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Back in the summer of 2005, I wrote “The Mystery of the Treasure Room” for The Cimmerian (vol. 2, no. 4). The article is a little mystery story, with me trying to find out why the number of books in the Robert E. Howard Memorial Collection at Howard Payne University didn’t match the number of books with the “Still in HPU holdings” notation listed at The Robert E. Howard Bookshelf on the REHupa website. Once the smoke cleared, there was a new book added to the Bookshelf listing: Nine Years Among the Indians, by Herman Lehmann; at least that’s what I thought the title was. But I’m getting ahead of myself. A little history:
The first time I went to Howard Payne University, in 2004, I took a snapshot of the Howard collection at the Walker Memorial Library: just three short shelves (at left). A year later, while arguing with Cimmerian editor Leo Grin about Fort McKavett, I got to looking at my library photos again. The pictures were so clear that I could almost read all of the titles on the spines of the books. This led me to compare what I could see in my pictures with what was listed on the REH Bookshelf. When the two didn’t match, I contacted the library and they sent me a list.
After accounting for all the other variables, I was left with one loose end from the library’s list:
Personal Author: Lehmann, Herman, 1859-1932.
Title: Nine years among the Indians, 1870-1879, by Herman Lehmann; the story of the captivity and life of a Texan among the Indians, edited by J. Marvin Hunter.
I emailed them again, asking them to verify that the book did indeed have the REH collection’s bookplate (at top). It did. I ordered a copy of the book from the University of New Mexico Press, read it, and then wrote my article breaking the news. Case closed.
Well, I went back to Howard Payne in 2010. One of the things I wanted to do was have a look at that book. When compiling the REH Bookshelf, Rusty Burke was nice enough to mention when there was an inscription or other interesting oddity in some of the books. Since Nine Years had never been listed before, I was curious if there were any markings inside.
The first thing I noticed was that the title had been listed incorrectly on the list that the librarian had sent me years ago. It wasn’t Nine Years AMONG the Indians, it was Nine Years WITH the Indians. Which is kind of strange. The book I ordered from the UNM Press had “Among” in its title, and it’s a facsimile version. My pages 21 and 42 are identical to the ones in Howard’s book, except that the header on page 42 of my book says “CHAPTER X,” while in Howard’s book it has “NINE YEARS WITH THE INDIANS.”
And then there’s the writing and underlining on those two pages, which is why I took the pictures. Page 21 (above) has “Proof of Indian Savagery” written up top; page 42 (below) has “hatred against the whites.” When I first saw the writing I was pretty sure that it was Howard’s; upon further inspection, I’m a bit skeptical. Maybe Rusty or Patrice can say for sure.
Regardless of whether or not the writing is Howard’s, I’m positive that he read this book. Echoes of it appear in his letters to Lovecraft and Derleth; certain passages evoke for me Howard’s own prose:
The Indian slapped me, choked me, beat me, tore my clothes off, threw away my hat—the last one I had for more than eight years—and I thought he was going to kill me. I locked my fingers in his long black hair, and pulled as hard as I could; I kicked him in the stomach; I bit him with my teeth, and I had almost succeeded in besting him and getting loose when another Indian, Chiwat, came up.
Lehmann was eleven when the above incident occurred. After being taken, he “thought of home, [his] happy little home, and of [his] dear mother and little sisters.” The rest of the narrative, set largely in Texas, does exactly what the title promises and describes his “nine years with the Indians.”
UPDATE: Both Patrice and Rusty say the above handwriting isn’t Howard’s.