Are you a Quanah or a Parker?
September 24, 2022 Comments Off on Are you a Quanah or a Parker?
I just finished reading “Comanches: The Destruction of a People” by notorious racist and white apologist T.R. Fehrenbach. It is a true history, however, in the purest sense of the word, “his story” of how things happened without any special regard to facts, perspective, philosophy, or time. From start to finish it is an Anglo man’s anthropological myth about why things are. As the Germans love to say, “Der Sieger schreibt die Geschichte.”
The victor writes the history.
Yet it makes for brutal and unflinching reading, as do all such accounts in which old white men tell the cultural secrets and histories of races other than theirs. Within the book there is brief attention paid to the abduction and return of Cynthia Ann Parker and her Comanche son Quanah, the last of the chieftains and the only one never defeated in battle.
The Parkers ended up with a county named after them and a long line of Texas descendants who played various roles in the story of the state. Quanah’s descendants intermarried and became reservation residents in Oklahoma, or formed communities and families within white culture.
For me the story of the Comanche conquest of Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, and American empires and their subsequent defeat was less interesting than the dichotomy it posed for all people. Are you, like Quanah, a wanderer on the plains, content to change homes with the seasons and following the opportunities of food and shelter as the seasons provide? Or are you a Parker, holed up in your stockade, making your own future and defending yourself from the barbarians at your gate?
Are you a wanderer or a farmer?
The dichotomy isn’t simple. The Parkers were in fact wanderers who had strayed out to the very edge of the Comancheria frontier. Quanah’s band moved with the bison but essentially lived in the same encampments throughout the year. They were finally reduced in their winter stronghold at Palo Duro canyon on the high plains of Texas, where they spent every winter in a lifestyle just as sedentary as the Parkers.
Quanah and his band had every bit the sense of belonging and ownership that the Texans had. The only difference was that whites defined territory with metes, bounds, and title to land whereas the Comanches defined it as wherever they found the bison. The Comanches were wanderers only to whites. In their view, they had clear boundaries and stayed within them. No Comanche ever got up one day and decided to raid Ireland.
What separates the two mindsets is a sense of time, and you see it today. There are people who would rather live happily today and worry about tomorrow when it comes, and there are those who would rather suffer today so that they can, perhaps, enjoy happiness in the future.
Homeless and very poor people are not invariably unhappy by any means. One man I met on the Kern River bike path, in his 70’s, had been living in a tent for several years. He was tanned and fit and smiling. I asked him how he liked living on the banks of the river.
“I love it,” he said.
“No one bothers me. It’s hard but it keeps me healthy and strong. I eat well and have everything I need.”
Healthy, strong, free. He never mentioned sad, lonely, afraid.
Could be worse.