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Datil Well

Just back from a three-day excursion into what I think of as Nana’s Country. Lot to digest in that, but one quick note I want to share on Datil Well. My old piece in the Warpath lists it as one of my favorite campgrounds in NM. Based on my latest visit, I have to retract that recommendation. Once a pleasant and little-visited getaway, it’s become a dump, and I wound up boondocking in the NF rather than spend a night there.  On the plus side, the Joe Skeen CG up near Grants has been really turned around by the BLM after a couple of years when it was sliding into becoming a homeless squat/colonia, so I can unhesitatingly recommend that as an overnight stop. Also, for travelers in that part of the country, there’s a decent free CG in Pie Town if you find yourself benighted.

“For every Apache killed, he took many lives.”

I’ve been re-reading Lance Blyth’s Chiricahua and Janos: Communities of Violence in the Southwestern Borderlands, 1680-1880. It offers fresh insights into the Apache Wars from the perspective of the people of northern Mexico.

I hope to have more to say about the book’s overall theme in a future post, but first I want to focus on the short passage (p. 196) devoted to Nana’s Raid. Blyth adds a couple of interesting details, noting that Mata Ortiz was in pursuit of the raiders when they crossed the border. Presumably the Mexicans had taken the field in response to the attacks on the surveying party and other travelers along the Chihuahua Road as the raiders set out from the Sierra Madre at the end of June.

Beyond that, Blyth offers precise statistics on the raid: seven fights, 12 ranches and towns attacked, five soldiers and 30 civilians killed and “at least” 25 wounded.

He doesn’t specify these events so I don’t know if he counts the cluster of ranches around Garcia and the tent camp of Gold Dust and (possibly) an attack on Seboyeta as towns, but certainly the raiders struck at least a dozen ranches. I would list eight encounters as fights involving U.S. military personnel or civilian possemen: Alamo Canyon, the San Andres Mountains, Red Canyon, Monica Spring, Carrizo Canyon, the Cuchillo Negros, Wild Horse Canyon and Gavilan Canyon.

I count 8 soldiers and 64 civilians killed in New Mexico Territory by Nana and his raiders, another 25 wounded (some so badly they never fully recovered) and 14 taken captive – only about half of those ever reported recovered.

Whatever the exact count, we can all agree with Kaywaykla that, “Usen had not commanded that we love our enemies. Nana did not love his; and he was not content with an eye for an eye, nor a life for a life. For every Apache killed, he took many lives.”

Dead links

Since I’ve been so focused on prepping the book for publication, I haven’t paid enough attention to the website. In looking through the warpath I find a number of links no longer connect. (I thought the Internet was forever, but apparently not so much.) I’m working on correcting this problem. Please let me know if you find any I’ve missed.


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.

Bad Juju

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.


A Caution to Pilgrims

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).