October 5, 2002
People sometimes ask me, “How did you get started with all this Western stuff?” And the honest answer is: A penny.
Of course, I have been interested in the Wild West since I was a little tyke, but during the eighties I sort of drifted away and got caught up in being a media bad boy (I did scathing cartoons for Playboy, National Lampoon and mainly New Times Weekly, and I was on a popular rock and roll radio show, Jones & Boze for most of the eighties and nineties). In 1989, my mother sent me a book: The Saga of Billy the Kid by Walter Noble Burns (1924) and reading it really reignited my passion for all things Western. There was only one problem: no one outside of my immediate family knew this. Everyone thought of me as just a rock and roll, cartoonist bad boy (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
So I decided to change that preception, both inside and out. I started picking up pennies. Yes, when I would see stray pennies lying on the ground, I picked them up and squeezed them and said to myself the word “Western.” Ha. That’s it. It sounds so goofy but that is what I did and continue to do (I just found one in our driveway this morning—Kathy is cleaning out the garage). The ritual of this little “superstition” helps me refocus and keep me centered on the goal (I learned several things from doing this: it’s the little things that keep me focused and you’d be amazed how many pennies there are on the ground!).
It’s hopeful to me that since I’ve started doing this little exercise, I have published four books on Wild West characters, been on the cover of Arizona Highways twice (with paintings and articles on Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp), appeared on at least a dozen national documentaries as “an expert” and bought True West magazine. Not too shabby.
Today, fewer and fewer people remember my modest rock and roll exploits. They think of me as a real “Western” kind of guy. Amazing.
A penny for your thoughts.
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