Friday, September 30, 2011

How Far Do Horses Run?

September 30, 2011

We get some intriguing questions here at the True West World Headquarters. Here's one from Alaska:

"My mom and I watch Encore Western channel everyday. We were just watching The Virginian and 2 horses got spooked by a snake and they took off running. The Virginian finally got them to stop. Is it just in the movies and shows that horses actually keep on going when they get spooked? Do they actually have the sense to finally stop after a couple of minutes when they aren't anywhere near what spooked them?

—Jennifer Holt, Ketchikan, Alaska

This is an interesting question. In the new Western movie Blackthorn, Butch Cassidy's horse gets away from him and runs out of sight, around a bend, never to return. Is that true for all horses? No. One factor is when horses get loose on a ranch, they often run back to the barn. Meaning they will go to where the feed and shelter is. I've had this happen to me on rides while visiting my Kingman Cowboy Cousins.

I asked Marshall Trimble to weigh in. Here's his reply:

Hi Bob,
It certainly could happen. Horses, like people react differently to surprises. One time over on the Big Sandy I was riding one of Dave Ericksen’s horses and riding in some thick brush along the river the horse came astraddle a big rattler. The horse stood motionless, even after I touched him with my spurs. Joe Beeler was right behind me and he said, “Marshall, there’s a rattlesnake between his front and hind legs.”

looked down and saw the reason why the horse wouldn’t move. After making his point the rattler slithered away and we moved on. A spooky horse would have dumped me off on top of that snake but these horses were used to them and knew what to do.
Other times on another horse I’ve had one nearly buck me off when a piece of paper blew in front of us.
Short answer….Depends on the horse.
PS You can use that story if you want. It’s my favorite horse-snake tale.

"There are two things that will spook a horse. If you move suddenly, or if you don't."
—Old Vaquero Saying

A New Wyatt Earp TV Show

September 30, 2011

Check this out:

Hot writer John Hlavin is boarding the small screen’s Western train. Fox has picked up an untitled Western script from “The Shield” scribe Hlavin that will explore the origins of Wyatt Earp, chronicling the well-known incidents in his life — including the Gunfight at the OK Corral — as well as details about his brothers bringing order to a lawless frontier.

"And long may his story be told."
—Wyatt Earp theme song, 1957

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blackthorn: Spoiler Alert!

September 29, 2011

Working on the last layouts for our November-December issue. Our Westerns Editor, Henry Cabot Beck scored an interview with the director of Blackthorn, Mateo Gil, who lives in Madrid, Spain. As mentioned, Mateo tells us they filmed a very clever final scene but pulled it at the last minute because they deemed it "too jokey."

The hand written notes are mine. I'm getting old: left off a "the" in the second sentence. I also left our office bathroom key in the bathroom. Hung it up on the coat hanger on the door in the bathroom, instead of hanging it up on the coat hanger on the front door to the office. Spacy? Or simply early oblivion?

Spoiler Alert!
The deleted scene is described in the lower right corner (if you can read it). If you can't quite see it, I'll give you a better peek at it after everyone here has seen the movie. It really makes me question changes. We think we are making it better, but sometimes I wonder. The older I get the more I think our original ideas are best and that changing them to improve on them (genius is sometimes described as knowing what to leave out) is often a giant mistake. Gee, I wonder what ol' Ameiia has to say about this?

"All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves."
—Amelia E. Barr

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Loose Cannon

September 28, 2011

Went home for lunch and whipped out a study I call "Loose Cannon." In this version of the infamous fight, Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp all try to tackle Doc before he destroys all they have worked for in Tombstone.

I have a hunch they all had this recurring nightmare for the rest of their lives.

"We shall seek the truth and endure the consequences."
—Charles Seymour

Sentimental Slob Or Elemental Genius?

September 28, 2011

Typical day: inspired, frustrated and behind the eight ball. November-December issue goes to the printer tomorrow and we are hanging out big time. Need to finish my editorial, and a new feature—Artists We Love. Also need to whip out another True West Moment for the Arizona Republic. Due this afternoon. Tight because our Christmas Gift Guide is a challenge (a record 16 pages of great ideas, but in need of layout and design).

Had this exchange with Paul Andrew Hutton this morning:

On Memorial Day, May 23, 1903, the sculptor Gus Saint-Guadens and his wife Gussie (Gus and Gussie) sat where they seemed the least likely to be noticed, as the finished bronze of General William T. Sherman was unveiled on the Grand Army Plaza at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York City. Thousands cheered, marching bands played, dignitaries spoke.

This is from the book "The Greater Journey" by David McCullough about all the Americans who went to France in the 1800s, including Saint-Gaudens. And you and I stood on that exact spot, on a cold night in New York while you gaped in awe. I remember I went down there from the New York Athletic Club the next day to sketch it. Amazing. Eh?


BBB: You are such a SENTIMENTAL slob. That was a great trip. I'm determined to complete the Mickey Free script before starting [a new publishing assignment]. PH

Yes, that's Mickey Free in the left margin. We have been working on our Mickey Free graphic novel-movie idea for about seven years without success (no book, no movie deal). When I was looking for this drawing in my pile of sketchbooks, I ran across snatches of very good imagery designed for our story, but somehow, the follow through, or the narrative, did not work.

Of course, many of the sketches (this was on my quest to do 10,000 "bad" drawings) did not apply to the story of Mickey Free. Or, do they?

Very evocative. Could it be used in a transitional narrative way? Is it the gastro-innards of a gutted foe? Or, perhaps the aftermath of an explosion? Or, maybe a rabid bat spraying blood? In a "Stairway to Heaven" kind of way, I want to say this could work. But then, I remembered something I read recently:

"When we're in the shower, when we're thinking about our idea — boy, does it sound brilliant. But the reality is that most of our ideas are actually terrible," Eric Reis says. "But it's hard to know which are the brilliant ones, and which are the crazy ones, until we actually test them against reality."

Okay, we tested Mickey Free against reality and it didn't fly. We ran a 20-page excerpt of the story in True West and no one bought it. In fact I met a guy in Denver who stopped subscribing because, as he put it, "some Free thing you put in the magazine. What was that?"

Tempted to give up and move on, but then I read what ol' Gus had to say about it:

"Conceive an idea. Then stick to it. Those who hang on are the only ones who amount to anything. You can do anything you please. It's the way it's done that makes the difference."
—Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blackthorn: Three Hats From Perfect

September 26, 2011

I spent the weekend thinking about Blackthorn, the new Western starring Sam Shepard as Butch Cassidy (which I watched on my office computer last Friday. A kid named Brandon emailed me and asked if I wanted to see a screener for the film and when I said I did, he sent me a link and the next thing you know, I'm watching the film on my desk.)

Concern Number One
I love the idea of Butch still alive in Bolivia in 1927, and I love the idea of Sam Shepard starring in it, but when I read that the director and the writer named it "Blackthorn" because of a beer tap they saw in a bar, I got kind of queasy about the movie's chances. It sounded lame.

Concern Number Two
I agree with our Westerns Editor, Henry Cabot Beck, Blackthorn is the best movie I've seen this year. First of all, Shepard is so strong, so direct in his actions and character that it carries the entire movie. My least favorite parts of the movie are the flashbacks to Butch with Etta and the Sundance Kid. It doesn't help that both Butch and the Kid wear stupid cowboy hats. Sundance has an Australian outback lid, straight off the set of Man From Snowy River. And Butch's hat is, alas, a 1972 bullrider's Resistol special. Just about the stupidest cowboy hat in a Western since, well, Steven Rea's hat in Blackthorn. Like i said earlier, this Western is three hats from perfection.

Let The Old Guys Pick The Hats
Sam's hat is a modified 1950s LBJ job, but the pencil curl and the way Shepard wears it totally sells it. His gravitas sells the hat.

Buck Taylor told me a great story about being in Cowboys & Aliens. He went into the wardrobe trailer and there were hats everywhere. Over in a corner he found a hat that was different, it had some style. The wardrobe woman told him, "There's been 35 actors through here and nobody even looked at that hat." Buck and his two sons open the picture. They play scalp hunters who come upon Daniel Craig. I didn't recognize Buck because I was too busy admiring that hat!

So, note to Hollywood: let the old guys pick the hats.

Now on to the stuff I loved: the scenery is flat out spectacular. We go from jungle to 14,000 foot mountains, to salt flats, to mountain towns with narrow, adobe choked streets. It is so refreshing.

Let's face it: New Mexico is played out as a movie set. They have maybe three looks and that same damn canyon that's been in Wyatt Earp, Saraphin Falls, True Grit (Coen version) and on and on. Ditto for Canada. And, to be honest, how many times can you use Monument Valley? It's tired, okay.

Great horseback riding and horseback gunfights. Gringa gunfights. it really flows and brings back so many memories of being in a theater and riding along with the heroes and bad guys.

There's more, in fact, Henry Beck got the director Mateo Gil to tell about a scene they didn't use in the movie, but should have. Going to be a great issue. More later.

Oh, and according to Brandon, I've got four tickets to go see it in New York City on September 29. Let me know if you can go.

Rex Rideout & Mark Gardner In The House

September 26, 2011

Great weekend. Attended the new season grand opening at Cave Creek Museum on Saturday afternoon. They are featuring a half dozen pieces of my artwork and it was fun to see all the old time Creekers including artisit Judi Darbyshire (she's the reason I live in Cave Creek) and Dee Dee Wood (legendary choreographer for Sound of Music, Mary Poppins) to name but just a few.

At six, Kathy and I, Thomas Charles and Pattarapan attended a Mexican birthday party at a house behind the Cave Creek Feed Store. Ishmael's grand-daughter was being feted. Great Mexican food and music. Gave Kathy and our neighbor Muffy a ride home at 8:30 and dropped her close to her door because I saw a bobcat walking out of our front yard last Thursday when I was coming home from work, and watched incredulously as it cockily trotted north onto her property. After dropping off Kathy as well, went back to the party, drank way too many beers, but solved some life with our neighbors Tom and Lynn Aughterton. Got home at about 11. Fun times.

Finally saw The Social Network last night and realized what all the hub bub is about. Really a so-so story (A young twit, Mark Zuckerberg invents Facebook and burns a couple of so-so friends in the process) but it's brilliantly told by the writer Aaron Sorkin (West Wing) who is a flippin' genius. He basically takes a bad date, writing source code, and two legal depositions and turns it all into poetry about our times. Amazing. Being a fan of history, I chuckled at watching the commentary track and Armie Hammer (who will portray The Lone Ranger in the new Disney off-again, on again, $200 million Disney flick) says that one of the Winkletwerp (sic) twins came up to him at the premiere and said, "Dude, I don't own ear muffs." The movie, although quite even-handed, eviscerates both twins as privileged, pompous jocks, but he's worried someone might think he wears ear muffs. So human.

We are all so damn crazy it's not even funny. Or, maybe it's all so funny it's scary.

This morning, I didn't want to dress up, so wore a T-shirt, rationalizing, "Nobody of any importance is going to come into the office today."

At nine, Rex Rideout (the fiddle player in Cowboys & Aliens) and Mark Gardner (author of the Billy the Kid best seller To Hell On A Fast Horse), came in, on their way to Tucson. Robert Ray video taped me introducing them (grabbed a coat from my office, but I'm wearing that damn T-shirt).

And here we all are, singing a rousing

Ghost Riders In The Sky

"That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees."
—Marcus Aurelius

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blackthorn: new Butch Cassidy film

September 23, 2011

Just saw a sneak preview of a new Butch Cassidy film called "Blackthorn." It's about Butch in Bolivia in 1927. Sam Shepard is dead on. Spectacular scenery and gunfights. It's three hats from perfect. Details to come.

"I've been my own man. There's nothing richer than that"
—Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard), when asked if he's ever been rich

Hi Yo Dithering: Disney Back In Saddle for Lone Ranger?

September 23, 2011

After a shocking bail out last month, it looks like Disney is back in the saddle for the Lone Ranger:

Lone Ranger

Working up a few new O.K. Corral images for my art opening in Santa Fe on October 14. Here is a page of cloud studies I'm using for the October 26, 1881 stormy sky:

Working a couple ideas for stories. Read a good piece in Newsweek about "failing to finish a novel," by Nicholas Sparks. He claims the experience of writing a failed novel is painful, but it has taught him a few things: "I have to know how the characters meet. I have to know what's driving the story. I have to understand the conflict and how the story will end. If I don't know those four things, I don't start a novel anymore."

Good advice. Now to only follow it. Ha.

"A single idea, if it is right, saves us the labor of an infinity of experiences."
—Jacques Maritain

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Supreme Court

September 22, 2011

When I was attending the University of Arizona I played in different bands to make money. In the early seventies I answered a classified ad and started gigging with a Country-Western band called Roy Brown & Country Gold. Our bread and butter was playing VFWs. We also played often at a Moose Lodge just north of Speedway Blvd and west of Wilmont.

We did all the classics, "For The Good Times" and "LeRoy Brown" and "Tie A Yellow Ribbon". One night, a woman who was more than a little tipsy, started to yell out that she wanted to hear "Ridin' Down The Canyon." Roy Brown, our fearless leader (singer and rhythm guitar player) tried to ignore her but she wouldn't give up. "Play Ridin' Down The Canyon!" she kept insisting, louder and louder. After almost an entire set of songs that were not "Riding Down The Canyon," she came up to the bandstand to confront Roy face to face. "Dammit," she said, leaning over the railing, "I'm from an old Arizona ranching family and I want to hear 'Ridin' Down The Canyon'!"

I don't know why, but I leaned over from my drum set and said, "Where's your family's ranch?" She replied, "Duncan, Arziona." Well, that peaked my interest because my grandfather, Bob Guess, had a ranch on the Gila, just up the river from Duncan at a tiny place called York. I said, "Did you ever know Bobbie Guess?"

She looked at me like she had seen a ghost. "I baby sat Bobbie and her sisters many times," she said, suddenly as sober as a judge. Well, that was my mama and if I hadn't asked I would have never known.

Last night at Cartwright's restaurant, just east of the True West World Headquarters, we had a surprise guest at my bi-weekly, after dinner talk on the history of the Wild West. This lgendary woman is also from the Duncan, Arizona area and her family had a ranch as well—The Lazy B.

"Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Six Degrees of White Punks On Dope

September 21, 2011

In September of 1975 I was standing in Jeff Bloom's hipster clothing store on Fourth Avenue in Tucson. The place was tucked in a walk-up (you had to kind of know it was there) on Hippie Row. Mucho platform shoes, bell bottom pants and, amazingly, classic snap button Western shirts with flowers on the yoke (I bought three different ones for some $50 each and still have them). At that time, Eclipse was THE most stylin' place in the state of Arizona. Jeff was an heir to the Bloom Big & Tall stores in Tucson and Phoenix. Jeff was also a supporter of the Razz Revue, a humor magazine published by Dan and Darlene Harshberger and Olive Mondello (seen here in the casket, along with Dan admiring her shoes, which were from the store next door to Eclipse):

As you may know, I was also involved in the Razz and, in fact, was at Eclipse on a sales call (yes, I sold the ads. All ten of them!). Jeff always had the hippest music playing, so, as I stood waiting at the front counter, i heard the most amazing rock song blasting out of the speakers. I had never heard it before and it was pure, waist down bravado. When it was over and Jeff got off the phone, I said, "Is it my imagination or is the chorus to that last song, "White Punks On Dope?" He laughed and said yes, it's from a new group out of San Francisco called The Tubes. That was my introduction to the song and the band.

I soon found out the group was actually from Phoenix and had been known in the Valley of the Sun as The Beans. Just prior to this encounter, I met the Mell brothers, Frank, Lee and Ed in their art compound in downtown Phoenix. Not only did the brothers know all of The Tubes (in fact Lee was in their shows), but they also had just come from conquering New York City and had done several covers of the National Lampoon, the hottest and hippest new publication on the hipster landscape.

Fast forward to 1980 and I joined Ed in sharing art studio space at a grocery store he rented, and later bought, at Tenth and Oak (he still owns it and still paints there every day, except today; he is in New York at a 60 painting retrospective and art show at the Forbes Building, so if you're in the neighborhood, drop by tonight for the opening). I spent six years in that space and learned more by osmosis from Ed, than I had in five years in college. Here we are goofing, when, during a photo shoot by Ralph Rippe, I came over and Ed borrowed my hat.

Fast forward to last Friday at the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott. This is the same spot where Barry Goldwater announced he was running for president in 1964.

After the unveiling of the centennial postage stamp by Ed, we retired to the VIP garden and got a front row seat to a concert by, Arizona's own, The Tubes. The lead singer, Fee Waybill told about growing up in Phoenix, living in Jerome, working on the Perkins Ranch, before joining the Tubes. According to Ed, Fee (actual name John Waldo Waybill) was the roadie in the Beans and later became the lead singer. Just before the show Ed took me backstage and I got to meet Prairie Prince, the drummer and that was a thrill. In my humble estimation, he is one of the best drummers in rock, and he's played with Ringo Starr, George Harrison and many others. Of course, the closer to the set was their signature song "White Punks On Dope."

So, we have come full circle in a 35 year arc, intersecting the Beatles, National Lampoon (which spawned John Belushi among others), Malcolm Forbes and Barry Goldwater. Not a bad game of Six Degrees of White Punks On Dope, eh?

The irony to me is that the punks the Tubes were singing about are probably all moguls of the arts and industry today. I'd love to know who actually inspired the song.

"Mom and dad moved to Hollywood."
—The Tubes, "White Punks On Dope"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Key to Triple B

September 20, 2011

Last Friday afternoon was the official kickoff to the Arizona Centennial on the north steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott, Arizona. To mark the occasion the Arizona secretary of state was on hand to introduce the artist who created the official postage stamp. As the mayor and others ran a blow-up of the stamp up the pillars, Ed Mell was introduced to say a few words. Here he is at the podium with the stamp looming over him:

There was a noticeable gasp from the audience as it was unveiled. Ed told about his love for Arizona, how he was a stamp collector himself and his ties to Prescott. He finished with "And thanks for applauding," which is so aw-shucks Ed Mell. That got a laugh.

After Ed spoke, balloons were released and everyone cheered:

After the ceremony we retired to the VIP garden around the corner. I wasn't on the list, but Ed got me in, maybe that's why I'm lording the pass at the camera:

It always pays to know the right people. Ha. Ed posed with many of the dignitaries present, including the ex-sheriff of Yavapai County, the mayors of numerous surrounding bergs. Here he is with me, his wife Rose Marie and longtime friend Dan ONeil:

Notice, I still seem a little paranoid about my VIP lanyard ("Don't be looking at me like I don't belong here!"). One of the people I met here is Richard Sheaff, a graphic artist who was largely responsible for Ed Mell getting the commission for the stamp. Dick collects ephemera, classic printing, etc. Here is a wonderful Victorian print of my initials, BBB, that seem to illustrate the key to unlock the Triple B:

Dick has much more on his website:


Amazing stuff. We have this idea that crisp and clean graphics didn't happen until the 1960s, but this is totally goofy thinking. I attended the New York Comic Con in 1980 and one of the speakers was Harlan Ellison. Someone mentioned that the problem with science fiction is that 95% of it is crap. He responded:

"95 percent of anything is crap, but oh, that five percent."
—Harlan Ellison

Monday, September 19, 2011

Killing The Cowboy?! Fighting The Fight

September 19, 2011

Some years ago, I was in a Bisbee bookstore and saw a rather shocking title, at least to me, "Kill The Cowboy." I picked it up and thought it might be some clever take on the Wild West, but no, it seemed to be an indictment of cowboys and cattlemen being the bad guys in the environmental movement to save the planet. I glanced through it and seem to remember that the author grew up on a ranch and had a change of heart, going "to the dark side," that is, if part of your family is in the ranching business and a few of mine are. It was quite weird to see an American icon, the cowboy, as the villain.

On our recent road trip to Prescott, Monument Valley and Durango, we went the back way thru Mexican Hat. I love that route. Great scenery. On our way to Durango, we stopped in Bluff, Utah at a little hippie coffee shack and while waiting for an iced coffee I looked through their book rack and saw a huge coffee table book, "Welfare Ranching: The subsidized Destruction of the American West." I bought it because I wanted to read their case: "Your land is their feedlot," is the main premise, which has some merit, considering the huge corporations who skim by on the dole, stink up the landscape and skate by on the coattails of the cowboy image, so I get that. They also make the case that cows don't belong on the land and we foot the bill for it. That's a bit more contentious. Quoting from the back jacket, "Welfare Ranching is testimony to an environmental tragedy, yet it is also an expression of hope that America's heritage of wild and vibrant western landscapes will be restored and renewed." The Cliff Notes version: they want to kill the cowboy and take away their land. Sound familiar? If you were an In-din, you might say, "Hey, it's your turn in the barrel."

If Native Americans are no longer a viable villain in a Western (and they are not), then how about a new style of Western where these two camps go at it for the heart and soul of the American West? You could even call it "Cowboys & Eco-Aliens."

Or, not.

Anyway, I am still noodling ideas for a centennial series of paintings commenting on the changes I have seen since coming to Arizona in 1946 (and moving here for good in 1956). Here's one idea, based on the above: "Arizona Icon Under Fire".

"Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be eco-terrorists."

—Waylon and Ed Abby, a legendary duet

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Matt's Big Breakfast & Crazy Eights

September 15, 2011

Had a meeting this morning down in the Beast. Ken A. and I met John Booth at Matt's Big Breakfast, which is tiny diner just off Central below Roosevelt. Old style stools, tiny tables, but giant servings and great food. I will be back.

Met at nine with the crew at KAET and then had a follow up meeting at the Arizona Republic regarding a certain centennial package we are pitching. Too soon to talk about it, but know we are crazy excited about it.

Speaking of crazy. . .

Heading up the hill tomorrow to Prescott for the Unveiling of the United States Postal Service Arizona Statehood Commemorative Stamp. The event is being held on the north side of the Yavapai County Courthouse on the Prescott Courthouse Plaza at 120 S. Cortez Street. Someone I know is the artist on the stamp. Supposed to be a surprise but if you have been reading this blog for more than five days, I think you know who it is. Hint (Edmundo Segundo):

Had a visit from dignitaries of the Ute Tribe this afternoon. Fun talking to them. They have a great museum in Ignacio, Colorado chaired by Lynn Brittner.

Sometimes I peruse my old sketchbooks, looking for inspiration. This one is a hoot and a half:

I'm pulled into the past, both in history and in my own record of sketches. It can be distracting and it can be inspiring. Gee, I wonder what ol' Gaston has to say about this?

"One must always maintain one's connection to the past and yet ceaselessly pull away from it."
—Gaston Bachelard

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dancing With Dust

September 14, 2011

Rained last night, not hard, but as the Navajos say, a "female rain." As the sun set, sat outside on the patio with my fave female and enjoyed the cool. Actually turned off the AC for the first time in 95 days. That must have saved at least seventy-five cents.

It was so cool this morning I went for a walk at nine. This would have been suicide a mere two days ago. Or, at least incredibly uncomfortable.

Worked all morning in the office on design issues. Went over back issues, from 2005, that were surprisingly good. Sometimes we forget how much work went into those older issues. Classic stuff. Great photo issues, wonderful zane (Honkytonk Sue in every issue!).

Got a haircut from Bev at 12:30 and caught up on all the local gossip (hilarity at the Payson Elk's Club karaoke night, she's going up to an elk camp on the rim tonight. Her nephews each drew a tag for elk), then went home and had lunch and went out to the studio to work on a couple more ideas for my centennial paintings series.

As the Duke of Dust I would be remiss if I didn't include at least one dust devil, so worked on this scene:

Didn't get too far, but love the subtlety of the trunk of the dust devil. Note to self: DO NOT ADD EVEN A STROKE to this. Yesterday afternoon I finished a Billy portrait, "Here's Looking At You Kid":

Dave Daiss came up from Sonoita yesterday and we went to lunch at Tonto Bar & Grill. Got the full report on the magazine from Cochise County. One criticism: "Why are you publishing that Mexican comic strip?"

Where is that coming from? Mickey Free.

Oh. Si. Yo soy muy guilty. Lo siento, muchachos. I did push the Spanish pretty hard on a couple episodes. Evidently upset a couple cowboys on the border. Gee, I wonder what ol' Margie has to say about that?

"I have never been able to accept the two great laws of humanity—that you're always being suppressed if you're inspired and always being pushed into the corner if you're exceptional. I won't be cornered and I won't stay suppressed."
—Margaret Anderson

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pegging "Rodeo" and Honoring Route 66

September 13, 2011

I have this pet theory that the cowboys in the 1880s (up thru about 1922) wanted to distance themselves from vaquero tradition (or put more bluntly, to stay away from anything Mexican) and that these cowboys went out of their way to NOT call their competitions rodeos. I'm thinking they tried every other name they could think of, most notably "Cowboy Competition" and "Cowboy Steer Tying Contest". It isn't until the 1920s when a promoter in LA finally gives in and calls it the Spanish term "rodeo" that the term catches on and moves forward to today when everyone assumes it was always called rodeo.

Case in point: I received this page from Leslie's Weekly (1903) from Paul Andrew Hutton who bought it on ebay recently and gifted it to me (Thanks Paul!). It is a perfect example of my theory. It pictures "The dashing western cowboy's favorite pastime" which is an "exciting steer-tying contest in Arizona, in which many expert cattle-ropers took part." Nowhere is the term rodeo used.

It's also interesting to note that they had a competition called "Flag-Picking" (bottom right) which is a rip-off of the Mexican chicken pull. They buried roosters in the roadway up to their necks and riders had to grab the head at a run and twist it off.

My challenge to my fellow historians and rodeo fans is to come up with the earliest usage of the term "rodeo" on a poster or program of a United States event. As I mentioned, the earliest I have seen is from about 1922.

Now there were early mentions of the term "rodeo": Frederic Remington entitled one of his famous paintings "Going to the Rodeo" done in the late 1880s on a trip to a ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico. But that is not in the U.S. and as far as I can find it did not catch on with the anglos competing in the sport or putting on the shows. I may be wrong, but I dare anyone to find an example earlier than 1920.

One of my earliest memories is of traveling on Route 66 with my dad driving and seeing oncoming cars shimmering in heatwaves on the two-lane blacktop at the top of a distant ridge. I am painting a series of Arizona Centennial paintings (1912-2012) and I want to capture that classic effect.

It is more than a little ironic that the classic roadway—Route 66—we came out from Iowa on, is just as fading as is the Indian trails it followed. Thus the title "Old Trails."

We had an Old Trails Garage in Kingman when I was growing up and it referred to the old Indian trails and mining roads that were superceded by the muy modern, state of the art Route 66. Fifty years later, that classic road is as much a memory as the mining roads the preceded it.

And so it goes.

I've had the concept for a couple weeks, but I read a quote this morning that forced me to act. Here it is (and it's what led to the crude study above):

"The important thing is that when you come to understand something you act on it, no matter how small that act is. Eventually it will take you where you need to go."
—Helen Prejean

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oh, It's Cryin' Time Again

September 12, 2011

Read and watched a ton of 9•11 coverage yesterday. Did not know there were over 17,000 people in the two towers when the planes hit (that is almost double the size of my hometown of Kingman when I was growing up). Did not know that Times emergency dispatchers told callers to "stay where you are" some 62 times. Did not know the hijackers wanted to also hit the Sears Tower in Chicago, a building in LA AND kill all the males on one of the planes and then land, let the women and children go and give a speech on why they did everything. Also, knew but had forgotten that the fourth plane was believed to be heading for the U.S. Capitol building, which would have been the most devastating of all the hits in terms of destroying a symbol.

And for the thwarting of that target, we have the brave passengers ("Let's roll!") to thank.

Cried twice. Once at these two paragraphs:

"That morning, Raffaele Cava, age 80, was working on the 90th floor of the north tower. After the plane hit, no one could open the extis, so he went to another office and sat with dianne DeFontes and Risa Moya. The hall floors were melting. Suddenly, two men in the stairwell pried open the door, walked in and ordered everyone to go. They were Frank De Martinia and Pablo Oriz, Port Authority employees who worked one flight down, and who took it on themselves to climb up and down 14 floors, getting scores of people out. They never left.

"Tirsa Moya walked Raffaele Cava down all 90 floors.

"You could ask no more of human beings."

—Jim Dwyer, New York Times

Do events like this effect our daily work? Oh, I think so. Here is a small study I did this morning before going into work:

"In spite of sniping from behind he continued up the dim trail."


Friday, September 09, 2011

The Centennial Meets The Boxtops

September 9, 2011

Woke up to rolling thunder at about five this morning. How far off I sat and wondered. Started humming a song from 1962, ain't if funny how the mind moves, when you ain't got nothin' to lose.

Oops. Sorry. Went off on a Classic Rock tangent. Speaking of which, got this from an old bandmate, Spencer Hopping:

Boze.....This song caused you to go hoarse at a S.A.E. Rush Mixer on Sept. 14th 1967.....I recall we played this song at least 3 times....they kept asking for it and you obliged.

Carl....we first grooved to this tune on August 21st 1967 on the way to take Charlie & Irma to the train in Nogales for their trip to your Dads enormous white Buick!.

Suzi......we were hanging out at some clubs in Tucson the first time we heard this song. I distinctly remember it was on KFIF-AM as we cruised Speedway in your moss green Corvair...and once we learned the song, The Generation played it at an A.D.Pi Pledge dance in the living room of the sorority house. Bob Boze Bell on vocals.

Nancy.....reminds me of you every time I hear it.

Fond thoughts of ALL OF YOU......44 years ago in September 1967!

—Spencer Hopping

We were in a soul band, "Faye Shaw and the Generation" at the University of Arizona in the mid-sixties. Here they are (after they fired me and got a real drummer):

And here's The Boxtops doing the song that every frat rat at the UofA wanted to hear over and over in September of 1967.

The Letter

Kathy and I drove into The Beast this morning to meet with the secretary of state at the state capitol. That cost me $35. Went through the capitol musuem which as six or seven huge Lon Megargee paintings from 1913. Sweet.

Speaking of paintings done for the state 99 years ago, I have been asked to submit a painting for the centennial and I am noodling ideas. Might start with something like this:

Only with a more Route 66 theme, since that's where I grew up. More sketches to follow.

"I don't care how much money I got to spend. Got to get back to my baby again. Lonely days are gone, I'm a coming home, my Baby done wrote me a letter."
—The Letter, The Boxtops, September 1967

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Sandy Bob Stage Meets 9•11

September 8, 2011

Long day yesterday. Had my bi-weekly True West Moment dinner at Cartwright's last night. Got home about nine, exhausted by happy. Another sold out crowd and the food, Mountain Man Bison Meatloaf was excellent.

It was on this date, September 8, 1881, a passenger stage on the 'Sandy Bob Line' in the Tombstone area bound for Bisbee, Arizona was robbed. I illustrated this for my book, Classic Gunfights, Volume II: The 25 Gunfights Behind The OK Corral.

Meanwhile, someone on here pegged me as The Duke of Dust and going with that theme, here's a set piece I finished this morning before I came into work, "Mickey Rides In" which is for an upcoming Graphic Cinema:

My editor at the Arizona Republic, Ken Western (now there's a name for an editor!) asked me to come up with something Arizona related on 9•11 for this week's True West Moment (to be published Sunday on the anniversary of 9•11). My first reaction was to do something on the report that the hijackers were going to flight schools in Arizona to learn how to fly 737s but they didn't want to know how to land or take off. Turns out that isn't true. Although "widely reported" after 9•11 it is evidently one of those rumors that got credence from constant airing and it has seeped into our national consciousness (I certainly believed it for the past decade).

But what I did find about Arizona's connection to 9•11 was kind of chilling:

There are over 50 references to Arizona in the 9•11 Commission Report. A dry run of the plane hijacking procedure was apparently implemented in November of 1999 on an American West flight from Sky Harbor to Washington D.C. The alleged pilot of flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, was Hani Hanjour. He enrolled in the University of Arizona as a freshman in 1991 and in 1996 began flight training at a Scottsdale flight school. Another hijacker, Mawaf al Hazmi, trained at a flight school in Mesa. One of the co-founders of Al Qaeda, Wa'el Jelaidan, was a graduate student at U of A's School of Agriculture. In July 2001, FBI agent Kenneth Williams wrote his famous "Phoenix memo" to his superiors warning of an inordinate amount of Middle Eastern men in flight schools. His warning was ignored, because it was deemed "speculative and not particularly significant."

I mentioned these findings at my talk last night at Cartwright's, and after my speech a former FBI agent came up to me and told me why William's Phoenix memo was ignored: he claimed it was because at the time the bureau was heavy into the drug war and mobsters in the Arizona corridor and they didn't have many agents or analysts covering the terrorist threat. Since 9•11, of course, congress basically gave the administration a blank check to spend on the threat and it's these catastrophic costs that have contributed to most of the deficit and almost bankrupted us.

So, let's fire some teachers. Ha.

"We shall seek the truth and endure the consequenes."

—Charles Seymour

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Jackalope Sky & A Former Pig Sty

September 7, 2011

Kathy's back in the saddle so we're back to semi-normal around the Triple B Ranch. And by that I mean, the bills are being paid, I've got clean shorts for the first time in 11 weeks and I'm back to wearing pants in the house. These are good things. It is incredible to me, that without a woman around I would live like a feral dog. And I don't mean that in a good way.

One of the good things to come out of our oppressive heat is that in late summer we get these daily, massive cloud build-ups in the afternoon. Really spectacular, jaw dropping thunderheads. it's hard to convey their scope, but here is a feeble attempt at it. I call this "Apache Scout Under The Jackalope Sky."

Perhaps you think it should be Apache Scouts, plural, but these are Apache scouts out on a scout, as in Apache scout. And, of course, they are led by an anglo officer and don't try and gig me on that hat. I took it from a photograph of an officer (Lt. Edward W. Casey) leading In-dins in 1890.

So, there.

"The lesson of history is rarely learned by the actors themselves."
—James Garfield

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Running of the Bulls Mundo Style

September 2, 2011

Picked up Kathy Radina at Sky Harbor's Terminal 2 last night. She had been flying for 22 hours from Germany. It has been 10 weeks but she still recognized me. Tommy and Pattarapan were with me and they wanted to stop for drinks at a hipster place on North Seventh Ave. which is in the old Ye Old Sandwich Shoppe building, not far from Ed Mell's studio where I spent six years. The irony, of course, is I did Ye Old's logo and ate many a sandwich there in the mid-1980s. Although it's the same building, or house to be exact, it's hard to recognize back today.

Two days ago, the guy who is putting on the Running of the Bulls in Cave Creek, Phil Immordino, came into my office to talk to me about the event. He puts on golf tournaments in his real life but he has been dabbling in the running of the bulls for some time. He had his first running of the bulls event in Mesquite, Nevada several years ago and he did one at the old Rawhide in Scottsdale a couple years ago. He's doing this one in Cave Creek at T.C. Thortenson's Buffalo Ranch which is right up the street. In fact, he came in to see about using our parking lot for overflow parking. The event is going to happen on the weekend of October 14.

It's amazing how much world press this gets, every single time (see blog post from Britain about this).

I told Phil about my son Thomas running with the bulls in Spain and that the excitement of the event is that they run them right down the street of the town, but Phil told me there is no way to do that in the States, the insurance problems with that are just too great. Thanks to the legions of lawyers here, Americans are just too litigious.

Ain't that the truth.

I've had a couple fan requests to send signed photos, so rather than send my old ones where I look 6, Robert Ray took three photos, including the newest photo of me by Lucinda Amorosano (the Monument Valley shot from last week) down to Color Mark, which is where we get our professional photo prints made.

That's my publicity photo from Swea City, Iowa, circa 1955. I don't know why but I didn't get many speaking engagements with this image.

And here I am in Ed Mell's studio circa 1986:

Fast forwarding, here's me in Monument Valley last Thursday:

Well, thanks to the digital-phone-photo tsunami, Color Mark is out of business. Robert then said, "want me to take them to Walgreens during my lunch hour and print out a batch?" I said, of course. He came back fuming. They wouldn't let him print them. I took a thumb drive and went in myself and the woman would not allow it. When I protested that the photos were of ME and didn't that count for something, she admitted they have been sued and had to make a large payment and unless I could produce a written release from the photographer who took the photo (the second one of me on the stool is by Ralph Rippe who lives somewhere on the east coast now) they weren't printing them.

Now, I'm not mad at Walgreen's, I'm mad at the lawyers. I don't know the details of the suit, but I can guess there was probably some Yahoo poaching a purloined photo of Tiger Woods and printing out a batch to sell for profit (and screwing the photographer), and I get that, but we have gotten so ridiculous and litigious it's just crazy.

Anyway, our good friend Mundo has the answer: "How about this, we get a bunch of lawyers, dress them in red pant suits and high heels and let the bulls chase them. I'd pay to see that!"

Amen. Here's the rough sketch for the poster:

The Running of The Bulls Mundo Style:

"First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Dark And Bloody Boy, Inspired by Akira Kurosawa and Buckeye Blake

September 1, 2011

Went home for lunch and met the garage door guy to fix our garage door which has been broken for 9 weeks and 6 days. That cost $553, but I needed to get it fixed before Kathy arrives (tonight). Also cleaned up the kitchen, killed a couple ants on the counter, hosed out the bathroom and used an industrial snow blower on the patio.

Okay, half of this is true, but you do understand the pressure I'm under? Man Cave activity. Without women we really would be closer to feral dogs than I'd like to admit.

Meanwhile, as I waited for the garage door to be fixed I whipped this out.

Dark And Bloody Boy Inspired by Akira Kurosawa and Buckeye Blake

This was inspired by Akira Kurosawa's watercolors and storyboards for the movie Kagemusha (Shadow Warrior) AND from an iPhone image Buckeye Blake sent me of a Navajo boy which he poached off an old rodeo pic.

Bloody enough for you? When Paul Hutton talked originally of our version of Mickey Free, he kept saying he saw him as a dirty, little bastard. A bit of Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street and Charles Bronson from Chato's Land. Oh, and don't forget Micky Dolenz from The Monkees.

Back to Kurosawa, he had a real downturn in his career, was considered a failure in Japan, tried to commit suicide, but then George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola pulled strings to get another movie made and he came back to produce Kagemusha and Ran, considered by many a classic. Gee, I wonder what ol' Fyodor has to say about this?

"Inventors and men of genius have almost always been regarded as fools at the beginning, and very often at the end, of their careers."
-—Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoevsky

Akira Kurosawa and Mickey Free

September 1, 2011

It's official: This August is the hottest Arizona August on record. "People keep askin' me when is it going to cool off, and the flippant answer is Halloween." That's the dude for the National Weather Service. Scary, huh?

Try Living On This
Elihu Washborne, age 14, is hired as an apprentice printer in 1848. He gets room and board and "the promise" of $24 a year.

The last two nights I watched "The Bonus Material" on the making of Kagemusha, a film by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. One of the highlights of the bonus features is a documentary on Akira doing 200 storyboard watercolors to map out the movie. I was struck by how simple and crude, but yet powerful they were. Some were pieces of art, others were quite simple, really almost stick figures, but they cut the illustrations together and then used sound from the actual movie to tell the story. So, THAT was worth the Netflix price of admission right there. I was also struck by how much some of his illustrations resembled my efforts on Mickey Free. Here is a good example:

Very inspiring. Now if I could only conquer my ADD, stay on target and finish this sucker I would be dangerous. Gee, I wonder what the former King of France has to say about this?

"There is little that can withstand a man who can conquer himself."
—King Louis XIV