The Nameless Ones
Life and times of America's last great Apache Chief open in 1877. Death has stolen the original Chise (Chise di cochise) who leaves behind two grown sons to deal with broken U. S. Government treaties. Apache are now being systematically listed on military rolls then forced from their Dragoon Mountain homelands to imprisonment at abominable San Carlos Indian Reservation. There they face lack of shelter, water, along with starvation, disease resulting from woefully inadequate sanitation, certain death.
Chise's oldest son Taza, father of the only family heir, two-year old Niño, arranges a dangerous escape for his wife and son, assisted by a few women and elderly men including Chise’s faithful shaman, Deeodet.
Taza, is known to the Army, as is his brother Naiche and brother-in-law Geronimo. Therefore they must remain behind. Any Indian already identified will be missed, and hunted, which would surely further endanger the unnamed 38 who have embarked on a uncharted journey.
After months of struggle the nameless, now homeless escapees settle high among steep Sierra Madra walls. There they establish the final Apache stronghold, “Pagotzinkay.”
Back at hell-hole San Carlos, becoming known as the ‘bowl’, Chief Taza agrees to allow the U. S. Government to send him to Washington D.C. where Indians are shuffled around on parade floats as evidence that federal handling of Indian lives is a, “Good thing”. The chief’s private goal is to reach President Grant so he can plead a bit of land be returned to restore Apache homeland.
Far to the southwest, high among rocky encampment the only grandchild of Chise, young Niño Cochise’s life becomes a peaceful mélange of happy events, tutored by his mother Nodahsti and Chise’s old tribal diwi, Deeodet—until word comes the lad’s father, Taza, is dead. His end arrived in the form of pneumonia. Apache believe Taza was murdered by white-eyes.
Niño's uncles, Naiche (Taza's brother), and Geronimo (by marriage) break out of San Carlos, leading 700 angry warriors. All head straight to the new Sierra Madras Apache fortress where a state of combat is declared. Geronimo and braves stepped up on a path to launch what will forever be the bloodiest decade in annals of western American history, the "Ten Year Wars." Skilled in weapons of battle, youthful Niño’s heros become "Netdahe"—a term for Geronimo's warriors, Chato, Nanay, Tzoe, and others who vow death to all Whites and Mexicans. Other tribes soon join. Known as "The Wild Ones," they are fierce, fearless, and seldom sober.
At age 15 Niño follows his heritage, becomes the youngest chief ever approved by full council, while ex-Indian Agent Tom Jeffords helps handle discovery of a thin gold vein known as the “Just laying there,” mine.
Niño’s first leadership act is to kidnap a Mexican doctor to save Geronimo, dying of battle injuries. The chief then befriends a stronghold prisoner, U.S. Army deserter Jim Ticer, enlisting the ex-teacher to ply his academic skills by familiarizing the Indians with English.
At the behest of his mother Niño courts a Mexican girl who betrays the young swain. Later fate bestows on him, love at first sight, he names her Golden Bird.
Shortly after their wedding his beloved is shot off her horse and dies in his arms. In the most defining act of his life he pursues her murderers, more than 20 Mexican soldiers all the way to the Pacific Ocean before cleansing the world of the last one.
Becoming less of a wild savage with passing of his mother, of time, Niño finds work in Hollywood on the Jesse L. Lansky lot with Charley Stevens, Bill Russell, Tom Mix, John Wayne.
At the crash site of a Swift GB-model cabin monoplane, Niño loses half of his right hand, left foot and part of his left leg above the ankle. He is fitted with an artificial lower limb.
Still going strong Niño is cast in a TV series, "High Chaparral" being filmed in Old Tucson.
At the funeral of Arizona’s governor he meets Kenny Griffith who scribes Niño’s biography.
When the TV series folds, Niño with wife Minnie’s support, sells signed copies of his book "The First 100 Years Of Niño Cochise" for the local Chamber of Commerce.
Yearning to be ever nearer his cherished Dragoon Mountains, Niño builds a curio shop with attached living quarters—the "Cochise Trading Post", aptly set at the entrance to Boot Hill.
It's upkeep eventually surpasses his energy, the couple move to nearby Wilcox. There, signing books for the city manager provides an easier life. Again missing his accessorial home, Niño returns to Tombstone where he sells books and photographs at the Montgomery Wards catalog order desk.
Weary of celebrity status, of answering tourist questions, Niño retires. All he wants at his stage of life is to be left alone with the wife he adores, to enjoy warmth of another sunrise over his treasured Dragoons. Two days before Christmas it is in this setting 110 year-old Niño Cochise, prescient boy warrior, closes the history of great Apache Chiefs as he becomes part of the ages.
© 2008 Strasbaugh