Wednesday, March 31, 2004

March 31, 2004
I finally sat down last night and watched the first episode of Deadwood. I can certainly see why it has been picked up for a second season (just happened today and is based no doubt on record numbers of viewers for the first two episodes). The characters are rich, the writing is creative and the numerous references to historical events (Custer’s just been killed and they comment on it) and actual characters (Charlie Utter is quite good).

I certainly agree with the comparisons to Unforgiven and McCabe & Mrs. Miller for the tone. And there is a dark humor I especially love: Al Swearengen (owner of the Bella Union, and a real character from the historical Deadwood), at one point, makes some ugly pronouncement, then turning to leave tells one of his flakey underlings, “Don’t forget to kill Tim.” He says it like, “Don’t forget to turn off the server when you go home,” and I laughed out loud. Very rich. So many Westerns lack a real sense of humor, or try for the hackneyed "Aw shucks Ma'am," kind of hocum. The last real, intended humor in a Western I can even think of was in Lonesome Dove and Rustler's Rhapsody.

Keith Carradine plays Wild Bill like an aging rock star and he exudes a weary authenticity that I especially enjoyed. Plus, even though I’ve been hearing through the grapevine that the costuming, gun rigs and saddles are spotty on authenticity, I think Hickok’s look is dead on. I also think they copied True West on the costuming and look of Jack McCall, but I’ll make that case tomorrow.

I also love the Seth Bullock character (he looks very much like our cover boy last issue, John Escapule as Doc Holliday) with the imperial and dark, brooding eyes. I predict he’s the next Clint Eastwood, or Rowdy Yates, whichever comes first.

Calamity Jane is a hoot and a half. Great hat, bigger than life boisterousness and bawdy to boot, but sensitive. Probably the most accurate depiction of Calamity ever done on film (although it’s not hard to top Doris Day and Ellen Barkin).

I have four advance screener episodes and in fact had them before the series even started but was too busy to watch. I promise to watch another one tonight and the third one before the weekend so I can warn you what to watch for on Sunday night.

Now for the most controversial aspect of the show—the language. Hitting the VCR play button, I grabbed a piece of paper and made hash marks for every cussing category and I counted the F-bomb 48 times. It didn’t really bother me (Hey, I run a magazine), although I think the idea that Deadwood was a lawless place as an excuse for spraying expletives is a little thin, historically. But, it is making waves, something a Western hasn’t done in a long, long time. My hats way off to ‘em, and to the creator and producer, I say, thankyou Mo fo.

"After 12 years of therapy my psychiatrist said something that brought tears to my eyes. He said, 'No hablo ingles.'"
—Ronnie Shakes

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

March 30, 2004
Well, the Custer stunners keep on coming. I found out yesterday from Mike Donahue that Custer was shot in the left side under the heart and that he had a temple wound on the left side (which plays against our suicide theory since Custer was right-handed). And, this is the jaw dropper—Yellow Hair had an arrow in his penis. When I went out in the production area to tell the crew of this incredible piece of history, Robert Ray quipped, “Nice shot.” The impression being that two warriors were standing below Last Stand Hill and one of them had just fired his bow. All of this was conveyed in the line and was quite funny. In fact, I laughed til I cried.

Last night I was reading a benchmark book, Archeology, History, and Custer’s Last Battle by Richard Allan Fox, Jr. and discovered several amazing tidbits. There is a battle phenomenon theory advanced by a guy named du Picq in 1870: “firepower on the battle lines does not equate with manpower; not every soldier will fight.” Supporting stats include this stunner: “World War II battle studies concluded that up to 85 percent, but more commonly 70 percent, of men in a company dispersed along a battle line will not fire.” Yikes! I read this to Kathy and the flaming pacifist said, “Maybe there’s hope for mankind after all.”

Got this insight from artist Jim Hetzel of Montana:

“When you are doing your illustrations keep in mind that of the five
companies that rode with Custer at the end, C troop rode light sorrels and the men all had gray hats. I troop rode bay horses and wore mostly black hats. L troop rode bays with gray hats. This battalion of three companies was commanded by Miles Keogh. E company rode gray horses and wore gray hats and F company rode bay horses and wore mostly black hats. This battalion was commanded by George Yates and went to the river with headquarters group as per the new narratives uncovered by my colleague Mike Donahue.”

Which reminds me that in 1996 I was in Great Falls, Montana for the annual Charlie Russell artshow and the rumor going round was that Brad Pitt was set to play Custer in a new movie and that this time they were going to do the horses right (gray horses and gray hats for E company, etc.) but that when the production company found out how much it would cost they bailed. Not that finding $20 mil for Pitt helped anything, I’m sure.

Talked to Alan Huffines regarding Friday night’s Alamo premiere in San Antonio. Alan, who was invited, told me the governor and many Texas politicos were there, big ballroom treatment with prime rib served to the entire audience after the screening. Special yellow carpet. Really ritzy and oh so Texan. On Sunday night they had the premiere for cast and crew and Jason Patric got so wound up in his Jim Bowie role that he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly on the streets at 2 a.m Monday. Evidently Patric is still in character. Huffines predicts best actor nominations for Patric, Billy Bob and the guy who plays Santa Anna. He also thinks the Alamo will get an Oscar nomination for best art direction.

Alan is very happy with the final edit and told me it comes in right at two and a half hours (they added back in 15 minutes from the last version he saw). From there the conversation turned to the new HBO series Deadwood and Alan told me he is turned off by the harsh language. He thinks it is overdone and hurts the story (Jana B. had the same reaction this morning). Also, historically, he told me he has researched the “F-bomb,” as he puts it, and it was used in that time period to describe the actual procreation event, not as an adverb or adjective, which really found wide usage in WW II.

“Nice shot.”
—Fulla Bull

Monday, March 29, 2004

March 29, 2004
Totally immersed in Custer. It’s so addictive. I understand how so many people become obsessed with the Little Big Horn battle. Such a mystery of Long Hair’s final movements. Just got off the phone with Paul Huton (2:40). He is so knowledgeable on the whole battle. Here’s a stunner to me: Paul thinks John Ford’s Fort Apache is the best portrayal of the Custer fight. When I protested that the final battle portrayed in Fort Apache is over in a flash with Henry Fonda’s troops annihilated in a dusty wave, Paul said, “Yes, that’s why it’s so perfect.”

Gus and I worked all morning screening Son of the Morning Star which most everyone agrees is the most historically correct in terms of gear, uniforms and depicting all the aspects of the fight. We freeze-framed several images so I can illustrate them. They have Custer (Gary Cole) getting shot and dying before the end of the fight.

Worked yesterday on the snow painting. Need to finish that tomorrow. Gus and I are whipping up the four stages (maps) of the final fight. Here are the known movements:

The Four Known Movements of Custer’s Battalion
1. The stalled attack on the village at the mouth of Medicine Tail Coulee
2. The diagonal withdrawal from the ford toward higher ground
3. The action of Calhoun’s troops on the east end of the fight
4. The final rush of surviving soldiers on the ridge down towards the tree-lined river bank.

Other than that it’s “like a bad dream with horses and men all mixed up in fear and hate.” Maybe just this once, Hutton is right.

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."
—John Quincy Adams

Sunday, March 28, 2004

March 28, 2004
The Alamo finally premiered last night in San Antonio. I wonder how that went? On a related note, I finally saw The Missing last night on DVD. Kathy and I made a meandering car trip into Phoenix late yesterday afternoon. Ended up at Taco Villa on West Camelback and had the barbacoa (bar-b-qued goat head, a la Mexico City style) and a margarita ($32 plus $10 tip).

Stopped by Deena’s hotel in Scottsdale and gave her a bean burro enchilada style from Taco Villa, and then stopped at Blockbuster in Carefree and rented The Missing and I picked up Son of the Morning Star to study for the Custer article.

Regarding The Missing, Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blancett were just a joy to watch. Really strong acting. One of the cool things about DVDs is that we got to look at three different proposed endings. The first alternate ending to The Missing was way better than the one they chose to run in theatres. I’m guessing that some test audience swayed them (Ron Howard and Brian Grazer) to the weaker finale. The first alternate ending had closure, more tension and it paid off the whole trip. I can just imagine enough test dummy participants responding, “I didn’t get it,” or “that was stupid that he was still alive,” and so they cut the damn thing to fit the lowest common denominator. Huge mistake. The Missing (even with the weaker ending) is way better than Open Range but only managed some $20 mil at the box office while Range did $60 mil.

Yesterday’s quotes work even better here:

“How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt?”
—Harry S. Truman

“Statistics are like bikinis: they show a lot but not everything.”
—Lou Piniella

Got up this morning and made two trips to the creek for rocks. Brought back about 25. Good ones too.

Dave and Doreen Daiss came by on horseback yesterday with another couple. It was great to see Dave in the saddle. He wants to go up and see the Tewskbury Ranch (which is coming up for sale). We may go up next week.

”No one ever found wisdom without also being a fool. Writers, alas, have to be fools in public, while the rest of the human race can cover its tracks.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, March 27, 2004

March 27, 2004
Just got back from a long walk with Kathy and the dogs. Very pretty out. Saw a beautiful cardinal chirping away down in the creekbottom. Pretty groovy day so far.

Finally got on track to do the four versions of Custer’s death for the June issue. Have several paintings I want to do, including what I call the “snow scene.” As converging troops approached the Custer battlefield the next day they thought the hills in the distance were covered with patches of snow. It wasn’t snow.

Somewhat on overload because of the three fronts we’ve opened up: one is Volume II of Classic Gunfights with the top secret theme (20 gunfights to write and illustrate by July); two is the Northfield bank robbery 32 page supplement and art show which needs 25 original paintings by June; and three is the next issue and six pages of Custer due in 10 days. Not to mention the artwork for the Westerns channel bits, or the new True West Maniacs Club logo.

Other than that, not much to do around here.

Daniel developed a pretty strong cover of the real Wild Bill Hickok and Keith Carradine as Wild Bill, smooshed together at the ears with the subhed: “HBO’s #*@%! Deadwood. Authentic?” Everyone is buzzing about whether the cussing in the show is authentic to the times. I think the answer may surprise some people, dammit.

Lots of feedback on potential new t-shirt ideas. I may take a poll on the site here to determine which designs and slogans to start with. However, sometimes polls don’t necessarily give you an accurate snapshot.

“Statistics are like bikinis: they show a lot but not everything.”
—Lou Piniella

“How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt?”
—Harry S. Truman

Friday, March 26, 2004

March 26, 2004
Just got off the phone with Theresa at Tri Star and she says we are going to probably sell out the new Classic Gunfights book in record time. She also told me they bought the back cover of Wild West and of course I had all sorts of petty, jealous things to say about that.

Actually I’m just fine with it because we always have done well with them.

Yesterday at noon I met Bill McLelland down on Shea and the 101 and he treated me to a Cactus League game. We saw the Giants play the Rockies. Barry Bonds jacked one out and it ended in a 3-3 tie (they played 10 innings but I guess they cap it at 10 innings to save the pitchers. It is, after all, Spring Training). $3 to park, $10 for two salads, $3 for sunscreen and $2.50 for water. Most important stat: bought six beers for $7 each (includes tip), three for me, three for Bill. Beautiful day, 9,731 in attendance. Enjoyed myself and relaxed. Got home at five and stopped at the office to pick up the new issue (May).

Not happy with the cover. Seems too retro. May back out of the cover process for a while. Not sure if I’m directing efforts to the best effect.

Today, Mike Melrose and I treated all the people who worked Festival of the West to a free lunch at Rawhide ($165 trade, plus $30 cash tip). Fun talking to the crew and debating a new special issue we’re thinking of doing. Good feedback all around.

Sometimes I get tired of the same old gloom and doom headlines in the paper. Here are several headlines I’d like to read in today’s paper:

• Blame for 9/11 Rests Entirely On Janet Jackson

• Israelis Stop Teen Wearing Bomb Belt: Re-Arm Him With Patriot Missile, He Goes Home And Takes Out Terrorists Who Sent Him

• Bill Will Divert Indian Gambling Proceeds to Local Magazine Publisher

"Winners are those people who make a habit of doing the things losers are uncomfortable doing."
—Ed Foreman

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

March 24, 2004
T-shirt slogans are pouring in right and left. Here’s a sampling:

Pancho Villa: “!Viva Villa!” (yeah, I know, corny but it's commersh)
—Bart Bull

Emiliano Zapata: “Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” (aside from the genius Zapatista thing which is influential worldwide, he loved to wear full-charro, which would give you an excuse to illustrate it.)
—Bart Bull

“I'd like to see some Native American shirts. Maybe Chief Joseph with "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever". Or maybe Geronimo or Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull with the phrase ‘True Westerner’.”
—Mark Kilburn

“Here is one I would like to see on one of your New Shirts. ‘ARE YOU MY FRIEND?’ Do Holliday,with Wyatt behind Doc with a American Flag behind them on a flag pole etc. Maybe too political,maybe not.”
—TRUE WEST Fan in Missouri

I’m also getting more than a few reviews of the new HBO series Deadwood.

“Well, the show looks good, but as my grandma used to say, ‘Pink over stink.’”
—Emma Bull

“It’s a funny, tense and knowing depiction of human hope and evil from a time that we almost don’t recognize anymore because we’ve fed on so many faked-up film versions of it. It’s closer to Unforgiven and McCabe & Mrs. Miller that to John Ford—and it’s a welcome entry in the genre.”
—Shawn Levy, in Hollywood Life

“Sam Peckinpah does Good Friday.”
—Stephen King’s review of The Passion of the Christ

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

March 23, 2004
We sold a record amount of product out at Festival of the West last weekend, including every cap and t-shirt we brought. Had a staff meeting this morning to talk about leveraging our t-shirt line. Settled on the notion that we have strong images of almost every Old West icon, but it’s the tag line that sells them (“I’m your huckleberry” and “The doctor will see you now” being prime examples). So, we each decided to come up with a list of cool sayings to go with each historical character, for consideration on a new set of shirts. Here’s a few of my ideas off the top of my head:

“Advise persons never to engage in killing.”
—Billy the Kid

“You sons of bitches have been looking for a fight and now you can have it.”
—Wyatt Earp

“Badges? We got badges!”
—Earp family

“We are rough men, used to rough ways.”
—Cole Younger

“This is funny.”
—Doc Holliday’s last words (show him in bed looking down at his bare feet)

“History is a cruel trick played on the dead by the living.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

“The less you bet, the more you lose when you win.”
—Wyatt Earp & Doc Holliday both sitting at a faro table

“Silver made Tombstone rich. Wyatt Earp made it famous.”
—Some old guy, show Wyatt looming over Tombstone

“Bad saddle—good saddle”
—BBB on Westerns Channel, showing a high back saddle next to a roll back saddle, True West Moment logo underneath

“If you can’t say anything nice about anybody, come sit with me.”
—Alice Roosevelt (real cutie), crib with Gibson style pen and ink of her

Do any of these grab you? Got an idea for a better one? Click right here and let me know.

“Nothing changes more consistently than the past; the past that influences our lives is not what actually happened but what we believe happened.”
—Gerald W. Johnson

Monday, March 22, 2004

March 22, 2004
This morning I actually got to stand in front of a federal judge and “swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth”. That was kind of cool. Never done that before. No bible though (probably politically incorrect).

Left Cave Creek at 4:30 this morning. Got to Tucson at around seven. Met with the lawyer (can’t talk about the specific case just yet). Had machaca and eggs at a little dive downtown ($6.75 cash), then walked over to the federal building. Big security check (shoes off, empty all your pockets, photo ID). Up on the fifth floor was a big, modern courtroom with dark, red wood paneling. It had a crisp quietness about it and reeked of seriousness. Maybe that’s because the federal government is rumored to have paid extra to have any sense of humor sucked from the room. Case in point: when I got on the witness stand, the defense attorney asked me to name my Old West books, and, well, I couldn’t resist. So I named them and quipped: “And then there’s ‘Bad Men’ which, believe it or not, is not about lawyers.”

No laugh from the judge, the jury (a bad sign), the bailiff, the stenographer, the prosecuting team, or the two spectators. The defense attorney did manage a tight grimace that might have been a side effect of biting his tongue in half.

Still, I’m proud to say, with my testimony the defense rested. I got in my Ranger and drove straight back to Cave Creek and the office (2 hours and ten minutes, door to door).

Got in the front door and got a call from Dolores at the History Channel. She has been besieged with e-mails about my comments in here that Drew Gomber and I have been edited out of Old West Tech. Not true, she assured me. She thinks we are both wonderful on air and didn’t understand why I was singling her out. I apologized, and told her I was just causing trouble and that my humor doesn’t always travel very well. She seemed to understand.

Here’s a comment from someone who was out at Festival of the West on Saturday and saw some of the Westerns channel taping:

“I was one of those in the peanut gallery watching you tape the bit about hats. You shouldn't have been nervous—we couldn't hear anything you said, there was so much other noise. The ‘Security Sheriff’ kept everybody far enough away.”
—Lauren Kormylo

"Whoever called it necking was a poor judge of anatomy."
—Groucho Marx

Sunday, March 21, 2004

March 21, 2004
Crazy couple of days. Went down to Festival of the West at about noon on Friday. This was after an all morning pow-wow with visiting contributing editors. This year Mary Brown (the founder and umoved mover of the festival since its inception some 15 years ago) got one huge tent, and I mean huge (must have been sixty feet to the top of the big top). The only problem was it’s 15 degrees hotter than normal, (high 90s) so it got a tad toasty in the tent. Fortunately we had our True West tent down on the polo field with all the other rif-raff, like the chuck wagons, etc.

Walked thru the big tent, trying not to get sucked into the many booths, which had great, hats, spurs, framed movie posters, artwork, etc. Talked to Buck Taylor (who told me Sam Elliott was going to do a new Wild Bill Hickok film and Buck was going to be Buffalo Bill, but at the last second it got shelved). Finally found Jeff Hildebrandt outside with the video crew, taping an interview with Jack Palance. The camera was right up in the one-handed-push-up actor’s face and the sound guy was having trouble because there were Indian drums, gun shots, private jets (Westworld is right on the Scottsdale Airport landing path), and loud, obnoxious bystanders, like me.

I tried to reach in and tap Dori, the make-up artist, on the shouldeer to tell her I was “in the house,” but a security guard put his arm on me.

"Last night ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How would you like to be stuck behind them in airport security?"
—David Letterman

Dori finally met me at the True West tent and put on the three layers of industrial “foundation” that makes me look half-human (from a distance of 15 feet).

While getting “made-up” Mike Melrose came into the tent and quipped, “When I get made up for my movies I don’t get that much put on,” to which I replied, “That’s true Mike, but the budgets are much smaller in porn.”

At about two, Jeff and crew joined us and we got permission from the “Manflow” chuckwagon owner to shoot two segments of True West Moments around his mess wagon.

Now that the TW Moment segment has been running for a month, I had more than one person come up to me and say, “Good saddle-bad saddle,” and laugh. For some reason that bumper is getting the most reaction.

Mike Pelligati and his sound guy proceeded to walk me thru three scripts without a teleprompter. This was more than a little intimidating because the camera and sound boom attracted a crowd (although nothing compared to our next day’s shoot). Some of these people folded their arms and looked on with a “let’s see what Mr. Movie Star does here.” I couldn’t remember my lines, kept flubbing them, starting over, but we got not one, but two chuckwagon bits in the can in about an hour. It wasn’t great, but it felt respectable.

When I showed up on Saturday morning, Dennis Weaver (Gunsmoke) was on set to do his bits, only now they had a huge crew out of Tuscon that must have numbered a dozen (I never could figure out who actually was on payroll). This time they had a GIB (not sure of the spelling, but it’s one of those big crane jobs with a state of the art camera stuck on the end and they can control it with a computer and it hovers in the air and then comes right down in your face like some big surveillance robot out of Monority Report.

As usual they were running about two hours behind schedule, and when they got ready for me we had a significant peanut gallery wrapped around the perimeter. Fortunaletly I could crib on the teleprompter, which runs the script right in front of the lens so that you are essentially reading, but to most people it looks like you are one smart little goober. This time as I walked to my “mark” and looked up at the camera, I could see four or five tourists in the background also taping me with their camcorders. Intimidating? I think so.

In spite of the distractions, we quickly completed three segments (“Buscadero holsters vs. Mexican loop holsters” “Hats off to ya” and “Geronimo died with $10 Grand In The Bank”), knocked off for lunch.

I had lunch with Andrew Prine’s stunning wife, Heather Lowe, and Paul Andrew Hutton and his stunning wife Tracie. Talked up all things movies and Hollywood. Heather is somewhat of a legend and she had stories of Elvis all the way to Ted Turner (she produced Avenging Angels, the Tom Berrigner, Charltron Heston film about the Mormon enforcer—gunfighter)

Gave a talk back at the TW tent at three. Got back to the set at 3:40 and we knocked out two more Moments. Felt good to get it done, but I never know if it is going to work until I actually see the produced bits.

Afterwards, a bunch of writers and I tried to have dinner at Greasewood Flats but it was slammed. Drove up on the ridge to Riata Pass and had an hour wait there to get in. Most of our crowd gave up and went home, but the Huttons and I hung in. Had three Dos Equis and did a mean frug with Tracie Hutton to “Mustang Sally” (they had a band), Had a filet and pintos, got home at 11. One tired ol’man.

"There ain't nothin' an ol' man can do but bring me a message from a young one."
—Moms Mabley

Friday, March 19, 2004

March 19, 2004
Big day today. Major editorial pow-wow this morning with contributing editors from all over the country coming in to discuss the True West editorial product over the next three years. Paul Hutton is coming, Johnny Boggs, Marshall Trimble and others.

At noon I’ve got to run down to Festival of the West to tape a new batch of True West Moments for the Westerns channel. Wrote up another two this morning and plan to wing ‘em on the fly.

Dinner party this evening at Bob Willis’ home, hosting the Western Writers of American who are in town for the Festival.

Got a new poll up. You can vote by clicking right here:

When did the Old West era end?
• Following the Battle of Wounded Knee
• 1900
• 1920
• The start of World War I

Stayed up and watched the U of A lose to Seton Hall in the first round last night. What a life lesson: the Wildcats had the best high school point guard in the country (last year), Mustafa Shakur; incredibly gifted athletes like Iguodala and Hassan Adams, and they still didn’t win. Here’s why:

“You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have the talent to use it, forget it. Character and teamwork will win over talent every time.”
—Lucky Bonner

Thursday, March 18, 2004

March 18, 2004
I was supposed to drive down to Tucson today for a trial but they are moving so slow I have been pushed back until Monday. Spent half of today waiting for the call, with my dress shirt and tie in the truck. Word finally came at 1:30 to stand down.

This morning, I wrote up two more scripts, both on chuckwagons. The Westerns Channel is going to tape me manana, but they won’t have the teleprompter so I’ve got to wing it. Need to do some high school play memorizing tonight.

At two I went down and got my coumadin levels checked (1.7). The nurse told me to knock off the salads. How did she know?

An old friend named Troy brought by about four boxes of used books several weeks ago. Finally went thru them this afternoon and picked out maybe 25. Found one treasure of ink drawings from the 1850s to 1950s. Now there is a lost art! Pen and ink was so strong in the late 1880s. Charles Dana Gibson (The Gibson Girl) was just a Master. Nobody in the twentieth century, or this new century has yet to match his draftsmanship and skill. Breathtaking really.

Came home at six and went to the creek and got a dozen stones. Buddy Boze Bell is hellbent on catching two ducks that have adopted the temporary creek bottom. Every day he leaps in after them, so full of enthusiasm and confidence. The ducks, of course, let him swim up to about fifteen feet of them and then they skitter up the creek another 50 yards (repeat all day).

"Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it."
—Robert Frost

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

March 17, 2004
I just happen to know someone who is really tied into college basketball and I asked him this afternoon what is the problem with the Arizona Wildcats this year and he said, “They’ve got six kids who are probably all going to play in the NBA and only one ball.” My source also told me the reason Salim was “suspended indefinitely” last month is because at the Oregon game, Salim’s mom was sitting behind the bench and giving Shakur a hard time about not getting the ball to her son. After the game Shakur had words with Salim about it and Stoudamire took a swing at Shakur. My source also criticized the Wildcats for not running many set plays, not screening for each other, basically selfish play (this has been reported). Even more shocking is this little bombshell: allegedly Coach Lute Olson is not even travelling with the team anymore. His new wife is rich and he flies on his own private jet to games and meets the team at the games. However, in spite of the negative scouting report, my anonymous source predicts the Cats will beat Duke in the second round, because even with all of their problems, Arizona is still the best team in college basketball when they play together, and for that game they will do just that. Hmmmmm.

Last night I finished five scripts for the Western Channel and e-mailed them to Denver. Met Kathy, Deena and her current Idaho beau at El Encanto at seven. Place really slammed. An hour wait, several hundred people there. In spite of the wait, had fun (Sonoran enchiladas and margaritas, $44, Kathy bought).

Mike Melrose and RG Robertson went down this morning to set up for Festival of the West at Westworld in Scottsdale. Got a new layout this year. We’ve got three tents and a sweet layout down on the polo field where Chuck Wagon Row is set up. I won’t be able to judge the chuck grub this year because we’ll be taping the Westerns Channel bumpers on Saturday morning.

We’re thinking of starting a membership club with a lifetime subscription attached and discounts at bookstores and museums, etc. Can’t think of a downside on this one.

I’m supposed to drive down to Tucson in the morning for a federal trial. Will have to leave at four in the morning, but the lawyer is supposed to call me tonight. The word is they’re moving slow and I told them I couldn’t hang (figuratively) with a business meeting back here in the afternoon. Going to be a long one.

"I've been so busy—I don't know if I found a rope or lost my horse."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

March 16, 2004
Scrambling. Can’t dilly dally in here. Got to finish five new scripts by this afternoon for the Westerns channel shoot this weekend. Also, we’re opening up a third front with a possible 32 page insert for Northfield, to go along with the scheduled art show there next September. Add to that the impending second volume of Classic Gunfights (top secret theme, due in August) and the normal deadlines for the magazine and, well, I’m a tad stressed.

The big hangout is the artwork. Need to get cranking. Custer, Youngers, and all the top secret stuff. Plenty to do, not enough time to do it.

“A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all.”
—Rita Mae Brown

Monday, March 15, 2004

March 15, 2004
Great weekend for weather. Mild and balmy. On Sunday I made four trips out on the desert to get driveway rocks. Collected maybe 60. Unfortunately, got into a nasty confrontation with a neighbor across the creek. Late in the afternoon yesterday, Kathy and I drove over to the other side in the Ranger with Buddy Boze Bell in the back. Parked in a rocky hollow and started gathering up a few flat stones off the road and in the ditch. The guy who lives in a huge compound on the hill south of there, came charging up in his Explorer and demanded us to get off his land. I tried to joke with him and calm him down but he was on a mission (his wife was on the roof with binoculars). I finally told him he was “not being very neighborly,” which only exacerbated his anger. You could tell he felt like he was being a noble steward of the land (there are scumbags who come out and poach cactus, etc.), but his pompous rage was unwarranted. As we got in the truck, Kathy asked his name and when he told her and proceeded to pontificate, she told him off: “Just shut your trap Ron!” (I do love that girl). It was one of those ugly Boomer vs. Boomer showdowns (he was my age, white beard, trying his hardest to channel Kenny Rogers). Of course this kind of neighborly nastiness will only increase as more Yuppie scum, like us, move out here and claim every rock for themselves.

Speaking of wanting to shoot someone, I’ve been getting great feedback on the buscadero front. Dan Buck googled “buscadero” and found more than 700 hits for “buscadero”, but if he limited the search to references on websites in Mexico or Spain, the number is zero. He goes on:

“Italy, however has nearly 900 hits, largely cites to the Italian rock magazine, BUSCADERO, and to Sam Peckinpah's L'ULTIMO BUSCADERO (JUNIOR BONNER to we Yanks). The earliest pulp fiction reference I found was Ray Nofziger's "Border Buscadero," published in WESTERN STORY, March 1940. Other writers, from Eugene Cunningham to Louis L'Amour, worked buscadero into the title of their works. I'm beginning to wonder if the word wasn't invented by pulpers—regardless, they certainly popularized it.”

This prompted an e-mail from a friend of mine who is world travelled and a musician, who told me:

“In Italy, the primary organizing principale for il gente afficianado por musica Americana is a monthly magazine entitled questo: Buscadero. Run by a guy who started a similar magazine back in the early 70s and evolved into a specialty mail order record store for all things American roots, and eventually re-enlisted with Buscadero. It's essential from promoting your concerts, albums, so forth. Their top ten albums of the month get called, I swear to God, ‘Junior Bonner's Choice.’”

Dan Buck came back this morning with this:

“Push back the in-print citations to the 1930s. Over the weekend I found references to two 1935 short stories, ‘Buscadero Bullets’ and ‘Buscadero Buster,’ by Lee Bond; and a 1937 short story, ‘Buscadero Lover,’ by Marian O'Hearn. Bond and O'Hearn wrote for Western pulps. The word must have been in use by then, unless Bond coined it. Perhaps completely off point, but perhaps not, Lighter's Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1994) cites ‘buscar’ as a verb, 1890s/early 1900s US military slang for to search, to scrounge; and later, 1940s, also US military slang, as a noun for something sought or found by chance, e.g., money or a prostitute.”

Buck later added this:

“Eugene Cunningham uses ‘buscadero’ frequently in TRIGGERONMENTRY. My edition is 1941, but there is an earlier edition, 1934. He uses the word to mean gunmen, not lawmen. Cunningham, interestingly, served in the US military ‘in the Mexican campaign’ and WWI, and then went to Central America as a soldier of fortune and correspondent for WIDE WORLD MAGAZINE. In the 1920s he wrote for the EL PASO TIMES. So he knew Spanish and lived in the Southwest. Two of his novels use our favorite word: THE BUSCADERO TRAIL (1951) and RIDING GUN: A BUSCADERO NOVEL (1956). For the moment, at least, credit Cunningham—1934—as Mr. Buscadero Primero.

As much as me and my history minded friends despise the 1950s buscadero rigs in movies and on tv, my musician compadre capped the entire discussion with this:

“I vote for the inauthenticity of the buscadero, and Lucas McCain's Winchester with the little clip on the handle that allowed you to blow off Greenie Stick'em Caps at an alarming rate. I vote for Zorro and Paladin and Sugarfoot and singing cowboys and spaghetti westerns and Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone and wagon trains wandering through Monument Valley. Makes for better visuals and music. And Raquel Welch and Brigitte Bardot get worked into the plot then too. I vote for F Troop.”

It doesn’t get any better than that. Call it a Buscadero Fandango Completo. And by the way, I’m going back over tonight to get “my” rocks.

“If I do not return to the pulpit this weekend, millions of people will go to hell.”
—Jimmy Swaggart

Sunday, March 14, 2004

March 13, 2004
Here’s a photo of Alan Scott, the guy who tweaked our cool Victorian trading post sign last week. That’s his “rolling stone” truck (it’s painted like a big rock) behind him. Alan is an old school sign painter. Truly a craftsman.

Got a call from our new sales guy Jim yesterday saying that Binders Art Store is going out of business and to hurry down to Oldtown Scottsdale because they’re selling everything at 60% off. As much as I didn’t want to wade down into that Snowbird hell, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t.

Kathy and I left the house at one, met Deena for Lunch at Earl’s (101 and Frank Lloyd Wright, had the half-soup and salad, $42 cash). Got down to Binders at about 3:30, place looked like a pack of javelinas had hit it. At first glance there seemed to be nothing left (bare walls, rack after rack picked clean), but as I got into the bowels of the store I found some real treasures. A torn packet (21 left) of 300 lb Archer watercolor paper for $5 each (normally $13.50 each), got some great gouache tubes, Windsor & Newton brushes, scratchboard and two packets of prime illustration board. Ran up a $288 bill (would have been $650 at full retail).

Celebrated by buying two Corona forties at a 7-11 and swigged mine out of a brown paper bag going up the Squaw Peak at 75 (don’t tell my kids). Got to El Conquistador and had a Pacifico and the seafood enchiladas ($32 cash, includes tip).Told Kathy how much I loved her. We’ve been together for 25 years and I don’t know how I accomplished that! (Hey, I’m a mushy drunk).

Speaking of being drunk and out of my mind, I’ve been getting lots of conflicting feedback on doing successful covers. Here’s an intriguing take I got last week:

“The readership that you’re either going to hunt and gather or fail to find is one that is starving to be part of your thing, your whole inclusive thing, and I don't believe you're likely to find 'em by using the rules that allegedly apply to Marie Claire and Family Circle and Men's Health and Travel And Leisure.”

Hmmmmm. Well put. Someone told me that yellow covers don’t sell. Here’s a rebuttal to that:

“There's this fairly successful magazine that uses yellow as a border, actually been around just slightly longer than yours, called National Geographic. You may have heard of it.”

This same person also forwarded me a website piece that had some interesting cover insights. Among them:

“Here's another novel solution to the newsstand (and subscription) problem: originality in design. These days, designers seem as concerned with sales as circulation managers, and editors talk like publishers about product development, branding and market share. It's probably healthy that we've left the design-for-design's sake ivory tower. But maybe we've gone too far when all the magazines start using the exact same devices to heighten sales: Step back a few feet in the “main line” at the grocery store and the magazines blur. Celebrities, carefully retouched, smiling brightly, gaze at you, surrounded by colorful headlines (pushing great abs, carb-free diets and a better time in bed) set in contemporary, sans-serif fonts. Which magazine do we have here? Who cares?”

He goes on:

“We continue working the newsstand as if there were some kind of secret sauce that can be poured on the cover to make it sell. We know, for example, that numbers seem to get people's attention. (I like 101.) Then someone says, if one number works, let's try five of them. Or eight. And then pop them out in bigger colors and bigger type.”

But if everyone uses the same trick, will it continue to do the trick? And who says it's all about newsstand sales anyway? Most of the revenue of magazines is from advertising — and that is based on circulation, and most of that comes from subscriptions. Shouldn't we be designing for the long haul — the satisfaction of the regular, paying customers and not the occasional impulse buyers? The usual explanation for exaggerating the importance of newsstand numbers is that they are the one indicator that there is good word-of-mouth for a magazine. Maybe it's time for one magazine to break out of the newsstand pack and do something original, striking and effective. And you know what? We'll all copy it.”
—Roger Black, chairman of Danilo Black Inc., has designed and redesigned magazines and Web sites for everybody from Newsweek to the National Enquirer.

I think I know what applies to us, but. . .

“If confusion is the first step to knowledge, I must be a genius.”
—Larry Leissner

Saturday, March 13, 2004

March 13, 2004
Another big weather front came through last night and dumped a sack of rain on us. My studio sky light leaked (again!) and ruined one of my prized books on Absinthe It’s my own fault, I left it on the floor “to be re-filed.”

Had Jana Bommersbach, Wonderful and Wendy Shaw out for dinner. Drank wine, cooked salmon, solved life, bashed Bush, or, at least they did. I hate all of them: Bush, Kerry, Gore. They’re all rich, elitists, unlike our dinner guests who are just elitists, although Wonderful is pretty damn rich to boot, but that’s different because we’re related (he’s a fellow Zane Brother).

My son Thomas is in Valencia, Spain and he described the local reaction to the Madrid bombings, saying school was cancelled and everyone sat in the dorm lounge staring at the tv and crying. T. says it’s all quite 9-11ish and “very sad.”

Out of the latest news reports comes the fact that the ETA Basque Separatists, still the prime suspects, were evidently foiled last Christmas Eve when they planned a similar bomb attack. We were in Todedo, Spain that day and in fact, several days later drove into Madrid, and parked almost on top of the train station that was hit first. We were there to see the Manet show at El Prado, so I have a very clear picture of what that street and area looks like. It’s quite European with big trees and a lovely park running down the center of the roadway, rimmed by stately, French style buildings, a la the Louvre. A very modern, progressive city. Scary and unnerving. Wrong day, wrong time, wrong place. Good bye.

I’m writing another True West Moment script on gunslinger style holsters and there is a certain style gun rig that is despised by historically correct nuts like myself and that is the so-called “buscadero rig.” It’s that low slung holster so popular in the 1950s where the holster itself is dangled ridiculously low by a long leather strap coming off the bottom of the gunbelt. Just before a website meeting on Friday, I looked up “buscadero” in Ramon Adams’ “Dictionary of the Old West” and he claims the term comes from the Spanish “buscador” which means “to search.” So ironically, if you’re a John Ford fan, the holster is essentially “the searcher.” Anyway, I sent out an e-mail to my fluent Spanish speaking son in Valencia and this is his reply:

“The verb is "buscar" and yes buscador does mean searcher. I´ve heard "pistolero" a lot over here which would seem more logical for a gunman but language is a weird thing and I wouldn´t be surprised if they did use "buscadero" as a spanish gunman. It´s good because it´s specific to Spaniards.”

One more Spanish report. There is this local fiesta tradition called Fallas, where everyone piles stuff they don’t need on the street in front of their house and burns it. Evidently they did this for several hundred years and then decided to add firecrackers and huge mardi gras style floats, which they also burn.): Tomas was walking back to his dorm from a concert last night and “we saw a bunch of Fallas in different neighborhoods. There are some huge ones! I gotta pick a good one to watch burn. We saw an Old West one that Frank took a picture of and I´ll try and send you. It´s a covered wagon with two heads on top that I don´t recognize. Sunday were going to do this huge Falla walk and see them all.”

Lots of cover theory and rules have been flowing in and I’ll try to distill them down and make some sense of it all tomorrow. Here’s a taste:

”Is there any other industry in this country which seeks to presume so completely to give the customer what he does not want?”
—Rupert Murdoch

Friday, March 12, 2004

March 12, 2004
Long day yesterday. One of the last, great, hand-lettering sign painters in the United States, Alan Scott from Bisbee, came thru town a couple days ago in his “Rolling Stone Van,” camped in our parking lot, and did “warranty work” on our Trading Post sign. He does beautiful Victorian style lettering by hand and almost three years ago he did us a tricked out, old school sign complete with a white guy getting scalped by an Apache (the model for the white guy was “Minnesota” Mike Melrose).

You can check out Alan Scott’s work at Then click on Sign Painting.

Drove down to Oldtown Scottsdale at four and met with Greg and Abe Hays at their Arizona West Gallery on Main. Shot two rolls of Greg using a crazy long gun for art reference. Signed a bunch of my books (they told me they are “selling hundreds”).

They closed the shop at five (Thursday is Artwalk Night) and we walked over to Bandera’s for dinner (Greg bought). Great talking about all the scandals and tragic tales of artists I worship and admire. There seems to be an equation: the greater the talent the goofier the life. For example, Abe knew and had dealings with Nick Eggenhofer (1897-1988), the preeminent pulp illustrator, and Abe regaled me with funny (and sad) stories about this cranky, obstinate genius—the German Dry Brush King. Late in life ol’ Nick would have young collectors and dealers come to his home in Cody and ask him to sign artwork he had done decades earlier for the pulps. Many of these he hadn’t even signed and got paid as little as $20 for, but by the 1960s some of them were worth up to $10,000. This irritated Nick because some nitwit dealer was going to make a huge profit on something he gotten peanuts for, so crafty Nick would sign them with a blue ball-point pen (which looks fake to begin with and won’t show up when reproduced with traditional printing press equipment). Then when these blue signature artworks would come up for resale, Nick would deny ever signing them. Ha! That’s Petty with a capital P, but I can relate to his angst.

Left Scottsdale at 6:15 and drove out to east Mesa for a speech at The Resort, a huge trailer park subdivision, packed full of midwestern retirees. Took the back way across the Rez to avoid the 202 Parking Lot Freeway. This was a gig booked by Allen Fossenkemper and I was scheduled to do a tag team speech-concert with his O.K. Chorale barbershop quartet. Long drive out, Rained on me at Falcon Field and I had books and magazine in the back of the Ranger, but was worried about the time so sped up to create a wind tunnel just behind the cab to protect the magazines and books. Saved the mags but unfortunately killed three pedestrians at Power and McKellips Road.

Not really.

Speech went well. Good laughs, gave away two boxes of magazines and made everyone promise they would send it to someone, a niece or nephew, who needed to know about American history. No books sales however (retirees from Iowa are notoriously cheap).

Got home at 9:30, watched the first half of the Arizona—USC B-ball game. Arizona was up by three when I turned it off at 11 (read in this morning’s paper that Mustafa Shakur of the Cats hit a three at the buzzer for the win). Not sure Arizona is going very deep into the NCAA tournament this year.

”Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.”
—Vice President Dan Quayle

Thursday, March 11, 2004

March 11, 2004
Good feedback on the cover dilemma. Here’s some of the immediate reaction to yesterday’s post:

“Sorry Bob, I agree with RG on this one. Advertising has gotten way too confusing, especially trying to sell the customer on an idea. Way too much small print, too many words, too many
asterisks. Advertising spends too much time with trying to be cute and playing with words and not enough on the actual idea.”
—Beatrice Ray (This is our Production Manager Robert Ray’s wife. She is the Production Manager for Dillard’s department stores and I’m betting they have nightly dinner discussions that include the phrase, “That’s nothing, you should see the idiots where I work!”)

“The article you mentioned is right on the money as far as how I started buying True West. Was walking past the magazines in the grocery store and saw "Hellcats, strumpets and other WAYWARD WOMEN". Didn't look twice, just grabbed it, found my favorite radio personality was running the show and the rest is history.”
—Julie from Wyoming

“The Transcontinental Railroad makes me yawn. But sacred dogs? I'm gonna grab that thing. Of course, I'm a weirdo. Seriously, having followed the cover line discussion for the May issue on the blog, it's the ‘sacred dogs’ phrase that puts the whole concept into high gear. Some of us are thinking, ‘Oooh, maybe some cool Coyote legend stuff!’ and others read it and think, ‘Whoa, sacred dogs. That's bizarre. My dog would like it, though. What is this mag, anyway?’ That said, RG sounds like a very smart man, and you should follow his advice if at all possible.”
—Emma Bull, Bisbee AZ

“‘Iron Horses & Sacred Dogs’, grabs me. ‘Transcontinental Railroad’ is old hat and as you say, over used.”
—Don Hall, Macon, Missouri

”Buying the right computer and getting it to work properly is no more complicated than building a nuclear reactor from wristwatch parts in a darkened room using only your teeth.”
—Dave Barry

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

March 10, 2004
Another gorgeous day out. Went for a walk with Kathy and the dogs. Birds chirping, the desert quite green and the best news, no bugs—yet.

Samantha passed on a good article on designing covers that sell (CM magazine, March 2004)). Among the findings: the decision to pick up a magazine on the newsstand is typically made at a distance of 6 feet. The average buyer spends 5 to 10 seconds surveying their area of interest on the rack. Once a magazine is picked up, it’s 50% sold. So cover lines must catch the eye of the buyer very quickly and be readable at six feet.

Our editor RG Robertson really got excited about the article, made copies for me and others and highlighted the “Five Most Important Rules of Cover Design.” They are:

1. The major cover line is of paramount importance.

2. The major cover line should convey a benefit. It should provide a reason to buy the magazine right now.

3. The major cover line should be direct. Buyers don’t have time to figure out puns and word play (this relates directly to our May issue which went out the door Monday, see cover).

4. The major cover line is more important than the cover photo (this is a revelation and goes against many of our cover ideas and choices).

5. The cover photo or illustration should augment the major cover line (Duh).

RG took several of our issues and applied the above “rules” to them. They work most of the time and may help explain why certain issues did not sell well (the Vera issue being a good example), but we disagree on several. For example, the February issue of Doc Holliday and the cover lines: “The most famous photo of Doc Holliday. Too bad it’s not him. More fakes inside.”

RG believes the Doc cover lines, according to the rules, do not work. The type’s too small, and the big idea is not clear. I disagree. It’s out on the newsstands right now and we’ll soon have a verdict.

The magazine article also says that a good cover can sell 10% more magazines, and a bad cover can reduce sales by 10%, so a whopping 20% is in the balance.

Which brings us back to the current issue (May). We chose to go with “Iron Horses & Sacred Dogs” as the big idea and then “The Transcontinental Railroad Opens The West” as the secondary head. Based on the CM article, RG believes the secondary head should have been first, or the biggest. I don’t agree. I think the term “Transcontinental Railroad” is tired, overused and would put people to sleep. Interesting dilemma. What do you think? You can click right here to put in your two cents.

”Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprung up.”
—Oliver Wendell Holmes

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

March 9, 2004
Went down to the creek at 7:30 this morning and got my 10 rocks. Dogs really scampered. Buddy Boze Bell is in trouble for chasing three pregnant mares down the hill. We’ve had to keep him leashed up during the day, and so far he is being quite understanding about it.

Really nice out now. It was in the eighties yesterday. Sunny and warm today.

Got a new poll up. Which of the following played the largest role in the defeat of America's Indians?

Buffalo destruction
U. S. Army
Manifest Destiny

You can click right here and go vote.

Bailing into Classic Gunfights, Volume II this morning. Top secret theme. Hired a well-known researcher yesterday to keep everything kosher and accurate.

Also got an e-mail from Chip DeMann in Northfield, Minnesota and they want to feature my outlaw artwork at this year’s Defeat of Jesse James Days (Sept. 10-14). Huge event. They get 200,000 plus annually. The art show will be at one of the colleges (I think at St. Olaf College). I may fly into Des Moines and visit my cousin, then drive up through the Iowa farmland and visit my Norwegian aunts and uncles in Thompson, Forest City and Osage. Not many left.

Worked out logistics on taping new True West Moments for the Westerns channel. Jeff Hildebrandt is flying down from Denver next Thursday and they are filming an interview with Jack Palance, then we will do our best to knock out another six to 12 TW Moments. I’m planning on doing some gonzo ones, utilizing all my Jones & Boze radio experience. Usual Man On The Street stuff. We’ll see what happens. We’ll tape the teleprompter segments, with pre-written scripts, on Saturday. I called yesterday and demanded Dori Randall for makeup. She did me on the first go-round and I actually looked decent. I don’t know exactly what she did, but I want her to do it again.

Need to get serious about artwork. I’m planning on committing to a daily quota, just like with my rocks.

"All know the way; few actually walk it."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, March 08, 2004

March 8, 2004
Called Alan Huffines this morning and read him his Alamo interview. He caught several mistakes and we got them changed. Issue goes to press this afternoon. He gave me a great addition but we don’t have room. In reference to period cursing, Alan says he got a “Jesus Christ” changed in the script to “God Damn.” Evidently, Santa Anna’s troops called the Americans “God Damns” because that’s all they heard them saying. They didn’t know what it meant, they just heard all these “God Damns” coming from the fort. The Americans claimed to be religious but every other word out of their mouths was “God Damn!” That’s so funny, and I’m sure so true.

Retrieved over 100 rocks yesterday. Went for a long walk with Kathy and the dogs and every time I saw a flat candidate, I grabbed it and left it by the road, then drove back later in the truck and got them. According to Kath, I’ll need 200,000 rocks to completely cobblestone the entire driveway. At 10 rocks a day (my average) I’ll have this project in the can in 66 years. Somehow I hope her math is off.

Went and saw Starsky & Hutch with Deena and Kathy on Friday night. Thought it was so-so (7). Sometimes when writers try to push situations in a script, they’re thinking it is going to be so outrageous, when in realty they’ve pushed it too far and it plays out as just lame. In one scene Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller go undercover as mimes. I’m sure the writers were just full of themselves at how hilarious this was going to play out but it was a yawner. Humor is a fragile commodity and you can push it too far.

Hidalgo came in at number three over the weekend. We’ll see if it has legs.

Finally saw Pirates of the Carribean on Saturday (Carole gave us her video copy to watch). Very clever but about 45 minutes too long. Too many plot twists and turns and after a while you just get numb to them (Hey its’ Jerry Bruckheimer!), and I hate to admit it, but I thought Johnny Depp’s performance was too fey and just weird. But what do I know, the God Damn thing made $400 million and they’re writing the second one even as you read this.

Did manage to knock out four gouache studies on Sunday. Copied two Fritz Scholder’s images to try and learn from his color schemes. Actually kind of fun and I did learn a few tricks in the process.

"Talent is overrated. You win with character."
—Lewis Shaffel

Sunday, March 07, 2004

March 7, 2004
Spectacular day out. Mid-seventies, t-shirt weather. Took the dogs down to the creek, which is finally worthy of the title, since it actually has water in it. Grass has sprouted up everywhere. Bullfrogs were screaming in heat last night (how do they survive for so many months with no water, then spring forth full-grown, croaking and bellowing all night long?)

This morning, Carole forwarded me an e-mail she got from a friend in Texas named Brad. Here’s what he had to say about this blog:

"I have been reading Bob Bell's recounting of TW life on the TW website. I'm up to March 2004. Reading about y'alls troubles has made me feel better about being me."

With that said, I must admit I constantly wrestle with the things I want to accomplish in any given day. And if you have been reading any of this since I started almost four years ago, you know I rarely if ever live the life I envision for myself. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, here is the regimen I dream of living:

• Up at five. Swam fifteen laps. Water really cold, but I just dived in and did it. Breathtaking and I feel invigorated. Did 200 situps while planning my day in my head. Ready to go to the creek.

• Ran down to the creek in the dark with a miner’s helmet on so I could see, picked up 10 river rocks and ran back up the hill, beating the dogs by about ten meters. They are panting and looking up at me with total wonderment, like I am the Deerslayer, or something. Kathy came out and felt my muscles and told me that she and the dogs are full of awe and wonder at my physical prowess and condition.

• Started a fire in the studio stove and bailed into “gesture sketches” to get warmed up. Banged out 15 loosey goosys using a live model who looks quite a bit like Reese Witherspoon.

• At 6:30, Kathy brought me a Spartan breakfast of two pieces of fruit and a prune. Declined the hot cup of coffee. I’m flying high as it is. Things are really moving, but I did have a bit of a dustup, trying to explain to my wife why Reese Witherspoon was in my studio.

• Finished the 10 gesture drawings and bailed into the script for my top-secret time travel graphic novel. Wrote three pages of dialogue, switched gears and knocked out five rough sketches for the illustrated companion to the text.

• Took a shower, read the paper and went into the office early.

Now here is what actually happened this morning:

• Woke up at five and went back to sleep. Finally got up at seven, looked out at the pool and decided it looked way too cold. Went out and got paper. Drank two cups of coffee in bed to wake up. Thought about going out to the studio but decided to read my new Tombstone book, by Lynn Bailey.

• Got out to studio around ten, looked at my e-mails and saw that Jeb Rosebrook has pitched Reese Witherspoon on playing Vera McGinnis (our TW cowgirl last fall) in a movie. Imagined what it would be like to sketch her in the nude.

• Came back over to the house and made my own breakfast, frying up about six pieces of bacon, three eggs and two pieces of toast. Felt real guilty about eating all the bacon. Thought about Elvis croaking on the John and how much bacon he used to eat.

• Went to the creek at 10:30. Dogs went up the house and rested and then came back to help coax me up the hill. They ran circles around me, laughing at my creaky, old man gate. Wanted to kick them but couldn’t get close enough.

• Decided not to go into the office because it’s Sunday.

“I look at a stream and I see myself: flowing irresistibly over hard obstacles until they become smooth and, one day, disappear—flowing from an origin that has been forgotten toward an end that will never be.”
—Miriam Makeba, South African singer

Saturday, March 06, 2004

March 6, 2004
Sometimes I get tired of The Truth. Too much of it makes me weary. I get tired of saying, “It didn’t happen that way,” to people interested in the Old West. Most people claim they want to know The Truth but when it gets down to bedrock, they really don’t want to know. Why? Maybe because, too often the truth is so predictable and boring. Did the Kid kill 21 men, one for every year of his life? No, he got, maybe four. Oh really? Thanks. Gotta go.

No wonder we long for legend and myth.

As a culture we seem to go for stretches where we fill up on legends, then purge them all in a bulimic gorefest of rejection and diarrhea (otherwise known as “revisionist history”). I guess I’m suffering from truth fatigue (or too much diarrhea). Right now, I just want to hear a good story. I sort of want to know if it’s true, but more often than not I just want to believe it’s true so I can relate to the hero or protagonist, and there’s a big difference.

Other cultures (Hispanic or Native American for example) don’t seem to mind if all the facts can’t be “proven,” or the quotes don’t contain enough provenance. Many of their legends seem to thrive in spite of the truth—they just enjoy them for what they are—legends.

So what does this say about us. I think this obsession with The Truth is an export of northern European culture. Some Viking, Dutch or Norman DNA triggers an anal obsession with facts, documentation and provenance. We (I’m half Norwegian) insist and demand “proof” and we won’t rest until we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, exactly what happened.

First of all, you can never record anything exactly as it happened. The past is literally a foggy mess.

I sometimes think I have a good handle on specific Old West icons, but upon a second reading (or a 2,000th reading) it changes. Where I’m standing when I read it, changes the meaning; a new “fact” bends, or completely blows up a previous truth; conventional wisdom is more often than not, a bad joke. Advancing age also changes the perspective. Some of the Truths I “discovered” in my twenties take on a totally different meaning today, in my late fifties.

It’s all moving and we can never nail it down. Someone said it’s like trying to nail jello to a wall. Good luck making it stick.

Here’s another great metaphor: nailing down history is like trying to change a tire on a truck that’s going forty miles an hour.

Now if you read that last sentence and thought, “If a truck has a flat tire, how can it be going forty miles an hour?” You are probably of Northern European descent. This is exactly what I’m talking about. We’re too anal for our own good, I tell you.

Still, we trudge on, trying to patch together some sort of bailing wired, duck-taped facsimile of The Truth. I haven’t given up by a long shot, but I do get tired.

“There’s no future in history.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Bonus Truth:
“Rough work, iconoclasm, but the only way to get at truth.”
—Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, March 05, 2004

March 5, 2004
Rained all night. Came down pretty hard. I woke up at midnite and went out to the studio. Got a leak in one of the skylights and it was dripping on several of my prized books which were stacked on the floor next to my art table for reference. Moved everything away from it and put a towel and pan under the leak. Buddy Boze Bell sleepily watched me from his chair, giving me that, “What’s-The-Big-Deal-They’re-Just-Part-of-My-Chewable-Collection?” look. Power went out about three times. Worried about losing computer files, clocks all screwed up. Listened to the rain on the roof until about 2:30, finally drifted off.

Yesterday I interviewed Alan Huffines who is a military historian from Texas (still in the army) and he was the military historical consultant on the new Alamo movie due out next month. Fascinating talk with him. According to Alan, the director (John Lee Hancock) shot over a million feet of film. The first rough cut of the movie was five hours long. After much cutting, the test audiences saw a three hour movie, and it’s since been trimmed down to something like 2 hours and 22 minutes. Alan gave several wonderful on set insights, my favorite being that Jason Patric as Jim Bowie slammed Tabasco shots before every scene he was in so that when the cameras rolled he was red-faced and gasping. Perfect for someone portraying a lunger. Shades of Val Kilmer and Dennis Quaid as Doc! Can’t wait to see that.

We are running his interview in the upcoming issue (May) which goes to press Monday. We finally got the cover honed in and I think it’s pretty strong.

Got a packet of great old Western magazines, including Wildest Westerns from October 1960 and “Laila—Queen of the Range” (a Bell novel, from England, printed in Canada in 1946), and “Tutto Tex” a great comic novel that appears to be in Italian. I’d tell you who sent it, but he guards his privacy and calls me a “blogging blogger.” Ha.

Brett sent me State Mottos I’d Like to See:
(these are my favorites)

• Kentucky: Five Million People; Fifteen Last Names

• Louisiana: We're Not ALL Drunk Cajun Wackos, But That's Our Tourism campaign

• Minnesota: 10,000 Lakes... 10,000,000,000,000 Mosquitoes

• Mississippi: Come and Feel Better About Your Own State

• Nebraska: Ask About Our State Motto Contest

• North Carolina: Tobacco IS a Vegetable

• Oklahoma: Like The Play, Only No Singing

• South Carolina: Remember The Civil War? We Didn't Actually Surrender.

• South Dakota: Closer than North Dakota

• Tennessee: The Educashun State

• Utah: Our Jesus Is Better Than Your Jesus!

“People say conversation is a lost art; how often I have wished it were.”
—Edward R. Murrow

Thursday, March 04, 2004

March 4, 2004
Foggy and soggy out. A light drizzle has been falling all morning. Still scrambling on cover. Robert Ray took the latest image down to Daniel last night and this morning “Harsh” e-mailed us four PDF versions of covers. We just got through critiquing them all, with the entire staff gathering around Abby’s computer and weighing in. A couple of typos (need a lower case t on The, as in The Alamo, no periods on subheds). Still not happy with the mush out brown above the masthead. Dan is working on that now.

Ah, fame rears its ugly/tempting head. Yesterday Mad Coyote Joe took me to lunch at Trader Bart’s up the street. We had a taco apiece and Joe interviewed me on how I make my tacos (with pliers of course). Joe is writing a new column for the Sonoran News. We talked quite a bit about his dramatic weight loss (he had that gastric bypass surgery and has gone from the 350 pound zone down to 195). When I told him he’s not the same person he was six months ago, Joe told me: “Yes, I killed the Mad Coyote Joe character.” This seems shocking and impossible, but it’s true. He’s no longer the hefty bar-b-que guy throwing strips of meat over his head (his patented tv move). Joe confided to me that when his tv show Sonoran Grill took off, “I had 22-year-old women coming up to me and pulling down their tops so I could autograph their melons. It was unreal.” He said this like I knew what he was talking about and that I had suffered this terrible burden myself. I had to tell him that in the history field there are attractive women but they mainly flash their genealogy research at me.

Joe also told me he was recently in a grocery store: “A woman came up to me and said, ‘So he’s putting out t-shirts now,’ as she pointed at the design on my chest. ‘Yes, I do,’ I replied. ‘No, I mean the big guy on tv,’ the woman said oblivious to who I was.’” Ah, scary stuff.

You can check out Mad Coyote Joe and his recipes at

And speaking of fame and the scary power of tv, I have been inundated with e-mails and phone calls since the Discovery show on Billy the Kid, ran Sunday night. People I haven’t heard from in years have contacted me. Kingman High classmate Trudy Peart googled me after seeing me on the Westerns channel’s True West Moment. John Riskas, who created Boots niteclub in the early eighties and now lives in Atlanta e-mailed me. This is his comment:

“I'm burning a piece of steer on my Hibachi, and have the History Channel tuned in for background noise, then I hear a familiar voice, and there to all the nation, is you.”

Got an e-mail this morning from the former Kitty Zelisko (Danny Z’s wife number one) who now lives in Key West and rides Harley’s. I love her comment:

“So great to see your web page and know that you are doing well . . . an AUTHORITY and a SMARTASS!”

“Nine-tenths of our suffering is caused by others not thinking so much of us as we think they ought.”
—Mary Lyon, who, I’m guessing, thought quite a bit of herself

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

March 3, 2004
Went home yesterday at three and bailed into the fifth cover painting. Worked until eight last night, stopping only to chase down driveway stones, pet the dogs and eat. Aimed for a very yellow-gold color scheme. It’s much closer to my mind’s eye image. I dropped the angle right down onto the railroad tracks, so the horseback Warrior is jumping across the tracks, as opposed to over the entire train as in the previous cover painting.

Got up this morning at six and finished the gouache painting by 8:30. Shot a roll of 35mm film of the cover and ran it up to Foothills Photo at 9.

Got into office and fought copyright questions regarding next month’s Classic Gunfights. We are using several Alamo maps and who owns them, who gets paid, is quite convoluted, to say the least. Sent out a flurry of e-mails trying to clear everything up.

Speaking of flurries, got more than a few congrats this morning on last night’s Billy the Kid doc on the Discovery Channel. Only one negative and that’s from one of the honchos (Dolores) at the History Channel, who is not amused that I did “the competitors’ show.” Evidently Drew Gomber of the Hubbard Museum is really in the dog house over this (someone told me he is the narrator?). We may be both cut out of their upcoming series (the one I filmed in Tucson several weeks ago). Oh, the petty politics of tv. It was Martin Mull who said, “Show Biz is high school with money.”

“Success is simple: do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.”
—Andrew Hargadon

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

March 2, 2004
Really wrestling with the May cover. Strong opinions among the staff about which image to use. Down to two, our art director Dan Harshberger came out this morning and feels strongly the illustration of the Plains Indian on horseback jumping a locomotive is the strongest. Others disagree and prefer the “caught in the headlamp” image (see Feb. 27). I’m just bugged about my weak skills and feel both have problems.

At noon today, went to the weekly “liberal lunch” at Tuscan Cafe up in Cave Creek. Joined Jana B., my wife and Carole Glenn (it’s her and Bud’s 25th wedding anniversary today, he sent roses to the office. Awwwwwwww). Had the vegetarian sando and a decaf coffee ($46 cash, paid for Dan H., Robert R. and Meghan S’s lunch).

Came back after lunch and had a very good discussion about the cover. Bob Brink thinks the cover copy is weak (I wrote it) and so we threw out alternatives. RG, Meghan, Dan, Robert, Gus and I threw around a ton of ideas. Most of them tired and lame. How many times have you heard “The Coming of The Iron Horse” and “Making Tracks” and “Tracks Across America” and “The Train Kept Ah Comin’” (okay, we were getting buggy). We took a break and finally came up with something, although I want to sleep on it.

Dan perused the entire issue for design considerations and came into my office at 2:25. I told him I was going to redo the cover to make it more dynamic. Robert Ray is concerned when that will be. I told him tomorrow. We’ll see. I’m going home right now to do it (2:30)

”The secret of making one’s self tiresome is not to know when to stop.”

Monday, March 01, 2004

March 1, 2004
Bob Weir, of the Grateful Dead, has a new group called Ratdog and they hit Phoenix on Saturday night. I’m not a fan of either group, but the promoter Danny Zelisko (alias “Cisco” and “Danny Z”) invited all of the friends of the late Hank Cookenboo to attend a pre-concert bash in Hank’s honor.

At six, I met Kathy at Rumors haircutting salon in Scottsdale. When I got there and finally found her through the maze of glass and spiked hair, Brad was in the process of whacking her do into a “Ratdog” style in honor of the concert ($90 for color, $60 for haircut. Yikes! What women pay to be beautiful, but I must admit it did look good).

Got down to the Celebrity Theatre at about 7:20. Five bucks to park (ouch!). KSLX had a van there blasting out Classic Rock. There were vendors selling tie-dye shirts spread out on the parking lot pavement (Kathy bought one, $10, for Tommy, but on the way out when she called Deena to ask if T would even want one the answer was a big nega-tivo).

Haven’t been to a concert since pre-9-11 so I was not prepared for the weapons search (girls on left, guys on right, pull everything out of your pockets). Quite a hassle. I got in relatively quick but the girls line was quite slow probably because they have more stuff to empty out. We finally got into the “Rich Private Suite” at about 7:45. Many of the oldtime KCAC-KDKB gang were there, including Dwight Tindle, Johnny D, Jack Alves, Hans Olson, Wonderful Russ, Scott Jones, Lee Powell, Bud and Carole Compton Glenn.

As soon as we got there, Danny Z came up and bear-hugged me and said to his third wife, “This is the guy who called me Idi Amin, and lived to tell about it.” We laughed. I vaguely remember running a photo of Danny in New Times and writing a snotty cutline comparing him to Idi Amin. This was in the late seventies and I think Z was, well, acting just like a concert promoter.

After the pre-concert cocktail party, Danny had a roped off section for us to sit in, and from the stage he announced us and we all stood up and saluted our, late, great friend Hank Cookenboo. It was a classy gesture on Danny’s part. We, on the other hand, took our bows, then ducked out before the music started.

Met Wonderful Russ, Bud and Carole at Manuel’s on Indian School. Bud told me how to do my driveway. Had the number 5 combo: taco, tostado, enchilada and beans and a Pacifico ($55 cash, I paid). Got home at 11:30.

Painted all day yesterday. Did two more big ones on the Injun cover. Watched half the Oscars. My favorite line from Billy Crystal was after the umpteenth “Lord of the Rings” Oscar was presented, he quipped, “It’s now official. There is no one left in New Zealand to thank.”

”It struck me that the movies have spent more than half a century saying ‘They lived happily ever after’ and the following quarter century warning that they'll be lucky to make it through the weekend. Possibly now we are entering a third era in which the movies will be sounding a note of cautious optimism: You know it just might work.”
—Nora Ephron