I learned recently that a friend of mine up in Oklahoma had passed away. Curt “The Hogshooter Philosopher” Johnson had about 40 years on me but we were good friends because of a shared love of history and amateur archeology.
Curt wrote a column for many years called “The Hogshooter Philosopher” and we met working at a newspaper in a little town of Nowata with maybe 4,000 in the whole city – needless to say there wasn’t a lot to write about on the crime beat.
So I had to be creative to find subjects to fill the paper and Curt was my running buddy and No. 1 source for all things unusual. Curt, a Delaware Pow Wow leader, taught me Indian customs and outlaw lore. We spent far more hours on the clock wandering through fields with metal detectors than our boss probably would have appreciated.
Through Curt I interviewed depression era gangster Al Spencer’s family, sampled backwoods moonshine, went crawling through mud caves searching for Dalton gang loot, dug up several forgotten Civil War and Indian battlefields, toured every old Indian village, outlaw hideout, ghost town and homestead that Curt could find through his vast web of contacts.
One day I wanted Curt to help me find the spot on the Verdigris River where Osage Indians ambushed and cut off the heads of a dozen Confederate officers in 1863. Armed with metal detectors, we went marching through dense brush and timber on an extremely muggy day in May. We had identified a hill that matched a survivor’s description and hoped we could find the needle in a haystack. After many hours we had uncovered about a dozen old Civil War era pistol bullets.
Suddenly Curt shouted. He had stumbled over a half circle depression filled with rocks that turned out to match the description of the mass grave we were looking for. Our jubilation was short lived however when we realized we were completely covered with seed ticks falling from the trees. We marked the spot where we were at and immediately took off for home. Within a few hours, I had picked about 50 tiny ticks off my head – Curt called me while I was still tweezering. He said he was in the bathtub filled with bleach. “Bleach! I’ve never heard of that for ticks,” I said.
“Well I don’t know if it works either,” he said. “But the bleach stings so bad and is making me so nauseated that I don’t hardly notice the ticks anymore.”
So long to my friend, I appreciate everything you taught me. We had some great times though I still haven’t tried a bleach bath for ticks.
Curt always closed his Hogshooter Philosopher column with the same two words, so in honor of him, I’ll close this column the same way: