Monday, November 30, 2009

November 30, 2009
For the past week or so, I've been studying famous battle paintings and I've noticed that the fighters in the portrayals always seem to be of two types: the heroic, chest-out defiant one (think Joan of Arc or Custer), and the fatally injured, but heroically posed woe-is-me-dying pose, complete with knitted eyebrows and a hand to the breast right out of some 1890s melodrama. These have never seemed very accurate to me. They certainly don't look like the fights I have witnessed growing up (true, they weren't gunfights, but still, a rock fight on the playground must have some similarities, no?)

When I was in high school we often had fights in the park next to the "new building," at lunchtime. The cry would go out, "A Fight in the park!" And off we'd go to see some fistful of testosterone carnage. Or, more accurately, "Hey, Mickey Campa is going to beat up someone. See you in the park!"

Mickey was our resident fisticuffs champ and I have personally seen him wail on more than one face.

One time two guys were goaded into meeting in the park. One was a good guy, a Mexican kid, and the other a scraggy white guy, like me. We all met in the park, but the two guys didn't want to fight. They were prodded and goaded and chided but they didn't really want to be doing this. Finally, a friend of the white guy, a dude named Stan Legg, jumped into the fray and said, "Oh, what the hell," and he punched the Mexican guy with a so-so haymaker. Suddenly the entire crowd went ballistic and while four or five In-dins (the Hualapais were there supporting the Mexican dude) jumped Stan and, as they staggered across the grass, all legs and fist flying, the rest of the crowd broke into small fights here and there. Me, I was doing the sideways shuffle, with my hands up at chest height and ducking, weaving and bobbing, trying to find the exit. Which I did successfully.

All through biology class my heart was beating so fast I could barely sit still.

As promised here are a series of illustrations I have been working over the long weekend, trying to capture that sideways shuffle I have personally witnessed:

Here are a few more sideways shuffle studies:

And here are those sketches applied to the heat of the Mesilla Brawl On The Mall:

From this fight I switched gears and did some sketches for the Burnside Rifle Classic Gunfight:

The newspaper reported that the two shooters, who were 80 paces apart missed each other, in part, because a dust storm enveloped the dueling site obliterating the field of fire:

Decent dust and wind effects. Gee, I wonder what ol' Alighieri has to say about that?

"Worldly fame is but a breath of wind that blows now this way, now that, and changes name as it changes direction."
—Dante Alighieri

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 29, 2009
Had a nice, four day stretch at home to work on a variety of artwork. Began an ambitious splash-page painting of the Mesilla shootout (January CG) complete with clarinet beatings and French horn whipping (as opposed to pistol whipping). Lots of dust, lots of blood, lots of anatomical problems. Hope to finish tonight.

Also finished an overview of the Burnside rifles duel at forty paces, and by the way, I'm assuming that in a duel like this, the two stood back to back in classic duel stance? Then each stepped off forty paces, which would make it eighty paces apart? I actually stepped this off on our road out front to see what that would look like and that's a fair distance for rifle shooting, especially when it was reported to be quite windy and dusty on the day of the duel at Tubac, A.T. (both missed, more than once).

Hope I get this one right. Gee, I wonder what ol' Coleridge has to say about this?

"Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, And hope without an object cannot live."
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 27, 2009
Time to catch up on some William H. Bonney clarifications. Last week, on the Kid's alleged birthday, I launched off on a series of statements that caught the eye of a certain scholar in Chalfont Saint Giles, England. Here are his corrections and the subsequent exchange:

"Actually Our Billy told the 1880 census taker (or the census taker, deciding discretion was the better part of valor, skipped that particular house and wrote down the first thing that came into his head) he was born in Missouri, Bob, not New Orleans, and that he was 22, not 24 or 25. Did he lie or did the census taker?

"His brother(?)/half-brother(?) Joe, told at least two census-takers he (Joe) was born in New York. Even more interestingly, he told one of them his father was a New Yorker and his mother was born in England, (so much for the "jolly Irish lady") then thirty years later told another census-taker they were both born in New York. Mind you, by then Joe had probably worked his way through more than a few barrels of nirvana juice, so no telling what condition his brain was in.

"And one more thing: although I was indeed a child prodigy and wrote short stories that drove Hemingway mad with jealousy, I sure as hell never located the Tunstall papers when I was nineteen. But hey, you go ahead f--- up the legend as much as you like, everyone else does.

Love to Kathy,

—Fred Nolan

I sent Fred an email telling him I knew he would correct my gaffs, and he sent me back this missive:

If I had known you were relying on me to correct you I'd have let you wallow in it, but because I'm such a sweetheart, I'll let it ride. I just hope you realize what priceless pearls of wisdom I send you.

I do realize how priceless the gems are that you send me and I'll never forget how you corrected—via fax machine!— my entire BTK book in 1996. That was true friendship. You didn't have to do that and I will never forget it. Thanks again.

You are welcome. As for the discovery of the Tunstall documents (1956, Bob, 1956) , here's the typically-modest intro I wrote for the new edition of THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JHT which has just been published by Sunstone Press (plug, plug!!!).

Revised Edition with a New Foreword by the Author and an Addendum with Corrections
By Frederick Nolan

The letters and diaries of John Henry Tunstall, a young rancher-Englishman murdered in 1878 during New Mexico Territory’s Lincoln County War.

Order from Sunstone: (800) 243-5644

In 1956, Frederick Nolan, then 25, located in the archives of the British Foreign Office a substantial file of original correspondence between the British and American governments, the family of John Tunstall, and many of the participants in the New Mexico Territory’s Lincoln County War. Soon after this he was given unconditional access to Tunstall’s letters and diaries, and three and a half years later—although he had never set foot in the United States—completed a biography based upon the sympathetically-edited letters and diaries of the young English rancher whose brutal murder in February, 1878, triggered the bitter and unrelenting violence that followed.

His widely-acclaimed debut is recognized today as a breakthrough work which completely revolutionized historical understanding of the personalities and events of New Mexico’s Lincoln County War and in the process changed forever the way the subject would be written about. The first book ever to link those events to the shadowy cabal known as the Santa Fe Ring, the first book ever to place Billy the Kid in the true context of his time, the first book ever to make available the letters of such men as Alexander McSween, Huston Chapman, and the hitherto unknown Robert Widenmann, it set new standards for both research and writing in this field and in the process became a classic. It is augmented in this edition with a new foreword and a supplement of corrections to the first edition which incorporates the author’s more recent historical and biographical research.

Frederick Nolan is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on the history of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War and both he and his work on the subject have been garlanded with honors. He has received the Border Regional Library Association of Texas’ Award for Literary Excellence, the first France V. Scholes Prize from the Historical Society of New Mexico, and the first J. Evetts Haley Fellowship from the Haley Memorial Library in Midland, Texas. The Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association has presented him with its highest honor, the Glenn Shirley Award, for his lifetime contribution to outlaw-lawman history and The Westerners Foundation has named his The West of Billy the Kid one of the 100 most important 20th-century historical works on the American West. In 2007 the National Outlaw-Lawman Association awarded him its prestigious William D. Reynolds Award in recognition of his outstanding research and writing in Western history and in 2008 True West magazine named him “Best Living Non-Fiction Writer.” Among his other books about the West are an annotated edition of Pat Garrett’s Authentic Life of Billy the Kid; Bad Blood: the Life and Times of the Horrell Brothers; The West of Billy the Kid; and The Lincoln County War, the latter from Sunstone Press in a new edition. He lives in England.

7 X 10
ISBN: 978-0-86534722-9
548 pp., $45.00

Meanwhile, another Billy the Kid author (hint: the one who calls Paul Hutton a "shape shifting cuckoo bird") wrote this gem of a paragraph about a certain birth:

“Her daydreaming resumed. November 23, 1859. It was Billy’s birth. All she remembered was the bliss. In a New York tenement, a woman splayed wide her legs into a weightless crouch as, abandoned to passion, her perspiration-wet hair snaked out on the bed and her eyes rolled up in ecstasy. “Is there no shame in this woman?” the midwife thought. Distractedly, she was kneading milk-distended breasts, frustrated by their covering smock, as sliding boy parts and stiff cord pressed her, and brilliant light glory filled her skull. Away he slipped into stranger’s hands. Behind spasmed orgasmic thighs.”
—Gale Cooper, Joy of The Birds

"Mama, don't let your babies with sliding boy parts grow up to be cowboys/and/or/outlaws."
—Bob B.B. Boberson

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 25, 2009
Finished Blazing Pols at 3:30. Would have finished earlier but my computer kept beeping. When there are comments on my blog I get a beep and a link to approve them and yesterday's Brokeback Mountain post created a three ring circus of comment.

Here's the finished scratchboard:

Still didn't get those pistols quite right, but it'll have to do. A 1,200 dpi tiff went down to our art director, Dan The Man, at 4:30 and now we'll see what magic he works for the cover.

"Measure yourself by your best moments, not by your worst. We are too prone to judge ourselves by our moments of despondency and depression."
—Robert Johnson
November 25, 2009
Worked all afternoon yesterday on the the Blazing Pols illustration. After some 35 sketches, finally got a decent looking drawing of a gunfighting elephant at about two:

Utilizing the old spreading-lead-on-the-back-of-tracing-paper trick, I transferred that sketch to an expensive sheet of Essdee Scratchboard ($22 a sheet) and laid in the fightingi elephant and the head of the dying jackass:

So far, so good (yes, I changed the derby into an Uncle Sam hat because I knew that Dan The Man will probably want to carve that hat and put it in front of the True West logo). Unfortunately I had drawn myself into a corner (something I'm very good at). Although the editorial style cartoon I'm emulating harkens to the 1890s and early 1900s, the fight itself took place in 1871, so now I'm facing a dilemma. If an editorial cartoonist was drawing a cartoon of a fight that took place thirty years earlier, would he make the weapons authentic to that time? Perhaps, but this is supposed to be an allegorical representation of the fight, like you would see in a daily newspaper. Still, this is True West, so I opted for a percussion Colt as the jackass's weapons:

Rather than blunder onto the Essdee Scratchboard and try and fake my way through the pistol grips and frock coat folds, I decided to go into work this morning and have our production manager Robert Ray take a model jackass out in the back and pose those effects:

Now that is one fine jackass pose.

"He was grinnin' like a jackass eatin' prickly pear."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 24, 2009
According to the Hollywood Reporter "Westerns are hot this year." In addition to Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) coming out next spring, FX is "saddling up for Reconstruction, a period Western set in a Missouri town during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era and centers on Jason, a proper East Coast gentleman who returns from the war a changed man and seeks refuge in a border state."

The producers, Joshua Brand and Peter Horton, evidently came up with the premise when discussing the economic crisis and the situation in the Middle East, including war-ravaged Iraq. "We thought a good way to tell the story would be through the allegory of the Western," Horton said.

I've also heard through the grapevine that Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is going into production and is schedule to be released sometime in 2011.

Speaking of contemporary Westerns, the Autry National Center in LA is hosting an installation called "Whatever happened to Ennis del Mar?" Ennis, of course, was the Heath Ledger character in the controversial gay cowboy flick Brokeback Mountain. The Autry will be recognizing "the contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community to the American West."

This series Out West (get it? Out of the closet) is scheduled to take place over the next twelve months, will feature Western scholars, authors, artists, politicians, musicians, and friends of Western LGBTs in discussions and gallery talks at the Autry. Programs currently being considered examine LGBT Native Americans, LGBT rodeo culture, LGBT political strides including the struggle for marriage equality, and LGBT contributions to the Western arts.

“'What Ever Happened to Ennis del Mar?' is the first program in the Out West series. When Gene Autry issued his ten-point 'Cowboy Code' in the 1940s, he could not have anticipated the story of Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, but the messages of tolerance, fairness, and integrity the Code promotes speak to the acceptance for which the Brokeback Mountain characters longed." Their story is the departure point for this first discussion which is scheduled for December 13.

Some have asked why there wasn't a lesbian counterpart to Brokeback Mountain and someone sent me this broadside:

How You Know You Are Still a Republican? if you are more upset about Brokeback Mountain than Abu Ghraib.


Still working out the kinks in the Blazing Pols cover illustration. Did a tight rough scratchboard yesterday at lunchtime:

Need to ground the elephant a bit more and bring out his suit of clothes a bit more. Also, need to spend some time on the gun hands. Want them to be a bit more accurate and stylish. On the home stretch, hope to finish tonight.

"Watch what people are cynical about and one can often discover what they lack."
—George S. Patton

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 23, 2009
Today is allegedly Billy the Kid's birthday. We say allegedly because it appears Ash Upson gave the date to the Kid when he co-wrote The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid in 1881. Upson had actually roomed for a short time at the McCarty household in Silver City when the Kid's mama was still alive and taking in boarders to make ends meet. After the Kid's death at the hands of Pat Garrett, Upson either remembered the Kid's birth date because they shared the same birthday, or, Upson gave him his own birth date and called it a day.

The Kid? Oh, he lied about everything. He told a census taker in 1880 that he was 24 or 25 and that he was from New Orleans. The only guy who could have told us is Billy's half-brother and some boneheaded migrant typo didn't think it was important to know and didn't ask.

So suspect, or not, this is the day we give thanks to the Pecos Psychopath (as my wife not so fondly calls him).

How fitting that I just finished reading a new book on Billy titled To Hell On A Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, And the Epic Chase to Justice in The Old West, by Mark Lee Gardner which is coming out any day now.

As I mentioned the other day, there are over 1,000 books on Billy the Kid and as my alma mater, The University of Arizona Press told me when I submitted my Billy book proposal in 1991: "Just what the world needs, another book on Billy the Kid." That was probably a couple dozen Billy books ago and today, even I am suspect of another rehash of the same old stuff.

What started as a trickle of information has ended up a deluge of discovered documents and diaries (Fred Nolan's 1950 discovery of the Tunstall diaries in England for example). From secret government reports to depression era interviews by work project folks, we now know quite a bit about the Lincoln County War and the warriors who fought in it, prosecuted it and benefited from it.

What we still don't know could fill a book, (The Sex Life of Billy the Kid, for example written by a friend of mine) but that's another story.

Gardner opens the story at the Las Vegas, New Mexico train station where Pat Garrett's posse stands off a Vegas mob. Expertly marshaling all the known facts and utilizing quotes from the public record, the author spins out a concise and quick moving tale, bouncing forward and backward as he moves along.

Even though I have been reading and studying this story for almost a half century, I still found things in almost every episode I didn't know. For example, in the train standoff, some of the hispanos gathered around a pile of railroad ties. Didn't know that.

Gardner hits all of the high spots and doesn't dilly dally. Some episodes in the Kid's life zip by in a paragraph, but that paragraph contains everything we know. Gardner also takes the story up through the Brushy Bill fiasco and even includes the Steve Sederwall diggging up Billy controversy.

One episode which I didn't use in my book is the George Curry, Block Ranch memoirs where he talks about a suppertime visitor who talked about Garrett's election, then rides away saying, "You are a good cook and a good fellow, but if you think Pat Garrett is going to carry this precinct for sheriff, you are a damned poor politician." That episode was off limits for many years and without permission, authors were threatened with a lawsuit.

Something happened since I published my own book (I really wanted to use that) in 1992.

Perhaps the best part of the book for me, is the section on the death of Pat Garrett. All of the controversial aspects are covered (Killin' Jim Miller's alleged motive to be there).

I plan on reading it again, just for grins. Gardner really takes you to New Mexico and takes you on a ride, and when you think about it, that's what we want. A Good Ride to Hell On A Fast Horse.

"Well boys you may all do exactly as you please. As for me, I propose to stay right here in this country and steal myself a living."
—Billy the Kid
November 23, 2009
Had a very nice weekend. On Saturday night, Charlie and Linda Waters came down from Vegas for Dan Harshberger's birthday dinner at our house. The Waters brought three bottles of Argentina wine and I made Tacos de Bell. We had a grand time.

On Sunday morning, the Waters met Kathy and I, and our son Thomas Charles (yes, he's named for Charlie Waters) at the Matador at Second Street and Monroe deep inside the Beast. While we were all enjoying our huevos rancheros, in walked Jimmy Covarrubias, former MCUHS classmate and fellow artist. Jimmy and his compadres (from the Latin American Art Alliance) are opening a Latin Art Gallery just down the street and, after breakfast, we all went down there to see the layout. Fun seeing Jimmy. He has done well for himself. Check out his artwork.

Worked more on Blazing Pols (January cover story for True West) yesterday afternoon:

Trying to marry the dying donkey head to a frontier gunfighter body, but in that style of 1890s editorial cartooning. Utiliized several old bound editions of Punch (from 1881) to capture the cross hatching techniques:

I bought the Punch original copies in Santa Fe many years ago. I think I paid $400 for the set, but I have spent countless hours enjoying them and copying the superior pen and ink styles inside of each. Finally, came up with an approximation of a rogue (and tipsy) elephant:

Here, I sketched in a derringer in the Elephant's trunk, but I may change that to a liquor bottle. Going to be a sweet cover. Hope to have something today to send down for Dan The Man to work on.

"Being good is just a matter of termperament in the end."
—Iris Murdoch

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20, 2009
All of us who write books about Billy the Kid hope for the three Rs: that we will be respected, get rich from book sales and be fondly remembered for our efforts to get to the truth about Billy. Of course there have been over 1,000 books written about the Kid and as I like to brag, I didn't write all of them. Nope, not even half. I'm not exactly sure of the actual total, but let's just say I'm reading two new Billy books even as you read this.

But, I digress.

In our juvenile fantasies we can imagine people sitting around 100 years from now, fantasizing what it was like to be on the trail with the legendary writers (that would be me) and researchers who were on the trail of the legendary outlaw. What role will we have in the future stories? Will we be compared to Phil Rasch? Walter Noble Burns? William Morrison? Ash Upson? Jerry Weddle? (Oh, please dear God, don't let it be Jerry Weddle!)

In short, we all long to be part of The Story. But, as I am fond of quoting, "History is a cruel trick played on the dead by the living." And, I have a strong hunch how we are going to be remembered has less to do with our efforts and more to do with the bizarre aspects of Kid Krazy. And by Kid Krazy, I mean the absolutely incredible way in which everyone associated with covering this legend goes off the deep end.

Case in point: an ex-Beverly Hills psychiatrist named Gail Cooper has written an expose titled Mega Hoax: The Strange Plot to Exhume Billy the Kid And Become President.

Tell Me Something I Don't Know
In Mega Hoax, Ms. Cooper describes Paul Hutton as "a parasitic cuckoo bird."

Tell me something I don't know.

She also claims that Hutton is a "shape shifter."

Tell me something I don't know.

She goes after me like this: "Doing the ricochet trick Bob Boze Bell comes on screen [History Channel's Investigating History: Billy the Kid by Bill Kurtis] to state snidely that: "Friends of Pat Garrett conducted what they called an autopsy. But there were no photographs." Then she mocks me for being a self-avowed cartoonist and not being an acredited historian.

Come on Gail, tell me something I don't know.

Continuing her harangue of everyone who appeared on the History Channel show, she says, "Since all hoaxers, except [Gov] Richardson and Robins, are in cowboy costumes, there appear innumerable droopy or stringy mustaches on talking-heads throughout—inadvertently leaving the impression for cognoscenti that Old West characters were all jive-talkers; and leaving the audience at large waiting for them to join in a final scene singing:

"Oh come along boys and listen to my tale. . .
Come a ti yi yippie yippie yay come a ti yi hippie yippie yippie yay."

Tell me something I don't know.

Often, author Cooper goes after Hutton (who is the arch villain of the entire piece) and makes a fool of herself. For example, she quotes Hutton as claiming the Kid was 12 when his mother died, then she corrects him by claiming the Kid's real age was "14 1/2". Really? Historians and researchers have never found a birth record for the Kid, can't agree on when, or even where he was born and you've got it down to fourteen and a half? Amazing.

Okay, so now you've told me something I didn't know. Sorry.

Here's the part with my "lioness" managing editor and Cooper's pitch to run her hoax story in True West: "Into that lions' den, I went with my hoax expose! The lioness to who I was assigned was Meghan Saar, who e-mailed me on January 31, 2006: 'All parties in this article should be given the opportunity to respond; the article feels very biased and skewered toward one direction, and I feel this may be because not all parties were asked to comment.' I withdrew the article the next day, citing their bias."

Meghan's quote says it all, for me and our position on the entire project. But there is one more quote worth citing. After she took her article back she went to the New York Times, among others. First, she gives me credit, "The Boze Bell fiasco, at least, dragged me out of my anonymity closet." But when she contacted the New York Times reporter who wrote the front page article announcing the dig, he said to her he felt "both sides are totally crazed."

I rest my case. We're all Kid Krazy.

But, I will say this for the second printing of the book jacket:

"Mega Hoax is 477 pages and I absolutely guarantee you will find a laugh on every page."
—Bob Boze Bell, Executive Editor, True West magazine
November 20, 2009
About a week ago I asked Carole Glenn to order a book for us on Amazon called Mega Hoax. I had heard through the Billy the Kid grapevine that a woman from Santa Fe named Gale Cooper has published an alleged expose on the digging up Billy project. We got the book on Wednesday and I saw it in my box when I got back from lunch. My managing editor Meghan Saar had already ear-marked all the pages True West is mentioned (this is especially funny considering that Dr. Cooper describes Meghan in the text as "The lioness" guarding my door) At about four, I had a few moments before I had to leave for my speech in Fountain Hills and I took a glance at it. I couldn't put it down! At about 4:40 I sent the following email to The Top Secret Writer:

"Hutton's Bug-Eyed Unctuous Face-Time"
Oh, God, stop! I can't stop laughing! I have a speech in 45 minutes in Fountain Hills and I don't want to leave—ever. I just want to read this fantastic prose!


Paul Hutton and I are both singled out as part of a "shape-shifting" conspiracy to get Bill Richardson elected president of the United States (that sure worked out well). I get my own sub chapter, but Hutton is the arch villain of the piece. More details later.

Speaking of which, I Worked this morning on the dying donkey:

This is for our cover on Republicans and Democrats shooting it out in Mesilla in 1871. I'm working on several angles and hope to have something finalized this weekend to send down to Dan the Man.

“The world is full of men who spend their lives fleeing from something that doesn’t pursue them.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 19, 2009
Our office copies of The 2010 Source Book arrived this afternoon and it's a beautiful thing. If you want to find anything related to the West this is the issue you need to have (hint: subscribers get it free). Inside is our Eighth Annual Best of the West Awards and I predict the following people are going to be very happy: Jim Clark, Steve and Marcie Shaw, Jay Dusard, Pat Kearney and Gary George, Waddie Mitchell, Charles Harris III and Louise Sadler, Robert Utley, Jim Halperin and Steve Ivy, Mian Situ, Bill Anton, Bruce Lafountain, Mark Sublette, Jim Hatzell, Cattle Kate, Michael Guli, Bob Goldfeder, Patricia Wolf, Clint Orms, Trent Johnson, Mark Taggart, Anna Berry, Lorrie Zuzek, Denny and Pat Willis, Ken Klemm and Peter Thieriot, Marty Roberts, Victor and Kathy Garrison, John Bianchi, Jim Dunham. Rock Clark, Charmaine White, Jackson Polk, Madeleine Pickens, Sharon Paulin, Meghan Lally, Paul Zarzyski and Wylie, Sons of Joaquin, Dave Stamey, Ken Burns, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Cormac McCarthy and Joel and Ethan Coen.

Twilight Neighborhood
I've had three people this week ask me if I know Stephenie Meyer, the Mormon housewife who created the Twilight phenom. "You know everyone in Cave Creek, don't you?" seems to be the refrain I get the most. Actually, I do not know her and I don't know anyone who does know her. For one thing, as I understand it, she moved out here from Mesa (What A Place-ah!) a few years ago. She evidently keeps a very low profile because I've heard the mayor doesn't even know her (and he gets asked about her more than I do!). I was talking to someone recently who said they saw her at Fry's, which is on Carefree Highway several miles west of here, but that's it. Wouldn't even know her if I saw her.

Went home for lunch and worked on gunfighting elephants. Had good source materials thanks to Robert Ray and Google:

Also working up a wonderful dying donkey. Going to be a fantasy cover. Ha.

"A man who claims to know what’s good for others is dangerous.”
—Old Vaquero Saying
November 19, 2009
Saw my first Low Pants Lance. I was on my way to yoga last Tuesday when I saw this tall kid angling down the alley by the Career School next to Black Mountain Gym. As I drove by I looked in the rearview mirror and saw that the back of his pants hung below the cheeks of his arse! He then jumped a wall so I got a real good view of the entire buttocks area. Amazing. I had seen photos of this phenom from New York City, but had never seen this extreme before, in the flesh.

Had a speech last night at the Fountain Hills Historical Society. Packed house (105 people) for dinner and a slide show created by Robert Ray to illustrate our 102 cover march to the present. Sold about ten books and drove home. Excellent time, well spent.

It's Dan the Man's B-Day today. He's 62. Here he is, at left, fifty-some years ago:

When I showed this slide last night the AV guy, Reno, said, "Man, that looks like Spin & Marty." Yes, Spin & Marty was a Disney serial that ran on the Mickey Mouse Club at about the same time this photo was taken. Dan and I are actually emulating the costumes of the TV show 26 Men, about the Arizona Rangers. We thought we were so authentic. Ha.

Happy Birthday Dan! Speaking of Dan The Man, I mentioned we are jamming on a cover for the January issue and Dan wants a 1900-style editorial cartoon. Here is an example of two masters of the medium from that time period. First up, Heinrich Kley's work:

And here's another elephant-related-editorial cartoon by James Montgomery Flagg:

Man those guys could draw! Of course Flagg is the guy who illustrated the iconic "Uncle Sam Wants You!" with Sam pointing out at us.

I'll post some of my sketches later, but in the meantime:

Classic Gunfights: Democrats Vs. Republicans
Well, I asked for headline suggestions and got them:

• Battle of the Bands

• Politics Most Deadly

• Dead Serious Politics

• The Dead Pols Society

• A Real Political Battle

• Politics cum 1871
—C.W. (a newspaper friend who doesn't want his name used)

• Kinky Friedman on politics, “Poly means more than one, and ticks are bloodsucking parasites.”
—submitted by Lance Ross

• "Killer Politics!...Donkeys and Elephants throw down" or "Massacre in Mesilla.the first REAL Red State", or "Hey you Asses, There's an Elephant in the room...and he's packin a .45!"
—submitted by Jeff Prechtel of the PUNdit Posse

• Grand Old Shoot Out: When Politics Meant Slinging Lead Instead of Mud

• Punching the Party Ticket Wild West Style: When Hanging Chad Had a Completely Different Meaning

• The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Politics: A Real Republican and Democrat Shoot Out

• Six-Gun Politics: When Democrats and Republicans Actually Killed Each Other

• No Country For Sane Men: Republicans and Democrats Shoot It Out

• Blazing Politicos: Excuse Me While I Whip This Out
—Chris Zimmerman

"The whole history of the world is summed up in the fact that when nations are strong, they are not always just, and when they wish to be just, they are no longer strong."
—Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November 18, 2009
When we first moved to Cave Creek in 1986, I took my sketchbook down into the creek bottom and while reclining beneath a huge sagauro did a series of sketches that ended up contributing to this pen and ink illustration:

The cave that Cave Creek is named for is in the embankment at left. Since these giants are in the creek bottom they are susceptible to more freezing and frostbite damage because the canyon they are in holds the cold air down. When this happens the arms of the saguaro twist, typically going down, instead of up. They appear to be almost in agony and considering the mechanics of freezing they probably are. Makes for some very distinctive saguaro shapes though.

I Can't Believe I Drew it
Another page of sketches from my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings:

Another Decade, Another Cover Quest
Editorially, we're on to 2010 and busy trying to come up with a striking cover for our January issue. As I mentioned the other day, the cover story, by Bob Alexander, involves a gunfight between Republicans and Democrats in Mesilla, New Mexico in 1871 where at least 7 were killed (some reports claim 15) and fifty wounded. Essentially, two parades, one Republican, one Democrat, marching in opposite directions, met, hurled insults and the ball opened. Here is my first rough sketch of the idea:

Supposedly, both sides had some semblance of a band and in fact, one of the participants was saved by a bullet hitting his French horn. Here is a tighter rough of the concept:

Our art director, Dan The Man Harshberger was out for our anniversary lunch yesterday (his 62nd birthday is tomorrow). He is not too enthusiastic about the busy nature of the sketch and would like to see something more isolated, and suggested perhaps a 1900 style editorial cartoon a la James Montgomery Flagg or Heinrich Kley. Adding that perhaps we could show a symbolic elephant shooting it out with a donkey. Hmmmmm:

Also wrestling with the cover head. I want something like:

When Republicans Actually Killed Democrats

It needs to be short and snappy. Suggestions welcome.

It's pretty amazing. We think things are tense today, but this makes everything seem very tame by comparison.

“Politics is like a dysfunctional marriage because every fight is really about something else.”
—Dick Armey

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 17, 2009
We got some rain over the weekend, not much, but just enough to get that great desert smell. I just found out in a newsletter that Kathy gets called Bottom Line that "when the weather is dry, certain plants secrete an oil that is absorbed by rocks and soil. When it rains, the oil is released into the air as a gas, creating an aroma called petrichor."

Not Bad Weather
Another page from my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings:

I hosted a free lunch for the staff today to honor our tenth anniversary and to celebrate the completion of our Third Annual Source Book (which Robert Ray has nicknamed "The Stress Book.") Carole ordered Subway sandos for everyone and we had a fine time.

"There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather."
—John Ruskin

Don't tell that to a tornado survivor.

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16, 2009
Ever sit around and wonder where all the ridiculous myths and legends come from? You know, the ones where you kind of shake your head and go, "That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in my life. Who makes this crap up?"

Well, here's a good example. For Halloween this year (in Cave Creek) at Cody's Smokehouse & Grill (which officially opens in December at the location of a series of failed restaurants and bars starting with Fandango), the new owners created a "big 21-and-older Halloween" haunted house. One of the organizers told the newspaper this whopper: "We were told by Cave Creekers that Cody's was built on an old Indian burial ground. There have been movies shot there, and when it was another restaurant, people claimed to see ghosts and say it is haunted."

The only true statement in that sentence is "people claimed to see ghosts."

Ten years ago it was an empty lot across from the Mineshaft Restaurant where David K. Jones and I did our Cave Creek morning radio show. The land was bought by a new guy in town, a hotshot developer who spent a bundle on building a state of the art restaurant on the site (don't quote me, but I seem to remember he dumped about $1.4 mil into the build-out). He once bragged to me that if he couldn't beat the food at El Encanto he didn't deserve to be in business.


Fandango's had a big grand opening, and everyone in town came. I sat on the patio near a trickling waterfall and chose the albondigas soup. Instead, I received something that tasted and looked suspiciously like French onion soup. When I told the waitress someone must have confused my order, the owner's wife (a stunning brunette) came over and tried to convince me it was albondigas soup. I felt bad for her, because after a while it became obvious she was trying to cover up the fact that their cook (who was anglo) didn't know how to make albondigas soup. Then why was it on the menu? She didn't have an answer. I made a vow to never return. Eventually, no one else went either (thus the ghosts of customers past). Reggie Jackson from Rawhide came out six months later and took me to lunch there. He was buying so I didn't protest too much, although I warned him. Lo and behold, they had a new chef, a talented hispanic from Jalepenos down on Pinnacle Peak Road, and he knew what he was doing, but it was too late. The stink of inauthentic was on the place and the restaurant died an ignoble death not long after.

Moral: he didn't deserve to be in business.

After Fandangos it sat vacant for a long time. Someone tried to make it a bar, The Long Branch, but that too faded. It might have been something else but I don't remember. Anyway, some kid, trying to drum up business for a new venture pulled a tall tale out of her rectum and here's the crazy part: I predict that thirty, forty years from now someone will extract this windy out of the newspaper archives, dust it off, only by then it will be a historic fact.

Hey, it was in the newspaper.

So when I'm doing research on something that happened 100 years ago and someone says to me, "of course it's true, it was in the newspaper," I always have to laugh.

"People are more likely to believe a blatant lie over a half truth."
—Adolf Hitler, the father of modern advertising
November 16, 2009
Just got more info on the remake of True Grit by the Coen Brothers. Steven Spielberg is producing along with Scott Rudin (who produced No Country For Old No Men). It looks like Matt Damon is going to play the Texas Ranger (Glenn Campbell in the original), Josh Brolin is being talked about as the bad guy Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) and according to Variety, the Coens want Jeff Bridges for the gruff U.S. Marshal (John Wayne). They hope to begin filming next spring.

I am a big Coen brothers fan. My kids often quote The Big Lebowski (which starred Jeff Bridges as "The Dude") and we just saw their latest flick A Serious Man last weekend, which I really enjoyed. It's about growing up Jewish in Minnesota and is allegedly based on the travails of Job, from the bible. At the end of the movie, during the credits it says: "No jews were hurt during the filming of this movie."

Funny, funny boys.

Working on a cover story by Bob Alexander for the January issue on Republicans and Democrats in an actual toe to toe shootout where 7 died (some claim 15) and forty were wounded. This was in Mesilla in 1871.

I Can't Believe I Drew It
Another little set of gems from my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings:

Deena Bell went to her 10 High School Reunion last Saturday night. Not sure if this is a trend, but they just met at Harold's (a legendary bar in Cave Creek). No formalities, no registration, no banquet, no name tags. We had fun on Sunday morning comparing her phone photos of everyone with the high school annual.

"It's much easier to eat, drink and be merry if someone else is picking up the tab."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13, 2009
Charlie Waters has just completed editing a multi-part series on Valor as it applies to our servicemen and women at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 54-part series started Sunday and you can read the stories of heroism at

Charlie adds, "We will add stories of the six Medal of Honor winners on Sunday, then start adding one new profile of a medal recipient each day to the site next Tuesday through the end of the year. Eight stories are already on the site."

I checked out one of them yesterday, the story of Michael David Carter, a photographer who got caught in one of the worst firefights in the long Afghan war. I had tears in my eyes reading it. And you can click on a video version where he tells the story himself. Amazing stuff and it should be required viewing by every American.

Also check out Allen Barra’s article on the first football game, including info on John Clum. It's called The First Down, Ever

Just got word from Allen Huffines that the Coen Brothers next flick, True Grit, has landed the following casting: Matt Damon as LeBeouf (Glenn Cambell), and Josh Brolin as Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall).

"If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles."
—Doug Larson
November 13, 2009
Rod Cook of Caldwell, Kansas is doing a new book on the area and its history. Rod really helped me out when I was doing a Caldwell Classic Gunfight on the fight there between cowboys and the locals. The marshal in Caldwell in 1884 was Henry Brown.

Rod liked the first scratchboard I did of the hanging with the darkness and he wondered if I could combine that starkness with the image I posted yesterday. I told him I would try.

Although Brown once rode with Billy the Kid, he seemed to have cleaned up his act and had recently married and settled down. He took some time off and with a deputy and two Texas cowboys set off for Medicine Lodge, Kansas, which is about sixty miles west of Caldwell. The quartet tried to rob the local bank, but instead, ended up killing the bank president and a clerk. After a brief getaway, they were captured, because of a lame horse and brought back to Medicine Lodge and put in a makeshift jail, a barn. A local photographer came and took their photo:

Left to right, Henry Brown, John Wesley, William Smith and Ben Wheeler (Brown's deputy). Note that Brown is shackled to Wesley at the ankle and Wheeler is handcuffed to Smith. Also, not the badge on the guy at left (I hadn't noticed the badge until I was using this guy as a portrait study for the hanging scratchboard below):

At nine o'clock on the evening of the day this photo was taken, three shots were heard and a mob stormed this barn, sweeping aside the guards (where's Wyatt Earp when you really need him?). Brown had slipped off his boot, thus removing the shackle and crouched by the barn door, inside. As the mob lurched into the dark stable, Brown lept up and slugged the first guy and fought his way clear. He almost made it to freedom, but a farmer with a shotgun cut him in half. Meanwhile Wheeler grabbed ahold of a gun barrel and tried to deflect the shot, but instead the pistol blows off two of his fingers. The muzzle flash sets his vest on fire and he runs through the crowd with the entire mob chasing him and shooting at him. Incredibly he is still alive. The three remaining prisoners are dragged down to the creek bottom where the rest of the mob is waiting (or, did they all go from one place to another? We don't know). Since it is dark and a heavy rain has been falling all day, I imagine the mob started a fire to see. They only had two ropes for three guys. Wheeler was pleading for his life telling the mob that there were more people involved and that if they would spare his life he would tell them, but they didn't listen and up he went, bleating so loudly he could be heard three blocks away. The two Texas cowboys died game and calm. One asked to send his stuff to his mama, and the other said he didn't want his mama to know.

So Texan.

And then it was over. That is the scene I wanted to capture. As the aftermath of the horrible deed began to sink in:

Notice Wheeler's vest is still smoldering.

"The only time you don't want to fail is the last time you try."
—Charles F. Kettering

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12, 2009
My son Thomas Charles came out today to show off his cherry 1984 El Camino which he just bought from a Snowbird in Mesa:

A car buff from Minnesota sold it to T. and it is very nice.

Meanwhile, I took one more crack at the Medicine Lodge Hanging:

That's the barn, at top, where the prisoners were being held. There is a famous photo of the four outlaws standing in front of the doorway just hours before they were killed. Some of the men in that picture I used for reference in this scratchboard. I may add a few distinguishing windows in the morning. Or not.

“Making money is like digging with a pin; losing money is like pouring water on the sand.”
—Old Vaquero Saying
November 12, 2009
Haven't been sleeping well. Woke up at 2:30 last night pondering conflicts. Having survived twin heart attacks a year-and-a-half ago, I keep saying to myself, "This can't be healthy." As I laid there listening to the quiet breathing of my wife and Peaches, my mind kept sinking to the morbid thought of an obituary that reads in part, "He had a warning, a second chance, but he couldn't change his lifestyle."

I really don't want to read that in my obit.

Speaking of which, when I began my 2,600 step walk with Peaches this morning I started thinking about writing my own obit. Really, most obits are so cloyingly awful, you rarely get a sense of who the person was really. From there I gravitated to, well, which part of me would write the obit? The part of me that digs who I am, or the critic who, sits on my other shoulder, and negates me at every turn. As I came back up the driveway, I realized I should probably have the two voices in my head write their version of my life, and death:

A Fitting Sendoff for A Small Town Big Showoff
Born at an early age, Bob Boze Bell was a poor student, an average athlete and a so-so artist. He was fired from many jobs including the Tel Engineering, New Times, KSLX radio and Young Buck Radio. While he sipped from many cups, he drank of none. What he did have was a very high opinion of himself. He likes to say he graduated with the valedictorian of his class, but even this line was stolen from his friend Wonderful Russ.

He failed at almost everything he tried, except getting attention. He did this quite successfully all through grade school, high school and at the University of Arizona where he spent five years, amassing a 3.1 (C-) grade average and no degree.

BBB once contemplated doing an article entitled: "Day of Infamy Spawns Small Town Showoff." Based on the fact that his father was drafted in 1941 (after Pearl Harbor) and was stationed in Kingman, Arizona, where the Iowa buck private met and married Bobbie Guess, a rancher's daughter.

Of course, he famously claimed he did 10,000 bad drawings, but why didn't he take his wife's advice and do 10,000 loads of laundry, or something useful? He had no answer for this.

He was also fond of saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." As with the 10,000 bad drawings quest, he was very good at doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. When asked to be specific he replied, "Well, like this blog."
—The Critic

A Nation Weeps For The Loss of A Legendary Westerner
Never has the nation come to a stop quite like the news yesterday that legendary Zonie, Bob Boze Bell died after a third fatal heart attack. His body was not found for several days because he had fallen into the back part of his studio amidst a stack of unsold paintings. Only the growling of his faithful dog Peaches, who was chewing on one of BBB's apendages, alerted authorities.

Virtually every attractive woman he ever knew now admits they sure wished they had slept with him.
—Super Ego

"For everything you have missed, you have gained something else."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11, 2009
A week from hell in the office. Lots of stress all around. Record territory issue, but it took its toll. Trying to repair damage and recover. Production manager out sick.

Went home for lunch and took another couple cracks at the Medicine Lodge hanging where they hanged three guys with two ropes. Here's a new sketch:

And a scratchboard attempt:

Still not quite right, but I'm getting there.

“All censure of a man’s self is oblique praise. It is in order to show how much he can spare.”
—Samuel Johnson
November 11, 2009
Finally caught parts of the new True West Moments running on the Westerns Channel. "Rocks on Graves" is a tad thin (it's very short, maybe 15-20 seconds), but I caught the end of "The Water Trough" last night and it looked pretty cool. Can't wait to see the whole thing.

Speaking of the Westerns Channel, I also caught "Miracle At Sage Creek" starring David Carradine and Wes Sudi. This project was created and spearheaded by our friend Thadd Turner, who cuts a mean figure as Wild Bill Hickok:

Aces & Eights

Thadd has posed for me several times, particularly for the Wild Bill Vs. the Seventh Cavalry Classic Gunfight which appears in Classic Gunfights, Volume I.

In addition to his numerous movie projects, Thadd also helped produce the History Channel segment on Wyatt Earp I appear in which will run a week from Sunday (the 22nd) on a series called Cowboys And Outlaws. Thadd lent me his Wild Bill Colts for the episode shot at the Ewes Ranch in New Mexico last fall.

"We actually have an extended version of Miracle repackaged as 'Christmas Miracle at Sage Creek', has an added scene in the beginning that takes out some of the slow start. David [Carradine] and I got along great, we wanted to work together again, too bad. Wes and I are strong friends now, we have lunch all the time.

"VERY CLOSE to final funding on two other Westerns PALOMINAS and THE HARD RIDE, it's been a long haul -- both stronger action, less family themed. Have several non-western projects in funding process as well.

"Wyatt Earp special should look great -- we gave them movie quality production value, layered all the scenes with good depth, costuming, guns, props, talent, etc -- was working in a tight window, I'm sure your cameo will be the best with those nice pistolas."
—Thadd Turner

Meanwhile, I mentioned that drawing skills seem to be going the way of the wing window and Gus Walker mentioned the demise of letter writing as well, as twitter and email swamp all the longhand boats still afloat.

Ironically, I have received a couple hand-written letters here at True West recently and they both involved our mis-identifed caption regarding Guy Madison as Wild Bill:

Granted, this isn't long-hand, but it's definitely old school. By the way, the yellow-highlights are the letter writer's, not ours.

Another letter I got recently was very touching. It's from an old cowboy (born in 1926), who says:

"Bob, I feel like I know you after readng so many years of your ideas and information in the True West magazine. You are doing a great job. The other reason I'm writing this is to send you an old family photograph, it was taken just before the World War I draft, all four men are close to the same age, in their early 20's and had worked cattle at a very young age. My dad is the one standing in the center, those on either side are his brothers and the one setting is Henry Brown, their friend. . .so many of us are slipping away and I wanted to give you the photo while I still could for your files. . .they were all good men and their word was certainly their Bond. You can see my Dad was left-handed, his hat was creased on the left."
—Forrest, G. Wilkerson
Clifton, Arizona

I'm honored to have received both the photo and the letter. And speaking of veterans on Veteran's Day:

"The soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war."
—Douglas MacArthur

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 10, 2009
There was an article in the newspaper the other day about a local cowboy who was put on a strict diet and told to walk 10,000 steps a day. It was for some health TV show and they put a pedometer on his leg and the TV doc would email him and say, "You are only at 8,000, go back outside and get to walking." The cowboy did and he's quite healthy today, etc.

So, this got me to wondering how many steps I'm doing on my daily walk with Peaches (I guessed it was close to 10,000). Well, it turns out, I'm only walking about 2,600 steps. So, I've been walking again at night, but I'm still way below where I need to be if I'm going to be healthy, and I really want to be as healthy as a guy with four stents can be.

Speaking of stents the Executive Director of the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce, Patrick Greene had a heart attack last Wednesday and had a stent put in. He is recovering. You can send a get well email to Patrick at:

I Can't Believe I Drew It
One of the nicer byproducts on my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings:

Here's an odd offshoot of my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings: I got a call from a local public entity, funded by the city. A nice woman director asked me if I'd teach a class on drawing for kids 6 to 12, two sessions, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, one Saturday, $400. Sure. I agreed. Long story short, she calls me back and says, "I'm not too sure this class will fill, the kids are more into jewelry making," and a couple other craft disciplines. I'm butchering the story a bit, but the upshot I got out of it is that kids today aren't real interested in learning to draw since, in their minds, the computer does it for them. Just an observation, not sure it's real, but I have a hunch it's damn close.

“To be an artist you have to know something that’s true.”
—Frida Kahlo

Monday, November 09, 2009

November 9, 2009
We contribute 25 copies of True West magazine to where we hear they are devoured and fought over. Got this letter from the org today:

"We cannot express to you how much the troops appreciate receiving packages and letters from our organization. We encourage you to read the letters from the troops posted on our web site. We continuously add new letters and photos from the troops. Your donation allows us to continue our mission and help the troops' morale by showing them how much we care and appreciate the sacrifices they make for us.

Give2TheTroops is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to supporting the physical, moral and spiritual health of America's armed forces in combat zones and military hospitals through care packages and letters.

"Your gift is an affirmation of the kindness and humanity that our country's principles were founded on."
—Dana Courtney, Give2TheTroops.Inc.

Went into the Beast yesterday with Kathy and the kids and saw "A Serious Man" at Camelview Five. Then had Mexican Food at Guadalajara at Central and I-10, then went up and saw the Cowboy Artist's Show. Speaking of artwork:

I Can't Believe I Drew It
Here is a sweet little gouache of Mickey Free:

"This is the happiest of all men, for he is superior to everything he possesses."

Friday, November 06, 2009

November 6, 2009
The kids came over last night with Bill Glenn and Grandma Betty for Tacos de Bell (or, as Deena calls them, "Tacos de Bobby"). Lots of laughs all around. By the way, when Deena and Tommy and I were on our recent Mexican Food road trip to southern Arizona and northern Sonora, I got to listen to a whole bunch of their music. Here's the ride we got thanks to Deena and her road warrior benefits:

It's a Buick Enclave CXL. Great ride and a great sound system. Here's a smattering of the groups Tommy and Deena played on the sound system (while I sat in the back and said "Who's this?" over and over): The Pixies, Tapes 'N' Tapes, White Stripes, The Stooges, Blind Pilot, Fugazi, Death From Above 1979 (yes, that's the name of a group), The Hold Steady, Broken Social Scene, Animal Collective, Quasimoto, Nirvana, The Stones ("Can't You Hear Me knockin'?"). I think I knew maybe three of these groups. Very interesting musical journey to say the least

And here's the two music maniacs in the middle of Obregon Street in Nogales:

In addition to the bad recession (Frank McGuire of Mill Avenue fame came in my office last week and told me there used to be about 75 curio shops on the street and now there's less than 30), the street was torn up as they put in underground utilities, which didn't help biz either.

100 Covers: From Oblivion to Ahora
As we close in on the final year of our 100 cover march from January 2000 to ahora (today) we have to stop and take a look at the progress of our annual Source Book, which first appeared in 2007 with this year's model (below) the third:

These special issues have revolutionized our business by giving a much needed source for all things Western. Our newest issue goes out the door this week and it is the best yet. If you want to know the best purveyors in the Western field, whether they be saddle makers, knives, specialized clothing, saloons, hotels, music, pottery, hats or guns, you need the 2010 Source Book.

Meanwhile, our January issue of this year featured one of my Border Rider paintings:

The original painting was bought by Eric Weider. If that name sounds familiar it's because he is the publisher of Wild West magazine.

Robert Ray thought our March issue was a little too close to the previous issue in terms of subject matter (a horseback rider on the border) and he may be right. It's still an excellent cover though and the cover story by our friend Leon Metz is absolutely tops.

For our Seventh Annual Travel Issue we had a cover that no one liked. At the last minute, Meghan Saar pulled out this POV photo taken on a wagon train ride, and Dan the Man made it ride:

If you've read this blog for the past year, you know the angst that went into the Alamo cover:

Not as bad as I feared, but not as good as I had hoped it would be. In June we utilized a photo by Marcie Shaw of Steve Shaw and crew traversing the Little Big Horn hills on their annual Great American Tour Trail Ride of the Custer Battlefield. Unfortunately, the sky was blank and it just didn't fly, so I went home and pulled out a couple cloud photos and Robert Ray and Dan Harshberger did their Photoshop magic to make this a very dynamic cover:

For our Kids and history cover in July we had an excellent photo of our cover boy but the background was a little bit too midwestern looking (green and trees), so, once again I brought in some of my sunset photos and Robert Ray and Dan the Man composited the two images until it worked:

Our staff photographer John Beckett shot this time lapse photo of expert gun spinner Joey Dillon. Dan Harshberger took one of the guns from a different image with Joey flipping a pistol over this shoulder, and dropped it in here to make it look like Joey has three hands:

Excellent gun spinning effects! For our vaquero cover with Lee Anderson, we went through more versions of this cover than any we have ever created. I think Dan H. said he did two dozen versions of this. Once again, the original photo was too green (the desert was lush at the time) so we struggled with making it look older, and yes, to capture some amber glow:

For our 100th cover, we went back to the Billy well and utilized one of the dozen Billy paintings I created for the art opening of Capturing Billy the Kid Country at the Overland Gallery in Scottsdale last month:

What a run of covers! All the twists and turns seem bizarre in retrospect, but there is a consistency in style and a dogged persistence that pervades the whole effort. I am very proud of our crew who make this happen each and every single issue. Congrats to all of you!

"Any one can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out."