Monday, April 22, 2019

A Dozen Billys Coming At Ya'

April 22, 2019
   Went down the "Billy the Kid rabbit hole" this weekend. 

"Billy Advances"

   After 25 years you'd think I would a.) get his face down pat, and b.) get over it when I don't. 

   But, NO! I get obsessed on that little twit's visage and I sure can burn the candle at both ends of the canvas.

   It all re-started with a sketch I did on March 20th, during a staff meeting to talk about upcoming issues.

   We had a placeholder cover which I did not like, so I doodled this as an example of what might be better.

   I love the looseness of this sketch and the cockiness in his walk—swinging his arm out wide to the side—and I thought it might make a good cover. Unfortunately, when I tried to capture the idea and expand on it, I got Daddy Long Legs Saunters Down The Street.

"Billy Saunters #1"

"Billy Saunters #2"

   On Friday I decided to go in another direction and started this very ambitious piece on Saturday morning.

   After lunch I realized I didn't like his face and hated the Lincoln buildings, so I decided to just concentrate on doing a Lincoln street scene before the pitched roofs.

Not too bad. Thought I could improve on this and
I'm not sure I did:

Lincoln Street Overdone

Started a different version of Billy Sauntering on Saturday afternoon.

Then another one. . .

Still not right. Dang it!

   Of course, I had excellent reference, so I really had no excuse.

John T. Holbrook as The Kid

   So, I sent some of these down to Dan The Man to see if he can save it all.

   Okay, Dan gave it a thumbs down, commenting, "I think Billy looks like an old man with some toy guns."

   Back to the drawing board. More results tomorrow. 

"One of the signs of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Lonesome Valley Blues And O.K. Corral Periods

April 20, 2019
   Been painting like crazy today on Billy the Kid walking the most dangerous street in America. Results on Monday. Did this little study a couple days ago:

 Daily Whip Out: "Lonesome Valley Blues"

   I got a newsstand report from our Albuquerque stringer about a sighting in Costco.

A weird combo of titles in there, but we'll take it. Thanks Paul Andrew Hutton.

   Cleaning in my studio and ran across this old photo from the eighties at an event in downtown Phoenix. I think it was a Mexican food judging contest.

That's the New Times restaurant reviewer Ellen Jeffords, third from left; Nora Burba from Phoenix Magazine, third from right; the editor of Arizona Highways, Don Dedera, fourth from right; and Phil Allen from Channel 3, second from right.

   Okay, I sent this to Don Dedera to see if it jogged his memory and here is his reply:

   "The occasion is etched upon my memory like a diamond wheel cutting on crystal.  We are pictured as judges in a downtown Phoenix food tasting event, circa 1987.  I have no explanation for your presence, but would question the credentials of  a dude raised near US 66 cafes advertising 'eats'  and 'good grub.'  On the other hand, I, following a childhood blessed with heaping portions of sow belly, fried green tomatoes, squirrel pie and peanut butter-and-grape-jelly-on-white bread school lunch brown-baggers, had graduated to universal fame as a chili cook/chili head.  (My 15 minutes of fame--creating a recipe for Endangered Whooping Crane Chili, when there were only 37 batches of that species possible in the world).  In a day when Arizona Highways can feature a xxxing hamburger on its cover, maybe TW should do a whole issue on chili, and I do not mean the Texas concoction made with 50% used transmission fluid and over-done beans.  Beans!  If you ever get to the bottom of the gunfight at the OK, the disagreement probably involved chili with or without beans.  By the way, you geniuses continue to label the famed corral the O.K.   Wrong.  It's a brand.  No periods.  And behind it all: diverse opinions about the staff of Gods."

   While I appreciate and respect the solid memory of my 90-year-old mentor-editor, I do disagree with the O.K. Corral editorial edict. Why?

   Mark Boardman reminded me that the original O.K. Corral in Tombstone had periods in the sign:

The Brand had periods. Period.

   So, that's why we style it as O.K., okay?

   Had a weird flyover on Friday morning.

   Yes, it looks like a tiny paraglider landing on our saguaro, doesn't it?

   A sailer from San Diego met a girl who took him to a birthday party in Hollywood and he met all these famous actors and an astronaut, to boot. Over the years, he forgot the name of the girl, but he finally found my blog about the party and thanked me. It was this party:

Hugh O'Brian's 86th Birthday Party

"When you study history you realize people have been this stupid for thousands of years."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Best Doc Holliday Piece Ever

April 18, 2019
   I was revisiting one of our Doc pieces on Facebook and marveled, yet again, at the wonderful eloquence of Mary Doria Russell.

   The cup-spinning scene, a truly classic moment in a Western film, provoked bad blood between Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo. After the pair exchange Latin phrases at a gaming table, Holliday says, “Evidently, Mr. Ringo’s an educated man. Now I really hate him.” A ticked off Ringo points his Colt .45 at Holliday’s face and then does a bunch of spins over and over again, to antagonize Doc. Then comes the scene topper: When Ringo finishes his gunplay, Holliday picks up his silver cup and spins it by the handle, repeating Ringo’s gun spins.

   Take that, Ringo!

"In life, he had few friends, but in American mythology Doc has become clever Odysseus to Wyatt Earp’s stalwart Achilles—a source of detached amusement and witty commentary. Wyatt’s the hero, but Doc is the one we love."
—Mary Doria Russell

   You can read the whole piece, right here:

The Best Doc Holliday

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Sketching And Repurposing Reference Photos for The Deadliest Street In America

April 17, 2019
   This morning we started working on the July issue and to illustrate the cover story on The Deadliest Street In America, I went through my extensive reference photo files in the studio to look for images that might work to enhance the coverage. The basic premise of the article is that some fifty people died on the lone street of Lincoln, New Mexico in the 1870s alone! And thanks Tim Roberts and Scott Smith, we are going to give you a shot-by-shot walking tour of all the tragic accidents, senseless violence and questionable examples of frontier justice.

   So, as mentioned, this morning I found a typical reference photo, above, which I took for the Killing of Chapman (who was one-armed and unarmed). I shot this photo out at Pioneer Living History Museum at a session there in 1991. The models were all volunteers but I always tried to gift them original drawings or paintings and I also gave them credit in the back of "The Illustrated Life & Times of Billy the Kid," (1992).

   Also back in 1991, I took my second trip to Lincoln. I flew into El Paso and rented a car and drove up the back way through Orogrande, where I stopped at an antique store and found two authentic props: a broken Colt Thunderer pistol and a pair of old shotgun chaps. When I got to Lincoln, I immediately heard about a 21-year-old kid from Florida—actually, a tennis pro—who was hanging around town and who everyone told me, looked quite a bit like Billy the Kid. His name was William H. Cox, and they were right.

William H. Cox outside the Ellis Store

  He wasn't hard to find because Lincoln has all of 55 people living in the city limits. We hit it off and he was up for re-enacting scenes, so he tried on the chaps and I paid him $100 and we were off to the races. I had prepared a shot list of scenes I wanted to illustrate and as we walked around town re-enacting various scenes, I noticed that lots of people were paying attention. For example, we were shooting in the street in front of the Tunstall store—doing scenes for the Brady Shooting—and we got out of the way for a big Winnebago coming down the street. As the big beast lumbered by, I happened to look up and the driver was pointing and saying to his wife—I could easily read his lips—"Look, Honey, it's Billy the Kid!"

   So, here for your viewing pleasure is the first patina treatment on my reference photo:

   Those dresses might be a tad late for 1878, but hey, it's close enough for government work.

   Also, working on a cover idea. . .

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy the Kid Walks The Deadliest Street In America #1"

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy the Kid Walks The Deadliest Street In America #2"

   More examples and sketches tomorrow.

"I know lots of people who are educated far beyond their intelligence."

—Lewis Grizzard

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Other Woman In Denison, Iowa: "How She Loved Him."

April 15, 2019
   I love old illustrations and avidly collect them for inspiration, mostly. I am the proud owner of a copy of The Illustrated Police News, from June 8, 1876.

   The date is significant to me because it means that members of the Seventh Cavalry and Custer himself could have read it, as well as members of the James-Younger Gang before their ill-fated bank withdrawal in Northfield, Minnesota in September of 1876.

   Widely circulated, this is what all of above mentioned guys would have seen on the newsstand:

   The cover slug says, "Poker playing in Pike County, Missouri—A brave girl saves her lover from being fleeced."

   Meanwhile, inside, we get a bizarre collection of "Matrimonial Troubles" and an "Assault Upon Two Girls." The latter is illustrated thusly:

The above ass kicking is dated May 15 and placed at Rock Island, Illinois. Apparently, two "young ladies" were "going home from prayer meeting" when they were assaulted by a "despicable coward." Although he tried to rip at her clothes, "the other girl" seized him by the "hair and whiskers" and "jammed his head into the sand. . ." From there the other one got up and "together they held his nose in the sand and scratched his face and neck and removed his whiskers in small quantities." After threatening to cut his throat with a pocket knife the "cowardly scamp" fled. The newspaper then gives the girls kudos, saying proudly, "Good for the girls!"

   On the back page is this fine illustration, purporting to show a love triangle taking place in Denison, Iowa, of all places:

A Denison, Iowa Triangle Gets Trippy

"Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything."
—Ray Bradbury

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Prescott Storm Breaks Over The Local Yokels

April 14, 2019
   This last weekend I had the pleasure of being in Prescott for the 60th Annual Arizona Historical Society Conference.

   On Friday I went to a couple enlightening sessions and learned a bunch, assigned a few articles, and then returned to my room on the third floor to freshen up for dinner, and walked out on the terrace just in time to catch this dramatic scene of a storm rolling in.

A Prescott Valley Storm rolls in

   There was a storm of a different sort on Saturday when three people gave papers on Sharlot Hall.

Mary Melcher gave a fine paper on Sharlot

   Mary Melcher was followed by Jan Cleere who also provided interesting and insightful information about Arizona's most beloved historian. One of the tidbits I wanted to learn more about is what happened to the Orchard Ranch where Sharlot and her family lived for a quarter century. I learned that after the death of her mother and father, Sharlot sold the ranch in 1929. By the 1960s the main house was a leaning wreck.

Orchard Ranch Ruins
March 1, 1969

   My regret is that I drove past the Orchard Ranch in 1966 on my way back to school (University of Arizona in Tucson) but I never looked because I didn't know what it was I was looking at until recently. Today the Orchard Ranch is an upscale trailer park for retired people and all that remains is a kiosk near the front gate paying homage to Sharlot and her family's ranch. The ranch is just west of Fain Road at the edge of Dewey, and I have driven this way to Prescott a hundred times and never thought to even stop.

   On Thursday, on the way up the hill, I stopped to take a look.

The Sharlot Hall Kiosk at Orchard Ranch

   I walked into the community center, which is about 100 yards from the kiosk, and asked an old gent (who was probably five years younger than me) if he knew where the old ranch house location was and he looked at me and said, "They moved the house to Prescott." I wanted to say, you sure know a lot for being so damn dumb, but I refrained. Someone else looked at me like I was crazy and said, "There was a ranch here?" Well, yes, it's called The Orchard Ranch Trailer Park for a reason. All of which reminds me of the time I was out at the site of the Wham Payroll Robbery, west of Safford, and a rancher, who proudly told me he had lived out there for 60 years, responded to my question about the route of the payroll stage, in 1888, by stating, with some alarm, "There was a fort at Fort Thomas?!" All his life, it was merely a mini-trading post and gas station and it never occurred to him that it was an actual fort.

   And people wonder where the term local yokel comes from.

   But I digress. Both presentations on Sharlot Hall were exemplary and thorough, but when it came time for questions, an ugly aspect of Sharlot's life came up. A woman sitting behind me with her arms folded wanted to know why neither presenter mentioned the fact that Sharlot was estranged from her brother Ted because he had married a Mexican woman, Petra Acosta of Sinaloa, and, according to her biographer, Sharlot had never spoken to him again. A close friend of Sharlot's, Grace Sparkes, had no idea that Sharlot even had a brother, because she never mentioned him. This made for an awkward exchange, followed by the woman behind me, wondering aloud if the life of Sharlot had been "cleaned up" for public consumption. 

   My weekend inquiries in the mile-high city turned up other local scuttlebutt about Arizona's most-loved historian.

• Sharlot was rumored to have had several affairs and catty women around Prescott called her "Harlot Shall."

• She pulled a gun on a ferryman.

• She was not a feminist she was a humanist.

• She was a Republican.

• Many letters were destroyed after her death along with many by her close friend, the painter Kate Cori, who is buried in the Hall family plot but there's no mention of Kate in the official biography of Sharlot by Margaret F. Maxwell.

   Sharlot also was sued by a publisher for not producing a book on the history of Arizona. And when she donated the draft of another history book by a friend she withheld 200 pages which was found in her belongings after her death. I would argue that this is typical writer-researcher behavior (I am guilty of the same on both accounts).

   Plus, and I say this with total admiration: I totally dig the fact that she pulled a pistol on a ferryman.

   Proving, once and for all, that when it comes to local yokels, I am a charter member.

"That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."

Christopher Hitchens.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Harlot Shall and The Firehose of Truth

April 12, 2019
   Drove up to Prescott yesterday afternoon for the 60th Annual Arizona Historical Society History Conference.

The Arizona Historical Society
Mascot of Semi-naked Truth

   Last night, Stuart Rosebrook and I did a tag team dinner talk at the Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row. We talked quite a bit about this flick.

Stuart and BBB in front of the
giant Junior Bonner billboard in the Palace

   Of course, Stuart's late father, Jeb Rosebrook, wrote the classic rodeo picture and we each spent some quality time at the dinner reminiscing about him and Prescott. 

  This morning I had an appointment at the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives to talk about Orchard Ranch and train travel to Ashfork circa 1900, which is a key part of my graphic novel. Thanks to the director Fred Veil, I got to utilize these three experts:

L to R: Reference Desk Coordinator
Tom Schmidt, Archivist Brenda Taylor and Chief Archivist Mick Woodcock

   Got some great photo reference of the P&E Railroad Junction in the Dells, on the Iron King Trail, and several railroad books I need to get and train experts to talk with.

   Spent the afternoon at the Arizona History Conference. Ran into some major history and even some historic characters from local Prescott royalty.

Melissa Ruffner

   Melissa's family arrived in Prescott in 1867 and her grandfather, Sheriff George Ruffner, is a local legend who won a funeral home in a poker game, which the family still owns and operates. 

Sheriff Ruffner

In addition Melissa is the founding president and member of the Prescott Victorian Society and a member of the Arizona Pioneers Home Foundation Board, among many other honors. My favorite being she is an "onery" as opposed to "honorary" member of the Prescott Regulators and their Shady Ladies.

   Anyway, when I asked Melissa about Sharlot Hall "having a mouth on her," Melissa explained that Sharlot was a ranch woman and would have had a solid Arizona vocabulary. Not as profane as a modern woman, but formidable, nonetheless. Melissa added that when some in Prescott gossiped about Sharlot having an affair, or two, some catty women around town referred to her as "Harlot Shall." But when Melissa's grandmother was asked if Sharlot was that kind of woman, she reportedly replied, "Well, I certainly hope so. She certainly deserved it."

“Don’t expect to counter a firehose of falsehoods with the squirt gun of truth.”
—Old Vaquero Saying