Del Norte People: An educator who brought history to life

Submitted

Editor's note: Longtime Del Norte County resident Chuck Blackburn's column appears every fourth Thursday.

Who are Captain Jack, Curly Headed Doctor, Schonchin John, Hooker Jim and Scarfaced Charley?

What was their relationship to General E.R.S. Canby, Albert Meacham, Reverend Eleasor Thomas and Major General Alvan Gillem?

These names, places and events were introduced to me by my good friend and educator, Ed Anderson, Team C leader at Crescent Elk School in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ed taught history at Crescent Elk and worked in the team teaching group with Harold Martin, Ron Darlington and Ted Weber.

I was teaching physical education and coaching basketball before my

retirement in the spring of 1994. Ed taught a unit in history about the

Modoc Wars in northeastern California in the Lava Beds National Monument

area near Tule Lake. Every two years, Team C would take about 75

students on this adventure for three days and two nights on a camp-out

at the monument campground. I was invited to go to videotape the trip

and accompanied several other chaperones.

This was one of the finest educational experiences in my 33 years of

teaching. Ed, the leader; Harold, the Wyoming cowboy and drill sergeant;

and Ron, the quiet, gentle presence on this team.

It is about a four-hour bus ride to Modoc County and about a

half-hour stop at the Klamath County Museum in Klamath Falls, Ore., was

always a highlight. It was a nice break in the drive to move around and

learn about the history of the upper Klamath Lake, Tule Lake areas and

the Modoc Wars of the early 1870s.

Lava Beds National Monument was about an hour's drive after the stop

and the first chore was to set up camp.

At night a fire was set in between the two campsites. Harold Martin

hauled his chuckwagon to the site - stove, tables, pots, pans, utensils

and plates for the meals.

The student cooks and team did a great job under Sergeant Martin. One

of the top activities for the kids was the trips underground through

the lava tubes. I filmed all of this, but only went in partway because

of claustrophobia.

A highlight of this trip was a long walk down a trail through the

sagebrush, mesquite and lava to the Wright-Thomas Battlefield. This was a

place that Modoc's leader, Capt. Jack, and his warriors watched from a

rim of lava above this valley as Wright and Thomas' units entered the

valley below and took a lunch break. Within the hour, 64 soldiers were

killed with no losses on the Indian side.

A young sub chief named Scarfaced Charley actually called off any

more killing by saying, "Enough, let them retrieve their dead and

wounded." Quite a statement was made by this 22-year-old warrior.

Ed Anderson did not walk to the valley with us and I wondered what he

had in mind. After a half-hour walk in the May heat of this high

plateau area, we were directed by Harold Martin to go down in the bowl

below the lava rim. The wind was blowing, which added to the eerie

feeling of the 1873 massacre. The kids sat down in a large group with

Harold, Ron and chaperones standing.

I was videotaping the group when I caught a figure of a man dressed

in buckskins coming down from the Schonchin lava flow toward us.

He was carrying a breach loader rifle of my father, Wes, that Ed

traded for earlier in the year. Now I knew why he wanted that rifle. My

late dad, Wes, was smiling at Ed and I, as Dad loved that rifle.

Ed carried a large knife in a scabbard and had a wig of braided hair.

He was Scarfaced Charley in 1873.

We all were eyes and ears with the easy wind blowing as Scarfaced

Charley spoke loud and clear with a certain dialect.

I had butterflies in my stomach as this young Indian warrior shared

the hardships of the survival of his people in a time that new people

were entering their place and their lives.

The continuous sounds of the wind mixing in with the words of this

young warrior added to the dynamics of this great gathering of the

eighth-graders, their teachers and chaperones.

Scarfaced Charley raised his gun and, in his other hand, his knife

toward his maker in heaven and completed his talk.

I still have the VHS of that trip. What a remarkable event. To this

day I tell Ed that he was truly Scarfaced Charley in 1873. He always

smiles.

A visit to Capt. Jack's stronghold was always the last stop of the

three-day trip. Everything was loaded for home.

One of the kids came running down from the air toilet and told Harold

Martin that a rattlesnake was next to the building. Harold ran up the

bank past a group of church people having lunch at two wooden tables.

Here he came down the path with the snake that he captured.

He told the kids to gather around as he was going to milk the venom

out of the snake into a paper cup. I was videotaping close up.

One of the kids got too close and bumped his elbow. A response was

immediate: "Back up you darn kids, this is serious business. Give me

some room," in good Martin form and expression.

The members of the church group looked unsettled, and when Harold

said that he was going to put the snake back under a bush, the church

group escaped the scene in a matter of minutes.

Another great Modoc trip. Another opportunity for me to be with great

students and great educators.

Chuck Blackburn can be reached at 954-7121.

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