Wednesday, November 30, 2005

November 30, 2005
Well, today was Gus Walker’s last and we had fun. Many of us joined him down at the Satisfied Frog for lunch ($108, we went dutch, I put in $11). When the waitress asked for our drink order we went around the table and it sounded like this: "Iced tea, please. Sprite. Diet coke, iced tea for me," Gus said quietly, but with some enthusiasm, "I’ll take a beer!" We all laughed. The waitress looked at me funny, and I said, “What am I going to do, fire him?" We gave him a card signed by everyone and the Guster actually got kind of choked up reading the many gushing comments. I asked him to name the best and worst thing that happened in his True West career and he thought about it for some time and finally said, "The day Marcus Huff quit was not my favorite." The event was replayed for all those too new, or too young to know (it's in the business timeline, above, see October, 2000).

One of the last and best hand-drawn sign painters in America came by yesterday. Allen Scott, late of Bisbee, and the guy who did our True West Trading Post sign on our building, dropped in. He recommended an article idea on Old West sign painting, which I agreed would be a great article for True West. It's a disappearing art and in the Old West there were some really great signs that computers couldn’t even touch today (I mean starting from scratch).

We’ve got a new reader’s survey up and we need your input. The first 100
responses will get a free Charlie Russell artprint.

After lunch we came back to the office and took a parting shot picture for Gus to take with him. A kind of class picture, if you will. Standing out back, left to right, back row, are: Sue Lambert, Meghan Saar, Carole Glenn, Trish Brink, Sheri Temen, Gus Walker and Abby Pearson. Second row, kneeling: George Laibe, Samantha Somers, Ron Frieling and BBB. And, lying down on the job, in full showboat-mode, is Robert Ray.

Talked quite a bit this morning about our impending trip to Vegas for the SASS convention and Cowboy Christmas this weekend. I’ve got three speeches in the next 48 hours and very little time to practice my remarks. Need to go home (it’s 4:28 P.M.) and take some time to talk it through in my mind.

"Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November 29, 2005
Crisp and cold out. Dogs still bugged about the cancelled bike ride in the morning. Felt guilty and went home for lunch yesterday and took them up the road.

Got into the office early today. Worked with Mark Boardman and George Laibe on this week’s Vegas campaign. Lots of logistics to work out. They’re driving up, I’m flying after my speech at the Biltmore on Thursday morning. Carole Glenn is driving me to the airport, muy pronto. She booked my flight with no wiggle room. I’m flying out of terminal four, which is always more stressful. Going to be tight.

Had a staff meeting at 8:30 and went over Town of the Year business and deadline issues. Tomorrow is Gus Walker's last day. Going to miss him and his maps. Followed up with a copy meeting. Decided to change the focus of one of the articles. Got in Paul Hutton’s big cover story on “Why Is This Man Forgotten?” Really strong writing, but, of course it’s way long. Had a quick copy meeting on whether to radically cut Paul’s piece, kill the accompanying art piece, or run the whole epic and damn the torpedoes. Leaning towards the latter. The last time we passed on one of his epics, he took it to Wild West magazine and they won the Spur Award.

I didn't really like that.

Went to lunch with Carole at Tuscan Cafe. Had a ham and cheese sando and hot tea. Carole had the veggie sando and hot tea. We went dutch ($16.42, we each put in $10 cash and left the change). On the way back to the office we got to talking about how many people we know that are messed up on meth. I got a call from one of my old radio partners who told me that a certain radio goddess we both worked with is strung out on meth, lost her radio gig, her children, her husband, not to mention her teeth. What an insidious drug.

We got our new travel postcard back from the printer today. This one was designed by Abby Pearson and is really a beaut. I’ve had it on my desk all day just admiring it. It’s a keeper. And speaking of postcard keepers, Carole was showing me the archives of old postcards (we do new ones each month and must have a couple dozen cards, with maybe 20-75 leftover stock of each) and I thought you know we should offer these as collectables. Many people collect postcards and I thought maybe we could offer these in packets of say, 10. Would you buy 'em?

"I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up."
—Tom Lehrer

Monday, November 28, 2005

November 28, 2005
Got down into the twenties last night. Still blustery and cold out this morning. Couldn’t bring myself to do the bike ride. Felt like a Wuss, but there you have it. Besides the wind and cold, it’s dark out now until about 7:15. Hung around in the kitchen and read the paper, drank coffee and made plans for the week. The dogs were really bugged and scowled at me as I drove away. Got into the office at about 7:15, started up the server and made coffee for the crew.

The Western Town of the Year Award is really making waves up north. As soon as she got in, Samantha got an order for 20 issues of the January issue to be shipped to the Sheridan Stationary & Books Gallery ASAP.

Penny from the Sheridan Chamber sent me this:
"Am getting lots of good feedback, had a local writer work on an article for the Casper Star Tribune (biggie in WY) which was in this Wednesday a.m., big front page splash in the local Sheridan Press also, our Latitude Magazine (Big Sky Air in-flight magazine) wants to do another feature on us (following 21 pages of features in their summer issue), and did another KOTA TV (Rapid City, SD) spot which was to be on during the weekend, along with the TV spots we put out with the assistance of WY Travel & Tourism: interviews are to be aired on KOTA in Rapid City, KULR-8 Billings and Casper's NBC outlet Channel 13 from Wednesday this week through Monday of next week."

We’ve got a new poll up. What national disaster would you rate as the worst in the American West? Cast your vote now.

• Galveston, Texas, Hurricane of 1900
• Novarupta Volcano Eruption (on Alaskan Peninsula) of 1912
• San Francisco, California, Earthquake of 1906

Phil Spangenberger dropped in the office (10:45 AM). He’s in town for a Mounted Shooters event. He gave me the skinny on a new Hallmark Western starring Bruce Boxleitner that’s in production right now. Evidently, it’s a murder-mystery about a guy (Bruce) who was an eighties movie star and while trying to make a comeback, decides to get into the Wild West Show biz, which would explain the murder part, although that wouldn’t really be a mystery. Maybe a dark comedy? But perhaps I’m too close to it.

Working hard on the Ben Thompson-King Fisher killing in San Antonio, Texas. Also, cranking on True West Moments. I was supposed to go down with Jane Bishoff and check out some new hat styles down at AZTEX Hatters in Scottsdale later this afternoon, but I may have to postpone that.

I made some homemade green chile stew over the weekend and I’m going to go home and have some for lunch.

"More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly."
—Woody Allen

Sunday, November 27, 2005

November 27, 2005
We’ve had nippy mornings for the last four weeks but today is our first blustery, cold day. Had a fire in the studio wood stove and it felt good.

I was sorting out a box of reference materials this weekend and had it in the breezeway on a table. Woke up to paper and photos spread all over the entrance way. In the scattered mess I found a page of notes from an art class I took from Burne Hogarth, dated January 10, 1989. It was floating in Buddy Boze Hatkiller’s water dish and he was drinking out of it. Slapped him away and grabbed the paper and put up on the table to dry. Picked up everything and, of course, found more art class pages and got to looking at the Hogarth notes. Some really valuable and handy information on figure drawing (Hogarth was a master illustrator and cartoonist who did what I consider the classic graphic novel on Tarzan). I took the lass at Scottsdale Artist’s School. They bring in top-rated artists from all over the world and you study and work with them for five days.

Among some of the drawing gems Burne gave us: “Never draw the head first. Always draw the torso, then the limbs and do the head last. If you draw the head first, it has the tendency to be like a cork bobbing on the water and you try to fit everything under it and it rarely works out.” And: “an ape is one third as tall as a man but is four times stronger than a man. A gorilla is ten times stronger than a man (this is Trarzan related info).” And “The middle of the eye lines up vertically with the edge of the mouth and the top of the ear lines up with the top of the eye socket, while the bottom of the ear lines up with the mouth.” And “The shroud of Turin is a fake because if you take a cloth and wrap it round an actual human being it would be four inches wider. Whoever created it didn’t know their anatomy proportions.” And “A woman’s knee looks like a baby’s head.” And “Your elbow cannot pass the center of your chest.” (try it) And “The tip of your little finger ends at the third knuckle of the neighboring finger.” And “Your foot is the length of your forearm.” And “Your eye is the size of a ping pong ball.”

Great stuff, much of which I had forgotten, so to the Big, Bad Kingman Wind we had today, I say, “Thankyou.”

I got a call from my mom at about ten this morning, saying her and Lou were watching TV last night (they live in Cody, Wyoming) and they mentioned True West magazine twice on the news. “What was that all about, Robert?” they wanted to know. I said it’s probably our naming Sheridan the top Western Town in the latest issue. She said they went on and on about it.

Note to self: Listen more to Bob Brink. The Top 10 Western Towns was his idea.

Yesterday at three Kathy and I got dressed up and drove up the Beeline Highway, past Fort McDowell, to just past milepost 209, then turned northwest into a long, dusty draw and pulled up at a classic, early day Arizona ranch, The Circle Bar. There, tucked between saguaro clad cliffs, sat a cluster of white chairs a stone’s throw from a fishing pond, on an open, polo sized field. The bright green grass of the field looked beautiful against the desert cliffs and big Cottonwood trees along the creek. We parked and made our way to the chairs, and told the 12-year-old usher from New Jersey, we were friends of the groom. It was a beautiful setting for the wedding of Adam Hawkins and Rachel Tullio

Lots of Arizona politicos in attendance, including former congressman, Dennis DeConcini (who is Adam’s Godfather). After the big kiss we retired to an open-sided barn structure (actually more of a pavillion) where there was an open bar, live chamber music (I gave the stringed quartet a standing ovation when they played the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”). Then we settled into a catered meal by Chef Razz Kamnitzer (a local legend). We started with Indonesian Carrot Soup, followed by Smoked Mozzarella Salad, and then Filet Mignon with red wine sauce, herb crushed potatoes and veggie bundle. It was hands down the best catered meal Kathy and I’ve ever had. Plus, Adam has a wine business so all the wine was top notch. Sat with old friends, Dean and Roxie Bacon and a bunch of photographers (lots of talk about the decimation of their biz by the digital revolution)

Watched the newlyweds cut the cake and feed each other (seems like such a primitive ritual, must be an old tradition going back to when food was symbolically important?), danced, posed for pictures and took off for home at about 9:30. Really a fun wedding, and I learned something, which the judge who married them said during the ceremony:

"In the art of marriage, the little things are big things."
—Michael Hawkins, former Winslow Little League rival and current Ninth District Court Federal Judge

Saturday, November 26, 2005

November 24, 2005
Last night at four I met a drama coach named Mike Lawler who taught me "cold read techniques." These are tricks to get past cold copy, in my case reading scripts for True West Moments to be run on the Westerns Channel. How do you communicate in the best way without all the sabotage, such as "actor talk" ("Is my hair okay?" and "I wonder if I sound authoritatively enough?"). These are ways that take you out of communicating what you want to say, on camera. There are many more, but here's some of the tricks Mike taught me

• The Monotone Read: with a monotone voice read the script eight times. Don't even try to make it sexy or modulate your voice for emphasis.

• Jaba Jaba Read: When you have the script memorized, now exchange actual words with jibberish, so that "The O.K. Corral sounds so good. Maybe it's all those Ks, as in O.K. Corral." becomes, "Jaba Jab Jab Jaba jaba jaba jaba jaba. Jaba jaba jaba jaba Ja, Ja Ja jabab jabe jaba." This really helps you to get the emphasis off the actual words, and it sounds damn funny to boot.

• Talk to someone you love: forget the script, talk to someone you love (that would be Kathy) and actually say, "Hey, Kathy, did you hear about the O.K. Corral?" Convert the entire speech into a conversation in your breakfast nook.

• Never look at the camera lense as a camera lense. Always put a person there. So in the final read, when the director says, "Action!" say to yourself, "Hey Kathy," then start the speech, but keep her face in the lense.

Powerful stuff. It cost me $65. Well worth the price for valuable knowledge.

I met Kathy afterwards at El Conquistador for dinner. I said, "Hey, Kathy, jaba jaba jaba, jaba, jaba jaba jaba jaba jab jab jaba."

And she said, "And I'll take a lime."

I had the menudo (trying to watch my cholesterol) and she had the pollo consado ($25 cash, includes tip)

Today wwe went over to Mother Radina's for Thanksgiving dinner. Full house. James Radina drove over from San Diego. Justine was there (she's 86 and still driving!) and Lee with his big Dodge Dualie. E.J. and Cedes, Carol and Brad, Debbie and Kenny. Big feed. Lots of laughs. E.J. recited an 11 minute Weird Al Yankovich bit verboten. Funny stuff.

"Talk happiness. The world is sad enough without your jaba. Jaba jaba jaba wholly rough."
—Ella Wilcoxx

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

November 23, 2005
My voice is still shredded. Sounds worse than yesterday. And to think I used to do this six nights a week in the band.

Working hard on True West Moment scripts. We’re also doing a full page rodeo ad on the Endurance of the Horse, a print extension of the campaign. I brought in a photo of Roy Rogers galloping on Trigger. I had Robert Ray scan that puppy in, and we’re sending the whole deal down to Dan Harshberger to Danielize it.

Last night I was watching the end of the Michigan State-Gonzaga basketball game (the U of A—UConn game followed). With 4.6 seconds left in the third overtime, Kathy called. She was on the way back from Palm Springs and said, "One of the girls who lives north of us is stuck in a ditch. Can you come down and help them?” So like a good neighbor I jumped in the Ranger and drove up to our neighbor's place to see a small, compact car hanging off the edge of the driveway with the right rear wheel in mid-air. I told them to start the car and put it in gear. I got down in the ditch, under the bumper and along with one of the girls we rocked it until it pushed off and cleared the rock.

Got back to the house about a half hour later. Gonzaga won.

Had a budget meeting today at ten. Bob and Trish Brink, Carole and I. Call it Operation Living Within Our Means. Many positive trends in the numbers, but as Bob Brink keeps telling us, this is the time to be careful and not get out too far in front of ourselves. It’s great to have someone with so much experience in the publishing game on our team.

At four today I'm going down to Paradise Valley to meet with a drama coach. It's part of my effort to be a little more effective on camera. I have been doing my History Channel and Westerns Channel appearances totally on ham-bone instinct. George and Mark feel I could use some polishing.

“I became a lawman because I wanted to be in a business where the customer is always wrong.”
—Wyatt Earp (yeh, right)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

November 22, 2005
Woke up at 5:30 and had coffee in bed, ruminating about various projects and plans. Got up at six and went out and got the paper. It’s dark out until around seven now. Put a cinnamon English muffin in the toaster and made turkey sandos for Kathy and Deena. They are leaving on a road trip to Palm Springs at seven. Deena has a business related interview out there and the two are driving over and back today. I told them about a breakfast place in Quartzite Dave Daiss and I discovered.

Took the dogs for a bike ride about 6:45 and did a quick sketch in my book of a scene I want to do. Got into the office at 7:15. Ace from the radio station in Sheridan, Wyoming called and interviewed Mark Boardman and me about our selection of Sheridan as Western Town of the Year. A travel writer for the Washington Post called at about ten, also about the award for Sheridan.

Allen Barra tells me I’m in the new issue of American Heritage magazine. He’s also interviewing me for a website deal they are running next week.

Here’s a response from the True Grit Cafe up in Ridgeway, Colorado:
“You asked about our cafe, 'True Grit'.  It's a neat old place.  Complete movie history of John Wayne on the inside.  The movie 'True Grit' was filmed in the area and the South wall of the cafe was in the first minutes of the movie when Rooster was bringing in the crooks in the jail wagon.  The hanging scene was across the street in the park and one shoot out scene was on the street out front.  Ridgeway still only has one paved street in the historic district.  Probably won't be long before several more are paved.  Times change.  What's good to eat?  Well, the best 3/4 pound burgers on the Western Slope of Colorado.  Fantastic chicken fried steak and steaks to die for.  Great authentic Tex-Mex too, not southwest style.  If ya wander this way let us know and we'll sit down and strap on that feedbag partner!”
—Dale Tuttle

A Review for Brokeback Mountain I Kind of Wish We Had Run:
"Yes, critics will love it. Sure, it’s probably going to get an Oscar nomination or five. OK, so your girlfriend loves Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger. But if you think we’re going to get all hot and bothered over a 15-hour art film about rough-ridin’ gay cowboys from the guy who turned Hulk into a split-screen rumination on the relationship between fathers and sons, you’ve got the wrong magazine."
Maxim magazine, December, 2005

Photos from last Friday’s Keg Steakhouse rendezvous dinner, taken off of Russ Shaw’s new photo phone can be viewed at:,Kathy%26Wendy-dinner18Nov2005.htm

Quotes from last Sunday’s Wall Street Journal piece on cowboy art and the new history:
"Even some CAA admirers, such as Bob Boze Bell, himself an artist and executive editor of True West magazine, detect a whiff of old-boyism about the club, which has 23 members, all of them men. ‘There's probably some resistance to having girls in the clubhouse,’ he says.

"'Race, class and gender is the new history,' says Mr. Bell. 'They apply Bosnia-type images to the American West and it's so offensive. It's appalling where this has gone.’ He cites papers presented at a recent convention of the Western History Association, including the spellbinder ‘Hispanic New Mexicans and the Texas Ranger Invasion of 1841,' or the heartwarming new book from the University of Oklahoma press, 'The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land, 1820-1875.' But at the Phoenix Art Museum through Nov. 20, visitors can view this narrative art, which often tells real stories about real people and displays bravery, adventure, steadfastness in the face of obstacles, and extraordinary beauty. Through these values, the cowboy artists stand athwart history shouting, Whoa! If you ask me, we need those old boys now more than ever."
—By Leo Banks

Yesterday's Last Jam is still resonating in my brain and my throat. Everyone is asking me if I’m sick, or have a cold, but I have to admit it’s nothing new, I shredded my vocal chords on Led Zeppelin’s "Whole Lotta Love." Speaking of heavy metal, when we were breaking down yesterday, Mike Torres told me that whenever he plays the opening chords to “Highway to Hell,” people go crazy. "There’s something about those chords," Mike mused, "that is just magic." Amen, music bro.

"I'm sick to death of people saying we’ve made 12 albums that sound exactly the same. In fact, we’ve made 13 albums that sound exactly the same."
—Angus Young, AC/DC lead guitarist

Monday, November 21, 2005

November 21, 2005
The Last Jam came off at 11:30. My old bandmate Mike Torres, formerly in the Surf Men and the Dimensions, got to our offices around 11 this morning. He called me en route and asked me if I minded if he brought along Wayne Rutcshman. This was an inside joke. Wayne was our saxophone player in the Exits (1963-67, and rivals of the Dimensions). Actually Mike was referring to Bryne Donaldson a sax player extraordinaire who Mike knows from gigging around the Valley. Bryne lives close to here and showed up at about 11:30. As he soaked his reed, we kicked into “Walk, Don’t Run” by the Ventures and never looked back. Mike probably knows 5,000 songs so he kept the hits coming and Gus Walker, Bryne and I tagged along, whipping out some blistering licks that shut down the phones and rattled the walls of the real estate business three doors down.

Here’s a photo of the four of us basking in the post show glow after the performance.

After a break of pizza and pop (Carole went to Barro’s Pizza for takeout), we finished with three songs for Gus. He sang "Take It Easy" by the Eagles and "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash. And then just for grins, Mike thundered into "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC and that pretty much cleared out the parking lot.

Fun times and ringing ear drums at the True West offices. And FYI: it’s safe to call again.

"Things have never been more like the way they are today in history."
—Dwight David Eisenhower
November 20, 2005
I piddled around all day and went to the backside of the property to look at some new million-dollar-houses going up across the creek.

Then I got this Email from England:

At the risk of sounding pernickety, I thought it might be worth mentioning that your British readers—although I don't know how many of them there might be—do occasionally balk at your use of the language. Zum beispiel, when you say you went around the backside of a display stand it take us a moment to realize you intend to indicate you went to the rear of it, when to me and my compatriots, you are inspecting someone's buttocks (as in "he needs a kick in the backside"). You worry us even more when you say you piddled all day, for although we can divine you probably mean "twiddled your thumbs" or something similar, if you piddled all day over here you would have the worst case of incontinence yet encountered by medical science.
—Fred Nolan

“The only man, woman, or child who ever wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead.”
—e.e. cummings, on the death of Warren Harding

Sunday, November 20, 2005

November 19, 2005
Last night Kathy and I met Russell and Wendy Shaw down at Keg’s Steakhouse in Desert Ridge Shopping Center, just off the 101 and Tatum. It was a cool night on the desert and dusk had turned to darkness as we approached the turn-in off Tatum. The whole mall area was slammed with traffic and zero parking spaces. As I maneuvered around a crunch of blocked cars, Kathy said if she ever met the engineer who designed the roads and parking at Desert Ridge she’d slap his face. I finally drove around the back side of the restaurant and found one lone open space near the back row and I pounced on it and slid the Escape right in. Roaming cars in other rows gave us the evil eye as they darted into our area like sharks looking for blood (yes, cars can give the evil eye and if you’ve never felt the intimidation of a black Hummer idling menacingly behind you, well, you’ve never been out West, pardner).

Got inside and fought our way up to the hostess desk where we were met by not one, but three cute blonds dealing with a 20 to 30 minute waiting list. We got our saucer-shaped space ship pager that lights up when a table is ready and tried to find a place to wait out the storm. Kathy went into the bar and ordered me a glass of cabernet and a glass of draft beer for her. I found a seat in the darkened atrium between the outer and inner doors. A lone woman sat across from me with her head down chipmunking (text messaging with her thumbs). I made menacing ferret noises until she looked up and then I licked my lips like a crazy loon.

Not really.

We got seated about 7:30 and called Russ and Wendy on my cell (our dinner date was for 7:15). Turns out they were vainly trying to find a parking space this whole time. They finally found one, next to our car!

Russ and I ordered New York strip steaks and garlic mashed potatoes and the girls had salads (high cholesterol anyone?). Russell and I got into a debate about the difference between Jim Murray and Jim Larkin. Both guys seemed equally hip and on the ball, going places, in the mid-seventies, but one went to prison (crack) and the other went on to be a media mogul worth $400 million. I, of course, made the connection to the release of the quail last Sunday (see posting). Of course I was on my second glass of wine and my IQ was surpassing my good sense. Russell wasn’t drinking and he, like a good friend, humored me as only Russ can. (split the tab down the middle, $140, includes tip, house account)

After dinner we walked over to Barnes & Noble and I went straight to the magazine racks where I found the November issue of True West (Is America Ready for a Gay Western?). They only had two copies left. I think they get eight or ten. I moved them to the eye-level row then went around to the backside to look for our competitors. Found Cowboys & Indians and American Cowboy (they are slotted in Lifestyle and we are usually slotted in History), but lo and behold there was another of our True West issues right next to Cowboys & Indians. Odd. Don’t know how that happened. Put our mag in front of theirs and left the store, happy.

Nice day at home today. Worked in studio, and piddled all day. Watched some TV (half of Torqued and half of Sideways and a Jon Stewart), read and went to bed around ten. Kathy got in about midnite. She had a Goddess meeting with the girls and I assume they did their usual: solve life and blame it on men.

“Why do certain marriages last 50 or 60 years? It boils down to something really simple:The right people with the right combinations of energies found each other by God knows what mistake or twist of faith.”
—Dave Insley, local musician describing in the Republic why some bands stick together

Friday, November 18, 2005

November 18, 2005
Got into the office at 7:30 and went over the scripts Mark Boardman wrote for our new round of True West Moments we are going to record today down at Canyon Records. Mark wrote six bits and we tweaked them and moved stuff around for length and effect.

Tom Carpenter believes yesterday’s posting proves I am actually a "myth-anthrope."

George Laibe drove us down into the Beast and we got to the studio at 10:30. Our engineer, Jack Miller, had created a special CD for George of Eclectic Mouse, the avant garde Phoenix band who put out a Blood, Sweat & Tears type album in 1967. We sat and listened to the first track in awe. So progressive and, yes—eclectic—for that ancient time period.

We got ready to record and George came into the recording studio and made me do voice exercises. I felt really stupid doing them ("now take the gutteral sound up an octave and say all the vowels top to bottom. ..eeeeee, iiiiiiiiiiiii, oooooooooo, uuuuuuuuu.”). He also made me stretch my jaw in various ways. It certainly would have looked goofy at a bus stop, but I have to admit, it really got me loosey goosey and ready for the mike work.

I whipped out six spots in record time and Jack effortlessly laid in the Mike Torres custom-music ("Cathouse Melee") and we wrapped at about 12:30. George treated us to lunch at his fave Westside Mexican hangout, Garcia’s. I had a chicken taco salad, George had a red sauce burrito enchilada style and I didn’t catch Mark’s dish. George paid for the whole deal, tip included. I was aghast but mighty impressed (he said he gets tired of reading about how I pay for everything).

On the way back out to Cave Creek I spun out my take on Mickey Free and how I intend to make him a graphic novel American hero. I intend to tell his story as an alternative, submerged history of the West. How he has become one of the great neglected characters of the Old West and I want to do it with nervy, jarring juxtapositions—old newspaper articles, popular misconceptions of Apaches and Mexicans, autobiographical fragments, short biographies of the famous—punctuating deceptively flat sagas of ordinary fictional types on the margins of great events, driven by the blind force of history across blighted human landscapes.”

If this sounds like a poached description from the pages of The New Yorker, that’s because it is. A feature on the writer Dos Passos and his relationship with Ernest Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War (October 31st issue) inspired me and I copied the above paragraph describing his book “U.S.A.” and cannibalized it for my own use here.

"As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary."
—Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, November 17, 2005

November 17, 2005
So far so good on my Get-Out-of-My-Comfort-Zone plan. I have done six drawings a day, everyday, all this week, and I have gotten into the office an hour earlier, and I am sticking to my worklist with some regularity.

As for the ‘49 Ford, Eric came by on Tuesday morning, shot some ether in the carburetor and it started right up. I got this bit of good advice this morning:

Dear Bob,
I was telling my husband about your problems with your '49 Ford, and he says he knows what your problem is. You need to change the fuel pump pushrod. That's what activates the fuel pump. They wear down - that was a common problem with all the old V-8 Fords. Also take the carb apart and clean and set the floats, and the needle and seat valve. He also recommends putting Sta-bil or Marvel Mystery Oil in the gas tank to keep the gas from gumming up the carb, and to keep the floats from sticking, especially when you don't drive it all the time. My husband also says that we didn't have these problems when gas had lead in it, and cost 19 cents a gallon.
—Lauren TWM #19

While we're in the mailbag:

"Are you related to Senator John Bell of Colorado? See attached photo."
—Elizabeth BELL

Actually, no, but I have sure started to see more of those pesky Bells showing up everywhere.

Carole Glenn told me Paul Harvey mentioned the gay Western Brokeback Mountain this morning. Esquire magazine did a review of the movie in the new issue and gave it a surprisingly positive pass (the reviewer did mention squirming a bit). They are predicting a success, especially at Oscar time.

Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal featured quotes from me in an oped page feature written by Leo Banks. Speaking of Leo, who also wrote the LA Times Wyatt Earp piece that ran last weekend, here’s my take on the. . .

Anatomy of a “Quote”

Monday I received a very nasty Email (see November 14 posting). This is not at all unusual considering my precarious position around here and my predilection for courting controversy. However, I was somewhat irked when I saw the actual quote in the Times that precipitated the irate Email to me. Here’s the actual quote:

“True West's Bell describes Earp as a jerk. ‘But he was a brave jerk, says Bell.’ As someone once said about Wyatt, all the bullet holes were in the front, I'll give him that much."

I have never described Earp as a jerk. I have always maintained that this is my grandmother's take on him. She is the one who claimed Wyatt Earp was a jerk. I often use this personal anecdote in my speeches and after I tell the story about my grandmother calling Earp "the biggest jerk in the West," and at the end of my speech, I ask for questions, and usually someone will ask, "Well, was your grandmother right? Was Earp a jerk?" And I give my honest answer which is, I understand why she didn't like him, she was from a ranching family near Rodeo, New Mexico, who knew the actual cowboys involved in the Earp-Clanton feud. I, on the other hand discovered a human being who had good points and bad points.

I am more bugged with the LA Times and their policy of not reading the quote to me prior to publication. True, a fact checker did call me and asked me if I thought Wyatt Earp was a jerk, and my memory of the conversation is, I said, "No, I didn't say that. My grandmother did. Give me the context," and Little Miss Fact Checker declined (see archives of two weeks ago), and after three or four exchanges like this I finally said, "Well, I guess I just have to trust Leo to quote me correctly."

In Leo’s defense, I seem to remember him hammering me about the details of the "jerk" comment. Actually, here’s Leo take on it:

"in my notes i do indeed have you saying that about your grandmother ... but it sounded to me as if you agreed, with modifications ... i know your view of earp contains measures of admiration and revulsion ... in the draft i sent to the magazine, i had you saying, ‘nobody could question the sand he had’ ... a positive remark that was edited out ... not sure why ... probably because of space, or the belief that readers wouldn't know what sand meant, although i think most people could dope it out ... to me, the idea that all the bullets were in the front is admirable as well ... it suggests a guy who believes he was acting in the name of the law and had nothing to hide.... I thought that would cover the good half... but bottom line, this was my story, and if I'm wrong, blog away."

So it’s hard to be mad at Leo, who, as you can clearly see, is a straight up guy. In the scheme of things, it's a minor difference (in the quote). Unfortunately, now I own that quote until hell freezes over, which is about how long it will be before some Earp fans give me another chance at any sort of historic objectivity. It will be all to easy to dismiss my efforts by saying, "Oh, he’s anti-Earp." When in reality, I’m anti-myth.

"In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired."
—Lao Tzu

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

November 16, 2005
Woke up at 5:30 and didn’t want to get up, but I’m on this new kick—get out of the comfort zone! So, I fought my body chemicals and head-webs and jumped, no, make that, crawled, out of bed and out into the cold by 6:40.

Got into the office at seven, had a good meeting with George Laibe and Mark Boardman about the True West Moment scripts. Needs work, but we’re getting there.

Then went into my office and followed my "Out-of-the-Comfort-Zone" worklist to the T. Mailed off a 3-D spec assignment to Bob Steinhilber. I want him to do a three dimensional image of the Vaudeville Theatre in San Antonio, Texas. This is for the big Ben Thompson-King Fisher gunfight in 1884. Packaged up the entire assignment, complete with maps, floor plans and photographs both front and back and put it in the outgoing mail.

Fired up my computer and allowed myself to read my Email one time. No replys, no extra surfing. I forced myself to close-out of Email and start the True West Moment scripts. My goal was to rough in ten. I got five in the can and forwarded them to Meghan and Mark Boardman for feedback and editing.

Here’s a couple of the more interesting Emails I got this morning:

“Good to know that prostrate is, for you, normal. But you'll have to get off your back sometime.”
—Fred Nolan, referring to my gaff where I said my “prostrate” was fine, when it should have been my “prostate.” Ha.

My reply to him written after I finished the five scripts:
I am such an idiot sometimes it takes my breath away. Good thing I'm on my back, so I don't pass out and kill more brain cells.

Then I got this dialogue clarification from the movie Fargo:

"Kinda funny lookin?'"

"Well, he wasn't circumcised."

"Was he funny looking apart from that?"
—Alan Huffines, quoting the Cohen brother’s brilliant dialogue where policewoman Marge interviews two idiot hookers (“Go Bears!”), one of whom slept with Steve Buscemi’s character.

We got two Emails today that I think covers the waterfront as we used to say in Bullhead City when I was growing up:

Dear Folks,
"I am always impressed with your magazine, but the current Nov - Dec offering was particularly rewarding. It was bold to cover the history of homosexuality in the West -- a subject that, like your previous coverage of frontier religion, would have been easier to simply ignore. Even though I have no dog in this fight (I pride myself in being what your article stated as a man more interested in the practical and less in the theoretical) I thank you for writing about the West as it was, and not necessarily just the parts that are comfortable to your readers. I am subscribing to help balance out the indignant cancellations you’ll probably get.”
—Jason J., Traer Iowa

Here’s the second Email:
“Have you lost your top knot? First an issue dedicated to western fashion, then the Jesus thing, and finally ‘Homos on the Range’?? It's as if your goal is to become the drugstore cowboy's Cosmopolitan. Not to be sexist, but hiring attractive young women does not guarantee sales. You should hire pros with a track record and a passion for the old west. Instead you hire Abercrombie-ites. I half expect next month's edition to include something like: What your horse is really thinking when he says neigh. C'mon Boze, Cowboy up! I don't want to see you go the way of the old west. Come Back, True West!"
—Dave V., Pittsburgh, PA

I had a book signing at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in downtown Phoenix at noon today. Drove down into the Beast (took an hour) and joined Jana Bommersbach at the Bentley Project, a hip old warehouse that has been refurbished and—hip-mobile-ized. Hard to believe this downtown slum (two blocks south of Bank One Ballpark and the railroad tracks) could be made into anything other than a meth lab. So hip, so cool. Jana and I spoke together about our Crown book, “Amazing Tails of the West”, and we were like a WWA-tag-team-comedy-duo. She was totally blue state and I was somewhere south of the red states (where sarcasm and juvenile humor is the currency), and, well, they loved us. Several people asked how long we had been performing together. Ha. We sold every single book the owner had. I guess we better get busy on our joint wild woman book, eh?

On the way back out to Cave Creek, I stopped at Ed Mell’s studio to look at some of his new paintings. Saw the Bull Canyon-Backside of the Hualapais study and the Cave Creek Horses piece he created from the deck of my crow’s nest. Sweet. Dan O’Neil from Prescott was there. He asked me what a blog is. I thought to myself, "Prescott, yes, that’s where I want to be. Where they don’t know what a blog is, yet."

Speaking of blogs, I got a call from Jim Hinkley from Kingman when I got back to the office. You know, the guy who co-wrote the Auto book I quoted from last week? After we talked about all things Route 66 and Kingman (his wife is a Hood, as in Hood’s Market where I used to buy grape fireballs and Nesbitt orange pops and sit out on the wooden steps in the summer time and listen to the airpad cooler banging away crazily in the back of the store), I asked him how he found me. Jim said a guy in Australia who makes plastic sleeves for DeSoto hood ornaments, read the blog, wrote to his co-writer John, in California, who owns a 1950 DeSoto, who then forwarded the website to John in Kingman, and so he called me on the phone.

Is that small enough for ya? Huh? Punk? You bloggin’ to me, Prescott dude?

"We’re all pretty damned stupid, just on different subjects."
—Will Rogers (paraphrased)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

November 15, 2005
What started as a trickle has ended up to be a torrent of questions about the Old West coming in over the transom and the internet. Here's just one of them I got in this morning. it's a fax from the True Grit Cafe in Ourray, Colorado:

"In the Old West you always hear references to whiskey, rye or gin and often the so-called ‘Red Eye,’ ‘Who Hit John’ and ‘Corn Squeezins’ but rarely hear a brand name mentioned. Although, bourbon was fairly well named by 1840 you rarely hear it referred to in western writing or movies. A drink is always ordered from a bar keep as whiskey, rye or gin. Can you shed some light on this aspect of western history?"
—Dale Tuttle, True West Maniac #1060

I am busy trying to answer all of these inquiries (this is a good thing) and trying to convert them into scripts for the next batch of True West Moments.

I had a doctor’s appointment at 11:45 AM to go over my blood work reports. Liver: normal. Thyroid: normal. Prostrate: normal. Iron: normal. Cholesterol: not good. Level is at 234 (better than last year’s 263, but not good enough. Should be below 200). So Lisa C. gave me a month’s worth of Lipitor. "Watch for liver damage and muscle spasms." Oh, great. Dodge one bullet, catch another one between the eyes.

I read a good piece on the actor Steve Buscemi in The New Yorker last night. Very inspiring. Here's this gangly Long Island kid, too skinny, bad teeth. "Kinda funny lookin'" as the hooker in Fargo described him, and yet, the little Bastard has a thriving movie career, because of all of that pathos and perceived ugliness. And I thought he was over the top great in Fargo. Just brilliant. He just finished directing his fourth or fifth episode of The Sopranos for the next season. By the way, the rumor is that Tony gets whacked early on, but I'm betting he somehow, some way survives, because there ain't no show without the fat man with the funny morals.

"When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script.' If he says, 'But what's my motivation?," I say, 'Your salary.'"
—Alfred Hitchcock

Monday, November 14, 2005

November 14, 2005
Still can’t start the ‘49. Tried and tried all weekend. Finally called Eric this morning and he’s meeting me out at the house in an hour to get the job done. Evidently, I need to hire a live-in mechanic to keep the John Deere and the ‘49 in shape. Or give them to someone who can.

Deena, Kathy and I went to a quail release yesterday morning at ten. A woman who lives nearby nurses quail back to health and then releases them into the wilds about this time of year. She had about 150 in an aviary and we watched as she opened the door and stepped away. It was quite fascinating to watch who went out first (mostly females she told us) and then how afraid some were and stayed in the back of the wire cage, afraid of freedom, afraid to fly out the open door. So instructive and typical of human behavior. She literally had to go in and physically push some out the door. All the while, they are fighting her, squawking and flailing at the wire mesh. How many times and in how many ways do we do the same thing? Too many is my guess.

Got a new poll up. Which non-western movie was the most western? Cast your vote!

A clockwork Orange


Das Boot

Death Wish

Dirty Harry





Midnight Express

Star Wars

The Godfather


“If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.”

—Sir Isaac Newton
November 13, 2005
Well, evidently the LA Times piece came out because I got this Email this morning:

"Yo are quoted in the Los Times Magazine today by Leo Banks as saying 'Earp was a jerk.' Listen to me , you f--king asshole, you and your unknown mother are the jerks...My last purchase of your products occurred last month. The beginning of a boycott effort begins today. F--k off rectum....”

"Rectum? Damn near killed ‘em!”
—Old Zane Brother Saying

Saturday, November 12, 2005

November 12, 2995
Rain clouds blew out last night. We only got a slight drizzle about four yesterday. Sunny and clear today. Elephant Butte lit up and pretty this morning.

Yesterday afternoon Kathy called at my office about 4:15 and asked me if I wanted to sneak off and catch a movie. I was trying to post my blog and the blog-town-window wouldn't accept it. She said the movie Derailed started in a half hour at Desert Ridge and did I think we should try and make a run for it? I wondered at the time why she picked Derailed, but my mind was on the blog deal and I assumed one of her clients had recommended the movie. I certainly had no intrest in seeing it and had my heart set on Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang or a new doc called New York Doll (about a band member of the old rock group New York Dolls, who hit bottom, became a Mormon librarian, then was rediscovered in a Doll revival in England and then died of cancer five weeks later), but I said nothing and forwarded my blog to Jason to hopefully fix and met Kathy in the True West parking lot. We made it to Desert Ridge with about five minutes to spare, I ran ahead and got in line to get tickets ($14 for two, cash), and a quick stop at the refreshment highway robbery stand for popcorn and water ($7.50 cash for water and popcorn! Water and popcorn!). Got seats in the front row (stadium seating) and sat back for the big seduction.

Jennifer Anniston and Clive Owen were quite good, but then they got to the hotel scene and it turned nasty, dark and extremely violent. After the broken nose and umpteenth kick in the balls, Kathy leaned over and said, "I don't think I can take much more of this." I leaned over in the dark and said, "Then why did you pick this movie?" She looked at me stunned. "I thought this is the movie you wanted to see?"

The movie sucked so bad. It was all plot turns and insincere violence (as opposed to sincere violence like in The Wild Bunch or Saving Private Ryan). I hated the whole damn thing. Some smart-ass film school script, trying so hard to be clever. Totally unbelievable and unsuccessful.

"You owe me," I said walking to the car, like the pouty-little-hubby-only child-Bastard I can be. I made her go to El Conquistador for dinner (okay, it wasn't that hard to do) and had a Pacifico and the conquistador taoos. She had the chicken mole ($25 house account, includes tip). Great to see Mark and Maria and they showed me a write-up in the paper by Mad Coyote Joe that said I loved the place, so "where the hell" had I been. "To a really crappy movie," I told them with a smile.

Had a book signing down at the Shea and 101 Barnes & Noble at two today. About seven people showed up, but they all bought books and raved about the magazine, so that was fun. Of course I bought two books ($37.44, so it cost me to go to my own signing).

Deena's coming out for dinner tonight. She's having roommate problems, as in a roommate who doesn't have a job, lays around on the couch all day and doesn't have the rent kind of problems. Good lessons to learn before you get married to someone like that. Fortunately, Kathy didn't learn this until it was too late.Ha.

"When war, politics, and writers mix, the results are seldom inspiring."
—George Packer in the New Yorker

Friday, November 11, 2005

November 11, 2005
Eric put on the new fuel pump yesterday and got the ‘49 started and pulled the maroon monster up next to the house garage. I came home last night about six and tried to move it into the garage (it’s supposed to rain), but it wouldn't start. I think I flooded it. Let it set for an hour or so, but no go. Got up this morning, and the same. Called Eric to come out and give it another once over. Forget driving it to work. I can’t even get it in the garage!

Got into work at 8:30. Worked on new scripts for the Westerns Channel. Here’s a sneak peek at one of the scripts I’m working on:

Paul Boord of Point Marion, Pennsylvania wonders about the endurance of the horses in the Old West. Paul wants to know "how far could a horse and rider travel in a day and, more importantly, how long could a horse run full out. In the movies they seem to go on for miles and miles."

Longtime horse trainer and cowboy Floyd Brooks tells us a horse in good shape can run full out for about two and a half miles but if you push them much farther they’ll tie up (get a Charlie Horse). On the other hand, Floyd tells me, if you know how to pace a horse, you can stretch that distance by trotting and loping, with short bursts. Floyd says a horse will regain its air as it trots. It will pick up more oxygen and regenerate itself. Riders with good horses, utilizing this technique, have been known to cover 50 miles, or more, in a day.

Floyd also told me that the idea of a cowboy busting out of a saloon and jumping on his horse and galloping off at a dead run is the biggest myth in Hollywood. "You have to warm em' up like any athlete,” he told me. “We move ‘em around, flex their rib cage, to get them warmed up. It looks good in the movies, but you do that to one of our horses and he’ll probably buck you off pronto."

Needs a little tweaking, and I need to run it by Floyd (he was off to a horse show today) for accuracy, but I think it’ll be a cool True West Moment especially if Jeff H. can score some good Tim McCoy footage of him busting out of a saloon, mounting up and galloping off. Or, better yet, Hopalong and a posse riding for mile upon mile at full gallop.

At 11:30 George Laibe and I had lunch with Theresa B. from Tri Star down at Keg Steakhouse at Desert Ridge. I had the steak caesar salad and an iced tea. Theresa had the chicken caesar and George had a big, ol’ fat burger (I picked up tab, $48 debit, includes tip, my card). Talked about leveraging my six Old West books into the upcoming Vegas SASS event and another one George is cooking up for Big Bend, Texas in Feb. Theresa was quite supportive (she always is) and committed to helping make the promotions successful. I signed two hardbound CGIIs and a box of Wyatts and softbound CGIIs.

Kathy called me during lunch and said the ‘49 carb was clogged because the gas had settled and congealed in the tank. Eric cleaned it out, parked the puppy in the garage and left a bill ($113.29).

Had a true life Maniac come in the office this afternoon. John Copsey, Maniac #36, from Carson City, Nevada came in and told me about how he found the magazine at a bookstore in Carson City, called to order a gift subscription for a friend and the woman on the phone here (probably Samantha) upsold him into being a Maniac. He was so proud of being a Maniac it made me proud to meet him.

In the next couple of weeks we’ve got some hard decisions to make regarding circulation and budget stuff. In the beginning it was tough, and I dreaded this kind of stuff, but these days I kind of agree with that little French guy.

"Nothing is more difficult and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide."
—Napoleon I

Thursday, November 10, 2005

November 10, 2005
J.D. and Joe Y. showed up at 7:50 this morning. Joe had a big coffee mug and J.D. had his tools. I pulled the tarp off the John Deere and Joe set the petcocks, and primed the bowl, while I poured in some gas. After a couple of tugs on the exposed fly wheel, the old Bell tractor chugged and wheezed and the big one lunger set out on a jungle beat as the dogs scurried out of the garage for safer climes.

I got an extension cord and activated the air compressor and we aired up two tires on the ‘49 Ford and two on the tractor. J.D. asked me if I had overdrive in the ‘49 and when I told him I did he told a story about when he owned his 1950 Ford Club Coup and came off the hill out of Superior “doin’ bout 95" and a cop got on his tail and “this old boy pulled me over and asked me what I had under the hood and I said 'overdrive.'”

We laughed and kicked the tires. Joe told me about his three tractors and how he catches pack rats every day. They left about nine and I changed clothes and went into work.

One of the West’s most legendary living lawmen turns 70 today. Joaquin Jackson, former Texas Ranger and lawdog extraordinaire. I sent him a hardbound Classic Gunfights, Volume II today with my best wishes. I’m going down to Alpine, Texas to meet him early next year. Very excited about it, as I’ve never been in that part of the west.

Hey, we’re looking for someone to tell us What It’s Like to Live in Leadville, Colorado. Do you know somebody who knows where the locals hang out and what they do for fun? I want to know. It’s for an upcoming feature we’re doing in March of 2006. Email me at the above link. Thanks.

One of the True West Moments that’s running on the Westerns Channel is getting people upset. I’ve gotten more complaints on this one. Here’s one that came in this morning:

“Why must you insist on demeaning the cowboy. Of all people, you should know that the cowboys that you are referring to in your supposed True West stories, pertains to the gang that called themselves the cowboys, not the cowboy in general. please, please, please, correct yourself. thanks, laithe.

Sorry, but it's not that simple. The term "cow-boy" was brand new in the early 1880s and my point is that it had a more negative connotation than it does today. You can look at newspapers from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas and beyond from the 1870s and 1880s and see it over and over. It wasn't just an isolated case. That doesn't denigrate the cowboys of today. Half my family (my favorite half by the way) are cowboys and cowgirls, so I'm on your side.

Laithe Emailed me back this afternoon and said his “boots were too tight” and he’s okay now. Ha. I love that cowboy humor!

Deadwood spoiler alert! Don’t read the next paragraph if you love the HBO series and don’t want to know what's going to happen:
"Cy Tolliver will survive getting knifed in the gut in the Season 2 finale. Good, 'cause them whores ain't gonna mistreat themselves."
—TV Guide

Ate lunch in the office. Gave Carole $5 and she went up to Bashas’ and got her and I some soup and bread. Working hard on more True West Moments scripts. Jeff Hildebrandt at the Westerns Channel is setting up a new shoot, probably down in Tombstone.

Gus, Mark Boardman and I are working on the Ben Thompson, King Fisher shootout in San Antonio in 1884. Pretty bloody, more of an assassination really

We got a new book in, called The Big Book of Car Culture: The Armchair Guide to Automotive Americana by Jim Hinckley and Jon Robinson. I perused it with some interest because of all the great 1950s road and car photos. After I recognized the fourth or fifth photo from the Kingman area (the clincher being a photo of Roy Dunton outside the Biddolf-Dunton dealership, where my dad worked in 1947) I checked out the author bios and discovered Jim Hinckley lives in Kingman. Small world. But here’s the part that really got me thinking:

"In 1909, United States manufacturers produced 828,000 horse-drawn vehicles compared to fewer than 125,000 automobiles. By 1929. . .fewer than 4,000 horse-drawn vehicles were produced.”

This is a stunning turn of events, especially if you were heavily invested in the horse-drawn conveyance biz. Which leads me to this Email:

"I no longer subscribe to a newspaper—I used to receive three. Why should I when I can get all the same news online for free? Now, if magazine subscriptions start coming down, then I might start worrying!!"
—Bob Reece.

Is print media (ink on dead trees) headed for Boothill in a horse-drawn vehicle?

“A bird in the hand is dead.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

November 9, 2005
Meetings almost all day long. at about ten George Laibe came in my office and asked me to go online and check out the front page of the SASS website. They have posted a write-up on my keynote address on December first in Vegas. Going to be a crazy day with my speech at the Biltmore in the morning. Hope I can pull it off.

You can check out the piece at

Took George to El Encanto for lunch (for orchestrating and landing the above) and sat outside to enjoy the great weather and the pond. Obnoxious ducks waddled under our feet for most of the meal. I had the lunch special, a poblano chile stuffed with shrimp. George had the huevos rancheros. I bought ($25.60 biz account).

J.D. came by the office this afternoon to remind me to be sure and have a gas can full of gas for the 1940 Series D John Deere in the morning. Maybe we should call it D Day. Ha.

Some depressing media stats from a piece forwarded to me from Mark Boardman: just 27 percent of those ages 25 to 34 looked at a newspaper daily, compared to 71 percent ages 65 and up. Those same 25- to 34-year-olds spent an average 3.6 minutes with a newspaper each day; from age 35 to 44, the figure jumped to 8.2 minutes, with both groups
spending more than 10 times that duration online.

"(Newspapers) must stop defining (their) business as ink on dead trees," an offical who knows said. "You need to define your business as providing information to people. Ink on dead trees is just one way of delivering that information to people."

Worked on horse lightning drawings and finished out the last page of my big sketchbook, which I did my first drawing in it on April 3 of this year. Need to buy a new one. Several of the renderings ended up, as is, in Blaze Away! The 25 Gunfights Behind the O.K. Corral.

“The future is much like the present, only longer.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

November 8, 2005
Chilly out this morning, probably in the low fifties, although the afternoons are delightful with highs in the high seventies and low eighties. This is the time of year when we get paid back for our nuclear summers. A worthy investment.

Took a brisk bike ride at seven. Peaches and Buddy Boze Hatkiller pranced and ran the whole way. A rust red sunrise over Ratcliff Ridge. Made a mental note to do an entire artshow on that ridge in all its diverse manisfestations. Great name, don't you think? It's the "cliff" next to "ridge" that gives it a certain magic.

Had a staff meeting at 8:30. Shored up the details on the Mike Torres-Gus Walker Last Jam session on November 21st. Going to be a rocking good time in the conference room. I’m bringing my chrome Ludwigs and I’m trying to talk legendary rhythm guitarist (and former, fellow Exit) Charlie Waters into flying over for the gig. We’ll see. He's probably hearing and reading about it for the first time, right here.

Alan Huffines forwarded me Sunday’s Matt Drudge Report which reports Brokeback Mountain is already gearing up for an Oscar run, with plenty of buzz: "There was not a dry eye in the house at the screening at Telluride [Film Festival in Colorado]," says a producer. . . "Watch it come out of the gate at the Golden Globes with super controversy." Also according to Drudge, Wyoming’s Travel and Tourism agency has been getting interest from "other countries" because of advance buzz on the film.

Check it out for yourself at

Regarding our reader feedback, I promised one of my partners I would accurately report the cancelled subscriptions and fallout in order to make an honest appraisal of the pros and cons of the cover story. According to Sam, Sheri and Carole, so far we have received 26 negative calls from upset readers, six returned reader survey cards (and counting) from J.C. (his latest, "Are those two fired yet Mr. Bell?") and only two subscription cancellations, although one of them just came back on board (see below):

Carole sent a nice note to Lyn N. who wanted to cancel her subscription after reading the November-December issue. Lyn called this morning and read an excerpt to Carole from an interview with Dorris Kerns Goodwin who has written a book about Lincoln. The author dismissed the assertion that Lincoln was gay. Lyn is 75 and was a journalist and is a nut about history—particularly Texas and the Texas Rangers. Carole said Lyn was very nice and appreciated the letter that we sent—finally admitting she couldn't stay mad at us after receiving such a nice letter.

Thanks Carole!

My own prediction is that the movie will end up falling somewhere between Midnight Cowboy (also an Oscar worthy production but hated by John Wayne himself and, no doubt, many of our subscribers) and HBO’s Deadwood. Old timers will shake their heads, and kids will do the same, the latter wondering how many of us got to as old as we did without falling off the planet.

"If we win, nobody will care. If we lose, there will be nobody to care."
—Winston Churchill

Monday, November 07, 2005

November 7, 2005
Eric came out this morning with some gas and tried to start the ‘49 Ford. Wouldn’t go. Turns out it’s probably the fuel pump. Back to square one.

My neighbor J.D. came by the office at about ten to set up an appointment to start the John Deere tractor. I checked my daytimer and we agreed to meet on Thursday morning at eight. J.D. now needs to go over to Joe’s house and confirm this. I am in charge of the invitations and I’m thinking of embroidered linen with little tractors in the corners. J.D. is bringing the snacks (homemade jerky). Joe is in charge of the party favors (WD-40). Attire is semi-formal (pin stripe overalls).

This just in from Britain:

"What the hell is a twice baked potato? Is it just a nice way of saying overcooked?"
—Fred Nolan

.. "Better yet, why didn't they bake 'em correctly the first time?"

I admit twice baked potatoes is sort of a new deal for me. They started carrying twice baked potatoes in the meat department at Bashas’ grocery store where we shop and I’ve grown to really like them. So, to me they're a brand new thing, but I cornered Sheri at the copy machine just now and asked her if she knew how to make ‘em and here's her answer:

"Bake the potato, take it out of the oven and slit the top, scoop out the insides, mash them and mix it with milk, butter, salt and pepper. Then put the mashed innards back into the potato shell, sprinkle cheese on the top, put it back in the oven and bake it again, until the cheese melts. Take it out and put sour cream and onions on. Is it new? Heavens no. My grandmother made them in West Virginia when I was this high."
—Sheri Temen, Trading Post Assistant

"Happiness can be a garment made with little stitches."
—Elizabeth Coatsworth

Sunday, November 06, 2005

November 6, 2005
Last night the Brinks had the entire True West staff up to their new home to celebrate the record numbers we logged for the January issue (which goes to the printer tomorrow). Their stunning territorial style home is nestled on the side of Black Mountain and was designed by Bill Tull in the 1970s. It had begun to fade a bit, when the Brinks bought it earlier this year and they basically revived and renovated it.

It was a fun evening with wine and homemade margaritas brought by Robert Ray (the secret, he told me, is in squeezing seven limes and putting that along with the lime pulp in the mixture and letting it sit overnight. Wow!). We had steaks and twice baked potatoes and salad, with apple and pumpkin pie and ice cream for dessert. The meal was quite good and so was the company. After six years, I think we finally have the makings of a real team, and I was particularly cognizant of how loose and happy two particular employees seemed to be, as it relates to the new lineup.

Speaking of Robert Ray, last night he landed on the concept and is encouraging me to do three gunfights at the same time, so that my artwork will build, and then stay there, in terms of quality. I plan to take his advice and stay with it. I churned out a dozen drawings and as many color studies today.

Yesterday, Kathy and I grabbed the electric chain saw and took after all the desert trees in our back yard. I pruned up one mesquite and three palo verdes and Kathy took over and did six more palo verdes while I went up and did the recycling. When I got home she loaded up the Ranger (only one pair of gloves) with ironwood branches (really stickly little boogers with razer sharp spines every two inches). We lashed it all down with bungee cords, and drove it down to Happy Valley Road to the Phoenix landfill ($15 cash to dump, free if we could tell them what color our Phoenix water bill was. We guessed blue. They laughed and we confessed we were from Cave Creek and on a well). Too bad they strip searched Kathy.

Just kidding.

This morning I bailed into studies for a big desert storm with lightning and horse shaped lightning. God awful stuff, mostly mud. Kept going. Did ten mud puddles. I feel like I’m hopeless and a lost cause. This is so typical and cyclical.

Now Kathy is up on the roof putting up the Christmas lights. Threw her up a bottle of water a few minutes ago.

I let go and did some loosey goosey paintings, one which became “Castle Rock at Midnight.” The photo reference was from So-Hi Estates in my father’s front yard looking at Castle Rock, looming in the distance. Yesterday I found wonderful photo reference of Tomcat perched on rocks on north highway 93. Great twilight effects. Classic Kingman rock formations, almost surreal. Just did two more color studies. Flailing and failing. Mess ah potania, gouach-ania. Frustrating.

Deena went to Halloween parties last week dressed as Tipi Hedren from the Birds. She posted the photos online with the warning: "Not parent friendly." Kathy said they were okay, but I didn't even go there.

“He who has daughters is always a shepherd.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, November 05, 2005

November 5, 2005
Sally R. from the Attorney Generals office Emailed me back at about four yesterday and said she’d try to move my December one speech to the first session at 8:45. That coupled with the fact that Nevada is an hour behind us, just may give me enough time to do both speeches.

Kathy and I met the Tumalos at AZ Wine Co. up in Carefree last night at 5:30. The store has a nice little wine tasting event on Friday nights and invite different wineries to send their staff and sample wines. Last night they featured The Cape of Good Hope Winery from South Africa and we tried five different wines, personally poured for us by Simon who had a very strong accent. “Are you from Cleveland?” I asked him facetiously. I particularly enjoyed the reds, and bought a Rhebokskloof Merlot, 1999, for the unbelievable price of $17. The store charges you $10 for the tasting, but if you buy wine they wave the fee. Pretty sweet deal really.

Afterwards we all walked over to Saba’s Greek Restaurant for dinner. I had the lamb chop special and we split a bottle of red wine. (I bought $72, Sue account, includes tip). The Tumalos just got back from New York City, their old home, and had many stories to tell. I learned that someone who is crass and vulgar is called a Garmento (evidently, off of low class working conditions in the garment industry at the turn of the previous century?), so of course I had to call everyone I who got near our table a Garmento, including myself. Much fun. Got home around 9:30 and watched a Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Very funny. It’s my current fave show and even though it’s “fake news” it always strikes me as an oasis of sanity in a crazy upside down world.

And speaking of sanity, I got this missive this morning:

“I re-read the articles by them two lesbian writers. Nope, still no agenda-advancing, chardonnay-swilling, voting-for-Jerry-Brown editorializing. Readers may disagree with the conclusions that some of Bommersbach's and Saar's sources came to, or that Bommersbach and Saar themselves came to, but both articles are good journalism and
good historical reporting, with evidence provided for every supposition.

“The suppositions may be wrong. True West Magazine may, on occasion, publish something that's later discredited. And historians are always having their theories overturned by new evidence. If history were easy, I'd have majored in it. But for now, I'm damned grateful to True West for taking on a subject that I've long wondered about but never knew where to start researching.

“If the folks who object to the articles are doing so because they contain errors of fact, I wish--and I'm serious about this--that they'd write a rebuttal article and cite their sources. If Saar and Bommersbach are wrong, I want to know. But if they're just shameless hussies, tell 'em to keep it up.”
—Emma Bull

That was a relief, especially after having gotten beat up all week from disgruntled partners, etc.. Got up this morning and hosed out the ‘49. My neighbor Bruce saw me and asked if he could look at the old Ford and I invited him in (he was standing out on the road yelling at me). He oohed and awed about the car, especially the interior. It’s original and very cherry. That’s why I’m so concerned about the pack rats getting in. Bruce also took a look at the open garage (no garage door) and said it wouldn’t take much to close it up.

Today is recycling day so I drove up to the hill behind the post office and loaded out all our paper, cardboard, green bottles, brown bottles, tin and plastic (NO PLASTIC BAGS!) into the specific containers. Ran into another neighbor, Joe Y., who warned me J.D. wants to come down and start up my John Deere. We laughed. J.D. makes such a project out of stuff like this. We’ve got to set a day and a time. He needs to bring his tools down. We have to stand around and spit and tell lies. You know, guy stuff.

“Perils commonly ask to be paid in pleasures.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, November 04, 2005

November 4, 2005
Actually nippy out this morning. Took a quick bike ride up Old Stage Road with the dogs at about seven. Had on a sweatshirt and it was still downright chilly. Pretty morning though. Pink highlights tipped the forehead of Skull Mountain, making it mighty pretty.

After breakfast I bailed into three images for Classic Gunfights. Two scratchboards and a gouache. So-so results. I’m still way too rusty, but I’m on deadline and I can’t dilly dally. Ran everything up to Robert Ray at 11 and he scanned it and is working on the layout even as I type this (1:55 pm).

Waiting for him I ran up to Cowboy Legacy Gallery to drop off a painting that needed to be signed. Big art crowd up in Carefree for a weekend festival that starts today.

I’ve got a speech conflict on December first. George Laibe is setting up a big event in Las Vegas at the SASS (Single Action Shooters) convention on that day. I’ll be the keynote speaker, big book signing and other high roller stuff. As I went to put the date in my daytimer last night I realized I have a speech for all 50 of the Attorneys Generals of the United States down at the Biltmore at 10:30 on the same day. George insisted I cancel the speech, but I had to tell him, "Hey, they’re paying me $500 and I already cashed the check." Now George wants me to see if I can move the speech earlier, and fly to Vegas on a private plane (there goes my $500 fee!). It’s just too important, he says (George is used to working with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, so police escorts and private lear jets are everyday logistics to him). Stay tuned.

Eric from 24-Hour Car Care came out this morning and started the ‘49 Ford. He had to get new spark plug cables because those dang pack rats ate clean through every one! Really irritating. Eric is bugged with me for letting the classic old car get this bad, but I told him he’s not half as bugged as my dad, who’s not even alive, but I can feel his frustration and can hear his booming voice, "You better start taking care of that car, Kid," which is funny because he hated to be called "kid," but he called me kid all the time. Likewise, I call Thomas "cowboy" but that’s equally ridiculous. The cowboy just got a job as a nurse’s aid in a mental hospital in New York City (he started Monday). Kathy and I are having dinner with ex-New Yorkers, the Tumelos tonight. Mrs. Tumelo was instrumental in getting our cowboy the gig.

Speaking of the Big Apple, I just heard from Crown Books in New York about the rumor that our Amazing Tales book has sold out. Maria at Crown Emailed me, "I just got word that a reorder has been placed for New York stores. In the meantime, they got some additional inventory to hold them over until the order comes in, so any stores that didn't have the book in stock should be all set now."

More gay feedback, but I'll spare you that donnybrook until later.

“Progress is not created by contented people.”
—Frank Tyger

Thursday, November 03, 2005

November 3, 2005
Meghan caught a major boo-boo in the spots we cut down at Canyon Records yesterday. In the 60 second spot, I spouted off about the origins of rodeo in the U.S. (culled from the September, 2004 True West on the Roots of Rodeo). I cited the Pecos, Texas rodeo as having been founded in 1883, the Payson rodeo started in 1884 and the Prescott rodeo in 1888, but that Prescott claimed to have the longest continuous rodeo. Meghan heard the spots, went online and discovered that, no, Payson claims the longest continuous rodeo and Prescott claims the oldest “formal” rodeo contest (evidently the Payson and Pecos rodeos were not black tie). Obviously they are splitting hairs, especially since Santa Fe and a couple other towns claim to have had rodeos as early as the 1840s. Still, it looks like Prescott wins, since the Pecos and Payson events were just informal events with cowboys getting together to compete and mostly rope. Ironically none of them, including Prescott, called it a "rodeo" until the 1920s. Prescott called theirs a "Cowboy Tournament." Anyway, we still need to rewrite the spot to avoid the obvious land mines inherent in a spot that will run on ProRodeo Radio. Ha. At least it gives me a chance to work with Jack Miller again and maybe talk him into letting me tell you the Stones stories. George Laibe is booking a "No-Time-Reride" session for next week.

Had an Executive Committee Session at ten with Dave Daiss, Bob Brink and Carole Glenn. Went over some pretty encouraging numbers. We are finally getting some traction in the marketplace and this makes me very happy.

This morning I was contacted by a writer named Coty Miranda who is doing a piece on Marshall Trimble for Southwest Magazine. One of her questions to me was, "Marshall Trimble is a handsome man. Why is his column photo [in True West] SO small?"

My answer: "Because a little bit of the Marshall goes a long ways."

Went home for lunch and tried to finish the Jesse Evans vs. the Texas Rangers artwork, but got nowhere fast. Basically ruined two boards. Very discouraged. Wanted to finish today. Came back to work and talked to Robert Ray about getting an extension on deadline until tomorrow. He agreed. Fortunately, he’s ahead on his work. I’m going to go home early and try to get something good in the can. My problem is basically shifting gears. I get rusty so quickly and it takes me a day or two to get back in gear.

A local legend, Grace Voss Frederick is 100 years old today. She gives tours of her museum in Cave Creek. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been there. It’s only about a mile from my house. You know how that goes. Anyway, when the Arizona Republic asked her the secret to living so long, she said, "French fries and melted butter." Too funny.

Carole offered to send a reply to the person who was angry about our "anti-Christmas" guide. Here’s her diplomatic Email:

"Thank you for your email. I am sorry that you interpreted our Holiday Gift
Guide as something other than was intended. This particular issue goes on
newsstands November 1—Dec 12, 2005. Since it is on stands during
Thanksgiving Holidays to the beginning of Christmas Holidays, we have called
it a ‘Holiday Gift Guide’—it is really that simple.

"We appreciate your Merry Christmas wishes to us and wish you a great
Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"

"Common sense is as rare as genius."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

November 2, 2005
Yesterday morning I bunged my knee on a bike spill on the road in front of my house. Went right down like an old man without a clue. I was looking backwards at the time, checking the road for neighbors with dogs. Didn’t hurt too bad at the time, but last night it really hurt at the slightest movement. Better today.

Met with George Laibe and Mark Boardman at nine this morning to go over our recording session down at Canyon Records. The three of us left the office at about 10:15 and made it down to 33rd Ave and Clarendon (below Indian School) by 11. Met legendary sound engineer Jack Miller (he was the engineer on the Stones’ Satisfaction and Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown, in addition to, Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser, among others). He had some pretty amazing stories to tell, but he requested me not to run them here. He’s a very honorable guy and feels it would be unseemly. Too bad. The Stones story was nasty.

We recorded three spots for ProRodeo Radio, adding Mike Torres’ original guitar creation "Cathouse Melee," which sounded absolutely bitchin’! Mike and I were in rival bands growing up in Kingman: The Exits vs. The Deltones?

After the session I treated everybody to huevos rancheros up at Pepe’s Taco Villa on West Camelback ($33. 59 includes tip). Mark, George and I had a big talk about marketing and the internet. Both guys are predicting a media tsunami coming and are prodding me to act sooner than later. Very convincing those two Boys.

Robert Ray didn’t get the joke on the latest Honkytonk Sue and said so. I showed it to Carole Glenn and she agreed. So, this afternoon I had Gus put in another set of drawings along with a new gag. It’s not great, but hey, she’s not smoking!

"If it bends, it's funny; if it breaks, it's not funny."
—Woody Allen

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

November 1, 2005
I had to fast this morning, so no coffee or food until after my doctor’s appointment at 7:30. Had a blood test and an electrocardiogram. Got into the office at about 7:50, Mark Boardman, George Laibe, Robert Ray and Sue Lambert were already hard at it. That was pleasant for a payroll paying employer to see.

Drove down into the beast at 11:30 to have lunch with Abe Hays. We met at The Town Tavern, a big, clubby, dark wood restaurant at Scottsdale and Doubletree (he bought). I signed 30 of my books for his store and Abe educated me on why Scottsdale can’t land a Western art museum (they’ve blundered four different times, including once with the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody). Abe owns an incredible collection of paintings by Western masters including Maynard Dixon, Edgar Payne, Will James and many others. Abe told me he thinks Bob McCubbin's original photographs in the magazine adds so much credibility to our efforts. Very true.

I don’t know if it’s the new issue, or the moon, or that time of the month, but we have been getting the weirdest and most wonderful correspondence. For example, this came in this morning, scribbled on the back of a reader service card:

“Mr. Bob Boze Bell, Paul Hutton wrote a factual article. Meghan Saar and Jana Bommersbach have a political propaganda to spread. Please fire these two. If it continues, I will cancel.”
—J.C., Northeast, Tennessee

JC also sent a second card:
“Mr. Bob Boze Bell, please stop Saar and Bommbersbach agenda—editorial articles. Besides they left out Bugs Bunny.”

Sam made sure the cards made the rounds in the office. Ten minutes ago, Robert Ray came into my office with a printout of an article that’s going in the January issue. It is a one-pager about Charlie Siringo, written by Meghan. Robert told me he thinks we need to be more specific in our slug heds [where the byline goes]. I looked closely and above Meghan’s name it said in a classic Old West type font: "Not a lesbian." I laughed ‘til I cried. Some staffers got worried because I said I wanted to actually put that in the column. Or, even better, we should put clarifiers on every name in the masthead. Gay. Not gay. Bi. Historically Sealed. You get the idea. It would be so helpful in this contentious age, don't you think?

Here’s a reader who’s upset about our holiday gift guide:"Well I see in the Nov/ Dec issue you people have joined the war against Christmas also. Shame on you, on page 55 you have the 2005 holiday gift guide, too bad, I give Christmas gifts so I can't buy a darn thing. Not once did I see where you wished your subscribers a Merry Christmas, too bad again, but I will wish YOU a Very Merry Christmas and I would bet that Doc, Morgan, Wyatt and Virgil would wish you a Merry Christmas also."
—A reader, Dale Reser, Eutawville,SC

And just when you think the anti-PC crowd is getting a tad obnoxious:
"I think it is too bad that you have to promote smoking just about every issue you have that c--t Honkytonk Sue with a cigarette either in her hand or mouth. I’m a non-smoker, and the kids think that it is gross. So I guess this will be my last magazine if she can’t talk without a fag hanging in her face."
—Bud, Dora, Missouri

Here’s a surprisingly benign missive:
"Can't wait to see your Brokeback Mountain coverage. I missed screenings of the film at Toronto but everyone was raving about it. I want to see it."
—A high ranking media person in New York

And a thoughtful one:
"It would be very petty of the Old West fraternity to read and think about only the history that is written the way they think it happened; even worse if they only read about what they wanted to have happened. .

"I don't know if you mentioned the movie release in this issue, but it might have smoothed things over a little. On the other hand, it might have made things worse! I have never heard of the movie or the actor. Guess I don't go to movies much. I sincerely hope that the staff resignations and one issue that has raised a ruckus does not decrease the editorial staff's desire to offer fresh new looks and discuss topics competitors wouldn't touch."
—Lucinda Parker, Las Vegas, Nevada

What does all this mean? I think the old vaqueros said it best:

"Seize opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind."
—Old Vaquero Saying