An early reader of Tracking Nana wonders “why all the damn footnotes?” I realize the swarm of little numbers are an irritating distraction, constantly disrupting the narrative flow. But I found it necessary to include so many citations because the sources I relied on to construct my story so often disagree with one another on even the most basic facts. Although it’s not about Nana’s Raid, the story of the fight at Round Mountain is illustrative of the challenge involved in reconstructing events that occurred more than a century ago. Which of the different versions of that event are “true”? This was a dilemma I often faced in my former career as a newspaper reporter. Police report, eyewitness testimony and physical evidence conflicted, so that even the subsequent decision of a judge and jury might not be ultimately disposative. I found it best to sprinkle the invaluable verb/adjective “alleged” through the story, cite my sources, and let the reader make up his own mind as to who to believe.
Little early for Halloween chills, but there’s a great piece in DesertUSA on “Desert Shamans and Sorcerers.” Reading about the evil Tahquitz makes me want to visit his canyon sometime, or maybe just watch for him strolling the streets of Palm Springs. The Cahuilla roamed the desert west of the Colorado River, but their beliefs differ only in detail with the Navajo and Apache as well as the more settled Pueblo and Hispanic people farther east. All believe in witchcraft in one form or another.
Tracking Nana was originally conceived as a combination popular history of Nana’s Raid and a hiking/camping guide to New Mexico locales associated with that event. Because readers of first drafts found the inteweaving of the two strands confusing, I decided to confine the book to the historical narrative, reserving the travel material to the “warpath” section of this website. I may add the hiking and camping guide as an appendix in a subsequent edition (if any) of the book, but in the interim anyone interested in following Nana’s path on the ground can refer to those pages of the website. I do feel the need to attach one important caveat to this invitation, however: all this material was gathered several years ago, and your experience may vary. Roads smoothly graded when I last passed over them may be all but impassable today; campgrounds that were empty then are now crowded with RVs; where there was once no more than a cattleguard crossing the road, some rancher may have added a padlocked gate. Proceed at your own risk (and embrace the adventure).
Strange thing about aging in the 21st Century: even as you’re slowing down, the world is speeding up around you. It’s been more than a month since my last post, but in mitigation I have to argue I’ve been awful busy, mainly on personal business unrelated to this Nana project. But I’ve also been struggling with the challenges connected with turning the Kindle e-book into a paperback.
The backcountry search for Barbara Thomas, who disappeared in the Mohave National Preserve 11 days ago, has been suspended, S&R teams working with K9 units, members certified in cave searches, rope climbing and desert terrain combed the area yesterday but found no trace of the missing woman. “Detectives from the Specialized Investigations Division have assumed the investigation,” according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The search for Barbara Thomas, missing since the afternoon of July 12, is still underway, but chances she is still alive somewhere out in the Mojave are now vanishingly small. Another strange story, this one from the California mountains, offers a sinister alternative template to her disappearance. Found after missing for four days, the woman claims she got lost fleeing from a man brandishing a knife. I’ve been wandering the mountains and deserts of the Southwest for better than 50 years, more often alone than not, and I’ve had some unsettling encounters with strangers. While I can’t say I ever felt seriously threatened, the world (and esp California) seems to get crazier by the day. Personally, I feel more comfortable carrying a pistol when I hike (more for snakes, feral dogs and rabid animals than for two-legged predators). Unfortunately, that’s not a legal option in CA, with its restrictive gun laws.