Friday, March 31, 2023

Feedback On Sub Promo & Charming Billy Died Like A Dog

 March 31, 2023

   If we are seeking historic truths—and I am—how often do we ever even find it? Here is one of those rare occasions when I got it right the first time.

Charming Billy Died Like A Dog
August 1991

   If you saw Dan The Man's first pass at my ideas on a new subscription ad two days ago, you might be amused by some of the responses I got:

Feedback On Our First Sub Promo Ad Idea

  Turns out my Kathy and Sheri Riley Jenson loved it. Our publisher is not hip to it and called to complain. Paul Hutton got hung up on the multiple meanings of "Straight." Mark Lee Gardner thinks the girls send a kinky vibe. Lynda Sanchez showed it to a friend who commented, " I would bet a $100 bill that men designed the ad!" And, it must be said, Lynda's friend is 100% correct. And, here is one of our sales people weighing in:

"I'm divided on this ad. In such a polarized world, our words need to be parsed very carefully. I interpreted this ad as having a 'political' bent to it -- 'under attack', 'here to tell the truth', 'future of the country.'  Maybe I'm just reading too much into it. I think we have to remain as neutral as possible. We have so many different constituents that we're talking to. Importantly, the tourism/travel industry advertisers. 'Kids do like history when it's done well'... Sounds like you're saying kids can pick and choose their 'history'? Don't mean to be too critical, but not crazy about this one."
—Greg Carroll

   Bottom line: they all have a point—every single one of these pompous bastards. So, I called Dan The Man and we went through everything and took another run at the ad, and with an assist from The Top Secret Writer, we ended up here. 

Camille Gerhards, age 3, Albuquerque

Invasion of Stinkweed!

A good shot of a mixed blessing.

   Globe Chamomile is an invasive grass with yellow buds. It has now returned after it was one of the principal fire accelerators in the May 2020 conflagration that burned and eradicated most of the vegetation in the foreground. With the recent heavy rains it has returned with a vengeance. Beautiful, but deadly when August comes.

"Only time can heal what reason cannot."

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Solving Our History Problem

 March 30, 2023

   We have a history problem. Let's start with the pain. A country that does not know its true past, has no future. Well, what about a country that is fighting for diametrically opposed versions of their past? This is exactly where we are today. For those of us who love history and our country, it is not a pleasant place to be.

   So, how do we solve this problem? First of all, we're Americans and we've been through much worse and we'll figure out a way to tell the true history of this incredible place we call home. If I were the King of History (rather than merely the Duke of Dust) here's what I would do:

• Strip away the political terms. Rather than banning books, I would ban the terms "woke," "Critical Race Theory" and "genocide." There are more, but even if we banned these, for a short time, it would be a positive way to start calming things down.

Find common ground. Was Custer a brave and brilliant cavalry leader? Yes. Many historians believe he saved the United States, not once, but three times at the battle of Gettysburg. Did he make a bad decision at Little Bighorn. Yes, he divided his command without telling anyone. Did he pay for his mistake? Boy howdy. Were there brave people on both sides of this fight? Of course.

• Tell both sides of the story with honesty and levity. Don't fight the contradictions, embrace them.

• Dig for the true history of people who did extraordinary things but have never gotten their due. That is exactly the task that Jana Bommersbach and I set for ourselves when we started our project to fill the pages of our Hellraisers & Trailblazers book. And, man, did we find some worthy women: we discovered over 200 worthy women and we got over 100 of them in the book.

• Tell better stories. When we are honest and compassionate, good things will happen and more importantly, we will understand how we got here to this place in history. And, believe it or not, good stories can give us a route out of this mess we are in.

   The bottom Line:

Kids Today Need to Know Our Past

   A country that does not know its past, has no future. Let's make sure our kids know the truth about our past. Buy a subscription for all your kids today.

Camille Gerhards, age 3, Albuquerque

"Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say, 'This is my community and it's my responsibility to make it better.'"

—Studs Terkel

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

We Are On A Mission

 March 29, 2023

   I asked Dan The Man to put together a nice little promo for our current efforts to fight civic illness. Here's what he came up with. What do you think?

We Are On A Mission

   At first glance the history dilemma in our culture seems pretty simple, but it is not. When I mentioned that teachers get called on the carpet if they try to teach the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving, Remember the Alamo, or Custer's Last Stand, they are rebuked by angry parents. This elicited this response from a former history teacher:

"Dude I taught American History and Arizona History for decades. For ten years I was on the Council for the Social Studies board. Among other things like national history day, CSS helped draw up the State essential elements for SS education. Of course, the State Department of Ed. and State Legislature were involved. All elements, from World Geography to US Economics always had a Tom Horne type rep insisting that ‘Pilgrims good’, ‘Alamo good’ and ‘Custer good.’ Really?  Among other things Pilgrims kidnapped indigenous people, the Alamo had a generous dose of Texas slavery involved and Custer made a dumbass blunder and died running. The last thing I or you or anyone else need is someone telling us how to be a good American. My father was grievously wounded on Iwo Jima. I resent anyone giving me a civics lesson."

—Greg Scott

   One thing is certain, it is a fine line we are walking just trying to tell the truth about American history, but we have been doing it now for two decades, and at the end of the day, I believe we are Americans and we can handle this problem.

"Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths."

—Yuval Noah Harrari

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

We Are On A Mission to Save History

 March 28, 2023

   Get ready for some asteroidal fun. Wes Anderson's next movie is set in 1955 in a locale just down the road from us. Love the poster, but I sure wish they would have let me advise them on the corny cacti.

Great Poster, Bad Saguaros

The synopsis of "Asteroid City"

   “The itinerary of a Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention (organized to bring together students and parents from across the country for fellowship and scholarly competition) is spectacularly disrupted by world-changing events.”

Cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jason Schwartzman, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan and Jeff Goldblum. There were even cameos for musicians Seu Jorge and Jarvis Cocker who will play cowboys. That is, if they’ve made the cut.

   I, for one, am impressed by that incredible cast but I do agree with Carson:

 "Get ready for some symmetrical cacti and stunted cowboy yakking."

—Carson Mell

   Meanwhile, I want to talk about how we can save history.

We Are On A Mission to Save History

   Our motto at True West is: we tell the truth, warts and all. But, at the same time, we shy away from all the current inflamatory and political language. And, by that I mean we stay away from words, like "woke," "Native American," "Critical Race Theory," "White Privilege," or, even "genocide." Especially genocide. All of these have an element of truth in them, but our readers come to us to get away from all of that vitriol. That doesn't mean we don't deal with these topics, but they are presented as honestly as we can but without the trigger words. And I mean that literally.

   A nation that does not know its past, has no future. So, do the future a favor and buy your kids and their kids a subscription to the best history magazine on the planet.

Double your pleasure, double your fun,
buy True West subscriptions for everyone.

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

—Mark Twain

San Simon Bad Boys

   One early settler recalled visiting Rustler's Park in the Chiricahuas and witnessing close to a thousand bad men milling around multiple campfires stretching across an entire ravine. If true, the Chiricahua Mountains, San Simon Valley and the Bootheel of New Mexico areas were outlaw sanctuaries in the late seventies and early 1880s. Legendary cowboy bad boys like Curly Bill Brocius (pictured above with three pistols) and the three heavily armed cowboys, below, represented a very large contingency of lawbreakers in the region to the east of Tombstone. It was rough country populated by rough men.

Three Rough & Ready Arizona Cowboys
(colorized by Rasmus Holmberg)

"It is foolish to think that a cow rustler gunman can come up to a city gunman in a gunfight."
—Big Nose Kate

Monday, March 27, 2023

What If Milk Cows Went On Strike? What if American History Was Actually Taught In Schools?

 March 27, 2023

   The Top Secret Writer is doing a cover story for us on this guy.

"Mister Controversy"

Maynard Dixon

      Marshall Trimble has a great road tale in our next book that involves this landmark.


  Here is a brilliant cartoon that answers the question, "What if Milk Cows Went On Strike?" It is by one of my cartoonist heroes, Heinrich Kley, a German artist, but I think it qualifies to be in an upcoming Humor Issue feature. It's not technically from the Old West, but it would have been seen by Westerners in the 1910 era. A bit of a reach but I think it qualifies as humor from that time, if not place. Especially since it would represent what Westerners found funny.

"The Strike of The Milk Cows"

By Heinrich Kley

The Problem We Face

   As you probably know, there is an epidemic failure in our schools regarding the teaching of Western history. Historian Jeffrey Sikkenga calls it a "civic illness,"  and if we don't get a handle on it we are going to lose our future by destroying our past. Here's the problem in a nutshell: any teacher who even tries to discuss the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving, the Alamo (much less, remembering it!), or Custer's Last Stand is going to get called on the carpet by angry parents spouting grievance politics. So it becomes safer and easier to remove all of these historical events from the ciriculum entirely. And they have been!

   So, what is the answer if we want kids to be interested in history? I'll have that answer tomorrow.

"History isn't just something that ought to be taught, read, or encourage only because it will make us better citizens. It will make us a better citizen and it will make us more thoughtful and understanding human beings."

—David McCullough

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Barrel Babes Plus Sue & Dixxie Diamond Still Ridin' High

 March 26, 2023

   One of the pure joys of being old is not being a total slave to testosterone. I remember reading this study that claimed the typical male thinks about sex every 3.5 seconds. I am so grateful to report that in my advanced age I have almost doubled that number and I have accomplished so much more with all that extra time. I tell you, it's the little things.

   That said, I still appreciate the bombastic babes.

Daily Reworked Whip Out:

"Dixxy Diamond Still Rides High"

   Like most strong Western women, more than a few cowboys are, well, cowed, by Dixxy.

Daily Reworked Whip Out:

"A Bulldogger's Confession"

   This is a shout out to Juni Fisher who has such immense talent. She and I spent some quality time on a storyline for Dixxy, but then in 2020 the whole world went sideways and the project got shelved. Well, it's not over yet, Baby!

   Saw this online and dig the motion and I will definitely do a number on it.

A Barrel Babe Makes The Final Turn

And speaking of the final turn, I have been noodling the Mickey Free story for 21 years and counting.

Daily Revised Whip Out:
"The Return of Mickey Free

   Someday, someone is going to figure out how to tell his story in a compelling way and it will be like he was always a legendary character.

   Until then. . .

Daily Reworked Whip Out:

"Sue Heads Out One Last Time"

"School was far easier in Shakespeare's day because you didn't have to study Shakespeare."

—Diane Morgan as Philomena Cunk on the British TV mockumentary "Cunk On Earth"

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Mickey Free: Trapped Between Three Worlds

 March 25, 2023

   He was trapped between three different worlds. The Mexicans disowned him for being too Apache and some Apaches thought he was too Mexican. The Irish, especially disowned him. Perhaps, Al Sieber summed him up best: "He's half Irish, half Mexican and all son of a bitch."

Daily Whip Out:

"Poor Little Mickey: Trapped Between

Three Worlds"

   Mickey Free, of course, had a long career as an Army scout and he was perhaps the perfect candidate to track down his former friend, the Apache Kid, and bring back his head.  Mickey played it mean and vicious to the very end, but then. . . who knew there was a drop of compassion in that vicious little thug?

"By God, maybe he is Irish!"

—Lonnie Loggergram