Monday, August 03, 2020

Buckey O'Neill's Front Yard And The Edge of Eternity

August 3, 2020
   In January of 2017, the good history doctor, John Langellier, treated me to a stay in Buckey O'Neill's historic cabin, right on the edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Daybreak On The Wall In Front of
Buckey O'Neill's Cabin

   We had a grand time, with a couple hikes and a dinner in the El Tovar dining room. In the morning, we were clowning around, and I jumped up on the wall for a photo. And, here's the cabin as it appears today.

   And here's a better view of the actual drop at the wall I am standing on.

The Long Drop

   What hedged the vertigo for me, is the narrow, dirt ledge in the foreground with all the trees and bushes to break an accidental fall. Of course, it's just a mental trick and there are plenty of fatalities in the canyon that relate directly to this mindset. 

   For example:

   A father from Dallas, Texas, was walking from El Tovar to the Visiter's Center with his young daughter on November 28, 1992. Austin Gingrich, age 38, playfully jumped atop the rock wall, above, and acted all dramatically, wind-milling his arms comically, as he mockingly said to his daughter, "Help, I'm falling. . ." Then he jumped off backwards onto that narrow ledge I was referring to, and the daughter just laughed and said, "Oh, Dad."

   In the morning the park rangers found his body 400 feet below the wall.

"A lot of tourists approach the Grand Canyon like a ride at Disneyland or some other amusement park and think it's idiot proof."
—Tom Jensen, Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Trust

Sunday, August 02, 2020

The Glib And The Profane: Billy the Kid Historians Invade Lincoln County

August 2, 2020
   Got some traction last night on a key scene in the Kid saga. The original title, "The Midnight Visitor" has given way to something that is a little more Hispano:

Final: "Mi Querida In Moonlight"

    If you want to see how I got here, take a gander at the workups:  

Workups for final

   I lost some of the sponteneity of the underpainting, but my hope is that the upside-down hearts atop the picket fence and the expression on the Kid's horse, which clearly says, "And he thinks I'M a horndog!" makes up for it, in terms of storytelling. It certainly captures the mood and theme of the book I am working on. I might go as far as to say it's the signature piece.

   As mentioned, I am getting set to publish my third book on the Kid and I want to bring some of the stories up to date, like the big Billy conference held in Ruidoso, in September of 1991. I seem to remember it was sponsored by some outfit out of Santa Fe called Recursos. Anyway, it was a big deal, cost me $150 and it was worth every penny because I met all the big dogs in the Kid World.

The Swiss Chalet in Ruidoso was the location
for a big Billy the Kid Symposium

   I did take this photo of the presenters out on the balcony of the Swiss Chalet where the conference was held. I can spot Robert Utley (fourth from right) and Jerry Weddle (to Utley's right) and then Fred Nolan (to Weddle's right) but I'm having trouble with the others.

Billy the Kid presenters at the Swiss Chalet Ruidoso, New Mexico, September, 1991

   I think that might be Richard Brown, far right, and, maybe Grant Romer, third from left. Herman B. Weisner is supposed to be in here as is Stephen Tatum and John Drayton. and apparently that must be Beth Hadas (fourth from left, a publisher?).

The esteemed Robert Utley, at left,
being interviewed by Dave Walker
at Casa de Patron, in Lincoln.

   Yes, that's my friend, and fellow drummer, Dave Walker, of the Phoenix New Times. I actually lobbied for the coverage of the Kid in our paper and editor Mike Lacey agreed and sent Dave over. The story ended up as the lead story on the front page of New Times. And here is a link to the article:

Billy Is Alive!

   Author Leon Metz was not present for the group photo but he led a field trip to Blazer's Mill and then to Las Cruces to see Pat Garrett's grave.

Leon Metz regales us at Blazer's Mill

   From my notes, here are my two favorite Leon quotes:

"What people choose to believe is a fact in itself."
—Leon Metz

"The only time in history a man has been assassinated while urinating that the defendant claimed self-defense."
—Leon Metz, describing Wayne Brazil's alleged shooting of Garrett

   When we got to Blazer's Mill we were pleasantly surprised to see and meet Art Blazer who was the son, or grandson, of the original Blazer, for which "The Gunfight at Blazer's Mill" is named for.

Art Blazer holds court with historians
Leon Metz and Fred Nolan (second from right).

"Nobody in the family could hit a damn thing with that rifle."
—Art Blazer, answering the question about what happened to the rifle Buckshot Roberts pulled off the wall in Blazer's office and used to put out Dick Brewer's eye at 150 yards.

   Perhaps the most profane quote of the entire weekend came from local Lincolnite, Joe Salazar, who informed us that:

"The mosquitos in Lincoln County are so big they can stand flat-footed and still make love to a turkey."

Saturday, August 01, 2020

The Key to The Kid: The Midnight Visitor

August 1, 2020
   I have been chasing Billy the Kid for most of my life. Not full time, and not all the time, but often enough that I came close to a divorce, or two. Believe me, I know this is insane. My friends and I call it Kid Krazy. So, why am I so obsessed? How have I remained married to the same woman, who actually despises the Kid, for 41 years? And why am I even considering doing a third book on the same outlaw? This morning, I think I found the answer to all three questions.

   And, it will all be in the book. As I said, this will be the third book I have done on Billy the Kid. That my friends is the definition of Kid Krazy. If you looked up the term, my picture should be there.

   The first two books sold out and my book publishing partner, Ken Amorosano, asked me if I wanted to do a third book, rather than a reprint, and I said, yes, but this book is going to be a little different. I'm going to make a leap of imagination that I didn't attempt in the first two.

   My curator, Kristi Jacobs, has dutifully filed all of my failed Billy the Kid efforts upstairs in my studio. They have been up there since the last book (1996). So I went up there this week and dug around and found a couple unfinished, or half-finished boards that I thought might have some potential. Like this one.

Daily Whip Out:
"The Midnight Visitor"
(unfinished, gave up)

   So I brought it downstairs and started adding some paint.

Daily Whip Out:
"The Midnight Visitor"
(in mid-stream)

   I can't really call the finished result a "Whip Out" because I have done at least five, long passes, at it in the past five days. For grins I sent it to a musician friend of mine, who flipped out over it and wrote a song inspired by it. His insight into the power of the image has led me to a very different take on the Kid. Final results tomorrow.

   Meanwhile, I did whip this out this morning.

Daily Whip Out: "The Kid's Last Run."

   He could outrun the law but he couldn't outrun his heart. In the end, he should have gone south, but he chose to go north. And he lost his life over it.

Saguaro Sunrise

Another Kid Krazy Kompadre
   "I had avoided Billy the Kid because I knew down that road lies madness."
—The Top Secret Writer

Friday, July 31, 2020

A Painting Hero of the Grand Canyon: Gunnar Widforss

July 31, 2020
   Caught up with one of my painting heroes last week. That would be this guy.

“Plateau Point” by Gunnar Widforss

c. 1930, Watercolor on paper

   And here's another beauty by Gunnar as well.

"Death Valley Near 20 Mule Camp"
by Gunnar Widforss, c. 1934

   When we were at the Grand Canyon last week I asked my friend and Windforss expert, Abe Hays, where Gunnar is buried and he told me the prolific artist is buried near El Tovar, and it was Kathy who found his grave in the Pioneer Cemetery at the South Rim.

Gunnar's modest grave at the South Rim

Note the paint brushes stick in the ground. Next time I go up there I am bringing a paint brush to stick in the ground as well.

   The Widforss Trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was named for Gunnar Widforss. The trailhead is approximately 3 miles north of the North Rim Lodge. The trail follows the canyon rim and meanders through the forest to emerge at Widforss Point. Widforss Point is a narrow, wooded promontory half a mile southeast of the end of the Widforss trail.

   I want to go visit this trail. Meanwhile, my old, studio compadre, Ed Mell, owns a Gunnar Widforss original that portrays the North Rim area that has the trail named for him.

Gunnar original, of the North Rim,
 owned by Edmundo Segundo

   Jealous? Oh, I think so.

"The world may be a stage, but the play is badly cast."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, July 30, 2020

What Exactly Does "Jugs Iced Free" Mean?

July 30, 2020
   Okay, we are fast approaching the time when people don't get our references, and thus, our jokes. Case in point:

Ancient photo showing a long lost custom.

Kids Today
   "Forgive me, but what exactly does 'jugs iced free' mean?"
—Dave Valerio

   First of all, you are forgiven. Here's the deal. A long time ago (BAC in cars), everyone carried a thermos, or a "jug" of water. Thus, if you bought gas from Al Bell, in Kingman, Arizona, back in 1957, you got a snot-nosed kid who played right field (weak arm) for the Oddfellow Yankees, to take your "jug" into the lube room and put free ice and water in the jug and return it to the car, totally free!

   "Forgive me, but what's BAC?"

   Before Air Conditioning In Cars.

   "Forgive me, but what's a car?"

   Okay, I think you know where this is going.

"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Ignorance And Power & Dust Storm Mamacitas

July 29, 2020
   That poor little, Irish, orphan boy. Well, come to think of it, don't feel too sorry for him. As Add Casey put it, "He had more sweethearts on the creek than a little."

Daily Whip Out:
"A Querida In Every Plaza"
(In progress)

   Got my scanner back today. Had a monitor out and it had to be replaced. So, I finally got a chance to scan some recent efforts.

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Storm Mamacita"

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Storm Mamacita II"
alternate title: "He Didn't Stand A Chance"

Still looking for these images to illustrate the quotes. Every single one of them, I did a painting for in the last 30 years. If only I can find them!

"He came to town dressed like a country jake with shoes instead of boots. He wore a six-gun stuck in his pants."

"If I only had my Winchester, I'd lick the whole crowd."

"At least two hundred men have been killed in Lincoln County during the past three years, but I did not kill all of them."

"He scorned to beg for sympathy."
—Pat Garrett

"Quien es, Pete?"

"In the darkness, Death crouched, waiting, ready."

"Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance and intolerance armed with power."

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Icing Jugs Launches Kingman Kid Into Damned History Career

July 28, 2020
   Time to get to work on my third book (revised and updated) on the outlaw who launched me on a thirty year career. That would be this guy.

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy the Kid Walks The Deadliest Street
In America"

      And, yes, that would be Lincoln, New Mexico.

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy the Kid: Death at His Elbow"

   The true beginning of my career can be traced back to this specific driveway.

Al Bell's Flying A, on Route 66, at Hilltop,
just outside Kingman, Arizona.

   When I was eleven-years-old, my first job at Al Bell's Flying A was to ice those jugs—as the sign clearly says—for free! I actually made $11 in tips that first summer and bought a book, "The Biographical Album of Western Gunfighters" out of True West magazine. Little did I know a career was about to be born, thanks to those wonderful jugs!

Rough sketch for "66 Chicks"

      In addition to chicks, the 66 Kid had other passions and they revolved around Old West outlaws, especially the Kid.

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy the Kid Launches Himself Into Eternity"

   Plus, I just dig old photos, like this.

   Samuel Kilborn posted this great photo of a border family, circa 1900. I could stare at this for days. I guess that is another reason I got into the history game. Well, that, and this:

"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly alone in a room."
—Blaise Pascal