Thursday, September 28, 2006

September 28, 2006
Another chicken coop shift this morning. J.D. and I used a crow bar to loosen joints on the roof beams. Took about five minutes per nail. They were long suckers, pounded in at an angle, then bent on the backside down to the hilt, then painted over. So it took a minute or so to even find them, then a crow bar and hammer to get the heads up off the facing enough to get an angle under them to pull them out. Loaded up the Ranger at 7:45 and brought everything back to our place and stored it all in the tractor garage.

We go to great lengths to get it right in True West and here’s a good example. We are featuring the Ben and Billy Thompson vs. Cap Whitney gunfight in Ellsworth, Kansas for our next Classic Gunfights and we are working with two excellent researchers, Tom Bicknell and Jim Gray. The body copy has a mention of Billy being the older brother of Ben Thomspon. Managing Editor Meghan Saar found this tidbit in Dan Thrapp’s Western Biography series with a notation that many have mistakenly believed that Billy Thompson was the younger brother of Ben. This prompted the following Email from Tom Bicknell:

“Tom Dearden, a lifelong resident of Knottingley, England, who was a grass-roots local historian made the difficult effort to dig through the government records of literally doxens of Thompson families living in knottingley during the 19th century to learn as much as possible about Ben and Billy and their immediate family and other relatives. He determined what was later independently confirmed that Ben was two years older than Billy. I have copies of their English birth certificates and even more importantly I found Ben Thompson's only great-grand child, Mrs. Anne Price Beck of Smithville, Texas, who though the Thompson Family Bible confirms Mr. Dearden's research.”
—Tom Bicknell

Well, for me, that trumps Thrapp (who also was a peerless researcher, but he died more than a decade ago and some, but not many, of his findings have been overturned, this being a perfect example). And as I’ve said before, nothing changes more than the past.

The Top Secret Project
Worked last night on more Apache cheekbones. It’s interesting that many portrayals of Apaches are wrong because the emphasis is on the wrong facial structure. For instance, one of the most embarrassing Native American representations is the big Crazy Horse monument under construction up in the Dakotas. Granted it’s only about half done but, to my eye, it’s all nose and no In-din. It’s ridiculously skewed towards a certain ethnic stereotype. Or put another way, it’s more Harry Cohen than Crazy Horse.

I shouldn’t act too snotty about this because much of it is a mystery to me as well. I do well when I’m copying a photo of an Apache, but to apply the facial structure to something fresh and original (building from scractch) is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

For example, Geronimo is easy (see my gouache below). Check out those ball-bearing cheekbones. I also stumbled across another aspect of portraying Apache skin tone and that is this: modern peoples spend about five percent of their time outdoors, while the oldtime Apaches spent 99 percent of their time outdoors, and their skin went beyond bronze and contained more than a bit of gray in the pigment (refried beings?).

And here's my sketches from last night, with an emphasis on the cheekbones:

The other kind of portrayal that drives me crazy is the muscular, buffed-out Apache, who looks more like Charles Atlas, than Cochise. These representations were popular in the fifties with Frank McCarthy and yes, even Tom Lovell, producing their share of central casting studs who looked like they hung out at Gower’s Gulch, not San Carlos. When The Top Secret Writer and I were at Pastor Guenther’s home he showed us the actual sign-up logs for the Apache scouts, recording their height, weight, etc. More than a few were very short, one of them being four foot seven, and several under five foot. All of them were thin, weighing in the range of 130 to 155 pounds, if I remember correctly.

“I have come to the conclusion that almost no one on earth is lazy. The truth is that the person you call lazy just does not want to do your kind of work; they want to do their kind.”
—Bertha Damon

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