The American Red Cross

I am extremely busy again working on the project but this is an organization I feel strongly about and I hope you all will consider taking a class from them if you haven’t already. You never know when you might need this training.

Welcome back.  This week the pictures told the story. The wounds ranged from bruises to several cuts and fractures. Breathing emergencies along with heart related illnesses, snake bites and insect stings all demonstrated the need to be well prepared in an emergency.

Coming to the aid of an injured person is a natural thing to do and last Saturday the American Red Cross was the place to learn the right responses when instructor Tamier Lewis (no relation) gave another of her seminars on saving lives. The all day class teaches CPR and first aid techniques for many different emergencies as well as the dos and don’ts of helping choking, stroke and heart attack victims. Practicing with an Automated External Defibrillator, commonly known as an AED, was fascinating and after learning that 300,000 people die each year from sudden heart attack it was easy to understand how using the AED properly could save many lives. In recognition of this fact more and more businesses such as WalMart, and organizations like Elder Care, have AEDs handy and train their personnel to use them.

After this training my curiosity about the Red Cross’s organization and its many functions soon had the best of me and I went to their website ( to learn more.  I didn’t know that their international symbol, the Red Cross itself, is actually the reverse image of the symbol on the Swiss flag or that politics played an important in the founding of the Red Cross movement in America. Thanks to the efforts of a pioneering woman the Red Cross was chartered by Congress in 1900 and 1905, becoming known as the American National Red Cross and creating a close relationship between the organization and the federal government.  Her name was Clara Barton and the house where she was born and spent the last fifteen years of her life at 5801 Oxford Road in Glen Echo, Maryland is now a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Barton began her career as a school teacher at a time when most teachers were men and later became one of the first women to gain employment in the federal government.

As a volunteer during the Civil War, she risked her own life bringing supplies and moral support to soldiers in the field. She read to the wounded, wrote letters for them and listened to their problems before praying with them. President Abraham Lincoln heard of her work and referred inquiries about missing soldiers to her. She worked with the Friends of Missing Men to establish the Office of Correspondence which answered over 63,000 letters and identified over 22,000 missing men in a four year period.

After the war Barton led a team of thirty military officers to the Confederate prison camp simply known as Andersonville where they identified the graves of nearly 13,000 men. She proposed that the almost 400 unidentifiable graves be memorialized and eventually her idea led to the creation of the “Tomb of the Unknowns”.

In the following years Barton traveled the world assisting with disaster relief in many different countries and becoming familiar with the Red Cross movement founded by Henry Dunant. In 1864, at the Geneva Convention, she pushed world leaders to include national disasters as part of the Red Cross’ mission and when it passed the amendment became known as the “American Amendment”.

At age sixty Barton established a branch of the Red Cross movement in the United States and led the organization for twenty-three years making strides in education, civil rights, prison reform and women’s suffrage as well as the care of the sick and wounded. Always rising early and working late, a highly trained speaker and a prolific writer, Barton possessed such great charm and charisma that wherever she went, no matter what country, thousands of volunteers followed.

Clara Barton resigned from the Red Cross in 1904 with the thought of writing a series of short biographies about her life but unfortunately these were never completed as she died on April 12, 1912. Her family donated all of her papers and awards to the Library of Congress, the Park Service manages her historic home and the American people take care of her beloved Red Cross. That my friends is the story of another great woman we all owe thanks to and till next week I’ll see ya down the road…..




                                                ll will consider

taking a course from them if you haven’t already.

Harper Lee and “In Cold Blood”

This is a story that has always fascinated me and has some bearing on the project.

Welcome back.  The date was April 14, 1965 and northwest of Kansas City in a warehouse on the grounds of Lansing State Prison justice was delivered for the brutal murders of Herbert Clutter, his wife, son and daughter in Holcombe, Kansas. There was no real reason for the murders, only forty dollars was missing and the Clutters were well liked and respected members of their tight knit community. The convicted murderers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith had been through a long much publicized process appeal stretching over four years and at their own deaths by hanging there were only a dozen or so officials in attendance including the hangman, a few prison guards, a preacher, a doctor and the prosecuting DA. The killers had also invited two other people to be witnesses.

One was author Truman Capote who had been working closely with the two men on the book that would become the bestselling In Cold Blood and had developed such a close personal relationship with Smith that observers said he wept when the trapdoor swung open under his friend.

Smith and Hickock had also invited Harper Lee but she declined to attend. Lee was no relation to either man nor was she kin to the victims. Instead she was a lifelong friend of Capote’s who was about to become famous in her own right for her novel To Kill A Mockingbird which she had completed before Truman contacted her about his project. He had contracted with the New Yorker magazine to write an article about the Clutter murders and wanted Harper to travel to Kansas with him and help with the research. She conducted interviews with local residents, edited his writing and was present when Hickock and Smith were brought back from Las Vegas where they had been captured. Harper also came back to Kansas with Truman after the trial started and was with him during several of the interviews he conducted with the killers in jail.

After the two were found guilty and sentenced to hand, Harper gave Truman all her notes about the murdered Clutter family and written interviews with Hickock and Smith, local law enforcement and members of the community. In Cold Blood was published in 1966, a year after the hangings.  The book became a best seller and some say created the genre of true crime writing. Several movies have been made based on the book and Capote’s experiences writing it. As for Hickock and Smith, they lived together, killed together and now 47 years later and forever they lie side by side in the prisoner section of Mount Muncie Cemetery.

Harper Lee is best known as the writer of To Kill a Mockingbird which was published in 1960 and won a Pulitzer Prize. Yet despite the acclaim she received for her novel she never published another book although she was appointed to the National Council on the Arts by then President Lyndon Johnson. Today at 86 she lives in New York City and has little to say about her work with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood. Capote himself died in 1984 from liver cancer which most would say was caused by years of alcohol and drug abuse.

As for Lansing Prison, it is the same as it was when Abraham Lincoln commissioned the first building and now houses close to three thousand of the country’s most hardened criminals.

This is the story of Harper Lee which I hope you found as interesting as I did. In my experience as a writer I have found that there are many Harper Lees out there behind some of the most successful writers.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road….






Red River, New Mexico and Philmont Ranch




















Welcome back. Last week as Loretta and I headed west for the holidays, the roads across the panhandle of Oklahoma and beyond were lined with ten foot snow drifts on either side. Travelers who had been stranded a day earlier throughout the region were now being treated to some of the best snow northern New Mexico had seen in years. The Red River ski area had a forty foot base and hotels were mostly sold out for December 27th. Fun was had by all as Santa would say. In addition to their excellent skiing facilities and plentiful restaurants and lodging establishments, this area also offers a wide variety of warm weather activities and I hope to be able to visit again this summer to bring you a full report.

And now for both new readers and old, “Winter time on the Philmont Ranch” is a true Christmas story. As I sit in the spot where Waite Phillips himself once sat, looking across acres of tent sites in the snow, the morning sun reflecting off their aluminum frames, I can only imagine his happiness. The year was 1941 and looking out from his home just outside Cimarron, New Mexico where he had put together a ranch of over three hundred thousand acres, Waite’s thoughts were clear. After his initial donation to their organization a few years earlier, the Boy Scouts had proved to be worthy stewards of his gift and what he had seen impressed him.

After summoning Dr. Elbert Fretwell, the CEO of the Boy Scouts, and Walter Head, President, to a meeting at the ranch a few months later Waite would change the lives of thousands of boy scouts and millions of people associated with the scouts. Facing health problems, Waite planned to stay on the ranch as long as possible and then spend the rest of his life in California. Within days of this meeting he gave the rest of the ranch to the Boy Scouts. Gazing out over this inspiring view a person can feel the spirits of Waite and the boys whose lives have been molded by their experiences here. The army style bed frames are covered with drifts one day and the next are swept clean by the howling winds and at this time of year hundreds of deer and elk roam between the tent sites.  From this spot Waite could also see the mountain he called “the tooth of time” which he rode on horseback many times, frequently staying in a rustic cabin he built on the mountain.

His son Elliott, known as Chope, spent most of his childhood on the ranch they named the UUBar, rubbing shoulders with the prominent people who came to visit including Presidents, actors, diplomats and royals. Everyone shared the feeling that Philmont was a special place and today the ranch is much the same as it was when Waite purchased it from George Webster. Surrounded by other large ranches owned by legendary businessmen Ted Turner, and Bob Funk, Philmont provides a pristine and limitless natural environment for the boys who camp here every year. When Chope was a guest at Elder Care’s The Good, The Bad and The Barbeque last year I had the chance to visit with him about his life on the ranch and hear some great stories about that era.

Waite’s gift to the Boy Scouts began when he deeded 35,857 acres on the northern end of the ranch to them. Over the next three years he frequently visited the area anonymously, keeping an eye on their use of the land. Then in 1941 he gave the scouts the ranch headquarters, 91,538 acres on the mountainous western side of the ranch and his home, Villa Philamonte. I can only imagine how speechless Fretwell and Head must have been when they learned of his intentions and found out that he was also donating his twenty-three story Philtower office building as a source of income to support the new scout camp along with an outright gift of a million dollars.

As Waite once wrote “The only things we keep permanently are those we give away.” and he lived according to that belief.

After all the paperwork was completed Waite and his wife Genevieve would stay on at the ranch for three more winters until his health finally forced them to move to California. Oil man, husband, father, rancher and one of the most generous philanthropists to ever live in Oklahoma, Waite Phillips died on January 27, 1964 after several heart attacks. He was 81 years old.

In his will Waite left millions of dollars to dozens of charities and Genevieve continued to give away millions more until her death in June 19, 1979. Always devoted to each other they lie in Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery in west Los Angeles side by side in a mausoleum. Between their graves is a statue of two playful cupids in a foundation that once stood in their breakfast room, a beautiful reminder of their love.

Waite would be happy to know that today all the trails up to the tooth of time remain open to the scouts, thanks to the friendship between his son Chope and Bob Funk who work together to fulfill Waite’s great vision of a perfect place for kids to build character and citizenship through camping on the largest land grant ever awarded in the United States. During a typical seventy-two day summer season, twenty two thousand scouts camp here, coming from every state in the country and several foreign countries. More than 700,000 scouts have taken to the hills here and around 18,000 more visitors tour Villa Philamonte every year.

If you plan a visit here’s a tip: the haunted St. James Hotel is just a few miles down the road in Cimarron. The rooms are comfortable, the food is very good and the rates are practically the same as when Buffalo Bill stayed here. Less than an hour from both Angel Fire and Red River, centrally located for skiing, hiking and other mountain activities, as much a museum as a hotel, its kind of a secret.  With that I’ll leave you with another of Waite’s epigrams:

“Real philanthropy consists of helping others outside our own family circle, from whom no thanks is expected or required.”

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road….

Note: This is such an inspirational part of the country for artists and I have had the opportunity to do some writing myself here. Most recently I’ve been asked to organize a photography/writing workshop this summer at the UUBar Ranch. Send me an email if you think you might be interested.



A Mountain Called Angel Fire

Author Zane Gray wrote here, former New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace wrote part of his novel Ben Hur here and now I’ve written here….

              Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  Agua Fria peak lies 28 miles east of Taos in the Moreno Valley.  In the 1700s the Moache Ute Indians migrated to the area and were entranced by the colorful light in the skies above the mountain there believing it was a sign of the Great Spirit. During a forest fire which threatened their villages the Utes prayed to the Great Spirit for rain and when a downpour occurred which extinguished the fire they named the mountain Angel Fire.

 The early 1870s brought 7,000 frontiersmen to the mountains in search of gold and Moreno County became the most productive gold mining district in New Mexico yielding over 6,000,000  dollars of the precious ore between 1866 and 1907. The wealth of the area also attracted bad men Jesse James, Black Jack Ketchum and many others looking to make their own fortunes and a string of robberies and murders followed in their wake.


 In 1950 the ranching family of Roy H. Lebus from Wichita Falls, Texas bought 22,600 acres including Angel Fire mountain with the intention of developing the property into a ski and golf destination resort. When they opened in 1966 they had only limited lift operations in place using primitive snow cat machines to transport guests up and down the mountain. There were 750 visitors the first year. A nine hole golf course and a dirt air strip were added the next summer and in 1971 the first condo was built.


 When the Lebus family ran into financial problems, Arizona-Colorado Land & Cattle, Inc. purchased the resort in 1972 and the following year they completed a country club and the Star Fire Lodge. Shortly thereafter the resort was sold again and during the rest of the 1970s a small grocery store, a post office and several specialty shops opened in the village and the resort added several new ski lifts and a new golf course.


The 1980s brought another new owner, Don Lasater, who built a larger hotel, paved the airstrip and added snow making equipment. In 1987 Lasater went to jail for drug trafficking and although he was eventually pardoned by President bill Clinton, the resort was sold once more to partners Gary Plante and Ron Evans.  Although it was still struggling financially the resort gained in popularity throughout the 1990s as a beautiful and family friendly destination for both summer and winter sports. Plante filed for bankruptcy in 1995 and in 1996 Tim Allen and Craig Martin purchased the resort and built the several mile long Chili Express ski lift.  The following year Allen bought out his partner and started an aggressive improvement program, opening more ski runs and lifts on the mountain.

The multi-million dollar improvements to the now 18 hole golf course included a resort with a health club, a bar and grille and a giant dining hall serving elegant gourmet meals. A new tennis facility was built next to the golf course making Angel Fire one of the largest sports facilities in New Mexico.  Everything was constructed within sight of the sacred mountain that started it all and each project was carefully planned to preserve the natural beauty of this historic site that the Utes first saw hundreds of years earlier.

 My time at this beautiful resort has been far too short enjoying the excellent skiing conditions, the attention of a staff of 450 professional and friendly workers and special holiday events including a torchlight parade and fireworks display. Throughout the many changes in its history Angel Fire has maintained a reputation as a family friendly resort with activities for every age and extremely reasonable rates. Add in a first class restaurant and lodge and today the resort draws visitors from all over the world in both summer and winter.


Next week its Red River where I’ve heard they’re breaking all records for snow fall and I’ll tell you all about the largest land grant ever issued in the United States. Till then have a Happy New Year and I’ll see ya down the road…