Tag Archives: Comanche

From Cynthia Ann Parker to Don McLean

29 Sep

Last week, the students in History of American Music discussed All Shook Up: How Rock n’ Roll Changed America, a book by Glenn Altschuler about the early days of Rock n’ Roll. It was a great discussion about music, society and all kinds of stuff. We even threw a little religion in there. I guided as they talked, but I was also thinking about a book that several of those students read for another class.

Last year, I taught Expansion of the United States and had them read The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, a book by Glenn Frankel about the difficulties caused by the mixing of history and myth. On the surface, this book has nothing to do with the other one. However, there is one connection that ties them together, and it is not the fact that both writers are named Glenn. It is a chain of events that links a tragic episode in the American West to a tragic episode in Rock n’ Roll.

On May 19, 1836, Cynthia Ann Parker was abducted from her home by a Comanche raiding party. Her family had settled on the Texas frontier and faced the dangers of that decision. Her uncle searched for her but, after several years, gave up. Cynthia Ann grew to adulthood as a Comanche and raised a family. Years later, she was recaptured and brought back to the Parker family. She never recovered from being ripped twice from the world that she knew.Cynthia Ann Parker

In 1954, a novel by Alan Le May was published. It was called The Searchers and told the story of a man on an epic search to find his abducted niece. Although he studied many abductions, Le May’s story is similar to the Parker saga. However, the book ends differently than real life. The uncle does not give up. Instead, he is killed by a Comanche woman.Alan Lemay

In 1956, John Ford and his stock company traveled to Monument Valley make The Searchers, a film based on the book. John Wayne starred as the uncle looking for his abducted niece, played by Natalie Wood. It is considered by many to be the greatest of all Westerns and Wayne’s best performance. The audience does not know what will happen when he finds her, but, in the end, he takes her home.images-5

On February 25, 1957, Buddy Holly, a Texan, recorded “That’ll Be the Day“, a song inspired by Wayne’s catchphrase in The Searchers. The song reached Number One and was the first song recorded by The Quarrymen, who are better known as The Beatles. On January 23, 1959, Holly died in a plane crash with Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson.Buddy Holly

On March 14, 1971, Don McLean debuted a new song at a concert in Philadelphia. “American Pie” is believed to be about the changing musical and cultural landscape of the 1960s. It begins with “the day the music died”, which most people think is a reference to Holly’s plane crash. After all, “them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye singing this’ll be the day that I die.”Don McLean

Yeah, that is where my mind went. I connected two books from two different classes. It probably looks weird, but there are some things that cannot be denied. One of those is a direct historical line from Cynthia Ann Parker to Don McLean.



The Man From Little Cedar Lick

10 Jul

I have been reading Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne. As you can tell by its title, historians like long titles, and it is about the Comanche.

It is a great book filled with information that I already knew and a lot of information that I had never read before. There are names of interesting people on both sides of the struggle between the Comanche and those encroaching on their territory. These are people who fought for what they thought was right and may have been well-known in their day. However, many of them have faded from history.

I am far from finished with the book, but one name has already stood out. John Coffee Hays is described as the greatest of all Texas Rangers. In fact, he is the one who taught the rest how to do their jobs. His exploits provide great reading, but a tidbit about his early life is what intrigued me.John Coffee Hays

Hays was born in Little Cedar Lick, Tennessee. When I read about his birthplace, a small memory crept to the front of my mind. Several years ago, I was speaking at Rotary about Tennesseans who became famous in the American West. I mentioned the obvious ones like Sam Houston and David Crockett. However, I also talked about John Chisum, Clay Allison and Peter Burnett.

When the presentation ended, a man in the back asked if I knew anything about the guy from Wilson County who became a Texas Ranger. At the time, I did not know anything about him, but this book may have made the introduction.

Like all great investigators, I did a Google search and discovered that John Coffee Hays was born in Wilson County. I also discovered that all of the sites that have information about Hays must have been copied from the same source. Almost all of them were word for word duplicates. The only differences were about his relationship with Andrew Jackson.

I read that his grandfather sold Jackson the land that would become the Hermitage. There was also the story of Jackson being John’s uncle. Also, his father fought with Jackson during the War of 1812. Oh yeah, another said that John spent many days at the Hermitage.

All of that may be true, but, around here, everyone wants to be connected to Jackson. If your ancestors lived in this area while Jackson was alive, then they were best friends. If your name is Jackson, then you are descended from him, which would be difficult since he did not have children.

I will have to ask my colleague, who has a great blog called Jacksonian America and who is one of the leading experts on Andrew Jackson.

Then, I remembered that I know someone named Hays. I sent a text to Nick Hays, who is running for County Trustee, and asked if he was related to John Coffee Hays. He replied that he was, but the family did not have much information on him. He learned most about him from Monty Pope. On the first day he walked into Monty’s class, he asked Nick if he knew about the Hays who became a Texas Ranger.

By the way, if you live in Wilson County be sure to vote for Nick.

As I read about Hays, I began to wonder about the place where he was born. I have lived here all of my life and have heard many stories about its history, but I have never heard of Little Cedar Lick. I thought about asking the folks at the Wilson County Archives, but I do not have much faith in them these days.

Instead, I went to good old Google. Man, that thing is as handy as a pocket on a shirt. All I found was Little Cedar Lick Church. With nothing else to go on, I drove to the location. It was on a road that I had never been on, and I had no idea what to expect. The picture in my mind was of a little country church.

Instead, I found this.image-3

I have no idea if this is the same area where John Coffee Hays was born. I only know that he was born in Wilson County and made his name as a Texas Ranger. Then, he moved to California and became the sheriff of San Francisco before being one of the founders of Oakland.

Throughout all of that, Hays may have looked back and remembered Little Cedar Lick, but I am afraid that place may have disappeared through the ages.


I Hope the Buggles Were Wrong…

20 Sep

When they sang “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Why? This week, I appeared on WANT 98.9, the station that plays Real Country.WANT

Before anyone gets worried, I did not sing. Instead, I was a guest on Coleman & Company, a talk show where local people are interviewed. This time, it should have been called Larry & Company because my good friend was hosting while Coleman is on vacation. You have read about Larry before.

We talked about all kinds of things, but history dominated the time. We discussed Quanah Parker, a famous Comanche, and his mother, who was taken captive by the Comanche. We talked about the pioneers who traveled over the Oregon Trail. We also talked about George Allen, a Cumberland University student who later went on to become a close confidante to Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman. It was an enjoyable experience, and everyone said that I did a good job.

After the interview, I started thinking about the first time I was in that studio. When I was a kid, the radio station held a spelling bee, which was divided by grade level. Each school sent the winners of its grades to compete against the winners at other schools.

There was this one kid that I could never beat. Her name was Melissa, and she was not my favorite person. Every year, I finished second to her first. Finally, we made it to 5th grade, and I won. It was one of those pivotal moments in life that affects everything that will come later. After beating her, I could conquer the world.

That’s when the 5th grade teacher changed the rules and said it would be best 2-out-of-3. It was devastating. Think about a team winning the Super Bowl and being told they have to win it again. With my spelling senses reeling, she crushed me in the next two matches.

I was not happy. My mom was not happy at a completely different level. She confronted the teacher and asked about the change. The teacher’s answer was simple. She thought Melissa would have a better chance of winning on the radio and set it up so she could make it. That was not the answer my mom wanted to hear.

Fast forward a couple of years. I am in 7th grade at a local private school. It is the last grade that takes part in the spelling bee. I breeze through the contest and qualify for the spelling bee on the radio. On a Saturday morning, we pull up to the station and go to the studio, the same studio I was in this week. Kids from the other schools were going to their seats, but I only had my eye on one.

One by one, kids made their way to the microphone to spell a word. Some got through and some didn’t. I only paid attention when she was up there. When she got one right, I knew that I had to get one right. I didn’t care about winning the whole thing. I just wanted to outlast Melissa.

The contest continued until the unthinkable happened. She missed a word. I knew that I had to get the next one right to truly beat her. I got to the microphone. The moderator, which may have been Coleman, gave out the word. I took my time and nailed it. With great satisfaction, I went back to my seat and she slithered out of the room.

I didn’t win the contest, and I don’t remember who did. All I remember is who stayed in the longest, and it wasn’t Melissa. I hope my old 5th grade teacher was listening.