Horse Magic

Lucia St. Clair Robson’s best-selling debut novel, Ride the Wind, won the Spur Award for best historical western of 1982.  Since then she has written  Walk in My Soul, Light a Distant Fire, The Tokaido Road, Mary’s LandFearless, Ghost Warrior: Lozen of the Apaches, and Shadow Patriots, a Novel of the Revolution. Her  most recent novel, Last Train from Cuernavaca, won the 2011 Spur Award for Best Western Long Novel.  Robson lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Chiricahua Apache chief, Victorio, called his sister Lozen his wise counselor and his right hand. He said she had the “strength of a man” and was “a shield to her people.”

General George Crook wrote, “The Apaches are the tigers of the human species,” but even in a society possessing extraordinary courage, endurance and skill, she was unique. The Apaches believed that when she was young, the spirits blessed her with horse magic. They also endowed her with the gift of healing and the power to see enemies at a distance. In the Apaches’ thirty-year struggle to defend their homeland, they came to rely on her strength, wisdom, and supernatural abilities.

Because of her gift of far-sight, she rode with the warriors and fought alongside them. After her brother Victorio’s death, she joined Geronimo’s band of insurgents. With Geronimo and fifteen other warriors, she resisted the combined forces of the United States and Mexican armies, and

the heavily armed civilian populations of New Mexico and Arizona Territories. She and the sixteen warriors, and seventeen women and children held out against a total of about nine thousand men.

Lozen is the heroine of Ghost Warrior, my seventh novel. I’ve been researching people and events from history for thirty-three years now, and a thought occurred to me as I started writing this about Lozen. It’s a thought that gives comfort in troubled times, and let’s face it, all times are troubled thanks to our species’ capacity for mischief and mayhem.

The thought is that even in the worst of situations, individuals with extraordinary strength of character appear and leave a legacy that persists. How fortunate we are that other people made note of them and left a record for the rest of us.

The Apache Wars certainly qualified as the worst of times. Many of the names of the leaders who waged those battles are familiar — Geronimo, Cochise, Victorio. Lozen was as exceptional as any of them. One Apache I spoke to referred to her as their “Joan of Arc.”

Reading about what Lozen and her people endured puts my petty problems into stark perspective. And it strikes me as amazing that the spirit of someone who died 120 years ago can influence what I think and feel now.