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

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Geronimo's Kin Goes Hollywood

April 11, 2019
   Thanks to a plug from Paul Andrew Hutton, here's someone we need to do a True West feature story on.

Geronimo's Kin, Charles Stevens

Hutton Makes His Pitch
   "This is Charles Stevens one of the most prolific character actors in all Hollywood history (Plainsman, Frontier Marshal, Blood and Sand, Kit Carson, every B-western serial you can think of). He was pals with Douglas Fairbanks Sr and appears in many of his silent films. Related directly to the Stevens family that lived as Indian traders at San Carlos and friends with Geronimo and The Apache Kid. Old Man Stevens married one of G-mans cousins and that is the connection. Charlie was discussed in my article on Geronimo for True West and is also buried in a footnote in my book. He actually played Geronimo in an episode of Rin Tin Tin. 

   "He was a remarkable Arizona fellow who deserves far more notoriety. He was in at least four Wyatt Earp films as Indian Charlie (Wild West Days, Frontier Marshal, Tombstone, My Darling Clementine). The Stevens family was really important around San Carlos and old man Stevens was there from the beginning as a trader. Carol Markstrom sent me great info on the family for my book and could probably write up something for you on Stevens and his family. She would also be a great What History Has Taught Me person for True West magazine." 
—Paul Andrew Hutton

"We came from dust and we will return to dust and that is why I never dust. It might be someone I loved."
—Old Abuela Saying

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

We Were Dead Wrong About Deadwood!

April 9, 2019
   “Nobody who loves Westerns is going to watch this awful show!” That was the first report I got from someone who worked on the set of this HBO unreleased TV show, in 2003. 

A sneak peek at our June cover

   At the time we were hot on the trail of a slew of new oaters in production, “Get Ready for a Bonanza of New Westerns!” (Feb-March 2003). 

The doubletruck spread included: "Open Range," "Westworld" (with Arnold Schwarzenegger attached as a remake of the original Yul Brynner vehicle), "Hidalgo," "The Last Samurai, " "The Lone Ranger" (with "a lithe, buxom female" as Tonto), "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself," along with a whole bunch of projects that sank like a stone: "The Peacemakers," described as "CSI lands in the Old West."

   Of all those hits and misses absolutely nobody in my circle thought "Deadwood," stood a chance of connecting with our audience.

   We were dead wrong.

   The show became a huge success and pumped new life into a tired genre. Kathy, who generally can't stand Westerns was glued to our TV set. When I tried to remind her she was watching a "Western," she shushed me and kept watching week after week. I finally got her to admit it was the moral complexity of the characters and the language that captivated her. Someone later dubbed it as "Shakespeare in the mud." 

    That's not to say everyone in our world loves the show. I was at a Golden Boots Award gala in 2004 when the audience stood to congratulate many of the actors from the HBO show seated at a nearby table, and the guy next to me refused to stand, or even applaud; "I hate that show and everything it stands for."

   He was a Texan who owned Bracketville, the movie set site of John Wayne's "The Alamo".

   Last summer I finally made it to the actual town of Deadwood and I was not disappointed. 

A sidewalk advertisement (literally in the sidewalk) for the wonderful Adams Museum

The crush at Wild Bill's grave.

   In fact I am going back this summer for a book signing at the Adams Museum on June 14.

   Jim Hatzell, above, who lives in Rapid City, South Dakota, acted as my guide and we traveled all around the historic area. Jim was involved in "Dances With Wolves" and many other film projects filmed in the area. He's also an artist and keeps a sketchbook. We had fun comparing notes and doodles.

   The thing I love the most about Deadwood, the town and "Deadwood," the show, is that there is room for both. And even though the language on the show is pushed a tad too far for my tastes (Pete Dexter, the author of "Deadwood" who many believe created the DNA for the show, claims that HBO encouraged David Milch to push the "mo-fo" swearing angle because it had worked to such a great effect on "The Sopranos.") they rolled the dice and took a shot. And. . .

   They were right. It worked.

"Oh, shucks, really?!"

"The joke on the set was we were doing 'Sex in The City' meets 'The Sopranos' in 'Deadwood'."
Phil Spangenberger