Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Orme Aerial Finish

May 31, 2011

Spoke yesterday at the Pioneer & Military Memorial Park in downtown Phoenix. Really an honor. In addition to remembering the fallen, I encouraged everyone to also remember the rememberers, the people who give so much time to help us remember.

Finally put the finishing touches on the Orme aerial illustration this morning. Been working on this for months in my spare time:

I'm off to New Mexico this morning, stopping in Mogollon tonight with my old friends Lew and Tara Jones, then on to Lincoln on Wednesday to meet Jeff Hildebrandt and a film crew out of Texas to tape some new True West Moments for the Westerns Channel.

I love this stuff. Why? I'll let ol' Walden tell you why.

"A country losing touch with its own history is like an old man losing his glasses, a distressing sight, at once vulnerable, unsure and easily disoriented."
—George Walden.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Earl Radina Earns A Standing O

May 27, 2011

Earl Jasper "EJ" Radina graduated from high school this morning in the endzone at Cardinal Stadium, in Glendale. He gave the keynote address and received a standing ovation from the student body at the end of his speech. Given the restraints the school put him under (his original speech was heavily edited and he was "encouraged" to not use his hands, and he was reprimanded for walking "too aggressively" to the podium during rehearsal. Hey, he was excited), I would say it was nothing short of amazing that he pulled it off, but he did and I'm proud of him. A standing O. Incredible. Simply incredible.

Thanks to Allen Fossenkemper, here's the right way to pull True West magazines from the back of the newsstand rack to the front:

I have been noodling a new way to approach graphic novels to create a different way to illustrate narrative, like this page of scenes I did in 2009. I'm a sepia nut:

I just love that funky, found, faded sepia look. Need to keep noodling this for a unique new story telling device.

"Faded photographs, memories of our time together. . ."
—what classic rock song is that from?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Brave Ulysses, Mickey Free

May 26, 2011

Crazy weather, crazy times. Started this yesterday at lunch, finished it this morning before I came into work: "White Dove In A Crazy Storm."

Speaking of crazy, lots of heat on Mickey Free lately. After my foray into Rattlesnake Kate country, I'm back, hard at it with an episode that The Top Secret Writer has been hounding me to do. I have resisted, of course, and have gone off in every other direction but the one he wanted. Mainly, Mickey and his mule going off cliffs, fighting Pancho Villa's studs, stuff like that.

I read a good quote recently (see below) and when I mentioned this to Paul Hutton (The Top Secret Writer) he went harping back to the episode-sequence he thinks answers that equation.

Well, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, so I agreed with him and made up my mind that I would do this next Mickey Free episode exactly as he wants, frame for frame. I am Ulysses asking my crew to bound me to the mast so that as we sail by Siren's Island I will demand to be let free, but don't listen to me. We have to do this version.

I pulled out an unfinished painting of the Mickster straddling two worlds and put it in the layout as a fpo (for position only). Here it is:

He is caught between two worlds (and three cultures). This is a story for our times. How do I get everyone to understand this?

"First get the reader to care about your character, then get them to worry about him."
—Peter Bogdonavich

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Your True West Newsstand Assignment for Today

May 25, 2011

True West, often gets lost on crowded newsstands We are up against huge media companies with multiple titles that pay people to put their titles in front. If you see True West, like in this Barnes & Noble in Scottsdale, AZ rack (sent to me by phone from Allen Fossenkemper), put True West in front, and at eye level, please. Thank you.

I love quotes. Gee, I wonder what ol' Ralph Waldo has to say about this?

"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mickey Free at 9,000

May 24, 2011

Went home for lunch yesterday and whipped out a little study called "Updraft In The Land of The Tilted Mesas."

This would be near Coyote Pass in Mohave County, Arizona. Where it's always windy and dust devils are on the prowl almost every day in the summertime.

Speaking of Kingman, broke out in hives last night. Woke up at about two in the morning itching like crazy. Haven't had a bout in several years. Either stress or bad food, or both. Celebrated a neighbor's birthday last night. Perhaps I got a touch of tad-in-die-tis. Or, maybe it was the wine.

Return with us now to those thrilling concepts of yesteryear:
When he was just a boy he started a war. The longest in the history of the United States. The red-headed captivo with the bad eye and the scarred face. The one the soldiers called Mickey Free.

A poignant view of Felix Ward, before he became Mickey Free. Also note, this was my 9,000th sketch on the road to 10,000 bad boys. Amazing.

Spent the afternoon yesterday working on new scripts for our next Westerns Channel video shoot. Did three with two more in the can from last Friday. Need 14. Going to film in Lincoln, New Mexico, one of my favorite destinations on the planet. Sometimes I feel guilty about spending my time on stuff that seems like fun. Gee, I wonder what ol' Annie has to say about this?

"Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you."
—Annie Dillard

Monday, May 23, 2011

Larry Winget Dares Me to Be Hated

May 23, 2011

Worked over the weekend on the Orme aerial map illustration and on two different Mickey Free sequences. One on Mickey's ride into Los Muertos (town of the dead). Found some good reference out of my sketchbooks, this one from September of 2006:

This was inspired by the famous Ansel Adams photo of "Crosses, Las Trampas" with the glowing crosses.

The "2,000 drawing" notation is a reference to my quest to do 10,000 bad drawings (started on November 12, 2005, creating six bad drawings a day, I finished on September 1, 2009)

As you can see, I mull these sequences for a very long time (five years, so far!). Here is another page of sketches from April of 2009, of the same sequence, inspired by a scene from the movie "The Wonderful Country" (1959), starring Robert Mitchum.

Found an unfinished wash attempting to capture this scene in my M file. On Sunday I tried to capture some of the integrity in these sketches. Of course, it's not finished, but. . .but. . .

The dust is excellent, but there is a looseness in the sketches of the wall that's hard to recapture. Probably because I wasn't trying to prove anything in the sketches and I'm trying VERY HARD to recapture the effects for the final. This is such a kiss of death for me. I guess I would compare it to why most musicians love to jam but they don't like the sterile starkness of the studio. Two different skills.

As artists we're looking for happy accidents, and you rarely find them when you are trying to control something.

Kathy and I had dinner on Saturday night with Larry and Rose Mary Winget. Always inspiring to hang with them. Larry is a Western Americana original. No B.S. As we traded stories of our adventures out west, he reminded me of something I knew when I was on the radio, but have forgotten in the last 12 years of publishing a magazine (actually, I think it was beaten out of me—ha!).

The premise is: dare to be hated. I knew this, but have forgotten it. Here's Larry's take on it:

"You can't have rabid fans without rabid enemies. And at the end of the day, you feel better about yourself. It can be a scary thing to take a stand and listen to the criticism and watch fans go away but there are always more to take their place and when they show up, they are getting the real deal."

—Larry Winget

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens and The Return of Mickey Free

May 21, 2011

A friend of mine is working on "Cowboys & Aliens" the big $180 million movie coming out this summer. They are in post, and he tells me, from the parts he's seen, it's spectacular and going to be very big.

With the unqualified success of the Coen brother's "True Grit" ($300 million plus, so far) it looks like the Western has some traction.

Lots of projects happening, including Alan Huffines new book "Killed By Indians, 1871." Gary Foreman has created a very cool promo video for the book. Check it out.

All of which inspired me to revisit Mickey Free. This is part of a post from 2009.

The Greatest Western Story Never Told?
Mickey Free is a story of The Border. The border between countries, the border between cultures and the border between people. For over 130 years the mystery of what happened to the Apache Kid has tormented historians. How did he get away? Was he killed and his death covered up? What I'm about to tell you may be the greatest Western story never told.

It's a story that is not without controversy: for example, Geronimo hated Mickey Free, calling him “the snake eye with the forked tongue.”

He had long-red hair, matted and tangled, hanging to his shoulders in the Apache style. His skin was weathered mahogany, with a series of scars. He rode a Mammoth Jack mule, 16-hands high and he carried a machete in the Yaqui style. He was neither American nor Apache nor Mexican, but somehow he was all three.

"He was half Mexican, half Apache, and all son-of-a-bitch."
—Chief of Scouts, Al Sieber

But let's go back to the beginning. When he was just a boy, he started a war. The longest in the history of the United States.

January 27, 1861
On Sonoita Creek, in southern Arizona Territory, Felix Ward, 13, was kidnapped from his step-father's ranch by Arivaipa Apaches led by one Victor (called Beto by the Apaches).

When Felix's step-father reported the kidnapping to the soldiers, officers attempted to contact Cochise to find out where the boy might have been taken. Meeting at Apache Pass, a brash young West Point graduate attempted to arrest Cochise, after the Chiricauhua denied knowledge of the boy's whereabouts. Cochise boldly escaped, cutting his way out of a tent and making it to safety. Others with him were not as fortunate and a standoff ensued between the soldiers holding Apache hostages and Cochise, who took hostages of his own. Lt. Bascom hanged six of the Apaches and Cochise went on a rampage killing every white person he could find (hint: he found plenty).

Meanwhile, far to the north of Apache Pass, the kidnapped boy, Felix Ward was being held in a camp near Arivaipa Creek.

As Tom Horn put it, “Felix became nothing more than a slave, relegated to cooking and cleaning and moving the camp, and when he tried to run away, he was caught and beaten again and again." When the young Apache John Rope first saw Felix he felt a great sympathy for the boy. His father offered a trade to Beto, but the cruel renegade refused. Rope was patient and reminded Beto of his obligation to Apache law.

All the weight of loneliness seemed to bear on the young captivo. Beto, the leader of the group who kidnapped Felix, was himself a former Mexican captivo, and perhaps because of it, he was relentless in his meanness towards the boy.

“A convert to any cause, is always overdone.”
—Tom Horn

Beto finally relented and traded Felix to the Rope clan for a bushel of peaches and, ironically, a rope.

Horn hailed from Memphis, ran away from home at age 14, landed in Santa Fe where he learned Spanish, drove stages and learned the packing game. He later drifted into Arizona and met Al Sieber at Prescott, prior to Al's ascension to Chief of Scouts at San Carlos. Tom and Al became fast friends.

"Tom is clean straw game.”
—Al Sieber

Not long after he arrived in Arizona, Horn spent the better part of a summer with Felix Ward and his adopted clan, the Ropes, in their summer encampment in Arivaipa Canyon. With that experience, Horn learned to speak tolerable Apache.

According to all who met him, Felix had the face that only a mother could love, but to hear Horn tell it, the scrawny boy had no feelings for his mother. Why this was no one knew.

The Rope clan treated Felix with much more equimanity, although, even in the new community, Mickey ran up against the natural pecking order of male dominance. The elder Rope took the scrawny, youngster under his wing and nurtured his skills at woodcraft and survival tactics. It wasn’t easy.

One of the first challenges Felix had to endure was the pinecone quest, which the Apaches call Khee-hahd-oh. The boys of the clan gathered before dawn at the river and each took a drink, then held the water in their mouths, while the senior Rope pointed to a distant, blue mountain range and ordered them to bring back a pine cone and the water, spitting it out on the ground when they
returned. If they could pass this test, they were ready for their first mission.

Of course, the stronger Apache boys, led by Curly took off like deer and quickly left Felix behind, quickly disappearing into the foothills.

Felix ran awkwardly, struggling to keep from swallowing the water in his mouth. After several miles, the desert tundra gradually gave way to cedar trees as the boys spotted their goal, higher up the steepening slopes.

Running with their mouths closed, to save the water, the young boys learned to breath through their nose. This greatly expanded their lung capacity, and at the same time gave them discipline to travel great distances, a survival technique still marveled at today.

Grabbing the first pine cones they could find, Curly and the other boys, quickly reversed their path, scrambling down off the mountain, racing each other. Halfway down they crossed paths with Felix still struggling up the incline. One of the older boys tripped Felix as they scooted past, all of them
laughing as they disappeared into the draw.

Several hours later, Old Man Rope met the boys coming along the river bank. They ran up, Curly in the lead, and dropped their pine cones at his feet, then they spit the water and breathed heavily for some time, laughing and kidding each other as young boys are wont to do everywhere.

Rope praised their skills and dismissed the boys and looked up the trail. All had passed the test, but one was missing. It was dusk before the pale form of the young captivo came stumbling out of the creosote, clearly overheated and distraught. He staggered up (his knees were bleeding where he had fallen) and tossed his puny pine cone on the pile and spit out his water, then swayed, bent over, barely keeping his feet as he tried in vain to catch his breath.

“You have the hard bone of the red-haired people, right here,” Old Man Rope said as he put one hand on the boy’s shoulder and pointed at Felix’s head with the other.

It was true. The Irish in the boy served him well, although no Irishman would claim this skanky kid. Slowly, Felix learned the skills he needed to survive as an Apache.

The next test was not so easy. Lying down in a cold mountain stream without making a sound.

Eventually, the young captivo named Felix graduated to the advanced level of frontier survival, and, thanks to the cruel humor of the San Carlos troopers, he received a new name: Mickey Free.

"In the end, Mickey Free freed me."
—The Apache Kid

Friday, May 20, 2011

Desert Caballeros Museum in Wickenburg

May 20, 2011

Had a speech this morning in Wickenburg at the Desert Caballeros Museum. Spoke at their annual board meeting. They have great volunteers and a class operation. Got home at 12:30, had lunch, whipped this out. A good example of my patina based experiments. Not sure where it's going, but, so far, it has integrity.

As usual, not sure where this is going, but I sure love doing them. I wonder if that counts for anything?

"Love is a great beautifier."
—Louisa May Alcott

Thursday, May 19, 2011


May 19, 2011

I actually did two dust studies at lunch today. This second one, "The Prince of Dust Rides Through A Very Tall, Navajo Haboob With A Column of Soldiers" is actually pretty good.

Of course, "haboob" is a new word to me. I don't remember it growing up. They were just "dust storms" but since we have had at least two wars going on where the term is popular, I think the term has, ahem, sand.

"All we are is dust in the wind. . ."

—some damn Foreigner? Or, was that Kansas? Foghat? Hated the song and the band

The Prince of Dust Returns

May 19, 2011

Finally finished outlaw women, for now. Someone requested: "More dust." Or, was it "more cowbell"? Actually, I think it was both. So, I went home for lunch and whipped out this little study I call "The Prince of Dust Returns".

Can't see him? How about now?

Seeing is believing, no?

"If I need any more crap from you, I'll squeeze your head."
—Al Sieber, Chief of Scouts

Joaquin Murrieta, Last Minute Changes

May 19, 2011

Our June issue goes out the door today and we're fighting fires and making last minute corrections. Put in a quick email to John Boessenecker. I was proofing the Classic Gunfight of the California Rangers gunfight with Joaquin Murrieta and I seemed to remember that I just read that the ranger Harry Love cut off Murrieta's head and packed it in "brandy," to be preserved, as opposed to whiskey. John confirms it was whiskey but there is a twist. As I now understand it, they cut off two heads and one hand (of "Three-fingered Jack") of the bandits, rode quite a ways to a fort and there the trophys were packed in whiskey for the rest of the ride to Sacramento in order to claim the $1,000 reward. I think it's a 175 mile ride from the site of the gunfight to the capitol. That is a long-assed ride to carry a sloshing cabeza. No thanks.

And, speaking of rough, old birds, Ranger Harry Love didn't end his days happy, either. Bought a big tract of land with the reward (and the ticket revenue he charged to see the head—$1 a view!) Within a few years he had lost the land, lost his wife, tried to accost her but her "handyman" shot him in the arm. A doctor attempted to amputate his arm (poetic justice) to save him, but it was botched and he died from complications of the gunshot wound, alcohol, a badly sawed-off arm and bad medicine.

There's a moral in there somewhere. Anyway, I hope we got the story right. We certainly try to do due diligence on these matters.

Meanwhile, speaking of botched stories, here's the status of the new Lone Ranger movie:

Ay-yi-yi! Tonto lords it over the Lone Ranger. Really? Could be zany, could be absolutely a train wreck.

Yesterday at lunch I finished a painting I call "Moxie Lady":

The tag line is: "Keep your hat on." This is for my take on the next batch of outlaw women movies.

My staff, which includes Dan Harshberger, Meghan Saar, Abbie Goodrich and Robert Ray, spent many hours bringing this project to the finish line. I am very proud of their effort and the follow-thru. I brought home the finished print outs last night and this morning Kathy took one look at them and said, "What is this doing in your magazine?" Okay, not the praise I was expecting, but perhaps, I asked her, she could edify me on why she is so adamantly against this. "Your readers want history not this crap." So, we just wasted two weeks of everyone's time? "Yes," She said, "I count on Meghan to stop you from this kind of madness. What happened to her?"

When I laughingly told the crew about this cute little exchange, Robert Ray quipped, "Some of us agree with Kathy."

Okay, so I'm a lunatic. Still, I'm proud of my team for having the discipline to carry out this ambitious task, no matter how ridiculous, or, however marginal it may be to the readers of True West. We got it done!

"People talk about discipline and writing. Correct me if I'm wrong, but discipline doesn't involve things you enjoy. If I said I have sex every day at noon, you wouldn't ask about discipline. I write every morning, and it doesn't feel like discipline."
—Walter Mosley, author of "Ptolemy Grey," on the discipline of writing

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Joaquin Murrieta Due Diligence

May 18, 2011

One of the things I love about my job is getting to do due diligence on Classic Gunfights. As I mentioned early last week, I called John Boessenecker in San Francisco to ask him the location of Cantua Creek where California Ranger Harry Love and his men surprised Joaquin Murrieta and his gang in an early morning raid on their camp on July 25, 1853.

John informed me it's just north of Harris Ranch and just off I-5. I had stopped at Harris Ranch last summer and was surprised that this is where the infamous and controversial fight took place. That part of California is quite arid and unlike what we out-of-staters imagine a hideout of Joaquin Murrieta to look like. I always want to get the locale correct, both with terrain and vegetation (I hate saguaros showing up in Texas based movies. Seems real dumb to me).

Robert Ray did his due diligence and looked in the True West archives, finding this photo by Bill Secrest of Cantua Creek:

When I mentioned this to John Boessenecker, he informed me that Bill's location is not correct (both he and Bill have been seeking out these sites for decades and at the time of the article, 1960s, this was thought to be the site). John told me they poured over old records and finally figured out where it is. He told me, that somewhere he has a photo. He found it and overnighted me this photo:

Joaquin's camp was up on the bluff where the two guys are standing. The California Rangers rode into camp in the wee hours of the morning (I want to say at dawn) surprising the bandit gang, who were likely in bed, or just getting up. One of the bandits got up and addressed the mounted men pointing guns at them and said, "I am the leader of this band."

One of the rangers yelled out, "It's him! It's Joaquin Murrieta." At this, the bandits pulled up their serapes and pulled iron and the gun battle began. Incredibly, Joaquin was unarmed, but he had a lariat, and he roped an unsaddled horse, climbed aboard and jumped off a 15 foot embankment (see above) into a wash. Here is that scene, which I whipped out this morning:

One of the rangers, Henderson, followed Murrieta down the embankment while another ranger fired at him from the top of the bank. Joaquin fled eastward on horseback. Here is that scene:

Nailed the lansdscape but tubed the ranger coming down the slope. Had such high hopes. May not use it in the final, but I came close. I'd like to have this one over again, but it all goes to the printer tomorrow.

Heard back from the California producer who wants to do a 3'D Western. He told me that he is very impressed by the Mickey Free story and thinks that it could make a really original story.

Uh oh.

"In Hollywood, nothing is harder to get financed than an original idea."
—Roger Ebert, in Newsweek on the current glut of sequels

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Li Li of Mexicali

May 17, 2011

Received an inquiry from a film company in California asking me about a good project for a 3-D Western. They are wondering if there is an untold story of the West that is ripe for a movie. Here is my reply:

Thanks for the inquiry. This is something I think about every day. My first reaction would be to nominate the story of Mickey Free and the Apache Kid, which has never been told before, but we have featured parts of this story in True West magazine and so far, no one in the film biz has expressed interest. Part of the problem I think, and this is a problem for Westerns in general, is that Native Americans have been taken out of the equation. You can't show them in a bad light. The only exception to this is Michael Blake's "Dances With Wolves" where he makes a Crow Indian the bad guy, while making the Lakota as pure as the driven snow. He gets away with it because the Crow, historically, sided with the whites during the Custer campaign.

Look at the current status of The Lone Ranger project. Johnny Depp will only play Tonto, if the "faithful Indian" is portrayed as the real brains behind the duo. Clever, but it turns the power of the story on its head. It may work, i don't know.

How's that for undermining my own suggestion for a great Western? Ha. I still think Mickey Free is a great project, but it will take a clever approach to make it fly. It certainly has 3-D potential with cliff diving mules and epic fire sequence shots. I can send you some of the story boarding if you'd like to see it.

I'm currently working on several female Western characters, among them Rattlesnake Kate, Li Lee of Mexicali and La Gata (muchos hombres, no problemo). We are featuring outlaw women in the next issue of True West and this is my prediction, of where the Western will go.


Working on a Mexican Apocalypse landscape.

Has some potential. Notice the colors of the Mexican flag in there. Going to add one of the outlaw women characters I'm currently noodling. Leaning towards Li Lee of Mexicali. Came up with that name when Carole Glenn and I were having lunch at China Joy last week. We have been going in there for years and I have never known the owner's name. She calls me "Boss man." So I finally introduced myself and asked her name. She said it's Li Ly, "like the flower." Over the weekend I was working on an Asian outlaw woman and the name came to me. Kathy suggested Li Lee and Thomas Charles and Pattarapan told me about an Asian market in Tempe called Lee Lee Market.

Which do you think has better marquee value: Mexicali Li Li? Li Li of Mexicali? Or, Li Lee from Mexicali?

Received word yesterday that Nora Henn of Lincoln, New Mexico passed away. She was the go to source for the Lincoln County War and she shared with me much of her research. She also chided me for joking around too much in my first book on Billy the Kid (see first edition, 1992, where everyone is sleeping with Susan McSween and it turns into a running joke). Nora told me I can do satire or history, but not at the same time. She was right. I already miss her.

"A true friend is someone who can tell you all his troubles, but doesn't."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dixxy Diamond

May 16, 2011

We're doing an upcoming feature on "Viva, Outlaw Women," written by Stuart Rosebrook who did a great job rounding up all the hottest, Western movie outlaw actresses like Raquel Welch, Angie Dickenson, Jane Russell and Sharon Stone who have heated up the silver screen. Dan Harshberger did a great job laying it all out, plus a very smokin' hot cover (I ran a sneak peek at it last week).

Our production manager, Robert Ray, commented last Thursday that while the article is great, it brings outlaw women up to the present, but what about the future? Hmmmmmmm.

So, last weekend, I bailed into a whole batch of new outlaw women ripe for the picking. Here's one of them, Dixxy Diamond.

A trick rider who won the world but lost her heart to a rounder. Meanwhile, got another female outlaw character I have been noodling for some time, called La Gata. Here she is wreaking havoc on a Hazmat suited adversary.

I've long wanted to do a soiled dove character. Here's a work-in-progress of Moxie Lady: Queen of the Soiled Doves (leave your hat on).

But the one I am really excited about is Rattlesnake Kate. Last Saturday Kathy and I went to see "Bridesmaids." Really enjoyed it. I've been a big fan of Kristen Wiig ever since she nailed every sycophant assistant in "Knocked Up". Very funny, but the actress in "Bridesmaids" who totally blew me away is Melissa McCarthy, a bawdy, big-hearted lunatic. I'm telling you, Melissa is Rattlesnake Kate. Here are one page of sketches for the movie ad layouts:

Scrambling because the issue goes to Kansas City on Thursday.

"Talent is God given; be humble. fame is man-given; be thankful. Conceit is self-given; be careful."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, May 13, 2011

Britton Davis and Gail Gardner

May 13, 2011

Friday the thirteenth. Never have been superstitious about this, have you?

I was inspired this morning by an Arizona Republic camping photo a week or so ago which showed a light blue and purple sky. Grabbed the image out of my clip file this morning and whipped this study out before I came into work: I call it "Rocky Trail Rider."

Plenty of country like this in my home country. Slippery shale and volcanic, black rocks strewn for miles. Which reminds me, on assignment for Arizona Highways in 1986, I illustrated legendary cowboy Gail Gardner in his Prescott home. He thought I was interviewing him and kept telling me all these juicy stories. His wife finally leaned out from the kitchen and yelled, "He's drawing you, Gail, not interviewing you!" But, Gail, chain-smoking by the way and in his mid-nineties, just kept going. In one of his stories he told about chasing a stray up on "Fart Knocker Flats". I stopped drawing and asked him how a place could end up with an outrageous name like that. He laughed. "Well, there's so many rocks up there, when you try and ride through there it knocks the farts right out of ya'."

Also whipped this out yesterday at lunchtime (actually finished it). This is "Britton Davis Returns," a scene of the popular U.S. Army officer who the Apaches loved for his honesty and compassion. He is returning from patrol, coming along the sandy buttes along the Gila.

Doing the shootout between Joaquin Murrieta and Harry Love for the next Classic Gunfights. I was talking to author John Boessenecker on the phone yesterday about where the shootout took place and he told me it's right off I-5, north of LA on the way to San Francisco, about 7 or 8 miles north of Harris Ranch. I was just through there last summer and stopped at Harris Ranch. Had no idea. See, this is why we need to have an Old West book and app that calls up these facts, and warns you when you are close. Amazing. Drove right through there and didn't have a clue. I wonder how many other sites I've blindly passed? Probably thousands.

Cooking up a trip to Colorado next month. Going to attend a festival in Montrose, and going to do a book signing in Durango. Also stopping at Ridgeway to visit Frontier Doc, Ridgeway at the True Grit Cafe and Ouray and Silverton. Oh, and don't forget Dolores, Telluride and Bayfield (where Paul Andy lives).

"He who never leaves his country is full of prejudices."
—Carlo Goldone

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Custer Survivor plus Rattlesnake Kate, Part iV

May 11, 2011

Getting set to do a new batch of True West Moments for the Westerns Channel next month. My producer, Jeff Hildebrandt, is lining up the shoot in New Mexico. i am developing 14 scripts, plus the pilot for a proposed new segment which we will also shoot in and around this historic location.

Meanwhile, I have been asked a couple of questions:

Mr. Bell
I enjoy most of your magazine very much. I would be interested to see an article concerning the recent program on the History Channel about Frank Finkle who claimed to be the only survivor from Custer's command at the Little Bighorn. Keep up the good work.
—Joel Conway

I didn't see the show, but our Distinguished Professor Paul Andrew Hutton has and here is his response:

"The Finkel story is like Dracula--how many stakes through the heart you gotta do? But, it had nice production values and we want all the western history we can get on History Channel."
—Paul Hutton

Another gentleman asked me about the Wild Bill Hickok vs. Dave Tutt gunfight and whether there is any provinance on Hickok utilizing two hands when he shot Tutt. I asked the renowned Joseph Rosa to weigh in on this one and here is his response:

"Concerning the way Hickok held his pistol when he fired just once at Tutt, I first read about the double-handed hold (one sees something similar in the ridiculous acrobatics employed in the CSI and other copy shows, reportedly because of the recoil of modern weapons) when it was reported that Hickok used a Colt's Dragoon revolver which when loaded was five pounds in weight. But contemporary reports indicate that he used a Colt's Navy revolver, one handed. Indeed, when we had the original street plans checked for distance, etc., it was discovered that based upon the positions of both men, Hickok shot Tutt through the heart at 75 yards. What is most remarkable, however, is the fact that Dave was standing duelling fashion, that is sideways on when he fired and then received Hickok's ball. This was established when the doctor's report was examined. He said that Hickok's bullet entered at the fifth rib on the right side, passed through the heart, and emerged at the fifth rib on the left. A most remarkable shot, but not one that I am sure Hickok would had wanted to repeat too often!"
—Joseph Rosa

Another question I got, is where the yellow neckerchiefs came from in 1950s cavalry movies. Jim Hatzell helps me out on this one:

"The US Army never issued out scarves of ANY color in the Frontier Army. The yellow scarf thing is a Hollywood invention. If you look at many of the old John Ford movies even he did not use yellow. John Ford went on the record saying that when he was doing his U S Cavalry "Trilogy" that he got a lot of the look for the mounted men from Frederic Remington paintings. There is a quote I really like by Pvt William O Taylor who fought with Reno's column at the Little Big Horn where he describes the uniform of the regular fighting man from the hat to the boots.One sentence goes 'A cheap, course, outing shirt, the color of a dusty road, and shy of buttons, was garnished by a large handkerchief that had once been white, the sleeves rolled up to the elbow.'

"My guess is that the US Cavalry on campaign wore whatever kind of rag they could find just like the Texas cowboy riding drag with a cowherd on their way to a Kansas railhead. There were certain times when a Regiment would adopt a 'style'.....many of Custer's men in the Michigan Regiment wore a red bandana to copy the boss......many Rough Riders in Cuba wore the dark blue bandana with white polka dots.....and I've seen modern day US Cavalry outfits wearing a black Stetson hat with....yes, a yellow scarf around their neck (The trumpeter in "Apocalypse Now") which I'm sure was adopted from some cheezy 1950's western. I hope this helps. I'm off to make more TV shows today....this time at Mount Rushmore. Have a great day."
—Jim Hatzell

Today is the anniversary of the Wham Payroll Robbery at Bloody Run, on the road between Fort Grant and Fort Thomas. Incredible story (see Classic Gunfights) and the bad guys (Mormon farmers from Pima, Arizona) got away with it!

Rattlesnake Kate, Osmosis, Part IV
Saved from a fiery death on Rattlesnake Ridge and raised on a cattle ranch, Rattlesnake Kate battles the evil forces of green (you know, those home grown terrorists who hate cowboys and ranching).

"Every girl wants to be beautiful, but it comes with a price."
—Doctor Wigglesworth, commenting on the tragic curse of Rattlesnake Kate

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rattlesnake Kate, Part III

May 10, 2011

Still working on a heroine who descends to earth and roams the west with some concern. Here is a more ethnic version of Rattlesnake Kate:

And here's a more traditional version: Sent to earth for a good humbling, Rattlesnake Kate finds herself, not in France, but in some god-forsaken desert. Bouncing off boulders for days at a time, Kate tears her moon boots to shreds. What kind of male will she encounter in this hostile environment, she wonders. Boy Howdy.

"Never let the other fellow set the agenda."
—James Baker

Monday, May 09, 2011

Rattlesnake Kate, Part II

May 9, 2011

Went home for lunch and got a call from Al Herndon. "Okay, where are you now?" I said. He told me he just left the Alamo and San Antonio, headed for Houston and home. I asked him what his favorite spot in the entire west had been on his whirlwind trip from Cheyenne, to Salt Lake City, Grand Canyon, Cave Creek, Phoenix, Tucson, Tombstone, Bisbee, Rodeo, Silver City, Cliff, Glenwood, Mogollon Reserve, Datil, Magdalena, Socorro, San Antonio (the New Mexico one), Carozozo, Capitan, Lincoln, Roswell, Bandera, San Antonio (the Texas one)?

"Tombstone. Without a doubt," Al said without a pause. He also laughed and told me he felt like he was checking in with his parole officer. Ha.

I'm still fuming about that Reserve crap where the locals don't even know who Elfego Baca is (there's like 300 people in the entire town!). Makes me want to create a group of True West Maniacs in every town and have a TW listing where you can contact them if you are coming their way. What do you think?

After lunch I whipped out another study for the transformation of Rattlesnake Kate: this one a couple moments down the osmosis path towards her feminine incarnation.

Some notes and questions on her origin story: was she banished from another world? Was she sent here for a dose of humility? This is, after all, a very brutal planet for homely people. And, if that's true, did the radioactive rattlesnakes contaminate and subvert that mission? And if all this is true, at what point does beauty become ugly?


"We live like dirt but we have our guns."
—The couple who take in Kate (a Texas cowboy and his Hualapai wife)

Rattlesnake Kate and Al Herndon in Texas

May 9, 2011

Caught up with Al Herndon this weekend. He spent time in Silver City, then, at my suggestion, came around the mountain to Glenwood and up the winding road to the semi-ghost town of Mogollon. Said he really enjoyed the old buildings. After that he headed north and landed at Reserve where Elfego Baca shot it out with Slaughter cowboys and survived a wagon load of bullets. Unfortunately, I didn't give him the contact there, Henry Martinez, and he got caught in a cafe asking about Elfego and got ths: "We've never heard of him. I don't think there's anything here about that." Ahem, there's a statue across the street from the cafe, put there by Henry Martinez. When Al asked the "locals" about Socorro, these same goobers offered, "Why on earth would you want to go there?" These kinds of know-nothing-new-comers-out-west drive me crazy. They move somewhere, don't have any interest in what happened there, and then act like they are the town experts. G-r-r-r-r-r!

After Socorro, which Al enjoyed as well, he landed in Lincoln, walked one end to the other, got the tour of the courthouse, and then headed for Roswell and on to Bandera, Texas. If you see Al on the road, give him a Boy Howdy do from all of us.

Saw a couple great movies over the weekend. Kathy picked the indie film "Win Win" for Mother's Day, which turned out to be a very intelligent and funny film about a lawyer, Paul Giammatti, who cuts corners and pays for it.

Also, on Netflix, saw "Restrepo" a documentary about the Second Platoon in a very dangerous part of Afghanistan. Lots of stunning shooting footage and scary-amazing combat stuff. Every American should watch the extended interview portion of the film (on additional features). These young, warriors give a dead on, no BS take on the war and winning "hearts and minds."

Worked on a couple things over the weekend, including this dust and action study, featuring a certain one-eyed scout two jumps ahead of an unknown army:

Shifted gears this morning and whipped out three different takes on a new female character I'm working on:

The premise is: what happens when beauty becomes ugly? And vice versa? An alien life form descends to earth, lands on an escarpment known as Rattlesnake Ridge. Bitten repeatedly by radioactive rattlers, the life form takes an ominous shape:

Noodling several names for this character: Rattlesnake Kate, or, Hydra.

"I'm not a bad poker player, but I could be bluffing."
—Christian Slater

Friday, May 06, 2011

Al Herndon Is Headed Your Way

May 6, 2011

Got this off of Facebook this morning:

Christelle SoupletBob Boze Bell
cc Bob desoler de te derranger peut tu votez pour ma fille et eric c'est leur premier defi et faire tournez mille merci pour eux 2

Anybody know French?

Here's a landscape study I did yesterday morning before I came into work. Trying to back off, be more subtle, especially in the skies:

The Power of TV
I've been contacted by a viewer of the Outdoor Channel who saw me doing a Classic Gunfight on the show "Cowboys." The viewer noticed a skeleton painting I was working on in some B-roll that ran during the segment and wants to buy it. Here is the finished painting, which I call "Day of the Dead Billy":

Caught up with Al Herndon this morning (see yesterday's post) and he's on the road to Silver City. He had a great time in Tombstone, bought a 4X Stetson off of a re-enactor, then motored down to Bisbee, which he confessed was like landing in a hippie commune on top of a mining camp, which, when you think about it, pretty much nails the town.

He walked the streets until 11 last night, soaking up the history of the place, tried to stay at the Copper Queen but they were full, so he found a great little B&B, The High Desert Inn and spent the night there. He said he wanted to take the mine tour this morning but they didn't open until ten and he needed to hit the road. If you are in the Silver City area, let me know and let's give him a great big True West welcome.

As a matter of fact, if you are in the area of Kingston, Hillsboro, Glenwood, Mogollon, Reserve, Datil, Magdalena, Socorro, Capitan or Lincoln, let me know if you are available to give him the inside tour. I'd love to give this guy a real dose of Western hospitality.

"Everyone who travels out West wants to go down a dusty road and find history, great food and music and come away with great memories."
—Stuart Rosebrook

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Al Herndon Is Loose In The West

April 5, 2011

Had a maniac, named Al Herndon, come in yesterday. He has a great story: lives in Holt, Florida, heads up a hospital deal and has been there for 36 years. He's 56 and haunted by his father's constant claim that "someday" he would travel west and see the mountains and the history of the old west. But, of course, his father never did and died without ever making the trip. Three years from retirement, Al is getting antsy. His wife tried to calm him, and remind him, that he only has three more years to retirement and then they can travel like crazy, but he was worried—"what if I end up like my dad?"

So, with his wife's blessing he planned a trip out west to visit their son who is in college in Salt Lake City. Before he left, Al emailed Johnny Boggs about an itinerary and Johnny sent him a long list of what to see, where to eat and routes galore.

Flying into Cheyenne, Wyoming, Al rented a car and, taking advantage of Bogg's itinerary, Mr. Herndon zig-zagged his way to Salt Lake, then meandered southward to the Grand Canyon. The North Rim was closed so he drove around to the South Rim, got a flat, ruined the hub and they told him the closest place to get that fixed was Flagstaff.

As Al waited for the tire and rim to be fixed, he kept looking on a map at the "short distance" to Cave Creek (it's actually about 175 miles) and so, yesterday afternoon, Carole came in my office and said we have a visitor who has traveled all the way from Florida to meet me.

I gave Al my own itinerary goals for him, including The Heard Museum, El Charro Cafe in Tucson, Tombstone, Bisbee, Silver City, Mogollon, Reserve, Socorro and Lincoln, New Mexico.

Here is a photo of the two of us (he asked if I would wear a T-shirt that touts their farm and I obliged).

I just called him to see where he is and he told me he is sitting in the Crystal Palace in Tombstone having lunch. He thanked me profusely for giving him my fave stops and he's off to Bisbee tonight.

By the way, the above photo was taken in front of Robert Ray's computer. He and I were working on the next cover, so there's a sneak peek. Hint: it's Jane Russell.

Went home for lunch and whipped out a twilight landscape study. Very soft effects, working wet into wet.

Going on my own road trips this summer, starting with a sojourn to Lincoln, then up to Durango, Silverton, Ridgeway, Montrose and over to Denver for the Billy the Kid photo auction.

"The man who questions opinion is wise; the man who quarrels with fact is a fool."
—Frank Garbutt

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Geronimo Loved Head Shot

May 4, 2011

I was disappointed this morning to see the negative reaction from certain Native Americans objecting to the usage of "Geronimo" as a code name for the Ossama raid. Some spokesperson for the Apache tribe made the point we wouldn't have used the name Mandela, or Ghandi, to identify the raid. True, but then we wouldn't have named the raid after Justin Bieber either.

Here's the difference: the real Geronimo would have had Mandela and Ghandi for lunch (not to mention Justin Bieber), and I mean that literally.

The G-Man was no peace-nik, or wimpy politician. He was one of the most fearsome warriors who ever lived. As I read it, from his autobiography, the guy loved nothing more than to go to Mexico every summer and kill everyone he met. Unlike Ghandi, Goyathla had some strong prejudices which he pursued with extreme prejudice. That's how he spent his vacation. It was fun for him.

As for maligning the Apaches, I've pointed this out before—we didn't name an attack helicopter after them because of their beadwork. These guys were worthy adversaries. In their day we actually feared them. It is a form of respect when, to this day, soldiers refer to hostile territory as "Indian country."

I believe Geronimo would be proud of this association. He would have loved the tactics and the head shot and he would have enjoyed tipping a few with the warriors when they got back to the base.

"Yo. Who's Justin Bieber?"

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Wal-Mart Due Diligence

May 3, 2011

Working on several fronts today. A special subscription offer went out to the members of our Ning community here this morning, offering a True West magazine subscription for $11 for 11 issues. Great deal. Let me know if you didn't get the offer and I'll make it good.

Talked to Bob Alexander this morning. He pitched me on donating dollars and magazines to the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas for a fund raiser they are having on May 21, I believe it it is. Bob and his wife Jan are long time contributors to this magazine and long time promoters of all things Wild West. Bob will be the MC at the event, so, if you go, be sure to mention to him that I bribed him to talk about True West magazine "all the damn time he's on stage."

Speaking of the magazine, dropped in to a Wal-Mart in Santa Clarita, California last Sunday to pick up a toe nail clipper and there was True West in the magazine division. We were on the top row, in the back, but in front of Western Horseman magazine, which I didn't think was right, so I grabbed the five issues and put them in front of Cowboys & Indians.

Not really. I put the magazines in front of some body builder magazine at eye level, which, by the way, you should do every chance you get.

Thank you very much. It's a war out there and we are up against magazine companies with multiple titles and store clout, so we need every advantage we can get.

Artistic Due Diligence
Speaking of going the extra mile, after my heart attack I got real serious about my six sketches a day regimen. Here's proof, from July 8, 2008: six sketches of winter skiesd.

"It takes a long time to understand nothing."
—Edward Dahlberg

Monday, May 02, 2011

Ossama Geronimo Kid Connections

May 2, 2011

This is my 3,333rd post. Hmmmmm. A friend of mine, Allen Fossenkemper, just told me the Navy Seals who took out Ossama bin Laden had the code name "Geronimo!" for their mission, or was it the mission accomplished word?

As more details of the raid seep out, it is reminding me, more and more of Pat Garrett's mission in July of 1881, when spies told him the Kid was hiding in plain sight in about the last place you'd expect him to be—Fort Sumner, close to the capital of New Mexico. Traveling at night, with a hand-picked squad, Garrett caught the infamous outlaw with his pants down in the Maxwell mansion (a house without a phone or internet connections. I also believe they burned their trash). Shooting him in the dark, Garrett had the body buried in a hurry. And then the haggling over the reward began.

You can draw a direct line from the Kid, to Tupac and now Ossama.

Went home for lunch and pulled three paintings out of my M file. Had fun tweaking them all. Here's the first one, still in progress, which I am tentatively calling "Day of the Dead Sky."

Second one up, is this cave study with the glow of a campfire, off camera:

And third up is this pastoral desert floor scene, I am calling "Golden Slumber Summer".

This one has several layers to it, which adds to the twilight, or nocturnal aspect of the scene. Very instructive (for a learner like me).

"Quien es, ese?" (Who is it, man?)
—Ossama's last words according to a Navy Seal

Santa Clarita Muy Bonita

May 2, 2011

Great weekend in LA. Attended the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival and was treated royally by the staff and crew. Excellent festival. I have been to a couple clunker events in the past month, so it was flat out fun to be involved with a world class event.

Spoke on Friday at the Newhall Repertory Theatre. Full house. Went very well. Afterwards did a book signing across the street at Out West Gallery run by Bobbi Jean Bell (no relation). Sold a ton of books. Met some great people.

On Saturday Joe Freedman and I went out to the Melody Ranch studios, which I half expected to be like Old Tucson or the Mescal movie set. That is, way out in the sticks. Well, the Melody Ranch movie set is surrounded by homes so close to the perimeter that the main street movie set has inordinately high false fronts in order to mask the power poles and urban setting.

Tons of movies and TV shows filmed here (I think someone said over 2,000), including Deadwood, Lone Ranger, Wyatt Earp and even the Incredible Hulk. Sat on a True Grit panel and learned that the new Lone Ranger movie is tentatively set to begin filming in November. They were considering Rayan Gosling as the masked man, but have moved on because of scheduling issues. Johnny Depp is slated to be Tonto.

Visited the William S. Hart home in Newhall on Sunday. Great place. Stunning views.

Hung out with Kathy and my kids and we all went to the Comedy Store in Hollywood. Saw Sarah Silverman, Paulie Schore and the dude who plays Larry David's manager in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Fun evening. Enjoyed the laughter.

Saw one of the lead actresses from the tv show "Hung" at the Burbank Airport.

Flew home from Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Southwest took a circuitous route via Laughlin, Kingman and Prescott before dropping down into the Valley and Sky Harbor Airport. Flew right over Finger Rock, which is between Bullhead and Union Pass. Interesting to see from the air:

"History is who we are and why we are the way we are."
—David McCullough