Sunday, May 31, 2009

May 31, 2009
The Arizona Republic led off their editorial pages this morning with two guys in cowboy hats. That would be Marshall Trimble and me.

Marshall gave a historical insight into how Phoenix became the center of the Arizona universe and I was asked to do a piece on state nicknames. Actually I was asked to do a piece on state mottos, which was a total gas to do, but at the last minute a copy editor insisted that it was nicknames, not mottos they wanted me to talk about. So I redid the entire piece.

Here, for your eyes only is the combined piece that didn't run in this morning's paper:

What's In A Nickname? A Motto Trying To Break out

While researching a query regarding Arizona’s official nickname, state historian Marshall Trimble was surprised to learn there was none. So, through his efforts the state House voted last week to make “The Grand Canyon State” our official nickname. It still awaits Senate approval.

Even though it has appeared on our license plates for a long time, “The Grand Canyon State” has always seemed a little too obvious as far as nicknames go. It's like a “duh” statement to those of us who grew up here.

But, recently I was visiting with residents of the Big Apple, when one of them said, “The Grand Canyon, isn't that in Nevada?”

“Yes,” I replied, “right next to the New York New York Casino.”

So maybe we do need to state the obvious.

I decided to check out some of the other 49 states and see what they had to offer up in the way of mottos and nicknames. First, the official mottos:

Connecticut — “He who transplanted sustains.” I'm not making this up. Of course, it's translated from the Latin (many of the early states have Latin mottos): “Qui transtulit sustinet.”

Texas — “Friendship.” That's it. Perhaps it's some sort of Lone Star haiku?

Idaho — “Let it be perpetual” (Esto Perpetua). This sounds like somebody in the Idaho statehouse is high on something besides potatoes.

Actually, several states have stoner-style mottos. Can you even guess who has this one? “To the stars through adversity” Why, that's like the Kansas motto, man.

Our sibling rival, New Mexico, has “It goes as it grows.” Another suspiciously hemp-related motto.

Oregon — “She flies with her own wings.” I'm sorry, but that is so weak. These are either poached ABBA lyrics, or someone in their statehouse is also smoking something besides those Idaho potatoes.

South Carolina has two slogans: “While I breathe, I hope.” And, “Ready in soul and resource.” I'm sorry, but both are limp.

The state of Washington claims to utilize Chinook jargon: “By and by.” When you think about it, that would look mighty weird on a license plate. Well, “bye bye to you too!”

Wyoming is evidently bragging, or hopeful: “Equal rights.” That's it. That's their motto. Granted, it's a bumper sticker, but does it fly on a license plate?

West Virginia — “Mountaineers are always free.” Perhaps as an answer to Virginia's “Flatlanders never are.” Just kidding.

Virginia's is actually “Thus always to tyrants.” Which, now that I think about it, may be an answer to West Virginia's motto after all.

Michigan has a straight ahead motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”

Maine has perhaps the oddest motto: “Manly deeds, womanly words.” Isn't that sexist and backwards? Shouldn't it be, “Manly words, but women actually do most deeds”? Makes more sexist sense to me.

Meanwhile, here's some of the nicknames for the other 49 states:

Of course California is “The Golden State” and Colorado is “The Centennial State” and Missouri is “The Show Me State.” These are pretty solid. Others are kind of weird.

For example, because of slang for a style of Confederate uniform, Alabama is known as “The Yellowhammer State.”

Some states have more than one nickname. For example Connecticut is known as “The Constit ution State,” but they evidently also answer to “The Nutmeg State” and “The Land of Steady Habits.” Heroin, perhaps?

New Jersey got “The Garden State” nickname when a local compared New Jersey to a huge barrel, with both ends open, one of which is plucked by New York and the other by Pennsylvania. So, shouldn’t that make it “The Bottomless Poaching Barrel State”?

Tennessee goes by “The Volunteer State,” but for a time it was known as the “Hog and Hominy State,” because pork and corn were real popular in the 1840s.

I guess we should be thankful Arizona became a state so late in the game. If we had to choose a nickname in the 1840s it probably would have been “The Arrow Through The Head State.” [The Republic edited this to "The Arrow Through The Hat State"]

Even though we’re neighbors, I never knew Utah is the “Behive State.” But it makes perfect sense. If you’ve ever been to Provo you know that is the preferred hairstyle even to this day.

All in all, it appears state nicknames and mottos are meant to be obtuse, and yet obvious. And, when you place “The Grand Canyon State” in that mess, it looks pretty damned grand.

Thanks, Marshall for making it official.

—Bob Boze Bell
Executive Editor, True West magazine

Saturday, May 30, 2009

May 30, 2009
I keep playing with storm clouds for the Mickey Free story. Here is a study I whipped out this morning:

As Mickey rode south on the trail of the Apache Kid, the storm clouds rooted themselves in the scorched earth and the molten ground spit it right back into the sky. Meanwhile, Mickey encounters numerous fires burning up the draws and along the ridgelines south of Fronteras. The smoke and the clouds intermingle until they become inseparable:

I wonder if Mickey ever catches the Kid? Perhaps Tolstoy has a comment on that front?

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."
—Leo Tolstoy

Friday, May 29, 2009

May 29, 2009
Twenty years ago I took a drawing class from legendary comic strip artist Burne Hogarth. I learned a ton on anatomy and rendering from the guy who did Tarzan for the newspaper comics and created Drago. This was at the Scottsdale Artist's School where they bring in the best artists in the country and you study with them for a week. Yesterday I got out his 1972 Tarzan of the Apes graphic novel to study his linework. I was taken with his rendering of an old man's head:

Then I returned to my sepia studies:

I really like the richness of the sepia washes and I want to expand this for the Mickey Free book. By the way, I'm about ten days from 9,000 sketches and I have to say that as I approach that milestone I have definitely picked up my game. As a point of reference, here's what I was doing a year ago:

And, here's the next day's sketches:

Very close to what I'm doing now, but I do sense a smidgen of progress. Now to start that second big painting on Billy and Pat Garrett. Gee, I wonder what ol' Diebenkorn has to say about this?

"When I am halfway there with a painting, it can occasionally be thrilling. But it happens very rarely; usually it's agony. I go to great pains to mask the agony. But the struggle is there. It's the invisible enemy."
—Richard Diebenkorn
May 29, 2009
Last week I wrote up a Plugged In commentary on the new movie about the Kingman Motel, called Management, starring Steve Zahn and Jennifer Anniston. The short piece ran in last Sunday's Arizona Republic and yesterday I received a nice little packet of old photos from my cousin Taplou (Duncan) Weir.

Someone in our family (perhaps my mom) walked all the way around the front of Al Bell's Flying A on Route 66 and took a series of photos documenting the front of the old school gas station:

I can't remember ever seeing these, but they are great. They appear to be from about 1955 or 56. I was the kid who iced those jugs for free and I worked for tips. Here is a close up of the photo that shows the Kingman Motel next door:

Where the trees are in the center and the parked car in the background, that is the Kingman Motel.

Thanks Taplou! I'll run some of the other photos later.

"The future belongs to charismatic communicators who are technically competent."
—Patricia Fripp

Thursday, May 28, 2009

May 28, 2009
The producer of the PBS series American Experience, Rob Rapley, sent me a low res version of the sunset time lapse film which will probably be used in the Wyatt Earp show they are currently working on. Here it is:


Pretty cool. He wanted ominous and he got it. This was shot on a still camera, hooked up to a Mac hard drive and clicking off three shots per second. It's all on the computer. Amazing.

The first sequence (see map on yesterday's post) had a jerky quality and Rob speculated the hard drive wasn't processing the photos fast enough and was dropping one or two images here and there. By the end of the day Rob had all the bugs worked out and it moves seamlessly.

Tweaked the Big Billy this morning. Kathy thinks there are problems with the hands and a certain face (Billy's). May keep working on it until I ruin it. Ha.

"Almost nothing works the first time it's attempted. Just because what you're doing does not seem to be working, doesn't mean it won't work. It just means that it might not work the way you're doing it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn't have an opportunity."
—Bob Parsons, CEO of GoDaddy

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May 27, 2009
Went home for lunch and finished another Mickey Free study on traversing the Salt River Canyon:

I may change Powhatan to Remington, since the latter would be the one stopping to gawk at the scenery.

Note to self: do not mention guns in the magazine without running it by the Gun Guys!

Here's Hickok expert Joe Rosa on our "Photos Don't Lie" feature in the current issue:

I found your feature on "Photos Don't Lie!" of interest but am not convinced by the photograph of the above gentleman.

Some years back I discussed pistol shooting in killing situations with some deputy U. S. Marshals in Kansas and more recently with a friend in Kansas who is a crack shot. I had mentioned the sometimes hysterically funny antics of t.v. cops and CSI types when carrying pistols thrust out in front heald two-handed and seemingly unable to turn corners, open doors and what have you.

It was pointed out that the two-handed style came in more recently because of the recoil from modern ammunition that was not experienced in the Old West.

As for your sheriff, from my own experience firing cap and ball Colt's pistols and Peacemakers, one did not get in line with the cylinder because of the risk of flash and burning powder from the join between the cylinder and the breech end of the barrel. Therefore, the way he is holding the pistols, with no chance of properly sighting it and running the risk of burns from flash or the barrel convinces me that it is a posed picture and nothing more.

Certainly, I am sure that at times some people held pistols two handed but away from flash!

—Joe Rosa

And, for good measure, here's our resident Gun Guy:

I agree with you that a two-hand hold was occasionally used, but in the caption you state that the photo "...makes us question how early it was that shooters gravitated to this two-handed grip."

When you say this two handed grip, it infers a grip exactly like that shown. Believe me, nobody is going to fire a revolver with the hand in front of the cylinder.

That's why I think he was clowning around or possibly listening to instructions from a non-gun-savvy photographer.

Working in as many films as I have, I know they are always suggesting the actor/photo subject do something they think is cool, but is really ridiculous.

Photos don't lie, but they don't always tell the whole story either.


End of comments. Gee, I wonder what ol' Gelb has to say about all this?

"Over-seriousness is a warning sign for mediocrity and bureaucratic thinking. People who are seriously committed to mastery and high performance are secure enough to lighten up."
—Michael J. Gelb
May 27, 2009
The record rain last week ended up to be just what Rob Rapley ordered: dramatic, ominous clouds, all day long.

After shooting the Dragoons, Rob and Michael decided they wanted to come back to the Middlemarch location for sunset, but since it was only 4:30, was there one more location we could visit and then come back?

I told them we could either do Gleeson or Charleston and if I had to bet, I'd choose the Charleston road. About a mile short of that destination, Rob and Michael both said pull over. Cecile B. DeMille streaks of light were breaking through the clouds:

We are looking west and Iron Springs is to the far right in the pass. While we were set up here many cars chugging up the hill towards Tombstone honked and waved at us (everyone in that part of the state loves a camera crew).

We got back in the rented Toyota and I sped back to the sunset location, just in time to capture the fading light on the Dragoons:

And then, with all lenses pointed west we waited for the sun to set at 7:17. We were not disappointed:

And it just got better and better (is this an Ed Mell painting, or what?):

And, just for grins, here's Michael standing up on a camera box, to capture that A-frame over the cemetery fence in Warren. So when you see it in the PBS American Experience show on Wyatt Earp you can chuckle to yourself:

And finally, here's the big Billy oil painting I just finished (glare and all):

It's got some cool, murky passages. I am going to do another one though, just because I can.

"I don't know anything about luck. I've never banked on it, and I'm afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: hard work—and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't."
—Lucille Ball
May 27, 2009
Last Friday morning I accompanied PBS producer Rob Rapley and cameraman Michael Chin on a visual shooting tour of Cochise County. Through email we had narrowed down the route predicated on how much we could see in one day. That eliminated Animas and Sulpher Srings Valley (John Ringo's grave, etc.), and most points east of Tombstone.

However, on Friday morning we woke up record rain in the Tucson area and it looked doubtful whether we would get anything to shoot. We took off from the Radisson Resort at seven anyway, and waded across Kolb Road to the I-10.

Here is the route we took:

View PBS Tour in a larger map

When we took the Vail exit and headed south towards Sonoita, the sky looked like this:

But as we topped out on the ridgeline we saw the clouds breaking over the Whetstone Mountains and we stopped for our first shots:

Michael Chin, the cinematographer from San Francisco, was using a 16mm high def film camera (his own, by the way) to get a richer look for the American Experience show on Wyatt Earp:

Meanwhile, producer Rob Rapley set up a still camera hooked directly into his Mac laptop hard drive that would process three frames a second to capture the dramatic cloud movements:

The sun started to break through the clouds and we got some very dramatic stuff:

Like this:

From the divide we drove into Sonoita and got snacks, then headed towards Cottonwood Springs. Much to my surprise, they didn't like the lighting at the entrance to the Earp-Curly Bill fight location (photographers hate the middle of the day for shooting. Most of the shadows are gone, blown out, too harsh. They prefer early morning and late afternoon.), so we moved on to Sierra Vista, took the bypass, north of town and headed down the road towards Bisbee. About half way out, I told them we were looking towards Lewis Springs on the San Pedro, which is where the Clanton Ranch was. The clouds were breaking nicely, so we turned around and went a short ways down a power road to take images of the Tombstone Hills, Charleston and Lewis Springs:

We got rained on here:

We're looking across the San Pedro towards Tombstone. the Tombstone Hills are in shadow. From here we drove to Bisbee and tried to find a good A-frame mining hoist. There were several in Warren, south of Bisbee, but they were modern, metal ones. The best one was behind the cemetery and we couldn't figure out how to get around the graveyard (it is huge!), so we ended up going to the north end of the "resting place" and shooting over the fence:

After we got this shot, we had a great lunch in the Breakfast Club. Place was slammed with locals, so the economy can't be doing that bad down there.

We got to Tombstone about 2:30 and decided not to shoot anything there. Rob wanted a clear shot of the Dragoons, but it soon became evident there were too many new homes dotting the landscape to the north of town. I remembered Middlemarch Road which you access west of town and so we drove out there and went quite a ways on the dirt road until we cleared most of the houses. This is the view south, back towards Tombstone, with all of the damn new houses in the way (sorry Sherry).

And this is the view shooting north:

It's still not a clean shot. There are still houses out there, but Michael and Rob gerrymandered creosote bushes and gullys between them to try and get rid of them.

Coming next: A spectacular sunset over the Whetstones.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

May 26, 2009
Went home for lunch and finished the second version of "Friend Or Foe":

As I mentioned this morning, this one is more of a dusk scene. I also pumped up the foreground ridges with dark, volcanic rock. I love how totally different rock formations, collide out on the desert (wish I would have paid more attention in Geology!).

And for reference, here's the first one:

Robert Ray just taught me a step to add to the scanning process to tweak the color a bit. I noticed the first scan, posted this morning, had lost some color nuance. Still, although I like the effects in the first one, I think I have to go with the fading light image. It's more moody and dramatic, no?

I'm working on another scene of Powhatan Clarke's crew and Remington traversing the Salt River Canyon on their way to Fort Apache. Here's the study:

And I also worked over the long weekend on sepia style storyboarding:

I might use this for flashbacks, or maybe, even go in and out of it, as if we are getting different media versions of Remington's sketchbooks.

I also photographed the big Billy oil, but couldn't get a clean shot of it. It's still drying and I couldn't get an angle that killed the glare. I'll try again later.

Robert Ray is developing a new Google custom map deal he learned at a seminar last Friday to illustrate my PBS wanderings. We hope to have that ready, along with the dramatic photos, tomorrow.

"Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity."
—Gilda Radner
May 26, 2009
Here's the sketch of Powhatten Clarke that I whipped out last year:

This is based on a photograph of the young Lieutenant when he was based at San Carlos. Remington featured Clarke in several paintings, such as "Arrival of A Courier."

Powhatan died tragically before he could leave his mark on the army or the world.

"Funny how an obituary doesn't interest a dead man."
—Frederic Remginton
May 16, 2009
Finally, finished the big Billy oil painting yesterday. Not sure it's good enough. Going to let it dry and take another look. Kathy is recommending I start another one.

Also worked on a sequence for Mickey Free called "Friend Or Foe?":

There is a point when you cross a wide valley where you have committed to the crossing and when you get to the middle you are the most vulnerable to attack since you are so exposed. And, when you see the dust coming, you don't know if it's friend or foe. In this case, it's both. These are Rurales and they round up Mickey Free and intend to hang him. There is only one problem: there are no trees for miles, so a Mexico City Major riding with the Rurales decides to just shoot the "gringo".

I have another version of this scene, with dusk descending on the foreground which I'll finish at lunch and post here.

Meanwhile, my 10 sketches have evolved into this:

Loose washes overlaid with red and brown penwork. Very rococo. I sure have low self-esteem about these images. Gee, I wonder what a standup guy has to say about this?

"I'm a great believer in low self-esteem. The only people I find that have high self-esteem are criminals and actors. And if you have low self-esteem and you always assume you're the dumbest person in the room, you'll work harder."
—Jay Leno

Monday, May 25, 2009

May 25, 2009
Quiet day at home. Reflection and introspection: what works and what doesn't? As I reread my daytimer notes from 1999 and 2008 I am struck with how much effort was wasted on "Important Tasks," that ended up going nowhere.

Working in my studio on late afternoon light, Remington on patrol with Powhatan Clarke. Riding through the Salt River Canyon on the way to Fort Apache. Have excellent reference photos shot two years ago with the Top Secret Writer.

Speaking of Paul, I'm reading Frederic Remington: Selected Letters which he recently gifted me, and I learn something on every page. For example, we almost went to war with Chile in 1891. In a letter to Powhatan Clarke, Remington looks forward to the conflict: "this little Uncle Sam's tract of land is just spoiling for a fight; look at [President] Harrison's chili [yes, the Western artist spells the country like the dish] & Behering's Seal deal—we'll have it inside of three years and you'll be a Maj. General or a corpse. . ."

Evidently, a civil war in Chile led to an incident in San Diego harbor, where the crew of a detained Chilean steamer overpowered the American guard and set sail for home. The ship and crew were captured and brought back. Later, in October of 1891 a Chilean spit in the face of an unarmed American sailor on shore leave, which caused a riot. Two U.S. sailors died in the fighting and feeling in both Chile and the U.S. ran high for war. The Chilean foreign minister submitted an apology and, after much saber rattling, it all blew over.

Unfortunately, Remington was prescient on another front: Powhattan Clarke would be a corpse within two years. The promising young soldier drowned while swimming in the Bighorn River near Fort Custer, Montana on July 21, 1893.

Remington had predicted great things for Clarke and Hutton believes Powhatan would have had a promising career with the Rough Riders and beyond, had he lived. And so, today, we salute your memory Powhatan Clarke. The Top Secret Writer and myself intend to bring your story back to the people you served. And a humble thank you to all who have served.

"They could take a Cossack and milk his damn mare on the run."
—Frederic Remington praising Native American cavalry

Saturday, May 23, 2009

May 23, 2009
Back from Tucson this morning. Taped a talking head segment for a Wyatt Earp segment for PBS at Luna Studios on east Speedway. On Friday I acted as the producer's guide and showed them the main geographic locations in Cochise County. It rained all night on Thursday, so it looked rather thin for shooting anything on Friday, but as we topped the divide on the way to Sonoita, the clouds broke over the Whetstones and we had spectacular scenery for the rest of the day. I'll post some of my photos of them shooting, later.

On the way down on Thursday I met Wayne Rutschman at Molino's Midway for a Mexican food lunch (he brought my daytimer, which I had inadverdantly left at his cabin last weekend). We yucked it up pretty good. Had the lunch special, two enchiladas (I bought: $22 cash).

Many memories on Speedway: the Doll House, the Embers, The Cedars, the Poco Loco, the Hi-Ho Club and the Dunes. All nightclubs I played in, or frequented in the sixties. Also went by the Branding Iron, the Long Branch and the Hayloft, all clubs I played in during the seventies when I was in my honkytonk phase. None of the clubs mentioned still exist, although several are still bars with different names. The Dunes and the Longbranch are both "Gentleman Clubs." I contemplated going inside to see if I could recognize the electrical outlets (The Hayloft door was open this morning) but I blew by there and decided there was nothing to see in those old haunts but disappointment.

Of course what we all want to happen is what actually happened to me one time, when I returned to Tucson after an absence of about five years. This was in the seventies. I went into Lloyd's, a little joint on Sixth Street, where all the Kingman kids went for Mexican food, and as I sat down, Charlotte, the lone waitress, walked by and said, "Hi Hon, the usual?"

That's the dream of nostalgia, but unfortunately, it's the exception to everything. And that's what makes it such an exceptional memory (hers and mine).

"If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work."
—Thomas J. Watson Sr.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 21, 2009
Sprinkling and overcast again today. Debbie in yoga class commented that she has never seen the desert ironwoods in such spectacular bloom. They produce a violet array of flowers and against the palo verdes' bright yellow it really creates a magnificent palette.

I'm on my way this morning to Tucson for a PBS documentary taping.

Tracking The Purchase of True West Magazine From Ten Years Ago:

Here's the culling of my Franklin Daytimer. We started talking about buying True West in May of 1999, but the actual purchase and taking over of the magazine took most of the year. Here are the highlights of that long ago summer:

June 17, 1999
Just got off the phone with Steve G. at True West [in Stillwater, OK]. He shot me a new proposal. $50,000 down and the remaining $48K at the end of the year.

June 22, 1999
Bob McCubbin called and told me his former boss at El Paso Gas is interested in investing in True West. We could be back in biz. An amazing ride.

July 1, 1999
Marcus Huff [True West editor] wants me to write up the Earp Trial for True West [The Arizona Bar recreated a mock trial of Wyatt Earp. I portrayed Johnny Behan], which is weird because I’ll be working for someone who may be soon working for me.

July 6, 1999
Steve G. called and is threatening to put magazine up for sale through a media broker. I think he’s just anxious to sell. Assured him we’d have an answer Monday.

July 9, 1999
I met with Jim F. the accountant and he gave me the rundown. Many, many questions. It appears True West is spiraling downward which is not surprising, but the $64,000 question is: how close to the ground are they?

Jim’s main points are:

• no bank statements since 12-31-98

• Value is in subs and name—everything else is incidental

• accounts payable aging has too many slow paying accounts. Could indicate cash flow problems.

July 12, 1999
Bob McCubbin and I made a verbal commitment to Steve G. to buy True West this morning at 9:35. It was a conference call and Bob McC. was masterful. Very calm, reassuring, in control. He offered a piece of the new business to Steve! Really inspiring. [We] agreed to a $2,500 earnest fee. We are on our way to owning True West.

August 19, 1999
Bob Early [Arizona Highways editor] called yesterday to chat about the status of the morning show and when we got to True West he really laid it on me, saying, “I like you Bob and I don’t want to see you get hurt and you can get hurt real fast in this game.” And “I wouldn’t buy True West on a bet.” He sees nothing but failure there. Told me the intimate details of their [proposed] Myths & Legends magazine which they are going to spend $900,000 on the first year and they won’t be profitable for the first three years! Described all the pitfalls (we have no circulation director or Sales Manager) and how TW is doomed. Sigh.”

End of daytimer entries.

Bob Early is no longer the editor of Arizona Highways. Their proposed magazine Myths & Legends was never launched and my two original partners eventually sold out. True West Editor Marcus Huff and I got crossways in 2000 and he left in a, ahem, huff, but we are featuring him and his wife’s general store-home in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, in the next issue.

And, this is the most amazing part of all this—we are still here holding our own. I wonder if ol’ Sir James has anything to say about this?

“The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes to do, but in liking what one has to do.”
—Sir James Barrie

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 20, 2009
Blew off weight training this morning to come into the office and fix the Ira Aten Classic Gunfight. I swapped out two images, took out the offending paragraph, replaced it with Mark Boardman's original copy, created a sidebar below the illustration, gave it a sidebar box and ID it as a "fascinating sidebar" to the fight. Meghan tweaked the syntax and the layout and we turned it over to Robert Ray who schmoozed it to the finish. Feels good. As I told Mark, I feel like I get to have my enchilada and eat it too.

Still cloudy and overcast. Experimenting with more color in my daily sketches:

Here's my first sketch on the Ira Aten fight:

But it struck me as too staid and typical. Glad I went with the Andrew McClelland image with the two guns blazing. After a day of realism I was in the mood for experimentation on my 8 remaining sketches:

Meanwhile, here's what I was sketching a year ago:

Really like that Spanish Dagger in the center. The little boy and portrait are from the cover of Ten Cent Plague, the book about comics being banned in the fifties. And here's what I was doing ten years ago:

Ten Years Ago Today

May 20, 1999

Need to go into Phoenix today and do some cover work on Bad Men [book]. Not looking forward to drive.

• Fixed cover

• Redid Black Bart map

• Redid U.S. Map—into outlaw hideout map

• Redid Northfield-Medelia map

• Fixed silver dollar entry

• Made corrections in sections I-II-III-V-VI

Dropped off True West [financial] facts and figures to Jim [Tri Star accountant]

[then on May 27 I wrote: "My Bad Men book seems rather weak as I proof it, but I can't decide if it's because I'm sick of the whole thing, or not. Exasperating."]

[On June 3, Jim, the Tri Star accountant, recommended not buying True West magazine. He walked me through the numbers pointing out that their net income for 1998 was at $90,000, while their salaries were at $132,000. "They have nothing to sell you," Jim said.]

And believe it or not, it gets worse. Wait until you see what the editor of Arizona Highways has to say about buying True West, plus Bob McCubbin's accountant also weighs in. Bet you can guess what he says. Ha.

"It is indeed foolish to be unhappy now because you may be unhappy at some future date."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

May 19, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out a spot illustration for the July Classic Gunfights. This is the one I was talking about this morning that features Andrew McClelland and his brother Hugh shooting it out with former Texas Ranger Ira Aten (what a name!). Andrew was game, and came with both guns blazing, but Ira dropped him damn quick then took on his brother Hugh, who tried hiding behind a building corner and taking pot shots at Aten. Ira, using two hands to hold his pistol fired two shots, hitting Hugh in the neck and back:

Fight over.

"Let us hope that we shall soon have finished with art, with aesthetics. They make me sick. Yesterday I dined at Rouarts'. There were his sons and some young people—all talking art. I blew up. What interests me is work, business, the army!"
—Edgar Degas, one of the best artists ever
May 19, 2009
Got some rain last night. Still sprinkling this morning. Saw some great tattered clouds dropping virga on the way into work. Snapped off a photo right out my truck window:


We've got an issue, July, going out the door tomorrow and we're wrestling with a component of a Classic Gunfight, which features former Texas Ranger, Ira Aten, fighting the McClelland brothers in Dimmitt, Texas. Mark Boardman researched the fight and wrote up a straight ahead account of the shooting using the best sources available. Basically, Ira was peeved that Andrew McClelland called him a liar at a town meeting, so Ira rode up to the McClelland's land office (they were allegedly sellng land at inflated prices and Aten had created a rival development south of Dimmit, thus the bad blood). Aten cooly dismounted and asked Andrew if he still thought Ira was a liar. When he said he did, Aten told him to arm himself. Andrew went and got his guns, came out firing two pistols and Aten shot him down. Then, the other brother, Hugh, fired from the corner of a building, and Aten, using two hands on his pistol (another example of the Weaver Stance, in 1891) shot through the corner of the building and nicked Hugh in the neck and back, taking him out of the fight.

Pretty cool fight, no? Well, our archivist, Ron, retrieved an old Frontier Times from January 1945 that quotes an Amarillo newspaper account of the fight. It was printed several days after the fight so it's contemporary. In this account, there is a wonderful sidebar anecdote that goes like this:

"Aten met the McClellands on the street for the first time since they had insulted him and called him a liar, and asked them if they still said it. They replied that they did. Aten then told them they were -------lying-------- ----------. Andrew McClelland said he was unarmed, and Aten told him to get his gun. Hugh then said, 'I am ready for you,' and started as if to draw his pistol, where upon Aten drew his revolver and waited for McClelland to produce his, but he did not pull it, and Aten returned his pistol to its place. Hugh McClelland then went into his office, drew his revolver, came back to the door and began cursing Aten, who was backing up with both hands up, telling McClelland to shoot, and assuring him that he would catch the bullets."

I told our managing editor Meghan Saar and Mark we have to get this into the fight, but Mark was suspicious:

"I can't find anything---other than the account you've found, Bob--about Ira promising to catch Hugh's bullets. In fact, after reading a fair amount about the man, it just doesn't sound right. I mean, what guy in his right mind would dare another guy to go ahead and shoot. And again, the info I've got said that Hugh only made his appearance when he opened up from behind the building.

"I think Aten was the kind of man who would let an unarmed foe go get a gun--but not much beyond that.

"It sounds to me like that account embellishes the initial confrontation between Andy and Aten by adding Hugh to the mix. That part isn't in the Bowden, Hunter or Vick accounts, nor in the Preece. And the county historian never mentioned that, either.

"So while it sounds colorful and cool, it just doesn't ring true to me. And most of the accounts of the fight agree.

"I wouldn't go with it."

—Mark Boardman

I chewed on this all last night and this morning in yoga. In a centered place, I decided we would put the anecdote in, but with a clarifer, that this was from an initial newspaper account, so the reader knows it is just one version. When I ran this by Mark, I got this reply:

On May 19, 2009, at 10:13 AM, Mark Boardman wrote:

"Does the Amarillo account say what Hugh did when his brother came out of the store firing?

"It seems a bit strange to me that he'd hightail it away, down the block and around the building when he and his bro have the drop on the guy.

"But what the heck..."


No, but it does flow to me and it seems as logical as so many of these fights. One guy is afraid, but is blustering. He runs inside, watches his brother shooting, hoping he finishes off Aten, then when his brother goes down he realizes he has to act. The "catching the bullets" is probably a stretch, but there it is, in the first newspaper account of the fight. and frankly, stranger things have happened. I may report on this in today's blog. The due diligence we go through to get these right. I'll probably say you aren't too thrilled with this being included, something like that. You cool with it?


"I agree, stranger things have happened. But newspaper accounts have also been known to be way wrong. Heck, look at all the accounts of the Street Fight in the days following. There was a bunch of misinformation.

"It's also interesting that Preece's book cites Aten's Six and One-half Years in Ranger Service but doesn't include the Hugh McClelland stuff.

"So, at the risk of sounding like a total asshole, no, I'm not too thrilled to include that part. I'm just trying to get this thing right, and we've already had to get beyond so much bad info (like the election happening in Nov. according to a couple of sources, etc.).

"This is one of those times when I wish I was out there and we could hash it out in person. Or resort to manly fisticuffs."


To Be Continued. . .

Monday, May 18, 2009

May 18, 2009
I mentioned that the makers of the new film Management, starring Steve Zahn and Jennifer Annistion did not film in Kingman, where part of the movie takes place. It's too bad, because the real Kingman would have added so much flavor to the film with its period motels, many of them in decline and a few, like the Hillcrest Motel, in arrested decay. And the landscape, the trailer houses and the trains would have given the funny film a boost of road cred.

For a Kingman boy, it's a hoot to hear Jennifer Anniston's character complain about the Kingman Motel's lack of recycling stations and Steve Zahn's mother says, "Recycling hasn't really caught on here in Kingman." I imagine the rest of the quiet theater was wondering why this old man in the front row was laughing like there was no tomorrow. Ha.

So, if like me, you're wondering where did they film the Kingman segment, wonder no more. Steve Lodge sent me this info:

According to IMDb Pro, Madras and Portland, Oregon is where they filmed Management. I’m assuming Madras stood in for Kingman? The movie moves from Kingman to Maryland and then to Aberdeen, Washington, and back to Kingman, so, I imagine the filmmakers needed a location that could provide landscape for all three, diverse locations. I asked Steve where he got his info:

"IMDb Pro has a slew of information that the regular IMDb doesn't. I pay for the Pro version - a good investment for me. Let me know if you want me to check out anything movie or TV related and hopefully I will find it. Someone on the True West blog was asking about goofs in movies. IMDb Pro has them all; and they're still adding new ones all the time."
—Steve Lodge
May 18, 2009
On Saturday Kathy and I drove up to the White Mountains to meet Wayne and Marilyn Rutschman at their "cabin" near Show Low. I put quote marks on cabin because it is closer to a ski lodge than a mere cabin. Really a stunning structure, tucked into the pines and with great views. Had a grand time, good food and wine. Talked late into the night about a close friend, Rick, who ended his life in 1970. Compared notes: all of us share a bit of guilt that we could have saved him (my wife, the therapist assures me this happens to everyone who loses a close friend).

Came back on Sunday and really studied the clouds. The Rim Country is famous for it's big, summer sweepers:

Hit rain at Chistopher Creek and as we dropped down to Payson, the big thunderheads rolled right over the top of us. Came home and did this study of overhead clouds:

From Thunderheads To Cloud Heads

And added these 10 sketches of cloud heads:

Yes, there are heads, actually faces, in each cloud study, some quite subtle, others rendered with a sledgehammer. Ha.

"What courage to make sketches."
—Edgar Degas

Saturday, May 16, 2009

May 16, 2009
Yesterday Mert Glancy came by the True West offices and lent me an old ledger of newspaper articles one of her relatives wrote in the 1930s. We had a grand time talking about all the old Kingmanites and the black bear that recently tried to break into the Kingman post office on Hilltop (he must have figured that would be the safest place to go because nobody would ever wait on him). The one-year-old bear then ran up Jefferson Street, which is where my grandmother lived, right across the street from the Glancys. The bear ran right between Laury's old place and my Aunt Sadie Pearl's and was shot in the driveway of the house across the street.

I left the office early at 4:30 and drove down to Desert Ridge to get some more art supplies for Mickey Free ($73, Sue account), then met Kathy for a new movie opening at Harkins:

To all of my Kingman Homies
Forget Edge of Eternity and Badlands and How The West Was Won and Roadhouse 66, you need to see Management the new film starring Steve Zahn and Jennifer Anniston. It's about a young guy (Zahn) who helps his parents run the Kingman Motel. I'm not kidding. My father's gas station, Al Bell's Flying A, was right next to the real Kingman Motel. Anyway, it is so Kingman! Steve Zahn is every Kingman kid you have ever known. Naive, goofy, misdirected and hilariously out of step with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, they didn't film it in Kingman, but still, I think you'll get a hoot out of it.

"Do you want to touch my butt?"
—Jennifer Anniston, as Sue Claussen, to Mike (Zahn)

Friday, May 15, 2009

May 15, 2009
Kathy worked late last night so I turned on the TV to catch up on the news and even though we must have at least a dozen sources for news (CNN, ESPN, Fox News, CNBC, BBC World News, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, plus the four local affiliates), after about five minutes I just had to turn it off. Everything is so negative and sensationalized (What you eat may kill you!).

So, in these Negative Nabob-erson Times, it's sometimes refreshing to hear some positive news, like this:

News From The Front Lines
Floyd Cranford from Shawnee, Oklahoma left a rather grumpy message this morning saying that when he got his June issue of True West magazine today it was all torn up and he wanted to know if we could send him another one. He said if we didn’t send him one that we could cancel his subscription when it ran out.

I put the June issue into an envelope with Floyd’s address on it and then called him. Floyd was delighted to get a call back! He explained that he truly loves getting True West and was so disappointed when his June magazine came to him pretty much illegible, with tears and crumpled pages. Floyd told me that he is 89 years old (and he’s the baby of the family, he has a sister who is either 99 or 100) and has been a subscriber for as long as he can remember. He reads every issue from cover to cover and then gives them to his son, who also reads them and then saves them in his home library. The son has every issue his father has given him from way back when he first subscribed.

He was so happy to get my call that he jokingly asked to speak to my boss because he was going to get me a raise!
—Lynda Gager

Thanks Lynda, I'd love to give you a raise but it might kill me.

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
—Sir Winston Churchill

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May 14, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out a transition piece for the Mickey Free graphic novel. After Mickey deals with the Apache Kid in Mexico he heads home with two bloody gunny sacks across the pommel of his Mexican saddle:

Riding north towards the border, he notices the harsh desert is starving for water but the summer sky emits only virga.

"You may be full of something besides vigor."
—Old Weatherman Saying
May 14, 2009
Got some interesting feedback from my Plugged In commentary that ran two weeks ago in the Arizona Republic. More than a few were offended by my alleged assertion that all surveyors are drunks. I never said that. I said, "all the surveyors I knew personally were drunks." And, of course, it was satire, but you know how that goes over when your own ox is being gored.

And several acquaintances came out of the closet. Jim, a fellow yoga student in his eighties, came over to my mat this morning and confessed to being a "stake bag carrier" in his youth. Interesting. I never would have guessed.

I got an invitation to lunch out of the deal and so I met Daniel Mardock of RBF Consulting at El Encanto last week to eat a bean and talk about surveying. We traded stories and I told Dan I worked mostly in the summers when I was in school (both high school and college). As we talked about the changes in the biz (no more chains!) I realized how much my brief surveying experiences (1963-1970) influenced my Old West books. For one thing, I'm a nut for maps. When I read a Western history narrative and Billy the Kid is riding between Puerto de Luna and Anton Chico and he runs into the Randolphs, who are from Sunnyside, and they accompany him to Las Vegas (New Mexico), I want to see that on a map. Is it five miles, is it 100 miles? It drives me crazy when I don't know where they are.

That's one of the reasons "The Mapinator" Gus Walker does our maps in True West. He is the best in the West and when we bought the magazine in 1999 I showed my staff his maps which ran in the Arizona Republic and I said, "Give me this." They tried, but they couldn't, so I called Gus and asked if I could bring my staff down to the R&G offices and he got it cleared and we drove down there and Gus graciously showed us on his computer how he does the maps and we went back to our offices behind the Goat Sucker Saloon in Cave Creek and they still couldn't produce what I wanted, so I called Gus back and asked if he could come out and show us on our computers and he came out (we went to lunch at El Encanto) and Gus finally said, "Why don't you just hire me?"

So I did (Gus had worked at the Republic for 36 years and was looking to semi-retire).

So I realized my map obsession sprang directly from my surveying days. Amazing

Dan also told me about documents showing Wyatt Earp taking the rear chainman oath. He even sent me a document that proves it. Evidently Earp was surveying one of his mining claims in Tombstone and to save money he acted as a chainman and had to sign the oath.

And speaking of Wyatt, Hugh O'Brian called me yesterday and invited me to come visit him and his wife at their home in Hollywood. May go later this year.

Meanwhile, The Top Secret Writer just discovered and bought a new find in the Wild World of Wyatt Earp: a photo of the earliest known actor to portray Earp in the movies. His name is Bert Lindley:

It says on the back of the photo: "Wyatt Earp deputy sheriff to Bat Masterson of Dodge City, known as one of the three greatest gun-men that ever lived, along with Bat Masterson and 'Wild Bill' Hickok."

"Nothing is accurate, but it's all true."
—Judd Apatow, describing his next movie

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 13, 2009
Went home for lunch and whipped out a nice little San Carlos study:

The peaks at right are prominent just north of the old agency where Mickey Free, Al Sieber, The Apache Kid, Geronimo, Tom Horn and even John Clum (especially John Clum) spent some quality time.

The area has a distinct striping along the ridges where the rock layers turn almost white. Trying to capture that.

The surface area is a burnt sierra green, with the creosote bushes choking out the underbrush turning it to a dull gray. Very beautiful to my mind, although, when I took him there, the Top Secret Writer proclaimed it "squalid," which is funny, because you could say the same thing about Albuquerque (his hometown and which he thinks is so breathtaking). Actually, they both have a harsh beauty I adore.

On our Capturing Billy the Kid Country road trip last month, I was driving from Hatch, New Mexico to Hillsboro and I kept seeing fascinating geography and I would ask Ed Mell if he wanted me to stop. Most of the time he said no, and maybe twice he shot a quick photo right out the window. By the time we got to Lake Valley ghost town, I had given up trying to predict what he wanted and so, I just shut up and drove. About five miles shy of Hillsboro, both Ed and Gary Ernest Smith came to attention and said in unison, "Pull over." They both must have shot a hundred images of this small, dirt canyon running northwest into the Black Range. Here's my take on it (from a photo):

I'm anxious to learn from them and see their take on it. Both painters work in the rarified air of "The Big Boys." One of Ed's landscapes recently resold at auction for $96,000 and Gary is currently doing a $60,000 commission. Obviously they have good instincts. Ha.

Here's a quick study I did before returning to work at two:

And a second version whipped out in about five minutes:

I think this last one has the best color sense for creosote on the desert.

Sibling Rivalry
The other night I caught Blood Red with Eric Roberts, Dennis Hopper and Michael Madsen (1989) on the Westerns Channel. It is styled as a Western, but actually was about the wine biz in northern California (Zorro meets Sideways?). The funniest thing about it is that Eric's little sister, Julia, has a tiny role and probably got the part because of her movie star brother. It's more than a little ironic that a mere ten years later, Julia Roberts was pulling down $20 million a picture and Eric was all but out of the business.

"Take everything you like seriously, except yourselves."
—Rudyard Kipling
May 13, 2009
Got this in this morning:

Mr. Bell
Long time no email. I want to thank you for your honest comments about the American Indian. I don’t mind taking the evil white man hit on occasion but it is nice when all sides are taught fairly. I respect and have a great deal of admiration for the Native Americans but the simple fact is they were violent. These people are not the spiritual peace lovers as they are portrayed now. Dances with Wolves is a prime example of the old “white men are evil Indians are wonderful” teaching. These people are portrayed in a different manner in Francis Parkman’s Oregon Trail. Today we don’t teach history. We teach a form of propaganda. My oldest son had more information on Marilyn Monroe than George Washington in his High School history book back in the 80s.

I like your Fort Apache sketches. I am no expert but I enjoy black and white drawings. By the way you hat nazi, whether it is period correct or not, John Wayne looks good in a cowboy hat with the bill turned up. Don’t forget to toast him on May 26th.

I have a question to ask. When a cowboy was travelling by horse, what were essentials he carried? I can guess at some but in movies/tv a cowpoke will be on a horse with only a blanket and saddle bags. When he camps there will be a coffee pot fry pan and bacon sizzling. As I said, I am just curious as to what might actually be packed for a trip if there was no pack horse.

See You Down The Trail

—Hugh Howard, Maniac # 9

Great to hear from you. I kind of got off on the wrong tangent with the Rio Bravo hat John Wayne wore. It wasn't the turned up brim I objected to, but the overall dings and dents he had in it. Hats often lose their original style and flair (I know, I have a studio full of them) and begin to sag and droop over time. When you see Wayne wearing a similiar hat in Fort Apache (some have said it's the same hat) it looks quite elegant to me. But, by Rio Bravo it's looking kind of goofy. That's just my opinion. I know you love it with no exceptions.

Great question on the essentials of cowboy travel. I am rereading John Bourke's "On The Border With Crook" and he describes preparation for a punitive patrol after Apache marauders this way: "Every hoof was carefully looked at, and every shoe tacked on tight; a few extra shoes for the fore-feet were taken along in the pack train, with fifteen days' rations of coffee, hard tack, and bacon, and one hundred rounds of ammunition."

Perhaps a benchmark is, if they're travelling with a mule, or mules, you've got a kitchen, at least one tent, food, coffee pot and extra ammunition (by the way, I'd be curious to know how much one hundred rounds of ammunition weighs?). But if you see two or three riders, without a mule, unless you see a coffee pot dangling from the saddle, we're talking hard tack and anything else that would fit in a saddle bag (hint: not much).

My theory is that a mule laden with supplies slows down the action and it just doesn't look as good as a lone rider traversing Big Country.


"Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations."
—Lao Tzu

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

May 12, 2009
One of the myths that keeps getting repeated is that Europeans introduced Native Americans to alcohol. In the Southwest at least, the Apaches, among other tribes, were probably making their own alcoholic concoction called tiswin (the Apaches call it Tulapai) long before Columbus set sail. Tiswin is a mescal based cocktail and the Apaches were having Happy Hour long before the White Eyes arrived on the scene. Granted anglos brought along a much stronger batch of everything, but the idea that we seduced an innocent indiginous population is, at the very least, a sloshed-faced lie.

Recently, I attended a book festival at the University of Arizona and sat in on a discussion featuring Robert Utley, Michael Blake (Dances With Wolves) and Distinguished Professor Paul Andrew Hutton. Utley is working on a Geronimo book and in the question and answer portion of the program a history professor from the U of A asked a question, prefaced with the amazing revelation that he voted to flunk a graduate student who wrote a paper asserting that Geronimo was an alcoholic. After pointing out that three other profs voted against him, the prof tacked on the question, which was camoflaged with PC jargon, but the essence was this: "Did the Apaches drink?"

To which Robert Utley replied: "They were all drunks."


Virtually all of the oxygen in the room went bye bye. An electric current shot around the room and you could feel the full scale blanching in every body around me (it was almost all academian anglos in the lecture hall). Utley went on to describe tiswin drunks and how Apaches were often drunk for weeks.

There were no follow up questions. I have a hunch that no one has said those words in a history classroom since the Tet Offensive.

So, could Geronimo have benefited from a twelve-step-program? Let's take a look at a tiny portion of the historical record.

Geronimo broke out of reservations four separate times and tiswin figured prominently in most of the breaks. When Geronimo met General Crook at Canyon de los Embudos (Canyon of the Funnels) in 1886, John Bourke had this to report:

"'Alchise' and 'Ka-e-ten-na' came and awakened General Crook before it was daylight of March 28th [1886] and informed him that 'Nachita,' one of the Chiricahua chiefs, was so drunk he couldn't stand up and was lying prone on the ground; other Chiricahuas were also drunk, but none so drunk as 'Nachita.' Whiskey had been sold them by a rascal named Tribollet who lived on the San Bernadino ranch on the Mexican side of the line, about four hundred yards from the boundary. These Indians asked permission to take a squad of their soldiers and guard Tribollet and his men to keep them from selling any more of the soul-destroying stuff to the Chiricahuas. A beautiful commentary upon the civilization of the white man! When we reached Cajon Bonito, the woods and grass were on fire; four or five Chiricahua mules, already saddled, were wandering about without riders. Pretty soon we came upon 'Geronimo,' Kuthli,' and three other Chiricahua warriors riding on two mules, all drunk as lords."

What I want to know is how does the University of Arizona History Professor read this and rationalize it away. "Well, it is written by white people." Does that suffice to explain it away?

Based on this dishonest exchange at a major university, I think it's time to do an honest portrayal of that scene:

I found this board in my reject pile at lunch today and I intended this study to appear in my own Geronimo biography which I worked on extensively in 1994. I still may do the painting. Not to be mean (it is tragic, after all), but to perhaps balance the record. To not face the facts of history is more than pathetic, it's dangerous.

Gee, I wonder what my old vaquero buddies have to say about this?

"Every history is incomplete; every historian relies on what is unreliable—documents written by people who were not under oath and cannot be cross-examined."
—Old Vaquero Saying