"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"
Taos, New Mexico USA
Celebrating the Coyote)
Frank was a terrible driver.
He could have survived only in the “Tank,” his 1966 Ford Galaxie.
His driving reduced one grown man to tears and to threats of leaping from
the moving car. A friend’s young
daughters prayed to those above, “We need you, Troops.
We need every bit of help you can muster. Frank Waters is behind the wheel again!”
From these girls I got the idea of calling helpful spirits the
“Troops.” Summoned during each of Frank’s many illnesses in his late years, they never failed to
The forces of nature comprised one platoon.
Another consisted of healers. And
spirits of Frank’s departed friends made up another important platoon.
The most elite platoon of all the Troops contained Frank’s departed
relatives, especially his sister, Naomi, and her husband, Carl; his mother, May
Ione; his father, Frank Jonathon; his grandparents, Joseph and Martha Dozier;
and all their offspring. Readers
come to know this group well in Frank’s thinly disguised autobiography Pike’s
Frank's sister Naomi and her husband
My friend Judith Bronner, who is a librarian and a photographer,
spent some time with me in Colorado Springs in February of 1996 on our way up to
Boulder, Colorado, where we participated in the public library’s second annual
“Book Discussion Day” focused on The Man Who Killed the Deer and
Frank. The Troops were much with us
in Frank’s old hometown. In
Colorado Springs we visited his former home, Frank Waters Park, and Evergreen
Cemetery. This was a healing
pilgrimage for me. It renewed my
positive sense of continuity, besides putting me closely in touch again with
another heartland where Frank’s voice still can be heard.
As Frank himself did, each year his birthplace has grown more
lean and gaunt. This trip it was
painted a mustard yellow with earth-red trim.
During a previous visit, the house next door had been the same color and
bore the sign “House of Metaphysics.” It
seemed that the energy of his grandfather and his metaphysical library, so
crucial to Frank’s development, hovered closely about.
Now these two and five other houses in a row are owned by Bijou Street
Rentals and rented out as separate rooms or apartments.
Bijou Street home
Although Judith lamented that this historic spot is now a
“boarding house for
Until his father died, Frank and his sister lived with their
parents at 229 E. El Paso Street right beside the railroad tracks and a half
block off Bijou Street. Mother and
children then tried living for a few months with Waters relatives in the farming
community of Garden Grove, Iowa. When
this didn’t work, they moved back into the Bijou Street house for good.
Frank’s mother had lived there as an adult before her marriage.
Frank and Naomi had been born in their grandparents’ front bedroom on
the second floor, a family tradition. Now
they occupied the third floor with their mother.
Judith and I learned that today these top two rooms are rented
out separately. The other two
floors each have three renters with a shared kitchen.
The man living in the front Birth Bedroom with its little balcony is a
groundskeeper for Bijou Street Rentals. He
has cleaned up the Dozier backyard and tends a minuscule triangular flower
garden in front. He has two small
American flags pasted on his bedroom window. He found them in the street after a Fourth of July
celebration. It seemed a fitting
synchronicity that the Confederate flag once flew from the balcony two feet away
during Fourth of July celebrations. A
brass plaque identifying the house as Frank’s birthplace is still nailed to
the front door, so the caretaker knew about him, but not about two friendly
ghosts called the Kadles. The news
did not set well when I asked if he had heard them creaking about.
“I never hear nothin’. ‘Cept
real live folks when they go up them stairs and come back down,” he said with
dour finality. “I don’t believe
in ghosts neither. Never have.”
After he had left, a young man came out on the porch for a smoke.
“What are you doing here?” he asked nervously, as if we were
“My husband used to live here.
That’s he mentioned on the sign,” I explained, nodding toward the
plaque. “He and his family always
heard these two ghostly trappers squeaking up and down the stairs, especially
near the third floor. Have you ever
“For god’s sake don’t say anything like that in front of my
brother!” he exclaimed, stubbing out his cigarette without smoking it.
“He just moved in here two days ago.
He’d freak out totally and move right back out!
I don’t live here. So
long. I have to see how he’s
doing with his shower.”
We felt sadder about the Kadles getting the cold shoulder than
ourselves. I tried to polish the
little rectangular plaque with a Kleenex. Frank
was so proud, so happy, the sunny day a group of local historians installed it.
Frank Waters Park across the street was clean and tidy.
Brown and icy then, in summer it would be a long sward of emerald grass
beside a rocky brook. A gang had defiled three Mountain Red granite boulders with
Frank’s quotations and biography etched into them, but they were fairly clean
again. This kind of gang work was
an endeavor that not-so-innocent Frank and his friends might have relished in
their heyday, given the opportunity. Two
other couples ate their lunches nearby at the same time we did.
Gentled by murmuring water, it was a peaceful place, both inside and
outside linear time. Originally called Shook’s Run, this stream had run north
and south the length of Colorado Springs. To
Frank and his boyhood friend Charles Hathaway, it had been the equivalent of
Huck Finn’s Mississippi River.
Many of the elite Troops rest at Evergreen Cemetery, where Judith
and I headed next. Three years
earlier I had installed on the family plot two red granite headstones honoring
three key relatives in Frank’s life. For
his father a modest upright stone gives his name and dates: December 31, 1862,
to December 20, 1914, surrounding an antlered deer’s head.
Underneath are the words “Source and Inspiration.”
Frank’s grandparents share a matching reddish stone headed
“Dozier.” On the left is Martha, March 3, 1850 -- July 13, 1927; on the
right Joseph, April 18,1842 -- May 11, 1925.
Below, referring to his grandfather whom Frank highly esteemed, are the
words “Shepherd of the Flock.” Until
these new stones were purchased, the lone headstone in this family plot had been
a small one marking the grave of Frank’s young first cousin Arleene Ascough,
who had died at age twenty-three in 1927 while Frank was living in Los Angeles.
His only niece was named after her.
It is a fascinating triangular plot. On it, one great evergreen stands alone in the oldest section
of the cemetery facing down into a wild wooded arroyo. The wind soughs
.....And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As ever beneath a
waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!.....
Charles first found the plot for me in 1992 after Frank and he
had reminisced for
When the two new family stones were purchased in 1993, a search
Daniel Lee Dozier
Frank’s great-grandfather Daniel Lee Dozier is buried there,
along with Daniel’s
As mentioned, Frank’s father had died of pneumonia; and, like
many, his great-
Quite candidly I told this old owl, “Look, I’ve got enough on
my hands right now
In 1941 Frank’s mother died of heart trouble in Los Angeles and
was buried there
I see Frank in his great-grandfather, my favorite of the clan.
There exist a daguerrotype of Daniel Lee Dozier as a youthful plantation
owner and a patriarchal photograph of him taken at the beginning of this
century. In the first he is an
eager young fop wearing a wide cravat, starched white shirt front, and jacket.
In the second a full white beard and white hair frame saddened eagle eyes
sunk deep beneath thick jagged brows just like Frank’s.
Rod Goebel said while painting Frank’s portrait, now in the Frank
Waters Room at the University of New Mexico, “I could paint Frank’s eyebrows
alone and people would recognize him.”
Daniel Lee saw too much in his eighty-eight years.
Born in North Carolina in l816, he gambled away the family plantation by
the mid-nineteenth century. In Pike’s
Peak Frank has him die almost fifty years ahead of time, perhaps as
punishment for losing the farm. Daniel’s
father was Joab Dozier of North Carolina, his mother Mary Lee of
Virginia. Her sister supposedly
married Robert E. Lee, who would therefore be Daniel Lee’s uncle.
It seems doubtful that Lee married a Lee, but it makes a good story and
has not yet been researched. Frank’s
southern grandmother and great-grandmother were the ones who insisted upon
flying the Confederate battle flag every Fourth of July from their front
balcony. This custom kept young Frank busy with his fists and could be
one reason he took up boxing lessons and worked out with a punching bag in his
third-floor rear bedroom.
Daniel had two sons, Romulus and Joseph.
Daniel moved to Colorado Springs with Joseph in 1873 and lived to see his
son a success as a contractor and builder of local churches and schools,
including Cutler Hall, the first building on the Colorado College campus.
Frank attended this college for three years.
He majored in engineering but resented having no English or writing
classes and dropped out to work in the oilfields of Salt Creek, Wyoming.
In his novel Pike’s Peak, and in the trilogy from which
it is condensed, all these characters live on, made wonderfully immortal by
Frank’s poignant words. Fictionalized
as March Cable, Frank heads at the end of this mining saga toward Evergreen
Cemetery with an armful of prairie wildflowers: “white wild onions, bluebells,
scarlet Indian paintbrushes, sand daisies, columbines and lupines.”
“But when he reached the cemetery he had some difficulty
finding the family lot. It was
unmarked, sunken grave [his father’s] and fresh one [his grandfather’s]
devoid of headboards pending the erection of small stone markers which March had
ordered. He flashed a look down the
gulch. It was filled with tin cans.
The pines soughed faintly, a magpie screamed.
He knelt and self-consciously but carefully spread the crimson flowers
over [their] graves side by side.”
To think it took sixty-eight years for those markers to be placed
at last! In 1993
Three years later my heart leaped up as a joyous flock of
black-and-white magpies, Frank’s favorite bird, circled and recircled above
Judith and me, crying out approval of the headstones and shared love of this
magical spot. Judith kept a feather
as a souvenir. After cleaning the
stones of magpie offerings, I broke a dead antlered branch from the sentinel
pine. Some spring I too shall
return with bluebells, columbines, and crimson wildflowers.
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