Native American

Texas Standard: May 5, 2020

Add to the latest Coronavirus hotspots: Texas prisons. Some 70 percent of those tested have the Coronavirus. What happens next? Jolie McCullough of the Texas Tribune talks about how Texas prisons are trying to tackle COVID-19 behind bars, and what their options are. Plus, federal stimulus money for small businesses and Native Americans. Have both missed the mark? We’ll explore. Also, why university of Texas researchers think the llama could be a pandemic hero. And revisiting the border wall and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

The Mystery Of The Osage Murders

One of the best books I’ve read this year is “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.” I was late to this literary party. This nonfiction work has been a super-bestseller for well over a year now. It has been on the Paperback Nonfiction bestseller list for 49 weeks. Dave Eggers writes in his New York Times Book Review that author “[David] Grann has proved himself a master of spinning delicious, many-layered mysteries that also happen to be true. … It will sear your soul.”

I won’t spoil this book for you by revealing any part of the whodunit. I’m more interested in the who pursued ‘em.

You have three levels of tension here. First, there is the Osage tribe – the richest people per capita on Earth at the time, around 1920. They were the only tribe that owned mineral rights to the worthless land they got from the federal government as their very own reservation in Oklahoma. Why not? It was worthless scrub-brush land that was mostly sandy and rocky with random clumps of grass. When oil was discovered, though, they became, collectively, unfathomably rich. J. Paul Getty, for instance, was in a bidding war Harry Sinclair for Osage oil leases. Soon after the money started piling up, the Osage started dying, mysteriously, and in large numbers.

The second level of tension is that they were being murdered, seemingly randomly. “Serial killer” was not yet a term in the crime lexicon, but as a reader, you arrive at that conclusion quickly. You feel it must be a serial killer. But not one singular method was used. Some Osage were shot, some poisoned, some blown up in their homes with dynamite. Sixty had died by the time that J. Edgar Hoover took the case for the feds. It was up to him to find the killer or killers.

Here’s the third level of tension. Hoover was just acting director of what was called the Bureau of Investigation at the time. He was only 29 years old. The case was a blessing and a curse. If Hoover could solve it he could elevate the this new agency to a formidable and powerful national police bureau. If he failed, he would be pushed out; his career hung in the balance. Hoover was wanting to create an FBI that was modern, full of smart college graduates skilled in the use of the latest scientific techniques like fingerprinting, but the last agents sent to solve the mystery either made no headway, or were themselves killed. To solve this case, Hoover needed to send to Oklahoma the kind of agent he wanted the agency to shed.

Now, at this point you might be saying, as my dear sister-in-law said to me when I told her this story, “Why are you, Mr. Texas, talking about Oklahoma?” I’ll answer you as I did her: “Hold your horses, I’m fixin’ to get there.”

Hoover had to bite the bullet and bring in the cowboys. He sent for Tom White, his bureau chief in Houston, who was an ex-Texas Ranger, to take charge of the case. As Hoover said, “He needed a man who could handle men.”

It wasn’t exactly a “one riot, one ranger” situation, but it had elements of it.

Grann describes him this way: “Tom White was an old-style lawman. He had served in the Texas Rangers near the turn of the century, and he had spent much of his life wandering on horseback across the Southwestern frontier, a Winchester rifle or a pearl-handled six-shooter in hand. He was 6 feet, 4 inches and had the sinewy arms and eerie composure of a gunslinger.

Years later, a bureau agent wrote that he was as “God-fearing as the mighty defenders of the Alamo. He was an impressive sight in his large, suede Stetson. … He commanded the utmost in respect and scared the daylights out of Easterners like me.”

Of course, it was a white Stetson he wore.

Hoover explained to White that he needed him to direct the investigation without a hint of scandal, and as quietly as possible. He told him there could be “no excuse for failure.” Hoover told him to call in as many agents as he needed, and so White called in those men that Hoover considered the cowboys (two were ex-Texas Rangers) – men who were good at “infiltrating wild country, dealing with outlawry, shadowy suspects, going days without sleep, maintaining cover under duress, and handling deadly weapons if necessary.”

So there you go. The plot is set. The characters are in place. A great Texas story awaits, even though it’s set in Oklahoma. If you don’t care to read the book just now, you can wait for the movie, which, rumor has it, will be directed by Martin Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio. De Niro is said to be in talks for a role as well.

I’m W.F. Strong. These are Stories from Texas, by way of Oklahoma. Some of them are true.

Texas Standard: March 13, 2019

The biggest college admissions scandal ever? With a Texas coach one of 50 charged over corruption in college admissions, what’s fair versus what’s legal? Why the federal probe of wealthy parents securing spots at elite colleges and universities for their own kids may or may not bring reforms in higher ed. Also, were pilots warnings about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max ignored by authorities? The Dallas Morning News makes some stunning discoveries. We’ll talk to one of their investigators. Plus why a new album by Houston’s own Solange matters way beyond the music itself. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: June 26, 2018

Critics call it the tent city at Tornillo, now set to be dismantled. Is it a sign of a policy change or strictly a business decision? We’ll explore. Also, you’ll get your kids back if you sign this paper to deport yourself. That’s the claim being made by some detainees and their attorneys at a detention center south of Houston. The Texas Tribune got the story, we’ll talk with one of the reporters. And a win for Texas before the Supreme Court and what it means for future legal claims over race discrimination. Also the populist, nationalist, politically incorrect candidate polls say is set to win Mexico’s election: and how he could change fortunes in Texas. All that and much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: October 4, 2017

The state’s had a drought plan for years, now a first for water management in Texas: a statewide flood plan. What Texas is doing to prevent widespread damage from future floods and what’s needed to deal with the next one. Also, the sexual abuse of farm workers: a seemingly intractable problem? How workers came up with a plan and sold it to some of the biggest names in the American marketplace and now could be a model. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Quanah Parker: A Mother’s Day Story

Quanah Parker was the most feared of the Comanche chiefs on the Texas frontier. He was half white and half Comanche. He was taller and stronger and faster and more clever than any other chief of his time.

The fact that he never lost a battle to soldiers who relentlessly pursued him …

The fact that he was a ghost on the high plains and disappeared into thin air, even as he was chased in the bright Panhandle sun …

The fact that he was devastatingly handsome and could have graced the cover of one of those steamy Western romance novels …

The fact that he was the last Comanche chief to decide on his own, without being defeated militarily, to move to the reservation…

… is not the point of this commentary.

This is a love story, but not a love story for Valentine’s Day. This is a love story more appropriate for Mother’s Day.

Quanah’s mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, was abducted by Comanche raiders on the Texas frontier when she was 9. She was raised as a Comanche and married Chief Nocona. She had three children, the oldest of whom was Quanah. Cynthia Ann was eventually “discovered” by white men who traded with the Comanches. Her family, having searched for her for years, quickly organized a ransom offer. The Comanches would not sell her. No matter how much they WERE offered, tribal elders would not sell her. This was because Cynthia Ann did not want to go. Though born white, she was now culturally Comanche, the wife of a chief, with three children she loved.

Many years later, her camp along a tributary of the Pease River was attacked by Texas Rangers. Her husband was killed but her boys escaped. Cynthia Ann was finally freed from captivity, but she saw it as being abducted again. She was now 34. While being escorted to Tarrant County after the battle, she was photographed in Fort Worth with her daughter, Prairie Flower, at her chest and her hair cut short – a Comanche sign of mourning.

She never readjusted to white culture and tried many times to escape and return to her tribe. She begged to go back to her people. As S.C. Gwynne reported in his masterpiece, “Empire of the Summer Moon,” Cynthia Ann knew Spanish better than English. She told a translator: “Mi corazón llorando todo el tiempo por mi dos hijos.” “My heart cries all the time for my two boys” – Quanah and Pecos. But they wouldn’t give her her wish. Her relatives believed she would readjust in time. In truth, she was being held captive a second time.

She never gave up her Comanche ways. She often sat outside with a small fire and worshiped the Great Spirit according to the customs she knew. Sadly, Prairie Flower died of the flu a few years after they were returned to white society. And Cynthia herself died SEVEN years after that, relatively young, essentially of a broken heart.

Gwynne eulogized her this way: “She was a white woman by birth, yes, but also a relic of the Comancheria, the fading empire of high grass and fat summer moons and buffalo herds that blackened the horizon. She had seen all of that death and glory. She had been a chief’s wife. She had lived free on the high infinite plains as her adopted race had in the very last place in the North American Continent where anyone would ever live or run free. She had died in the deep pine woods where there was no horizon…”

Quanah lost his mother when he was just 12 and longed for her all his life. When he surrendered to life on the reservation he searched for her and was sad to learn that she had died and was buried far away in Texas. All he had of her was a photograph someone gave him, which he kept over his bed always.

He jumped through elaborate legal hoops for many years to get her body moved and buried on Comanche soil. When he was successful, he felt his mother was finally home. When Quanah died, he was buried next to her. He believed that though separated for so long in life, they would certainly be together forever with the Great Spirit in the Sky.