Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nervy Photographers and Tom Horn Anyone?

June 29, 2011

When we were at the Brian Lebel Old West Show & Auction last weekend, Ken Amorosano brought along his video equipment so we could shoot and post the bidding and share the excitement of the auction.

Before the auction started we were given instructions on what we could shoot and what we could not. We were told to be respectful of the bidders and shoot them from the back and not to get in front of them.

Ken set up the True West camera about half way back from the front and the auctioneer, along the outside wall at the end of a row of seats. He taped his business cards to four seats (the guy comes out of PR and was trained by Dick Clark himself) to reserve the seats for our crew. You wouldn't think that something that small would intimidate anyone, but it preserved those seats for the entire show as if they had razor wire on them. Amazing.

For the first 200 lots, all the photographers in the room respected the no fly zone (we're about to segue to C.S. Fly and you'll see the connection), but when the Billy tintype loomed, things got a little more gonzo and sensing an opening, Ken picked up his sticks and went right to the front of the room to shoot. He wasn't alone.

Ken got great shots of the actual auction, in fact, I predict they will someday be part of the historic record of the event. All of which reminds me, that to be a good photographer, you have to be nervy, pushy really, to get the shot that everyone wants to see.

Case in point: in 1886 at Canyon de los Embudos (Canyon of the Funnels), photographer C.S. Fly got wind of an opportunity to photograph a peace parlay between General George Crook and Geronimo. First he had to travel in a wagon over very rough roads 90 miles from his studio in Tombstone (site of the O.K. Corral fight), crossing the Mexican border at Agua Prieta and then across some very rough country with glass plates in the bed of the wagon! I have been to the canyon and it's still extremely rough country. And, keep in mind, after he exposed them, he had to travel all the way back to Tombstone without breaking them.

No doubt Fly was given instructions not to push his way into the negotiations or disrupt them in any way. Consequently, here is his first shot:

This is the kind of shot you get when you follow the rules. I believe it's Captain Bourke who comments that Fly was as "nervy as a drummer" (a salesman) pushing his way past the guys in the foreground, so he could get his second shot:

An iconic photo. A classic for the ages. Perfectly capturing the moment. Now, Larry Ball is doing a new book on Tom Horn and he claims Tom Horn is just out of this photograph and that you can just see his arm and he's wearing a white shirt and he's sitting next to Bourke. Hmmmmmm.

"A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the right picture is worth $2.3 million dollars."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Actual Footage of Stampede Casualty

June 28, 2011

We got a new book in "The Western: The greatest Texas Cattle Trail, 1874-1886" by Gary and Margaret Kraisinger and I was engrossed by the cowboy diary entries about how scary stampedes were, running at night, gopher holes, horn hooking, etc.

Well, just got this live video footage of a cow-horse wreck at Don Endsley's Great American Wild West Show. Check this out:

Run Over!

"We went back to look for him, and we found him among the prairie dog holes, beside his horse. . .the only thing you could recognize was the handle of his six-shooter."
—Teddy Blue, describing a cowboy run over by a stampeding herd

Rocky Point Rocky Review Plus Free Don't Cut It

June 28, 2011

Taped my narrator part for a Cave Creek doc all morning. Started in the cave that Cave Creek is named for and ended on Saguaro Hill behind the library. Had lunch at Bryan's BBQ and had the tomato summer sando and it was fantastic.

Here are the Bell kids in Mexico (Deena and Thomas), getting ready to enjoy a lunch at La Roca in Nogales. The whole family is hooked on great Mexican food south of the border (see next item).

Rocky Point, Rocky Times

My son Thomas went to Rocky Point, Mexico last weekend with his girlfriend Amy and bunch of other people. They shared a house on the beach and enjoyed the Mexican food. Here is the food tour part:

"Saturday we went taco hopping and found an amazing place (they were all amazing so if the others were 9's this was a 10) called El Grillo or The Cricket. The wife serving tables out of the patio built on to the back of their house and the husband grilling up meats. The accoutremal included a roasted chile salsa whose recipe was passed down from the grandpa. I learned that sincronizadas are quesadillas with meat in them.

"Mannys closed down. The owners son was in the parking lot and said they were losing money and that all the action was now over by the resorts towards Cholla Bay. In fact that whole side of town looked a little dead which was kind of sad. The little cabana street joint down the street from Mannys that had amazing shrimp tacos that Bill Glenn and I lived at for 2 days before Deena came down was closed.

"Before we left on the trip Mad Coyote Joe recommended we get fresh Red Snapper. Supposedly it's the best fish in Mexico so we picked one up at the market and had it de-scaled and Amy got all Thai on its ass and stuffed it with onion, cilantro and thai chiles and we threw the son of bitch whole on the grill. I think you know how that turned out."


Free to Leave
Had an insightful encounter in Denver at our booth last weekend. Guy came by, looked at the magazine and said he used to subscribe but stopped. I asked him why and he kind of blew the reason off, but I insisted he remember what exactly it was that made him not renew his subscription. He finally relented and said there were a couple articles where he couldn't figure out where it was going, what copy went where, who was talking to who. He felt confused, he told me, and with a shrug, he said he didn't renew. I asked him to name the article if he could. He thought for a moment and said, "I think it was called Free."

Well, that would be Mickey Free and the big issue with the three narrators. Couldn't duck that one. That is totally my bad (David Zucker dubbed the 20-page feature "a mess"). So, I offered the ex-subscriber a $11 for 11 issue rate and he's back in. I also promised him Mickey Free would be easier to follow in the future.


"If you ware successful in getting what you want it's called destiny. If you're not successful, it's called fate."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, June 27, 2011

Exclusive Video of Billy the Kid Photo Auction

June 27, 2011

Ken Amorosano has been editing our video footage of the Brian Lebel Old West Auction since 5 this morning. As you probably know by now, the Billy the Kid photo went for a record $2 million (with buyer's premium it comes to $2.3 million). As you watch this exclusive video, notice how quickly the price goes above the one million mark. Also notice how the excitement level visibly goes sky high when the price approaches the $2 mil mark.

Brian Lebel's Auction Exclusive Video

The auctioneer even sounds excited. Truly a historic moment.

"As long as you're smiling, there's still more money to be made. Keep on truckin'"
—The Brian Lebel Billy Auctioneer, when the bids hit $1.4 mil

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Billy Photo Brings $2 mil

June 25, 2011

On the anniversary of General George Armstrong Custer's bad haircut day, and after 278 other auction items came and went, the only known photo of Billy the Kid hammered in at a cool $2 million, beating most pre-show estimates by about $800,000.

It became obvious to me this morning that the final price on the Billy photo was going to go a bit higher than expected when I talked with two of the biggest contenders. Jim Earle, the College Station, Texas book publisher and old west collector (he owns the gun that Pat Garrett used to kill Billy the Kid) came by the True West booth and scoffed at our cover headline (Would You pay $500,000 for This Little Piece of Tin?), saying, "I wouldn't buy the photo for $500,000. It would be embarrassing in my neighborhood." I took this to mean he was swinging for the fences and that he was prepared to bid well over a million.

Bob McCubbin came by our booth with William Koch (hint: he has the ponies). I asked Mr. Koch if the rumor was true that he had said he wasn't leaving the building without the picture, and he just smiled. Everyone thought McCubbin was going to make a run at the image, but he steadfastly denied it. Based on Koch's smile and Jim Earle's cocky comment, my estimate jumped considerably above the $1 million mark. As the day wore on we started hearing all sorts of crazy rumors: a Saudi oil prince was going to be on the phone bidding, as well as a bidder from France and Asia (actually this turned out to be true, although they weren't a factor in the final bidding). At least three people told me Bill Gates would be bidding, but then someone reminded me that this rumor gets floated at every auction on earth. Two people told me George Lucas of Star Wars fame, would be bidding. I'm not kidding. By about five, it was pretty tense and exciting at the Denver Merchandise Mart.

A Westerns Channel film crew showed up to tape a True West Moment and I had Brian Lebel pull out the photo for one more look, then we taped several segments of me talking about the importance of the image and what it might go for. When Brian mentioned the foreign bidders I told him that the parking lot was full of Texas license plates (a foreign country by Denver standards) and we were bound to have a high priced showdown.

At 5:20 the actual auction began, but there were a total of 443 items to be auctioned with the Billy photo at number 279. Two hours later, when the auctioneer was touting lot number 100 we realized we had some time to go eat dinner, so Ken A. and I drove to downtown Denver to the hipster area and had dinner outside on the sidewalk at the trendy Ocean Prime at 1465 Larimer Street. Two attractive couples sat across from us and one of the guys says, "Are you guys farmers?" I refused to answer the rude little prick, but Ken told him that we were in town for the Billy the Kid auction and that I was going to buy it for $1.2 mil. Of course this didn't shut the bastard up, and it even led to a longer conversation which I refused to participate in.

An hour and a half later we were back at the Denver Merchandise Mart and the lots were up to 215. A sweet Mexican sugarloaf sombrero sold for $1,700, then a hat worn by John Wayne in the movies sold for $15,000. A newly discovered photo of Charles Bowdre went for $11,000 (Bob McCubbin dropped out at the $9K mark). As the next couple of lots came up, the excitement in the room started to build.

When the Billy the Kid photo came up you could feel the tension go up at least three notches. The bidding started fast and furious with Jim Earl hanging in well past the $1 mil mark, which came within about 30 seconds. There were a flury of bids, but Wiliam Koch stood alone at the $2 million mark and that's where the hammer came down. Everyone rushed Bill, including myself. I got an interview with him about what he intends to do with the photograph and we'll post that as soon as we can.

"I'm William Koch and I just bought the Billy the Kid photo and this has been a True West Moment."
—William Koch, into the TV camera for the Westerns Channel. I joined him on the last part.

First Look at Billy the Kid tintype

June 25, 2011

Ken and I video-taped this report yesterday at the Denver Merchandise Mart:

First Look at Billy Tintype

Cars II & Billy the Kid Photo Auction

June 25, 2011

Ken Amorosano and I flew to Denver yesterday morning. Got an Avis rental car and drove downtown Denver for a meeting with longtime True West ambassador Rob B. We were meeting him at Ted's Montana Steakhouse (yes, Ted Turner's concept restaurant) and as we waded into the downtown area Ken mentioned that parking in that area of downtown Denver is really a beech. Lots of construction and tons of lunchtime traffic. We decided to bite the bullet and park in one of those $5 lots where you put your money in an automated box. As we stood in front of the contraption trying to figure out the mechanics of how it worked, I saw a street person approaching on my left (just out of my vison but I sensed his "incoming" body language). I braced for the inevitable come on, but when I looked up I saw a clean cut young kid in a gray jump suit with two logos, one on the each side of his chest: One was for Pixar and the other said Cars II.

He had a roll of quarters in his hand and he said, "Can I help you pay for this parking?" Both Ken and I looked at him with unbridled cynicism and Ken, who's from New York, sneered, "What's the catch?" The kid said, "No catch, we're just helping people park and getting the word out that Cars II opens today. It would be great if you went to see it, but this is on us."

At least 20 quarters later, he walked off and I saw him helping a woman who had just parallel parked down the block. This sounds ridiculous, but I felt a sudden surge of empathy for Pixar and a movie I had no intention of seeing. "I'm going to see that movie," I said, touched by the crass, but obvious good will the act generated. Amazing. Genius marketing and I would have never green lit the idea—"See, we're going to dress kids up in jump suits, give them a bunch of quarters and help people park in congested urban areas. It will really help the opening day grosses for the film."

Right. On this crazy, snide planet? That would have been my response to the concept if it was pitched to me. But, here I am, talking about the whole thing to you. Those Pixar bastards are scary brilliant.

Speaking of kids and brilliant marketing, we are here to attend the auction tonight for the Billy the Kid photo. Rumors buzzing everywhere. Big guns in town, even heard a rumor an oil rich Arab is going to buy the photo and take it to Dubai (Bye Bye Billy Dubai).

I'm filming a special True West Moment for the Westerns Channel, and Ken is uploading video we shot yesterday. We interviewed Brian Lebel and Bob McCubbin.

"Not promoting is like kissing in a closet. You know what you're doing but nobody else does."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fifty Greatest Leftist Westerns?

June 23, 2011

Our Westerns editor, Henry Beck often sends me updates on new Westerns and discussions about old ones. Case in point, an English dude has compiled the 50 Greatest Westerns and it has some lively commentary, like this:

"This is one of the absolute peaks of pure narrative cinema: a story which spans many months, hundreds of miles and armies of extras, all of it dedicated to keeping an audience engrossed. Sure, there’s meaning here if you want it (War is absurd! People are assholes!) but this is a movie which works so astonishingly well on the surface that digging any deeper doesn’t just feel pointless, but ever so slightly wrong."

He's referring to one of my fave Westerns of all time (hint: number 10). Here's the link:

Fifty Greatest Westerns

By the way, someone in the posting commentary at the end ripped the list as being a "typical leftist list." Ha. So I guess you'd call this the 50 Greatest Leftist Westerns.

"When the legend becomes fact, film the version that sells the most tickets."

—Every film producer who ever lived

Biutiful Ash Country

June 23, 2011

A controversy has broken out in my family about the film "Biutiful" with Javier Bardem. It seems my daughter Deena attended a screening with her boyfriend and a cousin of his who is in the biz, primarily doing indie work. In a couple of scenes the microphones worn by the actors picks up the crush of clothing and the cousin-indie-person thought this was a mistake and they left it in the film.

Thanks to T. Charles and a Redbox at the Circle K in Cave Creek I watched "Biutiful" last night. Afterwards I watched the Special Features and a doc on the director's vision and what he was trying to accomplish. The director said, and I quote, "Tell Mike's cousin she is full of indie poop."

Actually, don't quote me on that.

Did you know the director spent a couple days rehearsing with the Chinese extras on how to play dead? And did you know that on the day of the actual filming for that scene all of the Chinese balked because playing dead brings bad luck? And did you know that he had to come up with a way to give them traditional "red coins" as a token and convince them that it was relaxing therapy to get them to do the scene? And did you know he spent a day with the actors who played the family (Bardem, etc.) with a pillow game to have them all bond as a family? And did you know the African woman was literally going to be deported and he convinced her that her work on the film would help the problem? And it did!

So, I think the close-up, crunchy sound was intentional because the director controlled EVERYTHING down to the last detail. Nothing in this movie is a "mistake" or random. I also noticed, the movie had a very claustrophobic feel, the cramped bedrooms, the peeling ceilings, the congested streets, so that even the sound was congested. That's my takeaway, but then people have accused me of being full of indie poop.

This morning's newspaper carried several photos of Sierra Vista residents returning to their burned out homes. Devastating. Can't imagine. Finished a study that turned into "The Ash Rider," which features Mickey Free riding through a burned out landscape.

Interesting how the news can affect artistic efforts, no?

"The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure."
—Joseph Campbell

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vermilion Cliffs East of Tuba City

June 21, 2011

Woke up this morning and took a stab at a wonderful scene I witnessed about ten miles east of Tuba City on the Navajo res. I left Kayenta at six in the morning and I really enjoy that time of day on the road. As a matter of fact, this is the aspect of road trips that I love the most—long vistas, serene driving with no one ahead of me and no one behind me. It is very spiritual to me.

Anyway, looking towards the north from the two-lane blacktop I saw these vermilion cliffs lit up by first light. This is my memory of that scene:

I have to fight two opposing sensations. I have a tendency to blast through these areas, intent on making time, getting home, etc. And the opposing sensation of, Hey, wait a minute, this is why I love being on the road, this exact spot. Be in this car, right now, and enjoy THIS. I often want to stop, but I rarely do (got to make time). And so it goes.

Speaking of road trips, Paul Hutton is in Bismark, North Dakota for the 2011 Western Writers of America Convention. He had a challenge getting there by car, with road washouts all the way from New Mexico to North Dakota. He texted me that highway 83 was closed by high water just south of the North Dakota border. He had to take a 75 detour to the east. Water came right up the road on both sides. Spooky. Convention opens today at one to six. Our Editor-In-Chief Meghan Saar will be attending. Hutton is moderating a panel on Custer with the usual suspects: Brian Dippie, Gerard Baker, Tracy Potter, Bettina Gilois and Christopher Cleveland.

"Never trust a man with a riding crop and jodhpurs who doesn't own a horse."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, June 20, 2011

Outlaw Women & Two-Lane Blacktop

June 20, 2011

Got home from Colorado yesterday about noon. Pattarapan had a Father's Day lunch and dinner planned featuring homemade Thai delicacies, including Octopus Soup, Thai Cucumber Salad, Chinese Steamed Eggs and Thai Calimari. That was lunch. After a movie, Paranormal Activity II, we had a delicious dinner of Thai Style Trout with organic Fiji apples.

It was spectacular! Thanks, Ms. Pothong!

Praise for Outlaw Women
Got this hand written letter this morning:

"The July 2011 True West was the BEST ever!! What writing, what composition, what research!!! The best over-all True West of all time! Uh. . .have any more pictures of Raquel Welch???"

—Jerry West, Waxahachie, Texas

Notes From The Road
On this trip, I realized something being out on the Navajo res between Four Corners and Kayenta, on two-lane blacktop with no one ahead of me and no one behind me, and a fifty-mile view of unbroken mesas snaking along the horizon—it's very serene to me.

On the other hand, to be doing 75 on a divided highway, with an 18-wheeler on my right and a Ram Dodge in my rear view mirror, going up Camp Verde cut, is not that serene, or fun.

Roger French came out the other day to pick up his stagecoach painting. We traded: my painting for this cool hand-braided hatband:

Met some very nice people in Durango and Montrose. Had a ton of fun. Of course there are some who I run into who aren't that much fun:

"There is, indeed, no wild beast more to be dreaded than a communicative man having nothing to communicate."
—Jonathon Swift

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bar D Chuckwagon Dinner Show

June 17, 2011

Got to Durango, Colorado yesterday afternoon and checked into the General Palmer Hotel, right next to the train station. Very opulent, old world Victorian hotel restored recently to its former glory.

Just had a nice breakfast and I'm sitting in the lobby, as one of the Durango-Silverton steam engine trains is pulling up to the depot next door, with the bell clanging and the whistle blowing. For a Western history buff, it doesn't any better that this.

Last night, I attended the Bar D Chuckwagon Dinner Show, just north of town, in the tall pines. Really a wonderful show, with great music and comedy. They opened with "Rawhide", then segued into "The Navajo Trail" and then Marty Robbins' "Big Iron," all done with flawless harmony and hilarious sound effects ("Whip-hyeeeaaa!"). From there the show just got better and better. Laughed as much as I did at the Comedy Store in Hollywood, which is saying something.

I'm presenting Durango a Top Ten Western Town Award tonight on Main Street. They're closing off the street. The mayor will be there. Won't be a problem praising this wonderful, Western town.

"No more motels for 150 feet."

—A sign on an old school Durango motel, which has one of those new, pre-fab express hotels plopped down right next to it

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mickey Free and Tom Horn

June 15, 2011

Olive Mondello's birthday today. She's 59, I think. Meanwhile, Kathy is in Germany wrecking rental cars and doing therapy. I'm trying to keep the house clean but some a--hole keeps leaving dirty dishes in the sink. It's disgusting.

Did I mention I'm baching it?

Finished a Tom Horn illustration for an episode in Graphic Cinema:

Also finished The Straddler, a scene of Mickey Free that I've been working on for a couple years now:

Also scanned a bunch of other images, but I'll post those later.

I'm driving to Durango, Colorado tomorrow to present them an award as a Top Ten Town. Doing a book signing and then on to Montrose for a history festival.

"Fortune favors the bold."
—good advice from Larry Winget

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Geronimo cover blurb controversy

June 14, 2011

Coming down to the wire on our next cover story. Finished a final illustration for the Crawford fight on The Devil's Backbone this morning. It's called "Night Stalkers":

Lt. Marion Maus gives an excellent first person account of their forced march, on foot, at night, in the cold (January, in the mountains of Mexico). They were afraid to build any cook fires so they ate hard bread and raw bacon. They climbed over ridges that came to dead ends and dead drops, and had to retrace their path back to find another way. When they finally spotted Geronimo's stronghold, 12 miles in the distance, they crept along the rocks, inch by inch, for 18 hours straight until they got into position. Amazing stuff.

Meanwhile, our staff is divided on our proposed cover blurb: "Was Geronimo A Terrorist?" Even Paul Andrew Hutton, who wrote the piece, thinks it might be a tad too controversial. He recommends "Geronimo!" with a subhed of "From terrorist to patriot. SEAL TEAM 6, Bin Laden and the irony of history."

Our art director, Dan Harshberger, is adamantly opposed to diluting the headline. He maintains that phrasing it as a question will reach a wider audience, and that when they read it, they will realize we are giving a balanced take on a discussion that deserves to be discussed on the pages of a magazine that calls itself True West.

One of our key sales team people puts it this way: "There are plenty of ways to be edgy and tell the real 'True West,' without damaging the relationship of the people who trust and believe in us and that love stories that make them feel good. I’m very concerned, we have worked so hard to attend these events and head to WESA each January in order to gain the trust of these big Blue Chip accounts. All of our advertisers want to see their products well represented in a way that is complimentary not offensive. Bin Laden is a subject that people are very sensitive about and even wasting ink on a page mentioning him in our publication is disturbing to me."

So, is the headline—"Was Geronimo A Terrorist?"—too provacative? Will it lose us readers and advertisers? Here's one of my closest friends, who doesn't want his name used, but he has been a publisher and editor for his entire life:

"Yes, the headline is provocative. And with that comes a risk. If it gets you noticed and talked about, then it is worth it. If it causes advertisers to leave in droves and seriously affects your continued business, that is another matter."

Be bold? Be safe? Be sorry?

"Most failure stems from reining in your horse in the middle of a jump."
—A wise cowboy-businessman

Monday, June 13, 2011

Captain Emmett Crawford's Tragic Death

June 13, 2011

Worked all weekend on a scene of Emmett Crawford's tragic death. After a brilliant, extraordinary stealth attack, complete with night marches, fording the Aros River time and again, climbing over boulder strewn canyons, in the dark, inches at a time, the 81 Apache scouts got the drop on Geronimo's secret stronghold high on the Devil's Backbone. Towards dawn they almost had the village surrounded, when donkeys and mules began braying, sensing the approaching troops, giving the alarm. Geronimo, Naiche and most the Apaches escaped in the twilight darkness, but Crawford and crew captured all of their provisions and stolen stock (some 300 horses). Later that day, Geronimo sent word that he wanted to surrender and would come in the next day. Crawford was on the verge of victory, but he made a fatal mistake: everyone in his command was exhausted and bone tired and he allowed everyone to sleep in, and he didn't post sentrys.

Unfortunately, a large group of Mexican soldiers (128), bringing along their own In-din scouts, the Tarahumara, mortal enemies of the Apaches, had the very same idea and attacked, what they thought was an Apache camp, which it was 12 hours earlier (and full of stolen stock). The officers, Crawford and Lt. Shipp and Lt. Maus ran out with chief of scouts Tom Horn to try and identify themselves and stop the attack. Crawford jumped up on a boulder and waved a white handkerchief.

A Mexican sniper shot him in the forehead. One of the Apache scouts, Dutchy, instantly revenged Crawford's killing, shooting the sniper.

Ironically, a Tombstone sheriff had traveled 200 miles into Mexico to arrest Dutchy on the charge of murder. Dutchy was accused of killing a miner in Arizona. Crawford talked him out of it out of fear the scouts wouldn't allow it and kill him. The sheriff went home empty-handed.

Double-irony: Dutchy was sent to Florida with Geronimo when the latter finally surrendered months later at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona. Paul Hutton just told me Dutchy was killed in Alabama when Geronimo's group was transferred to Mobile.

"Thanks for nothing. Oh, and nothing is stranger than actual history."
—Dutchy, being channeled by BBB

Friday, June 10, 2011

Captain Maus, Tom Horn & the Apaches

June 10, 2011

Someone on Facebook commented that I haven't been around AK-47s very much, so I went back and reworked the assault rifle on my Osama bin Geronimo illustration.

I Googled AK-47 images, sketched it in then came in the office to finish it. Forgot about the wood stock and forearm, which I added this morning, then rescanned.

Worked this morning on cleaning up the narrative on the Crawford fight at Devil's Backbone in Sonora, Mexico (1886). In addition to studying the new Edwin Sweeney instant classic book: "From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua apaches 1874-1886" I also emailed author and historian Larry Ball who has just finished a new biography of Tom Horn, which should be out next year (Oklahoma Press). Larry graciously agreed to proof my narrative to correct any mistakes ("Life of Tom Horn", written by himself, has very good quotes and anectdotes, but Ball has ferreted out the truth, and discards many of Horn's exagerations).

This morning I brought in my coy of "Personal Recollections of General Nelson A. Miles" (1896 edition) to see what Captain Maus has to say about the affair (Miles gives Captain Marian Maus an entire chapter to tell his version of the Crawford events). Maus is effusive in his praise of the 81 Apache scouts who accompanied the command into Mexico, saying in part, "Their system of advance guards and flankers was perfect, and as soon as the command went into camp, outposts were at once put out, guarding every approach. All this was done noiselessly and in secret, and without giving a single order." But he also admits, "It was impossible to march these scouts as soldiers, or to control them as such, nor was it deemed advisable to attempt it."

Boy Howdy.

After the debacle at Devil's Backbone, where Captain Crawford and almost the entire Mexican core of commanding officers were killed (in large part because Maus and the officers could not control the Apache scouts), Maus had the unpleasant task of trying to get everyone back to the United States. For one thing the scouts got "a large quantify of mescal" at Bavispe, got drunk, then squared off against each other (The White Mountain Apaches upset with the Chiricahuas, which is a rift that lingers to this day). They loaded their rifles and only through the efforts of the officers pleading with them, did they stop.

It gets worse ("Natchez had shot his wife, and they were all drinking heavily") but it becomes clear, at least to me, that to tell any story of the Apaches you have to deal with the misery that tiswin, mescal and whiskey has brought upon them, and continues to bring upon them (with the added curse of crank and crack). Very sad, but it's the truth and it has to be faced. We somehow have swept this under the rug.

"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
—Eric Hoffer

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Osama bin Geronimo!

June 9, 2011

Someone asked me if we were going to do a tribute to James Arness. The short answer is yes, AND Paul Lanquist is working up a tribute poster for Matt Dillon which should run in the next issue.

Also, my producer and friend Jeff Hildebrandt is busy working up a tribute to Mr. Arness which will run on the Westerns Channel this weekend. Here's the details straight from the producer's mouth:

"Thanks…trying to get this organized is like herding cats when someone leaves the gate open.
But it’s coming together. It will start Saturday at noon (E/P)…run 24 hours, feature lots of Gunsmoke Episodes, 3 of the made for TV Gunsmoke movies and a couple of other movies that include Arness."
—Jeff Hildebrandt, Starz-Encore Westerns Channel

Went home for lunch and whipped out the illustration concept that my staff would not allow me to put on the cover:

Too rude, too crude. But it will run with my editorial. See previous post.

"Every great idea makes someone pucker."
—Mr. Grant Pucker

Geronimo vs. Navy SEAL 6

June 9, 2011

We are working on our next cover story "Was Geronimo A Terrorist?" I had a completely different editorial finished (growing up on Route 66), but after reading Paul Andrew Hutton's excellent piece on the metamorphizing of Geronimo from terrorist to patriot hero, I decided to scrap my current editorial and go with something like this:

It was a breathtaking and daring raid. U.S. special forces crossed a porous border into a dangerous region of an alleged ally and attacked a secret compound where a notorious killer of Americans was hiding.

This was not Pakistan, this was Mexico in 1886. The hand-picked special forces included a large force of Apache scouts, and they were led by a West Pointer, Captain Emmett Crawford. Their mission was to take out Geronimo, who had for years, raided all over Arizona, New Mexico and Old Mexico, destabilizing the region while killing innocent people and leaving a trail of blood and destruction everywhere.

The raid did not go as well as the Navy Seal 6 operation and tragically ended the life of a brave, American officer and a hero of Mexico, Major Corredor. Geronimo escaped and more people died (and General George Crook lost his job), before Geronimo finally surrendered in September of 1886.

And, although many Americans wanted to hang the Apache for his many killings, the U.S. government sent him to exile in Florida, sparing his life. Although current critics consider this inhumane treatment, it certainly beats a shot in the eye.

Today, it seems safe to say, the majority of Americans believe Geronimo was a "freedom fighter" and the U.S. troops who gave their lives trying to bring him to justice, are considered the villains of this Old West story. This is disturbing to those of us who believe, as Voltaire put it, "To the living we owe respect, to the dead we owe only the truth."

Paul Andrew Hutton brilliantly guides us through the truth about Geronimo's metamorphosis from terrorist to patriotic hero.

Is it possible that 100 years from now, Ossama bin Laden will be viewed as a freedom fighter, and the U.S. Navy Seal 6 team that killed him will be portrayed in movies and literature as the evil villains? If you can fathom this, you will have a decent insight into how the people of Arizona, New Mexico and Old Mexico in 1886 would feel if they lived to see the morphing of Geronimo into what he is perceived to be today.

Nation building, indeed.

The parallels to today are there for anyone who reads the record. And speaking of the record, I cannot praise enough Ed Sweeney's new book "From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches 1874-1886." It is a thorough, balanced telling of that tragic war that would make Voltaire proud.

"The only thing new in this world is the history you don't know."
—Harry Truman

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Roger French Painting, "Runnin' Late"

June 8, 2011

Last night I finally finished Roger French's stagecoach painting. A year ago, Roger gifted me a slick hat band for my customized Beaver Brand tan galon hat and I promised him a stagecoach painting. He has been very patient. Earlier this year I created a wash background for the painting I had in mind:

I finally finished it last night, and here's how it looks this morning:

It's called "Runnin' Late." Like so many artists I'd like to say I am self-taught, but the older I get the more ridiculous that claim is (and for some reason artists wear it like a badge of honor). Gee, I wonder what ol' Henny has to say about this?

"A self-taught man usually has a poor teacher and a worse student."
—Henny Youngman

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tom Horn At Jazzercise

June 7, 2011

Kathy's birthday today (61). Made her and Carole Glenn lunch today, had a party last weekend. Also, at her request, went to Jazzercise with her this morning. Only guy among 16 gyrating women ("Step-ball-chain!") I don't want to say it's foo foo dancing, but let's just say I wouldn't tweet an image of myself getting jiggy at Jazzercise to Mr. Weiner's groupies. Didn't recognize one song they played. At one point the instructor, a very cute young woman, mentioned that a certain song featured Britney Spears, so that was instructive to me. She also commented on the criticism of Ms. Spears as being too old to cut the mustard (my term, not hers). Britney is 28, which I didn't know either, so I guess you could say I learned a ton by going with my wife to Jazzercise. I actually liked the pelvic thrust moves, but I don't think the two women in front of me enjoyed it since I insisted on grabbing their hips and trading off thrusts.

Just kidding. I'm a very good boy at these things and all the woman call me "Bob."

When we were taping the new True West Moments in Lincoln last weekend I mentioned to the crew that the new band names were getting really weird and off the charts, like the names are the middle of a sentence. I couldn't think of an example, but when I got home I asked T. Charles and he gave me this current band name:

. . .and You Will Know Us By The Trail of The Dead

I'm not kidding, that's the name of a band! Other than the Exits, I still think the best name for a band ever, is Moose Dicks From Outer Space (an eighties band), but that's just me.

After lunch today I brought in an unfinished image of Tom Horn for the next Graphic Cinema. Finished it at my desk in the office.

Not too shabby. Did another one, more of a close-up, but that one didn't cut it.

Have you heard that the first 74 million Baby Boomers started turning 65 in January? And that 7.6 of us are turning 65 every minute. Rather retiring, no?

E.J. Montini wrote a great op-ed piece in Sunday's Arizona Republic, "Arizona at 100: Why can't we behave?" Here's the part I really responded to:

"And rather than shrink from [our crazy pols and immature blunders] or be embarrassed by it, we should celebrate it. It's part of what draws so many dreamers, innovators, iconoclasts, crooks and charlatans to this strange, curious, beautiful place. It's what makes living here so much fun.

"This is Arizona.

"Deal with it, America."

Thanks E.J.

"Hey, you're only young once, but you can be immature forever."
—Larry Anderson, also quoted by Montini in his piece

Monday, June 06, 2011

Inside The Wallow Fire Cloudbank

June 6, 2011

Got back from New Mexico on Saturday about ten. Stopped for breakfast at The Small Cafe in Payson. One of my favorites. Had the veggie-eggs-benedict, tomato juice and coffee ($11 plus $4 tip).

On Sunday I lounged around and did a dozen impressions of driving through the Wallow Fire on Friday afternoon. I first spotted the downwind cloud bank just west of the continental divide, approaching Quemado (which ironically means "burned" in Spanish).

For Everything You Lose You Will Gain Something. . .
Grabbed my camera as I drove and snapped off three pics out the window of the massive fire front, but then got the flashing notice that my camera was out of memory. Pulled over and tried to fix it but got caught in menu hell, threw the camera on the floor, kept driving and tried to pay very close attention. This is my impression of the approaching cloud bank, drifting eastward from the head of the fire in the Apache-Sitgreaves Forest behind Alpine and Hannigan's Meadow, Arizona.

The Wallow Fire is named after the Bear Wallow Wilderness in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forrest, near where the fire was first reported (cause: speculated, an unattended campfire). As I got closer to the cloud I noticed low, white smoke, about a half mile off. At first I was afraid it was the actual fire, but I was about forty miles from the front and it turned out to be a low lying, cloud bank of soot hugging the ground.

As I pulled into Quemado, New Mexico, I quickly found myself inside the cloud and everything went to a foggy gray. I could taste the smoke and it smelled like a cookout fire the day after. My eyes burned.

I could still make out the horizon, but the landscape took on a ghostly visage. Incredibly there was still muted color inside the smoke, rust reds and blue-gray foreground.

The irony is that for the past four years I have been working on Mickey Free riding in Mexico into the aftermath of an apocalyptic fire storm. And, I've been trying to imagine what that might look like.

Painted this earlier this year. The reality is lighter, more gray, there are no darks, like this, it's all midtones, but the sun burning through the haze is pretty good, although the sun in the Wallow Fire looked like a blood red tangerine hanging there, more like this:

When I did this yesterday I thought to myself, Man, that looks like a famous painting but I couldn't place it. This morning, I was walking into the kitchen and on the pantry, cabinet door next to the refrigerator, we have a calendar we bought in France last year and there, standing in for the month of June is Claude Monet's Soleil Levant, ("Impression of a Sunrise," 1873, which is where the term Impressionism came from). Not sure whether I did this subconsciously, or what, but I maintain I came by it honestly, if you believe a poaching bastard from Kingman.

The farther into the cloud I traveled, the more eerie it got. The fire has burned more than 184,000 acres making it the third largest fire in Arizona's history. The largest fire is the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which consumed more than 468,000 acres in 2002. The second largest fire is the Cave Creek Complex Fire which burned more than 248,000 acres in 2005 (we could see the flames on the ridges east of our house, and Lew and Tera Jones lost their cabin near Seven Springs to this fire).

Took another crack at the smoke clogged sky and the sun burning through the thick haze:

I was driving towards Springerville and at Red Hill, I began to notice a red glow off to my right. I was concerned about this because this was north of Springerville and would mean the fire had burned through Eager and Springerville and was traveling north towards Saint Johns.

As I hit the state line and started to descend into Springerville, I was relieved to see that the glow was the sun reflecting light along the western edge of the cloud bank.

As I approached Springerville the smoke started to disperse and as I burned through town (sorry, couldn't resist) taking the northern route to Show Low I looked back at the billowing smoke just 15 miles south of Eager. I was now beyond the cloud bank I had driven through and was looking back at the rising tempest.

I read later, the crown was 32,000 feet in the air, and the front of the fire is estimated at six miles wide and the smoke has spread over four states, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. As of Sunday, the fire has burned more than 184,000 acres. There are 2,140 firefirghters on the ground, and this isn't the only fire in Arizona! We have three fires, The Wallow Fire, the Horseshoe Two Fire near Paradise, and The Murphy Fire south of Tucson near Peck Canyon.

I also read that the billowing clouds get more yellow near the epicenter because the flames kick up bright light underneath. I've seen video and images from the other side of the fire and it looks not unlike a volcanic lava flow.

"The fire is behaving like a living thing—moving, dripping back, jumping forward—it is hard to discern a pattern in efforts to fight the creature."
—William Hermann, Arizona Republic reporting

Friday, June 03, 2011

17 New True West Moments In The Can

June 3, 2011

Started filming this morning at seven at the torreon in Lincoln, New Mexico. Got three done before breakfast, then whipped out four more before lunch. Had telepromter issues but worked around them. Did a very loosy goosy one, without a script, on the Blazer Mill shootout. Everyone criticizes Hollywood gunfights as being unrealistic, but when you consider a real gunfight (Blazer's Mill) where someone does a Chuck Conners' Rifleman blast at opponents standing two feet from each other, shooting off fingers, blowing off belt buckles (which saved his life) and then hitting a guy in the eye at 150 yards with a rifle he has never used before, and then they bury the shooter and the shootee in the same coffin, well, let's just say, if I saw that in a movie, I wouldn't believe a frame of it.

Had lunch at the Ellis Store then finished three more True West Moments utilizing the yard and buildings on the B&B site. Finished at three and took off for Arizona. Got to Soccoro at about five and got a sandwich and coffee to go. Kept about an eighty-mile-an-hour clip across the Plains of San Augustine (rental car), but was somewhat unnerved by all the antelope in the median (I must have seen a dozen both coming and going, inside the fences, several standing on the edge of the road ready to jump, "Go! No, wait! Go! No, wait!"). Having had a deer jump right onto the hood of my truck coming back from Payson after a speech, I am a little gun shy about these four-legged torpedoes.

Just east of Quemado, NM, I noticed a huge, reddish cloud which took up the entire Western sky. Took one photo of it. Coming into Quemado I went into the cloud and everything turned ashen. I was downwind from the Wallow Fire, raging in the Alpine, Nutrioso, Arizona corridor about fifty miles away. I learned later, it has a four mile front, has burned 100,000 acres and is zero contained. My biggest fear was that I would come to a roadblock and have to turn around and go back, but at about six I made it through. Really surreal and apocalyptic, the sun a red ball through the haze, churning ash, smelled like a bar-b-que pit the day after a cookout. Eyes burning (in the car!). Crazy. Cleared up at Springerville, which is closer to the fire, but not down wind.

Drove on to Heber and got a room for the night. Home in the morning.

"Ironic: Quemado in Spanish means burned."
—Dan Novak

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Eight New True West Moments In The Can

June 2, 2011

Worked all day in Lincoln, N.M. on new segments of True West Moments. A six man crew out of San Antonio. Several of the segments quite ambitious, including the Kid's escape from the burning McSween house and the Kid's escape from the Lincoln Courthouse.

Managed to get eight in the can. Hope to get eight more tomorrow, then a race back home, although I heard tonight there is a big fire at Alpine, AZ and that's on my route home.

Ran into Drew Gomber giving a tour at the Tunstall Store, while we were there shooting a True West Moment on the killing of Sheriff Brady. That was a train wreck, but it was great to see Drew. He's a good guy.

Spent most of the afternoon in the Lincoln Courthouse taping the escape, a segment on the famous photo (they have a life size blow up of the iconic photo in one of the rooms). Did find a mistake in the displays. They claim Tom Pickett died at Stinking Springs. I mentioned this error to the ranger and he said very few people catch this and they've been trying to correct it for months.

Murray Arrowsmith, another ranger, told me to go visit his wife in their store, called Arrowsmiths, because she sells 200 of my Billy books a year and would I like to go sign some of them and I said, "How Bowdy!"

"Boy Howdy!"
—Altus Dislexia Chamberhead

Had dinner with Jeff, Jen and Patsy, three of the crew at the Ellis Store. Homemade gazpacho and p;ork loings. Very good meal.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Late Nite Lincoln Rain Storm

June 1, 2011

Went down to the Ellis Store at eight this evening to meet the film crew and the producer, Jeff Hildebrandt, to go over shooting scripts for tomorrow. A very ambitious schedule. I wrote 20 scripts for a two day shoot. Made a couple corrections and additions, planned a few shots and came back to my abode. Started raining at nine, then harder, then harder still. Hail, or at least it sounded like hail on our tin roof. Still raining twenty minutes later. Could be dicy for shooting tomorrow morning.

Film crews hate weather (it's why they prefer to shoot on sound stages) because it really messes up everything. Still, one of the segments we are filming tomorrow is the shooting of Sheriff Brady in Lincoln after a night of heavy rain (the lawmen picked their way around the bogs in the morning). That might be sweet, says "the talent."

Film crews can sometimes be snobby. More than once I have been referred to as "the talent," as in, "Get the talent on the set." Uh, my name is Bob and I'm standing right here. Didn't make jack difference. The camera guy didn't even want to know my name. And the way he said "talent" it drained any positive meaning from the word, like he was really saying, "get a slab of deer meat on that table so we can shoot this and go home."

"Get the talent on his mark so we can shoot this and go home."

—what he actually said

Landed In Lincoln

June 1, 2011

Landed in Lincoln at about two this afternoon. Great trip over, although a bit hazy from all the fires. Drove over with Tara Laman and we went the southern route through Apache Junction, Picket Post (scorched from a recent fire), Pinal, Superior, Top of The World (which is being bypassed and they are POd), Miami, Globe, Geronimo, San Carlos, Bylas, Eden, Pima, Thatcher, Safford, Solomonville, York (where my grandfather Guess had a ranch), Black Jack Ranch, Mule Creek (love that little spot in the road), Glenwood and up the switchbacks to Mogollon.

Ate dinner on the deck of Lew and Tara's impressive mining shack, overlooking William Antrim's outhouse, which has finally collapsed, but I remember it before it pooped out. And, I remember seeing it and thinking, Gee, Billy the Kid's step dad saw a man about a horse right there in that little building. Amazing.

But then, I am easily amused when it comes to road trips and outhouse history.

This morning at seven, I treated Lew and Tara to breakfast at the Alma Grill (the spot where Butch Cassidy, Sundance hung out when they worked for the WS Ranch nearby), then on to Reserve to get gas at the Phillips 66 and talked to Henry, the man behind the Elfego Baca statue and future museum. Lots of gossip and obstacles in his way, but he always endures the BS and gets it done.

Then on to Horse Springs (little store is closed, made me sad), on to Datil, the Plains of San Augustine (and the Great Array), and Magdalena. Took the time to drive around and look at all the cool, old houses. The Gallaghers have a handsome old two-story Victorian mansion on a side street. Lots of old funky houses, very early Kingman, which is to say, major funky if you like the look or white trash trashy if you not inclined, like I am, to dig wrecked cars in the side yard. I'm saying I have a high tolerance for desert funkiness, which would drive my mother crazy. I dig old mining camps with wrecked hoists, ore cars and colored bottles. it doesn't get any better than that.

Landed In Lincoln at about two. Westerns Channel crew is coming in from San Antonio (now that's a drive), with Jeff and another producer flying in from Denver. Shooting all day tomorrow and Friday.

"When the legend becomes fact, try to connect the two in an entertaining way."