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Published:May 2nd, 2014 13:10 EST
When Will I Finally Learn the Truth About Geronimo?

When Will I Finally Learn the Truth About Geronimo?

By John G. Kays

"In myth he was an implacable savage. In reality he was a man who had risked everything for his home and his way of life." Last spoken line in the documentary Geronimo and the Apache Resistance - American Experience PBS 1988

Who was a Geronimo? For more than 25 years, when I visit my sister in Wimberley, I stare with a sense of amazement at the most famous photo of Geronimo (taken in 1887 when he was 60), kneeling, holding a rifle, displayed in an upright frame, standing tall on my sister`s bookshelf. She and her common law husband are experts on the Chiricahua Apache legend; both of them have answered many questions I`ve had for them on the brave warrior and medicine man, but still I think of more. Angry with myself for knowing so little, and realizing I`m a dedicated student of history (although the settling of The West is not one of my strengths), I decided to look into Geronimo`s biography a little further to see what I could find.

I had to think about it for a minute; how did I learn about him when I was a kid? I didn`t read anything, so it must have been exclusively from movies and TV shows. Did it come from Wagon Train, RawHide, or was its derivation from the great John Ford Westerns? Okay, we had the Wyatt Earp television series, starring Hugh O`Brien, then there was the 1962 film, Geronimo, starring Chuck Connors of Rifleman fame. It has to get better! No wonder I`m so ignorant; and it is. I found the above 1988 treatment on Netflix, and it`s been very helpful. I thought he was a chief, but he was actually more of a medicine man. I thought he hated all white men; rather, his hatred was more directed towards the Mexicans, for they had been the ones to slay his first wife and children. 

Some of the ignorance lifts away; maybe not all of it, since it`s taken a lifetime to get this way. Order this DVD, it`s great! I read quite a bit on the internet this morning. Took a look at the bibliography under the Wikipedia entry; there are some good summaries of his life, but the best aspects are the references, photographs, and links. Yesterday I dropped by The General Libraries at The University of Texas, and after sampling several titles, settled for Geronimo The Man, His Time, His Place, by Angie Debo (University of Oklahoma Press 1976). Really good, and thoroughly researched. Also, hearing great things from my sister about Watch For Me On the Mountain, by Forrest Carter (1990). No wonder we have so many prejudices and unfounded beliefs! Now just you read the original New York Times obituary (February 18, 1909). So much work to do, scraping away this grunge of ignorance is hard!