Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Flintknapping Evolution During Prehistoric Times.

Figure One - Paleoindian. A 4.3 inch long Agate Basin spear point from Nebraska, made from jasper over ten thousand years ago. A true craftsman knapped this point. John Branney Collection.   
When artifact hunters or collectors get together with stories and artifacts, it usually ends up in discussions about the marvelous projectile point / spear flint knapping skills from Paleoindians and Early Archaic people of North America. Paleoindian projectile points are often front and center as ‘eye candy’ and for good reason. It is difficult to find better examples of flint knapping skill and workmanship than a well-made Folsom point or Cody Complex knife form or Agate Basin spear point. Sometimes, I wonder why Paleoindians went through the extra effort to knap beyond the required level of functionality. It seems like overkill.    

Figure Two - Early Archaic. a 3.95 inch long Scottsbluff knife form from Colorado. 
Scottsbluff is in Cody Complex. Made around 9,500 years ago. John Branney Collection.   

After the Paleoindians, in the Early Archaic period, we see a gradual deterioration in the workmanship and quality of projectile points from about 9,000 years ago to the Altithermal, a catastrophic climate change event beginning around 7,000 years ago.  During the Altithermal, the archaeological record for the high plains indicates that both humans and animals disappeared, presumably because of the drought conditions on the plains during that climate event. When humans returned to the high plains around 5,200 years ago in what is called the Middle Archaic, the quality and workmanship of projectile points was not on par with either Paleoindian or Early Archaic projectile points.  

Figure Three - Middle Archaic. The different varieties of points from the McKean Complex 
around 4,500 years ago. These are some of the higher quality points 
from Colorado and Wyoming. John Branney Collection.  
The Oxbow Complex and McKean Complex represent a long period of time in the Middle Archaic on the high plains. The projectile points made by these two complexes were quite functional but lacked the detail and workmanship that we see in Paleoindian or Early Archaic projectile points. There were high-quality Oxbow and McKean projectile points during the Middle Archaic, but from my experience, it was the exception rather than the rule. Middle Archaic projectile points focused on functionality over aesthetics while Paleoindian / Early Archaic projectile points focused on both  functionality and aesthetics. 

Figure Four - Late Archaic. A typical example of a 
Pelican Lake dart / knife form from Wyoming. 
Age is around 2,800 to 1,800 years ago. 
John Branney Collection. 

What do you think caused Middle Archaic flint knappers to be less detailed oriented in their flintknapping? Do you think that flint knapping became less important in Middle Archaic time or did they lose the skill required to make Paleoindian quality projectile points? Something changed. Flint knappers in the Middle Archaic period seemingly lost the desire to create the stone works of art of Paleoindian times. Did life in Middle Archaic times become so difficult that flintknappers could not invest the time? We will never know for sure. 
Figure Five - Late Prehistoric. Bow propelled arrow points. 
High quality and workmanship returns. 
Age between 1,500 to 5,00 years ago. 
John Branney Collection.   

Flint knapping has never been the same since Paleoindian / Early Archaic times but that does not mean that there are not extraordinary examples of flint knapping skills in the later periods. I propose that these extraordinary examples of flintknapping in the Middle Archaic and Late Archaic and Late Prehistoric were more individually based versus culturally based. Just like we have skilled craftsman today, prehistoric tribes had their skilled flintknappers who had the desire and skill to create something more than just a stone tip for a spear, dart, or arrow. In the accompanying photos, I show you some of the extraordinary examples from the prehistoric past of the High Plains.

I invite you to read my prehistoric adventures. 
I guarantee you will enjoy them. 


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

CROW and the CAVE - Who Dun It? - Part Three

Figure One - How I found the projectile point tip in a dry streambed on April 19, 2018.  
In Who Dun It -- Parts One and Two, I discussed Paleoindian projectile point typology, mentioning on more than one occasion how it was as much an art as it was science. In Who Dun It -- Part Three, I am going to show you an example of a Paleoindian artifact that I surface recovered on April 19, 2018 on my Shadows on the Trail prehistoric site. In my recently released prehistoric adventure book entitled CROW and the CAVE, I named the Shadows on the Trail site, Skull Valley or Páhu Ósmaka in the language of the Lakota Sioux. The following text in blue is an outtake from CROW and the CAVE that describes Skull Valley or Páhu Ósmaka. My main character in the book Hoka has arrived in the valley some 10,700 years ago.

Páhu Ósmaka or Skull Valley brought back many memories to Hoka, many good, but a few bad. The Folsom People followed the seasonal migration of the bison herds so Hoka had never known any place as home. Wherever the Folsom People camped was home. But, Hoka had a special connection to Páhu Ósmaka

…Hoka and the wolf dog reached the middle of the bowl-shaped valley as the sun hung above the sandstone bluffs to the west. Bluffs now surrounded the hunter and his wolf dog on three sides. As they rounded the last bend, Hoka spotted the landmarks that marked the location of wakan ya. The birthplace for the valley’s water lay between two scarred sandstone buttes, jutting up from the valley floor. Crossbedded sandstone from an ancient river system formed the resistant cap on both the buttes. Broken sandstone boulders littered the grassy aprons surrounding the buttes. Arroyos radiated outward from the bottom of the buttes like spider webs. At the top of the hump-backed butte on the south side were two rock shelters in a large mound of rock called Páhu Inyan or Skull Rock.

Figure Three - Is it an Allen, Andersen or Fredrick? Or are
all three variants of each other?

Páhu Ósmaka is a mystical place. Walk through the valley and the spirits of people who once inhabited the valley will overwhelm you. Páhu Ósmaka has been very good to me over the years with artifact hunting. On April 11, 2018, it was good to me, again. I knew when I spotted the projectile point tip sticking out of the sand that it was Paleoindian / Early Archaic (figure one). Only the ancient ones had the skill to create such masterpieces. With the proximal end or base of the point missing (figure three), it is impossible for me to identify the projectile point type with any certainty. Based on its flaking pattern, I believe the artifact was either Allen, Andersen, or Frederick projectile point / knife form. I am leaning towards Andersen.

What is an Andersen point? Andersen points are one of those “localized” projectile point types that I criticized in prior articles. In my opinion, an Andersen is a slim version of an Allen point. But, I am not here to argue the merits of Andersen points.  
Figure Four - Perry Andersen collecting artifacts in a large 
sand dune blowout in northeastern Colorado.
Note the level of deflation. 
Courtesy UNSM.  
How did the Andersen point come about? Back in the 1920s and 1930s, there was a ranching family in Yuma County, Colorado by the name of Andersen. Percy and his son Harold Andersen enjoyed artifact hunting and they were at the right place at the right time to take advantage of the best high plains artifact hunting that ever happened. The Andersens were great amateur archaeologists who meticulously documented their finds and kept in close contact with professional archaeologists about what they were finding. 

Under law, homesteaders in Yuma and other counties had to cultivate the land. A long, enduring drought came along, followed by strong winds, and the Dust Bowl was born. The soil in Yuma County ended up in neighboring states, exposing deeply buried layers of soil  associated with the time of the Paleoindians. Percy and Harold Andersen found and documented many Paleoindian and Early Archaic artifacts in these sand dune blowouts. At that time, most Paleoindian projectile points were classified into a broad category called Yuma points. Over time, archaeologists reclassified the different Paleoindian projectile points into types reflecting where they were first documented in archaeological sites. For example, at one time, Scottsbluff, Clovis, Eden, Allen, Frederick, Hell Gap, Eden, Plainview, Goshen, etc. were all considered Yuma points.  

There was one type of Yuma projectile point found by the Andersen family that did not get reclassified into a new or existing projectile point type. These points ended up being called Andersen points by collectors. This projectile point was slim, triangular, and mostly diagonally flaked. It wasn’t quite an Allen and it wasn't quite a Frederick or a Plainview, so collectors dubbed it the Andersen point, and collectors still do.  
Figure Five - Andersen points from the Andersen Collection, bottom row,
right. Courtesy of UNSM. 
Not everyone has accepted Andersen as a projectile point type. As a test, I randomly selected five well-known, high plains archaeology books out of my library and checked whether or not the professional archaeologists who wrote the books mentioned Andersen points. I found nary a word about the Andersen projectile point type. I do understand why. I am certainly not convinced that Andersen points require their own projectile point type, I could see them fitting in with either Allen or Frederick. However, it is nice that the Andersen family was recognized for their significant contribution to high plains archaeology.
Figure Six - Cream de la cream, the original 'Slim Arrow' and the  
type point for the Andersen projectile point type. Notch in base
intentionally burinated. Courtesy UNSM.  

I am calling the point I found on April 19, 2018 an Andersen point, although it could very well be an Allen point, or a Frederick point, or even an Eden point. This just shows you, Paleoindian projectile point typology is as much an art as it is a science.     

                      CLICK for JOHN BRADFORD BRANNEY books

Friday, April 6, 2018

CROW and the CAVE -- Who Dun It? -- Part Two

Figure One - What do you call these High Plains surface finds? I call them Allen points. The three critical attributes
I used to identify were; 1). Pronounced basal concavity, 2). Carefully executed diagonal flaking, and
3). Edge grinding. Longest point is 3.2 inches. John Branney Collection.    
Identifying Paleoindian projectile points by type on the High Plains is often more art than science. Deciding what kind of projectile point is in your hands can lead to some hand wringing, especially for those projectile points that are somewhere ‘between’ two known projectile point types. One of the more confusing array of Paleoindian projectile points are those with indented bases. For decades, people threw all indented base projectile points into two buckets; Clovis if it had flutes and Plainview if did not have flutes. The differences between the various indented base projectile points made by Paleoindians are  subtle. An indented based Paleoindian projectile point can be Clovis, Goshen, Plainview, Allen, St. Mary's Hall, Dalton, Belen, or Midland. Am I missing any? Figure One shows a group of these indented base points. What type do you think they are?

The similarities between projectile point types can be striking and the differences subtle. I have seen two identical projectile points made with the same technology with similar age called different point types just because they were found in adjoining regions of the country. This is precisely why I do not get hung up on a name. In my opinion, we have gone way overboard on naming projectile point types. It appears to me that naming a new projectile point has become a feather in the cap for some people and that those people have gone out of their way in finding differences in projectile points, and not the similarities to an already existing projectile point type.    
Figure Two - The Texas Panhandle point on the left is 
called Plainview while the northern Colorado point 
on the right is called Goshen. Can you tell the difference? 
I can't. Longest point is 2.4 inches.
John Branney Collection.  

For this article, I am staying out of the politics of proposing a new projectile point. It is almost impossible for an amateur archaeologist to have a new projectile point named and recognized. Professionals have a forum for naming and documenting new projectile point types and there is still a lot of politics. It can work the other way as well, i.e. denying the existence of an existing projectile point type. Texas archaeologists have denied the existence of Agate Basin points in Texas as if a future border stopped the Agate Basin people from entering future Texas. I have found and seen Agate Basin points in Texas, but since professional archaeologists have not found them, they do not exist. I digressed to the very topic I wrote I would avoid. ;).    

Imagine that you and I discovered a new prehistoric site while surface hunting. We are finding a different style of projectile point that we have never seen. Since these are surface finds, we do not know the age or the prehistoric culture they come from. These projectile points look kind of like an existing projectile point type, but they are not a complete match. Our projectile points have a couple of features that make them different to the existing projectile point type. We wonder if we have found a new projectile point type.    

Selecting and recognizing the critical attributes in a series of projectile points can be difficult and subjective. At one extreme, we focus on general attributes and fit our group of projectile points into an existing projectile point type. At the other extreme, we focus on the minute differences and variations that distance our group of projectile points from an existing projectile point type.
Figure Three - What would you call these surface found projectile points? I call them Midland points
based on these three attributes; 1). Thin, 2). Indented to flat bases, and 3). Fine, abrupt, non invasive
pressure retouch forming regular and straight margins. Longest point is 2.5 inches.
John Branney Collection   
If the descriptions for existing projectile point types are too tight and rigid, we end up with a plethora of new projectile point types that might only reflect differences in craftsmanship or workmanship, not prehistoric culture. If the descriptions for existing projectile point types are too loose and flexible, we might accept large variations that may actually reflect a change in technology or prehistoric culture. 

Bottom line is; IT IS ONLY A NAME. You might even disagree with what I called the projectile points above. I have no problem with that. The critical item in projectile point identification is doing the homework required to identify your Paleoindian projectile point to the best of your ability.

In case you missed "Part I", CLICK the LINK, and if you want to join my Folsom People adventures CLICK the LINK under my book covers. You will be glad you did. 

                  CROW and the CAVE - WHO DUN IT? - PART I   

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

CROW and the CAVE – Who Dun It? – Part One

Figure One - Four thousand years of High Plains projectile point evolution. From left to right; Clovis, Goshen,
Folsom, Agate Basin, Hell Gap, and Scottsbluff (3.95 inches long). I see a fundamental change in style
from Folsom to Agate Basin. John Branney Collection.   
Amateur and professional archaeologists spend lots of time studying and categorizing High Plains Paleoindian projectile points by technology and type. These projectile point types are associated with specific Paleoindian cultures or complexes, such as Clovis or Folsom. Did the overall Paleoindian culture change between Clovis and Folsom or was it just the projectile point style? Humans seek order and simplicity from disorder and complexity. We identify and classify items that are important to us. When we find a Paleoindian projectile point, the first question is 'who dun it'? We want to know how our projectile point fits into the overall scheme of Paleoindian projectile point types. We want an orderly projectile point sequence or evolution from Clovis Complex to Goshen Complex to  Folsom Complex to Agate Basin Complex to Hell Gap Complex to Cody Complex.

In some cases, Paleoindian life seemed quite simple; survival was the only game. The details of what life was like ten or twelve thousand years ago is impossible to unravel from our spotty archaeological record. The prehistory of Paleoindians on the High Plains is like a thousand and one piece jigsaw puzzle. On a jigsaw puzzle there is the picture of the completed puzzle on the box and inside the box are a thousand and one pieces. Each piece by itself tells us little about the overall puzzle. If I compare these puzzle pieces to the archaeological record, it is similar. We never have a complete picture. We are limited to the puzzle pieces or archaeological data we find and interpret. We might have three puzzle pieces from this corner and four pieces from that corner, but we never have a complete picture. By using various scientific disciplines and the best "Sherlock Holmes" imitation, archaeologists and investigators piece together an incomplete Paleoindian prehistory.

While bone, fabric, and flesh deteriorate in the elements, stone projectile points hold their own, somewhat. We are guilty of using projectile point type as the be-all-to-end-all to identify and differentiate Paleoindian cultures or complexes. What if Paleoindians used more than one projectile point type at the same time and in the same place? That throws a wrench in the orderly sequence of projectile points we all know and love.            

Ruthanne Knudson (2017) wrote it best;  

"Perhaps, the typological labeling of points has resulted in
artificial confusion of “different” complexes when indeed
people living together made differently designed
points at the same time.”        

Bravo! It is amazing how one sentence can explain and reinforce a belief on the subject of Paleoindian projectile points. Based on current evidence, who can say that there weren’t a few innovative Paleoindians who made Clovis and Goshen-like projectile points at the same time, or that Folsom hunters did not experiment with Agate Basin projectile points? Projectile points are an excellent 'broad brush' technique for identifying Paleoindian cultures, but we must be wary to not to let the tail wag the dog. Based on our current understanding, we know that from the Clovis Complex to the Cody Complex, large mammal procurement was the main survival economy of Paleoindians, only the style of projectile points and some of the prey changed over time. As more pieces of the Paleoindian puzzle are found, we will fill in more of that cover on the puzzle box.  
Figure Three - Paleoindians probably spent most of their time trying to survive.
They would probably wonder why 'we' spend so much time and effort 
studying their stone projectile points.  

Knudson, Ruthann
2017    “The Plainview Assemblage in Context” in Plainview: The Enigmatic Paleoindian Artifact Style of the Great Plains. The University of Utah Press. Salt Lake City.   

Figure FourCLICK for Latest Paleoindian Adventure from John Bradford Branney

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

CROW and the CAVE - Short Faced Bear - Predator or Scavenger?

Figure One - Arctodus simus, the giant short-faced bear.  
One of the messages I convey in my prehistoric adventure book series titled the SHADOW on the TRAIL Quadrilogy is that Paleoindians on the High Plains had a tough life. They not only had to deal with the ongoing search for food and water, but they also had to deal with disasters, both natural and intentional, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and wildfires. One of the other things that Paleoindians had to deal with were animal predators. On good days, Paleoindians were at the top of the food chain, but there were a few bad days where the hunters became the hunted. With sharp spears to defend themselves, Paleoindians had formidable animal adversaries. 


In my newly released prehistoric adventure CROW and the CAVE, I use a super animal predator for the first time as 'one of the good guys'. A short book passage from CROW and the CAVE

A short-faced bear, taller than the tallest bison, burst out of the cave. The bear stood outside the cave, growling and peering around. Smoke billowed from its den. The warriors stood paralyzed, a couple of them defecating on the spot. None had ever seen such a monster. The bear glared at them while sniffing the air. It opened its massive jaws and tilted its head to the side. Its yellow teeth glinted in the winter sun.

The now-extinct short-faced bear was quite a specimen. Based on fossilized remains, it is estimated to have stood five and a half feet tall at its shoulders, high enough to look a Paleoindian squarely in the eyes. It was ten-foot long and if it stood on its hind legs like modern bears, a good-sized male stood eleven to twelve feet with a fourteen-foot vertical arm reach. It is estimated that a good-sized male could weigh as much as two thousand pounds. Males were around fifteen percent larger than females. The size of the animals fluctuated, perhaps adhering to Bergmann’s Rule which states that populations and species of larger size are found in colder environments, and species of smaller size are found in warmer regions.  
Figure Three - Not sure if this is quite to scale,
but you get the idea. The Giant Short-Faced Bear was
not a laughing matter.   

The giant short-faced bear preferred the open, drier grasslands west of the Mississippi River. So far, its remains have been found from Alaska and the Yukon south into Mexico, from Pennsylvania west to California.

The giant short-faced bear had short faces and wide muzzles resembling more of a big cat than a modern bear. It was also less pigeon toed than modern-day brown or black bears. It walked in a straight line versus waddling like brown or black bears. Scientists estimate that the giant short-faced bear could run between thirty and forty miles per hour, fast enough to run down most animals.

Was the giant short-faced bear a super predator or a super scavenger? That’s a question that scientists debate. The nitrogen 15 to nitrogen 14 ratios from its remains indicates it was a carnivore. One estimate puts its consumption at around thirty-five pounds of meat per day. From its power jaws and large teeth, it devoured anything it wanted. From its estimated speed, it could run down wild horses and antelope, at least in a short sprint.

Current evidence shows that the giant short-faced bear was around until about 11,000 years ago. Even though CROW and the CAVE took place around 10,700 years ago, I used the giant short-faced bear, based on my belief that we have yet to uncover the last survivor of ANY extinct species. Read the SHADOWS on the TRAIL Quadrilogy for the rest of the story.   



Monday, March 12, 2018

Historical Fiction Novel by John Bradford Branney breathes life into Prehistoric America

Fans of the popular Shadows on the Trail book series by bestselling author John Bradford Branney are gobbling up copies of his latest adventure, Crow and the Cave 

The historical fiction novels written by John Bradford Branney are known for their impeccable research and biting realism. In his latest blockbuster novel Crow and the Cave, Author Branney catapults his readers into Prehistoric America where they reunite with some familiar faces from Branney’s best-selling prehistoric adventure series the Shadows on the Trail Trilogy.

Hailed for its accurate depiction of life in Prehistoric America, Crow and the Cave is a fast-paced read that accurately builds on clues from the archaeological record and oral traditions practiced by early Americans. What makes Crow and the Cave even more compelling is the inspiration for the story. Crow and the Cave rose from a life-threatening accident that left Author Branney and his German Shepherd Madd Maxx crippled and bleeding on a remote ranch.  Not one to miss an opportunity to tell a story, Branney recounted this incident in the context of a Paleoindian named Hoka in Prehistoric America. This catastrophic event burst forth on the pages of Crow and the Cave.

Hogan and Cansha
John Bradford Branney has shown meticulous attention to detail and a consummate familiarity with the high plains of Prehistoric America in Crow and the Cave. Branney has again shown why he is one of the preeminent, authoritative, and technically-superb writers of this genre. Readers will relish every page of Crow and the Cave.    

John Bradford Branney holds a geology degree from the University of Wyoming and MBA from the the University of Colorado. John lives in the Colorado mountains with his wife, Theresa. Crow and the Cave is the eighth published book by Branney.
Copies of Crow and the Cave are available at all major booksellers, including Black Rose Writing, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
CLICK for CROW and the CAVE

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

CROW and the CAVE - Cannibalism in Prehistoric America.

Figure One - Scene of cannibalism in Brazil in 1644 by Jan van Kessel
One of the most frequently asked questions about my prehistoric adventure series the SHADOWS on the TRAIL TRILOGY is about cannibalism in prehistoric times. In my first book SHADOWS on the TRAIL, which took place around 10,700 years ago, I introduced human sacrifice and cannibalism. I introduced these practices in my book for its shock appeal, but also because I believe that both happened in prehistoric times. Don't get me wrong, I do not believe human sacrifice and cannibalism were dominant cultural practices in Prehistoric America, but archaeological evidence indicates that it did happen, and we have to acknowledge that. We know that human sacrifice and cannibalism was documented by the Spaniards in Central and South America in early historical times.

Below is a passage from my first book SHADOWS on the TRAIL where a priest called Sica performs a human sacrifice on a slave and then the flesh from that human sacrifice was consumed by the people of the village. A huntress called Namid responds in horror at the end of the passage.  

While praying and chanting, Sica pulled out a long obsidian knife blade from his robe and held it high. The woman struggled and the three warriors held her against the granite boulder, attempting to hold her still. Sica then turned the knife blade downward in his outstretched arms and plunged the knife blade deep into the chest of the woman. The woman’s body violently jerked upwards when the knife penetrated her lungs, followed by a muffled gasp. Sica pulled the knife from her chest. He had stabbed the woman with such force that the knife blade had snapped in two. He pulled a second obsidian knife from his robe and cut the woman’s flesh below her sternum with the sharp blade. He quickly sawed a large hole in her flesh, probing under the woman’s rib cage with the knife blade and his other hand. Finally, he found the woman’s heart and cut the flesh around it. He pulled the woman’s heart from her body and raised it to the sky. He then put the heart to his mouth and bit off a large piece of it. Some of the people in the crowd cheered while Sica, blood dripping down his chin, smiled at the crowd with delight. To'sarre stood rigid, disgusted with what he had just witnessed.

“STOP!” Namid shrieked. “NO!”

Not every one agrees that cannibalism existed in prehistoric times. In his 1979 book, The Man Eating Myth, author William Arens stated that "There is limited evidence for the possibility of cannibalism in prehistoric times." Arens believed that
Figure Two - CLICK for John Bradford Branney Books
cannibalism was only related to isolated starvation situations, much like the snowbound Donner Party in 1846-47.        

Since Mr. Arens researched and wrote his book, archaeologists have discovered more evidence for cannibalism during prehistoric times. Just do an internet search on 'Cannibalism in Prehistory' and there are hundreds of results. Just like everything else on the internet, you have to be cautious about what to believe, but there is a significant amount of legitimate information about cannibalism in Prehistoric America.

What we may never know is whether or not cannibalism was done for sustenance or ritual or both. 
As far as sustenance is concerned, humans are not that nutritious. James Cole of the University of Brighton determined that an adult human male of 66 kilograms contained 144,000 total calories. Of this, 32,000 of these calories came from skeletal muscle. In comparison, the skeletal muscle of a mammoth contains 3,600,000 calories, a horse 200,100 calories, a red deer 163,680 calories and a Saiga antelope 31,500 (similar to a human male).
Figure Three - Illustration by Dami Lee
The second reason for cannibalism might have been a part of a ritual. Prehistoric humans were superstitious of things they knew little about. We see this in their art. We know from historical accounts that the religions of some historical Indian tribes believed that it was possible to capture an animal's spirit by eating its flesh. Perhaps, some prehistoric people believed the same thing about human cuisine. Or perhaps, cannibalism came from a need to dominate. In my latest book, CROW and the CAVE, I explain my reasons for using cannibalism. Read CROW and the CAVE to see what I think.
Figure Four - CLICK to Order CROW and the CAVE


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

CROW and the CAVE - It's a Family Affair

CLICK for John Bradford Branney Books
I published the first book of my prehistoric adventure series in April 2013. This thriller was entitled SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL. Since April 2013, I have written three more books in this prehistoric adventure series about a real-to-life prehistoric culture that lived in western North America from 10,900 to 10,200 years ago. This prehistoric culture we now call Folsom.

One of the things I have done in my prehistoric adventure books is to link a few of the characters from book to book, that is, the characters who have survived from book to book. SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL started out with characters named Chayton and Tarca Sapa and Wiyaka and Namid and bad man Ei Hanit. In my latest addition to the series entitled CROW and the CAVE, I bring back Chayton's son as a main character. His name is Hoka. Many of you will remember him from the books GHOSTS OF THE HEART and WINDS OF EDEN.
Paleoindians in SHADOWS on the TRAIL country. 

Below is a short passage from CROW and the CAVE where I begin to reintroduce Hoka to my readers.

North of Paytah and his people, a lone hunter trekked northward, walking through the windblown hills of the North Country. The hunter’s hike mirrored the flood plain bordering a small meandering stream. The hunter was heading to a place where this water was born, a sacred spring called wakan ya in a valley called Páhu Ósmaka or Skull Valley. A chilly wind blew out of the northwest, a reminder that winter was on its way. The first snow of the season had already fallen, and a few isolated snowdrifts on north-facing slopes still survived. The hunter knew the cold, he had survived forty some winters in the North Country. Even though he was prepared for this harsh climate, the frigid wind chilled his bones. Over his elk skin shirt and leggings, the hunter wore a coat made from the hide of a bison. The hunter wore the bison wool inward, facing his body. A long piece of hide tied around the waist secured the coat. Over moccasin-covered feet, the hunter wore sock-like boots with deer fur facing inward. On top of his head, the hunter wore a cap made from the skin of a coyote. The hunter wore the cap low across his brow. His people called him Hoka. His blood father was known as Kangi and his blood mother was Tonkala. When Hoka was a child, a bear killed his blood father. A hunter called Chayton then raised Hoka with Tonkala.  

For more on Hoka and the Folsom People, you can read the book series the SHADOWS ON THE TRAIL TRILOGY. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Part II - The "Spark" for CROW and the CAVE, an adventure by John Bradford Branney

Figure One - Crow and the Cave by John Bradford Branney. Release Date March 8, 2018.
In case you missed Part One of this blog posting, here is the link to Part One. LINK to Part I of "Spark" and CROW and the CAVE.

In Part One, horned cattle were bludgeoning my German Shepherd Madd Maxx and me. I was pinned to the ground by the horns and hooves of an orange-colored devil cow and Madd Maxx was battling the rest of the herd. The story continues below.  

Every time the devil cow stepped on my legs, I cried out. The pain was excruciating. I could not breathe. I was wheezing, and I was not getting enough oxygen to satisfy my body’s needs. My fractured ribs felt like someone had impaled me with a spear! While the halfton cow ground me into the dirt, she rocked her head back and forth trying to impale me with her horns. At the same time, she was walking all over me. My entire body was on fire. I felt immersed in hot lava. The pain was beyond tolerance. I was bleeding all over the pasture.
Figure Two - The orange and white devil cow whose mission was to eliminate the threat. 
Lying there in agony while suffocating on dust, I had an epiphany. I realized this devil cow was not going to let up on her attack until I was dead. If I fought her, she would kill him. I stopped moving and went limp. I played dead. I laid there motionless in the dirt and the blood and the manure. That was hard to do. I was in extreme pain. At first, the horned beast did not buy it. She pawed at me with her hooves, trying to roll me over, but I spread my legs just far enough to prevent her from rolling me over. I had my arms wrapped around my head like a helmet. She shoved me with her horned skull, but I did not budge. I remember feeling her wet breath against my neck as she sniffed me for life. Every time the devil cow stepped on me, I wanted to scream, but I held it all in.

I finally satisfied the devil cow. She was convinced that I was no longer a threat. She rejoined the herd, leaving me lying there in my own blood, covered in dirt and cow dung. I was in very bad shape. All I wanted to do was lie there, but I heard my dog, sometimes barking, sometimes yelping. I struggled to my knees. The pain was beyond anything I had ever experienced. My left leg took the worst of the beating. It would not straighten. I spotted Madd Maxx. The cows were circling him in a cloud of dust. Funny how the mind works under the strangest of circumstances. I remember thinking how the scene reminded me of an old western movie with the Indians circling the cover wagons, but in this case, it was cows circling Madd Maxx. I crawled through the circling cows. Occasionally one of them bumped into me, but I kept going. I grabbed Madd Maxx by his furry neck and pulled him from the circle. Then, I collapsed on the ground.
Figure Three - A portion of the rest of the herd. Glad to have a fence between us. 

Madd Maxx was in very bad shape. The cattle had annihilated him. The herd had ripped off his steel training collar and long lead rope. He was bleeding profusely from his mouth and he had bloody patches of matted fur across most of his body. His ferocious German Shepherd bark was now whimpers of pain. I pulled him away from the herd. I still could not breathe. I was choking, exhausted, and in agony. My gums were bleeding and my front teeth were loose. I had bit my tongue and it was bleeding. My legs and back felt like someone had dipped me in molten steel. I could not stand. Crawling was its own challenge. The shredded backpack still hung from my back by one frayed strap. Madd Maxx and I sat there on the prairie, humbled and conquered.

Then, the strangest thing happened. The cows lined up in front of us. I could not believe it. I guess they thought we still were not convinced of their superiority or maybe I had eaten too many hamburgers in my lifetime. I don’t know why. The orange and white devil cow stood directly in front of me, no further than five feet away. I heard her breathing and watched her chew her cud. Her eyes were on me. I knew I was not walking anywhere so I commanded Madd Maxx to run for the vehicle. He needed no further encouragement. He took off, half limping and half trotting with his tail firmly placed between his legs. He had no fight left in him. He plowed through the strands of a barbed wire fence that separated this pasture from the next. He made it to our vehicle without further incident. Now, it was my turn. I stood up. I remember screaming in pain as I tried to straighten my legs. Every nerve in my body was screaming out. I balanced myself on my right leg, my halfway useful leg. The devil cow stood between me and the vehicle. She lowered her head and smashed into me, knocking me backwards several feet and onto the ground. That is the last thing I remember.
Figure Four - While I was dealing with the orange and white devil cow, Madd Maxx dealt with the herd. 

I do not know how long I laid in the pasture. When I woke up, I was freezing. The temperature had dropped. I would never survive a night on the prairie. I had to get out of there. Pulling myself along on hands and damaged knees, I crawled to the vehicle. The remains of the backpack drooped down in front of my chest, but I was not going to stop and take it off. Not while I was in that pasture. I spotted Madd Maxx at the back of the vehicle, waiting for me. He was ready to get the heck out of Dodge. I loaded him up and drove to the ranch house. I was still wearing sunglasses, but one of the lenses was gone. I honked the horn at the ranch house. I opened my vehicle door and fell to the ground. That’s where I stayed. Sometime later, flight for life shuttled me to a trauma center in Colorado while Madd Maxx made an emergency visit to the vet. That was what happened to me and Madd Maxx on December 3, 2016, a day before my sixty-second birthday. Experience cannot get more real than that. Climb aboard my time machine. I have the dial set for 8700 B.C.

I hope you enjoy Crow and the Cave.