Thursday, May 14, 2009

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

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