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Inspiration from a Flint Point

I found inspiration from an Indian point dating back to the Antelope Creek People who occupied the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles between 1150 AD and 1450 AD. The utilized the quarry at Alibates for over three hundred years, trading the flint with other tribes.

On our ranch in the Texas Panhandle, heavy rains had washed off the top soil to reveal grey soil and chunks of blackened rock in a dry creek bed. Fragments of bone and flint flakes surrounded me. No doubt this had been the site of a fire pit. Kneeling on the side of the gentle slope, I moved aside the darkened rocks and began digging.

After two hours of concentrated effort, I unearthed a perfectly formed point of grey Alibates flint. The arrowhead was a blank, which would have been carried in a pouch until such time it was needed. Notches would have been added at the widest part, and it would have been attached to the shaft with strips of reed or hide.

The last hands to have touched that arrowhead had been one of our country’s indigenous residents. Due to the primitive design, it was probably from the early Antelope Creek people, for whom the creek that runs through our ranch is named.

Starting with chunks of colorful flint from the quarry,  natives fashioned points for arrows and spears. Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.

Since early Jr. High School I have held a fascination with these early people and with the lifestyle of Native Americans, most especially the Comanche. In part because I toured Fort Parker at a very young age and never forgot the story of little Cynthia Ann. Kidnapped and stolen from her home, she married a great Comanche warrior and then bore the great Comanche Chief Quannah Parker. Her blue eyes proved to be her down fall, when she was discovered by Texas Rangers. It was Texas Panhandle rancher and early pioneer Charles Goodnight who insisted she be left with her adopted people, the Comanche, as she would not survive the white man’s world. He was right. Her young daughter died from the flu, and Cynthia died a year later. She was only 34.  Quannah was 12 when he lost his mother. He had her body moved to Comanche soil, and is now buried next to her.

My curiosity has always been consumed by the hardships and life of those who inhabited this treeless expanse of nothing. As George Catlin once wrote, “…soul-melting scenery. A place where the mind could think volumes; but the tongue must be silent that would speak, and the hand palsied that would write.

I knew that I’d have to write about this land and the great Comanche people one day.

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

A sixteen year old Comanche brave has been occupying my brain for several years, and as I held that perfectly formed piece of flint I imagined him standing on our cattle ranch in this exact spot. Granted the flint was a few thousand years earlier than when the Comanche roamed these parts, but the connection to the land and the will to survive remained the same. I imagined a fire that crackled and popped in the pit. Perhaps a hind quarter of a mule deer sat perched on rocks next to the flame. My young brave would have chipped away in deep concentration, readying his arrows for the hunt as he listened to the retelling of stories by the elders.

History can become blurred when a writer strives to interpret details of every day life, and according to most accounts by 1858, when my story takes place, tribes had access to steal points. However, in my book, the brave clings to the old ways taught to him by his grandfather.

In my story, a muleskinner’s son dozes off resulting in his wagon and mules wandering off of the fort supply path into Comancheria. It’s not a point of steeling that causes my Comanche brave to confiscate the supply wagon and consider the pair of mules as a gift for his brother. It’s more of a belief in taking what the Great Spirit and the land provides. Is it his fault that this wagon strayed off the road into an area it did not belong? A bounty to be shared by all.

“Sell a country! Why not sell the air,
The clouds, and the great sea,
As well as the earth?
Did not the Great Spirit make them all
For the use of His children?”
Tecumshe (Shooting Star), Shawnee

Interestingly, the Comanche held high standards for character, conduct and a generous spirit within the tribal unit. Think about an Indian community. Everything was open with no doors to lock. As a war based society, treatment of their enemies was another mindset all together, and the pride in protecting their hunting grounds became paramount. Their society was built on defeating the enemy.

My Comanche brave character is wise beyond his years, and he teaches this young mule skinner about the beauty and abundance of the land. The boy learns that tipis are homes for families too, and that mortal enemies are not always as they seem.

As the worlds of these two young Texas frontier characters collide, their adventure tests their endurance beyond belief. Two enemies form an alliance and battle a gang of ruthless outlaws. In my novel, WOLF’S WAR, the adventure begins with a single flint point.

Visit the Quarry

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument is a U.S. National Monument in the State of Texas and well worth your time to hike the trail with a Park Ranger as your guide. For thousands of years, people came to the red bluffs above the Canadian River for flint, vital to their existence. Located approximately 35 miles north of Amarillo, Texas, take Interstate highway I-40 in Amarillo, take Lakeside exit north towards Lake Meredith National Recreation Area. Exit on TX 136 north towards Borger.

References:
INDIAN SPIRT, edited by Michael Oren Fitzgerald and Judith Fitzgerald, MJF Books.
The Wisdom of Native Americans, compiled and edited by Kent Nerburn, MJF Books.

Natalie Bright is a blogger, author and speaker. Her fun, historical western TROUBLE IN TEXAS series for middle grades is a great read for the entire family, and the RESCUE ANIMAL series features true stories about horses.  Read about Natalie’s grandmother and her cherry salad recipe, recently selected for “THE WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK: Favorite Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Writing Wisdom” (TwoDot Publishing, June 2017). Read the bargain novella MAGGIE’S BETRAYAL, a dark, dramatic women’s fiction set on historic Route 66 of the 1930s, and selected for the anthology OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66.