Saturday, November 02, 2013

Cynthia Ann and other old friends

I was astounded today that my youngest daughter has no idea who Cynthia Ann Parker was. I've read books about her, edited a novel about her unhappy East Texas years, included her in anthologies about women of the West. But today I heard a most interesting talk by Glenn Frankel, new director of the School of Journalism at the University of Texas/Austin. His latest book is The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend. I knew The Searchers is considered one of if not "the" classic western movie--how can you beat the combination of John Ford and John Wayne? To me that movie set the tone for future movies, just as The Virginian set the tone for novels for years to come.  But I didn't realize the connection to the Cynthia Ann Parker story. Frankel's talk touched on Ford's career and the fortunate, for him, timing of this project, what Ford did to build Wayne's career, but mostly Frankel talked about the many and varied iterations of the story, and I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that nobody knows much for sure beyond the basic facts. Frankel has obviously done thorough research and is immersed in his subject, but few Parkers left any record--one distant cousin interviewed some of the principals in the 1880s and left her interviews, meant for family only. Cynthia Ann of course left no journal--as some other captives did--and her family didn't seem inclined to publicize the misfortune of their poor relative who had obviously met "the fate worse than death."
The talk, followed by a showing of the movie, was part of a series of programs sponsored by Preserve Granbury. Simultaneously there was an exhibit of artifacts, photos and other items shedding light on the lives of Cynthia Ann and her son Quanah, who had the wisdom and foresight to lead his Comanche brethren on the white man's road, having seen that resistance was futile. The whole story is an amazing piece of history of the American Southwest--and we should all know it. Praise for Preserve Granbury for organizing this educational series. Future programs will deal with the treatment--historical, fictional, cinematic, etc. and probably literal--of the Comanche in Texas. A program right up my alley.
I was there because of my friend Linda. Our friendship goes back to the early 1970s when we were doctors' wives raising young families. We've always felt a bond, though I think in the last ten or fifteen years I've seen more of her than I did for a while. When her second husband died suddenly last week, I knew Linda would  need me not so much at the service (which I was unable to attend) but later. Last night she came for supper--one of our traditions has been that I cook something unusual but something she likes. Not much meat, but anchovies, pasta, etc. (For last night's recipe, see tomorrow night's Potluck With Judy.) She spent the night, and we went to Granbury this morning. Went to the program (lunch was included) and the movie, though I ducked out and spent that time in the adjacent Hood County Library contentedly reading on my iPad. Linda felt obliged to stay because she was one of the organizers of the series--and because she wanted to see the movie. We went back to Linda's house to sit and visit some more--we'd done a lot of that last night--and wait for Jordan and Jacob, who came for an early supper and brought me back to Fort Worth.
Jacob was puny but my, it was amazing what two orders of kid spaghetti did for him--perked that child right up. Linda and I split baked whitefish--really good and half was enough.
All in all, a satisfying twenty-four hours, one which reminded me once again of the strong ties I have with old friends and how much they mean to me, how they are there in my dark hours and I can be there for them. No, it wasn't at all maudlin--Linda and I laughed and joked a lot. It was fun, but underlying it was that layer of support, that sense of "I am here for you."

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