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Occasionally I run across a Texas history book that is an absolute pleasure to read and review. These exceptional books usually have in common two basic elements: first class research and good writing. "Adobe Walls: The History and Archeology of the 1874 Trading Post" ISBN 1-58544-176-7 published by Texas A & M University Press is such a book. Authors T. Lindsay Baker and Billy R. Harrison combine their considerable expertise in history and archeology in a manner that those of us involved in recording Texas past would do well to learn from.

The 413-page book is divided into two sections. Historian T. Lindsay Baker begins by telling the fascinating story of Adobe Walls from the historical perspective. The 1874 Texas Panhandle trading post and buffalo hunting camp of Adobe Walls was located just north of the Canadian River in today's Hutchinson County. Actually there were two Adobe Walls, the first being the site of an 1864 Indian battle at the abandoned location of Bent's Fort on the Canadian where the famous frontiersman Kit Carson and some four hundred men took on a large force of Comanche and Kiowa Indians. Baker and Harrison's book is not about that clash. It is about the more significant fight that took place a decade later with a cast of Texas frontier characters that puts a lot of western epics to shame. These include Bat Masterson, Billy Dixon, the mysterious Comanche prophet Isa-tai and the last great chief of the Comanche, Quanna Parker. Much like the battle of the Alamo, the history of the second battle of Adobe Walls is so interwoven with myth and conflicting accounts that most interested folks end up walking away scratching their heads as to what really happened and why. Baker does a masterful job of sorting through the various accounts; some penned many years after the battle. We learn from Baker who actually participated in the battle, what really happened and why it is important historically.

The second battle of Adobe Walls proved the last major attempt by Plains Indians to drive the hated white man from their precious buffalo hunting grounds of the Texas Panhandle. It led to the Red River War in which Native Americans of the Texas Panhandle were finally driven from their lands and placed in the Indian Territory of today's Oklahoma. Some became prisoners of war and found them selves shipped off to Florida. While Baker makes the plight of the Indians clear, he also deals effectively with the technology aided defense of the buffalo hunters. It has been said that the famous shot that hide hunter Billy Dixon made when he knocked a warrior off his horse nearly a mile away at the battle could not have been possible. Baker makes his case that Dixon probably did exactly what he claimed and that the Indians were clearly amazed at the range and power of the Sharps buffalo gun.

Billy Harrison's thorough archaeological study of the Adobe Walls site is quite detailed and interesting. In the archeological section of the book the reader will find hundreds of details about the Indians and the buffalo hunters. The Adobe Walls site is unique and Harrison gives his readers a fascinating snapshot of what life must have been like for buffalo hunters during their brief heyday.

Finally, it should be said that the old adage, don't judge a book by its cover, continues to be true. Don't let the uninspired cover or fuzzy photos not printed on photo grade paper discourage you from reading and learning from this book.

Glenn Justice

Copyright 2005
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