Drifter's Cafe

Off the map

“These Apaches see things we can’t.”

apache scouts digitalgallery nypl org

Two White Mountain Apache scouts were also in the circle-Corporals Big Sharley and B-25, veterans of the Geronimo campaign with General Pershing in Arizona Territory, some thirty years before.
They wore slightly tattered US Army uniforms, but whatever military bearing they displayed was canceled out by their brooding glare, dark weathered skin, and long black hair.
B-25 seemed interested in Callie, but remained taciturn. His friend spoke instead. ”He likes you. He thinks you pretty.”
“Well, tell him thank you.”
Big Sharley continued. “He wonders why you out here, with the soldiers. Me too.”
These remarks were drawing snickers from the two male reporters. Callie put her pencil down. “I work for a newspaper, like these men. I write about what the soldiers and Pancho Villa are doing, so that people back home will know what is going on.”
“And maybe write about us too?”
“Of course.”
“I’m Big Sharley. He’s B-25. He’s lookin’ for a wife.”
“Tell him I’m married.”
Big Sharley whispered the news to his friend, who nodded.
“Why is he named B-25?”
“Nobody knows.” They both got up and left. Callie wrote some notes.
“Now I heard you were a single gal,” said Terrazzo, of the Tribune.
“I thought it would make things less complicated if they thought I was married.”
“Smart move, miss. These Apaches are still half savage. But I’ll look out for you.”
“Thank you, sir, but I can look out for myself. And I don’t agree with that opinion. What white men call savage is really naturalness-the native peoples are keenly sensitive to their environment, unlike white folks, who have become stiff and clumsy. These Apaches see things we can’t. Why do you suppose the Army hires them as scouts? We’d be lost without them.”
“But, Miss, these Indians have no conception of goals or purpose-they live in the moment.”
“And isn’t that wonderful?” Callie exclaimed. “I believe that the Apache, the Comanche, and a few other tribes who haven’t been ruined by our civilizing efforts, still regard the world as their ancestors did-the past, present and future are all the same. Like this.” She grabbed a stick and drew a circle in the sand. “Circular, not linear. The way a child sees things, before they too are civilized.”
The men looked at her like she was mad. Floyd shook his head. “That’s a foolish philosophy, young lady.”
“But it‘s mine, sir, and I‘ll keep it.”


Callie’s Revolution– “Something is going to happen down there.”

Sleepy Columbus, New Mexico 1916

Sleepy Columbus, New Mexico 1916

Villa on the move.

Villa on the move.

March 5, 1916

She ran toward the glass encased office through a haze of cigarettes and cigars, past desks with sweating men in white shirts bent over typewriters. She clutched a page from the NY Times, convinced it would change her life.
It was a story about Pancho Villa. In the photo he wore a big sombrero, bandoliers crisscrossed his chest, and his teeth clenched a cigarette in a reckless smile. The Revolution was big news.
Callie Masterson meant to make it bigger.
Breathlessly, she arrived in the small office and placed the article right under the nose of Mr. Shaughnessy, a tall slender man, with shaggy gray hair and bushy eyebrows, who was was putting a match to his pipe. As editor, he called the shots at the Houston Chronicle.
“Mr. Shaughnessy, look at this. Pancho Villa is furious at President Wilson for withdrawing his support. They say that he is bound to take revenge by attacking the United States. “
He examined the paper while puffing fragrant clouds of smoke into the air, gazing up at Callie a few times.
“What are you so fired up about, dearie? It’s just a matter of time before they get him. It’s a ragtag bunch. Why, it says right here they’re in dire need of arms, boots, ammunition, and the like.”
“Something is going to happen down there. He feels betrayed, and a man like Villa will exact a reprisal. He’ll do it in the easiest place he can find-some sleepy, defenseless border town.”
“You think so, huh?”
“Yes sir, I do, and I want to be there when it happens.” She had both hands on his desk and leaned forward. Agitated, she pushed away a strand of hair that hung limply in her face. The Houston heat made short work of her curls.
“Now, you all alone near the Mexican border might be a very dangerous assignment, young lady. I think-”
“If we could get a scoop on this, be there when he strikes, why our circulation will skyrocket. Don’t you see, Mr. Shaughnessy? It’s a natural. Get the jump on the Times even,” she said, shaking the venerable paper in front of him.
She paced around the office, hands behind her back, her head spinning with ideas, articles with sensational headlines already taking form in her head. She always bit her lip when she was fired up. Callie had played Ophelia in a school production of Hamlet to favorable reviews and was prone to dramatics.
“He’s the Mexican Robin Hood, Mr. Shaughnessy.”
“Yes, but he often murders those who don’t agree with him,” countered Shaughnessy.
“He’s a warrior, a desperado, and the odds are against him…he‘s unpredictable and that makes the government nervous.” She paused and tapped her finger on Villa’s photograph. “And the people love him! It‘s pure drama, Mr. Shaughnessy, pure drama.”
Callie’s dark eyes blazed with the fierce determination that had served her well during labor unrest and racial confrontations in the streets of Houston. The editor ran his fingers through his hair like an exasperated father. “Callie, do you realize what might happen if you were caught in an attack down there? If, God forbid, you were taken prisoner by those Mexicans? A young, attractive American woman of-how old are you now?”
“I’m twenty-four, sir, and I am tough, you know that. Remember, I grew up in Comanche Springs, around cow herders, Indians and drifters. My daddy taught me to shoot a gun and ride a horse as good as any man. I have found that if I am honest and hold my ground and look people square in the eye, things work out. And, I can speak passable Spanish. I am the one for this assignment, sir! You know that”
“I would hold myself responsible if anything happened to you. Let me think about it. Let me think.”

Callie kept up the pressure. A day didn’t go by when she wasn’t bringing the latest events of the Revolution to Shaughnessy’s attention. Motion picture companies had sent crews down to film actual battles with the Federales. She had never felt so strongly about covering a story. It consumed her, for this was a revolution in her own hemisphere and it needed a voice, a woman’s voice that would get to the heart of the struggle, in human terms.
Villa was a leader for the young century, reckless and daring. But there was more-she yearned for intensity in her life, away from the city, where she could break out, ride a horse in the big open spaces like she used to, see something of the world, and maybe watch history being made.
A week later Villistas attacked a train bearing eighteen American mining employees in Chihuahua. They robbed, stripped, and shot all of them in cold blood, shouting “Viva Villa!” Congress debated whether to invade. President Wilson’s policy of “watchful waiting” was being sorely tested. Villa denied he gave any orders to kill.
Callie flew into Shaughnessy’s office with the news. “Sir, events are escalating at an alarming pace!”
“It does seem to be getting more serious.”
Callie was beside herself. “Serious? Why it’s blatant. They are attacking Americans with apparent impunity. I tell you, Mr. Shaughnessy, it’s only a matter of days before they cross the border. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity. And, it has to be an eyewitness account. How can we not do it?”
Callie was on a train for Fort Bliss the next week.

Excerpt from Callie’s Revolution: The horror of WW1

On their first day, Griffith ordered the troupe to Victoria and Waterloo stations, where the soldiers departed for France. They watched the long goodbyes, the last waves and the shattered look of those left behind, as they left the station without their loved ones. Callie felt the wrenching emotion, the collective shock of a nation suddenly forced to give up its youth to war.
The Gish sisters were aghast at the stream of casualties arriving from the front-mangled bodies, amputees, paraplegics. But Griffith was adamant: “You want to be actresses, but you’ve never lived. You don’t know what life is all about. I hope you may never again have such an opportunity. But since it’s here, I don’t want you to miss it.”
The actors stood in the shadows studying the dramas unfolding around them, observing mannerisms and gestures that would serve them well in the upcoming film.

The ladies were just finishing breakfast the next morning when a hotel manager informed them that anti-aircraft gun practice was to commence at eleven a.m. and not to be alarmed when they heard gunfire from the roof of the building next door. Just as he said this, the guns begin firing.
“That’s odd,” he said. “They’ve started early.”
Griffith suddenly materialized at their table. “It’s a German air raid!” He was beside himself with excitement. Everyone rushed to a large window in a corridor just as a formation of German Fokkers roared up over the Thames. The 75mm antiaircraft guns opened up on them and filled the sky with shell bursts and trailing tracers that illuminated their trajectory.
Instead of attacking the Houses of Parliament, the planes disappeared in the clouds but bombing could be heard in the distance.
“They’ve hit somewhere,” said Griffith. “Let’s follow them.”
He managed to bribe a taxi to Whitechapel. Callie had grabbed her notebook and piled into the taxi with everyone. She felt the same adrenaline rush that she had experienced in Mexico with the hunt for Villa, but this was London and the bombs were massive.
They got out at a large slum which had taken direct hits and came upon a destroyed building, the smoke still rising from the rubble. People were sobbing and desperate men were trying to uncover buried victims. They inquired about the building and a tearful old man grabbed Lillian’s hands and broke down. It was a school, the kindergarten. “They’ve murdered our little ones. The devils!”
Griffith had removed his hat and was in tears. “This is what war is. Not the parades and conference tables, but children killed, lives destroyed.” He walked back to the cab, shaking his head.
Callie stared wide-eyed at the desperate men clawing the rubble for their children, feeling their grief, recalling the little plaza back in Mexico littered with bodies. But here the scale of destruction was so much worse.
“Callie, we must get back to the hotel,” called Griffith from the idling cab.
A few days later Callie sat in front of a mirror in her nightgown, brushing her hair, saddened that she no longer had her golden desert tan. London was blacked out and it was eerily quiet.
A terrible concussion shook the building and the lights went out. She rushed to the window. The Germans had bombed the Thames embankment, just below her. She could see everything in the moonlight and distinctly hear the cries of the injured. She grabbed a coat and went out into the hall. A woman from the room next door became hysterical and Callie led her downstairs to a safer area.
Everyone gathered in a large dining room where guests were still eating. Another bomb fell, not far away. Callie grabbed a glass of wine someone had left on a table and downed it. It was all too close to her harrowing night in Columbus, but much worse, for death came out of the sky, without any warning, utterly impersonal.
The sisters found Callie huddled in a corner. Dorothy knelt down. “Callie, what‘s the matter?”
Callie stared straight ahead. “I hate this mechanized warfare. It’s so awfully big, like a monstrous machine that no one can escape. It’s much worse than the revolution. I had no idea it was like this.”