If you've ever wondered what it's like to run a magazine or how crazy my personal life is, be sure to read the behind-the-scenes peek at the daily trials and tribulations of running True West. Culled straight from my Franklin Daytimer, it contains actual journal entries, laid out raw and uncensored. Some of it is enlightening. Much of it is embarrassing, but all of it is painfully true.
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December 30, 2015
Finishing up another doubletruck for the Bridle & Bit newspaper. Took another run at a gaggle of hussies.
Daily Whip Out: "Hogtown Hussies #3"
I also tweaked a sketch of the young van Gogh:
Daily Whip Out: "The Young Vincent van Gogh"
With just a tinge of the sadness and madness to come. Of course, none of us see it coming, but it's pretty clear going out the other side.
"You think that what you are doing is of great importance and that it is affecting mankind wall-to-wall. And then when you get out of it you realize, oh, well, that wasn’t true at all. It was just silliness."
December 24, 2015
Weston and I got out early this morning for our first adventure. As we hit Old Stage Road we were treated to this sunrise over Ratcliff Ridge:
Christmas Eve Sunrise On Ratcliff Ridge
Last night I told a bedtime story to Weston about a kid who rode a wild mustang named "Shamrock" and so, as we walked up Old Stage Road this morning Weston asked me if we could visit Shamrock and I said sure, so we veered off the road to look at the Ratcliff Horses, and lo and behold, there was Shamrock. Weston picked up a couple twigs and holding them out, said:
"Wanna eat a stick, Shamrock?"
Of course, Shamrock (not his real name) being a horse, and always interested in a handout, stopped eating and came over to take a sniff:
"Okay, so you don't want to eat a stick"
Shamrock was the name of one of my grandfather's horses, according to my mother, and I have always loved the name. And so, here is another kid who will probably be partial to the name as well.
From the Ratcliff corrals, we meandered over to the Cactusland Trail (as grandpa named it on the spur of the moment) and there we found a weird little cactus:
"Are his arms like this, grandpa?"
Funny how a little kid can be so entertained by a plant! We must have spent five minutes enjoying this little desert shrub which I have driven by daily, for at least three decades, and never once noticed.
Will that arm poke me, grandpa?"
"I'm a cactus too, grandpa!"
But, the real gift came a few feet farther on when we were going through thick underbrush and I broke off a dead mesquite branch and handed it to him and, as it turns out, that was the greatest gift anybody could give that boy:
Weston dragging his favorite dead mesquite tree branch.
Somehow that tree branch was the best thing you could ever give a kid and he carried it all morning. We had to deliver a Christmas gift to the Augherton dog down on the creek and Weston had his faithful branch with him the entire time:
"Come on Grandpa, I've got my branch."
Tom Augherton took us out to his chicken coop and Weston even took his branch in there:
You never know when you're going to need a dead tree branch.
"Sometimes the greatest gifts are the ones you didn't even know were gifts."
December 23, 2015
A certain little boy from Pasadena finally made it to Cactusland. We hiked over this afternoon, and here we are halfway up Ratcliff Ridge:
Weston: "I'm in Cactusland!"
Grandpa spent a lot of time saying, "Don't get near that, it will poke you," to which Weston replied, "Is that gonna poke my head, grandpa?" Well, no, not really, but just stay away from it, okay. After some huffing and puffing from me, not him, we made it to the top.
Weston: "I love Cactusland!"
Welcome to the club my grandson. We all love Cactusland.
"Many a child is spoiled because you can't spank his grandfather."
December 22, 2015
So Kathy calls me yesterday and asks me if i can meet the plumber at the house between one and three to fix a leak in the sink and so I got my work done at the office and took a long lunch. As I was waiting for the plumber to arrive I was looking in my morgue for a piece of artwork that the U.S. Air Force wants to use in a brochure, and, of course, as I'm going through the folders of finished art, I pull out five pieces I think need a little improvement. I guess you could call these The Plumber Crack Series:
Daily Whip Out: "Stud Stance 3.5"
Daily Whip Out: "Billy In Dust"
Daily Whip Out: "Black Jack Ketchum"
Daily Whip Out: "Sadie Earp Remonstrates"
Daily Whip Out: "Rene Secretan #13.5"
Oh, and the painting the Air Force wants?
Daily Whip Out: "Arizona Flagscape"
"Nothing is ever finished. We only run out of time."
December 17, 2015
Found a failed board this morning and since I am on deadline and should
be working on something else, I just had to work on this new/old piece.
Daily Whip Out: "All Around Him The Forest Popped
And Crackled but
Mickey Free Kept On Riding."
And here was what I was supposed to be working on:
Daily Whip Out: Rene Secretan #9"
Gay Mathis commented that on my previous effort Rene looked too old. He's supposed to be a 16-year-old Paris punk. I like this expression because he seems a little freaked out by what he has just done and is still trying to look tough, but perhaps he has more dread than bravado.
Daily Whip Out: "Rene Secretan #10"
Is he shocked? Mortified? Angry? Hard to say since his face is obliterated, just like Rene Secretan's tracks. Did he accidentally shoot Vincent van Gogh? I believe so. Vincent said a very telling thing to his brother before he died:
December 16, 2015
On December 19, 1880, at eight p.m., sheriff-elect Pat Garrett went to the doorway and
saw five horsemen ride out of the powder blue fog.
Daily Whip Out: "Get
your guns boys. None but the men
we want are riding this time of
Pat was right, of course and 30 seconds later, Tom Folliard was shot at point blank range as his horse came right up to the porch Garrett and another posse member were standing on. And when Pat yelled, "Halt!" Tom reached for his revolver and Garrett let him have it. Folliard made it part way to safety, but then reined in his horse and turned around, riding back, saying, "Don't shoot Garrett. I'm killed." It took a while, but he cashed in, while the boys played cards on the floor of Manuela Bowdre's room at old Fort Sumner.
"Aw, go to hell, you long-legged son-of-a-bitch!"
—Tom Folliard after Garrett reprimanded the outlaw for talking trash
December 15, 2015 When I went for a walk with Weston last weekend, there was this big flock of very loud birds that flew overhead. It's probably an urban legend but the locals in Pasadena claim a pet store burned down and all the parrots got loose and started breeding in the wild. Check out these Mad Parrots of Pasadena!
December 15, 2015
Still working on a usable image of the French punk who shot van Gogh:
Daily Whip Out: "The Paris Punk In Progress"
Speaking of Paris punks, artists from everywhere can be snotty, especially those who think their artwork is superior to everyone else in the world. Rarely do these conceited twits who snipe at other artists get called out, but there is one incident we should all celebrate. Here's how it came down.
After ten years of rejection, Theo van Gogh finally got a painting by his long suffering brother into an exhibition called Les XX, in Brussels.
Two days before the opening, the Symbolist artist, Henry de Groux, announced that his works would not be seen side by side with the "abominable Pot of Sunflowers by Monsieur Vincent or any other agent provocateur." At the opening dinner of the exhibition, De Groux once again attacked Van Gogh's paintings and called him an ignoramus and a charlatan. At the other end of the table, the diminutive Toulouse Lautrec leaped to his short feet (he probably had to stand on his chair), with his arms in the air, and shouted that it was an outrage to criticize so great an artist as van Gogh and challenged De Groux to a duel. Paul Signac announced bravely that if Lautrec were killed he would be his second and shoot the symbolist dead himself (a nice bit of symbolism in itself). The two artists put their lives on the line for Vincent van Gogh. That evening De Groux was expelled from the group and the next day he apologized and was allowed to resign.
Daily Whip Out: "The Tripod Calls Out Henry de Groux"
The prostitutes of Paris called Lautrec "Tripod" because of his short legs and another appendage that wasn't so short.
"Better to have loved a short, than never to have loved a tall."
—Martin Short, in his one-man show which I saw last weekend in Scottsdale
December 13, 2015
Last day of babysitting for this this tour of duty. Between truck book readings and saguaro demonstrations, I have been noodling ideas for the finding of the van Gogh murder weapon by a French farmer in the 1950s.
Daily Whip Out: "Auvers Wheatfield Gives Up A Clue #1"
Daily Whip Out: "Auvers Wheatfield Gives Up A Clue #2"
Daily Whip Out: "The Murder Weapon"
"What is drawing? It is working oneself through an iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do."
December 11, 2015 Kathy and I have been deployed to Pasadena for grandson babysitting duty once again. It's a tough job but the perks are worth it (hey, plenty of laughs and free food). Headed out this morning to find a Christmas tree:
Weston chooses the tree.
But we didn't pick that one because it was too large and too expensive. Anyway, we got the tree home and of course, being a two-and-a-half year old boy, he had to try and taste the tree.
"Tastes like lettuce."
Actual quote. Eventually we put on the lights, but we also had to play hide and seek because, well, we just had to.
"Can you see me Grandpa?"
Actually, I can see you but lets pretend you are invisible. Okay, back to work.
"If you weren't here, I'd wreck this entire tree in two seconds."
He didn't say that, but that was the look in his eye. Ultimately, however, he was more interested in lighting up himself.
"Look, I'm a Christmas tree!"
"Can we go to bed soon?"
—Weston, at the dinner table after a long day of entertaining his grandparents
December 10, 2015
Had a busy morning, working on several concepts and assignments.
Daily Whip Out: "Highway Heatwaves"
When I was a kid in the fifties I remember looking over the dash of my father's car and seeing these weird, distorted shapes that floated in the air on the horizon. When we got closer these shapes turned into cars and came blasting past us. Whenever I see those highway heatwaves on a long stretch of two-lane blacktop, it takes me back to early Arizona when all the roads rippled and bent into crazy contortions.
Speaking of contortions, I am knee deep into Van Goghland again, working on images for the March issue. I'm working from a known photograph of Rene Secretan as an old man:
Daily Whip Out: "Rene Secretan from a photo"
Too dignified and he looks like George Burns. I really dislike the guy for what he did to van Gogh, so I took another crack at it, trying to channel the vibe—What Would Vincent Do?
Daily Whip Out: "The Weasel Rene Secretan a la Vincent van Gogh"
Also working on a cover concept of the lone gunman:
Daily Whip Out: "The Buffalo Bill Wannabe"
I realize, of course, that, in truth, Mr. Secretan was probably a decent guy, no doubt beloved by his family and my anger towards him has more to do with the legend of van Gogh, rather than the real person Rene tormented. Or the real history of Rene Secretan. What is it the French are fond of saying?
December 9, 2015
I am researching a piece on the history of the draw string—more popularly known as "The Stampede String." Here is the premise: In 1880 George Parsons was on a stagecoach bound for Tombstone when the stage driver decided to give the passengers a thrill and whipped his horses into a run. Unfortunately, the driver's hat blew off in the wind and he had to stop the stage (that took a half mile) and turn the stage around (not easy in the desert east of Tucson) and then go back two miles and try to find his hat—in the dark!
You never see this in a Western movie. Why not? If I had to guess, it impedes action. You might even call it anti-action. And this is probably one of the reasons you never see anyone lose their hat on a wild ride (can you name a movie where someone loses a hat while on horseback? Update: leave it to Paul Andrew Hutton to come with this:
"in the final cavalry charge in Fort Apache George OBrien's hat blows
off."). You know it happened all the time, both in the real West and in filming movies. Imagine how many takes have had to be re-shot because someone in a chase scene lost his, or her, hat.
One simple innovation would solve all of these problems and that is the draw string/ stampede string, you know, that string attached to the hat that tucks under the chin to keep the hat from blowing off. But in my experience, American cowboys seem to be loathe to use them.
Daily Whip Out: "The Dreaded Drawstring"
The vaqueros of Mexico often wore them and even anglos playing vaqueros wore them in movies (Buck Jones in "South of The Rio Grande" which the above caricature is based on). And by the way, I love the old days when cowboy hats went clear to the ceiling.
For something that works so well, why don't cowboys use them? Is it because they look "sissy"? Dale Evans wore a stampede string, but she's a "girl." Gabby Hayes wore a stampede string, but he's a bumbling sidekick. I even seem to remember Clint Eastwood wore one (in Rawhide? Or was it one of the "Dollar" films?)
So, anyway, why are Stampede Strings so rare on American cowboys? And, more importantly, is there a photograph of any cowboy wearing a stampede string? Our readers would like to know, and so would I.
"To think, not to dream, that is our duty."
—Vincent van Gogh
December 8, 20015
Need to come clean about something:
How Vincent van Grandpa Got Busted! So Kathy and I were babysitting Weston at his parent's house in Pasadena last month and after dinner I asked Weston if he wanted to watch some TV. Grandma said, "His mother doesn't want him watching a lot of TV. She'd rather we read to him or play games." Okay, so I read the boy a couple books, then said, "Okay, we're gonna watch a little TV. Who's gonna know?" So I turned on the internet TV and chose an animated movie, called "Home," and we started watching it. During a scene where the aliens are going to destroy France, they show the painting "Starry Starry Night" and I stop the TV and yell to Kathy, "Hey, check this out. They've got Vincent van Gogh in the movie." Fast forward to yesterday, and Weston's mom emails us saying the most amazing thing just happened. She was watching a movie with Weston called "Home" and he pointed at the TV and said, "Is that Vincent van Gogh?" Deena called in Mike and marveled at the knowledge of this two-and-a-half year old genius. So Deena wanted to how Weston would know about this? Did I show him a history book? Did I show him some drawings by Vincent? And, well, I had to come clean. And that's how Vincent van Grandpa got busted.