Friday, April 21, 2006

April 21, 2006
Dave Daiss is paving the driveway in front of the True West World Headquarters this morning. It was dirt for the past several years, but erosion and drainage problems just made it tough on some people (one of my employees lost his oil pan, not once, but twice pulling out onto Cave Creek Road). Here’s a photo of the project in progress. As I took this I reflected on the fact that we all love the old rugged West (a dirt parking lot!), but, it does come with a price and some amenities don’t look as cool, but they sure are nice. The road out to our ranchito, for example, got paved a couple years ago, and one of our neighbors fought it (and ultimately moved) because as he put it, “I didn’t move out here to live on a paved road!” I hate to admit it, but I like it paved, and we have saved quite a bit on tires (we had 11 flats one summer when it was dirt and rocky!).

Something happened yesterday that really blows my mind. In the first year they ran True West Moments on the Westerns Channel, I got maybe six Emails and two or three letters. In the second year, a couple dozen. Starting last fall, the Email questions increased to several a week, until earlier this year when I started getting two or three every other day. Yesterday I received seven Emailed questions! In one day! We’ve evidently reached some sort of tipping point. Now, some are assuming I have more power than I actually have, like this one:

Hiya!! Bob , Just wanted to see if you had any pull to get “The Rifleman” series on !! Thanks.
—Joe Cottrell

But here’s a taste of what I’m getting:

Dear Bob,
I am an avid Western Channel fan and really enjoy your segment. I have a few ideas, suggestions, whatever, though.

I am interested in hearing about the early western movie stars such as Tom Mix, Wild Bill Elliott, Sunset Carson, Durango Kid, etc. Is it true that Tom Mix died in a fire saving a life? If so, this makes him a hero. Also, would like to hear about lots of other early famous Wester stars. How they became who they were. I would think lots of other people would be interested too.

I am a big fan of your work, but I have to say that I like reading Louis L’Amour novels, because you can really picture what it may have been in old days.
A Western Fan
Mrs. Helen Holt

No, Tom Mix died in a car wreck near Florence, Arizona. Perhaps you are thinking of Buck Jones who died in a nightclub fire when he pulled people out and went in one more time and didn't come out. And yes, that is my idea of a hero. Thanks.

Hello Bob,
In James Michner's novel, Centennial, they were always talking about a cowboy named O.D. Cleaver. I was wondering what they meant by that. Was Cleaver a real person?
—Harry Anderson

I don’t have a clue. Maybe somebody reading this on my blog will.

I saw your segment of a True West Moment where you said that some cowboys who were hanged did actually have their boots taken off their feet or requested to have their boots taken off their feet before being hanged to death. Was there any truth to situations where bandits who held up stagecoaches would also steal the boots and/or socks of the male passengers and force them to walk back to town bootless. I was also wondering if it was true that some women would try to get the boots off their cowboys' feet as a way to keep them from leaving such as prostitutes who would try to get the cowboys' boots off once they got the cowboys in a room alone with them. Also, I was wondering if there was any truth about comparing a cowboy's foot size with a certain portion of his male anatomy. If you do a ‘True West Moment’ on Encore Westerns Channel about these questions, would you please do so ‘footloose’ or without wearing any boots and/or socks on your feet and also let me know when it would air on the channel? Thank you for any response to these questions and requests.”
—Sincerely, Samatha Aldridge from Kansas

Everything you said is true except the part about foot size. You need to double the size to get a true measurement. Glad I could be of help.

I see you on the Western Station all the time. I would like to submit a question to you.
When giving direction, for horse riders, how come it is always in miles? The horses don't know anything about mileage. How do you calculate miles when riding a horse?
—Buddy Camp, Marmora, New Jersey

Excellent question and one I have often wondered about. Actually in the Old West they used a variety of measuring units, "rods" being the one I seem to see most often. In the case of John Tunstall's killing everyone who testified, including Billy the Kid, estimated the distance between the opponents in rods. And you are right, there was a definite inclination to measure distance in how far it would take a horse, as in, "That's about a three day ride from here." But, that said, they did have pretty accurate ways to approximate mileage. For one thing surveyors with their "chains" and transits were tabulating the mileage pretty early on. And most horseback riders knew the gate of their horses and could measure roughly the time it took to go certain distances and extrapolate the miles. There's more, but I'll save it for the show, and if we use it, we'll give you credit. Thanks again for the question.

Hello Bob Boze Bell,
First, I would like to tell you, how much I admire your Artistic Talent. Your Paintings amaze me. I wish the Western Channel could show more of them.

Thanks to you I feel like I am getting my second education, at least about the True West. My question is, What does it mean to ‘Draw to an inside straight?’ I hear this on some of the Western movies, for instance, the Cheyenne Social Club. No one I ask knows, but I am sure this would be in your expertise. Please explain this expression to me.

Keep up the Good Work, & Never neglect your Art.
—Your Friend, Sunny Richmond-Stratford, Oklahoma

Thanks for the high complement. As to your question, I had to ask our resident card shark, Carole Glenn, and here's what she told me: If you're playing poker and you have the makin's of a straight, say a two, three, five, six and seven, you would ask for another card (a draw) and hope it was a four which would make a straight. Thus, draw to an inside straight.

Hi Mr. Bell, On many films about the Old West, it would be dry and a lot of dust when the Cowboy rode into town, but when you seen them ride down the streets it would be mudded, could you tell me the reason for this? Thanks in advance, Bob.

One of the hardest things to do in a movie is keep continuity. A ride in scene may be filmed on a sunny day and by the time they shoot the scenes in town, maybe days, or weeks later, it may have rained. I heard that on the recent The Alamo film it rained and rained and they had to construct high tents, or awnings over the actors, with strong kleg lights to simulate sunshine so they could make up for lost days.

Dear Bob,
Can you tell me why in the movie's they always wear long sleeve shirts
—Billy Armer, Nampa , ID

Great question. In Victorian times everyone tried to cover up as much as possible to shield themselves from the sun. In those days, a tan was considered low class, someone who worked the fields, etc. That's why women wore bonnets, gloves full dresses, etc. They didn't want the sun touching any part of their bodies. The men also tried to keep off the sun as much as possible, thus long-sleeved shirts.

It wasn't until the 1920s, when rich people came back from Europe and being on the beach that the idea of wealth and a suntan gained popularity. All of a sudden someone with a tan signified wealth and the ability to go away for the summer. By the 1950s this fad had spread to the rest of the population.

Today with the knowledge of skin cancer, it appears it might go back in the other direction. That’s why I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt right now. Well, that and the fact it looks cooler. Ha.

“Please tell me something. I have noticed that when a bunch of cow pokes are sitting around the campfire, there are all sorts of equipment: coffee pot, dishes, cups, etc. But when they strike camp, I never seem to see this stuff packed onto any of the horses. How did they do that in real life??
—Loggie (Low-gi) Hull, Houston, MO

Yes, in Westerns the cowboys, who are away from the chuckwagon and the ranch sure seem to have plenty of equipment. This probably stems from a set designer (usually on a sound stage) dressing the scene with stuff that looks cool, and then when the outdoor scenes are shot, nobody wants a loaded down mule stumbling along with a mile-high diamond hitch and pots and pans dangling off it like Sancho Panza after a trip to the market place. No, that detail ruins the bitchin’ scene of a gaggle of cowboys, galloping across the tundra seeking more adventure.

“How we remember, what we remember, and why we remember form the most personal map of our individuality.”
—Christina Baldwin

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