CHARLES F. LUMMIS
Author & Adventurer
From the time I first read as a teenager The Land of Poco Tiempo by author Charles Fletcher Lummis (1859-1928), I became a fan of all his writings on the American Southwest, a collector of his books, and a student of his colorful life.
Knowing of my intense interest in Lummis, bookman Lawrence Clark Powell several times over the years urged me to undertake the writing of a comprehensive biography of the man. But other projects in the line of authorship always got in the way, and for the most part I left the writing up of Lummis’ life to others. Notwithstanding, I have continued to acquire information, especially anecdotal material, about him.
In that endeavor, two people I came to know drew me closer to the real Charles F. Lummis. The first was Consuelo Chaves Summers, daughter of prominent political figure Amado Chaves, who became Lummis’ best friend in New Mexico.
On his last two trips to the state, in 1926 and 1927 from his California home, Charles Lummis had spent some time at Amado’s mountain ranch on the upper Pecos River. Mrs. Summers related to me from memory several humorous incidents she had witnessed during those visits.
Subsequently, I had the opportunity to examine the surviving Amado Chaves papers, preserved in a large metal strongbox in his daughter Consuelo’s basement. They contained previously unseen copies of correspondence between Lummis and Chaves, and those papers became the primary source I used in publishing the story of their friendship (1968). The little book, printed and released by E.W. Tedlock, Jr.’s San Marcos Press, bore the title Two Southwesterners, Charles Lummis and Amado Chaves. That now-rare material is included as Chapter 1 in this Gathering.
The second person who knew Charles F. Lummis intimately and who aided me in understanding his motivation and work was his youngest son Keith. Upon publication of Two Southwesterners, I sent a copy to Keith Lummis, whom I then did not know, and he responded from California with a warm letter of approval and thanks. That marked the beginning of our friendship.
Keith and his wife paid me several visits in New Mexico, where I showed him some historical sites closely identified with his father. When his sister Turbesé, who had long been working on a biography of Lummis, died in 1967 leaving the job incomplete, Keith took up the reins and finished the book himself. It was brought out by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1975, titled Charles F. Lummis, The Man and His West. My correspondence and occasional conversations with Keith Lummis continued up to the time of his death in 2001 at the age of 98.
The present book contains the text of Two Southwesterners, as well as an essay on Charles Lummis as a photographer, “Cameras & Controversy,” which initially appeared in New Mexico Magazine (vol. 79, October 2001). To these have been added an original Lummis letter concerning books he considers basic for comprehending New Mexico’s rich history and culture; a published tribute to his son who died at the age of six; and the first printed notice of Lummis’ own death in 1928.
The author hopes that through this small volume the readers’ curiosity will be aroused and might lead to exploring further the stimulating world of Charles F. Lummis.