Monday, March 31, 2008

March 31, 2008
Kathy and I spent all morning at the Heart Institute in Phoenix today. After a cat scan and several other procedures (all seeming to involve the placing of multiple sadistic oval tape strips planted on my chest and sides), then, with a simple "Sorry," the nurse ripped them off and sent me on to the next test, where another buxom nurse planted another row of electrode tape on completely different parts of my upper body (thankfully) and repeated the process.

The good news is the stents they put in at Kingman Regional are good to go and I won't have to have open heart surgery. I celebrated by taking a big fat nap.

The Long Road To the Final Wipeout
Even a week later it's kind of hard to believe a song I love almost killed me.

I first heard the Safari's "Wipeout" at Charlie Water's house in the summer of 1963. It was, and is, about the coolest drum solo ever. The drums are so crisp, the simple para diddles so effective. I went to Mohave Electric the next Saturday and bought my own .45 of the record ($!.08 Dad's account) and proceeded to learn the lick.

In addition to some glory (Surfer girls were way turned on by that drum beat) the song has given me a couple of humiliating experiences. The first happened when Charlie Waters, Wendell Havatone and I went to the Elks to hear a rival band The Gallows. They played "Wipeout" but the drummer, Sonny Alvarado, just played a straight rock beat through the drum solo interludes.

On the break, I asked Tinker, the leader of the Gallos, if we could set in (and show this crowd what the song should really sound like). We took the stage and I started the song and on the second verse I dropped a stick, couldn't find a replacement and the song died with a gimpy-one-handed fade.

Several months later, we had a gig at the American Legion and this obnoxious kid from Phoenix kept coming up and asking to set in on the drums. Wendell finally said to me, "Let him make a fool out of himself." So I gave him my sticks and the Kid got up on stage and proceeded to rip out a version of Wipeout I didn't even know my drums were capable of playing.

With my head, throbbing like a pea, I made two vows: "I will never ask to set in, and I will not allow anyone to set in on my drums.

Thanks Wipeout, these are amazing lessons about control, integrity and humbleness. Little did I know this iconic surfer classic had even more humbleness to teach me.

"I think I'd better gator."
—BBB's almost famous last words

Sunday, March 30, 2008

March 29, 2008
Well, here I am, back in the saddle again. I'm very weak and I look like a train hit me, but then if you think about it, a metaphorical train did hit me.

Early on, and with good reason, the doctors at Kingman General Hospital were worried I was brain dead. I couldn't name the month, or where I'd been. I was awake but I just stared at them. As they left, my eyes started to flutter and Deena evoked an old family saying to me,"Hey, dad, nap time in the Rockies?" She said I smiled and closed my eyes. I don't know exactly when this saying started, but I believe we were camping in Colorado when the kids were young and the saying became code for "I'm tired, I think I'll take a nap." It has extended to everyday usage and even when we were in Mexico and Costa Rica we'd use the phrase—"It's nap time in the Rockies.""

The doctor's came back with some drug to hopefully open up my receptors. In a while they returned and ask me if I knew I was in Kingman. According to Deena and Kathy, I laughed and said, "That's ridiculous, I'm in Colorado." Kathy quickly explained the reference and then everyone sighed a sigh of relief.

The Safaris, the classic drummer's opening that almost killed me

Friday, March 28, 2008

March 28, 2008

Bob and Kathy are about ready to get on the road back to Phoenix this afternoon. Damn that felt good to write. (And today is my last as a piss-poor substitute blogger for Bob Boze Bell. Any entry in this blog you read after this one will be from him. Boy, that felt even better---on lots of levels.)

On Monday, he will get a complete cardiological work-up at the Arizona Heart Institute after Kathy worked through the night and this morning to get it arranged. There aren't many better places in this country than AHI, so he will be in great hands.

Nothing else needs to be said. But Kathy and Bob (I talked with him for 30 minutes yesterday, and he remembered it this morning) insisted on just one more entry from me.

The humor tank, however, is still on empty and no balm has yet been invented to soothe the raw emotions of the past six days. So today's collection may not meet Kathy's original charge of "keeping it light."

Herewith, then, are some final observations, some special moments Bob missed, some additional thank you's:

* For better or worse, bands are like families. Last weekend it was all for the better. When sets or group line-ups fell apart with Bob's heart attack, they went back together with a single question: "What do you need?" As I struggled to keep myself together just before the party started, I realized we would need a drummer for the Exits set. Larry Archer, can you help us eventhough you've never played a single verse with us? "It would be an honor," came his reply. My heart felt warm for the first time in hours. He and Ken Kingman doubled up on drums, and with help on guitar and keyboard from Vern Andrews and my brother John, our band family hoisted the old Exits on their shoulders and carried us through our set.

* Some may wonder: How can you still play music and have a party when a friend hangs so close to death? I knew what Bob would want and when Kathy and Deena insisted the same, there was no decision to make. Our new friend Steve Paroni, who played bass in the early 1970s with Bob, Larry and Mike Torres in Smokey, said it was the second hardest gig he ever had to play. The first? The night of the day his father died. It may sound trite, but I think the Doobie Brothers got it right. Sometimes, for broken hearts and battling our worst fears, "music is the doctor."

* Our carefully conceived welcome and first set quickly unraveled. The King of Zane was in the hospital and now we wanted to honor him as well. Mike on guitar and golden-throated Roger Enrico rode to the rescue. With some pre-recorded back-up music, they started us off with a tribute to Bob---Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's "Wonderful World." Dry eyes were hard to find. All night Mike and Roger added a voice here, a lead or riff there, a saxaphone, a trumpet, a flute, percussion---and tremendous warmth and leadership at a most difficult time.

* Wayne Rutschman brought his saxaphone and three dozen hats embellished with an old-english E, similar to those on the blue Beatles' jackets our band wore. He passed them out to band mates and other friends but we could have sold 100 of them. We all would dress differently for the party Saturday, but the final message before we broke for dinner was, "Tonight we wear the hats."

* Add another hero to BBB's CPR team: Gary Conrad. He was quick to join the others mentioned in previous blogs and helped save a life. He also provided security for us, ran the stage lights and spent two nights at the Elks to guard our equipment. On Friday, he joined Kokomo to sing a couple of great songs, and on Sunday he took Bob's drums back to Phoenix. Gary is a Payson musician and singer, a great guy and new member of the Exits family.

* Moment to remember, Part I: Steve Burford hadn't played bass on stage (or much of anywhere) for over 40 years. He desperately wanted to play bass on "Pipeline" for the party as it is one of his son Daniel's favorite songs. He even stopped by Mike's house in Phoenix to practice three times after work to make sure it was just right. I turned Saturday to watch him play it perfectly and intently, then shifted my eyes slightly right. There stood Daniel, with a huge grin. Yes, that's why we were doing this.

* Moment to remember, Part II: We hadn't seen Terry Mitchell in more than 40 years. He had moved back to New Mexico and continued to play until he lost part of the middle finger on his fretting hand in a roping mishap three decades ago. He was the last guy we finally tracked down and only came after encouragement from his lovely and persistent wife Kathy. When I stood next to him as he belted out "Gloria," I shivered. Moments later, he grinned and nodded when I quietly asked if he remembered a quick chord change and turn-around as Vern paid tribute to Wendell Havatone on "Your Cheatin' Heart." And for just a moment, everything seemed right in this world.

* A big smile: When brother John sang "For What It's Worth," two dozen women on one side of the hall erupted in cheers and whistles. And shortly thereafter, when we launched into "Just Like Me," the entire area in front of the band was full of women dancing and raising their arms and cheering and throwing money. After the set, Larry said that the old Exits must have really been something in the old days to receive such a reaction 45 years later. I smiled and told him that it's called "salting the mine." Twenty-five percent of the women were old and dear friends; the rest family.

Finally . . .

We joke a lot about our hometown of Kingman, but when the proverbial chips were down, its people did what they always have done---they came through for nine Kingman kids and their friends. The most oft-heard phrase heard after our nightmare began shortly after 2:30 p.m. last Saturday was: "What can I do to help?" And they meant it, working at the door or behind the bar, or showing up the next morning to help clean the hall.

So I gratefully move to the end of my five-day career as a substitue blogger by sharing the words from the chorus of a tribute we wrote for our hometown and played Saturday night. You can easily guess the song from which we stole the melody,

We're back in Kingman, Arizona,
Where the sky's always blue.
Sweet Kingman, Arizona,
Killer winds, great sunsets, too.

Thankfully, we all still have some Quality Time Left to brave strong winds and cherish majestic sunsets together.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 27, 2008

Today's entry is about the Old West, our friend Bob's favorite thing to talk, write, draw or dream about.

When he is fully mended, he owes me this painting . . .

It is of a weary Pony Express Rider who looks just like me, handing off a mail pouch at Burro Creek to another waiting rider who looks like Dan Harshberger. Marked on the pouch will be the words "Special Delivery: BBB's Blog."

I am more than ready to have this blog returned to its rightful owner, but the healing process seems so slow and so painful—one step forward, another step forward, one step back, two more forward. In an era of zap mail and same-day Federal Express, the healing reminds instead of the Pony Express.

Anyway . . .

Heard his real voice, albeit gravelly, last night for the first time since Saturday. (On Tuesday, he tried to talk with a device on his trach tube, but it sounded more like something from Star Wars than him.) Our dear Kathy had called with an update, and he was ordering questions from the background:

"How did the music and party turn out, on a scale of one to 10?"

Clearly a 10, I replied. Now music aficionados with a fine ear may dispute that rating, and when Bob sees and hears the video, I am sure he will pick out every flaw. But those of us there on Saturday saw and heard nothing but 10s.

When Meghan, my wonderful editor this week at True West, reads this entry, she may wonder why a fellow University of Arizona-trained journalist would bury today's lead (or most important information). After 40 years, I know better, but we had a little setback yesterday and Kathy does not want me to alarm anyone.

Bob had some chest pains in the afternoon so the doc went back in and added a couple more stents. She says the doc promises that all is well and she even called back later with a bit better description that I won't even attempt in fear of getting it wrong. We are now hoping for a Friday return to Cave Creek for Bob and Kathy, and shortly thereafter a transfer of the blog. (Dan, I'll meet you just north of the old bridge at the bottom of Burro Creek canyon, where the water doesn't run quite so fast. It'll be easier to cross there.)

I also started today's blog this way because the needle on my tank marked "funny" has dropped below empty.

Maybe tomorrow I can get a refill. Better yet, maybe tomorrow Bob will be home.

(Note to Bob: Sorry, but I don't know what it costs to deliver a package by Pony Express from Las Vegas to Phoenix or I would have included it today. You will have to research that when you get home. Or you can just wait until you get the bill. I will send it collect, and you can decide which account you want to charge it to.)

Update: When I read today's blog entry to Kathy for her approval, Bob listened on the speaker phone. His voice was strong. And he really is feeling much better. And, finally, so are we.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March 26, 2008

It’s time for BBB Update, with your anchors Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey:

TINA: Look out world, the trach tube was removed late this morning, and Bob Boze Bell can talk again. His first words were, “Did you get all this on video?”

JIMMY: Doctors say that if he has a good night on Wednesday, he can go home Thursday. They have also been treating a minor infection in one lung, and they want to make sure he is “just right” before releasing him.

TINA: He still seems to be having some memory issues as well, Jimmy, which the doctors also say is “normal.” Friends believe this is the first time the words “normal” or “just right” have ever been used in a sentence referring to Bob.

* * * * * * *

OK, enough. Except for the punch lines, all of this is true. Bob and Kathy probably will get to go home tomorrow.

Since I started writing these updates, Kathy’s instructions, later seconded by Bob, were that I keep them light. I have done my best, but there are some things—like, say, your best friend’s heart attack—that are hard to make amusing.

One day, when Bob’s mind is clear again, there are things the historian in him will want to know. And so here are a few other tidbits and personal musings today:

Linda and I went back to Kingman yesterday afternoon. Even though Kathy and Deena have done a great job keeping us posted several times a day, my motives were selfish: I needed to see him again.

Got there about 2:30 p.m. and, pardon the cliche, he was a sight for sore eyes. He seemed pretty alert, but obviously drained, and the trach tube still made it difficult for him to communicate. I gave him a copy of yesterday's blog, which he read slowly, chuckling a few times before laughing out loud and wanting to know if Kathy really said that the Exits' practice Saturday was so bad that it gave him a heart attack. I assured him she had said so.

Kathy was back at the hotel, trying to get some much-needed sleep and Deena had everything under control. She is a copy of her mom in so many ways and for that we are all thankful. Let there be no doubt about this family's devotion. At the emergency room Saturday, when all was still very much in doubt, Kathy was talking with one of the doctors about Bob's family history. I wasn't there, but I am putting this in quotes to give you the full effect: "His dad died from a heart attack at 78, but my husband is only 61. I figure that I am still entitled to at least 15 more good years with this man so you better fix him."

Yesterday, Bob wanted to know about what had happened. I wanted to keep it light, so I started to tell him about the party. I could see he was irritated. He wanted to know everything that happened Saturday, including the heart attack, and it was clear that he had little recall of much after he and Kathy left to go to Kingman on Friday afternoon. I filled him in. He winced at times, but mostly smiled. He insisted that I keep updating his blog. I insisted that he damned-well better get healthy soon as I had far more important things to do.

He seemed particularly pleased at a comment late Saturday afternoon from his former Smokey band mate Larry Archer. We were sitting at the Elks, fearful of Bob's fate and trying to figure out whether we should cancel the party. Larry had come from Santa Cruz, California, to play Saturday even though he only knew two of the nine Kingman musicians he would be playing with. He came for Bob and Mike Torres, knowing how important it was for them. Larry, like the rest of us, was stunned and only wanted to do whatever Kathy and Deena wanted.

"Maybe we need to look at it this way," Larry said. "Tonight would be a great rehearsal for the even bigger party we will throw when Bob gets well."

Yes we will. But we probably won’t play “Wipeout.”

* * * * * * * *

P.S. ---Kathy reported this morning that Bob didn’t remember that we had visited him yesterday.

P.P.S. ---After seeing Bob and Deena, we stopped at the Cracker Barrel for an early dinner. In Bob and Kathy’s honor, we both had the country fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. It is his favorite meal, besides Mexican food, and no one cooks it better than the lovely Ms. Radina. ($25, including tip, house account.) Later, on the way out of town, I got an iced tea at Starbuck’s. ($2.50, including tip, Exits Exit account.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March 25, 2008

First things first . . .

Bob Boze Bell continues to make a strong recovery, has gotten out of bed and even shaved himself this morning at the Kingman Regional Medical Center. And if he would have waited a couple of minutes before eating breakfast, the trach would have come out this morning, too. Kathy says that he had only taken four bites before they came in to remove it. That is now expected to happen tomorrow. She continues to rave about the care he is getting and how well the entire staff has treated her and Deena.

This is Charlie Waters writing in Boze's place again today. At his and Kathy's request, I am providing this update. But unlike yesterday, I am not going to try and mimic Boze's style. It is too damned hard—there is only one Boze.

Plus, as Melrose Mike quipped to Carole Glenn yesterday when she told him I had written the blog entry, "I could tell Bob didn't write it. There were no misspelled words and no prices listed for meals!" Boze and Kathy got a good laugh out of that this morning, as well as another line from Mike. Told that Boze couldn't talk because of the trach, Mike replied that it was possibly the only silver lining in this dark cloud.

Well, Mike, there was a misspelling ("stint" instead of "stent") in yesterday's blog, as pointed out in an e-mail today from Dan Harshberger. He thought I had done it intentionally to mimic Boze.

We can hardly wait until Wonderful Russ chimes in.

I hope you can tell from this entry that in addition to Boze, his friends and family are feeling much better now, too. As we all breathe a bit easier, the humor that has been such an important part of his life and relationships continues to surface. Yesterday, we mentioned how Gawd-awful the Exits practice was Saturday afternoon. Kathy's line now is: "It was so bad, it gave Bob a heart attack." But like Boze, the Exits recuperated and played a fine set.

Kathy expects that Bob will be in the hospital for one or two more days. The cardiologist has cleared him, but he has to be able to do certain things before the hospital can release him, such as walk up and down the hall and eat regularly. When they get back to Phoenix, he will rest for three weeks before starting cardiac rehab. Kathy would love to hear from any friends or True West faithful about their experiences with rehab.

We are also hoping that he can enjoy some of his down time reviewing the six hours of video that was shot at the party Saturday night. He will be pleased that the video production company, AVI Studios in Kingman, gave us an extra cameraman for free. He will not be pleased, however, by the opening welcome. He and I have disagreed for weeks about how it should go, but he wasn't there and the tone of the evening had changed dramatically in the few hours before the gig started. So, I just did it my way. He will get the final say, of course, as he edits it, and I expect much of the material about him will wind up on the cutting room floor—or wherever stuff goes in the digital age.

Among the great news are the results of the brain scans show no damage to one of the keenest and most fertile minds we all know. At times, the drugs fog his memory but he knows what happened, that he had a heart attack and that he is in the hospital. What he can't believe, however, is that he is "in Kingman?"

Kathy and Deena are fine and thank everyone for their thoughts, good wishes and prayers. While I always refer to her as the lovely Ms. Radina, some of the medical professionals marveled at how she took control of something that many of us would have wilted under. More than one time the words were heard: "That's one tough cookie."

Finally . . .

I told you yesterday about the actions of some people Saturday that doctors said saved our friend's life. As you might well imagine, it was a most hectic and stressful scene at the old Elks Lodge and stories are still filtering in. Please add to that list Exit band mate Terry Mitchell, whom others have told me took control of the group effort and did the compressions during the CPR, among other things. When I talked with him this morning, he didn't want me to mention that and was just thrilled that a band mate he had not seen in 40 years until Saturday had survived. (Unfortunately for Terry, he doesn't get to write this blog entry. I do. And Boze, Kathy, Deena and I want you to know it.)

Terry manages a Superlite plant outside of Flagstaff and for years has taken annual CPR training as part of his job. It was the first time he had ever used those skills and always wondered how he would react if he needed to do it. Now he and we know. Ironically, his last refresher course was about 10 days before we gathered in Kingman.

We are all so blessed.

Monday, March 24, 2008

March 24, 2008

Hi, this is Bob and I am not back from Kingman yet.

Well, this is actually half true. I am still in Kingman, but I am not writing this.

I had this small thing crop up Saturday afternoon---I think they call it a heart attack---and right now I am flat on my back with a trache tube in my throat. I am told that I will be OK, but I can't get to a laptop so my friend Charlie Waters is writing this blog entry as my voice. He was there when it happened, knows what led up to it and has pieced together the other details from those who were there as well. (So if there are any mistakes in this, blame him.)

Anyway, here goes:

If you recall from previous postings, Saturday was the Exits Exit, a party celebrating 45 years since Charlie, Wendell Havatone and I formed Kingman's first real rock 'n roll band. It was also a tribute to Wendell, who died two years ago this month---from a heart attack.

Kathy and I went to Kingman Friday afternoon and had a great time that night at a show put on by our good friend Mike Torres and his partner Roger Enrico, a duo better known as Kokomo. I met with the videographer we had hired for our Saturday gig and chatted with old classmates and guys I had played with in different bands.

On Saturday morning, a dozen musicians met at the old Elks Lodge to rehearse for Saturday night. I wanted the music to be tight and Mike had done a great job organizing it. The first set, which we had practiced two or three times in Phoenix, didn't go very well. When we broke for lunch, I told Charlie: "This is a train wreck." Now Charlie has been the nervous wreck about the whole party for the past six weeks, so it was ironic that now he was trying to settle me down.

I walked down the street with Terry Mitchell, another old Exit, to grab a taco and some iced tea. When I got back, Charlie asked if I was OK. I said I had some tightness in my chest. He said maybe we should go see a doctor. I said I would be fine.

If the first-set practice was a train wreck, the practice for The Exits would have to be described as four jetliners colliding in mid-air. Maybe worse. We dumped two songs completely, and I was more than just a bit perplexed and irritated. Midway through, as I was bent over my drums, Charlie again asked if I was OK. I told him: "Let's just get this over with." Later, Charlie assured me that we could cut the set down further and it would be fine.

It was now about 2:30 and I said we needed to wrap up whatever I would be doing by 3 because I wanted to go back to the hotel for a nap. We had planned a three-drummer version of "Wipeout" and I had been looking forward to playing it with Ken Kingman and Larry Archer, the latter my old friend and Smokey bandmate. We started and it rocked. I played with my sticks off a back wall, got down from my drum set and played on the floor, even did a senior-citizen version of the Gator. At the back of the room, Charlie turned to another friend and said: "I guess Boze is feeling much better now."

The last thing I guess I remember right now is sitting back down at my drums. I guess they give you something in the hospital to calm you and keep you from immediately recalling the actual incident so you don't stress too much. When I am up to it and recall more, I will share it with you.

I'm told that most people in the room thought it was an act when I slumped over my drums. Someone apparently said, "You can get up now, Bob," when the music stopped. When she said it again and I didn't respond, all hell broke loose. John Waters rolled me over on the floor and couldn't get a pulse. People screamed to call 911 and Charlie was the first to get through, followed by others.

Wayne Rutschman's son, Cody, and Cody's fiancee, Jenna Doucett, jumped in to get my tongue out of my throat and started CPR. The doctors at the hospital later told Kathy that "whoever did the CPR did it perfectly and saved your husband's life." I started breathing and then vomited. Wayne took the CPR over from there. (Now is that devotion to a band member or what?)

When the paramedics arrived, they couldn't get a tube down me so they put in this damned trache. They also had trouble getting IV lines in, I am told. Charlie called his wife Linda, who went to our hotel to find Kathy. They went to the hospital to meet me. As the paramedics left, they told no one in particular: "I don't know what your beliefs are, but this is now in the hands of a higher power."

Two hours later, I had two stints in me and was in recovery. The doctors, nurses and others at the hospital have been wonderful to us.

Kathy and my daughter Deena told Charlie that the party had to go on. The other musicians were to gather at the Elks at six p.m., when it would be determined what they would do.

An hour later, the first of 300 people showed up. I am told the musicians rallied and that the music was great.

They also tell me that there was lots of love in the room for me.

Oh, and before I forget: Thank you Jenna, Cody and Wayne.

Friday, March 21, 2008

March 21, 2008
Came in the office early to finish up work here and to do a strong session with Robert Ray on the Top Secret Project layout. We're taking off at noon for Kingman and the Exits Exit weekend.

Last night, I couldn't resist and did five more sketches of Mrs. Klotch Meets Mr. Clutch. This is how I remember her looking (upper left):

Okay, that's enough of that. Man, I get on a tangent and it consumes me. If I could stay focused for a day, I could be in the movie biz, if I could stay focused for a week, I could take over Arizona. If I could stay focused for twenty minutes I'd have a clean desk.

Meanwhile, let's catch up on correspondence:

"I read where your working on a Illinois project and me being a Illinois boy I was curious what it was."

P.S. I am out in my pasture searching for a long lost Wyatt Earp diary - I'm sure it's here somewhere under all this horseshit. Ha!

I'm doing a book cover for a certain university in your state. They are being quite secretive, or I would tell you and show you the sketches. The finish is due next Wednesday and I'll hopefully be able to share then.

Base Praise From A Pro Bassman
"I don't know how many of Bob Boze Bell's readers/ movie viewers are aware that in addition to his excellent artwork, story-telling ability, and sense of humor, that he is truly a good musician, singer, and showman.

"After rehearsing and playing bass with Bob these past few weeks, I realized that I'd forgotten just how good he was! It's been great playing the old Stone's cover's for that portion of the Exits- Exits concert.

"As I get older, I appreciate the Stones more and more. In some weird way, they give me hope.

"That's right folks your, Boze can still beat the skins like Charlie Watts, and sing like Mick Jagger ( and yes I do think that Mick sings)

"This may be a dichotomy for some of you. A western aficionado with rock-and- roll roots. For me it's OK. It makes life more interesting when I run into people with eclectic interests.( But then I food- combine)

"I'm glad for this experience, because,now I'm a true fan of the diary and I am now learning something new -- western history.

"Sometimes it's fun to travel on long -forgotten paths."
— Steve Paroni"'EL Paron"

"Bad Bob: I'm just a dumb cowboy, that being said I'm not sure you are looking at this sketch book thing the right way! For a guy who owns as realy cool western magazine, you would think unseen sketches by Fred Remington would be magazine GOLD!!!!!! If I owned that magazine not only would help them, I would make sure I'm the first one that gets to publish them. As one of your subscribers, I realy would love to see them and hear the stort behind the sketch book even if its not real. Remember this is Freddy Remington we are talking about here, could be a historic thing. Keep an open mind and remember the public would love it if they ARE REAL!!!!!!!!!!

"Wait! I thought I was real cool! But after reading yesterday's Blog I'm not so sure. I didn't know we were dealing with a con! I've learned the hard way you CAN'T TRUST A CON. I now think you were so right in not trusting this guy. But it would be cool if they did turn out to be real, YOU CAN"T TRUST A CON!!!!!!!!!!"
—Roger French

"History matters, but the best novels boast a kind of truth that even the best history books can never claim."
—Jill Lepore, in The New Yorker

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March 20, 2008
The May issue is all set to go out the door and it is, pound for pound, the strongest True West magazine I have ever been involved with. In addition to excellent writing and superb photos, this one has some very interesting history and mucho amber glow. This morning Robert Ray showed me a Photo Shop filter called "the warming filter" which he applied to several Fandango photos. I was stunned. Garish hues became softer and, well, much warmer. We went through the mag applying it where it was appropriate (the cover for one) and it certainly spiced up some so-so pages. I'll be curious to see if it translates to you, the reader.

By the way, my sidebar excursion to Mrs. Klotch-land this morning, included sketch numbers 5,994-6,000. I wanted to do something special for the big six-O, but got so jacked up on the March Madness thang, I kind of went B-Ball crazy. Hard to believe. Six-thousand sketches at six a day. That means I've been doing this for a thousand days, without missing. Pretty amazing.

Meanwhile, as if you needed any more proof about how obsessive I get on these things, I went home for lunch and whipped out a cleaner version of "Mr. Clutch, Meet Mrs. Klotch." The B-Ball player is better (not so Black, and more anglo oafish), but Mrs. Klotch is too Lois Lane-ish. The real Mrs. Klotch was really buttoned up, severe almost, ancient, although as Dan Harshberger remarked to me yesterday, she was probably 42 years old when we were in her class in the fifth grade. Ha.

May do another one. Sigh. I know. I know.

"You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."
March 20, 2008
Sometimes I listen to my wife and sometimes—I'm ashamed to admit—I don't. As we woke up this morning and had coffee and half a banana, she gave me two excellent pieces of advice: "You and Paul seem to be hopelessly trapped in Act I of the Mickey Free project. If you ask me, you had better run the entire story in the excerpt you are working on, or you're wasting your time."

Truer words were never spoken. And, I had intended to run just the backstory in the 24-page-excerpt and end with a cliff hanger. Not now. Thanks favorite wife.

I also asked her what she thought of my Plugged In copy I had submitted last night to the Arizona Republic (I copied it to her and she had already told me in an email she liked it but being the needy, insecure Bastard I am, I was fishing for more approval).

Here's the copy I submitted for this Sunday's Plugged In commentary in The Arizona Republic:

March Madness Meets Project Runway
My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Klotch, was quite conservative and wore long, straight skirts, well below the knee, as I recall. Of course, the sixties flushed that old school fashion right down the tubes. Well, here we are, a half century later, and who wears long skirts worthy of Mrs. Klotch's fashion sense? Why all the March Madness B-Ball players, of course. Mrs. Klotch, meet Mr. Clutch. I don't know about you, but it's so nice to see so many young athletes dressing like my fifth grade teacher.

Bob Boze Bell
Executive Editor, True West magazine

After she told me what I wanted to hear, I told her I wanted to do an illustration of Mrs. Klotch and Mr. Clutch. She told me that in her opinion, this is a lateral move and anything that takes me away from Mickey Free at this point is a total waste of time

Fortunately she went for a walk. Here's the sketches I did culling from a recent article on Valley prep stars, and poaching from three MCUHS high school annuals:

I didn't have a photo of Mrs. Klotch but got plenty of long dress reference out of my collection of old Kingman High School annuals (technically Mohave County Union High School, or Mucous as the sarcastic set likes to sneer).

And by the way, the prom queen in the upper right is Ruthie Peterson from the 1958 annual. OH, and the RSVP list for the Exits Exit has now topped 400. Charlie Waters is meeting with the Kingman fire marshal tomorrow at noon to go over our options. At this point we are considering two shows.

I guess it's a miracle that I ever finish anything. Gee, I wonder what Mr. Gardner has to say about this?

"A painting is never finished—it simply stops in interesting places."
—Paul Gardner

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March 19, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Went home for lunch to finish another cover rough for my new friends in Illinois. Also laid in another couple characters in the campfire sequence. Before I show it to you, here's an opinion on the earlier version I posted here:

Campfire Critique
"The figures are nicely spaced in the scene but the fire is far too big and too bright. No cowboy in his right mind would build a fire that large, takes too much fuel to keep it going and you can't sit near it. As for bright, it's more like a railroad track fuse burning in the ties, to warn oncoming freights to slow down. I love your females, when you do them so well why bother with males?"
—Bill Dunn

Okay, good points, but they are soldiers, not cowboys. Ha. Well, at lunch today I tried to tone down both the fire and diminish the railroad track fuse effect (funny description and somewhat accurate to boot). Still not enough Apaches around the campfire, but I really like the guy, to the left, cleaning his rifle:

Meanwhile, here's a sneak peek at the ad that will run in the May issue, teasing the Mickey Free Top Secret Project:

Robert Ray and I built it. Pretty sweet if I do say so myself.

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult."
March 19, 2008
Scrambling to finish the May issue. Tweaking and fixing the big Fandango party layout. Lots of images and very few captions. Meghan Saar is pulling it together. Robert Ray is finishing the Brazen Bill Brazelton layout on Classic Gunfights and Dan Harshberger is tweaking the cover and Western Women We Love. Really a stellar issue, chocked full of amber glow (in fact I confessed to my obsession in the editorial).

Exits Exit Update
Not so many weeks ago, Charlie Waters and I made a bet about whether we would break 100 RSVPs for our final gig at the Old Elks Hall in downtown Kingmanistan this weekend. Last night I got a call from Jim Powell, Claudia (Williams) Dodge, Eleanore (Logas) Fanire and Joany (Logas) Legg and they RSVP'd for 12, bringing our total to well over 300. Now we are worried about crowd control. Ha.

No Good Deed Goes Unpublished
"You helped me with a book I was writing about my family, who started Kohls Ranch Resort. I really appreciated the help and enjoyed doing the book. That ended my writing career for now, but have liked the results. I enjoy sharing their history as they were such fine people. Even Granddad that I only recently heard had a whiskey still on a nearby mountain. Who knows?

"I am wrinting to remind you of one of the many people you have taken time to help, and the good you do. It isn't forgotten.

"The other reason I am writing is to tell you on behalf of myself and our family, who all watch the western channel, that your 'shorts' are the highlight. We love them and always wish there were more of them. Raised by cattlemen and growing up with "the talk" I still didn't know much of what you tell about.

"Just about the time we have had our fill of Gene Autry (one film) we don't cancel because of your presentations and the occasional westerns we haven't seen in a long time or at all. Wade reads your magazine every month and really enjoys it.

"I hadn't read you diary in quite awhile (busy with life) and really enjoyed reading it again. What is it about your writing that we would take the time to read your diary? It is fun though. Sense of humor and creativity help, I assume. Why I even enjoyed reading that you had left over pizza for lunch. "
—Bettie Kohl Adams

Daily Top Secret Project Update
It's true I ran in a wild crowd, especially in the early eighties, after my third divorce. I kind of lost my moorings and found solace at Hooter's and Bourbon Street A Go-Go, among other clubs in the Tempe area. For some reason all the exotic dancers flocked to me.

Maybe it was the bags of cocaine, I don't know, but I kind of went off the deep end and forgot about the waterlogged sketchbook for several years. It didn't help that I was spending quite a bit of time at Perryville and didn't get out much.

But by 1992, I was ready to reclaim what was rightfully mine. Not only did I retrieve the long lost Remington sketchbook from my ex-wife (there went $50Gs), but I was also fortunate enough to come into possession of a manuscript Remington was working on when he suddenly died while shelling corn for his chickens.

I wrote up this preface to an article I propose to run on the pages of True West magazine, but who knows if those whores will run it.

—Richard Wahd

Long Lost Remington Manuscript Found!
On the eve of the Centennial of Freddy Remington’s death, a long lost manuscript, complete with unfinished drawings and paintings, turns up at an odd outpost on the Arizona-New Mexico line.

Although controversial, it contains a first-person account of Remington’s first two trips to Arizona in 1886-88, and a subsequent research trip in 1907 when Remington interviewed Mickey Free and others. Portions of the bombshell manuscript deal with the mystery of The Apache Kid and what happened to the elusive outlaw. In fact, based on the claims in the manuscript, researchers have now unearthed compelling evidence that points to a new and final conclusion in the Apache Kid mystery.

Remington, in his bombastic style, ferrets out the missing links in the case and finally, we have a clear picture of what happened to the handsome, but deadly Apache Kid.

Supplemented with graphic novel storyboarding, done with authentic detail and faithul to the Man Who Knew The Horse, this will be a welcome addition to the annals of the Wild West and the legend of Freddy Sackrider Remington.

"I shut my eyes in order to see."
—Paul Gauguin

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March 18, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Went home for lunch and had leftover Barro's pizza and an apple, which I ate out by the pool. Beautiful day, mid-seventies. Sunned my mug and petted the dogs. Also fed the chickens, got one lousy egg.

Bailed into another cover rough for my Illinois assignment, but failed twice. Switched gears and did a spot painting to illustrate Bill Brazelton's ghost for this issue's Classic Gunfight. For many years after the highwayman was shot down by a sheriff's posse, the log where he sat was considered haunted by the natives around Tucson and they would go a mile out of their way to avoid the spot, especially at night. I always pictured it close to the San Xavier mission so I plopped a indistinct version of those white stucco walls gleaming in the distance. Interesting that even my ghosts have an amber glow:

Even More Amber Glow

Lots of fires, lots of glow, lots to learn.

Had to get back into the office to finish Classic Gunfights and my editorial. San Carlos Apache historian Dale Miles called me. Also got an email from Henry Martinez in Reserve, New Mexico asking me if we want a float in the May Elfego Baca Memorial unveiling parade. Hell yes! May get Lew Jones to bring down the Mogollon Fire Truck to ride in. That's going to be fun.

Also talked to the mayor of Kingman, Les Byrum, who is going to introduce Charlie Waters and I this Saturday night. Meghan Sarr came in and asked me if the author Frank Waters is related to Charlie Waters. I laughed, but I shouldn't have. "No," I told her, "but he's related to the Charlie Waters who played for the Dallas Cowboys." She's too young to know or care, and besides my Charlie isn't related to either one.

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong."
—Joseph Chilton Pearce
March 18, 2008
Still cool out in the mornings and with a jillion weeds blanketing the desert floor so it smells mighty sweet on the morning bike ride. Been missing the million dollar women on the ten thousand dollar horses at the arena at the end of Old Stage Road, so that has been nice. When they are in the arena I have to turn back before Buddy Boze Hatkiller sees them and wants to play. I did see Mike Barro out feeding his horses yesterday and told him, "Hey, Mike, we had Barro's pizza last night and it was delicious." He turned, bowed and genuflected in my direction as I added, "Kathy wants to know if you put heroin in the crust." He laughed.

As I mentioned the other day, from time to time I get these crazies who want me to authenticate their photos. They claim they will bide by my decision, but as soon as I tell them I don't think the photo is who they think it is, they turn nasty. Case in point: this guy from Texas evidently put some photos in an auction and before they went on the block, the auction house asked photo experts Bob McCubbin and Craig Fouts to give their opinion that the photos are authentic. Evidently McCubbin and Fouts gave a thumbs down to the photos. So, next the guy comes to me. I inform the guy I'm not a photo expert, but that one of the photos which is purportedly of Emilio Kosterlitsky of Rurale fame, doesn't look like him, at least to me. So I get this response:

"All cowards are exactly the same, its been the same for 100 years. At least you can sleep knowing you helped a young historian do what was right, and not a bitter, lying old man who just does not want anyone in the world to own an antique photograph. I hope you feel good about yourself and your magazine. I just wanted you to know that you are the liars who pervert Western history to make money, not me."

This eccentric Old West collector is not alone. As big prices are realized for Old West photos it seems like more and more of these guys are coming out of the woodwork. Which leads me to. . .

The Top Secret Project Update
Through the stripper Amber Glowe (see yesterday) Richard Wahd ended up with Remington's waterlogged 1888 sketchbook. He wants big money for it. Unfortunately, Richard's third wife, Rachel (below), left him and took the sketchbook as collateral.

Rachel wants half the profit and she also wants a divorce. He replies: "She also claims I'm a misogynist but what does that bitch know?"

Just between you and I, very little of the above scenario is made up.

Started scene number three of the owl sequence last night. Got some decent amber glow (maybe too much):

Need to add about six more figures and add in the big trees behind them where the owl is perched. Hope to finish this scene tonight. Worried that it's not the perfect image I see in my head. Gee, I wonder what ol' Eugene has to say about this?

"Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything."
—Eugene Delacroix

Monday, March 17, 2008

March 17, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Well, stop the Google presses, or should that be, stop the Google gushing? While I praised getting the Brazen Bill Brazelton bio off the web for free, when I began to incorporate the copy into the layout this afternoon, I started to notice little problems. At first glance, the facts were all there as I remembered them, but as I started going through the piece, little tidbits started to nag at me. For instance, on the website, it says that Brazelton's stage coach robbery at Point of Mountain (south of Marana, where present day Rillito is today) was written up in the Tucson Citizen by the "reporter" John Clum. Wait a minute, John Clum was more than a reporter, he owned the Citizen, which, by the way, he was publishing in Florence, not Tucson at the time of the robbery (today, of course, it's called the Tucson Citizen but if you didn't know you would assume, and you would be wrong). So even the name of the paper is wrong. How do I know this? Because I called Neil Carmony in Tucson and he read me the news reports. One of the Brazelton robbery dates is off as well. Ouch!

This is the dark side of the web. If you don't know enough about a subject, it can really bite you in the pants.

"In high school I was in the marching band, so you know the babes were all over me."
—Drew Carey
March 17, 2008
Got a tough week ahead. Trying to finish the May issue (goes out the door Thursday) and a book cover painting. Sent the tight rough off this morning, but had email delivery problems. Got some cryptic return saying ("Delivery failure: over quota"). Man, I hate this stuff.

Although on the other hand, I'm doing a quick, down and dirty Classic Gunfight for this coming issue (May), in order to concentrate on the 24-page Mickey Free excerpt going in the following issue. When I settled on Brazen Bill Brazelton as a likely poach, I mean fight, I literally took all my art and copy out of my 1999 book Bad Men. Unfortunately, all of the info on his demise isn't in the book (I only included the Cliff Notes version). I tried to remember where I filed all of my Brazelton notes. I also tried to remember who my go to contact in Tucson was (Neil Carmony?). Should I call him, find the stuff, go down to Guidon Books in Scottsdale and buy the appropriate book, bring it home, take notes, cull narrative? That would be my old M.O.

Instead, I Googled "Bill Brazelton Outlaw" and got all of the above info in 3.5 seconds—and here's the coolest part—it was free. As a researcher I say "Bravo!" As a publisher I say, "Ouch!"

You Always Like Mama Best
"Mr. BBB, I just checked out the Tenth Cav Sentry painting. I agree with Huffines and Murphy. It has to be one of your all time best. Keep it up kid. You're almost as good as your mom was."
—Daniel James Patterson

A Peek Inside The Top Secret Project
As you probably could have guessed, the guy who found Freddy Remington's waterlogged sketchbook wants to sell it. He is convinced it's worth millions and is typical of a kind of scalawag we run into from time to time here at the magazine. They think they are going to get rich quick and they want me to provide the authentification so they can have clear sailing to the bank. In other words, this guy with the waterlogged sketchbook is a first class weasel.

Three names I am considering for him:

• Richard "Dick" Wahd

• C. Mahn

• Billy Skammer

By the way, for inspiration, here's his mug shot:

And, here's his college girlfriend, Amber Glowe:

"As an artist, it is central to be unsatisfied! This isn't greed, though it might be appetite."
—Lwrence Calcagno
March 16, 2008
Busy weekend. Had a speech at the Phoenix Writer's Club on Saturday. They meet at the Fish Market on Camelback for lunch. Sat through their business meeting. The treasurer said it costs them $17 a person to have lunch but they are still in the hole after expenses by about $50. I raised my hand and offered this suggestion: "Have you considered a table dance?" I don't think the treasurer appreciated the suggestion, but I would have paid at least $25 to see her shake her tail feather. Talked about getting paid in a free content culture, plus all of my writing tricks, the main one being, "Write every day, without hope, without despair." I have been crediting this little gem to Julia Cameron, who wrote The Artist's Way, but last night I perused the book and couldn't find that quote. Now I'm not sure where I got it, but it reminds me of this quote:

"The art of creativity is remembering what was said, but conveniently forgetting who said it."
—Old Vaquero Saying

From the speech I motored over to Mike Torres' garage for our last Exits Exit rehearsal. The big Kingman blowout gig is this coming Saturday night. Worked on a dynamic opening to "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, as a tribute to our late bandmate Wendell Havatone. Roger Enrico, MIke Torres and Steve Paroni created a Tina Turner motiff (think "Proud Mary") to open the tune as I set the scene, then we launch off on the big, fat drum beat. If we pull it off as good as we played it Saturday, there won't be a dry eye in the house. If we flub it, there probably won't be an occupied seat in the house at the end of the tune. But that's Show Biz.

Status of The Top Secret Project
In 1888, while riding on patrol with Lt. Powhattan Clarke and his 10th Cav soldiers, artist Freddy Remington soaked his sketchbook in a river crossing on Black River. He tried to salvage it by drying it out on bushes at the evening campsite (believed to be southwest of Seven Mile Hill, near Fort Apache), but in the morning, the sketchbook was gone. It has gone missing for 125 years, until now.

Here is one of the waterlogged pages, this one of Tom Horn who we know was on the patrol. Note that it says, "Packer • Horn• Fort Apache" This confirms what historians have believed for some time that in 1888, Tom Horn was a packer, not chief of scouts as he later claimed in his controversial autobiography.

"The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery."
—Francis Bacon

Friday, March 14, 2008

March 14, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Just got this in and had to share:

"LOVE LOVE LOVE the saddle sketch. I want one. (The sketch, I have 2 saddles) Your character hasn't been hangin' out with that guy from NY has he? Spitzer, is that his name? X-Guvnor. Just wondering, Amber Glow is a great name considering your recent art projects. Good job."
—Julie Smith

Glad you caught the amber glow reference, but it's Ms. Glowe. Here's a peek behind the curtain:

Extrapolation Nation
Here are the two reference photos I used to create Mickey Free's patchwork saddle for the Top Secret Project:

As I mentioned in this morning's post, we were awaiting the bus back to the train station on December 20, 2006 and this guy rode into the plaza at Cerohahui. I immediately went over and asked if I could take a couple shots of his saddle. Absolutely love those tapaderos (stirrup guards).

Photographer Chet Provorse took this great shot deep in Mexico (I've forgotten what state he was in, maybe Jalisco?). Love the custom made machete scabbard. Muy Mexicano! And just like Mickey would love

"To draw you must close your eyes and sing."
—Pablo Picasso
March 14, 2008
Woke up this morning with the inspiration to finally render Mickey Free's saddle. Been on my to do list for at least a year. I have great reference thanks to a photo Chet Provorse shared with me of a funky saddle, complete with a machete scabbard, he took a photo of, while traveling in Mexico. Christmas before last, when my family was in Copper Canyon I took a couple photos of a great Mexican saddle with tapaderos, on the plaza at Cerocahui (deep in Copper Canyon). Extrapolating between the two saddles I came up with this rendering:

"Mick's Saddle"

From Remington's Waterlogged Sketchbook, Arizona, 1888

Provinance Applied And Denied
In college I dated a stripper named Amber Glowe. Her father's uncle, Lippo Azmas claimed to have a long lost sketchbook by Freddy Remington. Of course, I didn't believe it at the time, but she was charming and persuasive and the next thing you know we're out at Lippo's "ranch" on the Little Colorado (north of Holbrook), listening to Lippo's tall tales of how he came to own this "lost treasure." When I finally took a gander at the sketchbook, I was amazed by what I saw. If that isn't Remington's hand, I'll eat my hat.

Or, so the backstory will claim, in the magazomic version of the story.

"Home, in one form or another, is the great object of life."
—Josiah G. Holland

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 13, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Went home for lunch to try and knock out a second scene in the owl sequence. Had steak and eggs for lunch. Yes, home grown Silkie fresh eggs. Took an apple and sat out by the pool and planned my attack.

This is a close-up of campfire laughers, as Alchesay and Tom Horn hold court, trying to outdo each other with tall tails. Mickey Free translates Alchesay's Apache into Spanish and then English. Sometimes he does this for laughs, as he twists the translation from "I am a great hunter," to "Yo soy Cavrone," which is not a nice thing to say, but it gets a big laugh, as you can see:

Operation Amber Glow

Not perfect, or anywhere close to the image in my head, but here's what a certain ceiling painter has to say about this:

"The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection."
March 13, 2008
Came in early this morning to work on the Top Secret Project with Robert Ray. Rescanned my owl painting (may have ruined it with some pink tweaks this morning):

Tweaked About Tweaked Owl

Worked on the two-page ad layout for the upcoming 24-page-excerpt (running in May issue, and going to press a week from today). Put in two finished pieces of art: "The 10th Cavalry Campsite Sentry" and the owl close-up. Only need 15 more images like these by next week. Ah, deadlines. Speaking of which, got this feedback:

Tenth Cav Campsite Sentry Comments
"I found myself looking at this picture for a long time. Of course I can't 'see your vision' but I can see a lot in this slice of time. Security, loneliness, evening chill, smell of animals, smell of smoke, hint of danger, scratch of a wool shirt. I'm short on artistic credentials (and money) for sure, but I would pay money for that picture. It may not be your vision you're getting out of your head but I think it's damn good!"
—Larry Murphy

"The painting is okay, so longs as it is late [1888 or later]. I never show neckerchiefs on cavalryman out of principle, not suggesting they did not wear them. Ditto with the shirt, and again not to suggest that they didn't go in shirtsleeves, they did, but again using a dark blue captures John Ford, if that is what you are after then great. Boots look fine Having owned and worn several pair of gauntlets, I have never seen one white and couldn't imagine a soldier on picket wearing them in any case.
—Col. Alan C. Huffines

"Bob, this painting is one of your finest. Why do you think it is unfinished at this point? It seems fine, rich with detail and mood, depth and perspective, what more is there to do? Or maybe you were referring to the Owl Project or the Mickey Free project or some other project and not referring to this painting? At any rate, do more of this flavor -- it has real soul far beyond the quick pieces you've been doing (which are not slouches but I'm just sayin'). Sometimes quality is more important than quantity....."
—Lee Geecee

Actually the problem, for me, is not with the painting, it's how long it took me to do that painting (I spent the better part of four days on this one scene!). Somewhere, between the quick sketches and the finished paintings is the narrative I need and time is running out. I need to find the key to this if it's the last thing I do.

Gee, I wonder if my good friend up in Kaycee, Wyoming has anything to add to this?

“Hey, good owl. I like that one.”
—Julie Smith

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 12, 2008
Went home for lunch and whipped out an owl image:

Much more haunting. This is for the Top Secret Project.

Also working on roughs for a possible book cover. And I'm also working on Bill Brazelton for this issue's Classic Gunfights. Wrestling with the June cover and my editorial. Lots of deadlines and problems.

"Sincerity is in."
—Scott Turow, New York Times

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March 11, 2008
You know what's wrong with me? Well, besides that. I'll tell you what's wrong with me. I have the vision but I don't have the ability to get it out of my head. Case in point: I worked all day Sunday, then until eight last night on a painting for the Top Secret Project. Got up and worked on it this morning before I went into work. Came home for lunch and finally, finished "Tenth Cav Campsite Sentry" at about 1:30. Brought it into the office to scan and put in place in the Mickey Free 24-page-excerpt folder:

Yes, this is the set piece for the owl sequence I have been running here. My problem is I'm spending wayyyyyyyy too much time on this. Yes, it's very Remingtonesque, which ain't easy (thus the extra time), but it will take me years to finish this (it's already taken two years to get this far).

Gee, I wonder what Mr. Abbey has to say about this?

"You cannot explore the darkness by flooding it with light."
— Edward Abbey

Monday, March 10, 2008

March 10, 2008
Big weekend. The First Annual True West Preservation Society Fandango came off Friday night and we had fun. Lots and lots of Western folk from all over the country in attendance. And decked out in great Western wear. Marshall Trimble, Joey Dillon and Don Edwards put on excellent shows and we all had fun.

On Saturday I attended the Fountain Hills Book Fair and spoke to a decent crowd at 2:30.

The Top Secret Project Update
Worked all weekend on campfire scenes. That's Tom Horn, top, left, taken from a photo:

Riffing from Remington:

And riffing from The New York Times (looking for dramatic facial lighting):

Watched Chinatown last weekend and marvelled all over again at how well that movie holds up. On the extra freatures, screenwriter Robert Towne gives up the nugget that in all the Raymond-Chandler-Noir-Detective stories, the femme fatale is always a "black widow," so we expect the worst from Mrs. Mulray (Faye Dunaway) and so does Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson). At the end of the movie, however, she turns out to be the only pure person in the story. What a brilliant twist.

Speaking of Chinatown, one of the inside jokes in Hollywood, is that in his Oscar winning performance in There Will Be Blood Daniel Day-Lewis modelled (or is that poached?) his voice and speech patterns directly from Walter Huston, who played the arch villain Noah Cross in Chinatown.

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
—P.J. O'Rourke

Friday, March 07, 2008

March 7, 2008
Everyone is scrambling to get set for our First Annual True West Preservation Society Fandango tonight at the Buffalo Chip in Cave Creek. Cocktails at five. All proceeds go to a great cause and yes, you can buy your tickets at the door ($25). Lots of celebs coming in. Don Edwards, Marshall Trimble and Joey Dillon performing. Banners, lights, tables, silent auction materials, decorations, signage, it's a big project.

Mark Boardman flew in and will handle some of the stage announcements along with Ken Amorosano and myself. Hired photographer Dave Spindel to shoot the whole kebosh (he's the guy who shot, I mean, photographed John Lennon's last recording session.

Got an interesting exchange from Iraq this morning:

The Old West In The Middle East
"Who would have thought you would have more than one fan (being me) on this side of the globe. See following exchange."

Sir, this is Dan. Dan, this is COL Huffines. Both of you do cowboy mounted shooting. Sir, Dan is... well, I don't know what in the Hell Dan does... a civilian working with my outfit, the 402d AFSB at Anaconda. Dan makes a modest fortune "on the side" (when he's in the States, anyway) training the horses used for CMSA.

"You guys need to talk."

—RUSSELL E. TAYLOR, Baghdad, Iraq

COL Huffines,
"It's a pleasure to meet you sir. It's good meet another mounted shooter but even better meet a fellow Texan as well.

"I'm originally from San Antonio. I was born and raised there. I left in 1983 after enlisting in the Army. I've not been back, permanently, since then. All but one of my four brothers have returned after serving time in the military. I'm a nomad at the moment and plan to spend a year here in the box.

"Are you affiliated with any of the CMSA clubs in Texas? I met Matt Sronce at the New Mexico State shoot prior to deploying. He's a great guy! Do you shoot any SASS or MSA (Mounted Shooters of America) matches?

"I don't shoot as much as I work/train horses. I team rope. That is my bread and butter. However, I've sold quite a few 'shooting' horses as they are called.

"I currently live in Colorado; Pueblo to be exact. I retired from the Army while stationed at Fort Carson. After a long and rough divorce (as if there were any other kind) I decided to stay in the area next to my daughter who is now 12. I rope and shoot in that area and venture to New Mexico, and even Arizona at times.

"Good to hear from you. I will order all of your books and would be very honored to have you sign them if I can get them down to you.

"Once again, it's a pleasure. I hope to meet you the next time I am down in Baghdad."
—Dan Hernandez, somewhere else in Iraq

"My club is out of Ft. Worth. I live in Abilene (AGR, TXARNG) and that's the closest. Sounds like we have a lot in common. Last time I was here I brought my head dummy and rope.

"I love San Antonio, but so does everybody else. We lived there for a few years, but I couldn't take the growth. I remember when Boerne was a tiny country town.

"Of course that was 90-91. Been reenacting cow-boy for a long time. I write regularly for True West Magazine as well as being a columnist for Working Ranch Magazine."

"OH MY GOD!!! Do you know Bob Boze Bell, Sir? I don't get True West magazine (yet... though I keep thinking about it), but I get Shoot! and Guns of the Old West magazines. Wow! My day is greatly uplifted now!"

Small world, no? Gee, I wonder what kinds of quotes Alan, Russell, Dan and the boys, like?

"In the absence of orders, go find something and kill it."
—Erwin Rommel

Thursday, March 06, 2008

March 6, 2008
Just for grins I put "Top Secret Project" in the Google search bar, above. Came up with 71 hits on the blog. We are finally going to publish a 24-page excerpt of the Mickey Free story in the June issue and in my editorial in the magazine I want to send readers to this site to follow the long, convoluted journey of this project. One of the amazing benefits of Google search is the ability to isolate all my entries related to the effort in 3.5 seconds. Just as an aside, I plan on salting, and, or goosing the mentions of The Top Secret Project until there are at least 100 entries by the time the magazine hits the streets in May. So if you catch me mentioning it a bit more often, like right now, you'll know why.

Top Secret Project Sketches #5,881 Thru 5,887

And, more campfire glow effects:

And speaking of the Top Secret Project, it was Daniel Harshberger, who in 1972, coined the word "magazomic," as the hybrid description of our efforts on The Razz Revue (our Arizona "humor magazine"). I intend to resurrect this zany moniker for the Mickey Free excerpt because, as the word suggests, my comic book is going to be blended with "magazine" layout, complete with cutlines and pullquotes, as opposed to a traditional graphic novel, which combines comix with a paperback book.

Just got off the phone with well know photographer Jay Dusard. We are going to run a popular image he took in 1981 of Julie Hagen, which is known as "The Mona Lisa of The Range." Great photo of a cowgirl standing in a doorway of a line shack. Charlie Waters bought me the print, way back in 1982, and had it signed by Jay and it hangs in our hallway at home. I thought the photo of Julie as the perfect place to start this new category in the magazine. Tracking down the scans and Julie even as you read this.

Kathy got me a new book Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front by Todd DePastino. It's a great biography of the cartoonist who created "Willie And Joe" the original mud-faced WWII grunts. General Patton wanted to "throw his ass in jail," for depicting American soldiers as slobs. Bill was born in the Sacramento Mountains, not far from Cloudcroft and Lincoln, New Mexico. In fact, infamous the Oliver Lee took over their land. Bill and his brother left home, came to Arizona and attended Phoenix Union High School. Very interesting. When I was growing up I felt like no one I admired as a cartoonist, was from this area, and now that I have finished the Charles Schulz ("Peanuts") biography and found out about his Needles connection, I now find out about Mauldin with his Phoenix connection, I somehow feel more connected.

Gee, I wonder what Bill had to say about the secret to a good cartoon?

"If it's big, hit it."
—Bill Mauldin's motto

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

March 5, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Had to drive down into the Beast yesterday to fix the broken glass on the Wyatt scratchboard I sold yesterday. I was carrying it and it slipped out of my hand and as I brought my knee up to stop the fall, I shattered the glass. Drove down to Michael Feldman's frame shop at 32nd Street and Thunderbird and Joshua fixed it for me. Didn't charge me. Great guys.

On the way back out to Cave Creek I stopped at Desert Ridge and went into Barnes & Noble to see our rack position. As usual, Cowboys & Indians was front and center, while True West was hidden in the back row with only the top showing. Did what any self-respecting (or should that be self-righteous?) publisher would do: traded rack positions. Actually, I didn't put C&I in the back, I just brought TW up to the front. Now if I could only do that in the 1,000+ other outlets we are hidden in, we might have a chance at a decent sell-thru.

But I digress. Bought a magazine on owls, plus some other titles, like, Su Casa, Log Home Living and Western Art Collector which has a big spread on Ed and Rose Marie Mell and his art. Very sweet.

Then went over to Aaron Brothers and bought some art supplies ($75 Sue account).

Got up this morning and bailed into amber glow owls. Did six:

Still not haunting enough. Owls were feared by the oldtime Apaches as death omens and we are planning a series of owls in the graphic novel. By the way, these are sketches # 5,894 thru 5,900.

"Whatever your past has been, you have a spotless future."
—Melanie Gustafson
March 5, 2008
Still working hard on amber glow effects. Finished these up last night:

Familiar Faces?
Hi BBB, I really like the drawing of the horse laugh/lips etc. Then when I moved down a bit, I saw you dressed in drag making the same facial expressions. Self portrait???? Just curious."
—Julie in Wyoming

Yes, I ran that other photo because it wasn't quite as embarrassing as, well, this one:

Caption: "Yes, I think I'm perfectly qualified to be the editor of True West magazine. Why?"

"Truth exists, only falsehood has to be invented."
—Georges Braque

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March 4, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
Sold another scratchboard today. One of my favorites: of Wyatt Earp backing down the mob on Allen Street in front of the O.K. Corral. The guy stole it for $500, but hey it went to a good home.

Meanwhile, been workin' the face of Mickey Free for several days now:

Trying to get a consistent likeness. Not easy. He has one-eye, he's scarred, he has red hair, and as Al Sieber famously described Mickey, "He's half-Mexican, half Irish and all son-of-a-bitch."

Boney Paroni
"I just had a laugh after Mike told me to go to your blog and look at our old photo circa: 1971

"It's funny, the first time I saw Mike at your Mom's house, north of Bethany Home, I thought he looked like a cross between a Samurai warrior and Bobby Goldsboro. ( Hey--I was only 17 and very impressionable.) Man, I can still remember him ringing out the chords of 'Cinnamon Girl.' I was sold immediately, that guy made it sound authentic!! Still does.

"I saw No Country the other night, noticed the close resemblance you described.

"As for my 'do' in '71, all I can say is 'Carrot Top probably owes me royalties!!!'

"Looking forward to the event this month. I'm sure it'll be fun.

"The girl in the photo is next to me is Dee Messana or 'Rotor Butt.' We back-packed in Europe all that next summer.

"Saw a lot of work by Monet, Van Gogh, Toulouse Latrec, el Greco, Bosch, Goya, Gauguin , Seurat--very exciting. Been looking at your work. You are freakin' prolific!!! It's great to do work that you like!!"
—Steve Paroni
March 4, 2008
Still working on the glow:

Operation Amber Glow

And here is particularly sweet glow:

One of The Many Reasons I Don't Plan On Running For President

Photographer Jon Gipe sent me this photo of the Razz Band probably taken in the late eighties. I think this was part of a joke, but I can't quite remember the context. I know we did a radio show on KSLX called "Bozina" where I dressed as a woman and went out on the streets of Scottsdale. Shades of Jerry Springer. The illegal alien is Gordon Smith.

"All glory comes from daring to begin."
—Eugene F. Ware

Monday, March 03, 2008

March 3, 2008 Bonus Bonus Exits Blog Post
Here's an Exits Exit update. Mike Torres drove to Kingman to practive with the Kingman boys this weekend. He called me this morning and said it went really well. Speaking of Mike. . .

Friend-o Mine
"In the interest of hirsute happiness...will the Bardem/Chigurh hairstyle be required for all who attend the Exits Exit show? It just seems so right."
—Mark Boardman

Funny you should mention this. During the entire movie (No Country For Old Men) I kept noticing that Bardem looks uncannily like Mike Torres from that era. In fact I'll have to run a photo of the two of them. Talk about Separated at Birth!

Well, here you go. This is circa 1971, after a gig at an ASU fraternity:

Left to right: Mike Chigurh Torres, Danny Philips, Terry Townsend, BBB and Steve Peroni. Here's a closeup on that Chigurh do:

See what I mean? I have to admit, that in the movie, it kind of took the starch out of Bardem's character, because I kept thinking of Mike, one of the sweetest cats you'll ever meet.

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."
—Woody Allen
March 3, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
And without further ado, here is a video of the chickens, complete with multiple roosters:

This is prior to the deathfest on Saturday. Loved this title from Hugh Howard:

No Country For Old Chickens
"I was sorry to hear about the carnage at the chicken coop. It sounds like No Country for Old Chickens at your place. Which is a feeble segway into, Hey I finally got to see No Country for Old Men this past weekend. This is one well acted flick. I read the book and was pleased how close the movie followed the author’s story. I didn’t quite come away feeling as I do when I watch It’s a Wonderful Life but I really enjoyed it.

"I will confess that calling it a western is a stretch for me. To me a western is the classic style “Cowboy” movie set in the 1800s directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, bad hats and all. I do understand the concept of the west. I loved the setting and scenery. It’s obviously set in the west.

"I have been in law enforcement all my adult life. To me the overriding theme is how nobody wins in the drug war. Nobody ever seems to have the upper hand and it can really end bloody. I’m just glad the old sheriff got to retire. I just hate he felt like a failure.

"By the way, after watching the movie, I have a serious hat question for you. Recommend a good summer straw hat. I would like to get one after watching the movie. Now I have to buy Jesse James (we never got it in a theatre close by here) so I can determine who I think should have the Oscar.”
—Hugh Howard
Maniac# 9

Chicken Out?
"BBB: Jesus Bell, get the hell out of the chicken business!"
—Paul Hutton

"He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat."
—Napoleon Bonaparte
March 3, 2008
Well, well, well. Blogger finally gets its image posts together. A full week later, here's the image of Katelyn, the helpful checkout girl at Office Max who extracted my memory disc and installed it in my "Easy Share" camera. I picked it up, turned it on and shot a photo of her:

Meanwhile, backing up to catch up on the sketchbook efforts, here's February 22 sketches, with a concentration on something I call:

Amber Glow

What is it about the soft, amber glow of lights inside a dark wood cabin, with blue snow surrounding it? A snuggle factor that really trips my trigger. And does that amber glow extend to campfire scenes?

Oh, I think so. Here's a couple more:

And how might that apply, scene for scene in the graphic novel?

Somehow, in the red and black color scheme, the amber glow loses its, well, glow. Needs more work.

Sometimes I fret about working so much on this stuff at home, but then I remember the words of Eleanor Clift:

"Work is therapy for home and home is therapy for work."
—Eleanor Clift

Saturday, March 01, 2008

March 1, 2008
High chicken drama here today. Got home last night and went out to check on the budding roosters and there they were, doing the kung fu, cock-fighting deal, talon sabers slashing, blood coming out of eyes, with all three males attacking each other in a round robin, tag team cock-off. It was painfully obvious two of them were going to die, and die soon. So Kathy and I went out this morning with the idea of giving two of them a fighting chance to escape and live a new life in the trees. Leashed the dogs and let the first two roosters loose. Unfortunately, big ol' loveable Bea-52 also took the shot at an escape route and Buddy, his eyes bulging out of his head, lunged, breaking his leash clean in two. Ol' Bea got about fifteen steps and Buddy nailed her to the ground. We pulled him off, but she was already gone.

The two roosters fared a little better but they too died on the run, which seemed a tad more humane than having them peck each other's eyes out.

By the way, the woman who gave the Silkies to us told me that if it turned out we had more than one rooster to call her and she would find homes for them. I called her last week and got no return call. We also called the neighbors to see if they wanted a barn rooster, but, no takers. Brutal stuff anyway you slice it.

If you ask me, the world is more like a hen house than we'd like to admit. And if you don't believe me, check out those roosters going at it in the Middle East.

"Well, ain't you the cock o' the walk."
—Rockin' Robin