Monday, October 4, 2010

Fox Burns

Our friend, "Olmanriver", became interested in the early history of the Eel River by reading this blog. I seem to have kept him busy clearing up my mistakes and lack of knowledge. When I would make a statement like “Fox Burns was a survivor of the battle of Bloody Run”, he would check my facts. He found out that there are more “facts” out there than you can shake a stick at.

When people ask me what happened at a certain historical happening, I usually reply with “It all depends on who’s story that you want to believe. In most cases I've heard at least five different versions.” in the case of Fox Burns, I’ve heard at least twenty-five versions of his story.

I often used to get the old story tellers to tell their stories by telling them about somebody else’s version of what happened. They would usually start by saying something like “well that’s Frank’s (made-up name) version of the story’. That Frank is a damn liar, you can’t believe a word he says”. Then they would go about correcting Franks damn lies. It was better than television.

After my telling of a few Fox Burns tales on this blog, Olmanriver found this Obituary in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

I told Olmanriver that the obituary couldn't be right, they had fox much too old, and I thought that he was a survivor of the Battle of Bloody Run in Mendocino County. The Battle of bloody run happened in about 1861(?) The story goes that a marauding band of Modoc Indians came through Long Valley (Laytonville) some of the local Indians joined with them, they stole some horses, took them to Dos Rios, killed them, and were caught by the local whites butchering the horses. The whites killed most of the Indians except for a few that they took to the Covelo Indian reservation. The surviving Indian children were taken back to Laytonville and raised by the local people. My 3G grandfather Robert Poe being one of the whites to raise the orphans. He was also probably involved in the killing of the Indian People.

Olmanriver agreed that the obit probably had some flaws, and he started researching Fox. He found some interesting history that I had not heard before. So, now I'm up to about twenty eight stories that I've heard about Fox Burns. The story that is the consensus of all of the stories that I've heard, is that he was brought home in a gunny sack from the battle of bloody run at Dos Rios by Benjamin Burns. Burns gave fox to his wife to raise. The Burns raised and educated fox. That is my twice told tale of Fox Burns. That story fits all that I've heard.

 The following was transcribed intact from the original Willits News Article. [sic]'s included.
"WILLITS NEWS OCTOBER 19, 1977 By Rena Lynn

“…Like many Indians at that time, Fox took the last name of the family which raised him.
There were a number of different Burns families in those days, and not much is known about the one which raised Fox except that it was the same family that produced the sisters Sina and Bertha who married Marion Wilson.
In the very early days, when the land of Northern California were first being invaded and settled by the white men, there were frequent clashes with the Indians whose traditional hunting grounds were being cleared and fenced.
The troubles were particularly acute in Humboldt County where the burnings of cabins, stealing of horses and murdering of settlers resulted in retaliation by the whites with frequent raids on Indian villages. From time to time word would be sent down to Mendocino County that help was needed and several of the men would pack up and ride north to join the avenging parties.
It was on one of these raids up in Humboldt county that three Indian children were taken alive after their parents had been killed. Among the men on that raid were Andy Bowman, famous early day woodsman, Jonathon Wilson and Benjamin Burns, the father of the Burns girls.
The story that was later passed down in the Wilson family was that Andy Bowman brought back two baby girls, strapped into boxes on his horse, while Jonathon rough tack a six-month old baby boy strapped to his.
Once back home in Laytonville, it was decided that the Burns family would keep the boy. The named the child Fox and kept him until he was in his teens and on his own, although in later years Fox would frequently tell people that he had lived for ’45 years with the Burns and Wilson families.’
Bud Patton first saw Fox Burns when Bud was four years old and attended a rodeo at Rancho
Primero with his mother and grandfather Billy Wilson.
Fox became famed as a bareback rider and rodeo performer, but on that particular day Bud says he was just riding up and down the arena on his beautiful jet black horse and the word being whispered around among the spectators was ‘There’s Fox Burns!’ as though he were a great celebrity.
Which, evidently, he was. Everyone still alive who ever knew the man remembers him as an outstanding, unforgettable personality, admired and respected by both his Indian and adopted brothers.
Mark Walker knew Fox when Mark was a child and Fox was a young man working in the woods for Mark’s father.
‘He was one of the finest men I ever knew,’ Mark says today, ‘honest, hard working, a happy man, friendly to everyone.’
Mark also remembers seeing Fox perform bareback in a horse race in Cahto when Mark was a small, wide-eyed boy.
Donald and Lee Wilson both remember Fox as an old, but still friendly and happy man when they were children.
‘He was different from the other Indians,’ Lee Wilson remembers. ‘All the kids used to follow him around and beg for stories, and he always carried a bag of rock candy just for passing out to the children who trailed around after him.’
Unaccountably, Fox Burns murdered a man when he was in his 50’s and was sent to San Quentin. Mark is not sure of the complete story, except that Fox was working in the hopfields in Ukiah at the time.
In the evenings, the Indians would gather around the campfire to play their favorite gambling games and one evening a white boy made the mistake of trying to break into the game.
A scuffle followed and something considered unforgivable by the Indian was shouted at him by the white boy. Fox, who had never been known to harm anyone up to that time, pulled out a pistol and shot the boy between the eyes.
He was sentenced to three years, but after serving only one was paroled to work on the road gang building Highway 101 north of Laytonville.
Mark also worked on that road gang and he and Fox renewed their old friendship and spend many free hours hunting and tracking in the wooded hills.
‘He always called me “Boy”’ Mark recounts, ‘and when the nights began to grow cool, he said ‘Boy, it’s going to be a hard winter—I’m going home.’
According the Mark, “home” was San Quentin which the old man had come to consider a good, warm place to be.
When he was finally released, he came back to live in the Reservation at Laytonville” END OF PART 1

In the last years of his life, Fox Burns lived in the Laytonville Rancheria.
Bud Patton recalls a visit he made to the old man when he was in his 80’s and was laid up with a broken leg sustained when he jumped out of a moving truck to open a pasture gate.
Bud says he was still a striking looking man with jet black hair and all his own teeth, and with a mind still sharp and clear, full of memories of the early days of the founding Cahto and Laytonville.
‘We must have talked for over three hours that day,’ Bud recalls, ‘while he rambled on about his childhood, his early years working in the woods, how good the Wilsons and Burns had been to him and how much he had always especially admired Billy Wilson, and how he missed the days of the old time rodeos at Rancho Primero. How I wish now that I had taken notes of everything he said!’
Mark Walker also remembers the later years of the famous old Indian.
‘Nearly every time I’d go into Laytonville for something, I’d run into Fox and he always wanted to stop and talk over old times. He’d usually end up by asking me to drive him home, which I always did, except for one time.’
On that day, Mark says, he was in a hurry, on his way to meet someone somewhere, when Fox stopped him and said ‘Boy, I’m not feeling very good. How about a ride home?’
Mark explained he didn’t have the time right then, and Fox good naturedly said, ‘OK, Boy. You come see me soon.’
The next time Mark came to town, it was to learn that Fox had died only a day or two following their last meeting.”

The following mug shot is from Fox Burns' trip though the prison system.
The following is transcibed by Olmanriver as faithfully as can be done. All of the periods and capital letters, the misspellings, and other mistakes are the way that it was written. The transcript was supposedly penned by Fox Burns himself. There is no solid evidence one way or the other about the authenticity of the handwriting. It is very possibly Foxes handwriting. Remember, the Burns family sent Fox to school. 

Foxes own story: 
Start: 9:45 A.M. June.21.
Fox Burns.- full blooded Indian of Trinity County-but came to Laytonville when 1 ½ years old-parents were killed by soldiers in Trinity Co. Lived with Kai-poma family at Laytonville since. 1862.
(handwriting changes)
"Race Burn tuck me to his Farther and Sad and toll his Farther that he Brought this BaBy for his Farther. From Trinity Co. to Laytonville and the first town was Kato. and now its colld Laytonville and this town was Mane after Water. Manes of Warter. By two Langgs. one is mane as Ka and the northern's colld .To and the Indians lived South of Kato is maned the CalloPoma and now the White Peoples collds them the Sherwood Indians. and I Ben with the Race Burns family for .18.-years. How I came to Be with Race Burns family. Race Burns tuck me When the Soldiers come and Killed My Morther and Farther. this was in the year of .1860. this hapins in Trinity Co. and I was raised By the Burns family. and When I was a Boy I work for them for my colse (clothes) and my Bord fed Hogs and milk Cows and took care of all of them things for them. and I get wipping ever day for .3. years By the Burns family. I have that coming to me for being I was So Mini and I stade with Burns family for .18. years and then I went out and work for My Self from there on. The frist Place I went to work after I left the Burns family was. Divil Best on a Pack trune with the orther Indians. And this Pack trunes gos from Shellder Cove to Noyo. up and down coast. And there was no town in Fort Braggs them days. Just a Soldiers home them days. What they called the train them days they have mules, 20 mules.and three mans to ever 20 mules, and one to Call the Bill Boy. and he Help Pack also. and also the mules gos 12 miles per days.and they also have a stop in Place. Any Place on the Rode. And the way they have it is this way. they have a post one each side of the Rode and they have a Rope across the Rode So When the frost mule comes there that he’ll haft to stop there and also the next ones also.and this is their relly Stopping Place.and When they all got there they take off all the lodes from the Mules and Stop there over Nights or over day. Just as they go 12, or. 10 miles a day that’s all they go.and the Bill Boy he do the coocking for this to mans. And this to orther mans they do the Packing.and they never feed them mules Koun Hay them days. We Just let the mules eat grass or any think that they can eat. Or. When they havint got much lode We have .3. .4. Sack of gran for the mules. To feed. The mules.this mules don’t get this feed every day. Koun.once in a week. or once a months is the Best We can do them days.this Mules Pack lodes Just like the turcks and Trains now days. And there was Koun Mailes to Be Packt them days and them days We work.for$1.00 a day and work every day. END.12.45.AM
Start at.1.30.P.M. and We never had Koun Relief them day like it on the work work Sundays and all never Koun Sundays them days. I have Ben on the Job 2 years. And Friend of Mine. Tom Bell was still on the Job when I left. Tom Bell and I was working on the Same Job.he was Still there When I went away and left.the Job on the Pack trains. I didint like the Pack trains and I work there.So long I didn’t work on it Koun Man So I lefts and I went and work on dairy Ranch at Bar Harber and I Milk Cows and Ranck work all the work to Be taking care off I was there to do it and also Making Butter also. We had 60 cous to milk. I had to Milk .20. Cous MySelfs and the others had to Milk .40. Cous also this Ranch was on the Coast.15.-Miles down Below SHELLdEr COVE .this Ranck is.the Boss. Name is Mr. Matta Chiqer Kaiser Ranch and I was on this Ranch .3. years and My Pay was $ 100 a day that was the Best Pay that We can get them do and lot off us Indians work for northing Just for and food. and ever thing was good them days. themn days We can By Sack of flour for .90. oo Sack all the things was cheep them times. And the the close was cheep them days.and all this Places I work I Borde there all the times I work.and I never was married them days But I had a girl Friend that’s all.and this is this Ranch wor I rode Wild Mules for .3. years. Broking for riding mules. and there 3 off us Indians and one white he was the Bosss.his Name was the Bosss.and We had all the eats that we went and When we work. We work.and We went hard and we never had Koun limint to your working times We Never had Koun times to work work from Sun to Sun every day Just think Just for $.100. ($1) a day.and Now days the Peoples work just right up to the moment When they work Now days. And all the Places that I work I was well liking By the People. Around the Whit Peoples and also the Indians What little Indians there was. Now from here on I Can Say this much about the Indians there wasint very much Indian. Them days around up Shellder Cover. Three or four here and there in Places.and When I work on this Ranch I was one off the Cow Boy on the Ranch and anything in line of Cow Boys work to Be done I was there to do it for the Ranch. Riding them Wild Mules all day.long and I have done lot off roping Cows and Wy ell Mules this is My work that I do all the time.)END .4.45. P.M.

Some notes in closing:
I owe a huge dept of gratitude to Olmanriver. His research has been valuable, but as always, no matter what historical stories I hear, I carry a great amount of skepticism. I have found that no matter what, there always seems to be flaws in personal historical accounts. I don’t say this to be critical of Olmanriver’s research. Everything that is printed here is as factual as he could pass it on. His research was immaculate, but the historical accounts that he found are flawed.
Olmanriver pointed out some of the following suspicions that he himself has. The raid on the Bowman Place at Camp Grant on the main Eel river is the raid that they are talking about. That raid supposedly caused the retaliation on the Indians in Humboldt county. That Indian raid on the Bowman's happened on March 25th 1869 (March 25th is my birthday!) Andy Bowman was 10 years old in 1869. Fox was a baby in 1862. By very crude calculations based on supposed fact, would make Andy Bowman about six or seven years old!

Many legends have Andy Bowman as tough as nails mountain man, but killing Indians at six years old and bringing two Indian baby girls strapped to his saddle is unusual. Many stories passed down through the generations get mixed together, and many mistakes are made. I’m guilty of it myself, stories get confused. I’m also very sure that truth can also be found in these old stories.

Fox Burns own story doesn’t make sense to me, first I question if it was really his handwriting. It could be, but it is not verified. I think that he is truly a survivor of the battle of Bloody Run. He could have very well been told the wrong story about himself. He was too young to really know. Most ALL of the Long Valley legends have him as a survivor of bloody run. For some strange reason I want to believe the things that I was told, growing up with these stories. So who do you believe? This is the most talked about Indian man in all of Laytonville’s history. It would seem that somebody would have all of the facts, wouldn’t it. So far I’m up to about twenty-eight versions of “The Life and Times of Fox Burns.” 

History by "Olmanriver"
Bullshistory by Ernie Branscomb


olmanriver said...

sigh... the 1910 13th Census of the United States, Indian population, Long Valley Townships, 5-12-10 has a Jay (Fox) Burns, 50 years old, lists his tribe as Wailaki, and his, and both parents, place of birth at Hettenshaw Valley.

ps. the interview was from 1925 when Fox was 65 years old.

What I love about your blog Ernie, is that people get to hear all the stories here.

Johnathan Wilson said...

One time when my dad had me sit down with my great uncle lee when i was 5 or 6 he told me about chasing around Fox burns as a kid. He told me that all the kids would race each other to be the first ones up to him to get rock candy. However he told me that Fox burns saw one of the kids purposely tip and shove another kid. Lee said that fox grabbed him by the hair and dragged the boy home, he also said that kid never participated in their races and didn't get anymore candy.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I am glad that you came by to read this. I hope that you don't mind that I have dragged your family into this story, but I like the old stories, if they were told without flaws they could never be told.
Olmanriver is the perfect person to research the old family stories, he doesn't have a dog in the fight, so to speak. I already let my cat out of the bag. I favor MY families old stories , as I'm sure you favor your family stories.
Most likely we will never know the real story for sure.

Did the census say any more about his parents? Dead? Alive? The census kinda’ goes along with the Trinity County story.

I would imagine that Johnathan, like me, grew up hearing the old family stories, and now wishes that he had paid more attention. I never gave history a second thought when I was a kid, because if I had a question, I always had somebody to ask. In most cases some of my family was in the story.

Ernie Branscomb said...

It does make me wonder where the Ukiah Daily Journal got that Obit story though.

olmanriver said...

Yeah, really, Ernie. Though I have seen some newspaper accounts that were way wide of the truth.

Great story Jonathan, so good to have your voice here.

Ernie, the 1910 census has Jay Burns, head of the household with wife Mary (50) and daughter Vicki (17). The place of birth for both his parents is Hettenshaw, Trinity County. Under Tribe for all three it is Wailaki. (His wife was Kaipoma). Confirming what you said about the Burns educating him, he said he could read and write. His occupation at this time was woodchopper. He actually shows up in a few censuses, the first I have seen is 1900, in the 1920's in the Indian censuses he first starts to give his date of birth as 1861.

Wouldn't it be great to have Bud Bowman's take, or a Burns family version.

I have some details of the fight in which Fox's mother was killed by the military as told by a descendant of Gil Ray (son of Bill Ray), but I need to go over the story again to feel comfortable sharing I expect this topic will continue to be revisited.

dramabrat15 said...

I have to agree that if family stories wern't told flawed they weren't told at all. I know when my grandparents would start telling a story the other would always interject with "no no it was really..." and when you put all of the pieces together you, most of the time, have a majority of truths. I think that as people get older the stories told to them when they were younger mean so much more to them and it's a shame that so few of us really paid attention when we had the chance.

Anonymous said...

Eric Vang Kirk should have paid attention to his law professors back in college. He engaged in anti-democratic activities in his attempt to silence a candidate in the 2008 election for the second district supervisorship. He wrote letters as a lawyer, campaigned, and attempted to influence constitutional officers of the state of California to do his dirty work. It was the Madame Secretary of State of the State of California who shot down his legal opinion. Erik Vang Kirk was caught with his pants down, attempting to subvert Democracy. Shame on Eric Vang Kirk.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Anonymous.
Eric Vang Kirk is a cool name. I've never heard the name "Vang" before. It must be nice to have such great sounding names. "Anonymous" is just SO common. It must suck for you, nobody ever knowing who you are an such.

No kidding! Eric got the attention of the Secretary of the State of California? I understand that Eric's candidate got elected. The lady that I backed did real well, but she didn't quite make it. Maybe if I had produced more enthusiasm it would have been different. Oh well, we played fairly. Maybe if we had run her "anonymously" we would have gained more respect.

Johnathan Wilson said...

I am glad that you came by to read this. I hope that you don't mind that I have dragged your family into this story, but I like the old stories, if they were told without flaws they could never be told."

By all means use any story you find, my dad knows alot of the stories but not all of them and he never wrote them on paper or anything and im afraid he has forgotten some of them.

Anonymous said...

Erik Vang Kirk attempted to capitalize upon the death of a sitting Supervisor of Humboldt County in order to subvert the will of the people. He campaigned to keep Johanna Rodoni off of the ballot. It was a major mistake, and an even larger lapse in his judgment. However, since he is of Viking descent, and thus equally craven, it can be understood that he is simply a man-animal. Incapable of rationalized thought. Incapable of feelings. Only capable of destruction and anti-democratic activism.

Mr. Nice said...

Dude's story about his people slaughtered and Burns stole him to whip him into a slave on some ranch is cool I guess.

I trip on the $1 back in those days how that $1 was worth way more when he was telling the story than back in the day he was talking about working for it. If he only had all those dollars when he was talking them. Post wildcat banking. late-1800s dollars were strong. Could have bought more gear like Al Capone for a dollar.

Ben said...

Ernie... I'll bet you are thinking about the benefits of Wordpress. This clod could never post on Eric's blog. He'd be blocked.

suzy blah blah said...

I wonder why he only got three years and then got out in only one? It seems to me that they should've put the scumbag away for good.

Ernie Branscomb said...

“This clod could never post on Eric's blog. He'd be blocked.”

Well Ben, I can delete anything on this blog, and I do, when it gets out of hand. They say "all's fair in love and war, but nothing's fair in politics." I'm sure that Anon is not hurting Eric, or I would simply delete it. People always seem to take the side of the underdog, and I like that. It give this blog's readers a chance to see how fairness works. Thank you for defending Eric.

“they should've put the scumbag away for good.”

That is an oft' asked question. I can only answer from the family legends. Bear in mind that things were a lot different back then than they are now. Also bear in mind that Foxes parents were killed by whites.

Apparently he wasn’t even charged with murder, just manslaughter. We no nothing of the circumstance of the killing, and the story that “he whipped out his gun and shot the kid between the eyes” may just be a highly exaggerated story line. I don’t know, but I suspect it was.

The other thing that maybe you read, he was the town hero, and admired far and wide by both Indian and white. His sentence was reduced because of public outcry. (I know that sounds ridiculous, but I’m repeating the legend here) My very own Grandmother Ruby Branscomb knew Fox well, and spoke often of him when I was a child. He only died shortly before I was born, so many people knew and remembered him, and I heard many admiring stories of him as I grew up.

He apparently encouraged the Indian children to preserve the “Indian Way”. He always had candy for the kids, much like my very own Grampa Bill Rathjens. I'm pretty sure he was not thought of as a “scumbag’. I try not to judge, because there is so much that I don’t know. The more I learn about the history of the Eel canyon the more I realize that the stories have become legend and can no longer be thought of as “truth”, but there is nothing that I would rather do than hear a story about the good old days.

suzy blah blah said...

Ernie, Lighten up, I didn't say it as a fact, obviously it's just my blog opinion, not necessarily "truth". I thought that was understood. But I think you'd have to agree that what we sometimes call scumbags can also be thought of by some as heroes.

Anonymous said...

OMR, you said get a family members version. I went to school with a Burn's at SFHS. He is my age and lived in Zenia.


Anonymous said...

I take it back. His name is Byrne.


Ernie Branscomb said...

I thought that you were being somewhere between "tongue in cheek" to “cheeky“, but it made realize that maybe I hadn't emphasized that Burns was probably more innocent than guilty.

Actually I was being "light". It's just that I type meaner than I am in real life. Most of the time I have a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye, then I run out of beer.

olmanriver said...

Thanks Oregon, I am corresponding with a descendent at the rancheria, but the oldest history is pretty much news to them. They loved these stories though.
Ernie and I are having a backstage chat, comparing the smell, texture, and odeur of bullshistory vs. horse apples... it is fun to have discussions without much of the middle syllable of that word involved.

As the locals know, it was Andy Bowman who knew the trail through the Rattlesnake Creek area that allowed the roadbuilders to put that stretch in. Fox helped him bring in supplies to the roadbuilders by packtrain while he was on parole.

As someone here said, it is good to get all the versions of a story out and sort it out later. Here we presented two more accounts, one a rare and hard to find interview with Fox himself.

For some reason I was interested in his account of the mule packtrains going 10-12 miles a day up and down the coast. And that he had worked with Tom Bell, who had a reputation as a fine woodsman in the Westport area, before he was with Sally Bell at Four Corners. No one ever writes about the importance of mules and packers.
Gabby used to say there was nothing like a good jenny.

Anonymous said...

I knew a guy that used to cut tan bark for a living. They would cut the trees just enough to get them to fall downhill and stay attached to the stump so as not to have the tree slide down the hillside. They then peeled the bark and loaded it on mules.


suzy blah blah said...

I was pointing out the difference between the truth and the legend. The many times repeated stories embellished and handed down by half illiterate people with dim memories enhanced by dreams of storybook heroes and such swirling in their heads are, to me, not as reliable as a sober minded newspaper report of a factual happening, to say the least. I'm not saying that one can believe everything one reads in the paper though either. But nonetheless, what stands out is this pretty picture painted by folks who have rose tinted glasses and foggy minds --a nice hard working man who gave candy to children and all that kinda jive etc., being contradicted by the newspaper report that stated that he shot a man between the eyes at a gambling scene. Hello? What sort of person does that? Manslaughter my butt, it sounds a lot more like cold blooded murder to me. Shooting someone between the eyes for merely calling them a name? I see a deep seated hatred. That he got off with only doing one of three years is what I, and as you pointed out many others too, question, and see the injustice of. It seems awfully suspicious.

Looks to me like another case of a shady and sleazy guy who had some kinda influence on the court system and prisons, probably through the bribes of a corrupt family/extended family. Not to throw cold water on a passionately believed myth, but that's my take on him. But then, the making out of some jerk like that out to be a hero is what history is made of. A shame.

Robin Shelley said...

We're writing a dime novel here!

olmanriver said...

Next time I am at the Mendocino Historical society I will look up the trial details, as they have a microfilm reader and I can access the local papers.
For an Indian to have slain a white man in the early 1900's, and gotten such a relatively light charge, and even lighter sentence, suggests to me that the facts of the case were obvious. I have heard other details, but I would rather get the written court/newpaper account and cite from that...down the road.

Anonymous said...

Fox Burns was no scumbag!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Anon, I agree.

suzy blah blah said...

Burns was no scumbag

That's a real nice opinion to believe in. About as sound as the one that claims that there's a man in the sky with a white beard who watches over you. A countless number of good people swear that it's true, they heard it from their families and the wise elders of their community, you know, it gives them comfort to think of things that way.

olmanriver said...

My intention here was to make accessible two new accounts of a popular Long Valley/Cahto man. I knew that he was highly regarded by most, respected and cared for. I never thought of him as a hero before but now I do. When you consider the emotional scarring of that kind of upbringing, it is by my new definition, heroic not to be insidiously mean. Perhaps there is a less acknowledged kind of heroism in overcoming childhood tragedy, cruel treatment, and a lifetime spent as an Indian in a white society. To not pass on how you are, or were, treated is a large effort. It is clear to me from all of the accounts that I have read of his life that he was a man of good character. You can kill and still be a good man. In my opinion the minimal length of the sentence is more telling of the nature of the crime as judged by an all white jury, than any contemporary opinion. seguing on....

Today I met a hero, a REAL hero.
I don't know if I have ever met a hero, but today I most certainly did. I was at my highspeed cultural listening post in town when a burly fellow with a sleeveless t-shirt and tats down his arms came in. I did a double take on a cute little Yorkshire terrier cuddled comfortably in his arms, but I was on the clock and turned back to my computer screen. As I was paying for my time at the counter, I noticed the little dog run around the corner of, with his rear legs in a two wheel chariot.

This adorable and cheerful little guy was named Smeagle, or Smeagle-dog. He had his back broken three years ago saving the man's three year old grand-daughter from three pit bulls who had attacked her. Smeagle, at 5lbs, raced into the fray and attacked a 70lb pit bull causing the pit bulls to take their attention from the little girl and toss Smeagle about like a ragdoll, damaging his spine. He nearly died from loss of blood.

His person said that he is known up and down the coast, and he hopes to get a facebook page up for him soon. Talk about bringing you to your heart! I thanked him for making my day.

I had to go next door to tell a friend and we returned to Emerald Tech. Smeagle, unencumbered by his carriage, dragged himself on his forelegs over to see us. We both left with tears in our eyes.

Today I met a hero, the sweetest little cheerful hero.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks OMR, for the tribute to Fox Burns.

Throughout this blog, I have treated the story of conflict between the Indian people and the white people of the early white settlement period matter-of-factly. I have often stated that most people did what they needed to do to survive. They didn’t want to show any vulnerability. Any weakness would get the attention of the thugs that ran things back then. That period went away after the 1870’s when people determined that they needed law and order, and they needed to learn to live together. Or, at least head toward peaceful coexistence. One of the stories that I have gotten personally caught-up in is the Fox Burns story.

The pony soldier left for the civil war, and the Indians and whites were left to fend for themselves. The starving Indians did what they had to do to survive. Many of whites felt that the only way that they could get protection against the Indian raids was to wipe them out. Many of the settlers did what they could to help the Indians. In the case of the Indians in the Laytonville area, (“Laytonville” is used for clarity of area, it was called Cahto, or Long Valley earlier) two people, Simpson and White, set up a Rancheria and allowed the Indians to live on it. In exchange the Indians were hired to work for Simpson and White.

During the extermination period of the early 1860’s the Indians were driven into the Long Valley of the Laytonville area, the Indians felt safer there because they had always been friendly with the Long Valley ranchers. A band of Modoc Indians joined the Laytonville Indians. They took some horses and butchered them. The ranchers hunted the Indians down and killed most of them. The rest were taken to the reservation in Covelo.

Some of the Indian babies were taken home to be raised by the whites. At least two of the Indian babies were adopted by my 3G Grandparents, the Robert Poe’s. One of the babies was adopted by Mr. Burns and his wife. There is conflicting stories about the origin of Fox Burns, in fact many conflicting stories. Including Fox Burns own account of where he came from. The only thing universally accepted, is that his parents were killed by whites and he was adopted by the Burns. That is the only truth that Laytonvillians will accept.

Fox Burns was a Laytonville Hero. You don’t get to be a “Hero” in Laytonville in that time period unless you were somebody very special. The fact that fox worked hard to be the man that he was is self evident. He was a rodeo rider and horse racer of excellent status. He always had the time to talk to people. He taught the Indian people, and especially the kids, that being an Indian and remembering the “Indian Way” was important. That was during a time period when “Indian ways” were being whipped out of the Indian people.

To me, Fox is a local legend. My grandmother knew and liked him. She took food and firewood to him in his elder years. He told her that he was going to die before the last pile of wood that she took him was gone. She always wondered how he knew that he was going to die. Sure enough, when the wood was gone he died. My grandmother would always get a far away look in her eyes when she told that story.

So, the story has it that he killed a man. I don’t know what to tell you about that, but apparently his sentence was reduced because of public outcry. That’s another story that smacks of far-fetchedness. But, that’s the way the legend goes. I’ll just stick to it until I find out different.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Also OMR,

Thanks for the “real hero” dog story. At least now you know what a real hero does, and why he deserves to be called a hero.

Fire-fighters are often called heroes, but most often people confuse gratefulness for something else, and call a firefighter that has just extinguished their home fire a “Hero”. Somebody that is well trained for a job and is at little or no risk is NOT a hero. There are heroes amongst fire-fighters though. The firefighters that entered the World Trade Center in New York on 9-11 ‘01 were true heroes in every sense of the word. Now that you’ve seen what a “Hero” does and what he looks like, you will be more careful when attributing the “hero” classification. As I’ve said many times, “I never want to know if I’m a hero”.

olmanriver said...

That is the only truth that Laytonvillians will accept...

You speak for your own belief system here, not Laytonville, Ernie.
You may keep your beliefs, and ignore the scientific method, that is your choice.
You have inferred that maybe the family that raised him didn't tell him his origin story right. By the time he was fifty no bullshistorian had set him straight, and he claimed to be a Wailaki from Hettenshaw.. Even by the age of 65 he still thought he was from Hettenshaw, and you choose to deny the hero's own story. Here are two written records preceding the stories you heard growing up some 90+ after the fact. These accounts precede your lifetime by decades.
Neither Indian version that I have heard has him as a Modoc from the Bloody Run incident.
As content as you are to believe your old stories, and they are interesting, for me they are nothing more than that telephone game where you start a story around a circle and watch it distort as it goes around.
The search for the historical Fox Burns goes on, despite resistance from the true believers.
Respectfully, over and out.

Ernie Branscomb said...


Jeeze OMR, put it in context.
"The only thing universally accepted, is that his parents were killed by whites and he was adopted by the Burns. That is the only truth that Laytonvillians will accept.

Fox Burns could well have been from Hettenshaw and still have been from the Bloody Run Massacre. The fact remains that he looked nothing like the local Indian people. (Part of the legend)

suzy blah blah said...

Omr, that's a very interesting "legend" you've passed on about Smeagle the Dog ... It seems that without any proof whatsoever you just believed the owner. That's real careful research Sherlock. But, to a well versed mythology aficionado, it appears upon a more refined scrutiny that this adorable and sentimental little tearjerker story that you are so enamored of is just one more variation of an old con trick used up and down the west coast for more than a hundred years. It started back in the late 19th century by a short change artist named Blackie Jones, a person of questionable morals to say the least who had already gained a reputation for stealing people's bar change. He was from the east coast, and he brought the swindle west with him from New York City where he'd invented it after reading the dime detective novel "Three Dog Night" while spending a season in a jail cell for falsifying identification certificates. To pass the time, he read the fictional account of how a little Yorkshire Terrior saved a small girl by defending her from three mean dogs one night. In no time it became a well known way for scumbags like him to bilk innocent citizens out of their life's savings by getting them to believe in poor little "Smeagle", or whomever's story, who incidentally it turns out needs an operation --and some donations from gullible believers would be welcome.

ps as a side note, the psychedelic bad boy band Three Dog Night who started the music revolution in California back in the 60s took its name from the con trick and also from the dime novel from which it originated.

pss there are some gruesome details of certain histories which we dedicated bearers of culture's script are mandated by a higher power to keep to ourselves. Like how poor little Speagle's back really was broken.

psss everyone out there be careful, there's a lot of scams similar to this one that involve false legends and stolen identities. They are flooding internet forums such as Facebook, etc. The line between virtual identity and real eventuality is blurring, and this is especially evident in this perspective which shines a light into the darkness of decadent life imitating heroic art.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting reading and commenting. Thanks everyone... I've been out for a while....busy, busy

In my interview with Lee Wilson about 5 years ago, Lee said that Fox Burns was sent to San Quentin for killing a man, but that it was really in self defense. That Fox was released to work on the highway was not uncommon. In reading many of the old stories you will find information about the cons working on the highway/railroads.

OMR - It's a "YES" on Bud Bowman. I spoke with Bud 3 weeks ago and reminded him of his promise to tell me the real story about Fox!!!! Bud politely told me a couple of years ago that the story in the Elder Book was incorrect. He is the grand keeper of a lot of history... and has agreed to lunch with us and another friend or two. Get your questions in order, lol. This one is HUGE!!!


Anonymous said...

Welcome old, old old timer family member, Johnathan Wilson.

Your Uncle or great uncle Lee
Wilson shared a lot of information about your family's arrival to Long Valley, when they first settled here, and their encounters with the Indians in Covelo...; such a great story teller he was... Lee told me that he knew the location of at least 6 petroglyphics in this area. He mentioned that some of the locations were documented while working for CDF, but others he already knew about. Lee and I never took the ride to see them while he was still residing here, but he was a strong advocate for their preservation; said they needed to stay hidden so people wouldn't disface them.

Lee's dad and my grandfather were in the military together and forever, great friends.


olmanriver said...

Thanks for showing up cousin! I'll give you a call very soon. After overgruffing on Ernie, this saves the day.
Another version coming, Ernie, you are going to be up to up to thirty soon.

I had a great time today revisiting the Through the Eyes of the Elder series and I noticed how many fine Indian pictures had been donated by the Wilson family.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Well if you get an interview from Bud Bowman I'm prepared to believe anything he says. So, that will be the end of it, no more quibbling. Then we can just eat pie without getting into a pie fight.

Cranky ol' pie eater said...

Sounds great to me!
Never thought to bring whipped cream to our pie feasts, hmmm.

I would like to add a few Indian versions for your collection though, an' I won't blargue.

Johnathan Wilson said...

Have any of you been to the homestead that Bud Bowman grew up on? Tim the spyrock school teacher took me and my dad there and showed us around, the next time we went and talked to bud about it we took him a basket of apples from the apple trees there and we got alot of stories from his childhood there. Just a thought for questions for your interview with him

olmanriver said...

Thanks Jonathan... I am preparing history articles and interviews, and smoked salmon, may have to take time to pick apples.
Think he would have known Nona James, Ernie...or is that a silly question?

olmanriver said...

I didn't read that right the first time Jonathan. I will mention the apple orchards and homestead to him. Good tip.

Anonymous said...

Disface - deface!! oooops.

Ernie Branscomb said...

It's likely that Bud Bowman knew Harry and Nona James. I'm not sure, because I didn't know Bud all that well. I left Laytonville in 1955 and I only ran into Bud at places like the Rodeos and Old-Timer games. When I was a little kid, Bud and his wife Katherine looked like they stepped out of a Hollywood movie. Katherine was a tall beautiful blond lady, and bud was a very clean cut cowboy. When I was a kid I always thought that they were the most handsome couple in Laytonville. You may tell him that I said so if it fits in.

I really doubt that he even knows who I am, but he knew my family well. If you should mention me, just tell him that I am Everett and Elsie’s son, Ruby Branscomb’s Grandson. If Penny is there she can make all of the connections. My mother told me that Katherine was a Shanahan, and she thinks that they came to Laytonville @1930’s. Mom rattled off all of the Bowman bothers and sisters. And all the Shanahan brothers and sisters. (Like I would remember all of that)

Bud was a Government hunter for a while, so you can ask him about bears, and mountain lions, and Coyotes. You might ask him how many predators were around when he was keeping them thinned out. Dogs were a big part of the Old-Timers life. You might ask him about if he ever had a special dog that he liked above all others. Or a horse.

Ask him about “Coyote Gitters”, they were cyanide bombs that were baited with meat, they killed any meat eating animal. A lot of the people in the Laytonville area were sheep ranchers, and you can’t raise sheep with predators around.

I new Mervin Pinches a little bit. I knew Sulley Pinches fairly well, and could talk to him for hours. His son and Daughter are June (Pinches) Sizemore. And his son is Supervisor Johnny Pinches. Sulley, Mervin, and Bud Bowman were all contemporaries.

And of course, Bud is the son of Andy Bowman, one of the survivors of the Camp Grand Indian raid, along with his mother and siblings on March 25th 1869. Andy also helped Pioneer highway 101 through Cummings. Buds mother was a Pinches. But you may know more about Andy than I do.

You are walking amongst my Gods now, tread carefully, and let them steer the conversation the direction that they want it to go. You will get better stories. The things that I mentioned are just door openers. A “good listener” knows how to keep things going in the direction that The old-timer wants to go.

I am sooo envious of you and Penny.
Soooo, soooo, sooo.

Don’t blow it or no more pie…………..

Robin Shelly can give you some great tips if she is out there somewhere.

olmanriver said...

That was a helpful intro Ernie, having planned this for some time and waited patiently for this meetings unfoldment, I have an overload of questions, and hope that he is open to future conversations to get around to them all. This is an introduction dinner with a few other folks, and we will go from there.

All this toodoo must amuse spyrock some as he told me some time ago that I could just call him up and talk to him, as he had,.. but I really wanted to meet him through a local, and Penny initiated the whole idea, as I recall it.

Some uppity newcomers have all the luck.

Johnathan Wilson said...

Oh, also from hearsay i heard his dad killed the last recorded grizzly in Mendocino co. Also see if you can fit in his dad's outlaw hunts. Theres a book called "Badge and Buckshot" Theres a story of Andy being hired by law enforcement to track a convict for them.

spyrock said...

hey river, i don't know what bud is like in person but on the phone he is the real deal. everything he said was pure. don't know if you know what that means. same with mervin pinches and my great aunt ruth simmerly who you can contact at her rest home by phone in medford oregon through her grand daughter nancy farran. ruth's memory as is bud's is incredible for 90 year olds. just let ruth or nancy know that you are a friend of mine and interested in the old history. i was asking bud about spyrock and the simmerlys but if you get a chance ask him if he knew about john and elizabeth kauble back in cahto and if he knows how john died. john kauble died in 1872 and was constable of long valley before that as you know. trust me, i know what you are in for. my dad was 98 and knew all the history and all the stories until the day he died. hope it the interview goes well.

spyrock said...

hey river, i don't know what bud is like in person but on the phone he is the real deal. everything he said was pure. don't know if you know what that means. same with mervin pinches and my great aunt ruth simmerly who you can contact at her rest home by phone in medford oregon through her grand daughter nancy farran. ruth's memory as is bud's is incredible for 90 year olds. just let ruth or nancy know that you are a friend of mine and interested in the old history. i was asking bud about spyrock and the simmerlys but if you get a chance ask him if he knew about john and elizabeth kauble back in cahto and if he knows how john died. john kauble died in 1872 and was constable of long valley before that as you know. trust me, i know what you are in for. my dad was 98 and knew all the history and all the stories until the day he died. hope it the interview goes well.

Krystal Peinado said...

I haven't had a chance to completely read thru all of this but Fox Burns is the Father to my Great Grandmother Vicki Burns really interested in and plan on showing my Mom this info I came across.

Zara Raab said...

I see that the post about Fox Burns is a few years old, but I would still like to add that I recently came across a reference to Fox Burns
in notes I had taken about 10 years ago while interviewing my uncle, John Branscomb, about the old days in Branscomb.
My uncle remembered Fox coming to the Branscomb homestead in May of the year to shear the sheep--as many as a hundred--with hand shears when he (Uncle John) was a youngster. (He was born about 1925 o5 '26, I believe.) My uncle described how Fox rolled up the greasy wool and tied a paper string (?) around it and then suspended it from a wooden frame with a pipe around the top. My Uncle Clarence, who would have been about 10 years old, was in charge of compacting the wool by stomping it down. My notes are a bit garbled now, but it seems
my uncle thought of Fox as "a good horseback-riding fool" and that as a boy he longed to ride one of the string of horses Fox invariably had with
him. My uncle is still with us--living in Cloverdale.

Thank you for providing this wonderful account of an historic figure of the old north counties.

All best,
Zara Raab