Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Grave Digger

May 30, 2016
   Working on an African-American frontiersman who tracked the Apache Kid to a spring on the Slaughter Ranch. He lived to be 102 years old and spent his last years in Tucson where he worked at Holy Hope Cemetery. 

Daily Whip Out: "The Grave Digger"

We are running a rare photo of him that John Langellier found:

Jim Young in Tombstone circa 1920s

Did a couple sketches trying to get under that snap cap:

Daily Whip Outs: "The Grave Digger sketches 1-2-3"

Daily Whip Out: "Grave Digger Study #4"

Daily Whip Out: "Grave Digger Study #5"

"There are two statements about human beings that are true: that all human beings are alike, and that all are different. On those two facts all human wisdom is founded."
—Mark Van Doren 

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Cattywompus Dust Devil Mickey Free

May 30, 2016
   Finishing up our cover story on Mickey Free And The Hunt for The Apache Kid. One of our main characters, Jim Young, describes meeting Mickey this way:

"I had never met the scrawny little fella before. First off, he came at you like some kind of dust devil, swirlin' around, all jumpy-like and skinny as a pick handle. He looked crazy enough with that ghost eye of his and him always looking cattywompus at you and the whole world. When you talked to him he leered at you sideways with that one good eye, but then he'd lead with his cloudy eye out front. Spooked everybody sure enough, me included."

Daily Whip Out: "The Dust Devil"

The Apache "Problem" In A Nutshell
   The hacendado was beside himself. "They say they want to be left alone. Then why do they come here in the middle of the night and steal our horses and kill our people?"

"Because they can," Mickey said. "You have to establish yourself as a man that people do not take advantage of."

"We just want to live in peace."

"Then you should move to Kansas, amigo."

As usual, Mick had a good point.

Daily Whip Out: "Crossing Sand Dunes Near Tres Castillos"

"Lying about the West in general and the Southwest in particular has been a cottage industry for over a century."
—Charles Bowden

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Apache Kid Treed?

May 29, 2016
   The Arizona Republic ran one of my True West Moments yesterday on Sibi's Boys, about the group of San Carlos riders, Al Sieber, Mickey Free, Tom Horn and the Apache Kid who rode the res dispensing frontier justice as they saw it. I mentioned that this lasted until the Kid was outlawed and went to Mexico to live out his days. I got this curious response:

I read with considerable interest your article in the May 28 Republic about The Apache Kid.  Your article states that the Kid fled to Mexico and was lost to history; that is one account I have read in past years.  However, the attached photo shows a sign posted by the US Forest Service in the Blue Mountains of New Mexico that states that the Kid died at this tree.  He was captured by a posse and hanged on the tree, and then buried at the base of the tree.  My son and I located this spot after a 6 hour hike and then smoked my home made peace pipe while sitting on a mound of earth beneath the tree...that certainly looks like an old grave.

What do you think?

Ron Diegle

The Apache Kid Treed?

I have visited several Apache Kid caves in Arizona where he allegedly hid out. They may be true, but I take these with a grain of salt. His notoriety probably accounts for most of the naming. I have heard and read about several oldtimers who claimed they bagged the Kid but none of them have been proven. Most historians that I know concede he lived out his life somewhere in the Sierra Madres. In fact, that is the theme of our August issue which we are working on right now. I would classify this story, above, as one of those many stories, although I am curious about why the Forest Service would give it official sanction like this.

"History is something that never happened, written by someone who wasn't there."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Village of The 300 Widows & Mickey Heads Home With Head

May 28, 2016
   The Top Secret Writer is in town for a book signing at Barnes & Noble. He's signing his new book, "The Apache Wars" which has gone into a second printing already. Afterwards he is coming out to the True West World Headquarters and we are going to jam on the final layouts for our cover story on Mickey Free and the hunt for the Apache Kid.

   Worked up a new version of a familiar theme:

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Heads Home With Head"

   Mickey Free came home from Mexico with a head he claimed belonged to the Apache Kid. Many dispute this, but if it wasn't the Kid's, whose head was it? Playing with two titles: "The Trickster With The Sidewinder Gaze," and "The Head Hunters." 

   Meanwhile, one of the aspects of the story that is difficult, and I'm not sure we'll even get into it in the magazine excerpt, but how do you accurately portray the Kid and his women? We have a wonderful story from Lynda Sanchez that lays out the claim that Lupe was his daughter. So, what was the mother's relationship with the Kid? Was she kidnapped and forced to cook for him. Probably. Could they have fallen in love and had a warm relationship? Probably not. But in terms of a movie, or a graphic novel, we need to try and portray something between them. I mean they had a kid, which pushes the creativity towards something like Patty Hearst on the low side and "Dances With Wolves" on the other.

Daily Whip Out: "Prisoner Or Mate?"

John Langellier brought me a never-before-published photograph of three Apache girls who claimed to have been kidnapped by the Kid. At the bottom of the photograph, the women, actually very young girls, describe very specific details of their ordeals, for example, here are the notes: "I-vo-ash-ay, a San Carlos woman abducted from Reservation by Apache Kid in September, 1890. Escaped November 10, 1892 Was employed by troops as guide in pursuit of 'Kid.'"

If true, I think we can safely assume she was not happy with her abduction and helped troops try and track him down. And, she would know his favorite hideouts, so that is intriguing.

The second girl is ID like this: "Na-thethlay, a San Carlos girl stolen by 'Kid' after he had killed her mother, May 17, 1892. The girl was turned loose 5 days later."

This one is heartbreaking. Imagine cooking and cleaning for the brute who killed your mother? No wonder he let her go five days later, she was probably inconsolable.

The third girl is described like this: "Nah-tah-go-yah, San Carlos girl stolen by 'Kid' from Reservation October 25, 1892, retaken by troops from San Carlos December 27, 1892, when Kid' attempted to recapture Jo-ash-ay, No. 2, above."

This is confusing because No. 2 above is ID as Na-thethlay and not Jo-ash-ay but, if true, the photograph and the handwritten notes imply the Kid was very active in Arizona. The consensus seems to be he fled to Mexico and lived out his life there. I would post it but we are planning on running the photo in the August issue. So stay tuned.

   As Mickey Free's crew rode deeper into the Sierra Madres they came to villages where the graves outnumbered the houses. Macho feuds and dog wars (a vaquero shoots someone's favorite dog and it escalates to oblivion) loaded up the graveyards. 

Daily Whip Out: "The Village of 300 Widows"

Dust Storm Shenanigans 
  And, of course Tom Horn is a homicidal hoot:  "A couple years ago when we were down here hunting Geronimo, Mickey was captured by Mexican troops near Fronteras. They didn't believe he was American, so they tied his hands to his saddle horn and put a rope around his mule's neck and led him with a trooper in front and back. Well, long about dusk a freak dust storm roared out of the mountains and engulfed the troops who had no choice but to wait it out. When the dust cleared Mickey and his mule were gone. The trooper was holding a branch of a mesquite tree!"

"That doesn't make sense," our guest protested. "How did he get loose, then find a mesquite branch in the middle of a dust storm to replace the rope with?"

Horn just laughed. "Listen here, Mr. Prisoner, it takes skill to build a barn. Any jackass can tear it down. Tell your own damn stories, amigo."

Daily Whip Out: "Horn Dog Horn Weighs In"

"You don't want to mess with Mick when his Irish is up."
—Tom Horn

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fired On

May 27, 2016
   He knew it was a trap but Mickey Free rode on anyway.

Daily Whip Out: "Fired On"

   I'm telling you, there was no stopping Mick or that mammoth jack when they got their noses out of joint. We saw four riders on a ridge called the Matalo (Kill him). We could feel the heat from the fire even at that distance and we saw the puff of smoke and heard the whang of a Winchester borne slug that took a chunk of Mickey's poncho with it. Mickey pulled out his Sharps, got down on one knee and let loose with his Big Fifty. We saw the dust jump off the jacket of the shooter as he reeled in the saddle and toppled to the ground. The rest of those Cabrons rode back towards the fire, as Mick and his jack went in hot pursuit.

Daily Whip Out: "Skirting The Edge of The Blaze"

   Doroteo's boys disappeared into a seam of the fire as Mickey rode on trying to get an angle on them. Unfortunately, the fire jumped out ahead of him and within no time had sucked up the backtrail. Now there was no going back, so he rode on into the teeth of the heat and the smoke.

Daily Whip Out: "Hot On The Trail"

Trapped on a cliff, Mickey's mule jumped straight through the flames and they made it out the other side. Soon enough he climbed another ridge to get a better view of the battlefield, but it was fire and devastation in all directions.

Coming Next: "A tall cool one." 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mickey Gets Rained On

May 26, 2016
   Sometimes, but not always, Mickey's obsession with clouds actually paid off, like on this hot day on the hunt for the Apache Kid in the Sierra Madres when everyone else was praying for rain. 

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Gets Rained On"

Jim Young remembered: "This freak thunderstorm blew in and dumped about an inch of rain right on Mickey's head, and no where else. Horn and I were riding right behind him and if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it. When I later asked Mickey why he thought it happened, he said, "Ussen wants me to be clean." "Could be," Horn quipped. "Or maybe Ussen thought you was stinkin' up the prairie and he hosed you off."

   "That's the kind of relationship those boys had on that long hunt so many years ago. Oh, and Ussen is the Apache's giver of life. Kind of like the Baptist's Jehovah, but nicer."

Daily Whip Out: "The Night Hunters"

"In the Land of Storytelling, I-didn't-see-that-coming is King."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Distant Dust Storms, Donkey Dynamite & Mickey Gets His Mule On

May 25, 2016
   Got up this morning intrigued by distant dust storms and their atmospheric effects. Painted this little study before I came into work. 

Daily Whip Out: "Distant Dust Storm"

Mickey Gets His Mule On
I am also revisiting how Mickey Free gravitated to a mule as his ride. Deep in the Sierra Madres, while his own horse stumbled around on the rocks, Mickey and the rest of the Crook packers and scouts watched helplessly as one of the cargo laden mules slipped off the trail and skidded to a 1,000 foot drop. The mule instinctively flattened out which stopped the slide, then slowly picked his way back up on the trail, grabbing hoof holds as he crawled back from the precipice, then shook himself off and went on up the trail. This amazing little feat prompted Mickey to say:

Daily Whip Out: "How Mickey Got His Mule On"

Donkey Dynamite!
And speaking of pack animals going off cliffs, it wasn't always a tragic ending. When the Norwegian explorer Carl Lumholtz was traversing the Sierra Madres with a large pack train in 1890, he heard a noise above him on the switchbacks and looked up to see a donkey with its pack on come hurtling past him, "turning over and over with astounding speed." The donkey sailed over his head, and down to a pillar of rock below him. The donkey hit the base of the pillar, then rolled over twice before coming to a halt. The donkey then got up in the midst of its scattered cargo which turned out to be a case of dynamite. Two of the Mexican packers scrambled down the slope, repacked the dynamite on the shaken but perfectly fine little donkey and led it up the trail where it pushed on "as coolly as if nothing had happened." This is from Richard Grant's wonderful book, "God's Middle Finger."

Of course, not everyone is in love with mules.

"A horse is a noble animal who performs his service with grace. A mule will wait his whole life for the opportunity to kill a man."
—J.P.S. Brown

Monday, May 23, 2016

Apache Juan and Curator Cal

May 23, 2016
   In the nineteen twenties and early thirties there were still free roaming Apaches in the northwest corner of the Sierra Madres in Mexico. One of the last "known" warriors to be tracked down and killed was this guy:

Daily Whip Out: "Apache Juan"

   There are no known photographs that I have seen of Apache Juan, thus the painting done in the old, tattered, scratched up way old photos are often found in the junk piles of posterity. If you've seen old photos you may have noticed writing on the photos, often as an ID or description of the scene, or to tag the year. I wanted an old hand writing style and unfortunately, I have a strong cartoonist hand writing style forged from years of block lettering practice. So I had someone I know with an anonymous hand write Apache Juan's name on the photo for authenticity purposes, of course.

Curator Cal forging the inscription on Apache Juan's "photograph"

   Assembling everything this week for the story in our August issue. Lots of debate on how to lay it out, position and present it. We'll see. Always a challenge.
"Your imagination is your preview to life's coming attractions."
—Albert Einstein

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Stubborn Norwegians and Cocaine-fueled Mexican Hillbillies Bent On Killing Brits for Sport In The Sierra Madres

May 21, 2016
   When I attended the Arizona History Conference in Yuma last month I was talking to John Langellier and Bruce Dinges about the Apache Kid and how he survived in the wilds of the Sierra Madres and Bruce said to me, "If you want to read a good book about the lawlessness of the Sierra Madres, you need to get 'God's Middle Finger,' by Richard Grant." I immediately went over to Shelly Dudley's Guidon Books (she had a booth at the conference) and asked her, "Do you have 'God's Middle Finger'?" to which she replied, "I certainly hope not."

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey's Mexican Saddle by Freddy Remington"

   We laughed, but she ordered me the book and I picked it up from her fine store in Scottsdale last weekend and my, oh my, is it ever a rip-roaring read. The full title is: "God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre," by Richard Grant and it's a modern tale, published in 2008, but it just as well could have been written in 1888. Everyone warns the author not to go because it's too dangerous now with the narco-BS going on down there, but he goes, over and over, longer and deeper, higher and higher, into the "strange on the range" absurdity that is the Sierra Madre (Mother Mountains, by the way). And even though most of the book is a romp and he's obviously having a blast with the locals, you can still get glimpses of the danger. The book opens with a taste, as they say:

"So this is what it feels like to be hunted. My spine is pressed up against the bark of a tree. My heart hammers against my rib cage with astonishing force. Here they come again. Here comes the big dented Chevy pickup with its engine roaring and its high-beam lights swinging through the darkness and the trees. The men in the truck are drunk and they have rifles and now there are other men on foot looking for me with flashlights."

Why are they chasing this harmless but very witty Brit who lived in Tucson at the time of the writing? Because, as he explains, they live in the mountains and the law is three hours away, and they are drunk and drugged up and they feel like hunting humans:

"We are the real killers here," the tall one growled at me in gruff mountain Spanish, back when I was desperately trying to make friends with them. "Further north they grow more drugs but here we are hundred percent killers."

   To my mind, this is exactly the kind of world Mickey Free, Tom Horn, James Young and the Apache Kid traversed 125 years ago. The contraband has changed but there is something strikingly the same in this description from the back of the book: "when cocaine-fueled Mexican hillbillies hunted (the author) through the woods all night, bent on killing him for sport."

   I just ordered two more copies of the book for my kids. One of the most wonderful trips our family has ever made was taking the Copper Canyon Railway from Los Mochis, on the Sea of Cortez, up into the Sierra Madres to Divisidero and then on to Creel and Chihuahua. (yes, I agree, this is a weird segue). On one of the days, we took a side trip from the train down into the canyon to a sleepy village, Cerocauhi, where the horses, and a distant donkey, ruled the main drag:

December 19, 2006 deep in Copper Canyon, photo by Deena Bell Bortscheller

An Excerpt From This Blog Written After We Got Back:

   I mentioned to Deena on the phone that there is one photo she took on our Copper Canyon, Mexico trip that has become iconic to me. It's funny, because when you're back from a vacation, you look at all the photos and they all seem to have the same weight, but then as time goes by, a dozen begin to stand out when you see them, then it narrows down to a couple, and last week I ran across a photo that Deena snapped in Cerocauhi, a tiny village way off down a dirt road (we had to ride in the back of a pickup to get there). It was my birthday and we walked down to a little shack on the edge of town to buy a six-pack of Tecates to celebrate and as we came back down on the road there were these two horses walking up the street. They stopped, one of them was in the fading daylight. There is a donkey tied to a post way in the background. Deena took a couple photos of the scene (a pickup came and parked next to the horses, who ignored them), but this one sums up the entire trip, and takes me right back there. It's so pristine and perfect. I can smell the woodsmoke from the fireplaces! 

   End of blog excerpt. Of course, the illustration of Mickey's saddle was not done by "Freddy Remington," but by a one-half Norwegian cartoonist who drew the saddle from a photograph he took of a vaquero's rig on the plaza at Cerocauhi the next day.

   One of the crazy aspects of Richard Grant's journey is the unlikely, to me at least, importance of Norwegians to the history of Sierra Madres. Two early Norwegian explorers figure prominently in the book, and by extension, to the story of the Apache Kid. I'll lay out the basic timeline and explain the connection in another post, but suffice to say, the connecting rod to the Sierra Madre experience and the punchline to our story involves my stubborn ancestors.

   When True West was going down the drain 15 years ago and both my partners bailed, everyone advised me to bail as well, but I didn't. I was recently laughing and talking to Kathy about this and all the weird, crazy obstacles I endured and how bizarre it is that True West is even still in business, and Kathy said to me, "It's not bizarre to me at all. You are a very stubborn Norwegian, just like your dad."

A stubborn Norwegian at Divisidaro (the Divide), photographed by Edmundo Mell, 1996

"It's always been dangerous, it's always been an anarchy, but now nearly all the decent people have been killed or run out and all the bad guys have automatic weapons, at least in the part of the Sierra that I know. It's become the kind of anarchy that gives anarchy a bad name."
—R.P.S. Brown, as quoted in "God's Middle Finger"

Friday, May 20, 2016

Back On The Tail Trail

May 20, 2016
   working on a couple Mickey Free ideas:

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Often Sees Faces In The Clouds"

   My Fort Apache friends tell me in the Apache language, "bishahn" is a fallen woman, not necessarily a loose woman, but definitely damaged goods.

The Tail Trail
   "Dammit, how many times have I got to tell you—follow the bishahn!" Al Sieber said, slamming his fist on the table. And so, Mickey did. When the Apache Kid's latest "girlfriend" showed up back at San Carlos loaded down with "graduation presents," Mickey talked to the girl and managed to get a good idea of the area of operations for the outlaw, then simply rode out, plucked a beauty from the closest village and led her up into the mountains where he knew the Kid would "find" her. It wasn't Tinder, but it was damn close.

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Works The Tail Trail"

    I know. I know. This is rude beyond belief, but in the Sierra Madre this is actually considered the polite way of doing business. Here's what one of our best writers had to say about the lure of the Sierra Madres:

"During the revolution Martin Luis Guzman rode the train through Navojoa and looked over at the Sierra and felt what we all do when we see its green folds rising up off the desert. We all wonder what is up there and in some part of us, that rich part where our mind plays beyond our commands, we all dread and lust for what is up there."
—Charles Bowden, "The Secret forest"