Monday, September 28, 2020

The Kid In The Red Shirt On The Santa Fe Trail

 September 28, 2020

   The young McCarty brothers and their sick mother endured a long and circuitous 2,500 mile journey from New York to New Mexico, probably all by wagon. They joined thousands of migrants moving along westward trails, in the late 1860s, trying to find a better life. The wagons creaked and bumped along the rough, uneven roads and once they crossed the Mississippi, they encountered seemingly endless expanses of short and tall prairie grass. One traveler on the Santa Fe trail marveled, "In spring, the vast plain heaves and rolls around like a green ocean." Others spoke of the "purity of the plains" and how it seemed to cure sickness. This was surely the silent wish of the McCarty kids whose mother was sick with tuberculosis.

Daily Whip Out:
"The Kid In The Red Shirt
On The Santa Fe Trail"

   Josie (above, left) and his brother Henry (in the red fireman shirt) often scampered along the trails and explored the byways, which must have prompted this line, more than once.

"You boys get down from there. You'll hurt yourself."

—Every mother who ever lived

The Daily Routine On The Trail

   At dawn, they heard the cries of the trail hands, rounding up stock, sorting and hitching up the teams. The women and children packing up and moving out, the air ringing with whoops and cries of "Stretch out!" And "Catch up! Catch Up!" Someone was always lagging behind. On good days, there was usually a stop at mid-morning and the crews unhitched and grazed the teams. They hauled water, gathered wood and buffalo chips for fires. They cooked and ate the day's main meal, usually coffee, beans, dried apples and wild game when it was available. After dinner (the main meal at noon) men repaired the wagons, yokes and harnesses, greased the wagon wheels and doctored animals. Soon enough they were back out on the trail, pushing across and past running streams and dry washes. They often timed their crossings to make it across before dark because storms could turn into raging torrents and more than one wagon train was swept away after lounging too long on the banks of a placid stream. On a good day, wagon trains could make about fifteen to twenty miles, before finding a high, safe spot, and bedding down for the night. This routine was continued for eight weeks on a straight run, but the McCartys stopped often and even tried to put down routes at various locations (see map), but they didn't take and by the March of 1873, they found themselves in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

   Inspired by the greatest paragraph in the history of New Mexico, which says in part: "Shrewd as the coyote. Free as the hawk. The outlaw of our dreams—forever free, forever young, forever riding."

Daily Whip Out:
"Forever Young, Forever Riding"

   Thanks Top Secret Writer for the timless quote.

"When I was researching my dual biography of William H. Bonney and Pat Garrett, Bob Boze Bell’s The Illustrated Life and Times of Billy the Kid proved to be an important and delightful reference.  With its invaluable timeline for the Kid, numerous historic photographs, and, of course, Bell’s arresting artwork, I was immersed in the color, mayhem, and tragedy of the Kid’s world.  There wasn’t a Billy book I enjoyed more, and this welcome new edition is even better."

—Mark Lee Gardner, author of To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The ZZ Top Connection

 September 27, 2020

   The other day Bob Reece asked me how I met Billy Gibbons and here is the true story.

   Back in 1977 I was living in Tucson and doing a humor magazine with Dan The Man Harshberger, called the Razz Revue

The Razz Fanned Out

   I was always looking for ways to promote the magazine—I mean Magazomic! One day I came up with the bright idea of putting together a care package of back issues and T-shirt designs, like these:

The Razz T-Shirt Designs

   Yes that is Ed Mell, doing his best Doper Roper, second from left, and that is Dan The Man, far right. The female model was the girlfriend of a publisher friend and she was very pretty, but she thought giving a cross-eyed look would help "zane it up," and she might be correct, although I doubt her grandchildren would agree.

   So, I put a handfull of back issues and an assortment of Razz T-shirts in a box and then I would drive downtown and drop it off at the box office, whenever big time rock groups came to town. The first box went to the Beach Boys. I went to the concert and nothing happened, no mention, no thank you, no contact from the band, not even the promoter had the courtesy to respond. Undeterred, I did Jethro Tull. Same result. Then came the Eagles, and I got real excited when a roadie came out on stage before the show and he was wearing a Razz shirt (the one, above that the cross-eyed looker is wearing). But then, nothing else. I was very discouraged, but I decided to do one more and that was a ZZ Top show at the Convention Center in Tucson. At the last minute, I had to go to Phoenix on Razz business and couldn't attend the show. When I got back to Tucson, I dropped in to see these guys.

The Wyly's Leather Crew

   "Hey, Boze," said Johnny Weinkauf (kneeling at left, with the Coors can), "you must have been thrilled when Billy Gibbons gave you a shout out at the show last night?"

   "What the hell?" I said.

   Johnny laughed: "You weren't there?"

   "Dammit, no," I said, "You've got to be kidding me? What did he say?

   "Well the lights went down, the band came out and Billy came up to the microphone and said, 'Anybody here tonight from the Razz Revue?' And someone yelled, and I thought it was you, and Billy said, 'This one's for you,' and they went into La Grange." 

   A few days later, I got a funky, low rider postcard from Billy, who was still on the road. The greeting said "Hay Mane," which was just the coolest. In fact, it inspired me to do all of my own postcards, I mean Bozecards. From there, he ordered subscriptions for all of his friends and we were off to the races. Everything I hoped the care packages would bring, had come true. I just had to get the right band and the right guy. And, I'm here to tell you, Billy Gibbons is the right Guy.

   We had breakfast at the Nogales Cafe in 1982. He sent me a ZZ Top ball cap. For many years I got Christmas cards from the band and then last year we did this.

Holy Mole!

   Yes, that's Ed Mell, center, once again. Turns out Billy is writing a Billy the Kid song and he asked me if I wanted co-writing credit. Ha. I'll believe it when I see it, but still, Hey Mane! Can't complain.

   And now, you know the true story of my ZZ Top connection.

"Lord take me downtown, I'm just looking for some good mole."

—Billy Gibbons at Mariscos Ensenada, Phoenix

Friday, September 25, 2020

Jesus Silva Claims The Kid Dressed As A Girl to Avoid Capture

 September 25, 2020

   I love oldtimers and their stories. Invariably you have to take some of the stuff we say—I mean THEY say—with a grain of salt. Other times, well, it kind of blows your mind, if it's true.

   This is for a section of the book where Billy's friends remember him and are being interviewed by the press.

They Knew The Kid

Jesus Silva, age 85,  outstanding in his field 
(FYI: he's wearing the same dented-in crown the Kid is wearing in his only known photo)

   Jesus Silva built the coffin and helped dig the grave for his friend Billy the Kid. A newspaperman interviewed him in 1936 when he was 85 and Silva had this to say about the Kid: “If Chisum had paid him, Billy would have been all right."

   As regards the Kid and his fugitive status, “I gave him a hat or shirt or somethin’ ever’ time he came. There were many times when the outlaw was broke, even hungry."

   In the interview, Silva claimed to have helped the Kid hide out after his escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse, when he killed deputies Bell and Olinger.

“I was riding down south looking for some Maxwell horses. It was getting close to dark and I hadn’t eaten all day, so I started looking for a sheep camp. I was 40 miles from home.

 "Then I looked up and saw a man afoot on top of the hill, and thinkin’ it was a sheep herder, I made for him. It was Billy. He recognized me first, and shot at me three times, just for fun.

‘Billy said he rode all day until about midnight, then he tied his horse and went to sleep. After he had been asleep about two hours, somethin’ scared the horse and it broke away, and he was afraid somebody huntin’ him was close, so he put up afoot.

   Silva said he put the Kid on his horse and walked most of the way back to the home of Jesus Anaya, eight miles south of Fort Sumner. The Kid, though hampered by his leg irons, walked part of the way while Jesus rode. Silva left the Kid at the Anaya home, and claimed he stayed for almost a month.

   Here's the kicker: “Anaya had three daughters, and when strangers would come, Billy dressed up like a girl and stayed in the kitchen with the Anaya girls. And he made a good one, too — he was small, his hair was long and he talked Mexican just as good as them."

   Silva also claimed he went to the Maxwell house when he heard the Kid had been shot by Garrett.

   "There wasn’t even one Mexican cent in the outlaw’s pockets when the officers searched him; Pat Garrett took his gun."

—Jesus Silva, in The Amarillo Daily News, Friday Morning, Nov. 13, 1936

   Crazy, huh?

"I had avoided Billy the Kid, knowing that down that road lies madness."

—The Top Secret Writer

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hillbilly Trilogy: The Final Word

 September 24, 2020

   Here is my foreword to the new Billy book.

Hillbilly Trilogy

    My first book on Billy the Kid was published back in 1992. It was supposed to be a graphic novel, but thanks to my art studio mate at the time, Ed Mell, I landed at his prestigious art gallery in Scottsdale—Suzanne Brown's—to premiere the art from the book, and the next thing you know, I'm publishing a half-art, half-history, quasi-graphic novel. Looking back, I would call this first effort a naive-mash-up-lark.

Billy, Book One

   The second book was born from my reaction to a comment made by the late, great historian, Nora Henn, about the first book. She took me aside, in Lincoln, and said, "I like you Bob, but if you are going to do history, you need to be serious, and do history. You can't tell jokes at the expense of the reader." She was correct, of course, because there were numerous jokes in the first effort, because, well, I am a cartoonist. So, I threw myself into putting together a massive extension of the first book, adding 70-some pages and including every aspect of the Lincoln County War AND Billy's life. I would deem this second effort the Nora Henn-Kitchen Sink version of the Kid story.

Billy, Book Two

   And, so, here we are, with the third book. I am combining all the lessons learned from the first two and, I might add, it's much more lyrical in nature. By now, thirty years later, I know the story backwards and forward and I have nothing to prove or add to the scholarship. I have left the rigorous documenting behind (sorry, Nora!) and I've attempted to get at the beating heart of Billy the Kid. Is it the final word on Billy the Kid? No, of course not. That is the cartoonist making a joke. But it is my final word.

The Third & Final Billy Book

   Can you trust a cartoonist to never do anything on the Kid ever again?

"Never say never."  

—Charles Dickens, 1837 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Viva Zapata!

 September 23, 2020

   Get ready for some mucho-macho-muy-Mexicano Mayhem on the Mexican Revolution. Thanks to the True West creative team—that would be Stuart Rosebrook, Dan Harshberger and Robert Ray—and some humongous support from heavyweight historians, Linda Sanchez and Salome Hernandez, we've got some  muy malamigos features in the next issue (November) of True West magazine.

   Here's a taste:

   Of course, I haven't forgotten about the kid. He's up next.

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy In Darkness"

"Zapata was the embodiment of sullen, suspicious, defiant, insolent brute force."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 11, 1914

Monday, September 21, 2020

Saint Billy And The King of The Fanner Fifty

 September 21, 2020

   Like most cartoonists who are owners of history magazines, I have my share of mental issues. For one thing I am still chasing ghosts from my childhood.

Daily Whip Out: "Saint Billy"

   I can't justify the obsession, but thanks to a certain therapist, I think I can spot the cause.

The Good-Bad Boy

   Walter Noble Burns gets the credit for creating the first good-bad boy in his seminal book, "The Saga of Billy the Kid." Burns is the one who gave form and substance to the conundrum: William H. Bonney was the All-American Boy and a cold-blooded killer. Those are two poles apart and that is the perfect metaphor: two poles of a battery, a plus and a minus, that keep the sparks flying and the legend burning bright.

   Of course, not everyone loves Billy the Kid like I do. Just ask the history honchos in Santa Fe who look down their noses at the boy bandit and refuse to even mention his name at the state monument in Old Fort Sumner. "He's not historically worthy," one of them told me with glee, as if it was a badge of honor to NOT mention, much less glorify, arguably the most famous citizen in the history of New Mexico.

   But the snotheads in Santa Fe are not alone. Here's a typical letter I get from time to time:

"I wouldn't want your job which entails glorifying outlaws, murderers and thieves. My integrity means more to me than fame and fortune. The lawless Old West myth was created by journalists, so-called historians, dime-novelists and movie producers."

—Franklin L. Boren, Tinnie, New Mexico

  I believe Mr. Boren is about half right. The lawlessness in the Old West was real enough—as is the lawlessness in our own era. Has it been fanned by journalists and "so-called historians" like me? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean the lawlessness didn't exist.

   Sometimes the Billy blowback hits closer to home. I know this very attractive woman, she shall remain nameless, who has serious issues with Billy the Kid. She once said to me, "What do you find so fascinating about this thug? He seems like a psychopath to me?"

  Full disclosure: she has a Masters Degree in Counseling and she is the mother of my children.

The mother of my children, along with the
actual children, on Mission Beach, San Diego, California, mid-eighties.

   So, I asked this very attractive woman, who, thank God is a family therapist, why she thinks I am so enamored of this boy bandit and she said, and I quote, "If I had to venture a guess, I would say you were like many young boys and were probably compensating for a lack of courage."

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:

"Young BBB King of The Fanner-Fifty"

All I can say is, "Boy Howdy. I resemble that remark."

"Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."

—Old Vaquero Saying


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Billy the Kid: The Trilogy Is Almost Complete

 September 20, 2020

   Here's a sneak peek at a full page ad designed by Dan The Man for our November issue.

   Now all I have to do is finish the book! Actually, most of it is done, it just needs to be designed and laid out. It's actually fun, but when you're also trying to put out a magazine, it can get get a little crazy trying to juggle everything. And since we're all working remotely, the design meetings are trickier as we meet and discuss layouts on Slack (a cousin to Zoom).

   Still noodling some new images I want for the book, like this unfinished piece:

Daily Whip Out:

"Forever Young, Forever Riding"

   And this painfully accurate depiction:

Daily Whip Out:

"White Bread Boy Whips It Out"

   Part of my angle on this book is how a certain skinny kid from the sticks got courage from modeling that historical Kid.

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."

—E.E. Cummings