Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Lonely Kitchen Light

January 31, 2013
I've been inspired to illustrate a road trip memory. In the late 1950s we were taking our annual family road trip to the Bell family farm in Iowa. In the beginning we plowed straight across Route 66 all the way to eastern Oklahoma, then cut north, but as the years went by, my father discovered a more scenic route through Durango and Pagosa Springs, rather than the crowded and increasingly dangerous Route 66 (a few summers prior we had ended up in the ditch by avoiding a jack-knifing truck, only through the expert defensive driving maneuvers of my dad). We liked the Colorado cutoff route because we would leave Kingman in the summer heat and by nightfall we would be spending our first night of the trip in the cool pines (as opposed to say Amarillo, or Elk City Oklahoma).

My father had a very specific driving regimen. We left the house before sunrise, then drove for an hour or so before breakfast, which was invariably The Copper Cart in Seligman, on our first day out. He also liked tradition—bacon and eggs, over easy and tomato juice—which he has passed on to me and I, in turn, have passed it on to my kids.

The highlight of the day, besides the amazing scenery and Navajos in wagons, was the cool pines of the evening. But even more thrilling was the ascent over Wolf Creek Pass. Sometimes we got to Pagosa Springs too late and spent the night there, but If we were making good time we ascended the switchbacks in late afternoon light, marveling at the waterfalls and wildlife (we saw elk and deer of all kinds) and landed at Del Norte (my father did not like to drive at night). On this particular trip we stayed at a motel in Del Norte, got up early for day two and hit the road by five. As we motored out across the high country in the pre-dawn light I spied a lonely ranch house off to our right, down a dirt road, with a lone light on in the main house. It appeared to be the kitchen. I wondered what the people in that house were talking about on this early morning. I pictured a cowboy drinking coffee and talking to his wife, before starting the day. It was lonely looking, but also somewhat hopeful. That simple scene has stuck with me for all these years.

Yesterday, when I went home for lunch I took my first crack at it:

 This is a little too dark and not quite right. Went home last night and did a study of big skies and lonely lights:

Daily Whipout #115, "Lone Light In Abandoned Adobe"

This morning I got up and took another approach:

Daily Whipout #116, "Lone Kitchen Light #2"

Not exactly right either, but the ranch buildings are getting better. It's interesting to me that this almost exact scene shows up in Jack Kerouac's "On The Road." Neil Cassady and Jack are cruising across Colorado when they decide to visit a friend's ranch. "Beyond we saw the lonely lights of Ed Uhl's ranch house. Around these lonely lights stretched hundreds and hundreds of miles of plains with nothing on them but twenty or so ranches like this. The kind of utter darkness that falls on a prairie like that is inconceivable to an easterner. There were no stars, no moon, no light whatsoever except the light of Mrs. Uh's kitchen."

Later, as they leave, Jack says, "I turned to watch the kitchen light recede in the sea of night."

"Now we're going to get our kicks!"
—Neil Cassaday, in "On The Road"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another Tap Duncan photo I've Never Seen Before

January 30, 2013
   Thanks to Andy Sansom on the You Know You're From Kingman If. . .Facebook page, here is another great photograph of Mohave County cowboys including an image of Tap Duncan I've never seen before:

Photo courtesy Mohave Museum of History And Arts

Caption: Local cowboys gathered around a shipment of gold produced at the Tom Reed Mine in Oatman. Photo taken at Kingman railroad platform in 1915 with Harvey House in right background. Identified in photo left to right: Joe Carrow, Red Lynch, Byron Duncan, Charley Duncan, Tap Duncan, Nolan Tyree, Smith and Ramon Contreras. The Gold is a $176,000.00 run from the mine which was taken to the San Francisco World's Fair for exhibition. Taken to San Francisco by Murrie Carrow.

In addition to being a cowboy and rancher, Tap Duncan was also a promoter and, in fact, convinced Buster Keaton to film several movie shorts on the Diamond Bar Ranch. He appears to be wearing his "promoter" outfit here. Check out the white boots and bow tie. Very cosmo, especially for Mohave County in 1915!

"The future has a way of arriving unannounced."
—George Will

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Good Ol' Ben Rux & Harry Nipple

January 29, 2013
Got up this morning and started a fire in the studio stove and bailed into a couple studies of characters from my past. One is an infamous Kingmanite. Andy Sansom sent me a couple photos of the legendary guy (see below):


Blocked in a composite wash based on the two photos and went into the office. While I was gone, Betsy the Chicken Lady came to the house and along with my neighbor, Tom Augherton, had a little Chicken Rodeo in the coop out back. The mission: grab four of the five roosters and box them up. Betsy found homes for them. Tom told me it got quite wild in there but they got 'er done.

Had a Design Review at the office and argued about the entire April issue, traded up a couple times, fixed more than one train wreck and finished at noon. Came home for lunch and put the finishing touches on the sketch I started in the morning:


Daily Whipout #114, "Kung Fu Harry Nipple"

When I was a boy growing up in Kingman every election cycle we would all look at the election results for Mohave County in the newspaper (The Miner) because in every single election someone would write-in the name "Harry Nipple" and the newspaper had to print it. I can't tell you how much joy this gave me and my friends. "Did you see the Miner? Yes, he's in there. Look, they had to print it. Crazy!'

Harry was born in 1876 and died in 1961 I believe. He allegedly ran a whore house down by McConnico, which is where my father ran a Whiting Brothers gas station in the late 40s. I had heard that his real name was Caesar Harry Nipple, but that may just be a myth. It sure is funny though.

Meanwhile, when I went home for lunch I whipped out another Kingman character:


Daily Whipout #115, "Good Ol' Ben Rux"

My father always told the story of an old miner who liked to hang around the gas station named Ben Rux. One time my father needed to go somewhere on business and my mother was working at the Highway Department (she was a secretary).  So my dad dropped me off at Ben Rux's shotgun shack, which was across the tracks in downtown Kingman, behind the welding shop, which was on the way to the Little League baseball park. I remember vaguely that Ben had little or no furniture. I quickly got bored and fussy, as my dad tells it, so Ben brought out a coffee can of Silver Dollars and let me bang around with those. I always remember ol' Ben and never knew what happened to him. This painting is for good ol' Ben Rux.

Bill Close, 92, died. He was the TV anchor at KOOL television in 1982 when a deranged Joseph Billie Gwin broke into the studios with a gun and demanded Bill Close read a statement on the air. Taking a cameraman hostage with a gun Gwin demanded his rambling message be read live. He even brought a portable TV with him so the station couldn't trick him into pretending to read it live but keeping the signal in the station. Here's the quote from this morning's Republic: "Close gave a tight read in his signature anchorman voice, 'Johnny Cash, you will have 72 hours to tell the queen to evacuate London.'"

Now THAT is humor writing.

"Remember: this isn't just a search party, it's a chance to do some first-class scouting. Any questions?"
 —Scout Master Ward (Ed Norton) in Moonrise Kingdom

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stolen Gold From Eldorado Canyon?

January 28, 2013
   Just got off the phone with Marvin Brooks who has been fascinated by a treasure story for a long time but he can't verify the veracity of the story. Here it is in a nutshell. In 1880 the Colorado River steamer The Gila was returning from Eldorado with a load of gold and sliver when the crew saw a man dressed as a soldier and waving a Henry Rifle.

He was standing on Cottonwood Island in the middle of the river. He appeared to be in distress and wanted help. A couple of the crew took a skiff and paddled over to the island to see what he wanted. When they got there the soldier leveled the Henry on them and calmly told them to deliver him back to the boat, which they did.

   The man dressed as a soldier proceeded to rob the passengers, then loaded some 300 oz. of gold and silver on the skiff and rowed back to the island where he had several horses. Calmly packing the gold on the horses, he disappeared in the brush.

  The Gila quickly powered its way down stream to Hardyville where a posse was raised, riding off into the canyons to the north. The posse could find no trace of the soldier or the missing gold and silver.

  Around 1900 a miner dug up a gold bar in the shape of a bar of soap. This was the distinctive shape of the gold that was milled at the Eldorado Canyon smelter.

  In 1914 another bar of soap-shaped bar of gold was found by a prospector, but beyond that, nothing. An article in the Las Vegas Review Journal in 1959 supposedly reported on the above story, which is where Marvin saw most of the details of the event.

 Like so many gold treasure stories, Marvin Brooks has been unable to find any mention of the Gila ever being robbed.

So here's the assignment: the year is 1880. The field of operations is the Colorado River from Yuma up to Eldorado Canyon (which is not far from Searchlight, Nevada). Is there any record of a robbery on a steamboat in that time frame?

Gentlemen and Gentlewomen, start your search engines. Historians and operators are standing by.

"It is enough if one tries to merely comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."
 —Albert Einstein

The Unmentionables

January 28, 2013
  When Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassaday were On The Road they were invariably wearing white T-shirts. Kerouac mentions this often as they drove the highways of the late 1940s from coast to coast in his classic tale of "On The Road" (interesting that when New York publishers did not pick up the book—it took seven years to find a publisher with the cajones to print it—Kerouac played with the title "On The Rock 'N' Roll Road" which I'm so glad did not happen). White T-shirts seem rather quaint today, but in the 1950s a white T-shirt (with nothing on it by the way) was considered the ultimate in coolness for teenagers. Our grandfathers would never be seen in public in T-shirts because it was considered underwear. In school, kids were sent home for wearing T-shirts because it did not have a pocket and that, according to Mr. Benson, made it underwear.

Amazing. Think about it: in Victorian times underwear of any kind was referred to as "unmentionables." You not only couldn't wear it in public, you couldn't even TALK ABOUT IT!

  When I was growing up in Kingman in 1957 the cool high school kids like Chuck Shelly and Donnie Brakeman and T.J. Stockbridge wore nothing but white T-shirts. Even in freezing weather. So they were literally cool. Ha.

   With that in mind I went home for lunch today and whipped out a study for a Kerouac-ish hitch hiker in a white T-shirt:

The Daily Whipout #113, "The Hitcher"

"Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road."
—Jack Kerouac, "On The Road"

Wet And Wild

January 28, 2013
  Really wet here. I met my neighbor Joe Yager on the road this morning and he claims we got over three inches of rain this past weekend. Here's Ratcliff Ridge this morning as I headed out:

Ratcliff Ridge In The Rain

From there I went up Old Stage Road:

Tattered Clouds Over Elephant Butte (With A Jumping Gnome In The Puddle)

Snuggled in all weekend and worked in the studio. Took more notes from "On The Road", including this one:

"We all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one noble function of the time, move. And we moved!"
—Jack Kerouac

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Passion for Ferries

January 26, 203
  Woke up to rain on the roof. Went out to the studio and started a fire in the pot-bellied stove and enjoyed the snugness of it all.

Last night I watched the documentary "What Happened to Kerouac" for the second time. This time to take notes. At one point in an interview, which I missed on the first go round, Jack Kerouac said he was influenced by Walt Whitman's "Specimen Days". It sounds so hokey and in fact Steve Allen tried to call him on it, thinking it was a joke, but Jack shook his head seriously. So, I Googled it and here is a section of Walt Whitman's "Specimen Days" and check out the parallels to On The Road:


  Living in Brooklyn or New York city from this time forward, my life, then, and still more the following years, was curiously identified with Fulton ferry, already becoming the greatest of its sort in the world for general importance, volume, variety, rapidity, and picturesqueness. Almost daily,

later, ('50 to '60,) [1850 to 1860] I cross'd on the boats, often up in the pilot-houses where I could get a full sweep, absorbing shows, accompaniments, surroundings. What oceanic currents, eddies, underneath -- the great tides of humanity also, with ever-shifting movements. Indeed, I have always had a passion for ferries; to me they afford inimitable, streaming, never-failing, living poems. The river and bay scenery, all about New York island, any time of a fine day -- the hurrying, splashing sea-tides -- the changing panorama of steamers, all sizes, often a string of big ones outward bound to distant ports -- the myriads of white-sail'd schooners, sloops, skiffs, and the marvelously beautiful yachts -- the majestic sound boats as they rounded the Battery and came along towards 5, afternoon, eastward bound -- the prospect off towards Staten island, or down the Narrows, or the other way up the Hudson -- what refreshment of spirit such sights and experiences gave me years ago (and many a time since.) My old pilot friends, the Balsirs, Johnny Cole, Ira Smith, William White, and my young ferry friend, Tom Gere -- how well I remember them all.

"When you tug on one strand it leads to everything else in the world. It's all connected."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Cock-a-mamie Saguaro Meets Tom Mix In The Kerouac Daerk

January 25, 2013

I had a speech this morning at the Dude Rancher's Association which was held at the Rancho de Caballeros outside of Wickenburg. Always fun. On my drive home I finally stopped and took a photo of a cactus I have admired for decades on the road from Wickenburg to Cave Creek.

The Cock-a-mamie Saguaro

Yesterday I finished the second pass of "On The Road." The first time was the cleaned up 1957 version and this time I read "The Historic Scroll Version". Both have the same poetic power proving even the neutered one doesn't sap the power of the tale.

 Got up this morning to skim my notes on the Kerouac biography. For one thing I've thought of him being closer to my age, but the Dude is my parents age! He graduated from high school in 1939 which is the same year my mother graduated from Kingman High! So to think of him as younger is probably a testament to the timelessness and power of the book more than anything.

 Secondly, Jack and Neal come off like such the kind of rebels we think of that led to the hippies and rock star gods of the late fifties and sixties. And when you scratch the surface on that prototype they are usually sensitive types, the anti-jocks. But Kerouac was a lifelong Catholic AND a jock. Check out this photo of him at Columbia:

So that is kind of a mind blower, that Kerouac was coming from a jock background. It helps explain his total rejection of the hippie movement. He thought they were all Communists! Just like our parents did. Ha. Because he's my parent's age and has their values.

One of the slams on all the subsequent portrayals in the movies of Neal and Jack is that they are invariably portrayed as hipsters, and as Carolyn Cassady puts it in the foreword to the bio book, "I am periodically subjected to attempts to dramatize the lives of Kerouac and Cassady by playwrights and filmmakers who have so far ignored these influences [that they were middle class guys with middle class values, in spite of the fact that they were flaunting them or abusing them, and by the way, they felt very guilty about it which led to their alcohol and drug issues] and portray their characters in present time. This results in the persons depicted appearing to be no more than hedonistic airheads or juvenile-delinquents, or both—really boring people who couldn't possibly have changed the history of society and literature."

With that said, a new movie version of "On The Road" produced by Francis Ford Coppola, came out last Dec. 21, but it has been withdrawn from full release and according to a movie reviewer I know, it's indefinitely shelved. One of the reviews I read basically agreed with Carolyn's assessment, above.

So it's heavier when you know it's a couple of WWII kids who are rebelling, but struggling for their place in the world. They still want a family and a home. And they both paid dearly. Cassaday died in Mexico in 1968 and Karouac in 1969, both from substance abuse.

 Does knowing any of this change the book? Yes, it makes it deeper, but it also points out some of the flaws. It is, after all fiction in spite of the real names and specific sex acts. But, when all i said and done, the poetic imagery is what carries it and will carry it for a very long time.

Here's Kerouac on the first moving picture he saw which was a Western featuring Tom Mix:

"Mix galloped across the amazing 'muddy movie screen california' in a white hat so snowy it makes him 'look like a glowworm.' He finally leaped 'across rainy shacks. . .landing on maniacs in the dark.'"

Man that is sweet! I need to get the full quote (it's from the bio, quoting from Visions of Cody, page 270). If you have it I want the whole quote. Thanks.

"Kerouac was a writer. That is, he wrote. Many people who call themselves writers and have their names on books are not writers and they can't write—the difference being, a bullfighter who fights a bull is different from a bullshitter who makes passes with no bull there."
—William Burroughs

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jumping Off Cliffs At The End of The Road

January 24, 2013

Had a True West Maniac come in the office with a carload of Canadians. Duane Horner of Albert City, Iowa has original True West issues going all the way back to the early 1950s.

Gave Duane, his wife and the Canucks the official office tour and then Duane bought $120 worth of books and I signed them for him. Great guy. Always a thrill to meet the people who love the magazine.

I then commandeered Duane into the conference room and asked him to help us choose a cover for the next issue of True West. Duane picked a winner and you'll see it soon (hint, it's the one behind his ear).

Yesterday my son celebrated his 30th birthday and I posted a series of photos from one of our family photo albums, including this one:

Thomas Charles Bell, "The Knight-In-Shining Short Shorts"

Went for a walk this morning up Old Stage Road in a fine mist. It's actually a warm rain. Temperatures in the mid fifties (it was 81 yesterday). On the way back, took this photo of Ratcliff Ridge in the rain:

Ratcliff Ridge In The Rain

I sure am obsessed with this outcropping. i must have a hundred photos of this saguaro studded ridge which I look at every day (it's straight away from our house).

Jim Hatzell sent me a great photo yesterday of a mountain man flying off a shale ridge. Check this out:

"Mountain Man Jumps Off Cliff: Figures It Out On Way Down"

Finished the second pass at "On The Road: The Historic Scroll Version" this morning at 7:30. Took copious notes, underlined like crazy. Of course, my study of the real Jack Kerouac produced an undertow of deep sadness. The brilliant guy went out in a booze-addled haze and so did his hero Neil Cassady. I think this disappointment in Kerouac and heroes in general (Wyatt Earp anyone?) is best summed up by ol' Gaston:

"We begin in admiration and we end by organizing our disappointment.'
—Gaston Bachelard

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The End of On The Road

January 23, 2013
  In the 1980s I created a character called The Carkid which I saw as basically the Billy the Kid story brought forward to the land of The Mother Road and two-lane blacktop:

It was partly because of this idea and my love of road culture that I finally read "On The Road." I loved it so much I bought the scroll version of the book which I'm now reading. I finished the biography of Jack Kerouac this morning and I watched a DVD the other night from Netflix on "Whatever Happened to Kerouac?" it was interesting to see Neal Cassady (the hero of "On The Road") and his wife Carolyn Cassady actually talk and move. They had old 8mm movie film of Cassady prancing around without his shirt working on cars, looking exactly like Kerouac described him in the book. It was also interesting to see some of the other Beat characters actually talk and walk. Even Burroughs was interviewed and came across as very astute and clean looking (for a guy who did heroin for most of his life). All the others still smoked, including his agent, and in fact were smoking on camera, coughing and hollowed out (the doc was made in 1986). That was sad, how hollowed out and gone they were. But not as sad as seeing Kerouac on Firing Line a talk show with William F. Buckley in 1960, I believe it was. Jack was completely smashed and drunk, just a raving fool. He never claimed his daughter, never had a family, lived with his mother, disowned all his friends, including Allen Ginsberg who Jack called out in the audience and called him a Communist. Kerouac watched the McCarthy hearings on TV rooting for McCarthy while smoking pot! Crazy, crazy mo fo. Selfish to the core. He showed up at Cassaday's house more than once to get Neal to forego his husbandly duties (he's got a kid for Christ's sake!). In the book Neal's wife is upstairs crying, "You lied! You lied! You lied!" Kerouac doesn't say why but reading between the lines she's understandably upset because Jack is going to ruin their life by tempting Neal to go on another irresponsible, crazy road trip and Neal promised her he wouldn't do that anymore. Jack, the jock, is a total, selfish bastard who deserved his fate, dying at 47 of alcohol abuse. And yet, and yet. . .

  In the book, I've made it up to Laredo and they are getting set to cross into Mexico for the final March:

"All kinds of border rats wandered around looking for opportunities. there weren't many, it was too late. It was the bottom and dregs of America where all the heavy villains sink, where disoriented people have to go to be near a specific elsewhere they can slip in unnoticed. Contraband brooded in the heavy-syrup air. Cops were redfaced and sullen and sweaty, no swagger. Waitresses were dirty and disgusted. Just beyond you could feel the enormous presence of the whole continent of Mexico and almost smell the billion tortillas frying and smoking in the night."

And I read this and I think—all is forgiven. Just pure poetry of—and on—the Road.

"[I] went fast because the road is fast."

—Jack Kerouac

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sheriff Ruffner & The Butcher

January 22, 2013
   Found a big, board in the garage that I have made a couple passes at. This morning I tweaked it a pinch more, Adding a line of blue just around the left-side of the face of Sheriff Ruffner's jaw.

"The Law In Prescott, Arizona Territory: Sheriff Ruffner"

Also found a stack of studies I did of Wild West boomtown inhabitants. This is:

"The Butcher"

And this is actually Johnny Tyler of Tombstone fame:

"The Gambler"

And this is my take on Charlie Lum when he first landed in Mohave County:

"The Cooley"

"Praise undeserved is satire in disguise."
—Henry Broadhurst

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Anvil Cracked

January 21, 2013
   Kathy is in Spain so I stayed home all weekend and attacked the reject art in the garage. I threw away the hopeless boards and panels, filling a big garbage can. Then I grabbed the rest and organized them into three piles: Nothing to Lose, Possibilities and Solid Underpainting (decent background, verdict out). Took me about three hours but here are the piles:


From the Nothing to Lose pile I grabbed five boards and brought them into the studio and gave them nothing-to-lose bold strokes. One of them turned into this: "The Anvil Cracked."

"The Anvil Cracked"

I did five bold, decisively quick paintings. Two died and three went where they wanted to go. Ever been in an ancient church and seen the peeling paintings on the ceiling?

"The Lonely Virgin"

When I was in the third grade in Swea City, Iowa we would have snow days where they held school but it was too cold to go outside for recess, so they would herd us into the gym and show "Victory At Sea" documentaries of Japanese planes being knocked out of the sky by pom-pom guns. I loved those and would go back to class and draw a flak filled sky and a Zero coming in with one wing.

"Jap Flak"

The idea is to create honest strokes with no, or little, attempt at trying to make it into something. Just let it go where it wants to go (it's no accident that I'm reading "On The Road: The Scroll Version" AND a biography of Jack Kerouac where he talks about his writing process, which he called "sketching" and which Truman Capote derisively said, "That's not writing, that's typing". But I digress). Anyway, this is an honest engine, at least for me. Is it the split between Arizona-New Mexico over who has better Mexican food? Is it the anvil of art resistance, or art inscrutability? The hard iron of art skills needed to crack the secrets therein? Is it a 2001 Space Oddity monolith in four-four time? Well, I did five others as well, but I'll save you the navel gazing.

"Remember to remember, because sometimes you forget all the things you know. You already have the knowledge, you're just not putting it into practice. So remember to remember. If you stay still, it will come to you."
—Petra Nemcova, a supermodel who had her pelvis crushed in a tsunami

Friday, January 18, 2013

Damn Straight Pard

January 18, 2013
   Been meaning to pay off my art reference from a while back. Here is the real Ratcliff Ridge across from our property. We look at this view out our kitchen window.

The stone driveway was inspired by La Cuenca in Spain and took me about a year to complete, hauling up six or seven river stones a day from the creek (but not from Joan Dodd's land! Actually from Hoss's land before they built their house). And here is my artistic rendering of Ratcliff Ridge:

Trying to stay loose. Takes courage. Went home for lunch today and whipped out a little study I call "Damn Straight Pard."

Daily Whipout #113, "Damn Straight Pard"

When I was growing up, oldtimers would be asked if they were going to resist something, it didn't matter what, and their adamant reply would be, "Damn straight, Pard." Meanwhile, went home for lunch yesterday and whipped out this little study:

Daily Whipout #112, "Up The Draw"

"Just keep writing and drawing and let the muse back into the fold. Gently now. No searching. No working. No trying. Just let the spirit come back in and don't be greedy. Be ready."
—Neil Young, paraphrased advice to The Horse in his new book "Waging Heavy Peace" (he actually was talking about his band Crazy Horse and music but I appropriated the angle)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wild Guide Hot Off The Press Without Datil Gravestone

January 17, 2013
Yesterday I received a big ol' packet in the mail from Paula Eastwood at the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance in Albuquerque. Some months back she contacted me after seeing a page of my sketches back when I was on the quest to do 10,000 bad drawings. She liked one page—a gouache of a New Mexico landscape inspired by the lone grave west of Datil—so much she wanted to run it as is, but with one change: she wanted me to take out the gravestone and replace it with a century plant. I thought this was rather strange, but whipped out a separate painting of a century plant and emailed it to Paula. Here is the cover:

Paula Photoshopped the century plant over the gravestone (good job, by the way). When I opened up the guide, there was a second image of mine on the Contents page:

This is a Daily Whipout Painting I did last summer called "Sky Wilderness." Actually works rather nicely. On the left hand page you can see a sidebar titled "What Is Wilderness?" and in the copy it says, in part, "Wilderness is defined as an area that has primarily been affected by the forces of nature with the imprint of humans substantially unnoticeable." Oh, okay. Thus the removal of the headstone. I get it.

Check them out at New Mexico Wilderness Guide.

"I love not Man the less, but Nature more. . ."
—George Gordon Byron

On The Road With The 66 Kid

January 17, 2013
  Kathy downloaded "On The Road" on our Kindle, and it was the original but heavily edited 1957 version of Jack Kerouac's cult classic and I read it and enjoyed it, but then I read about the "Scroll Version" which has the real names and all the sex, so I had to get that puppy. Got it last week and have been enjoying it immensely. The events take place in 1947-50 and amazingly the book predicts the entire hippie movement, the TV show "Route 66", not to mention a ton of other 1960s phenom. It really was ahead of its time.

   Of course, I grew up on a certain road, working at my father's Flying A icing jugs for tips, so that may account for some of my joy in reading the tome.

Plus, my father was floor-boarding it across many of the same roads Kerouac and Cassady were plowing in their classic journeys across the continent, and then every summer we took to Route 66 to go visit the family farm in Iowa so we criss-crossed many of the On The Road sites. My mom and dad even lived in Denver after the war for a short period and this also coincides with Kerouac and his gang and takes up large portions of the book.

Here are a few lines I have underlined in the text just because I love them:

"So I rushed past the pretty girls, and the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines Iowa." (Note: send to Mike Richards, who lives in Des Moines.)

Also in Iowa, Kerouac meets a goofy hitchhiker and they can't get a ride so they spend their time ". . .dawdling away the time telling stories about ourselves, then he told dirty stories, then we just ended up kicking pebbles and making goofy noises of one kind or another."

Skim Action: "We got a ride from a couple of young fellows, wranglers, teenagers, country boys in a put-together jaloppy and were left off somewhere up the line in a thin drizzle of rain." Sweet. Clean, Simple, Direct. Strong.

"The train howled off across the plains in the direction of our desires."

Foreshadowing: "Well, lackaday, I kissed the shirt goodbye, it only had sentimental value in any case, besides of which, though I didn't know it, I was destined to retrieve it some ways up the road."

"We zoomed through another crossroads town, passed another line of tall lanky men in jeans, clustered in the dim light like moths on the desert, and returned to the tremendous darkness. . ."

Central City, Colorado is just down the road from Blackhawk where we came over the mountain last summer on the BLT tour.

On our trip we came in the back way from Idaho Falls on that narrow, mile high road? Jack and the boys go to Central City to party and he says, "Beyond the backdoor was a view of the mountainsides in the moonlight. I let out a Yahoo. The night was on."

Then: "Great laughter rang from all sides. I wondered what the Spirit of the Mountain was thinking and looked up, and saw jackpines in the moon, and saw ghosts of old miners, and wondered about it. In the whole eastern dark wall of the Divide this night there was silence and the whisper of the wind, except in the ravine where we roared; and on the other side of the Divide was the great western slope, and the big plateau that went to Steamboat Springs, and dropped, and led you to the Eastern Colorado desert and the Utah desert; all in darkness now as we fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the might land. And beyond, beyond, over the Sierras the other side of Carson sink was bejeweled bay-encircled nightlike old Frisco of my dreams. We were situated on the roof of America and all we could do was yell, I guess—across the night, eastward over the plains where somewhere an old man with white hair was probably walking towards us with the Word and would arrive any minute and make us silent."

To say I love this book is putting it mildly. Ha.

"Get your kicks on Route 66"

—Bobby Troupe, although this is also a direct lift out of Road where Neal Cassady says, "We're gonna get our kicks!"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Doc Holliday's Battery Charger?

January 16, 2013
   So I'm working on Doc Holliday's Last Gunfight, which took place in Hyman's Saloon in Leadville, Colorado in 1884. The esteemed author Gary Roberts, who is the foremost authority on all things Holliday, graciously sent me a photo of the inside and outside of Hyman's Saloon for me to do my artwork from. I believe both photos are courtesy of the Denver Public Library and we are getting clearance for them for the magazine, but in the meantime, at the risk of copyright infringement, I want to draw your attention to something in the photo that kind of blows my mind. Here is the complete photo:

Great photo, love the old style, thick glass with the distorted reflections (which is worth a painting in itself), but check out the clock on the pole, in the foreground. What is that sitting at the foot of it?

Is that an electrical box of some kind? Looks like a battery charger, no? 1884? Could it be? What the hell?

"This is funny."
—Doc Holliday

A Report On Harry Carey, Jr's Funeral Service

January 16, 2013

   Last Saturday was the funeral for longtime Western actor Harry Carey, Jr. who died on December 27 at age 92. My good friend Brian Downes attended the service and sent me this report:

The service was January 12 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara where Dobe lived for the last decade or so.  The church was jam-packed with 300 of Dobe's family, friends and colleagues and fans.  Sitting close by were actors Robert Carradine who appeared with Dobe in "The Long Riders" and Claude Jarman Jr. who played John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara's son, Trooper Jefferson Yorke, in "Rio Grande."  (Jarman was the teenager who performed that outstanding Roman ride alongside Dobe and Ben Johnson.)  Also on hand was author Dan Ford, grandson of director John Ford, John Wayne's daughter, Melinda Munoz, and granddaughter Anita LaCava Swift.

Eulogies were short but most memorable to me was the full-throated organ playing "Shall we Gather by the River" Dobe's 'theme song' in "3 Godfathers." 

I've known Dobe about 20 years since my days of writing westerns for the Chicago Tribune and was thrilled to have shared with him so many memorable events in his later life.  I rode alongside him on his last horseback trip to Monument Valley, was there when he was inducted into the Great Western Performers gallery at the Cowboy Hall of Fame and escorted him to the Reagan Presidential Library where he received the red carpet treatment at the museum's U.S.Cavalry: History and Hollywood Exhibit.

Dobe used to say he wanted his tombstone to read:  "He rode with the Duke."   Yes, he did, but that was just part of his story.
—Brian Downes

The Duke with Brian Downes

Brian is the director of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset, Iowa.

“All battles are fought by scared men who'd rather be some place else.”
—John Wayne

Freight Train Clouds

January 16, 2013

   Tweaked a cloud painting this morning before I came into work. Several years ago I was on the road to New Mexico and came around the curve from Magdalena that drops into Socorro when a big summer storm churned up to my left and sent long feeder clouds up and over the highway. It was like a giant freight train moving in slo mo. As I passed underneath, I pulled over and tried to capture the scene in my sketchbook. This is my impression of that spectacular cloud show:

Daily Whipout #111, "Freight Train Clouds"

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, January 14, 2013

First Batch of BBB Art Prints

January 14, 2013

   Finally, here are the Daily Whipouts which we are offering as artprints. We have five each and it's first come, first serve:

"The Eagle Has (Almost) Landed"

"Mickey Free Rides Through The Ash"

"Frank and Jesse Slam Through The Slews"

"He Came Down The Street Like A Steam-powered S.O. B."

"Apache Prisoner"

"Border Rider"

"You're never gonna outwrite the movement of the white clouds and the blue sky."
—Nick Tosches

Doc And Wyatt Stand Alone

January 14, 2013
   Cold weekend. Pipes froze on Friday night. Woke up to no water on Saturday until around noon when the pipes evidently thawed out. Chicken coup water bowls frozen solid. My neighbor Tom Augherton went to Lowe's and got heat lamps and and installed them in his coup and mine. Thanks Tom!

  Worked on Doc Holliday's Last Gunfight over the weekend. Here is my first take on it:

The sketch anticipated an O.K. Corral-Fremont Street scene but since Doc's last gunfight was in Leadville I need good street scenes of that high mountain town. Even better, I need the part of town where Doc shot it out with the guy he owed money to, one Billy Allen (long thought to be the same Allen as in Tombstone, but Gary Roberts has disproven this)

Meanwhile, went home for lunch today to meet the plumber (clogged drain in bathroom) and after lunch noodled another cover story idea we're working on "Was Wyatt Earp A Horse Thief?"

Daily Whipout #110, "Was Wyatt Earp A Horse Thief?"

"Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work."

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Proof Against Winter

January 11, 2013
Still quite cold out (for Arizona). Supposed to get down below freezing this weekend. The chill makes me in the mood to do more snow scenes.

When my grandfather, Carl Bell, passed in 1982 (he was over ninety and still driving but slipped on ice when walking out to start the car), I flew back to Des Moines, headed for the funeral in Thompson, Iowa. We landed in a raging snowstorm. It was 20 below with the wind chill factor. We landed on an ice packed runway. The week prior a plane in Boston had slipped off the runway into the water because of ice. My father flew in from Vegas and my cousin's wife brought extra clothing for us to wear to leave the terminal. We drove in what looked like a tunnel of ice to their home in Des Moines and the snow blew across the road and made travel of any kind very touch and go. In fact, they closed the freeway going north, delaying our departure by 36 hours (and they had to delay the funeral as well, not to mention my grandfather's burial. They had to freeze him until Spring to complete the burial!) and when the freeway finally opened we saw semis buried in snowdrifts all the way to Mason City.

When we finally made it to Thompson in a rental car, my dad and I wanted to go out to the farm (my grandparents had moved to town for health reasons). Fortunately the roads had been snowplowed out there so we took off and made it to the gate. I got out with my camera and stepping behind the car, took a panorama of the snow and the farm, taking five photos. The photos floated around my studio for decades before I finally took the five pics to Michael Feldman's Custom Frame Shop and he and his right hand man, Josh, made a panorama of the scene and framed it. It hangs in a place of honor in our living room. This morning, I grabbed it off the wall and took it out to the studio for inspiration and reference. Here it is on my art desk:

I used this historic, panorama photo for the inspiration to do my Daily Whipout:

North Toward Minnesota

My grandfather's farm was north of Thompson, Iowa and about ten miles south of the Minnesota line. We seldom took this road north from the farm. My dad's cousin, Donnie Bell, had a farm to the north (the grove at left, in distance) and my father walked beyond there to the country school he and his sister Doris attended when they were little (1930s).

Long story short: I love this kind of winter scenery, at least in pictures.

"When people say they love winter, what they really mean is the proof against it."
—Old Vaquero Saying