dance. Countering the myth surrounding the events occurring at Ruby Mountain, the authors convincingly argue that Willie Boy had no reason to surrender and that he that he could have easily escaped. They speculate that Willie Boy learned of Carlota’s death at Ruby Mountain and that he committed suicide that night in order to be with her. According to Ghost Dance teachings, the best time to join the dead was shortly before dawn.

Although the author’s historical analysis is critical to explaining Willie Boy’s story, the major contribution of The Hunt For Willie Boy is its integration of Chemehuevi culture and oral tradition.

Willie Boy’s body

Linda S. Parker, Department of American Indian Studies. San Diego State University.

The Hunt for Willie Boy: Indian Hating and Popular Culture. James A.
Sandos and Larry E. Burgess. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.
Maps, photos, figures, and references. xviii + 182 pp. $21.95.

University of Nebraska – Lincoln
DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences Great Plains Studies, Center for

8-1-1994

 

The Legend of Willie Boy

by T. C. WEIR – Desert Magazine, 1980

The Willie Boy Story

Chemehuevi Ethnography & Ethnohistory