Friday, April 30, 2010

April 30, 2010
It was a week ago today that I spent the day in a procrastination seminar. It cost my wife $185 ("Money well spent," she told me). So, to save you $185, here are the four main things I got out of it:

• Ask yourself this question: What do I need to stop doing and start doing in order to succeed? (I told this to a photographer I know and he said, "Well, I guess I need to stop looking at porn and actually start doing something.")

• For ten minutes every day do something you need to start doing but don't want to do. (for me it was forcing myself to draw narrative—boxes and word balloons before I check email in the morning).

• Start where you are: prioritizing is a skill that can be learned (the most important thing I learned is to try and delineate between what to pay attention to and what to ignore, or avoid).

• Task initiation: the ability to begin a task without undue procrastination (thanks to this prod I actually bailed into the Digging Up Billy cover sketches, something I have been putting off for a long time).

I have a ritual in the morning: I eat half a banana and drink a half cup of coffee, go out to the kitchen and put in four slices of toast (two for me, two for Kath), then go out to the end of the driveway and bring back the newspaper (I hate when it's late!), come back, butter the toast (with that non-butter stuff), read the paper, make notes in daytimer, take heart pills, feed the chickens, go for a brisk walk with Peaches, come back and check email.

Of course, by the time I do all of this, it's time to go into the office. So, day after day, I find myself doing everything but the one thing I need to do more of to be successful: draw and paint!

So, I still do the same morning regimen, but I put in ten minutes of sketching after the walk and before email. It was very hard the first day (it's hard work!), but I timed it and made it ten minutes. The next day you add 15 seconds, etc.

For the past seven days I have not missed a day and I feel good. Why?

Ol' Roux is gonna tell you why. . .

"To know one's self is the true; to strive with one's self is the good; to conquer one's self is the beautiful."
—Joseph Roux

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 29, 2010
Worked last night on sketches for the Digging Up Billy the Kid cover illustration. I have great reference—thanks to Robert Ray—of a dead guy sitting up in his coffin and giving his first press conference:

That, and the other photos led me to here:

And here:

I like the idea of "Billy the Kid's First Press Conference" as if he has been unearthed, he sits up and starts answering questions: "I always liked Pat Garrett, but I didn't appreciate the way he dropped me while my pants were down. That's just not good business."

"Take everything you like seriously, except yourselves."
—Rudyard Kipling

Plus, A Bonus Quote:

"He who cannot dance claims the floor is uneven."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April 28, 2010
I think it's safe to say, that this will be a first. This coming Saturday we are going to start the Kick Off Party for Arizona's Statehood Centennial: 1912-2012. I am going to start this party at Pages Bookstore in Carefree. Here's the inside skinny from Pages:

Bob Boze Bell will entertain you at 2 p.m. with stories of the West and his own zany kick-off to the 2012 Arizona centennial celebration.

Seating is limited, RSVP's are suggested. Call Pages bookstore in Cave Creek's Stagecoach Village at 480-575-7220 or email

When the next centennial roles around, you can tell everyone you were at the very first party at the last centennial. Imagine the prestige (well, that and the fact that you will be 140 years old).

"Come celebrate 100 years of hilarity."
April 28, 2010
One of the advantages of almost dying is being able to mock up that look when needed. Case in point: I needed a good model to help me create a cover concept of Billy the Kid, freshly dug up and holding a press conference.

Robert Ray took this half dead model out in the back, behind our office and shot off a dozen shots. This is the best dead head look of the bunch, not very flattering, but definitely half dead:

Believe it or not, that shirt is a gift from Jim Larkin of New Times-Village Voice Media fame who wore it for several years then gifted it to me as a prop shirt. It's the closest shirt I have to the famous anchor bib shirt the Kid has on in his only known photo.

This reference shot led to this sketch:

Of course, this isn't our first digging up Billy cover. The first was about six years ago when the dig was first hatched and landed on the front page of the New York Times. This was my take of Dead Billy at that time:

This cover did very well for us, and I personally sat in a Barnes & Noble in New York City and watched three of them picked up and bought right off the newsstand.

"You will live and you will die. Both are good."

—Old Vaquero Saying
April 28, 2010
Got this in this morning from Chalfont St. Giles, Britain:

"Bob ~ Something happen to your blog? -- it hasn't been updated for yonks, while your posts are available on the 'Community' section of the TW website. No sweat, but I can't believe I'm the only one who noticed this. Incidentally, and I quote you ["take the anchor, out in a small boat and plant the sucker on the far side of the sand bar, take out the slack with a wench, and then hand crank the boat over!"]. I am lost in admiration of the versatility and physical capabilities of those Gila boatmen -- enjoying a sex break and hauling themselves over a sandbank at the same time!"
—Fred Nolan

Yes, on April 14 we migrated my blog archives (some 2,900 posts) over to a new address because the site we were on apparently was going away. When we did this, something happened on the BBB Blog address bar and it stopped showing new posts. You guessed correctly, Fred, I have had numerous emails basically saying the same thing. As I understand it (and I really don't get why this happened) you need to refresh your link. Even though it's the same address, you need to go in via the following address and when you see the new posts, save the address on your favorites as Wayne Rutschman has done here:

"Yes I clicked on the address and brought up the new site. I then added that site to my favorites and told it to overwrite the old favorites address. Works fine now. Thanks for saving me the time to check the obits with your prompt reply."

And, as for the wench usage, yes, indeed I did mean they used a loose woman to make it over troublesome sandbars. They weren't so good, though, when it came to docking. Don't know why.

—Homer Simpson

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27, 2010
Went home for lunch and looked through my stack of 10,000 Bad Drawings sketchbooks and found this page of roughs from March 7, 2007:

This was right after Paul Hutton and I joined Bob Brink in New York to attend the annual New York Comic Con in February of 2007. No doubt inspired (or infected) by the mucho macho Manga comics I saw there, I whipped out this John The Baptist dangling head sketch (bottom, right).

Today, I saw it with new eyes and wondered if I could marry that dramatic sketch with a clip photo I have been saving of troops in Afghanistan enduring a sandstorm. I had to be back in the office at two for a design meeting, so I was under the gun, or under the knife, as it were. Did this in about 40 minutes. Here is the result:

Pretty dramatic, no? Need to work on the dangling head a bit, but the swirling dust effects are right on the money.

"The world is full of men who spend their lives fleeing from something that doesn't pursue them."
—Old Vaquero Saying
April 27, 2010
Thanks to the Googling expertese of Meghan Saar, I finally located Richard Lingenfelter, the author of "Steamboats on the Colorado". He lives in San Diego and on the phone answered a critical question for me about one of the techniques that the early Steamboat pilots used to get over sandbars. When these intrepid men, like Jack Mellon, would encounter a sandbar they had several methods for getting over them (all they needed was two inches of water!). According to Richard, if they failed to crawdaddy over (with poles and maneuvering), they would turn the big boat around and reverse the paddle wheel and chew through the sandbar, and if that failed they would take the anchor, out in a small boat and plant the sucker on the far side of the sand bar, take out the slack with a wench, and then hand crank the boat over! Just incredible stuff. And, I have never seen this portrayed in a movie. Have you?

Speaking of steamboat movies, over the weekend I whipped out a small master shot of the Colorado River in flood stage, late in the afternoon with steam rising off the water and a Steamboat, The Gila, chugging along (lower, center).

As the camera glides downward we hear Mojave In-din chants and maraca rhythms, oh and very loud cicadas. Got to have loud cicadas.

Oh, and one more thing: when we were in Laughlin two weekends ago for the history conference I saw an ad for a John Fogerty concert and the price was $139.95, plus tax! Per ticket! I went up to the room and said to Kathy, "How much would you pay to see John Fogerty?" And she said, "$15." Later, I was cruising around Laughlin and I saw a marquee advertising for a Credence Clearwater Revival Tribute Band called Fandango. Tickets were $19. Still four dollars too high for Kath. Me, I would have gladly paid $65 (to see Fogerty) if I could watch the show in a barca lounger and the hotel staff promised to wheel me out and up to my room by 9:30.

But that's just me still being wild and crazy.

"Left a good job in the city, working for the man every night and day."
—Proud Mary, Credence Clearwater Revival
April, 27, 2010
As I mentioned yesterday, we received a ten page letter from Belgium raving about Johnny Boggs' current column on "The Ten Best Westerns You've Never Heard of."

Here is one of the pages from Peter Stadlbaur of Maubray, Belgium:

Johnny picked "Fort Massacre" (the title loosely in German, above) as his number two pick. Peter says in his letter, "Great! I missed this movie when it came out in 1958 and was looking for it desperately—until it was shown just lately on a German TV Channel (in German) and I loved it. Never before or after Joel McCrea was meaner and tougher as he was in 'Fort Massacre.' Besides: JOel McCrea is my favourite Western actor.The film was grim—the characters without any illusion—'The Naked and the Dead'—style. Again: Great! I am now looking forward to watching this film in the original U.S. version and in a regular movie theatre (again)."

Here's Johnny article

"I hope more of this kind to come. "
—Peter Stadlbaur

Monday, April 26, 2010

April 26, 2010
Here are a couple photos from my art class last weekend. My first class at Vision Gallery showed up at ten. Here they are getting ready to draw:

The kid with the quick wit, John, is fifth from the left front. All of them were quite willing to bail in, especially when I told them to take off their shoes and draw with their toes.

Toes Were The Days

By the way, check out his drawings—very strong lines. I told him he was already drawing at a high school level (and I meant it). I told them their job is to get an agent and sell these drawings for thousands of dollars so their parents will never have to work again. As you can see, some of the parents are sitting behind the kids and this got a big laugh.

"Do as I say, not as I do!"
—BBB, reacting to little John nailing me about looking at my drawing
April 26, 2010
One of the benefits of living on the high Sonoran Desert is looking out the front window and seeing some pretty spectacular clouds. For example, this is right out my kitchen window (although I did run out and shoot it from the driveway):

That's Ratcliff Ridge in the foreground, studded with a high stand of saguaros. Meanwhile, the desert itself is blooming all over the place. When I shot this cloud scene I merely turned to the left and got this shot of our wild little succulents blooming a bright red:

Inspired I went right into the studio, looked through my discard pile, found a reject and tweaked it here and overpainted there, and ended up with this:

This is a scene I have planned for Mickey Free and his ride into Mexico where he discovers sporadic fires burning languidly across the plains, and as the clouds of smoke climb into the sky they mingle with the atmospheric clouds until one can't tell the difference.

"I see clouds in dead people's eyes."
—The Sixth Sense Kid on acid

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25, 2010
I'm relatively new to the art teaching profession, having taught my first real class of students in February at the Orme Ranch School. Yesterday I had the privilege of teaching two classes of about 20 kids in each class at the Vision Gallery, which is on the west side of the old-town plaza in Chandler. It's part of a program for the Chandler Center for the Arts and since schools are cutting out art from the cirriculum these kinds of seminars are taking up the slack.

I was a tad nervous about the class because when I taught the high schoolers at Orme it was a challenge to keep them engaged, off of Twitter, Facebook, iPods and each other, but these kids (6 to 12 years old) were an absolute dream. First of all, they would hang on every word I said, and take everything I told them totally to heart:

"Okay, look up here, don't look at your drawing, draw what you see, not what you think you see, come on, don't look, I know you want to, that's your left-brain trying to control you, look up here at what you are drawing. . ."

So, when one of the kids later wanted me to show them facial spacing (how you line up eyes with mouth, ears to eyes, etc.) I started drawing on a pad on an easel and John, a precocious lad of about seven or eight, says, "stop looking at your drawing Mr. Bell." He wasn't being a smartass, or cheap in any way. He had taken my edict to heart and was feeding it back to me.

Of course, I had them draw with their opposite hand and then their toes. The kids squealed when i told them what I wanted and I told them they didn't have to do it if they didn't want to, but the ones who squirmed the loudest and said they would never do it were the ones who dived right in and seemed to enjoy it the most.

When I raved about their wild lines and how much integrity their drawings had, you could see the lightbulbs go off and it was quite inspiring to see. I told them I was unlocking a secret weapon, like a super power and how it was going to give them an advantage over their friends who think art is scanning a piece of art into a computer and coloring it with an application and a mousepad. That's not art, I told them, what you are doing is art.

After I sold them on the super power idea I told them their assignment was to go out into the world and get on the ladder, but I warned them that there will be 300 other kids lined up around that ladder waiting to get on, and it's your job to figure out how to get around those others and get on that ladder.

At the end of the class, John (yes, the same feisty kid) came up to me and said, "I'm going to get on that ladder." I later learned his father is terminally ill and the confidence of that boy took my breath away. Nobody is going to stop him.

Speaking of kids, when I think about my own children I often pride myself on the fact that I treated both my son and my daughter exactly the same, without favoritism. However, and this is hard to admit, when it comes to dating. . .

"I believe nobody is good enough for my daughter and everybody is too good for my son."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 22, 2010
Lots of talk in Arizona about a tough new immigration bill our governor is considering signing. Very contentious on both sides and to hear them talk you'd think this is something we have never faced before.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Case in point:

Wanted! More Unwanted Immigrants

"For every thing you gain, you will lose something. And for everything you lose, you will gain something."
—Old Vaquero Saying
April 22, 2010
Everybody, I mean everybody, has forwarded me the news about the O.K. Corral inquest papers being found. Unfortunately, the reports make it seem as if these have been missing since 1881, but that is not the case.

Here is Mark Boardman's take on the find:

"Just to be clear--this is the Coroner's Inquest, done the same day as the Street Fight. It is not the trial inquest (the so-called Earp Hearing). The originals of that are still missing.

"I'm trying to find out just how long the Coroner's Inquest papers have been around--a couple of years at least, according to some friends.

"I believe these are the originals. They were misplaced in the '60s and later found in Bisbee.

"There is no real new info in the 'find.' Lord knows how many copies were made before they were lost. They're quoted in many places."
—Mark Boardman

"Three men hurled into eternity in the duration of a moment."
—Headline from Tombstone Epitaph, October 27, 1881

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21, 2010
O.K. Corral inquest papers surface. This just in:

"You sons of bitches have been looking for a fight and now you can have it."
—Wyatt S. Earp
April 21, 2010
Had a routine nuclear stress test this morning. For all you youngsters who are not used to getting poked and probed (yet), it's this wonderful four-hour experience where you can't eat or have coffee for 12 hours before the test. They inject nuclear isotopes into a temporary IV in your arm, run you through a modified MRI machine, while insisting you put your arms over your head in a very uncomfortable position and not move for 15 minutes, then put you on a treadmill and increase the speed and angle of the treadmill until you are close to passing out, then they inject you with the nuke stuff, then run you through the MRI deal one more time. That's the short version. Believe me, it's a total laughfest from start to finish.

Came back to the office and took Stuart Rosebrook out to lunch for his 47th birthday. We went to El Encanto and he pitched me on several cover story ideas. I bought $25 and change, (biz account).

Speaking of biz, I forwarded a New Yorker business advice article to my good friend Charlie Waters in Las Vegas. He noted the items he thought worthwhile and sent it back to me so I wouldn't have to read it (I hate attatchments or links and rarely click on them). Here are his highlights:

"Just finished the excellent piece you sent me from The New Yorker. Thanks so much.

"I marked the following three things in it . . .

"1.) Publishing exists in a continual state of forecasting its own demise; at one major house, there is a running joke that the second book published on the Gutenberg press was about the death of the publishing business.

"2.) From the chairman and CEO of Random House: "If you want to make the right decision for the future, fear is not a very good consultant."

"3.) No matter where consumers buy books, their belief that electronic media should cost less---that something you can't hold simply isn't worth as much money---will exert a powerful force.

"I think all three apply to magazines and newspapers to some degree as well. So sayeth the dinosaur."

—Charles Richard Waters

Thanks Charles. Read about a weird Western in True West. Henry Beck made it sound rather interesting so I rented it from Netflix:

In a strange land where East meets West, two rival gangs -- the Heike Reds and the Genji Whites -- are locked in a deadly feud over a fortune in gold until a lone hero (Hideaki Ito) comes to town, meets the gangs' various victims and tries to restore order. Director Quentin Tarantino guest stars as a gunslinger in this visually stunning spaghetti Western from Japanese cult film director Takashi Miike.

Sukiyaki Western Django

Review later.

"Our energy is in proportion to the resistance it meets. We attempt nothing great but from a sense of the difficulties we have to encounter; we perservere in nothing great but from a pride in overcoming them."
—William Hazlitt

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 20, 2010
When I was growing up in Kingman many families went "to the lake" on the weekend to boat and water ski. That would be Lake Mohave on the Colorado River. Even though it was blistering hot out, the water was not warm, but it was warm enough to swim comfortably.

But the real shocker was when we went to the river at Bullhead, just below Davis Dam, it was really cold. We were always told it was freezing cold because of the water coming out of the bottom of Davis Dam, which would make some sense, but, I bought a bunch of new books on the history of the Colorado (see list below) and while I was reading of 1860s explorers who were running up and down the river long before the dams were built, one explorer complained the water was so cold it "hurt our teeth."

Trust me, the water in this picture is freezing cold. This photo was taken out the window of our room (#7095) at the Aquarius Hotel (formerly the Flamingo Hilton) in Laughlin.

So why is a river that runs hundreds of miles through 122 degree desert heat, freezing cold? What's up with that?

Books I bought at the Arizona-Nevada Joint History Conference in Laughlin:

• Hell's Outpost: A History of Old Fort Yuma , by Frank Love ($10)

• The Old Customhouse (Quartermaster's Residence at Yuma Crossing) , By Mary Ben Kerckhoff($15)

• Yuma ($25)

• Yuma Frontier Crossing of the Far Soutwest, by Clifforn Trafzer ($12)

• Wild River, Timeless Canyons: Baldun Mollhausen's Watercolors of the Colorado, Ben W. Huseman ($55)

• Arizona Charlie, King ($30)

• Captain Isaac Polhamus II: Desert Mariner, by Isaac Polhamus IV ($90)

"One of the coldest winters I have ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
—Mark Twain
April 20, 2010
One of the questions I often get is "What happened to the Billy the Kid dig?" Well, Mark Boardman is on the trail of this wacky, bizarre story and I'm planning on a cover painting to illustrate it. Going to start roughs this weekend. Mark has been sending me a few of his observations and I was laughing out loud this morning reading them.

Also working on a steamboat painting. Got some excellent photo reference on my trip back from Laughlin on Saturday. Here's The Needles from the bridge at Topock:

Man, those are some impressive spires, no? I assume we are looking at geographic strata turned straight up?

Meanwhile, the Mojave Indians have a mystical rock they worship as the creation location and I believe it's this one:

This is near Union Pass on the way to Bullhead and we grew up calling it "Finger Rock" because from the other direction it looks exactly like someone flipping the bird. Once again, really outrageous rock formation. I think the Mojaves saw an eagle in it. Just shows you how dirty minded white kids from Kingman can be.

"I'm insecure about everything, every day. I'm insecure now, that I'm not answering the question interestingly enough."
—Chris Rock, answering the question "What are you insecure about" in Allure magazine

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 19, 2010
Thanks to Meghan Saar and Abby Goodrich we finally have all the True West Moments that have run in the Arizona Republic up on this site. Check them out right here:

True West Moments

Sometimes I get confused about what is working and what is not, and of course, I'm doing ten things at once (working on the next issue, posting to Facebook and here, planning a video show and doing storyboards for a graphic novel) and I often wonder if half the stuff I'm doing I should stop and just concentrate on one thing, and do it really well? (Perhaps this is why Kathy is forcing me to go to a Procrastination Seminar this coming Friday?)

Gee, I wonder what ol' Evans has to say about all this?

"We need the courage to start and continue what we should do, and courage to stop what we shouldn't do."

—Richard L. Evans
April 19, 2010
Got a question from Jerry Sanders who has recently purchased an original Flying A gas station sign (with the neon broken) and he wanted to know what the color of the neon was so he could replicate it.

Even though I used to sit outside my grandmother's house on Jefferson Street at the foot of Radar Hill and stare at my father's Flying A sign going on and off, along with my cousin Robert Jerl Stockbridge, for hours, I couldn't for the life of me remember the colors:

Finally, Jerry sent me this version which I think is dead on:

"You can trust the man who wears the Flying A."
—Mangled Gas Station Slogan Memory

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18, 2010
Back from Laughlin and the history convention. Came back through Bullhead (Hardyville was behind the Safeway there), Fort Mohave, Topock, Needles Canyon, Lake Havasu, Bouse, Hope, Salome (where she danced), Wendon, Aguila (eagle in Spanish), Wickenburg and home. Got some good photos on the Colorado for my Martha Summerhaye's research. Created a timeline of her travel from Fort Russell, Wyoming to San Franciso to Cabo San Lucas to Yuma and then up the Rio Colorado to Fort Mojave. Here are the timeline highlights of the next part of the trip:

• (Rejoining Martha on the Colorado River at about The Needles): On the 3rd of September, 1874 the boilers on the Gila "foamed" and the steamer, the barge and the troops had to lay over for "nearly a day."

• The Gila arrived at Camp Mojave on September 8 (it took 11 days from Yuma). Captain Jack Mellon pronounced it "a quick trip."

• The troops spent two days and nights at Fort Mojave. On September 10 (35 days since they left San Fran), they lined up and headed out, with the infantry troops marching in advance, then came the ambulances & carriages (Martha mentions several officers bought carriages in San Francisco for this trip, so I assume they were on the boat), followed by big, blue army wagons and schooners each drawn by six heavy mules. Martha is riding in one of the ambulances. Bringing up the rear was a small rear guard. They marched for an hour and then halted for ten minutes. When they halted, the officers would walk back to the wagons and talk to the wives until assembly was called.

• In the desert they would get up at four ("cook's call"), make breakfast (soldier's bacon, coffee and biscuits baked in a dutch oven), strike camp and head out, marching until about noon when they would make the next camp and have supper (see breakfast).

• At noon of the first day's march, the troops reached Packwood's Ranch. He had a bar and many of the soldiers sampled the stock.

• On September 12, they reached Beale's Springs (near Kingman, AZ) and Martha bought a peach pie for one silver dollar. It was also on the 12th that one of the soldier's dogs ran to his death from the heat.

• For the next two days, Martha says they marched over "dreary country", camping at Freeze-wash near some old silver mines.

• On September 16 the guide shouted: "28 miles to Willow Springs Grove." They got there at 4 P.M. By this time some of the older troopers had given out and are riding on the wagons (that would be me).

• September 17, they encounter rolling grass country and they can see Bill William's Mountain in the distance. They camp at Fort Rock.

• Their next two stops are at Anvil Rock and Old Camp Hualapai.

• At this point the road turns south and "about the middle of September" Martha writes, they arrived at American Ranch about 10 miles from Fort Whipple.

• The wagons push on to Whipple while the troops lay over and march in the next day. They have been travelling for 7 weeks straight and one of the companies, F Company, stays at Whipple, while Martha's husband's unit, K Company gets word they will be going on to Fort Apache.

• The garrison at Whipple throws a dance and there are informal dinners and a trip into Prescott. They stay 3 days to rest up.

• Martha doesn't give the date of departure from Whipple, but says it took two days to get to Camp Verde where another company dropped out.

• In the "latter part of September" 2 companies of soldiers (about a hundred men in all, 5 or 6 officers, 2 wives and 2 laundresses), march out of Camp Verde bound for Fort Apache. They take Crook's Trail and according to Martha they are the first wagon train to actually use the trail.

• The mountains are steep and a wagon with a 6 mule team is lost over a cliff. A party of horsemen "tore past us at a gallop. . ", it's General Crook and staff heading somewhere quickly.

• After two months of arduous travel, Martha and the remaining troops finally arrive at Fort Apache and join the 5th Cavalry which is also stationed there.

• Martha unpacks and goes outside to witness one of the wives playing tennis.

"In the end, everything is a gag."

—Charlie Chaplan

Friday, April 16, 2010

April 16, 2010
In Laughlin for the Arizona History Conference. This morning at ten, Robert Ray and Meghan Saar joined me for a presentation "paper" on "The Battle of Big, Dry, History." We cross examined, via a slide show, how we create our Classic Gunfights and the hurdles to accurate history. Went really well. Had a surprise guest: Dr. Sam Palmer, who is the unmoved mover on the actual Battle of Big Dry Wash fight in 1882. Pulled him right out of the audience like Woody Allen did with Marshall McCluhan (sp?) in Bananas. Robert Ray got a huge laugh when I asked him the biggest problem he faces when doing these and he said, "You are my biggest problem."

I came here to sell books, but I bought $250 of Colorado steamboat books. Going to a big Mohave Country Shindig tonight in Bullhead.

Always fun to see my history buds. Also, our seventh floor room overlooks the mighty Colorado River and I keep imagining Jack Mellon and Martha Summerhayes coming right by here on this same river. I know, it's a bit too far north (Martha got off at Fort Mojave, which is about 11 miles south of here, but still!).

"Sometimes I hear the still voices of the Desert: they seem to be calling me through the echoes of the Past."
—Martha Summerhayes, Vanished Arizona

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 14, 2010
Got this interesting link to a story about young Japanese girls who are hooked on history. While it's the history of Japan they are attracted to, the parallels to our Western history are compelling.

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."
—John Muir
April 14, 2010
Yesterday I posted a scratchboard of Coyote Pass near Kingman and a friend asked me, "Didn't your dad used to drive you as a baby over that pass in a '49 Ford? And don't you wish you still had that Ford?"

Yes, and yes. Here is a photo of my father and his pit crew on the annual Route 66 Fun Run in 1993:

Left to right: BBB, Al Bell, Milton Cece (his Norwegian cousin from Iowa) and Ray Hader (pit boss). This was taken in Seligman across the street from the Sno Cap Drive-In as the cars for the Fun Run lined up. This guy had painted this huge postcard backdrop and for $20 you could have a professonal photo taken. I thought this was a very cool idea and wished I would have thought of it. Later, when my father was ordering more photos for his friends the guy admitted that we were the only ones who bought a photo (there were over 500 cars on the run!). After I found this out, and in subsequent Fun Runs (we drove in it every year for at least a decade) I would quiz the vendors (tables with really cool books on Ruote 66 classic gas stations, etc.) and they would invariably tell me that they weren't doing jack for sales. I always asked why they thought this was the case and one astute vendor said, "All their money is in their cars." Ha. I think that nails it.

And here's a couple photos of the view from Coyote Pass looking towards the snow-capped Hualapais:

"Catching a yellow jacket in your shirt at 75 mph can double your vocabulary."
—Old Biker Saying

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13, 2010
Cooler out and cloudy, but no rain. Actually very nice out.

I'm rereading Martha Summerhayes' Vanished Arizona and enjoying it even more than the first five times I read it. One of the main reasons I always enjoy her adventures is that she goes right through my old stomping grounds. The soldier columns followed the freighting outfits, run by Captain Hardy, as they marched up from Fort Mojave on the Colorado River to above Hardyville (about where Bullhead is today), then traveled west to Packwood's Ranch (which must have been near Union Pass), then across Golden Valley and up Coyote Pass into Beale Springs (just outside present day Kingman). Here is that view looking into the throat of Coyote Pass:

Really dramatic views both ways. And here's Martha's description of Beale's Springs:

"Beale's Springs did not differ from the other ranch [Packwood's], except that possibly it was even more desolate." I like to joke that she predicted no civilized people could ever live here, and she is pretty much right about that.

And here's a view of Weaver's Needle and the backside of the Superstition mountains:

Caught this view on my way across the McDowell Indian Res. We're looking at the Sups from the northwest, looking southeast.

"Those who attain any excellence commonly spend life in one pursuit; for excellence is not often granted upon easier terms."
—Samuel Johnson

Monday, April 12, 2010

April 12, 2010,
Had a very nice weekend working on a variety of things. Whipped out a series of small scratchboards. Here's the Gila chugging along on the Colorado River near the Needles:

And here's the Gila going up stream near El Dorado Canyon:

And here are the deckhands with their long poles gauging the depth of the current near Parker:

The deckhands, usually of Mexican and, or, In-din blood, would call out "Four!" (as in four feet deep), then "Three!" "Two!" "Two light!" "Quarter less two!" And, in the case of Martha Summerhaye's, when she wrote the deckhands on her trip yelled out, "No alli agua!" (No water there). In these situations captains like Jack Mellon would either "grasshopper" the boat over a sandbar with poles and spars, or, if the water over the bar was too shallow, the captain would turn the boat around and "crawfish" the boat over, cutting a channel with the stern wheels. Simply amazing.

"Pure Yankee!"
—A Swiss traveler remarking at Captain Mellon's ingeniousness for getting over sandbars

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April 10, 2010
Went for a walk with Peaches at about 7:30 this morning. Just about perfect out. Halfway up Old Stage Road Peaches lurched around on her leash and I turned to see a large coyote coming right up behind us, within fifteen feet. My big "Hey!" and my flailing arm movements scared him off, but barely. He merely loped off about fifty yards and looked at us contemptuously.

Walked on with no further incidents although I met a woman on a cellphone walking her dog without a leash and she said, "Hi, Baby." Then to me, "Is she friendly?" "Not really," I said as Peaches took a couple lunges at her dog. "She's kind of territorial." Which is an understatement. The irritating thing is, the woman kept right on going with the damn phone in her ear, oblivious to any danger around her (the coyote, Peaches the Predator, etc.). When you think about it, we are all part of a food chain conga line with a predator at every level, for everyone.

Walked on down to the creek at Rockaway Hills and enjoyed the running water. Heard a gun shot, coming from up the creek and marked it in my mind for the potential police report: ("Yes, sir. I heard the gunshot at precisely 7:41, but at the time I didn't know my nutbag neighbor had shot a woman on a cell phone.")

Came back and cleaned out my dark room in the studio and converted it to a storyboard room. Put up a couple peg boards with sketches and ideas for a new video project I'm working on with three talented guys in the biz. This will be under the umbrella of the True West brand. We believe there is room for a new kind of history doc, and a new way of doing re-enacting that isn't so clunky and old school. Besides, those kind of docs are dead and gone.

Did a couple scratchboard landscapes: one of Weaver's Needle and another of Coyote Pass, west of Kingman. I sure enjoy these little landscapes, but sometimes wonder if they're taking me where I need to go. Gee, I wonder what ol' H.D. has to say about this?

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
—Henry David Thoreau

Friday, April 09, 2010

April 9, 2010
Working on more Colorado River steamboat images and studying the outrageous demise of the venture (more on that later). Does anyone know why there were no steamboats on the Rio Grande, at least in New Mexico? Or, were there? And, come to think of it, I don't recall any on the Rio Grande in Texas. I assume they must have plied the eastern end of the river as it got closer to the gulf. If you know, please edify me.

A couple corrections from yesterday's post, the first train across the Colorado River was at Yuma on September 30, 1877 and here's a photo of the event:

Yes, that's Fort Yuma on the bluff in the background. Meanwhile, up river, the Atlantic & Pacific tried to cross at a point fifteen miles south of Fort Mojave, but the river was in flood stage and running at 1,600 feet wide and the swift current uprooted the pilings as fast as they could set them. A tent town sprang up on the California side, named Needles for the outcroppings nearby. After three months of effort a bridge was finally erected but it washed out in 1884, in 1886 and 1888. So the A&P went downstream ten miles and constructed a high cantilever span at a narrower point that became known as Mellen (a misspelling of the legendary river captain Jack Mellon). Here is a photo of that bridge going up:

And, amazingly, that is the steamboat Gila parked at the foot of the bridge, having brought up supplies (although the tracks had been laid from the west to this point and the east to this point and supplies could easily have been brought in by rail). I believe this railroad bridge was still being used when we traveled to sports events in Needles in the 1960s and we crossed the Colorado on the Traveler (our bus) on another bridge just south of this bridge. Needles was an arch rival of Kingman and we were raised to believe all the girls there were whores (I was shocked when I later met a guy from Needles and he said they thought the same thing about Kingman girls. Perhaps we were both right).

"A whore is a loose woman from another town, who doesn't know your sister."
—Ben Rux, Kingman sage
April 9, 2010
I did a taped interview earlier this week for "Colorado Matters" a KCFR (Colorado Public Radio) program. The subject was us naming two Colorado museums in our top ten museums piece in the current issue of True West. Here is the info, if you want to access the interview:

The interview with Bob Boze Bell is currently scheduled to air today,
Friday, April 9 on Colorado Matters.

Here's how you can listen:

Colorado Matters airs on KCFR (Colorado Public Radio) at 10 am and
again at 7 pm Mountain Time.

Here's a link to the frequencies:

Plus you can stream the broadcast live online at:

or play it on demand in the online archives after 11 am on the day of the show.

Also an mp3 should be posted to the podcast page later in the night.

You should be able to download and save it to your computer if you want to.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

April 8, 2010
This morning I received a big box from Jim Pfluger the Director of the National Ranching Heritage Center. Inside were two, big, brand-spanking new books: "Pitchfork Country: The Photogrpahy of Bob Moorhouse" and "The Spurs of James Wheat: Pioneer Collector" by Bruce Bartlett. Both are beautifully done with great cowboy pics.

Meanwhile, one of my hosts at the NRHC, Emily Arellano, sent me this photo she took on the NRHC grounds. I'm posed below one of the several historic windmills on the property:

"You gotta love Lubbock: big wind, big hats & big country."
April 8, 2010
Flying R came out to the True West World Headquarters yesterday and traded me a custom-made red braid hatband for a Tom Horn painting. Here tis:

Looks good against the white of that Beaver Brand Hat, no?

"What's red on white and proud all over?"
April 8, 2010
Still gripped by the lore of the Colorado steamboats. This is one of the blessings of Attention Deficit Disorder. I wake up excited to learn more. Unlike George Eastman, the unmoved mover of Kodak, I have never awakened in the morning and said, "I have nothing to live for."

I never realized how much of the world I grew up in (Mohave County, Arizona) was developed from the opening of the river to steamboat access in the 1860s. Fort Mojave (today spelled Mohave, but I much prefer the Spanish spelling), Beale's Crossing and Beale's Springs, Hardyville, Wauba Yuma Mining District, the McCrackin Mine, Signal, Cerbat, Mineral Park and Chloride were all developed because of steamboat shipping, both in and out of the district.

One district I was not aware of was the Eldorado Canyon Mining Co. which was on the Nevada side and north of Searchlight, but evidently it was a huge deal. And, by the way, Searchlight got its name from the last steamboat on the lower Colorado River.

Here's is another view of the Gila chugging up the muddy Colorado near Liverpool Landing:

The Gila was launched in January of 1873 (so she was only a year old when Martha Summeryhayes rode the Big Red River), and was 149 feet long, with a 31-foot beam, a depth of 3.5 feet, and drew only 16.5 inches of water. The book I'm culling this from, "Steamboats On The Colorado River: 1852—1916" by Richard E. Lingenfelter, doesn't have the horsepower of the Gila, but it's interesting that two other steamboats that preceded her had steam engines that produced 50-75 horsepower, which seems awful weak to carry 50 tons of freight, but they did.

The shipping rate was about $50 per ton, which also seems low, but the locals in the 1860s considered this extremely high, and the owners of the steamboat company were raking in about $250,000 a year.

As soon as the railroads arrived and crossed the river, in Yuma in 1879 and in Needles in 1889, the steamboats were doomed and the owners sold out to the railroads, who immediately cut the pay of deckhands and started charging $5 for dog passage (before they had been free). Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, here's a scratchboard of a bandido I whipped out this morning:

It's from a movie still of Robert Mitchum in The Wonderful Country, but for our purposes we'll call him "Billy Bandido."

"Colorado River have big problem: too thick to drink, too thin to plow."
—Levi Levi, chief of the Hualapais

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

April 7, 2010
Got a call from my road warrior daughter yesterday. She was driving from Chicago to Green Bay, Wisconsin to give 401K presentations at a slaughter house (they recommended she stop and buy Vick's to rub under her nose to combat the smell). She was supposed to fly into Milwaukee and fly straight in, but flights were canceled and she ended up in Chicago with a rental car. I told her I hoped the scenery was good and she told me it was foggy and rainy and she couldn't see much of anything.

When I venture out on the road, like my trip to Lubbock last week, I am always reminded of Deena's world, because she is battling road and flight problems almost every day.

Reticular Activator
My therapist wife turned me on to a concept called the reticular activator (not sure of that spelling). As I understand it, your mind is looking for solutions to problems and often when we are doing other things, a recessed part of your noggin' will activate and, butting in, remind you that a solution is nearby. The most profound example of this, to me, is when, in 2002, True West was losing $30K a month and my brother-in-law told me the only way we were going to survive is if I could find someone with national magazine experience. I told him that was a tall order in remote Cave Creek, Arizona and he said, "Not my problem." About two weeks later my staff was arguing over a cover design at Robert Ray's computer and, over the wall, I happened to hear the word "Hearst." I excused myself, went out front in our little store and saw four or five people standing there. I said, "Who just said 'Hearst'?" And this guy near the door said, "I did." "Why did you say Hearst?" And Bob Brink famously replied, "Because I ran the magazine division at Hearst for 26 years and I just retired to Carefree."

So I'm a firm believer in the power of the reticular activator.

A couple days ago I ran a diary entry from Martha Summerhayes (Vanished Arizona) where she described being on a Colorado River steamboat, named the Gila, and that the steamboat pulled a barge where the soldiers from her husband's company were loaded for the trip up river from Yuma to Fort Mojave. I wondered what that would look like, but didn't have much hope that I would find any photos of such a specific combo at this late date. And, I have never seen any photos of this phenom in all my years of researching.

We had a design meeting two days ago in the conference room and when we finished and were coming out someone stopped me and asked me a question. I answered it, but as I did I just happened to look over at an overflow bookshelf we keep in the makeshift hallway, behind the production department. For some reason, this title jumped out at me:

"Steamboats On The Colorado River: 1852—1916." I grabbed it and took it into my office, but I got sidetracked by other problems and finally put it in my bag to take home.

Last night, at home, I sat down on the couch and took a gander inside the book. Here is a photo of the Gila, which is the exact boat Martha was on, and along side are two barges:

The Gila is the boat in the middle and the barges are docked on either side. There are also photos in the book of a barge being pulled (they just strung a big rope back behind the paddle wheel) and also of the Gila towing a barge full of coal.

Amazing, that we had this book in our library and that I happened to get stopped right in front of it on that particular day.

Reticularisish, no?

Needless to say, I started reading the book and now I've got steamboats on the brain. And, of course, I want to do a piece on it for the magazine. Unlike the Mississippi, the Colorado River would all but dry up in stretches during the winter, but the really good steamboat captains and their pole wielding deckhands could literally move these multi-ton boats over sandbars and through two inches of water? Amazing, but true.

Here's my morning sketch of the Gila tied up near Castle Dome:

So that's my incredible reticular resource example for today. Gee, I wonder what ol' Luc de has to say about this?

"The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one's opportunities and make the most of one's resources."
—Luc de Clapiers

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

April 6, 2010
Just got back from lunch with Mad Coyote Joe and Wonderful Russ. Joe treated and insisted we go downtown to Durant's, one of the oldest surviving watering holes in the Valley of the Sun. I used to eat there quite a bit when I worked downtown in the eighties, but hadn't been there in at least 15 years. We laughed quite a bit, and like I said, the whole deal was on Mad, and that was funny enough right there.

As I've mentioned here before, I've got some very obsessive friends. But even among my compulsive obsessive friends (yes, that would be you Bugs) one guy stands out, and that is Bob Stinson. Here, I'll let him tell you his story:

Babes On Graves III
"Besides guitars and pretty women, my biggest passion in life is adventure and exploring, especially when it involves Western history. I want to know what the Old West was really like. That’s why I gravitate to Old West cemeteries.

"Here I am on the road with the lovely Debbie Dayton:

"Yes, Debbie is the showgirl who posed on Alferd Packer's grave in the snow, that BBB ran on this blog a couple weeks ago:

"Last year, after my musician gig at the Vegas casino where I work, I hit the road with a beautiful showgirl named Cindy Dare, we had worked together in the past and she was very excited about joining me on my quest. We took some pictures in Tombstone and Wilcox, Arizona, and had dinner in a renovated old rail car that had been turned into a barbeque restaurant. The food was really, really good and the server came up and talked with us, just like we were old friends. She explained how her husband was a miner in Silver City, New Mexico, and that her family had recently moved to Wilcox. Why is it small town people seem to understand that it is not that difficult to be friendly to strangers?

"We got out to Warren Earp's grave at sunset and Cindy was overcome with emotion as she knelt by his lonely grave:

"From Wilcox, we traveled to Tombstone, and the next day we landed at Boothill Graveyard and Cindy put on her showgirl outfit and strutted her stuff beside the outlaw graves. Here she is in front of the Clanton's final resting place. You can almost hear the spurs spinning inside those coffins:

"I love to see a beautiful woman with a faraway look in a sad cemetery."
—Bob Stinson

Monday, April 05, 2010

April 5, 2010
Went home for lunch and whipped out a couple scratchboards. First up, a new bottom for the Nazi Western True West Moment:

This is called "How 2" as opposed to "How 1":

I wanted the In-din to be a little further back, on a ridge, kind of looking down on the Nazi film crew, both literally and figuratively, but I don't always get what's in my head, out through my hand, on to paper. Meanwhile, tweaked another Point of View of a Vaquero:

Nice effects in both, but the Vato at left seems more Mexicano to me. Also working on a Colorado steamboat for another Martha Summerhayes True West Moment:

I nailed the canyons of the Colorado River, but that damn steamboat is more birthday cake than authentic steamer. Dammit! Had good reference but tubed it.

Pulled down my copy of Vanished Arizona and reread Martha's take on how she and her husband and his fellow troopers made it from Fort Yuma up the Colorado River to Fort Mojave:

". . .and here we were, on the steamer 'Gila,' Captain [Jack] Mellon, with the barge full of soldiers towing on after us, starting for Fort Mojave, some two hundred miles above."

So the troopers coming into the Arizona theater of war (think Iraq rotation), were hauled up the Colorado on huge barges towed by the steamer. What the hell did that look like? Well, here's a drawing from a Mark Twain book of a twin stack steamboat pushing several barges on the Mississippi:

The officers and their wives (about nine) were on the steamer itself but it didn't give them much shelter in August:

"We had staterooms, but could not remain in them long at a time, on account of the intense heat. . ."

A thermometer showed the temperature in the shade at 122 degrees and when they ate in the "saloon" behind the wheel house the metal handles of the knives "were uncomfortable to touch; and even the wooden arms of the chairs felt as if they were slowly burning."

At dusk, the steamer would find a level bank where the soldiers could make camp and the officers and their wives slept on the decks of the boat. As they attempted to escape the searing heat, they all gravitated to the west side of the boat in the mornings and the east side in the afternoons as the boat listed up the river. The sandbars were treacherous and the deck hands utilized long poles to push the boat when they struck a sand bar, which was quite often. Martha reports that they were "aground an hour, sometimes a half day or more." The trip took 11 days and the legendary captain Mellon bragged that 52 days was the longest he had been stranded, so far. Ha.

"It's quite a place, come out and see it."
—Captain Bernard of the Fifth Cav
April 5, 2010
Cleared out my January notes from my Franklin Daytimer, putting the best tidbits in my carry forward file. Here are those notes and ideas:

Notes from January, 2010 daytimer:
• Execute a series of 8X10 Hollywood style black and white glossies of Geronimo, Custer, Billy, Etta Place, Zapata, etc.

• quotes for "Round About" concept. Needs a staging area

• "He's not going anywhere." Hunkydory Holmes' pathetic and prophetic understatement. Possible opening line of story.

• Go to the opposite end: work backwards from a positive review of Mickey Free: "An esoteric masterpiece, dense with erudite references, disguised as so many cartoons, concealed behind blinding speed of execution." Now work backwards and make that end note come true.

• A grizzled prospector picking at rocks, burro in background, climbs up to a ridge and stares at something in the distance. We hear a distant roar and then POV we see a long oval racetrack in the middle of the desert: cut to closeup of the XS-5000 banking high on the oval track. Title card: Yucca, Arizona. Ford Proving Grounds, 1957

• William the Conqueror was so successful, he became too fat to get on his horse.

• "The simple fact is simple is hard to do."
—Old Vaquero Saying

• quote, jan. 7: "We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

• "That cowboy would ride a goat into a stampede."

• My childhood nightmare: a giant head in a tugboat cap looms over a cluster of bulk plant storage tanks. My father doesn't see it and I can't seem to warn him

• You can't tell the story of the West without starting in the east. And by that I mean Chicago, New York, England, Spain and China.

• My Norwegian grandmother, Minnie Hauan, never liked the story where we were on our way to Arizona on Route 66 and I ended up in a car with 3 Vegas hookers. I was nine. She was 69. (Intro to Sixty-Six Chix.)

• The State of the Western: the film genre I love the most suffers from plot rot. Explain. Tap Paul Hutton, John Fusco, Johnny Boggs and a dozen others to explain how to make Westerns bankable again. Do a reader's survey online to determine the why and the how of it all.


Worked on several other scenes, including this one:

Also, did another extension of the "En Grand Toilette" hombres to also patch onto an existing illustration (and make it longer):

Spending wayyyyy too much time on these, since they are quick cartoons that will run every Sunday in the Arizona Republic. Gee, I wonder what ol' Will has to say about this?

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."
—Will Durant