New(s) @ Axe

News and Events of the Leonard H. Axe Library, and of the
Kansas Technology Center Library - Pittsburg (KS) State University

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Western Writer Don Coldsmith Arrives to Present 9th Annual Gene DeGruson Memorial Lecture

Don and Edna Coldsmith, posing for a photo the
evening of October 3, 2006, just before returning to Emporia.


Don Coldsmith, writer, lecturer, historian and journalist arrived on the evening of October 3rd, 2006 to deliver his "Circle of History" address to a packed audience in the Special Collections Department. About 70 listeners filled an overflowing room in the basement of Axe Library to listen to Don tell about his career as a writer, his Spanish Bit Saga book series and, most especially, the "Circle of History" which makes Kansas such a wonderful state to study, live in and travel around.

Many of the Eastern states, because of Jamestown, the Fountain of Youth and Plymouth Rock, like to claim the right of "first contact" of European explorers on American soil. But Don pointed out that Kansas, because of Coronado's visit in 1541, is a staunch competitor. Also, Don pointed out that although Virginia, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and other states tend to grab all the Civil War glory (and visitors), Kansas, because of Fort Scott and because of the exploits of Confederate General Sterling Price at the battles of Mine Creek, Trading Post and Marais des Cygnes should also get some of that interest.. Don told a very sad story about numerous Confederate POWs from Price's army being slaughtered because they wore captured Union uniforms. (It's true. You can find it on, the Mine Creek Battlefield Foundation's web site on page 5 of the Walking Trail Guide.)

Kansas was also a leader in technology, promoting the two transportation industries of steamboats and railroads. And here Don got a laugh from the audience when he told about the Bender family who invented the first Kansas "bed and breakfast" but "didn't quite get the hang of it." (The "Bloody Benders" were a notorious family of serial killers from Labette County, who slaughtered the guests at the Inn they kept.)

Don then told a little about his ground breaking series of Westerns which form the "Spanish Bit Saga", based on Don's lucky find of an old Spanish horse bit (perhaps from Coronado's expedition?) in a junk shop in Oklahoma. Don tries to tell the story of the exploration of the West from the point of the Natives. (He's always delighted when someone asks him what tribe he's from. His ancestors were German.) He also got another laugh when he said he tried to create the type of heroine who didn't "scream, faint or throw up" when faced with danger. His last book in the Spanish Bit Saga will come out in 2007. But that shouldn't stop Don since he writes books which aren't part of the Saga. (Runestone is about Vikings.)

Don's wife Edna Coldsmith brought in a few of Don's books for him to autograph and sell. Then we all repaired to the first floor and had some cookies and punch. Don said this was his third lecture this week. Edna, who does all of Don's driving, is also quite a trooper. She had to face up to a long drive back to Emporia after the lecture. But it didn't bother her in the least.

The lecture was sponsored jointly by the Friends of Axe Library and the Kansas Humanities Council.

-- JV

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