Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 29, 2007
Just got this from Paul Cool and wanted to post it:

It's a bit late, but I want to add my 2 cents (more like 2 bits) to the Salt War Siege Shoot-Out discussion started some days ago by Darryl. To be upfront about this, the paintings in that section were what you called "three-fers," since they have appeared in both True West and Classic Gunfights III, and some will appear in my book, "Salt Warriors: Insurgency on the Rio Grande," slated for publication next February by Texas A&M University Press. Also, the text resulted from our collaboration, including my input to specific questions, helping lead to your decisions. So I feel a stake in public opinion about your salt war pages, and that should be known.

The painting of Chico Barela halting Captain Thomas Blair's cavalry column (and not, as you point out, Texas Rangers), is inaccurate in one sense. Neither Barela nor any other one man brought the column to a halt. It was done by a group of insurgents, some hidden behind the hedges. Barela in fact only showed up minutes after the column came to a halt. So, in that sense Darryl's complaint is justified. However, having spent the last 6 years immersed in this story, and having uncovered Blair's life history, I was most pleased with the painting and feel fortunate to include it in my heavily documented history. Why? Because it is an outstanding artistic interpretation of what happened internally to one man, Captain Blair. I asked you the name of the painting and you offered a one-word title, "Spooked." At first glance, that title appears to refer to Blair's horse. But it really refers to Captain Blair. While he was not spooked by the appearance of one man that night, he was spooked by the responsibility of command and by the prospect of battle. After accepting Barela's opinion that he wasn’t needed and had no business there, he high tailed it for the safety of El Paso, where he proceeded to hide. He did offer to put himself in Barela's custody, as a prisoner, but even this offer would have removed him from any responsibility for accomplishing anything.

And while Barela did not single-handedly oppose the US Cavalry, he was a property holder and old Indian fighter who put his life and family's livelihood on the line to oppose Charles Howard, Sheriff Kerber, the State of Texas and, on the occasion of his meeting with Blair, the US Army and entire Federal Government. Throughout the war, Blair was spooked, Barela was not, and your painting conveys that aspect of their characters marvelously.

Again, I was fortunate to have this painting and others, including a very dramatic cover, in my book. We have so many western artists who use art to tell us what contemporary digital photos would, if we had them. Your work, and that of others like Thom Ross, may play around with the facts, but it sure tells us a lot about the truth.

Paul Cool

"Spooked", the painting.

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