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Profile by Pat Jenks

Through the kind auspices of Frank Ross, we're pleased to preview some wonderful Travis Edmonson material which will be included in PAT JENKS' forthcoming book.  Knowing that it will be a treasure trove for all visitors to this site, we'll be sure and provide details for obtaining it as soon as it's published.

Randolph "Pat "Jenks now 96, has had the good fortune to be close friends with Travis Edmonson for many decades, and the charm of the two men simply glows in the stories Pat tells about Travis.
“As a boy, Travis Edmonson spent much of his time near Potam with some Yaqui Indians.  A Yaqui Indian family, and their children who were his age, and he could speak their language to perfection, just like one of them.

Years later, there was a president in office who started a war against the Yaquis. He captured as many as he possibly could.  This is the time that our natives fought back, the same time as the war against the Apaches. The Yaquis were going to revolt against the Mexican government and had it all arranged to revolt, and Travis had already grown up; he must have been a young man now by about 17 to 21 years of age, somewhere in there.  He told them, “Don't do it, and you'll be wiped out.”  He told them about the size of the Mexican army that was getting ready to conquer the last of the Yaquis that they could possibly find.  And he, Travis, talked them out of making war effort and told them they'd better give in.  They were forever grateful for this.  

Travis had a partner called “Bud”. The two of them traveled all around the country giving song and composing.  Travis composed that wonderful “Rain” song in Nogales where he lived.  Anyway, he was giving a performance in Cincinnati or Cleveland, I forget which, and he was very tired after the performance. He rushed into the back stage to lie down  and rest, when suddenly he bumped into a Yaqui, way back in Ohio! “What are you doing here?” Travis asked in the Yaqui language, which he spoke fluently.  The answer was, “You are the man that the whole tribe look up to and we want to be sure to guard against anything that might happen to you.  That is my reason for being here, but don't say anything that you found me and that you talked to me.”

Travis was giving another performance in San Francisco, again with his partner.  The partnership lasted for years.  They had both performed, but this particular performance, Travis was the principle in the singing and with the guitar. Oh, he was a wonderful guitarist.  During this performance in San Francisco he bumped into a different middle aged Yaqui Indian.  Again he asked the same question, and he received the same answer.  “All of us, all of us down in Mexico look up to you because you saved our tribe. You saved us! You are our hero!  Wherever you go, we're somewhere hiding to protect you.”  Travis was amazed at this.  

There was a time when Travis saved my life.  In  my book Desert Quest, it tells of the various dates and times, my diary, that I went down to Mexico with a load of clothing to trade with the Indians or give them, where they were needed.  I was down in Yecora with some students.  We were coming home to Tucson because the students had finished their vacation and did not want to be too late in getting back to their classes at the university.  We were speeding down a dry arroyo and they were singing and playing the guitar.  We passed a man standing near his horse when the horse  broke away.  I looked back and saw that this man was angry because he pointed and passed his finger across his throat as a threat.

Pat Jenks at age 91

When I returned to Tucson, I received a telephone call from Travis telling me to come to his apartment immediately.  He then explained that the Yaquis have a sort of telegraphic system in which they use mirrors in order to send messages from peak to peak, often sending a message over a hundred miles from one Yaqui to the next.  The message was, “Travis, an American (referring to me) made me very angry, yelling and playing the guitar as he passed me standing in an arroyo, shall I kill him or let him go?”  Travis knew I had just been in that area of Mexico and proceeded to tell the Yaqui, “he is a friend of mine, let him go!”

I said, “Listen, Travis, this is fantastic.”  I could hardly believe it and I did not want to say it to anyone else because it sounds like a wild tale.  I am forever thankful to Travis for intervening and saving my life!

At my book signing years later in December, 2005, Travis attended with my friend Frank Ross who plays guitar and sings.  Together they sang several of the various Spanish songs, it was wonderful and Travis “Malageña” sounded as good as ever!

Randolph “Pat” Jenks
June 2008

Read more about Pat Jenks on the alumni website of Princeton University at


Pat Jenks

Cattle rancher, author, teacher, ornithologist, homesteader, miner, bodyguard, business executive, builder, and treasure-hunter, Randolph “Pat” Jenks has published two books, Desert Quest (1995) and Leaving the Golden Age of the 1920s for Adventures in the West (2003).

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