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I really enjoyed “Picturing Quanah Parker,” by Richard F. Selcer and Clara Wallace Holmes, in the October 2021 issue. Some of the photos were new to me. Fort Parker is 50 miles from my home, and when I visit I always think of Cynthia Ann Parker and her capture. When I read about old Western towns in your publication, I usually get my road atlas and try to locate them. Your writers really do their research.
[Re. “Revisiting the Santa Fe Trail,” by Diana West, October 2021:] A sentence in West’s sidebar “Roughing It,” regarding retired marshal Ralph L. Hooker hiking the Santa Fe Trail, caught my attention: “While their condition slowed his pace, he still managed to cover 30 to 55 miles a day.” This is a retired man carrying a 5-foot, 2-inch flintlock rifle, and he had “blistering, peeling and bleeding” feet. A few of the very fit can do 30 miles per day to a little over that on the Pacific Crest Trail, trying to be light as possible with modern gear. Hiking 55 miles per day carrying the rifle and whatever else, I don’t think so. You have to eat, sleep, etc. Even if he hiked 12 hours a day, he would have to average over 4.5 miles per hour to hike 55 miles.
Spanish Springs, Nev.
Diana West responds: My source for that information was Ralph Hooker’s autobiography, Born Out of Season, where in Chapter IX he chronicled his walk on the Santa Fe Trail. On P. 53 he wrote, “Some days I didn’t walk as far as other days; sometimes it was because my feet were still tender and sometimes because of bad weather.” Later on that page he wrote, “I only trudged 30 miles this day because of the heat,” and then, “…arriving in Boise City, Oklahoma at 3 o’clock in the morning; this covered 55 miles in one stretch of walk.” These two passages are where I came up with the 30 to 55 miles per day. Since he specifically mentioned both these days, I took the 30 miles to be his low day and the 55 miles to be his high. Yes, he was carrying the rifle [see image at right], but little else. He slept out in the open with no pillow or blanket. He only carried a canteen of water and some prunes to eat.
Matthew Bernstein’s article “Murder Most Fowl,” in the August 2020 edition, was very interesting. The story was great, but unwittingly it demonstrated a parallel between the situation the officer found himself in and the situation some officers have found themselves in recently. In the story a man was shot to death because he simply failed to comply with and follow the commands of the officer. He wasn’t in the act of committing a serious felony or about to harm someone or attacking the officer. He simply was not compliant. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see the similarity between that death and the deaths of several individuals recently. After spending almost 30 years in law enforcement, I know all too well the feeling of frustration and anger that can result from such a confrontation. There is no justification for it, especially when the suspect could as easily have been arrested later via a warrant. When something like that happens, then as now, the officer will lose.
I enjoyed C. Rodney James’ Guns of the West article [“Trapdoor Evolution”] in the August 2021 issue. Not sure why the large photo of the Springfield carbine fitted with a modern scope was relevant. The article talked about the long, weak wrist (comb of the stock) and the poor sights of the early Model 1873 carbine. To help the reader visualize these things, it would have been nice to show that carbine and then show a photo of the later model [above] with the new, stronger stock and improved Buffington sights. The article never explained why the new sights were better than the earlier model. The article also made it sound like the .45-70 cartridge used smokeless powder during the Spanish American War. That is incorrect. The Krag carbine and rifle used in the SAW used smokeless powder in its .30-40 cartridge. This was the first smokeless powder cartridge adopted by the U.S. military.
C. Rodney James responds: The relevancy of the scoped carbine was in the caption for the photo, regarding current use (deer hunting) with handloads and their accuracy. This material was cut for space reasons. Yeah, it might have been an improvement to have side-by-side photos of the 1873 and ’77 carbines. I did not have access to the ’73. The ’77 is my gun. Regarding why later sights were better was covered in the reference to the Buffington sight. I included a photo of the Model 1877 sight (not used), pointing out that it lacked a peep aperture. Yes, there was some smokeless .45-70 ammunition available in 1898 from Frankford, and, later, contract ammo from UMC. Glad you liked the article.
Kudos to Wild West for having the courage and integrity to publish Gregory Michno’s article “‘Worse Than the Hostile Comanches’” in the October 2021 issue. Former Confederates and their descendants were so successful at promoting their “Lost Cause” propaganda that the American public doesn’t know the truth about the causes and consequences of the Civil War. Others have pointed out that neither 1863 nor 1865 are the benchmarks for blacks that we should be considering. Yes, slavery ended, but for the next 100 years whites could murder black men and rape black women and stood less than a 50-50 chance of being arrested, charged or indicted. And there was zero chance they would be convicted of any crime. The federal Civil Rights Act was only passed 57 years ago—less than a lifetime ago. That is the benchmark that matters. Defenders of Confederates like to point out the majority of the soldiers were fighting to defend hearth and home, not the institution of slavery. But that doesn’t change the fact they fought for state and national governments whose official position was to perpetuate slavery. It would be interesting to know how many Confederate veterans who never owned slaves terrorized blacks over subsequent decades.