Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Distant Dust Storms, Donkey Dynamite & Mickey Gets His Mule On

May 25, 2016
   Got up this morning intrigued by distant dust storms and their atmospheric effects. Painted this little study before I came into work. 

Daily Whip Out: "Distant Dust Storm"

Mickey Gets His Mule On
I am also revisiting how Mickey Free gravitated to a mule as his ride. Deep in the Sierra Madres, while his own horse stumbled around on the rocks, Mickey and the rest of the Crook packers and scouts watched helplessly as one of the cargo laden mules slipped off the trail and skidded to a 1,000 foot drop. The mule instinctively flattened out which stopped the slide, then slowly picked his way back up on the trail, grabbing hoof holds as he crawled back from the precipice, then shook himself off and went on up the trail. This amazing little feat prompted Mickey to say:

Daily Whip Out: "How Mickey Got His Mule On"

Donkey Dynamite!
And speaking of pack animals going off cliffs, it wasn't always a tragic ending. When the Norwegian explorer Carl Lumholtz was traversing the Sierra Madres with a large pack train in 1890, he heard a noise above him on the switchbacks and looked up to see a donkey with its pack on come hurtling past him, "turning over and over with astounding speed." The donkey sailed over his head, and down to a pillar of rock below him. The donkey hit the base of the pillar, then rolled over twice before coming to a halt. The donkey then got up in the midst of its scattered cargo which turned out to be a case of dynamite. Two of the Mexican packers scrambled down the slope, repacked the dynamite on the shaken but perfectly fine little donkey and led it up the trail where it pushed on "as coolly as if nothing had happened." This is from Richard Grant's wonderful book, "God's Middle Finger."

Of course, not everyone is in love with mules.

"A horse is a noble animal who performs his service with grace. A mule will wait his whole life for the opportunity to kill a man."
—J.P.S. Brown

Monday, May 23, 2016

Apache Juan and Curator Cal

May 23, 2016
   In the nineteen twenties and early thirties there were still free roaming Apaches in the northwest corner of the Sierra Madres in Mexico. One of the last "known" warriors to be tracked down and killed was this guy:

Daily Whip Out: "Apache Juan"

   There are no known photographs that I have seen of Apache Juan, thus the painting done in the old, tattered, scratched up way old photos are often found in the junk piles of posterity. If you've seen old photos you may have noticed writing on the photos, often as an ID or description of the scene, or to tag the year. I wanted an old hand writing style and unfortunately, I have a strong cartoonist hand writing style forged from years of block lettering practice. So I had someone I know with an anonymous hand write Apache Juan's name on the photo for authenticity purposes, of course.

Curator Cal forging the inscription on Apache Juan's "photograph"

   Assembling everything this week for the story in our August issue. Lots of debate on how to lay it out, position and present it. We'll see. Always a challenge.
"Your imagination is your preview to life's coming attractions."
—Albert Einstein

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Stubborn Norwegians and Cocaine-fueled Mexican Hillbillies Bent On Killing Brits for Sport In The Sierra Madres

May 21, 2016
   When I attended the Arizona History Conference in Yuma last month I was talking to John Langellier and Bruce Dinges about the Apache Kid and how he survived in the wilds of the Sierra Madres and Bruce said to me, "If you want to read a good book about the lawlessness of the Sierra Madres, you need to get 'God's Middle Finger,' by Richard Grant." I immediately went over to Shelly Dudley's Guidon Books (she had a booth at the conference) and asked her, "Do you have 'God's Middle Finger'?" to which she replied, "I certainly hope not."

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey's Mexican Saddle by Freddy Remington"

   We laughed, but she ordered me the book and I picked it up from her fine store in Scottsdale last weekend and my, oh my, is it ever a rip-roaring read. The full title is: "God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre," by Richard Grant and it's a modern tale, published in 2008, but it just as well could have been written in 1888. Everyone warns the author not to go because it's too dangerous now with the narco-BS going on down there, but he goes, over and over, longer and deeper, higher and higher, into the "strange on the range" absurdity that is the Sierra Madre (Mother Mountains, by the way). And even though most of the book is a romp and he's obviously having a blast with the locals, you can still get glimpses of the danger. The book opens with a taste, as they say:

"So this is what it feels like to be hunted. My spine is pressed up against the bark of a tree. My heart hammers against my rib cage with astonishing force. Here they come again. Here comes the big dented Chevy pickup with its engine roaring and its high-beam lights swinging through the darkness and the trees. The men in the truck are drunk and they have rifles and now there are other men on foot looking for me with flashlights."

Why are they chasing this harmless but very witty Brit who lived in Tucson at the time of the writing? Because, as he explains, they live in the mountains and the law is three hours away, and they are drunk and drugged up and they feel like hunting humans:

"We are the real killers here," the tall one growled at me in gruff mountain Spanish, back when I was desperately trying to make friends with them. "Further north they grow more drugs but here we are hundred percent killers."

   To my mind, this is exactly the kind of world Mickey Free, Tom Horn, James Young and the Apache Kid traversed 125 years ago. The contraband has changed but there is something strikingly the same in this description from the back of the book: "when cocaine-fueled Mexican hillbillies hunted (the author) through the woods all night, bent on killing him for sport."

   I just ordered two more copies of the book for my kids. One of the most wonderful trips our family has ever made was taking the Copper Canyon Railway from Los Mochis, on the Sea of Cortez, up into the Sierra Madres to Divisidero and then on to Creel and Chihuahua. (yes, I agree, this is a weird segue). On one of the days, we took a side trip from the train down into the canyon to a sleepy village, Cerocauhi, where the horses, and a distant donkey, ruled the main drag:

December 19, 2006 deep in Copper Canyon, photo by Deena Bell Bortscheller

An Excerpt From This Blog Written After We Got Back:

   I mentioned to Deena on the phone that there is one photo she took on our Copper Canyon, Mexico trip that has become iconic to me. It's funny, because when you're back from a vacation, you look at all the photos and they all seem to have the same weight, but then as time goes by, a dozen begin to stand out when you see them, then it narrows down to a couple, and last week I ran across a photo that Deena snapped in Cerocauhi, a tiny village way off down a dirt road (we had to ride in the back of a pickup to get there). It was my birthday and we walked down to a little shack on the edge of town to buy a six-pack of Tecates to celebrate and as we came back down on the road there were these two horses walking up the street. They stopped, one of them was in the fading daylight. There is a donkey tied to a post way in the background. Deena took a couple photos of the scene (a pickup came and parked next to the horses, who ignored them), but this one sums up the entire trip, and takes me right back there. It's so pristine and perfect. I can smell the woodsmoke from the fireplaces! 

   End of blog excerpt. Of course, the illustration of Mickey's saddle was not done by "Freddy Remington," but by a one-half Norwegian cartoonist who drew the saddle from a photograph he took of a vaquero's rig on the plaza at Cerocauhi the next day.

   One of the crazy aspects of Richard Grant's journey is the unlikely, to me at least, importance of Norwegians to the history of Sierra Madres. Two early Norwegian explorers figure prominently in the book, and by extension, to the story of the Apache Kid. I'll lay out the basic timeline and explain the connection in another post, but suffice to say, the connecting rod to the Sierra Madre experience and the punchline to our story involves my stubborn ancestors.

   When True West was going down the drain 15 years ago and both my partners bailed, everyone advised me to bail as well, but I didn't. I was recently laughing and talking to Kathy about this and all the weird, crazy obstacles I endured and how bizarre it is that True West is even still in business, and Kathy said to me, "It's not bizarre to me at all. You are a very stubborn Norwegian, just like your dad."

A stubborn Norwegian at Divisidaro (the Divide), photographed by Edmundo Mell, 1996

"It's always been dangerous, it's always been an anarchy, but now nearly all the decent people have been killed or run out and all the bad guys have automatic weapons, at least in the part of the Sierra that I know. It's become the kind of anarchy that gives anarchy a bad name."
—R.P.S. Brown, as quoted in "God's Middle Finger"

Friday, May 20, 2016

Back On The Tail Trail

May 20, 2016
   working on a couple Mickey Free ideas:

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Often Sees Faces In The Clouds"

   My Fort Apache friends tell me in the Apache language, "bishahn" is a fallen woman, not necessarily a loose woman, but definitely damaged goods.

The Tail Trail
   "Dammit, how many times have I got to tell you—follow the bishahn!" Al Sieber said, slamming his fist on the table. And so, Mickey did. When the Apache Kid's latest "girlfriend" showed up back at San Carlos loaded down with "graduation presents," Mickey talked to the girl and managed to get a good idea of the area of operations for the outlaw, then simply rode out, plucked a beauty from the closest village and led her up into the mountains where he knew the Kid would "find" her. It wasn't Tinder, but it was damn close.

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Works The Tail Trail"

    I know. I know. This is rude beyond belief, but in the Sierra Madre this is actually considered the polite way of doing business. Here's what one of our best writers had to say about the lure of the Sierra Madres:

"During the revolution Martin Luis Guzman rode the train through Navojoa and looked over at the Sierra and felt what we all do when we see its green folds rising up off the desert. We all wonder what is up there and in some part of us, that rich part where our mind plays beyond our commands, we all dread and lust for what is up there."
—Charles Bowden, "The Secret forest"

Confessions of A Crack Buyer

May 20, 2016
   I have done some stupid things in my life and I was on the radio for ten years.

   But, I repeat myself.

   Someone I know recommended me and everyone in this picture with the possible exception of "Beef Vegan" to be in a Tempe Museum forum called Third Thursday, which came off last night at 7 p.m.  The premise was to discuss Phoenix radio from the early days to today's on-air people.

Pat McMahon and Dennis McBroom were no shows (kidney stones and walking pneumonia were the excuses), but, from left to right, "Beef Vegan" (internet radio dude), Marty Manning, Erika Smith, BBB and Johnny D, more than filled in the gaps and commanded (actually "hijacked" would be a better word) the two hour talk-fest. I, of course, confessed to buying crack cocaine on a show we did called "Black Like Bob," and, although I was prodded from Andy Olson (Radio Free Phoenix), I did not tell the "I've Got A Penis Tonight" story. So, perhaps maturity is in my future? It was a long drive but it was fun. Oh, and the person who got me into all this was some woman named "Carole Compton Glenn"? Anyone know her?

"Everybody. Everybody. Everybody. . .I've got a penis tonight!"
—original song lyrics by Thomas Charles Bell, age 8

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Trickster Seeks Sign In The Clouds Above Zig-Zag Canyon

May 19, 2016
   Went home for lunch and whipped out a splash-page painting of Mickey Free, Tom Horn and James Young closing in on the Apache Kid in the Sierra Madres.

Daily Whip Out: "The Trickster Seeks Sign In The Clouds Above Zig-Zag Canyon."

Playing with several different design ideas I saw recently in the cartoons of a European guy I had never heard of.

Boss Cattle Tyer & Knight of The Lariat?

"Tom H. Horn, the Boss Cattle Tyer and Knight of the Lariat was recently acquitted. . ."
—Headline in an Arizona newspaper after Horn got off on a robbery charge in Nevada. The anglo cowboys of Arizona in the late 1890s were hell bent on denying the usage of the term "rodeo" to describe their sport until the 1920s when several California events started using the word and it swept through the country and the sport and, of course, seems self-evident and pre-ordained today.

I Survived Morning Drive, Part III

May 19, 2016
   There was a time in my life when I had to get up at four in the morning to make the drive down to a building across the street from Fashion Square in Scottsdale to do the Jones & Boze Show radio show on KSLX (100.7 FM) with David K. Jones and Jeanne Sedello. Crazy times, they were. Lasted from 1986 to 1994, with a second, retooled stint on Young Buck and later KXAM from 1997 to 2000.

Mr. Mohawk, Jeanne Sedello and fan, KSLX radio studio, 1986 April Fool's Day prank
(getting a mohawk haircut on the air along with my son Thomas Charles).

And here's a better shot of my mohawk with my son Tommy (we both got matching mohawks live on the air):

Tonight, I'll be relating some of these ridiculous memories right here:


 "A horse is a noble animal who performs his service with grace. A mule will wait his whole life for the opportunity to kill a man."

—J.P.S. Brown, as quoted in "God's Middle Finger"

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

There's A Rainbow Above You, You Better Let Somebody Love You. . .

May 17, 2016
  There's a rainbow above you, you better let somebody love you. . .

Before it's too late.
—The Eagles, Desperado

Mickey Free's Infamous Pistol In The Poncho Trick

May 18, 2016
   The notorious Apache scout Mickey Free was hard to kill. James Young explains part of the reason:

Daily Whip Out: "The Dust Devil In The Dust Devil"

"Well, he was like a little dust devil. Scrawny, wiry, couldn't have weighed more than ten pounds. (laughs) Always moving. You couldn't get him to stand still, which made him hard to kill. He was shot clean through more than once, I seen the scars. He was left for dead more than once. Plus, you never knew what he was gonna do, which made him dangerous to be around. I've seen generals, nervous as cats around him. He didn't approach anything straight on—he came at you sideways. He had that one good eye, but he'd look at you sideways with his cloudy eye out front. Spooked everybody, and he knew it. "

Mickey's Pistol In The Poncho Trick

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Free's Pistol In The Poncho Trick"

The Pistol In The Poncho Trick
   Tom Horn liked to tell this story: "One time, in the Sierra Madres, Mickey went into a remote cantina to ask for directions. Inside he encountered the local Jefe (boss man) who was holding court with his crooked cronies. El Jefe prized himself in his judgement of the men he met and he sized up the haggard scout with the flag-draped poncho as a fool. That was his first mistake. El Jefe began to abuse the small lad, calling him an imbecile and a stupid fool. Mickey gladly played the part expected of him—he was The Trickster, after all—and he even began to drool from his lip as he stared at the chief with his drooping, half-glazed eye. When he was asked a rude question, "Hey Jackass, why are you in this neck of the woods?" Mickey pretended he couldn't understand and tilted his head to the side like a dog listening to a whistle. And, he kept on drooling. El Jefe kept up his verbal insults until he got it in his woozy head he was going to pistol whip the little cabron. That was mistake number two. So Jefe pulled out his big hog leg and started down the bar, and that was the fatal mistake. A pistol shot roared out of Mickey Free's midsection and the foolish El Jefe fell like a sack of potatoes. The entire time, Mickey had his hand on his pistol under the poncho where nobody could see it and when he fired, he fired right through the poncho. Small flames licked around the bullet hole in Mickey's poncho and he quickly grabbed a bottle from the bar to douse the flames, but unfortunately, the bottle contained bachanora—Mexican moonshine— which engulfed the entire right side of Mickey's poncho. This just made the Trickster laugh as he lunged towards the other terrified locals yelling like a madman, and flapping at the flames. The sound of sliding chairs and busting glass ended the little performance as everyone in the cantina fled, breaking four chairs and two windows in the process of fleeing from the madman in the burning poncho. 'Wait, come back,' Mickey laughed. 'I was just having fun.' Well, my friends, that was two ponchos ago. Comprende?"

Reporter: "You've said Tom Horn had issues with the truth. How do you know he was lying?"

Emilio Kosterlitsky: "His lips were moving."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Route 66 Show Getting Framed

May 17, 2016
   Went into Phoenix today to see the progress on the artwork that will be in the Route 66 Show in Wickenburg premiering on May 28.

Micheal Feldman at the Frame & Art Center with the images matted and ready for framing.

   Hard at work on finalizing the Mickey Free story. Did this little study before I came into work:

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey's Pistol In The Poncho Trick"

"Art tells us what we are, politics what we should be; and our ability to live with the contradiction is one measure of our freedom."
—Adam Kirsch, New York Times