December 31, 2010
It's official. Gov. Richardson did not pardon Billy the Kid. I'm being interviewed at 9:20 a.m on Channel 3 in Phoenix about it, then at 1:20 p.m. on CNN. I'll have more to say later. In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to run a magazine or how crazy my personal life is, be sure to read the behind-the-scenes peek at the daily trials and tribulations of running True West. Culled straight from my Franklin Daytimer, it contains actual journal entries, laid out raw and uncensored. Some of it is enlightening. Much of it is embarrassing, but all of it is painfully true. Are you a True West Maniac? Get True West for LIFE...Click here!
December 31, 2010
It's official. Gov. Richardson did not pardon Billy the Kid. I'm being interviewed at 9:20 a.m on Channel 3 in Phoenix about it, then at 1:20 p.m. on CNN. I'll have more to say later. In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves.
December 30, 2010
It never ceases to amaze me that new historical finds show up at this late date. Well, Mark Gardner has discovered an interview with Lew Wallace in May of 1881 that is quite astounding. For one thing, the Kid is at large (he escaped hanging in April of 1881) and hasn't been tracked down yet so Wallace's comments have the added value of breaking news.
In terms of Wallace promising the Kid a pardon, the governor gives a pretty clear opinion on why he doesn't think he needs to honor that. It's also fascinating that the Boys (Dolan, Evans, etc.) evidently threatened to literally spank Wallace and he spends some time telling how he avoided that punishment.
Here is the link to the article:
After reading it I told Mark Gardner I thought it really puts the pardon in perspective, at least from Wallace's point of view. Here's Mark's response:
Hi, BBB. Yes, this article offers ammunition for both sides. There is the use of the P-bomb, but there's also that all-important "providing he also led a different life." You're absolutely right, though, this is Wallace's side of the story. It's clear from Billy's correspondence and his quote in the Mesilla Times that he felt he had lived up to his side of the deal.
But there's other neat items. Did you notice that it says Wallace sent word to the Kid through his attorney? I'm guessing that's Leonard, and it explains why we don't have a written response from Wallace. That makes sense. Also, Wallace says that Billy is 21 and that he spent "some years" in Indianapolis. I believe that may be the first published reference to the Kid having grown up in Indianapolis. Wallace, of course, was from Indianapolis as well. That was something they had in common and I'll bet they chatted about it. It's something Wallace would have remembered. That makes sense, too.
I was ribbing you a little about being a Billy hater, but those quotes in The Wall Street Journal seem to be pretty telling, I think.
December 29, 2010My old bandmate Steve Paroni came by on Christmas Eve and gifted me a couple fifties style Western magazines. One of them features "Reno Brown: The Screen's Famous Western Movie Star!"
"I'll make you famous."
—Emilio Estevez, as Billy the Kid in Young Guns
December 28, 2010Old photographs inspire me. Case in point, John Langellier recently pitched us on doing a feature on frontier army bands, as in musicians. He sent along a bunch of great photos and one of them, taken at Promontory Point on the day of the final spike ceremony, May 10, 1869 caught my eye. This image was one I had never seen before:
As usual, I check out all the bystanders. Perusing the spectators, I found this guy:
"This is funny."
December 27, 2010Did a phone interview with the Wall Street Journal at lunchtime today.
They are doing a story on Governor Bill Richardson's threatened pardon of Billy the Kid. Supposed to run in tomorrow's edition. Did another phoner with a Durango, Colorado radio station about them being crowned a Top Ten Western Town in our current issue.
After the interview I whipped out a nice little fire rider study:
"There is almost no English surname, however ancient and dignified, that cannot be instantly improved by the prefix 'Spanker'."
"The worst truth to be confronted with is always the one that you already know."
"A thousand probabilities do not make one fact."
"He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils."
"Imagined history can be more persuasive than fact."
December 27, 2010The immediate members of my family, that would be Kathy, Deena and Tommy, are not fans of the Western. I take total blame for this, having basically ruined so many oaters by my pompous commentaries before, during and after the many Westerns I have forced them to endure for the last three decades.
There have been a few exceptions. Kathy joined me for 3:10 To Yuma, and sort of enjoyed it. Even I thought the ending was lame. But some recent Westerns have been just too hard of a sell. I saw The Assasination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford all by myself, and, although I loved it, I was very glad I didn't talk the entire famdam into sitting through three hours of that amber glow.
In truth I have become quite snakebit about recommending Westerns to my family.
That said, on Christmas Day, after opening the presents and having lunch, Deena's new boyfriend, Mike, who hails from Minneapolis and is a big Coen brothers fan, lobbied for us to go see True Grit. I tried to talk him out of it, and poo-poohed the film, which I had already seen the week before, at a critic's screening in Scottsdale. I basically told him not to expect much, that it is definitely the least ironic of all the Coen brothers' pictures. He still voted to see it, and, to my surprise, the others agreed.
Six of us, Kathy, me, Deena, Mike, T. Charles and Pattarapan went to the five o'clock showing at Harkins 16 at 32nd St. and Bell.
The theater, which probably holds 300, was half-full, mostly Boomers like myself, although there were a smattering of youngsters which my kids pointed out to me. Ever defensive, I dismissed this as "mercy dates", that is, grandkids taking grandpa to see what he wants to see on Christmas Day.
As True Grit unspooled and got going, I heard laughs, big laughs (the critics I saw the film with were smugly quiet). Deena, sitting to my left, kept poking me in the arm and whispering, "What?! This is hilarious!" When it was over, there was applause, started by, of all people, Kathy Radina (Meghan Saar said there was applause in the theater she saw it in yesterday and she had never heard this ever before. She is 28). Everyone in the family absolutely loved it. They raved about the political incorrectness of Jeff Bridges kicking the In-din kids off the porch, they raved about the talents of Hailee Steinfeld, the girl who beat out 15,000 other girls for the role of Mattie Ross and they hooted about the mountain man with the bear's head and his ridiculous speech ("So Coen brothers!")
The good news is that the applause extends beyond my family: True Grit finished the week (it opened last Wednesday) at $31.8 million and came in second for the weekened, behind The Fokkers. True Grit also provides the Coen Brothers with their highest opening ever; its three-day total of $25.6 million easily outpaced the $19.4 that Burn After Reading brought home in 2008.
Last night Kathy and I pulled out the original True Grit with John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell and Robert Duvall and watched it. I thought for sure a clear winner would surface, but I constantly found myself saying, "Well, they went at this from different directions, but they both work." I also thought Glen Campbell was much better than I remembered. He still isn't even in the same league as Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger, but he is charming and decent.
Both endings worked for me, although the Coen brothers' ending is more realistic and follows the book. Still, I liked the Duke ending, especially him jumping the fence and maybe even prefer the happier ending, but that probably dates me more than I'd like to admit.
The one thing that I think the Coen brothers are far superior at is the nuance of the action sequence. They have been showing this for some time, but they really hit the top of their game with the Chigurgh (Javiar Bardem) shootout with Lewellan (Josh Brolin) in Eagle Pass, Texas in No Country For Old Men. The very idea of showing the bullets hit their target (and since a silencer is being utilized we get the shock of the hits without the forewarning of the explosions) was brilliant and scary beyond belief.
In the new True Grit, when Rooster is heading over a distant ridge he turns to fire his pistol as a signal he is leaving. Lucky Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper) is watching through a spy glass. Rooster raises his pistol and we see the smoke and then, a half second later, hear the report. Very, very cool. I can't remember ever seeing this in a Western, the fact that sound travels slower and you would see the muzzle flash before you heard it at a distance.
This is also repeated in the aftermath of the meadow shootout when La Boeuff fires his Sharps rifle just in time to save Rooster from being dispatched. We hear the shot, there is a delay for the bullet to travel 400 yards, then we see a puff of dirt kicked up beyond Ned Pepper (photographed from long distance, which works so much better than in the old True Grit where we get the standard close range camera angle). The bullet has gone through Pepper and hits the ground on the other side of him. Spectacular! Bravo! Really impressive narrative filmmaking.
I thought Barry Pepper stole the Coen brother's True Grit. I loved his look, I thought he was fantastic, but Kathy votes for Robert Duvall as Pepper in the original and goes as far as to say, "He's the best thing in both movies." Hmmmmmmmm.
"I'm shot to pieces."
December 23, 2010
Under the weather. Got a sore throat and chills. Stayed home most of yesterday.
Speaking of weather, it rained most of last night. This is the big storm that flooded Cal yesterday. Soggy, with juicy clouds hanging off the tops of Skull Mesa.
In spite of my flu-type doldrums, I have been pushing paint around. Did this little study a couple days ago:
Lots of color in that mono chrome, no? Also did this one called "Ahead of the Column":
And, this little puppy, called "Red Rock Rider":
Actually poached this basic scene from a Taos Seven artist's painting.
A very familiar voice died yesterday. Fred Foy, 90, died at his home in Woburn Mass.
"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty 'Hi-yo, Sliver!"
—The Lone Ranger opening, voiced by Fred Foy
December 21, 2010
Caught something last weekend. Slight cough and fever. Stayed home. Rainy day. Slept and worked in studio.
Here's Johnny Boggs' take on he new True Grit:
I guess my main problems were why they separated Matt Damon from Rooster and Mattie (didn't happen in the original, didn't happen in Portis's novel), but my main problem was I never found any chemistry between Rooster and Mattie. Unlike in the original. But it's well-acted, and probably one of the best theatrical Westerns in a long, long time. I'd give it three stars, but a high three stars. And it's one of those movies that I can't get out of my head, like Anthony Mann's The Furies or Andre de Toth's Day of the Outlaw. I see the problems, can't quite really love the movie, but it sticks with you, grows on you, and keeps you thinking.
I read an interview with Matt Damon and he said the Coen brothers accommodated him to be with his family during the week and they shot around him and did weekends. Something like that. Perhaps that's why they separated in the movie to make that work?
Speaking of movies, for my birthday I picked a quirky black comedy called Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.
It's a Finnish tale of a very evil St. Nick, filmed in Norway with subtibles, although it opens with a scene of scientists speaking English. Very clever and off-beat. In my old age i have gotten so tired of the same ol' tropes and plot twists you could literally phone in. I never could figure out where Rare Exports was going until it ended. Enjoyed it immensely. Playing only for a week exclusively in Tempe at The Valley Art Theater.
Brought home some new graphic novels from work. The Scalped series is getting better. Didn't really take to the original one, but I have to admit, it has some style and potential. it's basically The Sopranos meets Thunderheart on The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Decent story, strong artwork. Also took a gander at American Vampire, which is a Stephen King story wherein he attempts to take back the fangs, or, as he puts it in the front, "It's all about giving back the teeth that the current 'sweetie-vamp' craze, has, by and large, stolen from the bloodsuckers."
Inspired me to up my game with Mickey Free and Graphic Cinema. I am also inspired by ol' Bresson:
"Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen."
December 20, 2010
Since we're about 40 hours out from the opening of the new True Grit, let's take one last look before you go take a look:
As one of the critics, who has seen it, remarked: it's the least ironic of all the Coen brothers' movies. Being a fan of The Big Lebowski, Fargo and No Country For Old Men (okay, two thirds of it), I think this played into my expectations. I was expecting more Dude and less Duke.
An Echo of The Dude Abiding?
And he hates the Eagles, man. The group, not the huge bird. Man.
Still, it's a straight up Western with no apologies. Yes, Jeff Bridges mumbles a couple lines, but for the most part I understood everything he said and he is a hoot. And Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger (his name is pronounced La Beef, in the new version) is a mile and a half better than Glen Campbell, but then, who wouldn't be?
As advertised, this is a movie you can take grandma to, and you have to admit, she would probably be a bit confused by A Serious Man, or Barton Fink. Ha.
One classic exchange is preserved:
Rooster: "I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned, or see you hanged in Fort Smith at Judge Parker's convenience. Which'll it be?"
Ned: "I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man."
Rooster: "Fill your hand, you son-of-a-bitch."
December, 17, 2010Someone asked me what Yoko Ono has to do with anything Western and to that I say, quite a bit actually. Last week I attended the National Finals Rodeo in Vegas and, as mentioned, the music was wall to wall Metal Town with AC/DC sort of being the house band. About the lightest thing I heard was "Get Back" by the Beatles. Given the tenor of the tunes it seemed a tad light, but then I realized they played it when one of the competitors, who was named Jo Jo, came into the arena. I couldn't remember his name, but I knew Mr. Memory would:
"JoJo Lemond is a team roping header from Andrews, Texas. He finished the year ninth in the world standings."
See why we call him Mr. Memory? Anyway, from the National Finals Rodeo to the Beatles to the woman who broke up the Beatles, well let's just say it's six degrees of makin' bacon.
Speaking of bacon, last week I attended a seminar on how to use my new iPad down at the Apple store in Kierland Commons (a new, old style, downtown in north Scottsdale). After the seminar, I got my glasses fixed at LensCrafters and asked the woman who waited on me if there were any good places to eat around the Commons. Stephanie Snyder recommended True Food Kitchen. Well, with a name like that, I had to at least give it a go. It's one of those new food concept restaurants and very hip. I sat at the counter, actually a quasi-bar deal, very Town & Country, and asked the guy what a TLT was. The bartender-waiter told me the T stands for tempeh, I think it is, which is a soy bean product that they have morphed into tasting like real bacon. Well, I haven't had bacon since March 22, 2008, so once he assured me it was totally healthy, I ordered it, along with a green Arnie (green tea and lemonade) and I must say, it was fantastic! I am going back for my birthday dinner this weekend. What a concept! Healthy bacon.
Went home for lunch and whipped out a little study I call "San Carlos Courier".
Some nice little passages in there, and if you've ever been to San Carlos you know the butte I'm referencing here. I'm actually feeling a little more comfortable with this medium.
Meanwhile, speaking of being comfortable, I met best-selling author Larry Winget in Vegas and he sent me a packet of his books. Opened one, "You're Broke Because You Want To Be," and found this quote:
"Most people are comfortable. That's the problem. Comfortable people don't feel bad enough to change, but don't feel good enough to really be able to enjoy their lives."—Larry Winget
December 16, 2010
A rainy day in the Valley of the Sun. Drove down into the Beast to read a cowboy book to Head Start four-year-olds at a school near 36th St. and Van Buren. Afterwards, my son Tomas took me to the Posoleria Guerrera (Posole Warrior?). Best posole I've ever had.
Had a design meeting with Meghan Saar, Abby Goodrich and Robert Ray to go over design ideas for 2011.
"People don't care about books, they care about ideas."
—Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media
December 15, 2010
One of the couples I handed a Best of the West Source Book issue to in Vegas was Scott and Melanie Best. When the North Dakota couple stopped to talk and introduce themselves, I kind of did a doubletake: Your name really is Best? Melanie laughed and said, "Yes, easy to spell, hard to live up to."
I saw my friend Gregg Clancy a couple weeks ago and I asked him what T-shirts were selling. Gregg, who owns Strawberry Fields Clothing Company, said, "I've got a new T-shirt I can't keep in stock. It says, 'I'm still pissed at Yoko.'"
"It was not the truth that I broke up the Beatles."
—Yoko Ono, in the new issue of Esquire
December 14, 2010Just got a CD full of photos from Steve and Marcie Shaw's October, 2010 Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Ride. Some 20 people rode into Tombstone to ride with Wyatt's posse. Here is a photo, by Marcie, of the Earp's coming into Charleston in February of 1882:
December 14, 2010
Finished a painting commission this morning. Going to ship it this afternoon.
On Saturday night in Vegas I treated my hosts Charlie and Linda Waters to dinner at South Point Casino which is the NFR headquarters for the rodeo crowd. The hotel, which is owned by a former rodeo champion, presents the buckles and winnings every night after the rodeo and most of the competitors stay there as well. The parking lot looks like a Montana feed lot with row after row of King Cabs and Diesel Duallys. When Allison and I came into the casino and tried to find the restaurant, we walked past one of those open bar areas, which had a bank of closed circuit TVs, playing the NFR, live from the Mack Center. As we walked by, the National Anthem was playing on the screens and everyone in the bar stood up and took off their hats and held their hats over their hearts—in the bar! Wow! Imagine that at the Whiskey on Sunset Strip.
Still wondering about the wall-to-wall heavy metal music at the National Finals Rodeo I saw in Vegas last Thursday. As I mentioned it was all heavy metal, starting with AC/DC. I wonder what the older guys think about the fact that Country has been usurped by a music style I can't imagine them having in their CD collections. Do you have an opinion about this?
December 13, 21010
Back from Vegas and Cowboy Christmas. Met lots of readers and fans, met a ton of new subscribers and soon to be readers. Gave out several thousand True West Source Books. Got the method down to a science: I would spot a guy coming down the aisle and I would accost the wife, saying, "He's into history, isn't he?" The wife would invariable say, "Why yes he is. How did you know?" Then I would hand the Source Book to her in a bag and say, "It's for him, but you have to carry it." They would both laugh, because he had his hands in his pants, and off they'd go. I'd say I was right about eight times out of ten. Sometimes the wife would say, "Wait a minute. I'm the one who is into history." Which was always a pleasant surprise. I can't imagine asking that question an NFL stadium and getting that high of a response about history. It was a great experience and I got pretty good at spotting our reader.
The Bling Thing
Ran into Larrry Winget, the best selling author of titles such as, "You're Broke Because You Want to Be," and "It's Called Work For A Reason," and "Your Kids Are Your Own Fault and "People Are Idiots And I Can Prove It." Larry owns 1,000 pairs of boots, loves True West magazine and we made a date to get together and talk strategy for a new video show.
As mentioned, Charlie Waters treated me to a box seat (actually a suite) courtesy of his employer, The Las Vegas Review-Journal. Really enjoyed the rodeo on Thursday night. Was amazed at just how rock 'n' roll it has become. The lightest music played during events is AC/DC. That is not a joke. Lots of The Motor City Madman, The Nuge (Ted Nugent). Not one Country song. I imagine Jim Shoulders would be spinning on his shoulder, if he could see this, but here we are. Ran into several neighbors from Cave Creek. In fact, two of the flag girls at the NFR were Cave Creekers, also Pam Nabers, whose daughter is a friend of Carole Glenn's in Fountain Hills. Rodeo great Jim Pickens, Jr. and TJ Holgate, a Navajo from Window Rock who gave the grave side eulogy for Sonny Jim.
Also saw three time world champion Bull Rider Don Gay (1979-1981) at the Convention Center, which incidently, is also where I saw the Beatles and Bill Black's Combo in August of 1964.
Saw two Kingman childhood friends: Zibby Campa and Karen Richardson (Rose). Karen brought and gifted me with a copy of "Pictorial History of the Wild West by James D. Horan and Paul Sann. I have a copy in my studio library, but Karen's copy has a pristine cover jacket along with the Collector's Old West Gunfighter Gallery foldout in mint condition. Thanks Karen!
Drove over and back with our new Director of Sales and Marketing Allison Cabral (maiden name Allison Clay, which is a sweet play on Clay Allison). We were a good team and tag-teamed the booth.
The Wright Brothers Win Big
Charlie Waters' wife Linda has a niece who is married to Calvin Wright, brother of both Cody and Jesse (and one of six Wright brothers who ride saddle bronc in PRCA events). Cody Wright from Milford, Utah won the world championship of the saddle bronc riding. His brother also competed, but broke his ankle on the first night and still rode, limping out of the arena on his own two feet. Tough boys, those Wright brothers.
"This ain't my first rodeo."
December 11, 2010
It's our last day in Vegas for Cowboy Christmas. I've met thousands of new and old fans here at the Mandalay Bay Exposition Center. Also, I think I've met the entire Navajo Nation, who are here to support Derrick Begay, who turned in a blistering 3.8 second roping run Thursday night. Thanks to Charlie Waters I got to see the NFR for the first time, sitting in the Las Vegas Sun suite. Free food, free beer and a great view of the action. Really amazing. Having a great time. Coming home in the morning. Lots to report.
Also working on a commission. It's a surprise so I can't really talk about it. Should finish it tonight.
Printed our first Sweethearts of the Rodeo greeting cards and Robert Ray picked them up yesterday. We're taking a batch to Desert Caballeros Museum in Wickenburg tomorrow and the rest go to Vegas for Cowboy Christmas. Drop by the True West booth at Mandalay Bay if you want to see 'em.
"If a mammoth jack pins back his ears, best hunt cover."
—Old Vaquero Saying
I think the caption in the catalog is wrong. It says the 1874-78
photograph shows "Clum seated at the left and his assistant M. R. Sweeney on the right." I'm pretty sure that is John Clum on the right (the guy on the left seems too old for Clum, what do you think?). And check out that cowboy hat on his head! Great sweep with winged sides, just like Tombstone Territory (the TV show not the place). See, this is the kind of hat that is banned from modern Western movie sets and here it is on the head of a famous Old West character in the early 1870s.
Oh, and how about that Rastafarian Apache in the middle? Ha. Now I would split a gut if I saw that in a Western, but there you have it. Photos don't lie, too much, anyway.
I have a theory that these sweeping, winged hats were more popular among the general population in the sixties and seventies and then they kind of go a bit flatter in the eighties. Case in point, check out this Kansas Jayhawker. J. H. Green, from the 1860s:
Now that is a great cowboy hat. Or, I should say a Jayhawker hat. Big, deep bowl brim. Fantastic. Give me this in a Western and I'll stop my hat rant, in a Boss-of-the-Plains minute.
"There is nothing sexier than a man being honest."
As the Old Vaqueros are fond of saying, "When a mammoth jack pins back his ears, best hunt for cover."
Looks like I'm going to get a sneak peek at the Coen brothers' True Grit tonight in Scottsdale.
Also whipped out a scene of a bruja (Mexican witch) visiting her lover in the Versailles Room (this is what happens when a Kingman cartoonist visits Paris, France):
And, here's another scene of the burned-out desert the Mickster has to cross to get to El Muerte:
Worked hard all weekend, but that's actually a bit of a reach because work is only work if you'd rather be someplace else, and I love doing this. Gee, I wonder what ol' Coward has to say about this?
"Work is much more fun than fun."
That's a Steampunk deal around Allison's neck. Steampunk is all the go now. We are doing a cover story on the phenom shortly. Bascially, it's Victorian Science Fiction, best exemplified by the old classic TV show "Wild, Wild West," which had as a theme, "James Bond on a horse." So you get fantastic inventions like computers, or ray guns, but in the grand tradition of Victorian style.
And speaking of the old Wild, Wild West TV show, I talked to the star Robert Conrad on the phone yesterday about doing an interview (there is talk of another movie) and I told him about Steampunk (basicallly the above paragraph) to which Mr Conrad said, "I don't know what the hell you just said."
Ha. Gruff guy, just like the character he played. Okay, here's a couple of cowgirls labeled by Allison as Steampunk Cowgirls at the booth:
Steampunk is attracting Boomers, Gen-Xers and Goths, which inspired this joke:
"Goths discover brown."
—Snide commentator of youthful trends
A great array of hat styles, but two that caught my eye were these:
The two, at left, appear to have winged brims (especially the second guy—that is a modern cowboy hat if I've ever seen one and would certainly be banned from most modern Western movie sets), and even the guy lying down has a modern sweep to his hat. Also interesting that the old buy with the white beard was a cavalry trooper. He kind of resembles Mose, the John Ford regular with the bald head. What was that guy's name?
"There is a greater symmetry of design in asymmetry."
—Old Master Artist Saying
That is a sneak peek at our January cover, "Sweethearts of the Rodeo" (which goes to press tomorrow, but we made a banner of it for Vegas) behind her. Meanwhile, here's Sheri:
If you are going to be in Vegas for the next two weeks, come by and see us. I'll be there next week from Wednesday to Sunday.
"See you there, or be square."
—Every radio guy who was on the air in the eighties
I wanted to show Beh-to, not as a villain but a raider who likes to have a good time. I believe "Ya-Goosh" is a Navajo saying, but I seem to remember the Hualapais I grew up with using a similar expression, "Ya-Shoosh" which is a sort of catch-all expostulation like, "Oh, Man, that is funny," as in, "Ya-Goosh, that is funny."
Meanwhile, at lunch, I also did this scene as well, of one of Beh-to's men cornering Felix Ward in a peach tree. "Baje!" is Spanish for "Come down." Most Apaches spoke Spanish, and it's ironic that young Felix could speak both Spanish and English. He is about to learn a third language.
Normally, Apache raiders would kill a 12-year-old boy because by that age they are usually beyond molding, but Felix, who was in fact 12, looked young for his age. And, perhaps Beh-to saw himself in the young captivo.
—Old Vaquero Saying ("Who knows?")
This is of the Coyoteros escaping towards the San Pedro with 20 head of John Ward's cattle and his step-son. Meanwhile, speaking of Felix Ward, I wanted to do a close-up of the boy as he sees the attacking Apaches from his vantage point on the hill of the Ward Ranch. Did a pages of sketches four days ago:
Yes, lots of Disney types (Sleeping Beauty!), trying to capture the simple gesture they are so genius at rendering. Then took another run at it two days ago, this time utilizing my extensive graphic novel collection:
The bottom three are done from the earliest known photos of Felix (1877), but they somehow seemed too mature. Finally, got inspired by, of all things, an Anime graphic novel with the big eyes (see sketch, top center), and it was that sketch that led me to this final:
Not sure it's a particularly truthful likeness, given the boy's bad eye, but I wanted to lean on his innocence a tad (Hmmm, I wonder what ol' Chekhov has to say about this?). I've still got about five illustrations to go. Did one at lunch today. That one I'll post tomorrow. Goes to press on Thursday.
Over the weekend I worked on a series of close-ups on the 12-year-old boy, caught while herding sheep and goats on his step-father's Sonoita Creek homestead (about two miles west of present day Patagonia):
Not sure I'll actually do the shepherd crook staff, but it does give it a biblical flair, no? Believe it or not, I poached the expression off of a typical bug-eyed Anime still. Sketches for proof, tomorrow.
Also worked on the raiders herding the cattle off into the San Pedro Valley, before turning north to the Gila River area. Got this study going:
And I also worked on this scene of the Coyoteros scoping out the Ward Ranch before the raid. You can just make them out hiding in the rocks (this is taken from an actual photo of the site):
Had a dental appointment at 11. Losing a tooth, gaining an implant.
"It takes two to speak the truth—one to speak and another to hear."
—Henry David Thoreau
The building at left is Loring's Bazar (yes, spelled just like that) and News Depot which stood at about Central Avenue and Washington. Hard to believe that this little burg is now a beast of 3 plus million people. Oh, if only Wyatt could see it today.
Hat Rant On The Street
Meanwhile, the Hat Rant continues with a look at street photos. It is true that a whole bunch of the upward sweep of the cowboy hats in old photos is due to the photographer requesting the sitter to push his hat up so we, the viewer, can see his eyes. This is not as true outdoors, although some photographers no doubt still requested the push up. That's why I like anon photos (see below).
First up, a posed photo in front of a blacksmith shop in 1885, but it appears the gents in the scene are wearing their hats down low. The guys on far right definitely have winged brims, which would be banned from most Western movie sets today for not being authentic:
The next series of shots are almost too good to be true. Taken around Socorro, New Mexico in the early 1880s by a photographer with the unlikely name of Joseph Smith, these are just amazing. First up is an action shot at a rural rodeo (in 1882!). A great array of hats but the guy on the horse appears to have a modern, Tom Mix (or Gus, or Grab & Pinch) style hat. Check it out:
Get that guy off the set! Nobody in the real Old West had a hat like that. The next photo is also by Smith and is of a horse race in Socorro in 1882. Look at all the caps!
Another amazing photo, also by Smith, is this one of cowboys goofing outside a Socorro saloon in 1882:
I count at least three winged brim hats that would be banned from a modern Western movie set.
What do I draw from all these incredible photos? Well. . .
The flatter the brim the flatter the box office
It's downright silly to have everyone wearing a flat brimmed hat. Not only is it boring, but there are so many other things you can do with hats, as these photos prove. For one thing, emulate the hats in these images—that would go a long ways towards better Westerns.
And finally, give thanks. Why? Because that's it for now. It's Thanksgiving and what are you thankful for?
"I'm thankful BBB finally is going to give it a rest."
—A certain friend of mine who goes by Way
So, when the costumers are trying to outfit, say, Kris Kristoferson in Heaven's Gate, they say, "Well, if it can't go up in front, can we have the brim go down?" Of course. So then we get this:
I'm sorry, but that defeats the purpose. This is not a cowboy hat, it's an Elliot Ness-1920s style hat. Not saying it didn't exist in the West, but it's a poor substitute for a cowboy hat. Maddening, really.
"The ultimate aim of the human mind, in all its efforts, is to become acquainted with truth."
A hunter from 1850! And, by the way, we see more of these winged hats in the 1850s, than in the 1880s. Not sure why, but they are all over the California Gold Rush and you see them in photo after photo. This is from the excellent book "Hunting The American West," by Richard. C. Rattenbury.
Historic Consultant: Absolutely not. This is Col. Tim McCoy, and represents a hat style from the 1920s and thirties when hats got ridiculously large. Nobody in the Old West ever wore a hat like this!
Okay, wise guy, then what about this?
This is from Arizona in the 1870s! And while we can't see the top of the crown (it's actually visible in another shot with a group of Apache scouts taken in El Paso, during the Victorio campaign), that is a very large cowboy style hat, with swept up, or, winged sides.
Now, granted this is not a cowboy, but, why can't someone in a Western wear this hat style? Here it is. Authenticated. It's a fact (versus fiction), take your pick. Wouldn't Westerns be cooler if we had a wider display of hat styles? Now you have to be judicious about it (I do not want to see Robert Duvall's 1970s bull rider hat that he wore in Joe Kidd), but at least allow something like the above to be in the mix, so we can get back to the creative fun of it. It is sooooo boring right now. I am so tired of looking at the same damn hats, especially when they go to Sam Spade fedoras. Pal-eeeze! There's plenty more historic images, like this one, to inspire us to widen the horizon of future Westerns.
More examples to follow.
"A good hat makes a big difference."
—Some bald-headed guy