Flying in the Canyons: Moments in Aviation History

The Vin Fiz was the first airplane to land in Del Rio on October 26, 1911

The Vin Fiz was the first airplane to land in Del Rio on October 26, 1911

I wish I had been there the day the first airplane set down in Del Rio. A crowd of several hundred had gathered in an open field  to see this new-fangled contraption designed by the Wright Brothers.  A daredevil named Cal Rodgers was flying a modified Model B, trying to make it coast-to-coast in an advertising stunt for the Armour Company. The plane was named the Vin Fiz, after a new grape soda the company was introducing.  Everyone was watching the sky when finally somebody heard it. “Here it comes!”


Map of the transcontinental flight of the Vin Fiz

A not particularly accurate map of the route of the Vin Fiz.

The Vin Fiz flew 40 miles per hour at top speed, and could go 110 miles before refueling. Rodgers left from Sheepshead Bay, New York on September 17, 1911 and finally arrived in Pasadena, California November 5, 1911.   In the meantime, he crashed 15 times and required numerous repairs. A supply train followed him the entire way with spare parts.

Rodgers flew from Sabinal, Texas to Del Rio where he stopped briefly for lunch on October 26, 1911. The crowd cheered and looked at the plane in astonishment. The rough country west of Del Rio worried Rodgers because of the steep canyons and desert.  So he flew with the Rio Grande on his left and the Southwestern Pacific rail lines on his right, crisscrossing into Mexico several times. He was spotted in Langtry, stopped briefly in Dryden for oil, and landed in Sanderson for the night.

Rodgers took several hours of flying lessons from the Wright Brothers before he bought their Model B pusher bi-plane, also known as the EX. The plane flew about 40 mph, and cruised at about 3,000 feet. The plane could not cross the Rocky Mountains, so Rodgers chose a Southwestern route for his flight. Rodgers died in a plane crash in 1912, only five months after his record-setting flight.

But the Vin Fiz was not the first flight in the canyonlands area. Several months before, March 3, 1911, Benjamin Foulois and Philip Orin Parmelee flew to Fort Duncan in Eagle Pass from Laredo on one leg of the US military’s first cross-country reconnaissance flight. The Wright Model B they used covered 106 miles in two hours at an altitude of 800 feet.

Foulois and Parmalee in a Model B modified for two pilots.

Foulois and Parmalee in a Model B modified for two pilots.


It would have been fun to have been in Camp Wood, up on the Nueces, when Lindbergh clipped a telephone pole and crashed into the paint section of Walter Pruett’s hardware store, too. I’m sure the people who saw it never forgot. The young Charles Lindbergh made an unplanned stop in Camp Wood, in March 1924, three years before his solo flight from New York to Paris. Lindbergh, then waiting to enter Brooks Field at San Antonio as a United States Air Service cadet, was attempting to fly to California with a friend, Leon Klink, and followed the Uvalde and Northern railroad up the Nueces River, mistaking it for the Southwestern Pacific along the Rio Grande. When the line ended at the recently established town, Lindbergh realized his error and landed in a pasture. Later, having flown to Camp Wood itself and landed on the main street, he was attempting to take off when his wing clipped the pole.  He and Klink had to remain in town several days to make repairs.

Lindberg with the famous plane "Spirit of St. Louis" after the first trans-Atlantic solo flight in 1927.

Lindberg with the famous plane “Spirit of St. Louis” after the first trans-Atlantic solo flight in 1927.

In 1921 Jimmie Doolittle, later to lead air raids over Tokyo during World War II, rescued a plane that had wrecked in a canyon in Mexico and flew into Del Rio. The townspeople might not have known it then, but they were looking at another aviation legend. He was the first to fly cross-country in less than 24 hours. He did it the next year in a military aircraft  from Florida to California in 21 hours 19 minutes with only one refueling stop at Kelly Field in San Antonio.

He was also the first to fly “blind” using only navigational instruments in 1929. Then in 1932

General Jimmy Doolittle

General Jimmy Doolittle

Doolittle repeated his transcontinental feat, this time making the trip in 11 hours and 15 minutes.  He was now the first person to cross the United States in fewer than 12 hours.

In 1942, at the beginning of WWII, Colonel Doolittle led the secret mission to bomb Tokyo in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.  No plane had ever flown so far, nor with such heavy bombs. The B-52s carried four 500-pound bombs, and enough fuel for the long flight. And they had to take-off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Doolittle led 16 U.S. Army Air Forces B-25B bombers that were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China. Fifteen of the aircraft reached China, and the other one landed in the Soviet Union. All but three of the crew survived, but all the aircraft were lost. Eight crewmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of these were executed. The B-25 that landed in the Soviet Union at Vladivostok was confiscated and its crew interned for more than a year. Fourteen crews, except for one crewman, returned either to the United States or to American forces.

B-52 launching off USS Hornet for Doolittle's Raid, April, 1942.

B-52 launching off USS Hornet for Doolittle’s Raid, April, 1942.



Ft. Clark’s Hidden Treasures

Rennovated barracks now serves as motel.

Renovated barracks now serves as motel.

I recently visited Ft. Clark in Brackettville, Texas as research for the new visitors guide to the Lower Pecos I’m working on. Brackettville is a small community on U.S. 90, about 30 miles east of Del Rio. Fort Clark is one of the best kept secrets in Texas. It is currently run by the Ft. Clark Springs Association, which has maintained it since 1971.  In addition to a fascinating history, Ft. Clark has the third-largest spring-fed swimming pool in Texas, good enough reason for me to go. Visitors can also stay overnight in the renovated limestone barracks building for about $65.00.  Golfers can play an 18-hole course, and there are miles and miles of hike and bike trails for birdwatching. Las Moras Grill with outdoor seating overlooking Las Moras Creek near the golf course is open weekends. If that’s not enough for you, read on!

The commissary building at Ft. Clark is one of the oldest buildings.

The commissary building at Ft. Clark is one of the oldest buildings.

Fort Clark was an important part of the United States system of defense in the Southwest from 1852 to 1946. The fort was home to many infantry and cavalry regiments, including Buffalo Soldiers and famous Black Seminole Indian Scouts. Originally established to protect stage routes, units from Fort Clark saw action in various Indian campaigns in the U.S. and Mexico. The fort was occupied by the Provisional Army of Texas early in the American Civil War. Over 12,000 U.S. Army troops were posted at Ft. Clark before shipping out to Europe in 1944 during World War II. A section of Ft. Clark was also briefly designated as a German prisoner of war camp. The end of horse-cavalry led to de-activation of the post in 1946.

Black Seminole Indian Scouts served at Ft. Clark from 1870-1914. Under Lt. John L. Bullis, who commanded them from 1873-1881, the scouts played decisive roles in many Indian campaigns, including excursions into Mexico. Col. Ranald Mackenzie led attacks from Ft. Clark against

Las Moras Grill overlooking the creek

Las Moras Grill overlooking the creek

Kickapoo and Lipan Apaches at the village of Remolino in Mexico in 1873.

Four Black Seminoles at Ft. Clark were awarded the Medal of Honor in 1875 for their actions during the American Indian Wars: John Ward, Isaac Payne, Pompey Factor, and Adam Payne. Ward, Factor and Isaac Payne are credited with saving Lt. John Bullis’s life during an encounter with Indians in 1975. Adam Payne was recognized for his efforts during the Red River War in the Texas Panhandle.

The Ft. Clark Museum features relics of cavalry and infantry soldiers as well as the Black Seminole Indian Scouts. Over 100 years of military history from the 1850s-1946 is presented. The museum is open only on weekends, but has free admission.  Over 21-miles of trails criss-cross the 1600-acre property, including a seven-mile trail along Las Moras Creek. Bikes and horses are allowed on the trails, but no motorized vehicles. A bird list is available at the office, but also watch for both axis and white-tailed deer.

Inside Ft. Clark

Inside Ft. Clark

The historic renovated cavalry barracks now used as a motel overlooks a nine-hole par 3 golf course which used to be an old parade ground. Each motel room has two queen beds, a private bath, cable and wifi. Handicapped rooms are available.

In addition tent camping is available in beautiful shaded spots along the creek. A large RV park with all hook-ups, laundry, and recreational hall is also on the property.

Most of the remaining limestone buildings of the fort date to the 1870s, but the old post headquarters building dates back to 1857. For more complete information on Ft. Clark, see

The pool!  A day-pass is $5.00. Fresh springs keep the clear water at 68 degrees year-round!

The pool! A day-pass is $5.00. Fresh springs keep the clear water at 68 degrees year-round!

Did Deer Cloud Live Before Columbus?


Indigenous People of the United States

Indigenous People of the United States

 In my book, Peyote Fire: Shaman of the Canyons, the protagonist Deer Cloud paints stories of his gods on the wall of a rockshelter overlooking a river. The rock art is still there today for people to see. But when exactly was it painted? How old is it? Did that happen before Columbus visited America?

I get asked these questions a lot. In general Americans are pretty foggy on events in North America prior to European settlement. As it turns out, people like Deer Cloud created the Pecos River style rock art in the canyons along the Rio Grande just west of Del Rio, Texas,  about the same time as the Minoans flourished in Crete. That’s about 4,000 years ago, or 2,000 years BC.

Below is a short timeline on human occupation of North America, with some comparative information to add context with the rest of the world. When you look at the timeline, notice what was going on around the world in 2000 BC, or about 4,000 years ago.  What happened before? What happened after?  Please note that all dates are rounded and open to debate and new evidence.

Be watching for a quiz later this spring to win a free copy of my book! I hope you win!

Who, When and Where: Rough Timeline of Human Occupation of North America

Buffalo, the mainstay of North American Plains Indians

Buffalo, the mainstay of North American Plains Indians

1879 Traditional life of the Great Plains Indians is over. Other Native Americans have either moved to reservations or died. The buffalo of the Great Plains are gone, over 65 million destroyed by white hunters.

1875  The last Comanche villages in Palo Duro Canyon (Texas) destroyed by U.S. Army

1776   U.S. Declaration of Independence from England

1730   Founding of San Antonio by Spanish settlers in Texas

1718 Founding of New Orleans by the French

 1700-1875   Comanche, Kiowa and Apache rule the Great Plains of North America

1642 Founding of Montreal, Canada by the French as Ville Marie

1620 Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts

1610   Don Pedro de Peralta establishes Santa Fe in New Mexico as the capital of the province of New Spain

1532 Pizarro begins the defeat of the Incas in Peru

1521 Cortez conquers the Aztecs in Mexico

1492 AD   Christopher Columbus makes landfall in the Caribbean

1000-1400 AD   Navajo and Apache migrate south from present-day Canada,,,

Cahokia, courtesy of

Cahokia, courtesy of

700 AD   Cahokia settlement first established near what is today St. Louis,,

0 The Common Era Begins

44 BC        Death of Julius Caesar

776 BC     First Olympic games

449 BC     Construction begun on Acropolis in Athens

800 BC     Founding of Rome

1,000 BC  Adena culture appears in what is today Ohio

2,000 BC     Pecos River style polychrome rock art along the Rio Grande

Lower Pecos rock art

Lower Pecos rock art,,

  • 1790 BC Code of Hammurabi
  • 2000 BC Maya Pre-Classic period in Central America
  • 2000 BC Minoans worship the mother goddess in Crete
  • 2600 BC Stonehenge begun in Britain
  • 2750 BC First Egyptian pyramid begun at Saqqara

3000 BC Evidence of silk production in China

  • 3114 BC Beginning of the Maya Long Count
  • 3200-2340 BC cities begin in Mesopotamia
  • 3300 BC Bronze Age begins in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and perhaps Britain
  • 3300 BC “Otzi the Iceman” dies in the Alps between today’s Austria and Italy
  • 3700 BC invention of wooden carts in Central Asia
  • 3750 BC First evidence of cotton weaving in India
  • 3761 BC Origin of the modern Hebrew calendar

4,000 BC     Old Copper Complex emerges in what will one day be Wisconsin

  • 4000 BC First Egyptian hieroglyphs

6,000 BC     Domestication of corn in Mexico,

The bones of Kenniwick Man, courtesy of the Seattle Times

The bones of Kenniwick Man, courtesy of the Seattle Times

7,500 BC     Kenniwick Man lived on northwest coast

  • 11,000 BC Clovis culture emerges

19,000-12,000 BC       Human beings arrive in North America,,,


Rare Film of Kiowa and Comanches Showing in Austin January 25

Sunday, January 25th at 4:00 PM the Austin Film Society is showing a 1920 film, THE DAUGHTER OF DAWN, featuring over 300 members of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes, including the son and daughter of Quanah Parker.

It will be shown at the Marchesa Theater, located at 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd in Austin, east of Highland Mall and just west of I-35, a bit hard to find. You can reserve tickets online, but the theater holds 300, so you probably can just show up at the door before 4:00.

$8 General Admission / $5 AFS MAKE & WATCH members plus students (with valid ID) / Free to AFS LOVE & Premiere members.  AFS complimentary tickets will be accepted at this screening.


Written and directed by Norbert Myles, presented in partnership with the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and Humanities Texas. Following the screening, there will be presentations by Dr. Caroline Frick (Founder and Director of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image) and Dr. Janna Jones (Professor of Electronic Media and Film, Northern Arizona University).

THE DAUGHTER OF DAWN is a rediscovered narrative film featuring White Parker and Wanada Parker, the son and daughter of legendary Comanche chief Quanah Parker. The Texas Film Company (based in Austin) shot the film in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma in 1920 (May-July) with a cast of over 300 members of the Comanche and Kiowa tribes. For this docudrama, the cast members provided their own clothing, teepees, and personal items.

Norbert Myles (1887-1966) wrote the script and directed the film. He would eventually go to Hollywood where he became better known as a makeup artist for studio films, including THE WIZARD OF OZ.

But in 1920 Myles was more interested in making films outdoors with real people. Like so many films throughout cinema history, THE DAUGHTER OF DAWN centers on a love triangle. Both White Eagle (played by White Parker) and Black Wolf (Jack Sankadota) are in love with Daughter of the Dawn (Esther LeBarre), daughter of the Kiowa Chief. Complicating matters is Red Wing (Wanada Parker), who also loves Black Wolf. Interspersed with the scenes of courting and unrequited love are battles, dances, and buffalo hunting.

The film played in theaters in Los Angeles, Kansas City, Tulsa, and a few other places before disappearing for over eight decades. A fire at the Texas Film Company had apparently destroyed all copies and materials related to the film. However, a nitrate print was discovered in Georgia in a private collection in 2005. After much negotiation, the film was finally bought by the Oklahoma Historical Society, which had it restored. Dennis Doros of Milestone Films secured the film for digitizing and distribution. An orchestral score by Comanche composer David Yeagley has been added to the silent film.

In 2013, THE DAUGHTER OF DAWN was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

USA, 1920, DCP, B&W, silent with musical score, Milestone Films, 80 min.

7th Annual Lower Pecos Archaeolympics at Seminole Canyon

Throwing a spear with an atlatl is one of the eventsof anicent skill at the Archeolymics.

Throwing a spear with an atlatl is one of the events of ancient skill at the Archeolympics.

Reporting today’s blog post is Vicky Munoz, Archaeology Intern at the Shumla Research and Education Center.

The 7th Annual Archeolympics was held February 22,2014 at Seminole Canyon State Park near

Vicky Munoz

Vicky Munoz

Comstock, Texas, about 35 miles west of Del Rio.  The Archeolympics is a primitive skills competition featuring atlatl and spear throwing, rabbit stick throwing, and frictiion fire starting. Ancient people who lived in the Lower Pecos region of Texas used these three basic skills for daily life, but few contemporary folks practice them today. It’s not unusual for today’s paleo-triathletes to compete in all three events.

Participants included Boy Scout groups from Del Rio, Texas; the Experimental Archaeology Club at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas; and a group from San Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas; as well as individuals with a special place in their hearts for Archaic skills, some coming from as far as Houston.

The rabbit stick throwing competition was first up. A rabbit stick is a non-returning boomerang, and was used all over the world as a primitive hunting device.  The paleo-athletes took turns lining up and throwing at two defenseless soccer balls that stood in for rabbits about 20 feet down range. Each competitor had three shots per turn. This event, or any of the events for that matter, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most participants missed the targets, but the crowd went wild when one of those “rabbits” bit the dust.  Watch the short video below by Jack Johnson to see the power of a rabbit stick against a mighty opponent, the “Pumpkin.”

A few of the competitors even had hits on all three throws! The bar was set high in this year’s games. Winners had to be determined by sudden death.   Juan Carlos won in the youth category (second place went to Josh Allen), and Lauren Kempf in the adult (second was Fabian Castillo and third was Jerod Roberts).

Friction fire starting was the second event of the day.  This is definitely the sprint event for the games. The event was open to all ages, but only five competitors were brave enough to enter: Robin Matthews, Jack Johnson, Charles Koenig, Bryan Heisinger, and Jerod Roberts. The rules for this event are deceptively simple: Start a fire using nothing but a spindle or hearth-board as fast as possible. No bow drills, all muscle.

Charles Koenig makes fire

Charles Koenig makes fire

Competitors arrange their kits in front of them on the ground. When the flag drops, the race begins.  Within 30 seconds, two were beginning to feed their hungry embers to create that fire. Charles Koenig and Jerod Roberts were neck and neck, but it was the previous champion, Charles, who eventually came out on top with a blistering time of 46 seconds.

The other competitors had to be reminded that the race was not over, and that there were two more places on the podium still up for grabs. They quickly went back to trying to conjure fire. Jack Johnson, also a previous friction fire race champion, added drama to the race by dropping out not just once, but twice, citing exhaustion. He had been doing fire starting demonstrations most of the morning and didn’t have enough energy saved up for the race! Jerod Roberts had also burned most of his energy giving Charles Koenig a run for his money, but managed to get another ember going, only to lose it once more. Exhausted and somewhat defeated, Roberts took a timeout. Watch this short video to see how to start a fire with a sotol drill and hearth stick.

Meanwhile Bryan Heisinger (see, Feb. 25, 2014), with laser like focus and coaching from the new champion Koenig, began

Friction fire starting race

Friction fire starting race. Photo courtesy Megan Vallejo.

to get his embers glowing. A newcomer to the sport, Heisinger later recounted how he was so determined to get a fire going that he was forgetting that he also needed to breathe! Clocking in over 4 minutes, Heisinger took second place as the others looked on, clearly feeling the burn (pun intended) in their arms. At just over 6 minutes, Robin Matthews and Jerod Roberts declared a draw and were awarded third place.

After halftime, the atlatl and spear throwing competition began. The sport was divided into  amateur, skilled, and team events. This is the real crowd pleasing event and the one with the largest number of competitors.  Apparently launching pointed darts at animal targets really gets the adrenaline going. Some competitors are so serious that they bring their own darts and atlatls from home.

Robin Matthews throwing with atlatl and spear

Robin Matthews throwing with atlatl and spear. Photo courtesy Shumla.

Scoring is as follows: three points for hitting the target of the deer in the heart/vital area, two points for a hit on the neck and face of the deer target, one point for a hit on any other part of the flesh. The rules to this are also deceptively simple: earn the most points in three attempts.

As the shoot-out began, the wind began to calm down a bit which was a big help to the competitors as they were throwing into the wind. For most of the hunters, the prey eluded them and they went hungry that night but of course, there is always a winner. In the amateur category, Amanda Castañeda took first place with second to Joe Taylor. Amanda delivered a fatal blow to the deer as well as one to her competition.

Those with more experience (and confidence) compete in the skilled category.  At this level, the competition is fierce with friends and couples being pitted against one another. Playful verbal jabs are slung at one another, especially within groups where they’re all vying to be the alpha atlatl hunter. It’s all-out war.

Charles Koenig, who also blazed his way to the top in friction fire race, took the top spot in the skilled category with Mallory Marcone taking second, and Jim (just Jim) taking third place. The youngest winner in the skilled competition was Willie Canseco, age 13.  Here’s a short clip of the atlatl event, courtesy of Michael Strutt and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

In the team atlatl category, the group known as the Eaglenesters took first place. Troop 255 managed to slip in and snatch second place, and the Sharknados defeated the remaining competition in sudden death for third place.  Each team got five shots at the target. Teams were composed of 2-5 people, with every member taking at least one shot.

Prize objects for winners

Prize objects for winners. Photo courtesy Shumla.

Ultimately, it’s important to note that these competitions aren’t just for pride or fun. Each first place winner received a beautiful Perdernales style projectile point knapped by Kinley Coyan from Sanderson, Texas. Unlike the recent Sochi Olympics, however, no national anthems were sung, nor flags raised.

The Archeolympics is the brainchild of National Park Service Archaeologist, Jack Johnson, Amistad National Recreation Area, and organized for the last five years by Park Ranger Tanya Petruney, Seminole Canyon State Park. The

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson

purpose is to give the public the opportunity to get hands on experience while learning about the lifeways of the prehistoric Lower Pecos inhabitants, including demonstrations on flintknapping, fire starting, plant processing, cord making and, weaponry. The event is sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, The National Park Service, The Rock Art Foundation, and the Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center. The event continues to grow every year but as of right now, this is one of Texas’ best kept secrets. Other events similar to this are held around the state year round. For more information on this check out the Texas Atlatl Association Meetup page (

Well, that concludes this year’s Archeolympics! If you “like” the Seminole Canyon State Park Facebook

Great competition. Photo courtesy of Shumla.

Great competition. Photo courtesy  Shumla.

page, they will update you on when the next Archeolympics will be held plus all the other super cool things they have going on all year round. A special thank you to all the staff and volunteers! Without them this event would not be possible. Hope to see y’all next year!

The Opposite of Dry is Wet

Flood waters near Fate Bell Shelter in Seminole Canyon September 20, 2013

Flood waters near Fate Bell Shelter in Seminole Canyon September 20, 2013

Seminole Canyon is known for being hot and dry. That dry desert environment leads to wonderful preservation of rock art and delicate artifacts such as basketry, sandals and twisted cordage.  But occasionally Mother Nature creates conditions for beautiful rain in this dry land. And sometimes it is just too much of a good thing.

The weekend of September 20, 2013 saw such conditions arise as a cold front moved down from the north

Weather map for September 20, 2013 from

Weather map for September 20, 2013 from

to hit warm tropical moisture from the southwest from Hurricane Manuel, which did considerable damage in Acapulco. That combination can create the “perfect storm” in the Chihuahuan Desert.  In the three days from September 19 to 21, 2013,  Seminole Canyon State Park had over five inches of rain, and the weather station Langtry 10.6 W (elevation 1623) on registered 4.47 inches.  In a region that generally only receives 18 inches or less of rain per year, that’s a lot.

Perhaps more importantly, upstream of Seminole Canyon, areas received from 6 to almost 8 inches of rain in the same period. This created massive run-off, that eventually drained into the canyons.  In addition, the Rio Grande rose quickly, backing more water up into canyons.  Just notice which way the water is rushing in the big picture above.

Fortunately, no damage was done to major rock art, that I know of,  since the water did not get that high.  But tours to Fate Bell Shelter were shut down for several days.

It rained hard the night of July 3, 2010 as well, again due to a stalled out tropical system.

Mile Canyon Pour-off, July 4, 2010. Bonfire Shelter nearby.

Mile Canyon Pour-off, July 4, 2010. Bonfire Shelter nearby.

Pour-offs in Mile Canyon, in Langtry, Texas, home of the famous Bonfire Shelter bison jump, rushed with brown, frothing water. The Rio Grande also rose, backing up in the short canyon and creating very dangerous conditions for wildlife, humans, and ancient debris.

The worst flood in the region in recorded history occurred in 1954, when a hurricane stalled out over the area.  More than 20 inches of rain fell in one night over Mile Canyon. The ground was already saturated from an 8-inch rain a few days before, so the water had no place to go. Catastrophic floods like this occur once or twice a century and cause changes topography of the canyonlands. As the website Texas Beyond History  ( says, “Spring-fed pools become choked with gravels, new springs emerge, and walnut trees are ripped out.”  This flood also moved boulders as large as a small house at least a quarter mile downstream, and damaged rock art in Eagle Cave.  We can only image the artifacts that washed away, never to be seen again.

Mouth of Mile Canyon and Rio Grande, July 4, 2010

Mouth of Mile Canyon and Rio Grande, July 4, 2010 to the Rio Grande.

Raging water in the 1954 flood moved these large boulders at least a quarter mile

Raging water in the 1954 flood moved these large boulders at least a quarter mile.

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Joseph Schuldenrein: Indiana Jones of Internet Radio

Joe Schuldenrein, host of  internet radio archeology program

Joe Schuldenrein, host of internet radio archeology program

My guest today is Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein, host of the internet radio show Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality and 21st Century Archeology on ( Dr. Schuldenrein is also president and principal archeologist of Geoarcheology Research in Yonkers, New York.

Thanks for being with us today, Joe. Why did you decide to do an internet radio show about archeology?

I always thought that if I didn’t go into archaeology I was best suited to a career in media. I viewed myself as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. But I love appearing in public and seem to have a knack for communicating with people from a broad range of backgrounds and socio-economic strata. In 2011, I was contacted by the VoiceAmerica Internet radio station. They had seen my company’s web-site and thought that archaeology was an appealing topic for their multi-faceted audience. I did not need much convincing. As I got into it, I realized that the need to present archaeology to a broad audience was critical, if we, in the professional community, are to survive in a world of diminishing governmental funding. It should be clear to all archaeological professionals that public outreach is now our major mission if archaeological careers are to remain viable going forward.

What are some of the challenges of doing a show like this?

These emerged at the outset. I had thought that running a program would be a lot like presenting a paper at a

A current excavation by Schuldenrein in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He is pointing to a 19th century well

A 19th century well excavated on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

meeting. Since I had lots of experience at that and basically present extemporaneously, I figured that the transition to radio would be relatively easy. It was not. At all. VERY fortunately, I was able to pre-record my first show. Otherwise it would have been a disaster. My initial off the cuff presentation would have been a dismal failure had I not had the opportunity to do several takes. The learning curve was initially bumpy. I scripted my next few programs meticulously. And they seemed to work well, in my eyes at least, until some of my colleagues told me that the program sounded too scripted, stiff, and staged. Eventually, I was able to get a protocol down that allowed me to work from an outline and to work my interviews in the more natural and extemporaneous format that fit me better. VERY FORTUNATELY, I now have a magnificent intern who does nearly all of the behind the scenes work, including recruiting guests from my network of contacts, proposing topics of interest and co-ordinating with the station. She also does all of the advance work that involves Public Relations work and advertising. Without her I would NOT be able to continue. The broadcasts themselves are not the hard part. The preparations are.

Other than my husband Steve Black, who are some of the guests you’ve had on? 

We have been fortunate to have had so many. We cover all aspects of archaeology so we pride ourselves in both a diverse audience and range of guests. Some of the more colorful include Brian Fagan, Tom King, the Culture Minister of Afghanistan, Sonny Trimble of the Corps of Engineers, Hampton Sides, who wrote the recent best-seller on the excavation of the Titanic, and the folks who produced American Diggers. Those are the ones that immediately come to mind.

 What episode has received the most listeners? or do you have statistics on that?

The Titanic piece was extremely well received. We could get statistics on the individual shows, but the station more typically monitors our numbers on a month to month basis. They do this through Internet technology. We originally had a few thousand listeners (in 2011) and are now up to about 40,000 per month. That number is a sum of the live audience, generally pretty small, and the number of listeners who have accessed the individual episodes as podcasts. The success of Internet radio is measured by the call-ups of the podcasts and we are doing well by that and related criteria.

Where do you do most of your own archeological work?

Procuring OSL Dating Sample at wadi Hasa, Jordan

Procuring OSL Dating Sample at wadi Hasa, Jordan

I have worked nearly everywhere in the world. Since I am trained as a geoarchaeologist, I have honed my specialty by consulting with large research firms throughout the U.S. My graduate work was in the Near East and, as a result, I have always had an Old World focus. I have collaborated with researchers and academic institutions in Central Europe, parts of Africa, and intensively in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan). I am more of a methods person than a regional specialist. As the founder and Principal of my company, GRA, I have shifted the focus of our work in response to the changing realities of the research and applied worlds. Right now we are heavily centered on high tech methodologies, urban archaeology, international heritage development programs and media.

What motivates you about archeology in the first place?

I could wax poetic about the innate drive I had to do archaeology as a child. That would be a lie. As a college student in the heated ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I was actively involved in protest politics. When I became disaffected with politics in my last year of college, my main objective was to get out of school as quickly as possible. The onlyway I could do that in 4 years was to load up on Anthropology courses. In my senior year I was inspired by

Geoarcheological investigation at prehistoric shell midden, central California coast

Geoarcheological investigation at prehistoric shell midden, central California coast

my archaeology professor, the late Dr. Phil Weigand. He encouraged me to try archaeology as a way of “finding myself.” I packed off and did a season at Cahokia under Dr. Mike Fowler. I was hooked and never looked back.

What do you want people to learn or discover from listening to your show?

My main objective on the show is to bring the message of archaeology to the general public. I think the biggest eye-opener in our field is the degree to which the message of the past provides a road map to the future. For example, archaeological scientists should be able to provide compelling evidence for climate change, via their window on past circulation systems that are readily documented. However, as professionals we are so focused on our esoteric research that we fail to reach the greater communities that can benefit from our knowledge. Besides, archaeology is so inherently appealing to most people. I am amazed that, as professionals keyed to our own research, we consistently ignore the big picture and, by extension, the greater public. In my own small way, I see this radio show as a venue for expanding our reach. I am reminded of how the late Carl Sagan was able to transmit his fascination with astronomy to the greater public. It is imperative that we archaeologists do the same.

It’s been a pleasure to have you on the blog, Joe. I hope you’ll come again sometime.

Ken Kramm: Creative Naturalist

My guest today is Dr. Kenneth Kramm, former professor of ecology at Michigan Technical University and the University of Houston.  He is a Texas Master Naturalist and hosts a Facebook page on bushcraft and nature at   and a Youtubechannel at

Ken Kramm and friend

Ken Kramm and friend

Hi Ken. Tell us a little about your video “Prehistoric Indians of the Lower Pecos Region, Seminole Canyon, Tx.”

Seminole Canyon State Park is a wonderful park with a nice campground and interesting history.  Hopefully, the video will encourage people to visit the park and learn about the prehistoric indians who who lived here nearly 12,000 years ago.  They were attracted by the rivers, wildlife and rock shelter caves.  Guided tours of the rock shelters are particularly interesting.  Different parts of the shelters were designated for activities such as sleeping and cooking.  People slept on woven mats, which are still present in the shelters.  Over a period of 4 to 6 thousand years, the walls were decorated with pictographs.  In spite of the harsh environment, the Lower Pecos Region of Texas provides many photo opportunities for wildlife and wildflowers.

What other videos do you have on your Youtube channel?

My YouTube Channel includes videos on a wide range of nature-related topics 1) hiking and camping adventures (to locations such as Texas State and National Forests), 2) relaxing nature videos for meditation, 3) and wilderness survival techniques and bushcraft.   I am currently producing a video miniseries on “How To Camp Out — Advice From an American  Civil War Veteran.”   We can learn much about how to survive and thrive outdoors by following the recommendations of pioneers in the 1800s.

This one shows how to forage for dinner, including “Roly Poly Soup.” Tastes like shrimp. Honest.

 Very clever. How do you create these videos?

Topics are suggested by subscribers.  Before making a video, I research the topic using the internet, books, articles and talking with local experts.  The US Forest Service, Texas State Forest Service and Texas Master Naturalists assist with the production of many videos.    After outlining the video design, I start filming with a Canon Vixia Camcorder, point-and-shoot camera, and smart phone.  The videos are edited with Final Cut Pro X.

 You also have a Facebook page on bushcraft and nature. What is the purpose of that endeavor?

The purpose is for people to share their love of the outdoors and learn from its wisdom.  With each advance of technology, life for human beings becomes easier and better. It is now possible to talk and share experiences real-time with people from all over the world, Wow! This same technology, however, has a downside: human beings have become disconnected from the natural world. We have largely forgotten important lessons of our ancient ancestors. The “Bushcraft and Nature community” shares the best from both worlds. We use technology to communicate a our common love of the outdoors and learn from its wisdom.

Had any interesting experiences with snakes or other critters out in the wild?  

After watching sunset at Lost Maples State Park, I walked a 2-mile trail back to camp without a flashlight.  Fireflies were  numerous, so I didn’t need to turn on my flashlight to see the trail.   All of a sudden I heard awful growling /screeching.  A feral hog and her piglets were crossing the trail in front of me.  The mother decided to attack!  I was scared…. Very scarred…. I screamed, turned on the flashlight and threw it at the hogs.   They retreated.  But my heart  was pounding all the way home.

That would certainly scare me too!  Those things can be vicious.  If you had to live in a tent for the next year, where would you like lit to be?  Why?

One of the best places for year-round tent camping, in my opinion, is southern California.  The weather is moderate; food, water and shelter are readily available from nature.  And best of all the region provides unparalleled opportunities for wildlife observation and photography.

 You wouldn’t have to twist my arm very hard on that one.  Why do you believe it is important for people today to experience the natural world?

See my video on the benefits of bushcraft:


– NATURE MAKE YOU NICER: communities with more green-space have lower rates of crime and violence

–  GET A GLIMPSE OF GREEN:  hospital patients who can see green spaces from their rooms recover faster and require less pain medication;  exposure to the living world can calm the mind, improve learning and enhance intelligence

– NATURE IS THE BEST NURTURE: reduced anxiety and depression, decreased stress, increased immunity, increased energy; 50% lower diabetes risk, vitamin D production,weight loss and fitness, reduced attention deficit disorder

–  SUGGESTED DOSAGE:  Stress is relieved within 2 minutes exposure to nature, Memory and attention span improve 20% with 2 hours exposure to nature; levels of cancer fighting white blood cells increase 50 in 2 days exposure

– NATURE IS INVENTOR:  velcro is an example; hook &loop fasteners were invented after people noticed burrs sticking to clothes

I couldn’t help noticing you have an insect on your hat.  What is it?

It’s a stick insect (Order: Phasmatodea). He’s  a harmless invertebrate that feeds mostly on leaves.  They hold the record for longest insects in the world.  See Cool Facts About Stick Insects, a weird moovie – YouTube

You do something different with every video! Your videos are both informative and very inviting.  Thanks for being with us, Ken. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for sharing your love of the great outdoors with us. 

Sickness and Heath in the Ancient Lower Pecos

Healing often involved medicinal plants as well as ceremony and prayers

Healing often involved medicinal plants as well as ceremony and prayers

Everybody gets sick. Everybody gets injured. At one time or another in our lives, we all experience illness and some sort of wound, just as every generation before us has. The people of the ancient Lower Pecos faced the same physical ailments we do, in most cases, but dealt with them in very different ways, with more or less success. Many ailments were beyond their control, however, and people simply suffered.

This article begins a short series on medicine and healing as it might have been 4000 years ago in the desert of the Lower Pecos.  We know from skeletons and other evidence that the people rarely lived more than 35 years.  That is not to say there were never any “old” people.  There were. But many died before their hair turned gray. medicine_manIf sickness did not kill them, then a broken bone would. We can probably assume that infant mortality was high due to insufficient diets at times or other issues.  Pregnancy and birth were undoubtedly fraught with complications. Falls could kill. Teeth would rot.

While we may never know exactly how disease affected ancient people, we can assume they faced some of the same ailments we know, like cuts and burns.  This article begins a short series about the Lower Pecos Medicine Kit as it might have been 4000 years ago.  I will look at various common ailments and suggest ways that may have been treated.

Future articles will discuss ways to ameliorate arthritis, poor digestion, burns, wounds, broken bones, tooth decay indiansleep problems, and issues concerning blood. Before you get too excited, however, let me make clear that I am not a trained health care provider, herbalist, or medicine woman.   All I can tell you is what I think would have been likely. I invite you to join in the discussion as we progress, and especially to help keep me from going astray. Believe me, I’ve got friends who will set me straight!