The Old White Lady with Many Stories

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When Eve Ball started telling the “oral history” stories she’d heard from the last living warriors who knew Cochise, Victorio, Juh and Geronimo, many dismissed her. Not only did they see her as a teacher who was pretending to be a historian, but the subject matter of Native Americans wasn’t seen as important—“their side of the story” wasn’t yet valued. That didn’t stop this woman who never wrote a word before age 60, but whose numerous books and articles—some published in True West magazine—would become a treasure trove that preserved an important hunk of American history. She came to be known as “The Old White Lady with Many Stories,” and historians as noted as Paul Hutton say that today she is “universally praised.” She was born in 1890, earned teaching degrees and taught for many years before moving to Ruidoso in 1942—a move that would change our understanding of history. Her home was on the route used by Apache women walking into town, and she was fascinated—she set up a table along the path and offered water, sometimes lemonade, and tried to ask questions, but found she learned more when she just listened. Eve Ball learned that the “king pin” of the reservation was Asa Daklugie, beloved nephew of Geronimo and son of Chief Juh. He didn’t like “white eyes,” but he came to like and trust Eve and told her the stories of his people and his life. With his trust came the endorsement that brought 67 elderly Apaches to her door. Her first book, “In the Days of Victorio: Recollections of a Warm Springs Apache,” is told through the eyes of Chief Victorio’s nephew, James Kaywaykla. Eve had to pay for its publication herself, as publishers weren’t interested, but once it was released, people saw its value to history and her role in bringing it to life. In 1982, Eve Ball won the “Oscar of western writing,” the Golden Saddleman. The next year she was honored with the national Medal of Freedom, and was also inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She died on Christmas Eve in 1984, leaving behind an unprecedented legacy.

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