Early Autumn in the Garden

Shaded-out Spot Reclaimed - 13 Sept.

This week was the week that the city has established for picking up clean brush – so we took advantage, and had our tree guy come by and cut down a hugely-overgrown laurel-cherry which had taken over and completely shaded out about a quarter of the back yard. So that space is reclaimed for the pots of vegetable plants – okra, peppers and eggplant. And just in time – rain to water it all.

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Fall Schedule – October

It’s getting pretty full, now that we are getting to the last quarter of the year! My daughter and I have worked out our upcoming schedule of events. More will be added, as we sort them out.

Saturday – October 4th – 10:00-4:00 -Bulverde Market Days, in the parking lot by Beall’s at Bulverde Crossing. It’s an all-day event, and my daughter and I will be in the bright pink booth with a zebra-striped top.

Monday – October 13 – 1:00 – A book club in Fredericksburg has invited me to a meeting, and to lead a walking tour of various places in downtown Fredericksburg which feature in the Adelsverein Trilogy. The walking tour will likely begin in the public parking lot on Austin Street behind the Nimitz Foundation offices at 1:00, but that’s not absolutely settled yet.

Saturday – October 23 – I’ll be at the Texas Book Festival, on the grounds of the Capitol in Austin, at the Texas Author’s Association table.

Saturday – November 1 – from 9:00 to 1:00, I’ll be at a multi-author event sponsored by the Harker Heights Library, 400 Indian Trail, Harker Heights, Texas.

There will be more added, especially as we get closer to Christmas. Likely we will have a table for two days in the Hall of Authors at New Braunfels Weinachtsmarkt, in the Author Corral at Christmas on the Square in Goliad, and set up our pink booth at the December Boerne Market Days. But those last still have to be settled, scheduled and paid for.

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One Thing After Another

The Garden - Labor Day 2014

The Garden – Labor Day 2014

It seems that Autumn  is determined to taunt us, by delaying  her arrival in South Texas until the last possible moment. She might rightly collide with Winter in the very same weekend, but … well, this is the place that I have chosen to live, and anyway as long as it isn’t cold enough to kill the vegetables in pots, I am satisfied. I’d love to be able to shepherd the peppers, the eggplants, the okra into another season. But as always – I still desire to turn off the AC and open the windows to casual breezes and night-time temperatures in the 60s. Even if it does put nothing aurally between me and the basset hound next door, who can hear a mouse fart in a high breeze three houses away, on those nights when he is outdoors. And yes – his owner does know that Chester can be barky … but he is a good neighbor to us, and Chester ensures that no perv will ever be able to climb over the fence into the backyards on our street without about half the neighborhood knowing … and considering that you could likely fit out the army of a small European country with the arms-related contents of this neighborhood alone… well, we are inclined to be indulgent about Chester. He is either an early-warning system or a discourager-of-pervs.

I’ve been sorting out the remains of heat-killed plants, and moving those things which have survived and thrived in pots to cluster around the steps of the shed, or the newly-reclaimed back porch. No, I will not have to get new pepper, okra or eggplant starts next spring. I swear that one of the things that the garden shops deliberately keep from backyard gardeners is the fact that pepper plants are multi-seasonal. If the darned things don’t get frozen, they will go on bearing, bearing and bearing, summer after summer. The garden presents a rather pleasing aspect, given that the pepper plants are doing very well with their second wind, and I will get a nice crop from them; banana peppers, hot red cherry peppers, cayenne and jalapenos … that is, if I can beat back that wretched rat who also has a taste for peppers and their leaves…

But enough about my garden and weather woes; I have about four projects for Watercress coming up, but not until late this month or into October, so I have taken the opportunity to finish off the book for this year – the YA collection of adventures which were inspired when I tried to figure out a way for the Lone Ranger franchise to recover itself. The more that I thought about it, the more fun that it seemed, especially as it seemed to me that what was key to a ripping good yarn depended on bagging the whole mask, silver bullets, noble white steed tropes, and the generic cardboard setting of the post-Civil War west. Just about everything to do with those is heavily copyright protected, of course. But wrenching the whole concept out of the standard and threadbare conventions, starting all over with the two characters – a young volunteer Texas Ranger and a Delaware Indian scout, setting it in the Republic of Texas years – which were stocked plenty with fresh and unused concepts and characters … I scribbled out the set-up adventure and five more episodes, leaving scope for a good few more, and that’s my book for this year, just in time for the Christmas marketing season. It’s a totally YA and male-friendly adventure, by the way; Blondie has pointed out that the middle-school-age male of our species has been left sadly underserved since the conclusion of the Harry Potter cycle. All that is left to them in popular literature are sparkly vampires in the forest and dystopian fantasies … why not go for something positive, affirming the cowboy way?

Why not, indeed? Even though I don’t have the final cover yet, I’ve opened a page to take orders, and since the book is all but finished, I’ve taken down all the first drafts of the six adventures, leaving only a sample chapter. I’ll autograph and make a personal message, and mail them out October 8th.

Blondie and I have been working at sorting out the calendar of our fall and Christmas marketing events – and yes, there’s a page for my schedule now. I also have a new cellphone and … it’s complicated. This is why she is my personal assistant.

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Labor Day

We spent all of the Labor Day weekend cleaning up and reclaiming the back porch – which in the last year or so had become a repository for all the stuff now neatly stored away in the shed.

Oh, and a leeetle too much spent at the new Garden Ridge outlet store, on cushions and pillows for the glider and the chair … against the day when it is cool enough to sit outside of a late afternoon, and enjoy the sunset…

The personal back porch refuge

The personal back porch refuge

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Danish Pancakes

The allure of the aebelskiver – this is a peculiarly Danish version of (basically) fried bread dough that I only know about because of my paternal grandparents. Who were not Danish – oh, no, Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al were British and fiercely proud of it. When my brothers and sister and I were children, we almost always spent a week with them at Christmas – the week before Christmas, usually. The week after Christmas belonged to the maternal set of grandparents – Grannie Jessie and Grandpa Jim so that Grannie Jessie could take us to the Rose Parade on New Years’ Day. And we would usually have a week or so with the grandparents during summer vacation, as well as regular dinners on Saturday evenings with Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al, or mid-week day-time excursions to visit Grannie Jessie in Pasadena – usually after doctor appointments with the elderly doctor who had delivered us all, or shopping excursions for school shoes, or something like that.

Anyway, one of the regular amusements during the stint with Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al would be a drive up the coast from Camarillo to Solvang – a small inland town north of Santa Barbara which did and still does milk the absolute most touristic value possible out of having been founded by, lived in, or just named by Danish immigrants. When I last visited the place, I noticed that a much larger portion of old downtown Solvang was tricked out in Danish window dressing than what I had remembered as a child. But never mind – little towns like Solvang go with what they have – and what Solvang had was all things Danish. One of the widely advertised delights was aebelskivers, and if not the actual dish as a restaurant entrée or dessert, than in the peculiar little pans to make them in. Grandma Dodie and Grandpa Al never – to our disappointment – wanted to sample them. No, even with the drive from Camarillo to Solvang, we never stopped for lunch anywhere. Either Grandma Dodie and Grandpa Al had used up all their original issue of adventuresome spirit when they immigrated in the first place, they didn’t trust foreign food, or – most likely – they balked at the expense. (Both Grannie Dodie and Grannie Jessie were parsimonious, pinching pennies until a booger came out of Lincoln’s nose, but at least Grannie Jessie did take us to Beadles’ Cafeteria in downtown Pasadena, on occasion – likely because Beadles was a good value.)

Anyway, I was then and afterwards intrigued by aebleskivers – and sometime during the last couple of decades, I picked up an aebleskiver pan. Can’t remember when and where – in Europe someplace? On sale, somewhere or other? My daughter unearthed it from the drawer underneath the oven, where the romertoph clay casseroles, the Spanish cazuela dishes, and the cast-iron Dutch ovens and frying pans live (she was looking for a fry-pan to bake deep-dish pizza in) and asked what it was. It was still in plastic, with a little recipe pamphlet tucked inside. The company that manufactured it – Pyrolux – seems to be no longer in existence, but it was a good sturdy pan. And when I explained what it was (still baffled over where and when I had bought it) my daughter asked if we could make aebelskivers with it for a weekend breakfast.

And we did. They were magnificent. The pan had a non-stick surface, and the little pancakes turned obediently with the application of a bamboo skewer, and made perfect spheres with a crusty golden outside, and a delicate and tender inside, either plain or enlivened with a spoonful of jam. Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al never knew what they missed.


For the pancakes, combine 1 egg, 2 tsp. sugar, 1 cup of buttermilk, ½ teasp vanilla, 2 Tbsp. canola oil. In another bowl, combine 1 cup flour, ½ teasp baking soda, 1/8 teasp each of baking powder and salt. Whisk into the liquid, and fill each hollow in the heated aebelskiver pan a little less than full. This will make at least two pans full – remember to dab a bit of butter in each hollow before starting each new batch. It is also customary sometimes to put a teaspoon of jam in the dough as you start to bake them. The jam sinks down a little, as the dough cooks, and the aebelskiver finishes already filled with jam. They are also great just plain, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

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Another New Chapter – The Golden Road

Chapter 7 – Fauntleroy’s Woman

(Arrived in California at last, Fredi Steinmetz – young and wide-eyed and adventurous – has come to the port town of San Diego, with his partner, the mysterious and slightly slippery Polydore A.O’Malley. They have, during a course of sampling the social life available in San Diego, met another slippery character – one Fauntleroy Bean, a gambler with no other visible means of support and a locally shady reputation. Fauntleroy Bean – in later life famous as Judge Roy Bean, the only law west of the Pecos – was in his younger incarnation – slightly less an upholder of law and order. The story continues …)

Not the final for-real cover, but a place-holder for now

Not the final for-real cover, but a place-holder for now


Fredi sauntered away from the wagon-yard, hands jammed deep in the pockets of his round jacket, his bearing and general air being elaborately casual. He kept to the shadowed side of the street, making his way back to the boarding house, hoping with every step that he had attracted no interest, especially from the Sheriff. He also hoped Sheriff Haraszathy had no abiding interest in turning San Diego upside down, looking for Fauntleroy Bean. It didn’t seem as if there was. What would O’Malley say? Well, Fredi reasoned to himself, they had a promise of payment, for assisting Fauntleroy out of town, and that would be worth something.
At the boarding house, lights glowed from the parlor downstairs. Fredi stole past the doorway on tiptoe and climbed the stairs to the boarder’s room, hoping that O’Malley had returned, and they could make some pretense of speaking privately. To his relief, O’Malley had returned – he lay fully-clothed on top of the blankets, snoring loudly. There was a candle in a metal holder wobbling perilously in a pool of softened wax on the crude wooden wash-stand, the single point of light in the room. They were alone in the room, but for Nipper, curled in his usual neat brindle ball at the foot of the bedstead. Fredi shook his partner’s shoulder, to no avail. The odor of whiskey and tobacco smoke was strong on O’Malley’s clothing and on his breath.
“Wake up, O’Malley,” Fredi begged in a whisper. “Wake up … we’ll have to leave first thing tomorrow. We’ve got paid work, if we go to San Gabriel, first thing… wake up!” He shook O’Malley even more. The other boarders would be coming upstairs any minute.
O’Malley stirred, but only came partially awake. “Freddy lad – let me sleep … I must visit Orla in the morning before I go to Derry.” And then to Fredi’s utter horror, O’Malley began to weep, great shuddering sobs. “Ah, but she is dead, sweet lovely Orla … why did ye do it, Orla? Father Patrick said it was for shame…Dead, all of them, dead and buried …” His voice and the weeping diminished into incoherent mumbling, and then into sleep again, and Fredi sat back on his heels, taken back. O’Malley told many stories along the trail drive, and at the Castillo home-place, but never anything about a woman named Orla, or about leaving one or many dead and buried.
Well, perhaps he could get some sense into – or out of O’Malley in the morning, Fredi concluded. He blew out the candle, undressed as far as his shirt and crawled into bed.

In the morning, O’Malley was little the worse for the evening, only squinting as if the fog-shrouded sunrise made his head hurt. As soon as they were finished breakfast – for which O’Malley appeared to have little appetite – Fredi hustled him away towards the livery stable, Nipper trotting purposefully after.
“We have to leave this morning,” he said, as soon as they were out of any hearing.
“We do, boyo?” O’Malley squinted blearily at him. “I tell you, I was no’ drunk an’ disorderly last night. I did no’ get into a fight, either … Nipper and me, we had a good time, didn’t we, Nip?” He snapped his fingers at Nipper, who now capered alongside them, ears and tail up. If dogs could grin, Nipper was grinning.
“Remember Senor Bean – Fauntleroy Bean, who played cards with us until the sheriff came?”
“Aye – that I do recall… in a haze, but I do recall it. He was no’ supposed to be playing cards, an’ yet he was. The sheriff took him away, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” Fredi decided that short answers were best. “But he escaped from the sheriff – he’s going to have his brother pay us for getting him out of town. I found him hiding in our wagon last night.”
“Oh, did ye now? Is it certain that he will still be there, this foine morning?
“He said he would be,” Fredi answered, his heart lightening. If the elusive and faintly criminal Senor Bean was not in the wagon, then they were free to seek out other employers. “It’s not like we signed a contract or anything…” And Fredi decided that O’Malley might as well know the worst of it. “Likely it’ll be his brother that pays us, rather than him.”
“Oh, Freddy-boyo!” O’Malley looked as if his head pained him even worse. “And if his brother is no’ the least fond of him? What then?”
“Why shouldn’t he pay to get his brother out of trouble?” Fredi demanded, honestly puzzled. “My brother would give the last penny in his pocket for me, if I asked it. Wouldn’t yours?
“No, he wouldn’t.” O’Malley riposted. “Because he had neither pocket nor penny, being a poor Irish cotter lad – and second because he is dead these six years an’ more.”
“Oh,” Fredi considered this startling intelligence. “I’m sorry to hear, O’Malley – indeed I am. On the ship, coming over, was it? My mother and my sister Liesel’s little baby …”
“No,” O’Malley’s voice was curt and sharp, as it almost never was. “Not on ship. Of the Hunger, in Ireland it was. It’s something I’d rather not be reminded of, Fredi-boyo, if ye do not mind.”
“I won’t speak of it again,” Fredi promised. He translated the ‘Hunger’ that O’Malley spoke of into German. Famine, that’s what he meant. Vati had talked it it now and again, for he and his friends sent letters back and forth. The potato crop had failed in many places in the Old Country, of a particularly destructive blight, and if there were no other crop to feed the farm folk with, they would and did starve. Fredi shivered; he had been so long in a bountiful – if sometimes harsh country – that the prospect of having nothing to eat at all was like a frightening story that the older folk would tell.
The livery stable was open at this hour of the morning, a bustle of men, horses, wagons and mules. Their wagon sat by itself in the wagon park behind the stable, canvas cover drawn tight over the contents.
“If our guest is here,” O’Malley said at last. “We shall make ready to hitch the mules. The road to the north is well-marked. The King’s Highway, they call it … I don’t know why, as there has never been a king here. I suppose it was established by the authority of the King of Spain, all this time gone.”
Fredi scrambled up to the wagon-seat and peered inside; there was a great lump of O’Malley’s coachman’s overcoat, with Fauntleroy Bean’s elegant boots sticking out from one end and faint snoring sounds coming from the other.
“He’s here, all right.” Fredi breathed, just as the sleeping form underneath O’Malley’s coat twitched and sat upright, knuckling sleep from bleary eyes.
“Hey, fellows – what kept you this long? Can we get a’moving now?”
“Tell him what you wanted from us,” Fredi demanded. “About your brother and the saloon…”
“The Headquarters in San Gabriel, it’s called – Josh, he’s an officer in the militia, so he named it that.” Fauntleroy Bean yawned, a particularly jaw-cracking yawn. “I don’t have any money save what’s on me, but Josh is good for it. He an’ Sam promised Mama they would always look after me.”
“We do no’ need any excuse to linger, then,” O’Malley snapped his fingers at Nipper, who leapt up to the wagon seat, as nimble as if he had trained for a circus show. “You see to the mules, Fredi-boyo, I’ll pay the liveryman. And how to we find this Headquarters Saloon place, then?”
“Only saloon in town,” Fauntleroy Bean answered, the good cheer of the previous night restored as if by a miracle.

They departed San Diego with some regret, for it had seemed a pleasant and welcoming place to both O’Malley and Fredi. The old King’s Highway led north, near to the coast at first where the gentle salt-smelling breezes fanned them. Gradually the highway veered inland, crossing over a number of tidal salt-marshes, where the reeds grew higher than a man, and rustled in the moving air. Fresh green grasses cushioned the inland hillsides, hillsides which looked as soft as a pillow at a distance. They were dotted with oak trees – gnarled trees which sported small dark green leaves, curled at the edges.
“Another blessed land, never touched by the blighting hand of winter,” O’Malley remarked.
“It’s foggy most days,” Fauntleroy Bean pointed out, from the back of the wagon, lounging like a lord on the stacked bags of flour and beans, cushioned by O’Malley’s overcoat and Fredi’s bed-roll. O’Malley had suggested that he not show himself until they were a fair distance from where anyone from San Diego might recognize him. “And in the winter sometimes, it rains. And rains. For six months a year, you can barely see your hand in front of your face in the mornings. And the winds blow down from the mountains late in summer – it’s like God opened the oven-door of Hell.”
“It cannot be hotter than Texas in the summertime,” Fredi pointed out, and Fauntleroy laughed. “Oh, then you’ll have gotten used to it.”

It took a little more than a week to make a leisurely journey along the old highway – a well-traveled and mostly level road, which uncoiled in wide and lazy bends, only gradually climbing towards the mountains rendered blue in the distance, crowned with white on their very peaks and sometimes shrouded with clouds. They passed through many small towns, the oldest of which had been established by the Spanish, usually coalescing around a mission, like nacre in an oyster-shell. O’Malley marveled at this, and went to every one as they passed, to say his prayers and dedicate a candle.
“’Tis a wonder an’ a delight, Fredi-boyo – to be in a country where the True Church is not slighted.”
“Was it not so in Ireland?” Fredi asked, much curious.
“’Tis better than it once was,” O’Malley replied. Sometimes Fauntleroy Bean accompanied him, although not for purposes of devotion, but to rather flirt with any young women who happened to be about – which mildly annoyed O’Malley. The churches and cloisters were usually very fine – but Fredi noted that much of the orchards, fields and vineyards which once had surrounded the missions had the look of neglect, the vines reverting to their wild nature, and the untended trees dropping wizened olives and citrus fruit onto the ground underneath their branches.
The mission at San Gabriel was one of the largest churches, adorned with a campanile wall, each arched void in it filled with a bell. The building was well-kept, white-washed clean, and the cloister buildings also kept in good steading. It looked as if there were a christening being performed, with the priest in his vestments blessing the parents at the door. As the mules clomped past, Fauntleroy Bean tipped his hat and blew a kiss towards a bevy of handsome young women in bright Mexican silk dresses, the lace veils having from elaborate bone and ivory combs. The ladies giggled, and a young gallant with them scowled in a most threatening way.
O’Malley scowled also.
“Ha’ ye no decency, Faunt’ly? They’re going to confession!”
“That’s where you meet the sweetest and juiciest of them,” Fauntleroy Bean pointed out, utterly unaffected. “Lovely little gardens wherein to put the old Nebuchadnezzar out for a graze… I see it as my duty, giving them something exciting to confess to. And it gives the old padre a thrill as well.”
O’Malley – to Fredi’s mystified astonishment actually looked rather red, especially around his ears. Nebuchadnezzar, out for a graze? What did that mean?
“You’re a heathen, Faunt’ly – of the worst sort. I shouldn’t be surprised to hear that you were killed by a jealous suitor, some day!”
“As long as it happens when I am an old, old man!” Fauntleroy answered, with a jaunty air. “Ah – there is the Headquarters Saloon – Brother Josh’s home away from home – present your bill, boys, for Josh will serve up the fatted calf, for certain!”

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This and Data – August 2014

Another week at Chez Hayes – here in Texas it’s been over a hundred every day for the past two or three weeks. Yes, August in Texas has been unfavorably compared to Hell by wits and commentators since Phil H. Sheridan. Probably before him as well, but in any case, I say a prayer of thanksgiving and blessings to the Jon Wayne HVAC folks, and to the nice lady who bought the California property a year ago next month. Her payment for the property meant that I could have the HVAC in this house done as it should have been by the original builder. Funny that my chronic cough let up round about that time; the deity only knows what kind of mold or crud was in a lot of those ducts and interchange boxes.

Moving right along … because of the heat and probably other things – the flea problem this year is pretty intense. This necessitated a bath with flea shampoo for all the dogs. No, we didn’t try and bathe the cats – what, do you think we are insane? Although it was a bit of a risk with Nemo, who hates water unless it’s in a bowl for him to drink; water from a hose, standing water that he needs to wade through? His detestation of the element is obvious and long-standing; one of the reasons that we think he might have been a cat in a previous life. Anyway – he got the bath with flea-killing shampoo, and although it did take both of us to administer it in the kitchen sink, he did not try to bite or nip. So – progress.

On the sad side – the cat-herd is diminishing. This is due to age, rather than accident, but we were never very certain how old that Wubbie, the fluffy confirmed escape artist was. He was an adult cat when he turned up, dripping wet one afternoon when the next-door neighbors’ grandsons were playing with their new super-soakers. They are good boys, really they are, but they were much younger then, and poor Wubbie was sitting on the hood of the car, stunned and drenched in ice-water. We took him inside, and he never left, save for brief excursions when he whipped between our ankles and ran out to a particular place in the next-door front yard to chase away any interlopers. We did briefly consider asking the neighbor if we could bury Wubbie there, since it was a place he was so fond of … but re-considered.

My newest new toy; a Cuisinart multi-griddler, which was one of the newer models, offered at a considerable discount on Amazon last week, along with a set of waffle plates – also at a considerable discount. We nearly bought a previous iteration a couple of months ago, seeing it for a marked down price at a local high-end HEB, but a total stranger, seeing that we had it in the cart, came up and freely told us what a total disappointing dog it was to her. She really unloaded about all the unfortunate features … most of which seemed to have been remedied in this version. The good thing is that this new toy allowed me to get rid of an electric grill (a nice one, but too hard to clean and never really got hot enough, even as it smoked out the kitchen), an electric griddle (which was a cheap model, heated erratically across the surface, a hand-me-down from a friend) and a George Foreman griddler which we got for nothing, but which was missing a griddle plate which proved to be impossible to replace. So – space cleared in the kitchen, one for three!

We’ve done waffles in it already, and grilled sausage patties on one side and fried eggs on the other, and so vary, everything has come out well; it heats thoroughly and evenly … and cleanup is a breeze.

And that’s my week? Yours>

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Two White Comanches – Part 2

(Part one is here.)

As for the second of the white Comanches – he was never a captive, but came along willingly … Robert S. Neighbors was a native Virginian, born in 1815 and left as an orphan at the tender age of four months by the deaths of his parents. He was raised and educated by a guardian, and like many another restless youth of the time, sought adventure and fortune in Texas in the fateful spring of 1836, when he was just twenty-one. He found adventure, all right, serving in the Republic of Texas’ tiny professional army as quartermaster. When his hitch was done, he gravitated to San Antonio and another kind of military service as a member of Jack Hays’ volunteer Ranger company. When the Mexican Army under General Adrian Woll made a lighting-fast raid on San Antonio in September 1842, Bob Neighbors had the ill-luck not to be out on patrol. Instead, he and more than fifty other Anglo men – either local residents or in town for a session of the civil court – were taken captive and packed off into Mexico for a stint of imprisonment in the San Carlos Fortress – Perote Prison. There he spent two years, before being released and returned to Texas. Presumably a quiet life operating a hotel in Houston was a little too quiet; within a short time he was off again in another service to the Republic of Texas; as an Indian agent with primary responsibility for the peoples of two tribes noted for volunteering as guides and combatants with the Rangers – the Lipan Apache and the Tonkawa. Both these tribes were traditional enemies of the Comanche – peerless and brutal warriors who had swept down from the Rocky Mountains once they acquired mastery of the horse and made the Southern Plains their own. He developed one rather unusual practice as Indian agent – he went to the various tribal villages and dealt face to face with leaders there, rather than wait for them to come to him at the agency headquarters. Neighbors developed a fluency in the various languages, a grasp on the subtleties of tribal cultures – and more importantly, the friendship of many. It was said that no white man in Texas had more friends or a greater influence among the Tribes.

One of his field visits to a Tonkawa camp coincided with a visit by a Comanche war party on their way into Mexico to raid for horses. For once the Comanches were in a rather more friendly mood towards the Tonkawa than usual – demanding only hospitality in the form of food for themselves and their horses and some entertainment for the evening. Fearlessly, Bob Neighbors asked for an introduction to their leader, Mopechucope or Old Owl, which was granted. Old Owl admired Bob Neighbors’ fine coat, and knowing that was expected, Bob promptly took it off and gave it to Old Owl. Strangely enough, Old Owl took an immediate liking to Bob Neighbors; instead of Bob making a civilized man out of him, Old Owl suggested – he would make a good horse thief out of Bob and adopt him, if he came along with the war party. Bob Neighbors didn’t hesitate, this being an invitation that few Texans would ever be offered and even fewer would consider accepting. He went with the raiding party, returned safely and departed from Old Owl’s camp with gratitude and with his scalp intact – the only occasion where an official in the service of the Republic of Texas went on a raid with a Comanche war party.

The friendship with Old Owl and the Penateka paid off in the years immediately following. Bob Neighbors was one of the negotiators at the peace conference which led to a peace treaty between the Penateka Comanche and the German settlers who arrived on the Texas frontier through the auspices of the Mainzer Adelsverein.

When Texas was finally admitted as one of the United States, Bob Neighbors was one of those assisting in the negotiations between the US Indian commissioners and representatives of those tribes living in Texas – and received a federal appointment as an Indian agent. In the spring of 1849, he was tasked by Major General William Worth, commander of the 8th Military Department to explore, survey and establish a wagon route to El Paso from San Antonio. He led a mixed command of Rangers (including Robert Salmon “Rip” Ford) and US Army troops, as General Worth correctly figured that Bob Neighbors was about the only man in Texas who could venture into Comanche lands and return again to tell the tale. In fact, the expedition traveled with the good-will and for a time the presence of Buffalo Hump, a prominent Penateka war chief. The expedition was a success in mapping out a route eventually used by the Butterfield Stage lines in the following decade, and by the modern highway. In between these bouts of public service, Neighbors found the time and inclination to marry, and establish a home on the Salado Creek, for his wife and children.

The position as federal Indian agent was a political patronage job, and the election of a Whig administration late that year brought an end to that duty. But Neighbors served as a state commissioner and in the state legislature, and there he sponsored a resolution to establish – with the concurrence of the federal government – reservations for those Indian tribes with a presence in Texas: not just the Penateka Comanche, but the Caddo, Shawnee, Anadarko, Tonkawa and a handful of smaller divisions. With another national election in 1853, Bob Neighbors was back to work with a federal appointment as supervising agent for the Texas reservations; one on the Salt Fork of the Brazos River, the other on the Clear Fork. And one would have thought it would have been clear sailing for Neighbors, as a stout champion of his Indian friends and their welfare, as well as being respected in his own right as an explorer and Ranger. Alas, he had become hated by white settlers for his championship of the Indians. Those tribes which had settled on the Brazos reservations were often and vociferously blamed for continued raids on white settlements. Those Indians – especially Comanche who continued to range freely – held the reservation Indians in grand contempt, and often deliberately routed their own raids on white communities so as to implicate the Reservation Indians in the atrocities committed.

John Baylor, who had been one of Neighbors’ sub-agents in spite of his detestation of Indians, became one of Neighbors’ most bitter enemies on being dismissed from that position, and never missed the opportunity of inciting the anger of white settlers against the Reservation Indians. At one point, Bob Neighbors had to call on federal troops stationed at Camp Cooper and Fort Belknap, to protect the Reservation against a Baylor-led attack by white vigilantes. By late 1859, Neighbors came to realize that his Indian charges were no longer safe in Texas. He organized the evacuation of the Brazos reservations. With four troops of federal soldiers and Robert Neighbors himself as escorts, nearly 1,500 Reservation Indians were conveyed to a new federal reservation in present-day Oklahoma. He achieved this without any loss of life, but on his return to Fort Belknap to file his final report as the superintendent of Indian affairs, he was assassinated – shot down from behind, in retaliation for his friendship and championship of the Indians. He was buried in the Fort Belknap cemetery. In the space of the next year, Texas seceded, joined the Confederacy, and federal troops were withdrawn from the frontier – creating a whole new war along the frontier. But that is another story.

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The Duel…

At Blood Creek …
A friend of mine sent me the link to this, and I giggled uncontrollably. Enjoy!

The Duel at Blood Creek – Short Film from Leo Burton on Vimeo.

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The State of Art to Come

So, now that Lone Star Sons – the first collection of adventures – is out to a selection of volunteer alpha readers and critics – who actually include a selection of junior readers of the age (more or less) that the book is intended for – my brother the professional graphics artist is wrestling with the cover. No, not the place-holder that I put up myself – but a genuiiine-original piece of cover art in the traditional Western pulp adventure artistic tradition. This is a bit new for both of us, since my previous book covers have largely been photographs, artfully filtered, edited and in the case of the last two, carefully edited together from wildly different sources. Frankly, I’m not Philippa Gregory – and I have a budget when it comes to book covers, and this kind of work-around has worked very nicely for previous books. But this one demands something a little more eye-catching.

My brother confesses that it has been twenty years since he generated an original sketch by hand; in the world of modern graphics artists, one apparently performs the magic with practically everything other than. So he is playing around, with his tools, and experimenting with skills that he hasn’t much used in a while. I tell him that it’s like riding a bicycle – you really don’t forget. Herewith, one of his preliminary studies:
Head Test - For Cover 8-15

It’s just a preliminary character study, of no particular character at all – but I am quite pleased.

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