Saturday, December 30, 2006

December 30, 2006 Bonus Blog
Yesterday afternoon, I drove down to Aaron Bros. in Desert Ridge and bought two new sketchbooks ($13.49 each), expensive artboard (300 lb. watercolor paper and Bainbridge 2000 Ruling Mechanical Board, $13.49 and $15.49 each) , mixing tray ($6.99) and gouache tints (Spanish Orange, Payne’s Gray, Burnt Sienna at $3.10 each), five Prismacolor felt-tip-pens ($3.49 each). All for the Top Secret Project Prototype ($153.32, biz account). Came home and perused my completed sketchbooks (I thought there were only three but there are seven!). It was instructive to me to look at them with some distance, as certain sketches really jumped, while most sagged and looked gaggier than a Def-con gobbling greyhound. Of course when I was doing them they all had a certain equanimity, but some were beyond bad and more than a few were decent, and one or two were spectacular and I couldn’t believe I even did them. The trick is to find that place I was in when I did the decent and spectacular ones, and go back there. Easily said. Hard to do. I’ll post some of the winners and losers this next week so you can judge for yourself.

Towards evening last night, I built a fire in the house fireplace utilizing leftover wood from the chicken house. It was wet from all the rain so it took about three tries to get it going. I wanted the house to be snugly for Kathy when she got home. I also washed the dishes (and like most men, I would like a medal, thankyou very much). Kathy got home about six and I got the big, wet kiss and a squeeze in the money pouch area. This made it all worth while. We snuggled in and watched the second Preston Sturges film from the DVD collection I got for my birthday. “Christmas In July” starring Dick Powell was the film. It was better than “The Great McGinty” but still seemed horribly dated and goofy.

I ran into Gregg Clancy at the grocery store and yelled across the meat counter, “Hey, Gregg, did you leave that T-Shirt, ‘Don’t Trust Anyone Over 70’ on my desk last week?” He laughed and admitted he had, adding that his 60th was the day before mine so he and Susan gotme the shirt. Actually Gregg is a T-shirt manufacturer (Strawberry Fields) so it makes some sense. Also, Gregg and I share another common experience. We both worked at Chess King, a hipster clothing chain, at Christown Mall in 1970. As we both stood there, he with a gray beard and ponytail and me with my gray mustache, he told me he didn’t feel sixty. I told him I felt every day of it.

”Anything you're good at contributes to happiness.”
—Bertrand Russell
December 30, 2006
Nice day at home. Lots to report, but will try to catch up after the first. Meanwhile, here's the next two pages of my Mexico Sojourn Sketchbook.

We landed at Creel, on the train at sundown on Wednesday (December 21). It is a high mountain town at over 7,000 feet. It was quite cold as we detrained and we were immediately besieged by aggressive kids trying to get us to stay at the Margarita Hotel. We ended up there but it wasn't because of the kids. We were tired and didn't feel like walking around in the cold dark trying to see where to stay, so when an adult approached us with a ride in a shuttle we accepted. He also was an advance man for the Margarita Hotel. All our reservations about the place vanished as we entered a dorm like dining room-office area with wooden tables and chairs and the pungent smells of homemade chile rellenos being prepared in the kitchen from two Mexican women who could have jumped right out of casting for Viva Zapata. Our room was nice ($40) but had a faulty gas heater and the young man who showed it to us said he would fix it. He also became known as "The Mexican John Lennon" because of his wire glasses and shaggy shoulder length hair.

Dinner was at seven and there were tourists from Australia, England, France and Northern California in the intimate dining room. The windows were steamed and the Mexican server brought hot plates of the best chile rellenos I've ever had in my life (and it came with the room!).

Thomas was thrilled because a pretty French girl named Alex, who we had all met at the Guerrero Hotel in El Fuerte, was also staying at the Margarita and they soon became an item and went off into the night to find "the scene." The next day T. Bell told me they were chatting, over drinks, and she said, "Do you know what we hear about American women?" and T. said no, and she said, "We hear that they drink Coke all day and get fat." And Tommy said, "That's funny, because we hear French women don't bathe and they all have hairy armpits."

"But no!" she protested. "That is not true!" T. smiled and said, "Well, neither is the other one, so be careful what you believe.""

The heater went out three times during the night and we all had visions of being gassed to death. I woke up several times and thought, "Am I dead? I should check on that pilot light, but, perhaps that smell of bean farts with negate the propane."

Yes, it was a ridiculous rationalization, but we lived.

The next day we got a new hotel at Cabana Berte's complete with a classic fireplace for $40 and it included breakfast in the owner's kitchen (my favorite part of the trip, eating in the dining rooms and kitchens of the owner's houses!). I sketched the fireplace in the morning as it crackled and popped cedar logs (lower, left-hand page).

On the right are several scenes we saw outside of Creel, and a bumper sticker on the driver's side door of a Custom F-150 pickup parked by the bus we rode in (Jesus Te Ama). Also, I sketched the church we saw on our Vespa motorcycle adventure, and two kids who were standing on the bus we rode to Chihuahua. We also found real coffee at the Combate Cafe in downtown Creel and that was fun, eating fresh made quesadillas with steaming hot coffee and watching Mexican soap operas. We were the only ones in the cafe and that was a treat as well. We also had many of the other sites all to ourselves, like the hot springs and the river trip. It was like we were the only ones allowed to visit and that was sweet.

"If you're scared, just hollar and you'll find it ain't so lonesome out there."
—Joe Sugden

Friday, December 29, 2006

December 29, 2006
Rained most of the night. Very soggy and cool out this morning. Went into the office about nine. Only Carole, Sue, Sylvia and Bethany in. Everyone else either off or out. We're only working half a day today.

Just completed the last page of my fourth sketchbook last night. This makes 2,829 sketches (six a day) without missing. Need to go down to Aaron Brothers at Desert Ridge this afternoon and get two more sketchbooks. Meanwhile, here's two more pages from our Mexico sojourn. The first page is a continuation from yesterday's posting, this one illustrating the deep chasms in the Barranca Del Cobre (Copper Canyon), drawn from the train window. It really is breathtaking scenery. In our 1996 trip we only went from Chihuahua to Divisidero (The Divide, or top of the canyon) and then back, so we didn't traverse the west side of the mountain, so this was all new to me.

Thomas Charles was The Designated Decider on the trip, and he looked at a map and wanted to check out a side town, Cerocahui, which is about fifteen miles south of the railroad and accessible by dirt road from the train station at Bauchivo. We got off at Bauchivo at about two in the afternoon and found out the next bus for Cerocahui was in two hours but the bus driver pointed to a loaded down F-150 pick-up and said we might hitch a ride with them. Tomas ran to the truck and the driver told us to climb in. The four of us ran and jumped in and survived a bumpy, cold ride up the mountain and down the pass, into the beautiful little valley where Cerocahui lies nestled beside a classic red-rocked, ancient Spanish Church. We tipped the driver $10 (he didn't want to take it but we insisted), then checked out the fancy, anglo run hotel (Inn By The Mission I think it was), but they wanted $250, so The Decider walked down to the plaza and found a little hotel tucked behind a small store, where Maria sold us a clean little room with two Queen sized beds for $76, which included breakfast in her dining room (the bottom two illustrations, on right, were done in that dining room. The left view is of the fireplace and the second is looking into her kitchen and the store beyond).

In the morning we hired a local vaquero, Juan, to guide us, via horseback, up to a nearby waterfall ($60 for four horses, Kathy walked and ran beside us, except for a short stretch where I let her ride my horse, on the steepest part of the trail. She quickly gave me back "my" horse). That was fun and scary (the horses traversed steep switchbacks, jumping over rocks and sliding down rocky slopes). After we checked out we waited for the bus to take us back to the Bauchivo train station. As we sat waiting on the sunny square, I sketched the store across the street from us (right, top).

The "bus" was actually a mini-Nissan van that held eight seats and we felt lucky to get the last four seats. But we were in for Mexican Economy Lesson Numero Quatro . As we barely cleared the square, the driver stopped for more passengers! Where were they going to sit? The driver got out, and started whistling as he walked around and opened up the rear baggage compartment and shoved in the bags of the newcomers, who got in and doubled up in the forward seats, with one guy lying along the door space. We drove another half mile and he stopped again. "No Way!" I thought to myself. Way. As he whistled and walked around the back, the next four people doubled up in the front area (two captain chairs now had five people sitting in them). I think we made three more stops and I stopped counting at 21 passengers. We were packed in like cord wood and by the time we arrived in Bauchivo it was Sardine City and I must say I got to know several citizens of Mexico really, really well. All the way in, I couldn't help thinking of the politically incorrect joke: "Why were there only 5,000 Mexicans at the Alamo? They only had three cars."

Next stop, Creel at 7,000 feet. Those sketches tomorrow.

"Donald Rumsfeld Makes Surprise Visit to Wife's Vagina."
—Onion Day-by-Day 2007 Calendar (gift from Deena)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

December 28, 2006
Sprinkling out, snow up on Skull Mesa. It got very cloudy late yesterday and has been drizzling ever since. We got Tomas to the airport last night at 9. He had a 10:30 flight with a stopover in Detroit and he is expected to land in Philly this morning at 8:30.

We all met at Taco Villa for dinner last night. Jose and Lucy met and hugged us. They have a framed article of me near the door, where I raved about their restaurant (I think it ran in the Arizona Business Gazette last year). I celebrated my fortieth birthday party in the room where we sat and it was somewhat amazing to think that was twenty years ago. Last night I had the Pepe Special, Tomas had the mole, Kathy a bean burro enchilada style and Deena just had beans and flour tortillas. Frank (Deena’s boyfriend) had a machaca burro enchilada style. Oh, and two margaritas and two beers ($68, includes tip, house account).

Afterwards Tomas, Kathy and I drove over to 40th Street and Thomas to see Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. ($21.50 for three tickets). Kath and Tomas liked it better than I did (Kathy gave it an 8, but I noticed she covered her eyes during several of the scenes). Quite gruesome and gory and it’s basically a chase movie with hints of Predator and True Grit (the falling down the well part) thrown in. I also noticed that some of the action scenes had a video tape quality which was jarring (as opposed to film stock). I assume they were saving money and spliced in video? It was co-written by Mel so I must admit having a prejudice against actors writing anything worthwhile (for example I believe it’s not jews, but Australian actors who start all the wars).

Here's two more pages from my sketchbook. The first page (below, left) was drawn in El Fuerte on December 18 and shows the courtyard of the room we stayed in at the Posada Don Porfirio Hotel (bottom, right) and the top, left illustration is of the covered courtyard at the Guerrera Hotel where we stayed the next night ($30 for four!). The next page was drawn on my birthday and shows the train station 10 kilometers east of El Fuerte where we caught the Copper Canyon Express and below are some of the dramatic foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. I don't know if you can read it or not, but each of these pages has our daily expenses, for example, the train tickets were $80 for four to Bauchivio, our next stop. Those sketches tomorrow.

Shirley You Jest
“Interesting item in the newest WOLA newsletter. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum has picked up the Glenn Shirley collection—6400 books, 2900 pulps, nearly 17,000 photos and negatives, and much more.  Also included 30 file cabinets worth of Shirley's research papers. According to the piece, museum supporters raised $800,000 to acquire the collection.  Hell, if Glenn had known it was that valuable, he might have stuck around for awhile longer.”
—Mark Boardman

Back in 1998, I joined the Renegades, a loose group of Old West history enthusiasts, which included Marshall Trimble, John Boessenecker and Bob McCubbin and we did a tour of numerous Oklahoma outlaw sites. We stopped in Stillwater where Glenn lived (and where the True West headquarters were at the time) and got to see firsthand Glenn’s massive collection. He had basically ran out of room in his longtime residence, and he and his wife bought another house across the street, so he could fill the old house with all of his stuff. I remember walking down the halls of the modest tract home and there were boxes and boxes everywhere. The master bedroom was all Oklahoma outlaws, one room was dedicated to the 101 Ranch, and the closed in carport was all movie posters and stills. Even the kitchen was a designated storeroom, and of course there were classic, collectable gems everywhere you looked. Glenn also took us on a personal tour of nearby Ingalls (the Outlaw Town) and showed us where everyone was situated in that amazing battle. The town was long gone and only a trailer house, and a couple wrecked cars remained, but Glenn knew where the streets were and who fired from where. It was a total treat to have the Master walk us through it. (the fight is detailed in Classic Gunfights, Volume I and Gus Walker did a great map of the whole fight, extrapolating from Glenn’s walking tour that day). I’m not surprised at the price his collection realized and only hope his family received the lion’s share.

“Pain nourishes courage. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”
—Mary Tyler Moore

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

December 27, 2006 Bonus Blog
Thomas Charles flies home to Philly tonight. We're taking him to the airport at four, but not before we eat dinner at Taco Villa and see "Apocalypto." Speaking of Tom, he took along "The Conquest of Don Pedro" to read and several times commented he couldn't think of a better book to read in Mexico. Deena is reading it now. Meanwhile, I just got this from the Distinguished Top Secret Writer:

"Forgot to tell you that our Billy the Kid author Harvey Fergusson is also the author of Life of Riley—which was his biggest commercial success and the source of the 1950s William Bendix TV show. Go figure."

I actually remember watching that show. When we got our first Television set in Swea City, Iowa in 1954, that was one of the first shows I think I saw. Amazing. Harvey Fergusson from the Life of Riley to The Conquest of Don Pedro to Who Remembers Billy the Kid. Now that's a stretch!

Came home for lunch and worked on a couple little sunset riders for the Top Secret Project, inspired by the Mexican vistas I witnessed South of the Border. Here they are:

"If you were given a nickname descriptive of your character, would you be proud of it?"
—Jackass McGill
December 27, 2006
Watched an excellent classic movie last night from Netflix. "Le Grande Illusion" from 1938 and directed by Jean Renoir. It's the first prison break movie and you could see mucho influence on every prison break film since, especially "The Great Escape." I was tuned in to this film from Time magazine's five classics you need to see (or some such list). I also made a note to get the six or seven film DVD of director Preston Sturges, and the night before we watched "The Great McGinty", 1940, and it was totally donkey doo doo. Hard to believe he got an academy award for best screenplay. Story was goofy and unrealistic.

Meanwhile, back in Mexico, our friends south of the border often take to certain English words in a big way, and one of those words is "super." As we trained and motored our way across Sonora and Chihuahua I noticed many stores utilizing this word, including Al-super (a grocery store chain), Mini-super, Super Six, Supermax, Super Stop, Mini Super La Esquina and Super Rapidito's Bip Bip (which is a rip-off of Wiley Coyote: in Spanish the letter i is pronounced ee, so it's "Beep Beep." Get it?). Here's a photo of a "super" store which I took on our 1996 trip (artist Ed Mell and his son Carson joined T.Bell and I)

When we got to Creel I thought everything was exactly as I remembered it from the last trip a decade earlier, but by the time we got ready to leave the next day, I finally realized we had not seen any horse drawn carts. Nope. Not a one. When we got home I dug out my photos from the last trip and here they are. Evidently, the locals have all graduated to pick-ups. Notice that all the wagons have rubber tires (which was probably a short-lived innovation).

As we started the trip and got on the shuttle to take us to the terminal in Phoenix, I realized I had forgotten my trusty little digital camera in our car, parked back at the lot. At first I was bummed, but then I made a vow to record as much as I could in my sketchbook. Here are my first attempts, drawing hands as we waited for our plane last Saturday. The next page was sketched on the plane as we flew over Nogales and Magdelena on our way to Los Mochis.

The next day we motored to Playa El Mauri, near the Gulf of California beach town of Topolobampo, with Jesus as our driver. That's a sketch of him in a Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt (below, left). The next day's sketches include these hombres I got as we boarded the bus to El Fuerte and I caught all these vaqueros and paisanos out the window. It was a perfect place to draw. This was in the Los Mochis bus station:

More sketch pages tomorrow.

"Writing is like digging a well with a needle."
—Old Vaquero Writing Saying

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

December 26, 2006 Bonus Blog
We have a new poll up: Are you going to attend the celebration for the Centennial of Oklahoma?

And speaking of history, part of the reason I wanted to go to Mexico and especially the Sierra Madre Mountains is because it’s the setting for a good part of the Top Secret Project. I wasn’t disappointed with the scenery, and I learned a ton about the geography and local fauna. For example, the west side of the Sierra Madres is covered with organ pipe saguaros. Tons of them. I tried to find out what the Mexicans call them (it’s hard for me to believe that they call them “organ pipes” because that is so New England sounding), but all I got was “cactus” and “saguaro” from my river runner hosts in El Fuerte.

And speaking of our host, Jose Luis Pina Acuna, he also has a ranch so I immediately asked him about the tradition of mounting, in other words, which side do they mount from? And he looked at me like I was crazy and said, in Spanish, “the left, of course.” And then he added a funny caveat: “Women mount from the right.” So, I think it’s safe to say that in Mexico, the vaqueros mount from the left, just like the gringo cowboys. I'll have more to say on this later.

Last Thursday (December 21) we hired a guide from Creel named Oscar to take us to Recowata Hot Springs. Oscar loves basketball and baseball so we had much fun talking about sports. Oscar claims the reason Mexico does so poorly in basketball is because the coaches invariably play their relatives and no one else. That was his take on it, which I thought was odd, but Tomas tells me that Mexican family is El Supremo to any and all authority, although we noticed they don't let that get in their way for, say, world cup soccer.

Anyway, on the way back to Creel from the hot springs, I was sitting in the front of Oscar's late model Jeep and as we came into town we met a big F-250 full of borachos (drunks) who pulled out to pass and came right at us. Oscar swerved onto the shoulder of the road and as he did I said, loudly, “Aiy Chihuahua!” And, as Oscar pulled back onto the road he laughed and added, “Aiy Chihuahua, cuantos Apaches, cuantos Indios sin huaraches!”

I couldn’t believe it. Did he really say “Apaches”? And is this a common saying? Or did he just make it up? Oscar assured me that it is a very common saying in this part of Mexico. A day later in the city of Chihuahua I confirmed it when we were on our taxi ride to the bus station and I said “Aiy Chihuahua, cuantos Apaches,” and the cab driver looked in the mirror and finished the saying, “Cuantos Indios sin huaraches?!”

What they’re more or less saying is: “Yikes, how many Apaches, how many Indians without sandals?” Since there are no more Apaches in Mexico to speak of, this saying obviously is a holdover from the 1880s (and several hundred years prior) when Apache raids by Geronimo, Cochise, Juh and Victorio, to name just a few, terrorized the states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Apaches wore calf-high deerskin moccasins, as opposed to the sandals of the locals, thus the play on words and the rhyming (Apaches-huaraches) has carried over to the present day. How thrilling to run across this little known saying and discover it comes from the exact period we are writing about in the Top Secret Project. That alone, was worth the trip.

”If it’s going to be two against one, make sure you are not the one.”
—Old Vaquero Saying
December 26, 2006
I need to knuckle down for the remainder of the year (only half-joking). Big goals looming for next year. I have set a self-imposed deadline for The Top Secret Project prototype to be finished by February one. Backing in my deadlines, I need to have the 10-page-prototype roughed in by this weekend.

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. It is the accumulative weight of our disciplines and our judgments that leads us to either fortune or failure.”
—Jim Rohn

I received a couple great gag gifts for my 60th birthday. On my desk in the office was a T-shirt that has these words emblazened on the front: “Never trust anyone over 70.” And the card, from my friends Gregg and Susan Clancy said, “Welcome to the new sixties!”

“Police Sketch Artist Likes How Portrait of Serial Rapist Turned Out.”
—Onion 2007 Day-By-Day Calendar (Christmas gift from Deena)

“The angel of inspiration favors the hopeful and the confident.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

On The Other Hand
“The writer’s secret is not inspiration, but stubbornness and endurance.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Of course I worry about being too cocky at my age, because. . .

”However decrepit a man may be, he thinks he has another 20 years.”
—Old Montaigne Saying

Monday, December 25, 2006

December 25, 2006
Last night we met at Grandma Radina’s house for Christmas Eve. Lots of fun. Ate too much. Got home at eleven. Big pancake brunch out here at our house this afternoon, or as Tommy calls my breakfast specialty: “Bobbie Cakes”.

Season’s Greetings From Around The World
“$1000 in your penis secret pack???!! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
—Red Dawg, Scourge of the West

“There is no one else in the world who would appreciate this. I am in my Naples hotel room watching MY NAME IS NOBODY on TV and in Italian. It still works. Fly home in the morning.”

“Glad to see that you can still outrebound 8th graders, and that your shooting hasn't improved a bit.”
—Charlie Waters

“Is that Ford a Mexican model or did you mix up Ford and Mercury to end up with a Grand Marquis? Here in' the states' a Grand Marquis is a Mercury. Just curious because I know that in Canada many of the names are different or mixed of what we are used to here.
—Kip Coryea

No, you are correct. It must have been an old Crown Victoria, or as my father called them, “Crown Vickies.”

“Showoff Pallbearer Carries Casket By Himself.”
—Onion 2007 Day-By-Day Calendar (Christmas gift from Deena)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

December 24, 2006
We all arrived home last night at about six, tired but happy.

The Muy Muy Tour
On our family trips we typically stumble onto a saying that sort of sums up the entire experience. For this trip it happened on my birthday (Dec. 19). After a hectic and fun day in historic El Fuerte, Tomas, Deena and I were sitting on the edge of the plaza sharing a flan (pudding meets cake signature dessert of Mexico) watching the local parade of humanity. In the Spanish tradition, the locals congregates in the center of town in the evening, walking around the small park in packs, while the trucks and cars do the same on the surrounding roadway.

As we were sitting and chatting at a sidewalk table, we noticed an old beat-up Ford Grand Marquis rattling and edging out of a parking space along the curb. Some kids had double-parked in the lane next to the Ford, and the driver and his teenage friends were leaning on the driver’s side of the car, checking out the chiquitas lapping the square. Behind them, the ancient Marquis edged out and backed around the right bumper, coming so close the Ford turned the front wheel of the kid’s car. The kids were oblivious to the bump and somehow the Marquis just managed to squeak out, rumbling off down the street in a cloud of Bardahl. Tommy said, “Holy Gyza, did you see that?” And I said, shaking my head, “Yes, es muy Mexicana.”

We all laughed at the absurdity of it, the kids oblivious to the coughing wreck of a Detroit dinosaur pushing out into traffic, and leaving paint on the tires and the curb. It was somehow a moving metaphor for the entire country and for the rest of the trip we had numerous chances to employ our new phrase. When cars would come out of side streets and literally challenge the taxi or bus we were riding in we would look at each other and shrug, saying in unison, “Muy Mexicano.”

On our last full day in Chihuahua we jumped in a cab and told the driver to take us to the bus station so we could buy our tickets for the next day’s journey to Juarez. The mega-terminal was way out on the outskirts of town and after we bought our tickets, the taxi driver shot out into rush hour traffic and angled around cars to get onto the expressway and return us to our hotel. As he headed up the onramp there was a stop sign (alto!) at the foot of the ramp to insure a steady flow of traffic, and our cabbie never slowed down, but simply drove up on the shoulder of the freeway to the left of the stopped car in front of us, and careened onto the crowded freeway, prompting Deena to gasp, “Muy! Muy!” which was, of course, shorthand for our earlier saying.

As we flew home last night, we all laughed and agreed that this was the “Muy Muy Tour.” We had several close calls but we all got out alive with a smile on our faces. What a country! What a trip!

“Nothing dulls faster than the cutting edge.”
—Andrew Weed

Thursday, December 21, 2006

December 21, 2006
Tomas and I rented Vespa motorscooters today in downtown Creel, and scooted out across the Tarahamara Indian country. Of course I had on my penis secret pack and it worked like a charm. Before we left, I heeded the warnings of my compadres back in the states about bandidos in the Sierra Madres, so I had Kathy buy me a special waistband pouch shaped like the Bell family name in which I could store my passport, driver´s license and ten $100 crisp bills. My regular wallet contains about $500 pesos at any given time and is only for muggers, buggers and bees. I have figured, so far successfully, that any Mexican bandit worth his salt is not going to want to frisk me in that spot.

So far so good. The Vespa tour was exhilirating, as we visited the Valley of the Hongas (mushrooms, rocks shaped like big, fat mushrooms). We had to wear matching blue helmets so we looked rather gay, but I was counting on that factor as well with the penis pouch.

Two days ago at Cerocahui, we rented horses and I haven't been on a horse since 1995. We visited a distant waterfall up in the mountains (Barranca del Cobre) and it was a hoot to be horseback on great Spanish ponies, with Mexican saddles and long tapaderos (stirrup guards with long pointed corners).

The food we have been having is just the best. On the Copper Canyon train we stopped in a small town, and ran up a hill to the town, situated on a small bluff. In a small hotel, with a dog in the courtyard, we walked in and said, "We've got 30 minutes before the train pulls out, what have you got?" This was in Spanish, of course, with Deena talking, and the next thing you know we are eating Chile Colorado with homemade tortillas. Just the best. We actually ate at a taco stand in El Fuerte and I had the best tacos I've ever had for one buck. Four of us ate for $11! I could grab off fresh radishes off the bunch, and eat as many as I wanted (4), and everything was so fresh and perfect. Now I know why when you ask a Mexican if he likes the tacos at your favorite restaurant he invariably says, "They are very good, but. . ."

Last night at the Margarita Hotel in Creel, they served us homemade chile rellenos and they were the best I´ve ever had. Truly exceptional.

Our only complaint is they all drink instant coffee! Even the best restaurants, bring out the Nestles jar with hot water. Today we finally found a cafe that serves Comate Mexican brewed coffee and it too was great, because we were so tired of instant.

Tomorrow we head for Chihuahua.

"Hunger makes the best sauce."
-Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

December 20, 2006
This could be weird. I'm in Creel, Mexico on a Mexican computer with a Spanish keyboard and it's taking me minutes to type the above.

Mexico on $300 a day with Jesus as our driver
We flew into Los Mochis on Saturday night and took a $35 taxi ride into the town <(the travel brochure said the taxi would be $5, so that was a nice start. Fortunately, the kids can speak fluent Spanish, so they knew the cuss words to tell everybody off.

We went to the Toplobampo beach on Sunday with a taxi driver named Jesus. He had a dilapidated Nissan junker which he drove at about 35 mph and drove Kathy crazy, but he was such a hoot and I enjoyed calling him Jesus (as opposed to the Spanish pronunciation, "Hay-Suez"). He, in turn, called me "Pancho Villa," so I don't think he suffered any insults.

The beach was fantastico, what Mission Beach in San Diego must have looked like in about 1910. All white sand, three cantinas and maybe 12 people on the sand and in the water.

Travelled to El Fuerte on the bus the next day and got a cheap hotel for 500 pesos ($50), ate excellent tampiquena at Cafe Suprema right off the square. Got into a pick-up basketball game with the local kids at an outdoor, but covered basketball court. Deena got video of it and I'll post it next week. Learned how to say nice shot in Spanish ("Shot Tiro!") and "Bueno passe!" (good pass). El Fuerte is very historical and goes all the way back to 1540. I turned 60 there and only feel half as old as the town, especially after playing full court pick-up basketball. Scored two points, had four assists and 12 rebounds (they were eighth graders), and five unassisted hobbles off the court to catch my breath.

I had to come down on the family. Our budget is $300 dollars a day. We almost made it the first day ($255), but then we slipped back the next day to $197. I told them, Hey, we,re Americans, we can do this! Get out there and spend! Hopefully we,ll do better tomorrow.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

December 16, 2006
Last night’s party at the Brink’s was a hoot and a half. Great food, good wine and lots of laughs. Marshall Trimble joined us and he kept it lively. Dan and Darlene Harshberger came out also, and brought photos of the Tongan wedding. I’m still waiting for the reception photos to post. Kathy ranked it as one of the top events of her life and “most amazing wedding.”

This morning we got up at seven and I made birthday pancakes for the T-Boy. It is actually my birthday (I turn 60 in two days). Got the song and the candle and a DVD collector’s edition of Preston Sturges films.

Tomas and I are making plans for the trip. The girls want to relax and I made Kathy a $100 bet she couldn’t do it, so here we go. Tomas and I are making makeshift, oversized name tags which we will wear across our chests when we drive down to meet Deena. They say: “I am the Decider,” and “I’m with the Decider.” I’ll wear the latter.

This is a backpacking trip so we are going light. One pair of pants, five changes of underwear, no computers, etc. Never done this. We also have no reservations at any of the hotels or even on the train. Goiing totally "res free". Our kids have done this all ove the world, so we are trusting their experience.

In terms of reading material, Tommy is making room for The Conquest of Don Pedro to read on the trip and I asked him to bring my copy of Blood Meridian to reread since it takes place in the area where we’re headed. Speaking of Conquest:

“I just received my 54 cent, hardback, copy of THE CONQUEST OF DON PEDRO that I purchased via it has to be the best bargain I have come across in a very long time! It is a 1954 Literary Guild Club edition, complete with semi-pulpish artwork on the dust jacket, and--better yet--it contains the original Literary Guild "Wings" pamphlet for July 1954 which is totally devoted to Fergusson's novel (also complete with pulpish artwork), I am attaching some poorly done photos of my bargain purchase for you to check out. Haven't had the chance to start reading the book, yet--but am anxiously looking forward to the opportunity. I will let you know what I think of that ending as soon as I get to it!”
—Chris Casey, Maniac #946, Sierra Vista, AZ

More from the road when I can. Hasta.

”Ah’ll Be Back.”
—Ahnuld Schwartz-en-negro

Friday, December 15, 2006

December 15, 2006
Worked almost all day on this month's Honkytonk Sue cartoon. Ended up doing three little gouaches, decent gag (Jackasses and pre-nups) and since I've been doing so many mule studies, the jackass part was a breeze. Getting Sue to look beautiful is harder. She is, of course, a cutie and strains my skills sometimes. I don't know why, but this version of Sue resembles Jessica Alba, to me. Which is not a bad thing:

Went by the Black Mountain Feed Store and bougtht chicken scratch for our eight chickens (we lost one last week, $11 something, paid cash). Hadn't been in there in a year or so. J.D. is going to feed the chickens while we're gone this week. Kelly Augherton is coming up the hill to feed the dogs. Her father Tom, has threatened to buy Peaches a couple sheep for Christmas so she can finally realize her life dream to herd something. Unfortunately for Buddy, he's the designated herdee, or as they used to say on John Ford films, "Buddy, it's still your turn in the barrel."

Tom Bell got stranded in Philly because of fog, missed his connection, so instead of coming in at noon, he's scheduled to arrive at 7:30 tonight.

Tonight is our annual True West Christmas Party at the Brink's home. We're bringing a case of Coronas, and a case of Charles Schwabb (no, wait, that's the financial guy!), well Charles somebody. Not sure what everybody else is going to drink.

The ex-mayor of Cave Creek, Jackie Davis, called me about speaking to the Desert Land Trust in January. She asked me what I wanted to talk about and I said, "Motorcycle Noise, The O.K. Corral & Preservation." Carefree put in a noise ordinance because some of the motorcycles coming up from Phoenix (Cave Creek is a major destination on the weekend) don't have mufflers, and I can hear them at my house (three miles north of Cave Creek Road!). Anyway, it's a big issue out here and I thought it might intrigue some of the Land Trust types.

Packing tonight. We take off in the morning. I'll post one more blog and then it's going to be touch and go for a week. The last time we were in Mexico (2000) there were internet cafes in some of the beach towns, but I'm assuming there are muy more connections, however, as Charlie Waters put it as he wished us a safe trip:

"After all, it's still Mexico."
—Charlie Waters

Thursday, December 14, 2006

December 14, 2006
Working hard on finishing all of my March issue work before tomorrow when T. Charles flies in from Philly. We're going to Taco Villa, then to Mother Radina's, then Saturday morning we're flying to Mexico for a week. We've decided this is a backpack trip, so we are not taking our computers. If I post it will be in The Casa de Puta, or some such Mexican place of pleasure.

Sorry, rather Borat-ish of me.

We've got a New Poll up: Are you planning to participate in next year's celebrations of the 125th anniversary of Jesse James' death?

Oh, and here's a pretty cool mule missive I got last week, but forgot to run:

In the Worthless Information department, on mules.
I once stumbled onto a horse & mule show at a county fair in Colorado. The highlight of the night was a mule costume class. Among the entries:

1. A tall lean native looking fella, in jeans, boots, big black hat but NO shirt, driving a big sorrel mule hitched to a mold board plow. Very authentic looking.

2. A Electric Cowboy take-off, only with sombrero and serape on a nice paint mule, all lit up with twinkly lights.

3. My pick, but not the top prize winner, probably not pc? Big burly fella with a big bushy beard riding his big mule side saddle on his regular western saddle. Attired in big old well-worn hat and everyday boots, but wearing a red evening gown with appropriately stuffed bosom, skirt hiked to show off his hairy leg. Leading a donkey with a placard over its back that read "Everybody needs a little ass sometimes."

The other entries, several pretty girls riding their "niceer" mules were interesting and entertaining but not as much so as these three.
—Sharon Tally

Robert Ray jammed and slammed with me on the Dalton Gang Classic Gunfight. I finished four more small gouaches, including this one, "Bob Dalton Shoots" which I mentioned yesterday about Bob taking out eight train guards all by his lonesome, firing through a coal shed and hitting three of them. Pretty amazing shooting.

Speaking of playing with guns, I read a great interview with Jimmy Kimmel and Amy Silverman in the new Esquire. Jimmy's mama is a hippie and she raised Jimmy not to play with guns and she wouldn't allow him to have one when he asked for it. So Jimmy went out and bought his son the biggest toy gun he could find. See, this is how the world works. My grandfather, Carl Marvin Bell, had an Indian belt-drive motorcyle in about 1911, and he terrorized the farmers all over Winnebago County, Iowa, scaring and stampeding teams of horses and impressing those big-boned Norweigan gals. But he didn't hear a train coming near Lakota and as he tried to go across the tracks he finally saw the train, laid that Indian down and just missed dying. Messed up his leg. So, Carl swore off "sickles" and when his son, Allen P. wanted a motorcylce, Carl refused, saying they are too dangerous and predicting young Allen would someday thank him.

Instead, Allen P. had a son, and he bought this spoiled kid a Mo-ped when he turned 14 and a Honda 50, the next year. The kid graduated to a Triumph Tiger 500 and even raced them for a short period until a nasty spill on the sweeper of Eastside Cycle Park near Wilmot and Davis Monthan Air Base. The shaken kid walked away with one nasty "strawberry" on his butt and the belief that sickles are too dangerous. So the kid sold his Tiger and grew up (recently) and had a son, Thomas Charles and when T. turned fourteen he asked his dad for a motorcycle and the dad said, "No way! Too dangerous! Some day you'll thank me!"

And the last time I talked to Tomas he told me that as soon as he gets a son, he's buying him the biggest motorcyle he can find.

Amen. Repeat til' hell freezes over.

"I've got yer two-stroke, right here!"
—Old Iron Hog Saying

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

December 13 Bonus Blog, 2006
With the funerals I have attended in the past month I have been feeling somewhat agitated about our mortality. I started making a concerted effort the last two weeks to contact the people I love and tell them just that. My father’s older sister, Doris (Bell) Jones, 85, is in an assisted living facility in Osage, Iowa and when Minnesota Mike and I drove through there several years ago I stopped and brought her some flowers. Her son Michael and I were always pretty close (we made 8mm movies together on Grandpa Bell's farm, most famously, at least in family circles: "The V2 Rocket Farm."). Recently Mike forwarded me a joke and I sent back an Email asking about his mother and for him to send me his mother’s Email address at the Lutheran Home. He did and I sent my Aunt Doris the following Email last week:

Dear Aunt Doris,
Mike contacted me this week and we are going to try and get together over Christmas out here in Arizona. It was fun hearing from him.

He tells me you are as sharp as ever and that doesn't surprise me. Hope you have a nice Christmas season. Our family is going to Mexico from Dec. 16 thru the 23rd. Our kids are bi-lingual and we all love Mexico. We're taking the train from Chihuahua up to Divisidero and Copper Canyon then down the Pacific slope to Los Mochis and the Gulf of California.

On Monday I received this Email from Mike:

“Bob, my mom died last night. She received your recent e-mail, which we discussed about 2 hours before she died. She finished her Christmas cards, and went to bed. She was dead about 20 minutes later. The funeral is Thursday 11 am. I am trying to get in touch with Glen and Claudia."
—Mike Richards

Let's see, who else do I need to contact, and more importantly, who should you be contacting?

“Life is a short ride, so don’t dilly on the dally.”
—Old Vaquero Saying
December 13, 2006
Got up early and finished a gouache painting of "Dead Men Riding," which is how I perceive the Dalton Gang as they rode gamely towards Adair, Oklahoma for their last successful raid. Riding some eight strong virtually everyone in the horseback group had one thing in common: they all stopped bullets in the coming months. Only one of them survived into old age, and he himself stopped 23 bullets at Coffeyville. I'm tempted to say, "Those poor Bastards," but it's a life they chose and it was a poor choice. Mother Dalton, on the other hand, had some fifteen kids and some say, considering the odds, only four of her sons became outlaws and the rest of the family turned out rather fine. Now, if you ask me, that is the definition of a "Poor Bastard."

Robert Ray is laying out the piece. Gus Walker did a sweet map of the Dalton's Oklahoma raids and I've got three more small illustrations to complete tonight. One of Bob Dalton shooting the lights out on the nine man train guards who holed up in a coal shed and Bob clipped three of them (through the walls!) in no time, completely taking the fight out of them. Bob tried the same thing at Coffeyville, killing three townsmen, but he ran into Death Alley and got caught in a shooting gallery and took one in the chest from Isham's Hardware Store, where Coffeyville citizens were handed free rifles and told to have fun. Bob "died game", then told his younger brother, Emmett, to do the same, but although the young Dalton took a shotgun blast to the lower back, he not only survived but lived out his life, game, in California, where he "advised" the movies and became a celebrity. Kind of turns karma on its pointy head, no?

In the staff meeting Monday Trish Brink raved about Jolyn Gagnon, who manned (or should that be personned?) our booth at Cowboy Christmas in Vegas last week, handing out some 6,000 source books, sold subscriptions, got flyers out and did us all proud. Good help is hard to find and we're trying to find a job for Mrs. Gagnon. She really impressed us with her attitude and pro-active efforts. It's so rare these days.

Spent an hour this afternoon and wrote notes of thanks to some of our top contributors and enclosed a bonus check for each of them. We aim to be a good company and one of the things that's essential is to thank the people who make it happen day in and day out.

I had lunch with Wonderful Russ and Mad Coyote Joe down at the Keg Steakhouse yesterday ($59, Russ bought). Lots of laughs and I told Russ that Charlie Waters thought yesterday's post about his antics at the Excaliber Hotel was one of the funniest blogs he's ever read, and Charlie went on to say that Russ is funnier than many of today's highest paid comedians and we had a long talk about how Russ doesn't regret his choice to go into real estate instead of stand-up. I actually agree with Charlie, and at one time I told Russ he could have his cake and eat it too. I suggested he be "The Angriest Real Estate Agent In The World," and although Russ agreed it was a funny concept, he didn't have the energy to put into it. Unfortunately, Lewis Black has usurped that angle, and done quite well with it, but it's still interesting to wonder what would have happened if Russ had run with it. Still, funny is funny and it's hard to top Great Big Wonderful.

Just as a follow-up to the episode I shared yesterday, after we left the jousting arena, Russ walked through the casino holding the photo (posted in yesterday's blog) and would stop people (mostly from Iowa) and say, pointing at the photo and me, "This is a photo of Bob Boze Bell," and the people would look at the photo and then at me, and kind of go "So?", and then Russ would put his hand up under the photo and let his forefinger dangle down and he'd add, "You can't see his penis in the photo but it would be about right here," indicating his wagging finger. One guy in a fisherman's hat, looked at Russ in complete horror, and scrinched his neck back like a turtle and attempted to wiggle behind his wife (the casino was very crowded). Another zane moment and another new friend for Russ.

Later at the Mirage, we were given a tour of the shark tanks but they were all empty and it was in the middle of the night, but as the tour guide walked us by giving his usual speech, Wendy, Russ's wife said, "Look Russ, a microphone." Russ jumped up on a small amphitheatre stage and turned on the mike (we couldn't believe it was on!) and started in, "You're dazed, confused, trapped in a world without time. . ." He did almost the entire Twilight Zone intro, booming out into the night. I say almost because security came and suggested he stop, and he eventually did. One of things that makes this so funny to me, is that there is so little humor in Vegas. All those dealers, bouncers and pit bosses must have had humor bypasses to work there, and of course, that makes it even funniier when Russ messes with them. There's more, but I'll save you the stitches.

"Cheney Urged Not To Work Blue During Convention
—Onion headline

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

December 12, 2006
Coldest day yet. Met Joe Yaeger on the road and he's from Kansas and when he says, "Kind of nippy out here," you know it's cold.

Dan Harshberger's sister Charlene, found another photo of Dan and me in their mother's belongings. This one is dated 1961 and shows Dan and me on my brand new Montgomery Ward Mo-ped. That's Dan on the back and yes, he's either goosing me, or hanging on to the crappy seat I'm sitting on. As Dan mentioned in his accompanying Email, "check out those Chuy shaped New York flattops!" Chuy was the haircutter everyone wanted in Kingman and it cost $2 to get the bitchin' flattop style. Amazing

Speaking of old friends, if you've ever wondered what my friends really say behind my back, check out the following link:

Wonderful Russ wrote it, and gives me a ribbing for always trying to get him to, as he puts it, to visit "dirt clod" sites. That's his term for anything Old West. Ha.

One of my favorite memories of Great Big Wonderful, as we call him, happened in Vegas back in the late eighties. Reid Reeker, our general manager at KSLX radio station, treated the whole staff to a Christmas party in Vegas. The station paid for our flights on Southwest and got us rooms at the brand new Excaliber Hotel. If I remember correctly, Russ was in a tough spot at that time. He hadn't started his mega-successful real estate business, or it wasn't off the ground yet, so I gave him $15 and told him to go play blackjack. He went over to a $5 table, played a hand and won, then the dealer blackjacked and got 21 the hard way and as they scooped up Russ's last chip, he stood up and yelled, "What is this, some kind of Mafia deal, where you let us win, then you suck us in and take all our money?!" Pit bosses from a mile away descended on the table and we just managed to explain ourselves ("we do a morning radio show and it's about humor!") get him clear.

Later we were treated to a big dinner downstairs in the big jousting arena. While we were fed Rennaissance fair fare, different knights and magicians came into the arena and entertained us with fighting and jousting and cool stunts. Our waitress made the mistake of encouraging Russ to root for "our knight" who was wearing purple to match the section we were sittting in, which was also purple. No sooner had the waitress left, than our knight got into it with a red knight and the purple knight got unhorsed and was fighting for his life right in front of us. Russ stood up and boomed out, " You f#@king A#*hole, stop that! You are going to hurt someone!" The waitress ran over to us with a panicked look. "Not like that! Not like that! It's just pretend," she kept pleading at the same time pushing her hands downward to convey lowering his voice. But the cat was out of the bag and Russ continued to implore all the knights to "get along" and stop all this "needless fighting." It was classic Russ and we all laughed until we cried.

Believe it or not, a photographer came over and asked us if we wanted to commemorate this momentous event and we said yes, and here is a photo of Kathy, me, Russ and Wendy taken only moments after the big outburst. Russ later admitted he doesn't remember much of the dinner, but it is a Zane Moment I will never forget.

"When we realize we're all mad, then the whole world suddenly makes sense."
—Mark Twain

Sunday, December 10, 2006

December 11, 2006
Got downright chilly yesterday afternoon, windy with clouds coming in. Welcome to Arizona! If you don't like the weather, stick around for fifteen minutes.

Decorated the Christmas tree at about six. Had fun finding all the kid's ornaments. T. Bell's footprint at age one. Considering he wears a size 13 today, it's lucky we got the little clay piece then, becaue if we did the current size it would topple the tree. Ha.

Rashomon And Another Take On The "Truth"
“Speaking of portraying on film multiple versions of an event, wonder what Kurosawa would have done if he had made a movie of the OK gunfight . . . including the ghosts of Tom, Frank and Billy testifying through a medium at the Spicer hearing? oooweee!"
—Gus Walker, The Mapinator

Yes, believe it or not, Jeff Morey, Allen Barra and I had that exact same idea back in about 1995 and we were going to apply Rashomon to the aftermath of the O.K. Corral. Like many good ideas it never materialized, but I still think it could make an excellent drama. And speaking of good drama. . .

A Surprisingly Sexy Side to Mr Fergusson’s Writing—In 1956!—Proving Explicitly McCubbin's Point About Harvey's Excellent Portrayals of Spanish Women
“The better he came to understand these people the more clearly he saw that he must address himself to the men and leave the women alone. For these were a highly erotic people with a strict morality, which was always violated, a pious people who sinned with passion and confessed and repented with passionate sincerity. Unmarried girls were guarded with firearms and sometimes locked up for safekeeping with ferocious dogs, but the boys and girls of a village nevertheless contrived to explore the wonders of love at an early age. . .Men were always ready to fight for the purity and fidelity of their wives, yet adultery had almost the status of an institution. Husbands had to be much away from home and wives were sly and cunning. . .Desire was not to be denied, and without sin how could there be repentance and divine forgiveness? To these people sin and repentance were the drama that kept faith alive and life exciting.”
—page 57

“In Santa Fe on summer nights he used to sit in the plaza. Every Saturday evening a Negro band belonging to the American Army gave a concert, and this event was perhaps more appreciated by the populace than anything else the conquerors had done. The whole town turned out to hear the music. The rich and exclusive came in fiacres and coaches, the old crowded the benches, and the young promenaded around and around the square, the men going one way, the girls the other, as is customary in all Mexican towns. If a man turned and walked with a girl and she permitted him, it meant they were affianced. But challenging glances and even quick words could be exchanged in passing without hazard of matrimony. Saturday night in the plaza was a mass flirtation. All the town’s most gorgeous prostitutes were there, as well as its finest ladies. The air was filled with the squeal and giggle of feminine excitement, with the perfume of feminine presence.”
—page 59

“. . .one woman did repeatedly capture his eye. She was a large handsome woman of indeterminate age, with a fine brown skin, heavy black hair and a deep bosom. She had the gliding walk of an Indian and also the perfect bearing. She might have carried a cup of water on her head without spilling a drop. She wore always a blue cotton dress, very clean and starched, a black silk shawl and her costly earrings set her apart. So, even more, did her strange manner, for she never looked right or left, never smiled and never greeted anyone. Proud and self-contained, she moved through the crowd as though it had not been there. . .then one evening she turned her head and looked him full in the eyes. She did not smile or nod, just gave him a long cool stare and went her way, but she nevertheless gave him the feeling that he had been chosen, for he had never seen her look at another human.”
—page 60

“Almost all of the old families had Navajo slaves and Navajos caught as young children became good Mexicans, but those past puberty were often untamable. This girl fought her captor like a wildcat, and he had great sport subduing her to his desire. So the girl Dolores was born of rape and nursed on hatred. That was her legend.”
—page 61

“It was a moonless night and the narrow dusty Acequia Road was dark and wholly deserted. It ran beside the great ditch that irrigated the gardens and orchards of the town and he could hear the swift current gurgling along behind its covert of willows. He found the footbridge she had crossed and saw the apple trees beyond and that was all. There was no light! He stopped, feeling at first as simply disappointed as a child denied his candy, and then a righteous anger against this woman who had fooled him. Obviously, she was not even there. He was about to turn away, but on second thought he decided to go and knock on her door, just to make sure. The door, to his surprise, stood slightly ajar. He knocked on it and stood listening, but heard no sound except a faint breeze in the apple trees. Something strongly impelled him to push the door open and enter. He stepped into solid darkness and a silence in which he could hear his own quick breathing. Then, after she had enjoyed his suspense for a full minute, he heard her laugh softly. He did not say anything but went groping toward the sound with slightly tremulous hands. She had made down her pallet and lay there naked, and when he put his hands upon her she did not laugh any more or say a word, but when he had stripped and mounted her she made a continuous guttural sound deep in her throat. It seemed to have in it nothing of her usual voice or of any human voice but to be a subhuman music of desire, of the pure and innocent lust that is common to man and beast. Between their embraces she lay silent, and when finally she spoke it was in her usual crisp and positive way, as though she had come out of a trance or up from some abysmal depth of abandon to resume her personality.

“‘Put on your clothes,” she told him firmly. ‘I may commit carnal sin, for the flesh is weak and God will forgive me, but no man has ever seen me naked and none ever will.’

“‘I admire your principals,’ Leo said.

“When she it her candles she was dressed from neck to ankle, but her hair, heavy and black as a mustang’s mane, hung loose and wild to her waist. She looked remarkably pretty, Leo thought, and more than ever like a witch. She sat down and began deftly combing and braiding her hair, putting it all in perfect order, serenely repairing the damage of her fall from grace. She smiled at him broadly.”
—page 66-67

“Don’t you know? That is Dolores Pino. She is a witch!”
—Eusebio Velarde, a character in The Conquest of Don Pedro
December 10, 2006
Still cool out, but afternoons are sunny and warm. Very patented Arizona weather and delightful I might add.

Kathy and I spent most of the morning going over the Bisbee Budget. Here's our problem in a nutshell: no matter how much money we make, the debit part of the tracking manages to be more than the income side. And this is where our different philosophies come into play. I say, "Well, I need to sell more paintings," and Kathy says, "No, you need to stop buying $650 custom-made boots and taking boo-koo trips to New Mexico to play with your friends!" I hate that logical side of women. What is their problem? Can't they see that bitchin' boots and essential fact-finding trips to New Mexico are essential to the mental well-being of a selfish only-child who refuses to listen to reason? Oh yes, she gets that loud and clear. Just to appease her I sent back one of the boots.

Not really.

We switched to Directv a couple weeks ago (saving $12!) and I finally got to see the Akira Kurosawa classic film Rashomon on the Independent Film Channel yesterday afternoon. Of course, I’ve heard about this famous film for years and years so it was a treat to finally see for myself what all the hub-bub is about. The tracking shots and black and white cinematography seemed quite advanced for 1950 and the multiple versions of the crime told from the different points of view (even the dead husband is channeled through a wacked-out medium!) still worked. Of course, some of it was goofy, and didn’t hold up, but all in all a visual treat. And yes, it was Chris Casey who informed me he didn’t think it was filmed at Old Tucson (it’s listed as being filmed there in the Film In Arizona catalogue we have at the office), and Chris is absolutely right. Nothing even hinted at being filmed at Old Tucson. And speaking of Chris. . .

“I had heard about the book, THE CONQUEST OF DON PEDRO, from the late Glenn Shirley when I lived in Stillwater, OK a few years ago. I had always meant to track down a copy; but, to be honest, the book sort of slipped my mind until I read about it on your blog. So, I immediately jumped over to to see if I could locate a copy....and would you believe it? I found one for a mere 54 cents....hardback!! Can't wait to get it and read it!

“And, oh yes...Your Mule sketches are, indeed, outstanding, amigo!”
—Chris Casey, Maniac #946, Sierra Vista, AZ

And For You Chris, A Little Taste
“Santa Fe was then a boom town. . .and the air was full of dust, bilingual profanity and the deadly crack of bullwhips. At night the town was a flower of sin and passion. . .there were bailes every night where soldiers and Mexicans danced with brown-skinned girls on the sanded floors. . .every soldier seemed to have a Mexcian girl. It was the common joke of the post that to learn the language you had to sleep with your dictionary. Coming home one night Leo saw a soldier and a Mexican girl grappling on the ground in the dark plaza, and the gutteral fury of their desire left him shaken and disturbed. The place seemed overcharged with youth and energy, with passions endgendered by the sudden conjunction of two races, erupting into lust and battle, as though conquerer and conquered struggled violently to become one.”
—Harvey Fergusson, The Conquest of Don Pedro

How do I tell Kathy that I need to make another research trip to New Mexico to see if I can find the soldier and chiquita in the above paragraph? And speaking of stubborn mules, I’ve got several mule oriented set pieces going in the studio with my mule reference spread out everywhere. I’ll post some of those in the next few days.

“He who reigns within himself and rules his passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.”
—John Milton

Saturday, December 09, 2006

December 9, 2006
About a month ago (Nov. 15) I made a list of my weakest drawing skills as it relates to The Top Secret Project. My logic being one cannot improve if one doesn’t know where to put effort. Here’s the list of my weaknesses in terms of rendering:

• hands There are some forty bones in each hand, and they are extremely hard to draw, especially in action, or in foreshortened situations, like holding a pistol which is pointed at the viewer (Where do all those knuckles go?!). When I was a freshman at the University of Arizona (1965) we had a Fine Arts teacher, Mr. Scott, who would come around behind us as we drew and sometimes yell out, “Platypus Hands!” which is unfortunately what most artist’s attempts look like. Pudgy, cartoon-like goofiness. More than one girl student ran crying from the room. He was definitely Old School, and was subsequently pushed out of the college for being such a Brute, but I learned more from him than any other teacher I had. However, in spite of his excellent instruction, hands are still a definite challenge, and I need to work on it if our story is going to be convincing. The new Lone Ranger comic has a scene of the Ranger pointing a pistol out at us and I took one look at it and yelled out, “Platypus Hand!” Several employees walking by my office shook their heads in dismay, but I knew what I was talking about.

• eyes The liquid pool around the pupil is not white! In fact it’s everything but white! The Old Masters tended to put strong grays in there and it certainly helps when you add the glistening highlights. In fact, I've been studying and copying them to some good efffect (thanks for the great poster references Fred Nolan!)

• ears An extremely complicated terrain with bumps and rippling plains of pinkish skin that picks up light in extraordinary ways (it gets bright pink and translucent when sunlight hits it), and is maddeningly different on every person! One of my cartoon heroes, Gus Arriola (Gordo) eventually eliminated the inner ear squiggles that most cartoonists put in, because he believed it subtracted from the visual shorthand needed to convey emotion. I tend to believe him, although in realistic rendering one needs to find a happy medium. I’m currently looking hard at everyone's ears, so if you find me staring at you in traffic or at the office party, it's not a gay fetish thing (honest!)..

• holsters Very few artists get this unique and complicated piece of equipment correct—of course, Remington and Russell being the exceptions. The Mexican loop holster is an intricate booger and reflects light in very specific ways, and seen at a distance, the shine of the belt, with bullets on top is confusing (to me) and kicks my ass every time. I need to take the time to study the effects and get it right, rather than continue to muddle through and fake it.

• horse legs Horses have very unique veins and knobby protrusions running down their hind legs and when they are moving in a trot or lope, it’s extremely difficult to position them correctly, especially when a horse is coming straight on. Most artists tend to hide the fourth leg (I know I do) because it gets too crowded in there and muddies up the effect of the run. This is also why most cartoonists from Disney to the Simpsons only use four fingers on a hand (it's too hard to draw five and viewers don't seem to notice or mind the exclusion).

So, that said, I added a new item to my morning regimen today. I carried my sketchbook under my arm on my bike ride, and stopped on the way back at Barro’s horse farm and sketched the legs of every reddish horse in the joint. Got some good stuff which I’ll post later.

Harvey Fergusson Excerpt De Jour
“Lying quiet he became aware of the voice of the valley, which was mostly a hum of bees, a droning of locusts and a soft chuckle of water over a sandy bed. It was like a lullaby sent to soothe him. He was full fed, supremely relaxed and comfortable. In moments such as this he always felt at home on earth, even though he was a homeless man, and at peace with himself, however difficult his fellow beings might become. What more could a man ask of life? But he knew he was now asking something more, and something other than peace. Otherwise he would not be here, camped on the edge of a settlement like an invader waiting the moment to strike.”
—Harvey Fergusson, The Conquest of Don Pedro

”You could trust him with anything but a woman.”
—Harvey Fergusson, The Conquest of Don Pedro

Friday, December 08, 2006

December 8, 2006 Bonus Bonus Blog
Went home for lunch and worked some more on salvaging images from my morgue. Here's a very dynamic image of La Gata (below, left) I created back in 1987. This is before I discovered scratchboard and it's strictly black ink on white board. It's the story of a post-apocalyptic hispanic biker chick who likes to kick radioactive-suited patootie. My radio compadre Jeanne Sedillo (radio consultants forced her to change her handle to "Sedello," lest someone actually think she was hispanic! This was long before she joined our show) posed for this at Ed Mell's studio. The destroyed freeway background was copped from the I-10 stack that was just being built at that time and I got some great photos of it. I still think she'd make a great movie. On the right is a Texas Rangers Riding The River painting that also has some decent potential. "Mister Unstoppable" Dave Daiss rode his horse around his yard for this image. Nice glow on the badge. May need to buckle down and finish this one:

I've talked about it before, but my sordid, lost years as a honkytonk drummer is a story I someday want to tell in a graphic novel. My son Thomas Charles posed for a series of images and this scene grew out of that photo sesssion (nice paradiddles Tomas!) And oh, the scenes of violence and debauchery I saw from this position on drum risers and in VFWs and Moose Lodges and honkytonks all over the Old Pueblo:

"One of the secrets to a happy life is continuous small treats."
—Iris Murdoch
December 8, 2006 Bonus Blog
I have a morning ritual. Kathy brings me coffee and half a banana at 6 a.m. and I sit up in bed and study the sketches from the previous day, which I had placed against the bedroom fireplace beyond the foot of the bed the night before. After trying to determine what works and what doesn't, I get up at 6:30, let the dogs out the front gate and walk out to the end of the road and get the paper, come back into the studio and turn on the computer, bring the paper into the kitchen, put a cinnamin-raisin English muffin in the toaster and a packet of Quaker Oats oatmeal in a dish with milk and put it in the microwave for 1:25 minutes and sit down to read the paper. In addition to the news, I'm looking for interesting photos that might stimulate me in terms of my art. Here's a good example from yesterday's Arizona Republic. It's a dog photo (below, left), which was in the community section and I believe encouraging dog adoption, but I was struck at the cool design with the dog coming out of the shadows, into the light with his forepaw extended just above the ground. That led to the following sketch (below, right):

And those sketches led to the following sketches (the bottom two are inspired from John Ford's Rio Grande which I captured from images off my computer screen for art reference):

"He was louder than a jackass makin' love in a tin shed."
—Old Vaquero Saying
December 8, 2006
I’m still processing the ending of the book I finished the other night. I found it realistic, but somewhat irritating and I didn't want it to end where it did (which is often the sign of a great book). And speaking of which:

More Important Data On Harvey Fergusson
“Even more importantly he wrote the 1925 American Mercury article (that begins "Who Remembers Billy the Kid?") that perfectly foreshadows Burns' book in terms of thematic content. I feel certain Burns read the article and it inspired him to write Saga. Fergusson's Billy article is central to the 20th-century explosion of the Kid legend.”
—Distinguished Professor Paul Andrew Hutton

Amazing. Paul had told me he found this magazine article that predates Walter Noble Burns’ Saga of Billy the Kid, but I didn’t put it together with the author of The Conquest of Don Pedro. Kind of makes one believe that everything here on this planet is connected, doesn’t it? And just to underline that premise, Hutton is currently curating a huge Billy the Kid show that will premiere next May at the Albuquerque Museum.

Not So Random Conquest Excerpt De Jour
“. . .he plucked a bunch of grass over beside the edge of the bosque, dipped it in the water and rubbed the sweating hide to a smooth coolness. The burro turned his head slightly, as he always did when he received this attention, as though to express an incurable surprise. Perhaps no other burro in the long history of New Mexico had ever been treated with such distinguished consideration. Burros were the pack and riding animals of the poorest Mexicans and they had always been objects of abuse, execration and neglect. A burro rider used neither saddle nor bridle. He sat well toward the rump of his mount, guided him by whacking him on the side of the neck with his burro stick, and propelled him forward by a steady pounding of his rear, and by calling him all the eloquent names known to Spanish profanity. When his day’s work was done a burro was turned loose anywhere and picked up his living as best he could, eating weeds, brush and even cactus when no grass was available. Yet a burro was seldom thin and many observers had noted that a dead burro was a rare sight. Burros were not immortal but they did live to a great age, and they were peculiarly immune to accidental casualty and resistant to exploitation. In the service of mankind most burros seldom exceeded a slow walk, but let one of them smell a mountain lion and he would pass anything slower than a frightened jack rabbit.”
—Harvery Fergusson, The Conquest of Don Pedro

”He was grinnin’ like a jackass eatin’ prickly pear.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, December 07, 2006

December 7, 2006 Bonus Blog
Cave Creek cowboy Russ Garrett came by and took me to lunch at El Encanto at noon today. I hadn't been there in months. Sat out by the pond. Beautiful day to sit outside. Linda was our waitress, and she told me this is their slow time. I had the machaca and eggs and Russ had a taco and enchilada ($19 plus $5 tip, I picked up the tab because Russ told me of a tire place that will drive out and fix my John Deere tire!). He has a John Deere and does odd jobs. Put an ad in the paper and gets calls. He loves it. Russ is the guy who hooked me up with the mule owner, Denny Haywood. Russ has nine grandkids and four great-grandkids. He used to live in Stillwater, Oklahoma which is where True West was for many years. Over lunch he told me many horse stories and in fact, told me, shaking his head, that horses have probably held him back in life. He went on to say he is an expert at buying horses, just not very good at selling them (he also told the old joke that horses are like potato chips: you can't have just one).

I should have known that when it comes to books, one blog reader would not only know about the obscure book I just read, but would know all his other titles and his sister! To wit:

"Marshal has good taste. The Conquest of Don Pedro has been one of my top favorites since I first read it. All of Harvey Fergusson's novels set in the Southwest are very much worth reading...Wolf Song, Grant of Kingdom, and In Those Days especially. He is really good at his portrayal of women...particularly Spanish women. Harvey was the sister of Erna Fergusson, who I imagine you have heard of, and whom I visited in her home in Albuquerque. She died in 1964. I never got to meet Harvey. Anyway, your mention of the book in your Blog brought back memories."
—Bob McCubbin, Santa Fe, New Mexico

And here's Marshall with a few tidbits on the author:

"I did some checking on Harvey Fergusson Jr. He was the son of Harvey Fergusson Sr, a crusading Democratic New Mexico politician who challenged the Republican establishment in New Mexico. Later he was the first congressman to represent NM following statehood in 1912. Interestingly, as a lawyer, he once tried a case in Lincoln County.

"Harvey Jr. born in New Mexico in 1890, was a newspaperman who also wrote fiction mostly about the end of the frontier and the new West. One of his later works, "The Conquest of Don Pedro" was a historical novel but all the characters and places were fictitious. He continually sought to correct what he saw as a flaw in conventional western writing saying "not that its stories are melodramatic but that its heroes and heroines are lifeless." His best work is considered to be "Wolf Song," a novel based loosely on Kit Carson.

"During the 1930s he moved to Hollywood where he did some screenwriting. Fergusson died in California in 1971."

This is one of the benefits of owning a magazine like True West and writing a blog. I have all of you to do my homework! I'm not kidding, it really is thrilling to me to know such inspiring people.

A Maniac response Pancho's Revenge:
"Say, I just came from checking out the ol' blog—where I noticed something interesting. The first painting of Pancho Villa you have posted there looks (to me, anyhow) amazingly like the painted image of James Coburn in the original Italian poster for Sergio Leone's DUCK YOU SUCKER (aka, FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE...aka, GIU LA TESTA)!

"I have attached some images to compare. Do you see a resemblance...or is it just me?"
—Chris, Maniac #946, Sierra Vista, Arizona

And here's the Mapinator weighing in on my recent mule-renderings:
"I was studying your mule portraits yesterday and was amazed at how much character and personality you have given these much maligned critters. your reference work has paid off on their behalf. i think you’ve embued them with wisened, cat-like attitudes, at least facially. perhaps the term 'dumber than a mule' should be stricken from our vocabulary."
—The Mapinator, Gus Walker

Yes, today at lunch Russ Garrett was telling me about how smart mules are. He told about being a kid in Missouri and trying to get a mule to hoe a row while plowing with his brother, and the mule kept trying to get in the left furrlow from the plow and one of them finally had to get in front of the mule and force him to stay in what they thought was the correct furrow, only to find out when their dad got home that the mule knew which furrlow to go in, and they were the ones who were "dumb as a post." The mule knew more than they did!

“It was a place of old walls, old trees, old songs and stories, old feuds and hatreds, a place where human relations were ruled by old forms and customs too rigid for men to break. . .The town stood on slightly higher ground a few hundred yards to the east, showing only as a cluster of reddish adobe walls, with some treetops lifting above them. Beyond it the mesa, thinly grown with greasewood, was a dull and dusty olive green, reaching away toward a purple loom of mountains. It was a very hot, bright day in early September. The heat waves shimmered and danced above the old walls, as though they had stood at the bottom of a troubled, limpid sea.”
—Harvey Fergusson, The Conquest of Don Pedro
December 7, 2006
Warmer out this morning, rode up Old Stage Road on my bicycle without a jacket. Beautiful sun-tipped saguaros peeking over the ridge below Sugarloaf. And speaking of apt descriptions of nature, I just finished an excellent book last night.

Last month, at the Cave Creek Wild West Days, we had a book sale and were unloading boxes of old books for a dollar each. At the end of the day, as we were loading up the ones that didn't sell, Marshall Trimble pointed at a non-descript, haggard looking book jacket on the table and said, "That's one of the best books I've ever read." I picked it up and it had one of those lame 1950s type titles: "The Conquest of Don Pedro" and I looked at it, then at Marshall, and said, "Are you serious?"

Marshal shook his head andl told me the book "is a classic" and really impacted him, but added, "watch out for the ending." I had never heard of the author, Harvey Fergusson, who sounds more like a tractor salesman than a writer. I picked it out of the junk pile and took it home and it sat on the night stand for about a week and one night I finally got a few minutes and opened it up. It started slow and has an odd protagonist (a jewish peddler), but the setting, on the Rio Grande in New Mexico after the Civil War was instantly riveting to me, and I soon fell under the spell of the book. I'll post some of the eloquent passages later, but I must second Marshall's rave review. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the Southwest and vaguero culture. And, one of the punchlines to the book is the tragic Salt War, which my good friend Paul Cool is publishing a book on next year, and he's asked me to do illustrations for it. Oh, the serendipity!

And speaking of New Mexico and one of the minor characters in the book, here's an unfinished painting I found over the weekend of a certain boy outlaw getting a "Spanish Kiss." Has potential (which ironically is how several teachers described me on my failing report cards)

This morning, Robert Ray walked me through the layouts for CGIII (Classic Gunfights, Volume III). Going to be the best one yet. Man, Gus, Robert and I put in the hours on these damn fights. The attention to detail in the Mapinator maps alone is worth the price of admission. We have worked so hard, for so long (seven years!) on these fights, I sometimes forget just how much work went into them.

"Who wants to read about success? It is the early struggle which makes a good story."
—Katherine Anne Porter

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

December 6, 2006
Been working hard on mules and muley reference. Here's a couple of pages out of my sketchbook, and by the way I'm up to 2,633 sketches (six a day) without missing a day. Pretty proud of that:

Also, our crew from Vegas is back and they took this photo of the booth last weekend. Left to right, Samantha Somers (seated), Trish Brink, Joel Klasky, Bethany Braley and Sue Lambert. They handed out many thousands of source books and we have Jolyn (Charlie and Linda Waters' daughter) working there even as you read this. So there's still time to go by and get a free one at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

Last night Kathy and I drove down into the Beast for the annual Arizona Republic Christmas Party at the Phoenix Art Museum. My fellow cartoonist, Steve Benson, shocked me with the news that he's getting a divorce (29 years!). Nice talking to all my old friends who used to work at New Times but now they toil for the Evil Empire (as we used to refer to the R&G when we were high on life and full of piss and vinegar). More later.

I have a film crew here and we're going out to my house to tape gunfighter stuff for educational purposes, of course.

"I destroy my enemy by making him my friend."
—Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

December 5, 2006
Still quite chilly out. I heard at the party last Saturday night that the big Microsoft (or was it IBM?) honcho who bought the horse farm up at the end of the street had a nasty fall from a horse and sold his property. He spent a ton up there and walked away. Some other mega-millionaire bought it and the improvements continue. Rode by this morning and saw them working on the turf.

News From The Front Lines
Carole Glenn sometimes gives me the skinny on the phones and she sent this to me this morning: "Melva Stokes of Stanfield, Arizona called to get a gift sub today. She said she and her husband moved from Virginia to AZ after visiting – their real estate agent gave them a gift sub to True West and Arizona Highways. She said that she had received the Best of the West/Source Book and has it on her desk – she has used it to order Christmas gifts and to locate a website for Soda Creek. She said that she read the October issue cover to cover and she, husband and friends visited Tombstone and had a ball."

More culling and filing in the studio this morning. Here's a half-finished, big, splashy painting of the James-Younger Gang riding out of Northfield called "They Took The Whole Road." (below, left). Need to flesh out the other riders but it's got that Remington sweep and could be a good one. Next to it (below, right) is an unfinished scene of the Acme Saloon in El Paso, Texas on the night John Wesley Hardin was shot and killed.

Here's a failed painting of a Mexican rider that originally was under, or part of, one of the Pancho paintings posted yesterday (below, left). I cut it off and attacked it as a stand-alone painting and it has some potential. On the right is a cloud study I pulled out of the rejection pile and gave it a few strokes. Not bad. Those are the mountains north of our house.

In my Wild Bill Hickok files I found this big painting which ran in True West several years back (below, left). Wild Bill preferred mules and my model, Jerry Tarrantino, was riding a horse out at Winter Range and I gave his horse longer ears, but now that I know more about mules it really doesn't fly, does it? Next up, is a black and white, stark image of The Carkid (below, right) which I created back in the eighties. It's a story about a modern day Billy the Kid, who steals a dream car from Ford Proving Grounds in Yucca, Arizona, circa 1956 and takes off on a joy ride with a Vegas stripper. Yes, that's famed Kingman based Highway Patrolman, Floyd Cisney, on the right. He held the record for the most stolen car nabs (over 5,000 collars). This story was inspired by a tale Stubb Shaeffer told me when I worked in my dad's gas station. Stubb had a hotrod which I seem to remember he called "The Black Widow" and he was coming back from Phoenix and outran several patrol cars and they ended up with a road block at Peach Springs, with highway department machinery parked across the road to stop him, and he blew right past them. I wish I could tell the story as good as he did.

And from the permanently failed pile, comes a Tommy Lee Jones cover attempt that was supposed to illustrate a True West cover story on The Missing. I had no photo reference from the movie (it hadn't been released yet) so I had to extrapolate what he might look like. Didn't work. Next to Tommy Lee is another failure, this one of Wyatt and Doc Holliday for a proposed issue on the dynamic duo. Great idea, but it just flat sucks. And on the far right is a failed Davy Crockett painting where I was emulating a Rembrandt self-portrait and it ended up looking like a gay banker with a Michael Jackson-style nose job.

It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."
—Mark Twain

Monday, December 04, 2006

December 4, 2006
Cleaned and organized all day yesterday, finding many gems and as many piles of poo poo paintings. For starters, here's two unfinished paintings that go way back. The first is of The Apache Kid which goes all the way back to 1987. The model is Flint Carney and it has good potential. The second goes back a couple years and is of a certain Apache scout (who shows up later). Both are unfinished, but have potential. The next one is a Custer portrait I did for Hutton's issue on the Battle of the Little Bighorn. It also has potential and I need to find time to flesh it out. Same for the fence sitting Honkytonk Sue (far right). My daughter Deena posed for this about seven years ago up at Barro's corral.

Back in 2003 we had planned on doing a Pancho Villa cover. At the last minute, we did the Digging Up Billy cover and all my Pancho efforts came to a halt. Here's two paintings that were in my Failure Pile, which I pulled out this weekend and added some paint here and there, and I think they are pretty cool:

On the scratchboard front, I pulled all of the images I have done for the Top Secret Project and layed them out on the breezeway (below, left). Quite an impressive array of images, don't you think? Virtually every character in our project is represented here, including Tom Horn (center). At right are a smattering of Honkytonk Sue images with Lee Harvey Oswald, E.J. Radina and Billy Hamilton thrown in for good measure.

Of course, through the years I have always corraled my kids into modeling for me, and here's Deena and Tommy posing for a piece I did on the Stones appearing in Phoenix back in 1995, or so (below, left). It ran in New Times Weekly. And here's a study of Johnny Cash (below, right) which I did for an issue of Old West Journal (a short-lived title we did way back in 2000). Not bad, or not as bad as I thought they were at the time.

And finally, here's a whole bunch of paintings I can only describe as It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (evidently, Buddy Boze Hatkiller agrees, look at his disgust!)

There's more, but I'll save them for later this week.

"Art for art's sake is a silly notion made up by artist's who have no clue."
—"Vincent Van Google

Sunday, December 03, 2006

December 3, 2006
Still chilly in the mornings but the afternoons are warming up into the high sixties. Big, neighborhood party last night down at the Waltons. Many Delta airline pilots and horse gentry in attendance. Mike is both and the party was to honor his retirement from the airline. They had it outside beside their horse barn. A margarita machine, big fajita spread for dinner and Alaskan smoked salmon flown in for the party. Pioneer Pepper And the Sunset Pioneers performed and they put on a delightful show. Their leader, Marshal Pioneer Pepper, pointed me out in the crowd and told the story that when they were on tour in Austria their promoter had one request: bring him a True West magazine. Got home around ten. Nice time.

Check out the band at:

Got up and filed artwork all day. Got myself confused (not hard) by all of the art categories. Here's my random count of art on hand, and the status of said artwork:

• Finished paintings published in True West (including Classic Gunfight images): 238

• Cover images (True West and other): 7

• Unfinished, or failed paintings: 69 (yes, I keep these and sometimes save one, see next category)

• Saved paintings out of failed pile: 12

• Patina, or background paintings, waiting for a foreground or subject matter: 56

• Black and white scratchboard images: 123

• Failed scratchboard images: 45

• Saved scratchboard images: 0 (Scratchboard is a very unforgiving medium)

I'll post some of the images tomorrow.

A writer and a photogrpaher from The Mesa Tribune came out last Thursday to interview me. The writer, Mike Branom, found my blog entry about Dwight Tindle's passing, and interviewed Carole Compton Glenn for the piece, who in turn, sent the writer some True West magazines and he became intrigued and wrote the following piece. Check it out at:

Helpd Kathy put up her Christmas lights, then we went up town and bought a Christmas tree ($65 house account) and brought it home. Took Buddy Boze Hatkiller with us and he stuck his big, fat behind in my face all the way up there, and in Kathy's face all the way home. New Yorker's can be so rude.

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

December 2, 2006
Town buzzing with activity. Took the recycling up at about 11 and there were cars parked all over library hill (they are having a book sale and at least 100 of the books they are selling are mine, or True West's). And the Cactus Shadows Booster's Christmas Tree Lot opened today on the corner of School House Road and Cave Creek Road so there are cars all over that corner.

And on our street, Sherie was putting out Luminarios for a big party she and Mike are putting on tonight (she told me quite a few pilots are coming and they need "landing lights" to guide them in).

I started a list of all the things I want to accomplish this weekend and of course, it is ridiculous, but totally befitting an ADD mind.

Yesterday Brian Label called from Cowboy Legacy and over lunch asked me if I had sold the cover to the resource guide (this is the cover painting I am embarrassed by), and when he heard the price he snatched it right up. I guess this underscores the obvious: What Do I Know About Art?

As I sat down to write my list of things to do today I documented some of it with photos. Here we go. First off I needed to load all the plastic, paper, cardboard, tin, aluminum, dark glass, light glass into the back of the Ranger (below, left). Check that off. Next I need to take the dogs for a bike ride (Note, Buddy's look: "Now Dad? Now?"). Check that off the list.

Isolate and organize all the Billy the Kid paintings for Paul Hutton's big Billy show next spring in Albuquerque (below, left). Check that off. Organize and create a scene list for mule reference on the Top Secret Project (see art desk, below, right). Not done. In fact, as you can see, it's a total mess.

Build a fire in studio stove using leftover wood from chicken condo project (see stove, below, left). Check that off. Bring in a skip loader to shovel out all the artwork behind Buddy's chair (not done)

In random order here's some of the other tasks I want to get to today:

• Cull, or answer the 359 Emails from my AOL inbox (now you know why I haven't answered your Email)

• Start the '49 Ford

• Answer "Horny?" Email from signigicant other

• Do at least 30 sketeches and studies of mules utilizing excellent mule reference shot yesterday.

• Throw away bad art (gonna need that skip loader and a back hoe)

• find out why a certain bootmaker returned the painting I sent him

Not a bad list, but one that gives me fits. I try to stay positive about it, even though I know I'll probably be carrying many of these items until way into 2007. Gee, I wonder what the Old Vaqueros have to say about this?

"In the long run, the pessimists are right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip."
—Old Vaquero Saying