A Gathering at Oak Creek, a novel, is a portrayal of four very different people; a depiction of how they come together and how they and their ancestors are and were molded by the land and by the times in which they live. The story, which begins over one hundred and fifty years before, takes place – mainly –in the area that will become Texas. Scot-Irish, Mexican, German, Tonkawa, Irish and Comanche all have ancestral parts in the saga while the roles of African-American, Apache, English and Kiowa are essential to the story. This is an adventure tale, a seminar on ranching and ecology, a love story, and a history lesson spiced with mystery, tragedy and comedy. The story is fiction but the people and events portrayed are modeled after real life. The Scot-Irish made the journey from grinding poverty in Scotland to poverty plus religious strife in Northern Ireland to a sometimes harsh but free and independent life in America. The German settlers moved to what was at first Tejas and later Texas as family units; where the Scot-Irish and Anglo-Saxons tended to “chase the rainbow” the Germans brought civilization and stability where ever they settled. The people of northern Mexico suffered terribly for many years from the actions of predatory Comanche and Apache; it was common for Mexican and Caucasian children – especially boys – to be adopted into the tribes and live out their lives as tribesmen. The Tonkawa people were treated particularly harsh by history; at various times, they were massacred by Apache, Comanche, white settlers – with whom they had long been friends and allies – and, when they were moved to Indian Territory, by consortiums of supposedly “tame” Indians. After the War Between the States, the disarming of the people of Texas by the Reconstructionist government did happen and Texans of all kinds suffered from Indian depredation because of it. The freed slaves of the 10th United States Cavalry with their campaigns against the Comanche and later against Victorio and his renegade Apaches gave lie to the belief, common at the time that black men could not fight. The area of Texas where Oak Creek Ranch is located was some of the last land in the United States to be opened to civilization; for many years “Comancheria” – the land of the Comanche – was cut off completely from the rest of the world. No one ventured into the area without the permission of the Comanche. This continued until the buffalo herds were exterminated and the Comanche and their Kiowa allies were starved into submission. Quanah Parker brought the last of the free Comanche in to the Fort Sill Reservation in 1875 and the Comanche wars were finally over. The end of Indian hostilities ushered in a new era of settlement across the area; first by free range cattlemen pushing in from all four directions and later by farmers and small ranchers. Mac and Windy – who are featured in the story – were among the last of the free living cowboys who played such an important role in the early day ranching industry. The ranching business underwent great change from its’ early days until the 1990’s; it became much more industrialized – it moved away from its roots in the land. Today, at least some ranchers are in the process of changing once again; raiding Comanche are no longer a threat but new challenges face the ranchers attempting to take their operations back to their biological foundations. The book attempts to give some insights into ranching – past and present – in America but at the very least, it is an enjoyable read that will leave you in a good mood. The author grew up in the area where the story occurs and spent his life as a working rancher. Mike Pinson, whose original art work graces the front cover, is another fully accredited cowboy with the broken bones to prove it. Aside from his art work and cattle operation, Mike is a saddle maker and leather artist.
About Walt Davis
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Published June 22, 2012
History, Literature & Fiction.