Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dan Thrapp Was The Historians' Historian Who Also Rode Mules

February 28, 2017
   Rained most of the night and all this morning. The washes were rippin' so I stayed home and took a couple swings at some mule art coverage.

   Got into the office at two, got a great photo in the mail from Lynda Sanchez in Lincoln. She thought it might be a cool photo for the mule issue.  She is absolutely right about that!

A young Dan Thrapp, 1940

  Dan was crossing the Andes from Argentina to Bolivia in order to enlist. Check out those saddles.  Here's the back story:

Pack Mule Specialist, Dan Thrapp
   After Pearl Harbor, the young United Press reporter, Dan Thrapp, and another American wanted to head home from their Buenos Aires assignment to join the army.  Strangely, the quickest way was by mule over the rugged Andes Mountains separating Chile and Argentina.  Rough passage required pistolas and tough men.  Once they got to the coast they caught a freighter back to the U.S.  Thrapp was assigned to the Burma, China, India Theater of Operations.  He became a pack mule specialist and served with special forces for more than two years until malaria took its toll and he returned home.  As a result of his experience with mules, Dan became an ardent admirer of the animal and often commented that he would take a mule over a horse any day of the week, including Sunday! Perhaps this is one reason why he understood the value of the mule and the frustrations of the U.S. Cavalry during the closing days of the Apache wars.  Without mules and the Apache Scouts, those wars would have continued long after 1886. Dan Thrapp authored 14 books including six on the Apache Wars. 

The above info was provided by Lynda A. Sánchez, one of Dan Thrapp’s greatest admirers.  Photo Courtesy Linda Nicholl (Dan’s daughter), from Lynda Sánchez collection.

   Dan was the historian's historian. I only got to talk to him on the phone before he passed, but we all admired him. Back to mule art coverage:

Custer Vs. Cody 
   George Armstrong Custer thought his thoroughbred horse could easily beat Bill Cody's mule in a 65 mile run. He was dead wrong. 

Daily Whip Out: "Custer & Cody Before The Race"

I also did a solo shot of Buffalo Bill astride his grey mule:

Daily Whip Out: "Cody On His Trusty Mule"

Thanks to "The Jackass Lady" we have compiled some great stuff, like this:

A Jackass And His Illegitimate Child, Will Eat Anything
Sage-brush is a very fair fuel, but as a vegetable it is a distinguished failure. Nothing can abide the taste of it but the jackass and his illegitimate child, the mule. But their testimony to its nutritiousness is worth nothing, for they will eat pine - knots, or anthracite coal, or brass filings, or lead pipe, or old bottles, or anything that comes handy, and then go off looking as grateful as if they had had oysters for dinner.” 
—Mark Twain, Roughing It

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Mighty American Mule Finally Gets His Due

February 27, 2017
   I am working with mule experts from around the country on our big mule opus for May.  The one who is doing the heavy lifting is a woman who goes by the handle "The Jackass Lady." This is so bold I can hardly stand it. Here's my proposed take on the opening spread artwork. 

Daily Whip Out: "The Mighty American Mule Finally Gets His Due"

Too Smart for Rodeo?
   Ever wonder why you never see mules in the bucking chutes at a rodeo? According to my mule-savvy friend, Raymond Isenberg, a mule won't always come out bucking. He may buck one time and not the next. He may stop in mid-buck to stare at the crowd. He may run out and make a lap around the arena and then stop to look at everything. Or, he may run and twist trying to dislodge his rider, but he rarely will buck in the classic bareback rider form that horses do all day long. Now, this same mule may be "broke" to ride and two years later, on some lonely trail, decide to put on a first class rodeo buck-athon, but that is the mule's prerogative. They are too smart to just start bucking on command, like horses do. Or, as R.P.S. Brown puts it:"The 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."

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey's Daily Morning Rodeo"

   Also working on a couple other things, Custer for example.

Daily Whip Out: "Custer Hot to Trot Sketches"

   Went home for lunch and tried to whip out a cover idea of Custer and Cody heading up hill, but didn't finish. Yes, this is inspired by the great Nick Eggenhofer who did these kinds of scenes with such skill and panache.

Daily Whip Out: "Custer & Cody
In Progress"

Mickey Free And His Big, Bad Mammoth Jack
   It would make sense that the mixed-breed captivo, Mickey Free, would choose a sure-footed, fearless, intelligent and trusted companion: in this case, a big, bad mammoth Jack which he calls Tu, which is Spanish for "You." Now, some frontiersmen ride mules (that would be a John or a Molly) but Mickey prefers a straight-up Jack stud. Needless to say, they both get in a lot of trouble.

Daily Whip Out: Mickey Free On His Big, Bad Mammoth Jack"

"Horses were worth from fifty to one hundred dollars, and mules from
seventy-five to one hundred and fifty."
—Dr. George Keller, St. Joseph, Missouri, 1849


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Custer Races Cody: Mule vs. Thoroughbred

February 26, 2017
   Spent most the day trying to capture Custer On The Rise (1867). Studied his known photographs of him mounted on horseback. Someone told me he had a dozen horses shot out from under him during the Civil War, which would make the horse he was riding at the Little Bighorn, the 13th horse. I've long thought that would be a cool title: "The Thirteenth Horse."

Daily Whip Out: "Custer Sketches"

   Got an ambitious scene going of William Cody on his mule, flanking Custer as they set off on their 65 mile ride. One version says Custer rode his horse to death. Trying to confirm. Talked to Hutton (he's skeptical) but forwarded him a version by Cody's sister saying that is what happened. Waiting for verdict.

"I must say I shall regret to see the war end [;] I would be willing, yes glad, to see a battle every day during my life."
—George Armstrong Custer, October 3, 1862

Saturday, February 25, 2017

I'm Old Enough to Know Better

February 25, 2017
   One of my favorite things about being in the history biz is getting to see new research and new finds almost on a daily basis. Got this photograph today from Chuck Usmar who is a crackerjack researcher and writer on the subject of a certain group of Irish Boys in Lincoln County:

Triple B Baseball Coach?

Dolan's Nine

"I uncovered this photo in my research on Murphy and Dolan. In my opinion the coach sure looks like you—the hat, the duds, the mustache, the face, same wry smile. Thought I'd share it with you.  BTW, Dolan was said to have been a sponsor of the team."
—Chuck Usmar

   Yes, I do see the resemblence. Meanwhile, got a couple more juicy tidbits from my mule afficionados:

Castrated Jacks And Gelding Horses
   "Male mules, jacks, were nearly always gelded due to the fact that they usually behaved worse than stallions. They were extremely hard to control and usually considered dangerous and unreliable."
—Lee Anderson

New Mexican Mucho Macho Mulos
   "In our region of NM they refer to a Mule as a Macho.  Ironically Macho means male or strong male characteristics but we also know that a male mule (un macho) is sterile. hmmmm how can that be?  ha ha

   "Then mula can mean money in slang terminology and it is also a type of shoe worn by el Papa (the Pope).  And Mula of course refers to a female mule while Mulo or Macho is the counterpart."
—Lynda Sanchez, Lincoln, New Mexico

"I'm not young enough to know everything."
—Sir James Matthew Barrie

Friday, February 24, 2017

Custer Vs. Cody On The Worthiness of Mules

February 24, 2017
   Thanks to Paul Andrew Hutton I copped this little exchange for our mule coverage in May:

Daily Whip Out: "Custer Vs. Cody Sketch"

Custer's Thoroughbred Vs. Cody's Mule
   William F. Cody had an encounter with General George Armstrong Custer regarding the worthiness of mules vs. horses. Here is Cody's description of a march from Fort Hays to Fort Larned:

"Early in the morning, after a good night's rest, I was on hand, mounted on my large mouse-colored mule—an animal of great endurance—and ready for the journey; when the General saw me he said: — "Cody, I want to travel fast and go through as quickly as possible, and I don't think that mule of yours is fast enough to suit me."

"General, never mind the mule," said I, "he'll get there as soon as your horses. That mule is a good one," as I knew that the animal was better than most horses.

"Very well; go ahead, then," said he, though he looked as if he thought I would delay the party on the road.

For the first fifteen miles, until we came to the Smokey Hill river, which we were to cross, I could hardly keep the mule in advance of the General, who rode a frisky, impaitent and ambitious thoroughbred steed; in fact, the whole party was finely mounted. The General repeatedly told me that the mule was "no good" and that I ought to have had a good horse. But after crossing the river, and striking the sand-hills, I began letting my mule out a little, and putting the 'persuaders' to him. He was soon out-traveling the horses, and by the time we had made about half the distance to Fort Larned, I occasionally had to wait for the General or some of his party. We rode into the fort at four o'clock in the afternoon with about half the escort only, the rest having lagged far behind."

—William F. Cody, in The Autobiography of Buffalo Bill

Daily Whip Out: "Cover Concepts for The Mighty Mule Finally Gets His Due

"Be kind to unkind people. They need it the most."
—Ashleigh Brilliant

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Ken And Boze Show: A Mammoth Jack In Moonlight

February 23, 2017
   There's an old saw in business that if two guys agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. Well, here's two guys who agree on quite a few things, but fight like cats and dogs over many other things (like those covers on the wall behind us, for instance). 

    The Ken and Boze Show: Duking It Out Daily

   It does get hairy from time to time, but we are still showing up every day and publishing 12 issues a year, so we should get points for that. Actually, we're still laughing, so take that for what it's worth. Also, the guy who took this photo is our T-shirt guru, Roger Peterson who was sitting across the table from us in the conference room:

Roger Peterson showing us his new line of shirts

   See those photos over his left shoulder? Those are Facebook stats on images that have gone through the roof. We study those numbers and try to determine if the clicks there are trying to tell us something. Meanwhile, Roger has been on me for at least a year to finish a T-shirt Design on Wild Bill. He thinks this is a T-shirt design waiting to happen:

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Hickok, The First Gunfighter"

   Home stretch on mule coverage. Going to be mammoth. A couple new revelations, the first by Raymond Isenberg, who comments, "Have you ever wondered why you never see mules come out of bucking chutes at rodeos? That's because a mule will often come out, not bucking. He may go down the side and look things over before doing anything. They are too smart to just start bucking mindlessly like horses do."

Daily Whip Out: "A Mammoth Jack In The Moonlight"

   "I was talking to the dog. There ain't a man livin' who hasn't talked to his dog."
—Hank Williams, on writing his 1947 classic, "Move It On Over"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How The Tenacious Mule Conquered The West But Lost The Popular Vote

February 22, 2017
   Working hard on the history of mules, the psychology of mules all the while, fighting the prevalent mule prejudice. Fortunately, I have some good sources for solid information, like Lee Anderson, who knows his stuff.

Lee Anderson On Zelda

Lee sends me tidbits almost every day, like this:

Mules Go Long Time
   "According to a chart in Manual Of Pack Transportation that shows loads and rates of travel practicable for a well seasoned pack train, mules loaded with 200 pounds of supplies could travel 25 miles a day at 8 miles per hour for 7 consecutive days. At 6 miles per hour the same mules with the same loads could travel one hundred miles a day for for 3 consecutive days,or at 5 miles per hour the mules could travel 25 miles a day for 365 consecutive days.

    "If traveling with the cavalry,pack mules could not keep up with the horses for the initial fifteen miles but were pushing them at thirty miles and had the horses at their mercy in a march of 75 miles in a 24 hour period.

   "According to Crook's long time adjutant, Captain Bourke, the care packers gave their mules equaled, 'almost that given to the average baby'. The mule, Bourke added, responded to such attentions".

   "Female, or Molly, mules were preferred. They were considered more manageable, easier to train, and had a more pleasant disposition, Male mules, jacks, were nearly always gelded due to the fact that they usually behaved worse than stallions. They were extremely hard to control and usually considered dangerous and unreliable.

The Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad, right, on his trusty mule, getting set to embark
 into the Sierra Madres of Old Mexico in 1936. Both his guide and Apache scouts, were
mounted on mules as well. Many believe Ingstad found the Apache Kid's daughter.

   "Even when an army mule couldn't see the bell mare it would follow the sound of the bell. Should the bell mare happen to be killed the mules would become completely disoriented. Many army packers insisted mules would express grief that was almost human.

   "A mule could be larger than either parent.

   "Hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of people know who Trigger and Champion were but, how many know who 583R and 9YLL were? They were known by army packers and troopers as Trotter and Hambone and were the last two pack mules mustered out of the army with full military honors and recognition on 15  December 1956 at Fort Carson, Colorado. 

   "Trotter became the official mascot for cadets at the U.S.Military Academy at West Point, New York.

   "Hambone was an extraordinary jumper. He never lost a mule jumping contest and at Fort Carson, Colorado in 1950, jumping against horses, he bested all but the first place winner."
—Lee Anderson

"Perhaps there is no other animal so much abused, or so little cared for. Popular opinion of his nature has not been favorable; and he has had to plod and work through life against the prejudices of the ignorant."
—Muleskinner Harvey Riley, 1867

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Many Mule Dismount Options

February 21, 2017
   Busy trying to nail down all the mule art I want to do for our mule issue in May.
Going to be a fun deal. Here's a couple pages of roughs from my sketchbook:

Daily Whip Out: "Why The Long Face?"

I'm also running the diary entry from the Ingstad expedition where he was on switchbacks in the Sierra Madre when a mule carrying dynamite came tumbling off the trail above him, went over his head, crashed into a pillar and survived!

Daily Whip Out: "Mule Carrying Dynamite Tumbles By"

Mules are notorious for their ability to be calm for days and even years, and then. . .

Daily Whip Out: "The Mule Slingshot Dismount"

    Others dismount efforts are more simple and direct:

Daily Whip Out: "The Mule Ejection Seat Dismount"

   I've got a ton more, but here is my list of artwork and photos I intend to run in the feature:

Daily Whip Out: "Mule Wish List"

True Mule Tales

"A long time ago, my dad came home from an auction with a mule. He bought it in the town of Wink, so he named him "Wink." Of course I was 'voluntold' to saddle up and when I did I saw the peak of the barn in a 'wink.'"
—Larry Berger

The Quirky Obit of Tim Quirk

February 21, 2017
   We have been debating obits at the True West World Headquarters. Do they belong in True West, and, if so, 
how do we do them? Thanks to Andy Sansom in Kingman, who has been perusing old Kingman Daily Miners
 we get this hilarious, old school example of a no-holds-barred obit.

Kingman Daily Miner, January 11, 1902

Then, wouldn't you know it, Linda Gay Mathis actually finds a photo of said Tim Quirk:

Thanks to the Utah State Historical Society. Too rich. Too quirky!

"We are never prepared for what we expect."
—James Michener

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Father of Our Country On Spanish Jack

February 20, 2017
   In honor of President's Day, we should all tip our hat to the Father of our Country:

Daily Whip Out: "George On His Spanish Jack"

The Father of Mules In The U.S.
"I have a prospect of introducing into this Country a very excellent race of animals also, by means of the liberality of the King of Spain. One of the Jacks which he was pleased to present to me (the other perished at sea) is about 15 hands high, his body and Limbs very large in proportion to his height; and the Mules which I have had from him appear to be extremely well formed for Service. I have likewise a Jack and two Jennets from Malta, of a very good size, which the Marquis de la Fayette sent to me. The Spanish Jack seems calculated to breed for heavy, slow draught; and the other for the Saddle or lighter carriages. 
   "From these, altogether, I hope to secure a race of extraordinary goodness, which will stock the Country. Their longevity and cheap keeping will be circumstances much in their favor. I am convinced, from the little experiments I have made with ordinary Mules, (which perform as much labor, with vastly less feeding than horses) that those of a superior quality will be of the best cattle we can employ for the harness.
   "And indeed, in a few years, I intend to drive no other in my carriage: having appropriated for the sole purpose of breeding them, upwards of 20 of my best Mares".

George Washington, in a letter to Arthur Young, December 4, 1788

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mules And Issues of Trust

February 19, 2017
   Started raining just after three, two nights ago, got more showers on and most of the yesterday and today. Worked in my studio on all kinds of mule subjects: charging mules, climbing mules, braying mules and crazy, bucking mules. I'm also doing a series of mule portraits.

Daily Whip Out: "Mule Portrait No. 1"

Daily Whip Out: "Mule Portrait No. 2"

   I also asked for mule stories and almost immediately, got this one:

True Stories of Mules In Action

How A Mule Reset My Broken Arm
   Several years ago I went on a riding vacation in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Southern Spain. I had intended to ride a horse, but I broke my arm in a riding accident a month before we were due to leave on vacation. So, instead, for safety's sake, I was teamed up with a steady, 16-hands-high bay mule named Cordera. We rode 100 miles through the mountains along tiny goat paths that were only a few feet across and a long drop on one side. Here's the weird thing that Cordera did. We had to ride up onto a ridge at one point on the trail. It was a steep slope, with loose rocks, that seemed to go straight upwards, before it narrowed onto a trail that wound around the side of a cliff. The other horses on the trail took their time and found the climb hard going. We all ended up lined up on the edge of the slope. I couldn't ride forward because of the horse in front. My mule grew impatient to be moving and cranky at being wedged between two horses while standing on the slope. He began to flick his tail dramatically at the horse behind him, took a few bouncy hops backwards and forwards, launched his back legs into the air and walloped the horse behind him cleanly in the chest. He didn't so much as buck, but do a sort of jump-kick, which was impressive considering he was standing at an angle with his front end higher than his back when he began. My broken arm, which I had been resting on the saddle horn, flew up into the air and out and back to the side. There was a loud pop. I was in agony. I said a few choice words to Cordera, I can tell you! The days afterwards, I realized I could move my arm around better than before. When I went home, I had an x-ray done and the doctor told me that my arm had started to heal. Basically, to sum up, in doing what he did, the mule reset the bone in my arm. I was due to have surgery when I returned home, but I didn't need to thanks to him. It's been 20 years since this happened and the arm that was broken probably has better range of motion than the other does and it's all thanks to a cranky mule!
—Elena Sandidge
Lexington, Kentucky

Daily Whip Out: "Charging Mule"

   I have been learning quite a bit about mules and I have to admit there is something very appealing in their oddness. There is also an attraction:

"Until one has loved a mule, part of the soul remains unawakened"
—Old Vaquero Saying

   All in all, the mule is quite an enigma:

"The mule is an enduring animal, he will bear fatigue and cold, and heat and hunger, and abuse. The greater the hardship, the more patient he becomes. But no man can trust a mule"
—Lieutenant Joseph Sladen, remarking in horror at General Howard's choice of mounts on their peace mission to meet Cochise, page 177 of the book "The Apache Wars" by Paul Andrew Hutton

Friday, February 17, 2017

My Kingdom For An Ass

February 17, 2017
   Spent the morning utilizing some great photo reference I got yesterday with Lee Anderson and his mule. 

Daily Whip Out: "Kit Carson On The Hunt"

   Wanted to capture that early morning light and how it plays on a mounted rider traversing a mountainside:

Daily Whip Out Sketches: "Kit Carson On The Hunt"

My Kingdom For An Ass
   I read somewhere that both Napoleon and Santa Anna (who styled himself as the "Napoleon of The West") barely escaped capture on separate ocassions, by fleeing on mules. In the case of Napoleon, he knew a mule was more sure-footed and would help him traveling by night, whereas his Arabian stud would probably cause him to be discovered. I believe Santa Anna was in a carriage pulled by mules and cut one loose to effect his escape from U.S. troops who were closing in on him.

   Speaking of great mule stories, I want to gather a few more mule stories. The kind where you have witnessed mules doing something amazing, or crazy. If you have one send it to me at:


   Include your full name, city and state. If I use your story in our upcoming mule opus you will receive a free subscription (or artprint, if you already have a sub). Thanks.

   Learning to push the color on those mules, above. Learned that from van Gogh, of course. I am learning, slowly but surely.

"If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mules at Sunrise

February 16, 2017
   Had a photo shoot this morning at Ken Amorosano's ranchito off Fleming Springs.

BBB On Zelda

   Lee Anderson and his wife Margarite came out with their sweet mule, Zelda, at seven, and we rode out to the canyon to the north of Ken's house and waited for the light. We weren't disappointed.

BBB On Zelda

   Ken took the above shots. Lee also brought along his trusty steed Concho and I took some reference shots of him as well:

Lee Anderson On Concho Cutting for Sign

Ken also grabbed this shot of me in the arena at the end of the shoot.

BBB In The Arena

"Creativity is freedom. Ability is a poor man's wealth."
—Ricky Gervais

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mule Face: His Voice Is His Own Derision

February 15, 2017
   Slamming along the old mule trail. People seem to love 'em and hate 'em in equal measure. As one wag put it: "All the bad things they say about them are true, all the good things are also true. To know them is to love them."

Daily Wbip Out: "Old Mule Face"

"Father and mother he does not resemble, sons and daughters he will never have; vindictive and patient (it is a known fact that he will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once); solitary but without pride, self-sufficient but without vanity; his voice is his own derision."
—William Faulkner

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mighty Mules & Shave Tails

February 14, 2017
   I'm hard at work on a big feature story we are planning for May: How the mighty mule conquered the West. For me it's turned out to be a bit of a love story, so it's perfect for Valentine's Day.

Mountain Men On Mules

  I was more than a little surprised to find out how many legendary Westerners rode mules. Buffalo Bill rode a mule when he was a scout. Wild Bill Hickok rode a mule when he was in the Army. The list goes on and on.

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Mule Man"

Turns out almost all the early expeditions were mule mounted.

Mule Man Frank Dellenbaugh

The Shavetail
   "Shavetails were new and untrained mules sent to a packtrain. A packer shaved the new arrivals' tails and roached their manes to distinguish them from the bell sharps, who knew to follow the sound of the bell on the mare's neck and to line up before their own packsaddles at the sound of the bell each morning. Shavetails tended to wander around and get into trouble."
—Emmett M. Essen, "Shavetails & Bell Sharps: The History of the U.S. Army Mule

Crook Nails The Packtrain
   "The officer who was recognized as using packtrains to full advantage was George Crook. He took such pains to organize his civilian trains with efficient packers, well-bred, barrel-bellied mules, and properly fitted Mexican packsaddles that other commands initially scoffed at his efforts. Only after his troops performed so well in subduing the Paiutes and Apaches and he was promoted over some forty senior-ranked officers of the line to become a department commander did other envious officers take notice and begin organizing trains of their own based on the Crook model. Until then some had ridiculed him with a little ditty about his mule packers."
—Emmett M. Essen, ibid

I'd like to be a packer
And pack with George F. Crook
And dressed up in my canvas suite.
And be for him mistook.
I'd braid my beard in two long tails,
And idle all the day
In whittling sticks and wondering
What the New York papers say.
—Downey, Indian Fighting Army

   And, of course, as I've said before, not everybody was, or is, a fan of these mighty mules:

A Hybrid Outrage Upon Nature
"[Since before the Mexican War] many soldiers were, therefore, closely acquainted with mules, and most looked upon them with scorn. To them this hybrid cross of the ass and the noble mare was an outrage upon nature, a monstrosity, unapproachable in devilment, fathomless in cunning, and the originator of a distinct and uninterrupted series of tricks. The mule showed little dexterity except of the accurate flinging of its hooves or its ability to step on the nearest solder's feet or gear."
—James W. Steele, 1883

"A mule is as good as a horse until you need a horse."
—Baxter Black

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Baja Hinny

February 13, 2017
   Worked over the weekend on a mule scene for our upcoming issue on how the mule conquered the West. 

Daily Whip Out: "The Baja Hinny"

Daily Whip Out: "Muy Malo Mula Sketch"

Daily Whip Out: "Mule March Sketch"

Got several books, but more importantly, I know the right muleteers and I'm on the hunt.

"The American government resembles a burro; but on this burro lawyers will ride, not priests."
—Padre Antonion Martinez, Taos, New Mexico (1860s)