Quanah Parker's grave
Today we were heading back to Amarillo to pick up Margo Mom and sister. We would spend the night in Amarillo and then drive home Friday. But, we were not going to go straight to Amarillo. We could have, and then maybe drove home as well. But, that would have been 11 drive hours, plus a 10-15 minute stop every two hours, plus lunch. I hate spending that much time in a car. I’ll do it if it can’t be avoided. Well, it could easily be avoided by extending the trip another day. What to do with that day?
I saw three choices; 1) another day in OKC.
Not a bad option, there were still things to see and do. They have a nice zoo and Frontier City would have worked out nicely. It was tempting. 2) We could drive to Amarillo and spend the time with the family. This was definitely 3rd choice. We spent Saturday and Monday nights, plus all Sunday visiting. We were caught up with news and gossip, and telling of our OKC trip would not take that long. 3) Find something to see or do in between OKC and Amarillo.
Cynthia Ann Parker's grave. Mother of Quanah Parker
Now the plains of Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle are not chocked full of scenery. It’s flat, dry and hot.
The only green is the irrigated fields and the reclaimed Comanche Grassland, which looks to have been misnamed. I’m sure a horticulturist could explain to me that the plant varieties growing were of the grass family and deeply important to the ecosystem. But, if they were growing in my yard, I’d break out the Ortho.
Quanah Parker's sister's grave
This part of the country was in the heart of the Dust Bowl, and most of the towns we passed through looked like time had skipped right over them. But, as luck would have it, Margo’s side of the family were Dust Bowl farmers, so she had roots here. One set of her great-grand parents were buried in Wellington, TX. That would be an easy detour, and she had never scene their graves.
Also, I just watched a documentary about Geronimo and discovered he was buried at Fort Sill.
Further research discovered that Fort Sill is the home of Chief’s Knoll. This is a section in one of the cemeteries on the base that contains the burial place of many Indian Chiefs of the 19th century. The most prominent of which was Quanah Parker. As an Old West history buff, I decided I could not pass up the opportunity.
Chief Santana; buried on Chief's Knoll
The drive to Fort Sill was about an hour and a half. My GPS was working and guided us right to the entrance. Fort Sill is an active military base. As such they have controlled access with armed guards. As an Air Force brat I was familiar with entering a military installation. My wife had never done this before. In truth, I had not since 9/11, so I was wondering what the beefed up security would look like.
We did not have long to wonder. As we approached we were directed to stop, by one MP, while another holding an impressive looking assault rifle looked on. Post security is not a tourist attraction, so until I started writing about and the problem of illustrating this blog, it did not enter my mind about a picture. If it had entered, my common sense would have shot it down as fast as these soldiers would have a perceived threat. After looking at our IDs, we were directed to covered area where three more MPs were stationed. One asked to see our IDs again, and asked our business on the base. I told him, which elicited no comment or acknowledgement. I’m sure my answer was about what he was expecting. The other two gave the SUV a once over, but I didn’t pay any attention to what they did. We were released, and the whole thing last about two or three minutes from the time we first stopped until we were on our way. Margo commented about them not messing around. She got that exactly right.
Chief Kicking Bird; buried on Chief's Knoll
As I stated Fort Sill is an active base.
It is home to the US Army Field Artillery School, the US Marine Field Artillery MOS School, the US Army Air Defense Artillery School, and conducts Army basic training. I would guess there are a few guns around. A person would have to be a fool to try anything approaching stupid. This thought entered my mind as my GPS took us down a side street, towards a formation of soldiers. For the briefest of instant, I thought of continuing down the street, which looked to be the wrong way regardless. But Common Sense assassinated that idea, too. We turned around and soon TomTom had chosen a new route for us.
In less than five minutes we were parked near Chief’s Knoll. It’s is just a small high place, barely worth of the title, “Hill”. It was easy to find Quanah Parker’s grave. It was the largest and most prominent. Quanah Parker was the last of the Comanche chiefs. He never lost a battle against the US Army.
He kept his perfect record by seeing the writing on the wall and giving up his war against the US Army. He adopted some white ways, and became very successful. He founded a Native American religion (that condoned, even encouraged peyote use) and was a proud bigamist, having many wives, who bore him many children. Quanah Parker was the son of Cynthia Parker, a white woman who was kidnapped by the Comanches. She completely adopted Indian ways and culture. When she was “rescued” many years later (having taken an Indian husband and bore two children) she was heart broken. She tried to return to the Comanches, but was prevented and was miserable for the two remaining years of her life. She is buried beside her famous son.
I find all of this very interesting. Margo finds it mildly interesting, but not enough to take but a handful of pictures. I was snapping the picture of every head stone I saw.
I saw the graves of Santana; Chief Kicking Bird, Chief Ten Bears, Chief Big Bow, and many others. I took pictures of everything, including Lt Col. Harold Bateman. He died rescuing a private who was drowning in a river. The local VFW Post was named in his honor.
We didn’t linger very long. Like I said Margo had never heard of any of these Chiefs, so they held only a mild interest with her. On the other hand, she had heard of Geronimo. His grave was in a different cemetery, so we got back in the SUV and asked TomTom where to go. In about ten minutes we were there. We parked and got out. Again it was not terribly difficult to find the right grave. Geronimo’s grave is marked with a many round red stones that have been cemented into a pyramid shape. On top is an eagle. It is very distinctive and we had no trouble picking it out. Buried all around Geronimo were his family and friends that he had fought with.
Except for Geronimo, they all had standard issue military stones. It was the same back at Chief’s Knoll. That kind of surprised me. It meant that the government paid for stones. I’m not against that or anything. But, if I had given it much thought, I would have assumed that the tribe or family would have paid for them and with that much diversity in stone would have been evident. If I had given it even more thought, it would have occurred to me that the government had placed all of these men on reservations, where they were providing all the necessities in life. It would stand to reason that the government would provide the necessities in death as well.
Geronimo's Daughter's Grave
While Margo and I were taking a few pictures we could hear distant explosions. It sounded like thunder, and we quickly determined it was live artillery fire. It was kind of interesting to know we were hearing a live fire exercise.
Kind of getting in touch with our military past. Margo lost a brother, while he was a Marine. My Dad was a 20 year vet, and I have a gg-grandfather who fought in the Civil War.
Geronimo's Wife's Grave
By now we were in need of a restroom break. We had driven past the post golf course on the way to see Geronimo. We were a little hungry, so we thought about having lunch at the club there. But, in the end we decided to be on our way. Our next stop was going to be Wellington, TX.