So long to an old friend

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:

Stay Happy

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About walkereditor

I am a writer, editor and farmer living in Texas. I have two decades of experience as a daily newspaper editor and reporter. I've covered college football and basketball for CBS Sports, and worked at daily newspapers in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
This entry was posted in Cherokee, History, Oklahoma, Old West and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to So long to an old friend

  1. John Moloski says:

    Good Morning, I am a Civil War history buff researching the action on Drum Creek that you describe in you blog on this day. I am planning a trip there in a few weeks and I am writing you to ask if you can give me an approximate coordinate reference for the site that you found. I know it is on private property and I plan to pursue finding the owner and asking premission to visit the site. If you can give me a approximate location then I can contact the owner who I hope lives in the area. I am a Civil War re-enactor and a publisher of books on Missouri history and the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi. I recently located a story in the Montgomery County Chronicle whic called it the action on Rebel Creek. I thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide. John Moloski

  2. walkereditor says:

    John,
    I received your comment on the blog and I’ll tell you what I can.I’ll send you an email with some directions.
    I’ve done a good bit more research on this and I believe that there were actually two similar events that occurred in which the Osage destroyed Confederate troops. These incidents have been confused due to some shoddy work in one of the early history books on Kansas. One incident involved Osage overtaking a group of Confederate guerrillas, who they beheaded. This occurred at Rebel Creek or Drum Creek — the historical marker for this is just on the east side of Independence. if you look at the terrain, its pretty clear the second battle as described couldn’t have happened here — despite what the Kansans like to say. The first person accounts are pretty clear that these dead troops were burned by the Union troops that investigated.I guess that’s why no graves have ever been found at any of the supposed battle sites.
    I do have one friend who investigated this and believes its to the north of Coffeyville closer to Cherryvale — near the bloody Benders farm. Which if you are in the area you should visit as well.
    The second incident involved the Confederate officers — some were loaded down with gold, that records show they had withdrawn from a bank in St. Louis a week earlier. They apparently went south of Chetopa — which was a Union occupied town. They appeared to be heading for one of only two fords of the Verdigris River — either unoccupied Coody’s Bluff or near Gooseneck (which had been under Union patrol surveillance). These linked to the California and Morman Trails which were the only alternate roads west to the union’s Santa fe trail. Unknown to them, reports showed the Osage were marauding far to the south of their territory in northern Cherokee land — as far down as Claremore and Grove.
    The Confederate troops were overtaken probably near Blue Canyon — which you should also get permission and visit, along with the slave and outlaw hideouts in it — and chased across the prairie until they perished on a steep wooded hill going down to the Verdigris — there’s not a lot of hills in the area a horse couldn’t get down, this is one. Records show they were beheaded as well — but the bodies were buried not burned. They were buried in a semicircle on the hill.
    Curt and I followed the old trail from Chetopa toward Coody’s Bluff near the Verdigris, matching local legends, old trails and terrain with the half dozen accounts of the incident.We asked a lot of questions of people and came to one house, where the man had a collection of civil war era bullets he had found on his farm. We got permission to look around but the neighboring property was owned by someone out of town. We jumped the fence anyway and went over the hill and on the down slope above the river we found a half circle of what appeared to be depressions from graves with rocks on top. Very hard to get to — lots of snakes and rough ground. But even harder to see when leaves are on the ground.
    Let me know how it goes,
    Good luck

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