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History Detectives: Carson Family Secrets; Yakima Canutt’s Saddle; Tumbling Tumbleweeds; Modoc Basket

Airs Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: HISTORY DETECTIVES host Eduardo Pagán helps Gene Newberry find out why singer-songwriter Bob Nolan would say "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," one of the most popular cowboy songs ever, had been both good and bad to him.

HISTORY DETECTIVES is devoted to exploring the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out the facts, myths and conundrums that connect local folklore, family legends and interesting objects. Traditional investigative techniques, modern technologies and plenty of legwork are the tools the HISTORY DETECTIVES team of experts uses to give new — and sometimes shocking — insights into our national history.

Courtesy of Tracey Whitney

Charles Burns asks History Detectives host Tukufu Zuberi to find out whether this antique biography of frontiersman Kit Carson has a tangible connection to Kit Carson’s family.

Courtesy of Ann Suckow

Cherie Cloudt asks History Detectives’ Wes Cowan to research the story behind her basket. She thinks Indian War heroine Toby Riddle wove this basket.

Terry Garber from McCall, Idaho wants proof that this saddle belonged to Yakima Cannut, a rodeo champion who changed Hollywood movie-making.
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Above: Terry Garber from McCall, Idaho wants proof that this saddle belonged to Yakima Cannut, a rodeo champion who changed Hollywood movie-making.

The hosts of the program are a high-energy group of renowned experts in the world of historical investigations. Their expertise ranges from architecture, popular culture and sociology to archeology, collectibles and genealogy.

Wes Cowan is an independent appraiser and auctioneer; Elyse Luray is an independent appraiser and expert in art history; Gwendolyn Wright is a professor of architecture, planning and preservation, and professor of history, Columbia University; Tukufu Zuberi is a professor of sociology and director of the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Eduardo Pagan is the Bob Stump Endowed Professor of History at Arizona State University.

Each hour-long episode of HISTORY DETECTIVES features three or more investigations that delve into family legends, local folklore and stories behind potentially extraordinary objects in everyday American homes, cities and small towns. Follow the twists and turns of each investigation and find out more about the historical events that shaped America.

In this episode, the history detectives investigate four stories from the American West. Did a biography of legendary frontiersman Kit Carson once belong to members of his family?

Then, from the rodeo to Hollywood, a saddle tells the story of Yakima Canutt, who made life safer for movie stunt artists.

What is the meaning behind the mysterious inscription on sheet music of the popular western song “Tumbling Tumbleweeds”?

Finally, did a pivotal character in the Modoc Indian wars weave this basket?

HISTORY DETECTIVES is on Facebook, and you can follow @histdetectives on Twitter.

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Submit Your Mysteries To History Detectives

Above: Do you have an object that you think may have played a starring role in American history but don't quite know how? Why not give the HISTORY DETECTIVES a crack at it!