Birth of Preloch
55" H, Edition of 20
Birth of Preloch
After Cynthia Parker's capture in 1836, the Quahadi Comanche renamed her Preloch. John's Birth of Preloch captures that fearful moment in a nine-year-old's life when, having been stripped of all trappings of civilization (such as there were for farmers on the frontier), except her rag doll, she received her new name and was thereby born into a world of the Indian.
The essence of her story is this: at nine, she was captured by the Comanches; she grew up within that tribe, married the chief, had two sons and a daughter; 25 years after her birth as Preloch, she and her infant daughter were captured by Texas Rangers and returned to the world of the whites; unable or unwilling to readjust, she sought physical escape twice, and after the death of her daughter, she did escape, into death.
John had long felt both compassion for and association with that long-ago little girl's life, for he too grew up in several worlds. The story of a little girl who dragged her doll (later her infant) between opposite and opposing worlds was immediately accessible to him from a unique, first- person perspective.
Her capture occurred less than three months after the Alamo, and 170 miles northeast of that site. She was taken first to an ancient, secret Comanche hideout an almost inaccessible canyon called Valle de las Lagrimas, the Valley of Tears. She grew up, learned the language and the ways, later the rituals and the dances, the chants, of the tribe that was now hers, and learned the cloudpaths, the sky signs, the calls of the curlew and the ways of the warbler all things that belonged to everyone, as she learned, and to no one. She married. His name was Peat Nakona. The chief, he could shoot arrows under his galloping horse's neck so fast that he could keep eight arrows in the air at all time. Their first son they named Quanah, "fragrance," because he was born in a bed of wildflowers. A second son was Pecos, the daughter Tautaijah, "prairie flower." Then these things happened: she and Tautaijah were captured, taken to a house in eastern Texas; she tried twice to escape; the just-weaned Prairie Flower died, and her mother, believing her husband and sons also dead, simply gave up hope and starved herself to death.
The boys and their father were alive. Peat Nakona died of an infected wound two years after her death, and smallpox took Pecos soon after; but Quantah became the last and the greatest of all Comanche chiefs. She would have been proud of him for that the last to surrender and for this: on more than one raid he spared a white woman and her children from his tensed warriors with the words, "My mother is living somewhere with the white people, and I won't hurt any white woman".
So those were her three lives. Nine years as a white child (born 1827, the year Beethoven died), then 25 years as a Comanche (1836-1860), finally four years as an unwilling repatriate (she died in 1864).
As she'd had three lives, so she was buried three times. For 46 years (till 1910), she rested in the Fosterville Cemetery, Henderson County, Texas. Reburied, for 47 years (1910-1957) her remains rested in the Post Oak Cemetery on the Deyo Mission at Cache, Oklahoma. Her third and final burial occurred in 1957. Beside her grave today in the Post Cemetery at Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma may be seen the graves of Quanah and Prairie Flower.
Understandably, John sees Birth of Preloch as a sort of fitting, final resurrection. Bronzes, after all, will last over ten thousand years and more, and no vicissitude of fate can wrench this nine-year-old from the moment in which he has, with love and respect, effected her third and most permanent capture.
More than that though, Preloch is his condensation of this eternal truth. To attain that indominability which is the natural state of the human spirit requires either freedom or courage. Though Cynthia/Preloch's life in fact made a mockery of freedom, she had such enormous, innate courage, that having lived the life she'd been handed, she was able to die true to that life. She found, as John had, that the values of love, loyalty, and gratitude for life constitute that special kind of freedom that no clash of opposing worlds, nor any physical captivity, can even begin to constrain.