Thursday, August 31, 2017

Frank James Comes Clean With A Poodle On His Lap

August 31, 2017
   As you will read in the next issue of True West, Frank James doesn't get much respect. It's Jesse who gets all the glory. In an excellent 8-page-feature by our very own Meghan Saar, we learn some valuable insights into the senior—and deadliest—member of the James Gang:

"Jesse laughs at everything—Frank at nothing at all. Jesse is light-hearted, reckless, devil-may-care—Frank sober, sedate, a dangerous man always in ambush in the midst of society."
—John Edwards. November 22, 1873

   Jesse was the showman, but it was Frank who was the badass. It was Cole Younger who, on his deathbed, admitted it was the "man on the dun horse" who killed the cashier, Joseph Heywood, in Northfield during the gang's botched robbery attempt (Cole spent 25 years in prison for the crime but he still wouldn't drop dime on his friend). Thanks to some detective work on the part of the late Jack Koblas, we now know that the man on the dun horse was Frank James. In spite of his homicidal tendencies, or, maybe because of them, Frank had the wisdom and foresight to give up his outlaw ways and go straight. Here he is in the early 1900s sitting in the backyard with his poodle. He's still got those eyes, though.

Frank James With Poodle, a classic photo from the Bob McCubbin collection

We think the actor who captured all of the above with some skill and authentic accuracy is this guy:

The late, great Sam Shepard captured Frank the best in
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (2007)

   Although Sam is not in the movie that long—someone told me he is only in it for about ten minutes—he literally channels the famous outlaw as no one else has, ever. True, he was too old to play the outlaw in the events portrayed in the movie, but Sam still captured something wonderful and yes, cranky, about the Missouri farm boy, turned savage brigand. Shepard, as Frank, says to the sycophant Bob Ford (Casey Affleck): "Sidekick? You're giving me the willies."

   The film gets better with each viewing and part of the brilliance is Sam Shepard's Frank James. And, to boot, Henry Parke pays homage to Shepard in a fine recap of his long career, also in this issue.

"I hope before I die the people of the North and South will join hands and build a monument somewhere on the Mason Dixon Line as high as the tower of Babel to the memory of the Blue and the Gray with this inscription, 'Union and Liberty, one and inseparable, now and forever.'"
—Frank James

One More Whip Out On Wild Bill's Wild Women
This is my take on Mary Owen, "an eighth-blood Shawnee of great attraction." According to old-timers in Kansas, Wild Bill Hickok wooed and won her hand when he was marshal there. 

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill's Mary Owen"

"The only good Indian in art is a big one."
—William R. Leigh

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Slack Wire Queen Who Stole Wild Bill's Heart

August 30, 2017
   If you know anything about the story of Wild Bill Hickok you no doubt are aware that Calamity Jane is buried right next to the world's first gunfighter. Thanks to Jane—and a couple dozen books and movies—the two are linked forever as romantic partners.

   Although it's not true, that they were a romantic couple, it certainly qualifies as a calamity, if you like your history straight.

   Let's start with the real Mrs. Hickok. She is certainly worthy of respect.

Daily Whip Out: "Agnes Lake Equestrian Extraordinaire"

Full disclosure: I rendered this, utilizing a photograph of Lake's daughter Emma, who Agnes groomed to be an equestrian star as well. There is a strong likeness in photographs of the mother and daughter and I wanted to illustrate Agnes in her prime. Unfortunately, the surviving photos of Mrs. Hickok are not flattering, and, in fact, I believe contribute to her being erased from the legend of Wild Bill. More on that in a bit.

   Thanks to the excellent research and scholarship by Linda A. Fisher and Carrie Bowers, the story of Agnes Lake Hickok is finally fleshed out in their fine book, "Agnes Lake Hickok: Queen of the Circus, Wife of A Legend," which I highly recommend. Here are just a couple of the early highlights:

May 1, 1846
   A young farm girl, age 19, from Ohio runs off with a circus clown. Mary Agnes Mersmann and William Lake Thatcher apply for a marriage license in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Thatcher is a long time circus clown and is billed as a "Shakespearean Jester" with the Great Western Circus, among other traveling "mud shows." So called because these traveling shows used wagons and the roads were so bad they invariably got stuck in the mud.

April 26, 1847
   Mrs. Agnes Lake performs her circus debut on the "slack wire" (The wire is not pulled taut, like on a tight rope, which allows the wire to "hang like a shallow crescent" while the artist performs stunts while the rope swings in great arcs.) with the Rockwell & Company's New York Circus.

March 25, 1848
   In front of a hometown crowd in Cincinnati, Mrs. Agnes Lake performs on the slack wire. According to her brother Joseph, she only "fell off 3 times, but on the whole she made a very favorable impression on the audience. She had presents thrown in the ring to the value of $40." Oh, and she was also pregnant!

Daily Whip Out: "Agnes Lake As Mazeppa" From a photograph 

Agnes toured Europe in a stage play called "Mazeppa" and trained all of her horses to perform in it. After her husband's murder, the talented widow took over the circus and ran it herself. She met Hickok when she brought her circus to Abilene, Kansas, on July 31, 1871. Wild Bill was the town marshal and Agnes needed to pay him the license fees for public entertainments and arrange security. Nothing romantic happened on this first meeting, but she was quite taken by the handsome law dog. Four years later, and only weeks before his assassination, the two were married in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

So, how did Calamity Jane successfully bump Mrs. Wild Bill right out of the picture? It's an ugly story, but I'll cover that when we get there.

"'Wild Bill,' of Western fame, has conquered numerous Indians, outlaws, bears and buffaloes, but a charming widow has stolen the magic wand."
Cheyenne Daily Sun

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Billy The Kid Keeps Circling Back. Why?

August 29, 2017
   No matter how far I roam,  I invariably find myself circling back to Lincoln County and the Kid. Curator Kristi found some juicy monoprints of Billy this week. Here is my fave:

Daily Whip Out: "Billy Monoprint"

   The day before yesterday, two dynamos swept into my office to regale me with their theories about an alleged photo of the Kid and Pat Garrett, and Dave Rudabaugh and Chaves Y Chaves. Here is the picture blown up into poster style. Frank swears it's the Kid (second from left in the photo).

Frank and Mike Abrams with Frank's Billy

"Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know."
—Pema Chodron

Slicing It Thin
"The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself."
—James Thurber

Random Thought:
   We are prisoners of our phones. That's why they are called "cell phones."

Old West History, Straight Up
"I enjoy the objective information presented in True West magazine, which paints a picture as vivid as any Hollywood movie."
—Bryan Braswell, Knickerbocker, Texas

A Final Note On Writing Well
"If you find writing easy, you're doing it wrong."
—Bret Stephens

Monday, August 28, 2017

Wild Bill's Wild Women

August 28, 2017
   Working on the book.

Wild Bill's Wild Women
   James Butler Hickok was a good looking man with broad shoulders and narrow hips, crowned by a Samson head of hair and a face punctuated with piercing gray eyes. As the oldtimers were fond of  putting it—he was easy on the eyes—and more than one frontier woman came under the sway of his masculine charms. 

James Butler Hickok, Leavenworth, Kansas, 1867 or 68 which would make him
30 or 31 years of age at the time of the photo.

Daily Whip Out: "Just One of Wild Bill's Wild Women"

One More Thing:
   Wild Bill did not kiss and tell. While he was on tour with Buffalo Bill's Combination, a reporter for the Springfield, Massachusetts, Republican wrote, "He is a bachelor, and is supposed never to have been in love, though upon this point, as on many others, even his most intimate friends do not speak with assurance, for Wild Bill keeps his secrets closely guarded."

Daily Whip Out: "Mary Owen"

His first love was supposedly one Mary Owen, "an eighth-blood Shawnee of great attraction." Jule Hadley, an early day resident of Johnson County, Kansas, told of their romance in 1901: "Hickok was one of the first constables of Monticello township and remained there a year after his term of office had expired in an effort to marry Mary Owen. . .I carried many notes to the lady for him as I made my home with the Owens. The public does not know it but his matrimonial failure and disappointment made him [into] 'Wild Bill'. . ." Some say Hickok's own family disapproved of the mixed marriage and it led to a family rift, but many in the Montecello area maintain the two were married but did not get along and separated, with Owen later marrying a doctor named Harris.

  Hickok also had a liason with Sarah Shull at Rock Creek, although she denied it just before her death, saying, "I almost had an affair with Hickok," the key word being "almost."

Daily Whip Out: "Oh, Susannah!"

   Other's who may have had a fling with the handsome frontiersman, included a woman named Susannah Pruitt (or Moore) and there were plenty others who have been lost in the mists of time. As for Calamity Jane and the one who ultimately got a wedding band on his hand, we'll get to those two later.

"Virtue is the lack of adequate temptation."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Three Chords And The Truth

August 27, 2017
    I was on my way to Ken's house for dinner last night when I saw a storm forming over Elephant Butte. It was in the shape of a big, fat, flying V. Got up this morning and took a couple cracks at it:

Daily Whip Out: "Flying V Clouds, #1"

Daily Whip Out: "Flying V Clouds, #2"

   My life improved when this guy showed up:

Two Roads West: One from New York and the other from Iowa.
Ken Amorosano and me at End of Trail, 2006

   Together, we have accomplished something at True West that eluded me and my other partners for a decade-and-a-half. We have no debt and we pay our bills without having to use a credit card and we put out 12 hard-nosed, historically accurate issues a year, on time, every time.

Three Chords And The Truth
   Here's a couple song lyrics and musicians that speak to me and mine on this crazy journey:

"Good guys, bad guys, which is which? The white collar worker or the digger in the ditch? Man, who's to say who's a better man, I've always done the best I can."
—The Standells, "Good Guys Don't Wear White"

"I went down hard, like Billy the Kid. But I got back up again. . ."
—Tom Petty, "Like Billy the Kid"

"I've done some some foolish things, I've been downright stupid, been a sucker for a pretty face, Lord I was polluted, people say, would you go back, I say, no way, no how, because I like where I am now."
—Don Henley, Cass County "Where I Am Now"

"You know I Gotsta Get Paid."
—ZZ Top

"The best songs make you glad to be alive. It doesn't matter if it's Beethoven or the Monkees."

"You should go to the Love show in Las Vegas. It's like drum boogie. It's so far-out."

And Here's Three Footnotes And The Truth
"The historian must not care what the truth is.  His only task is to find it.  It is a whole lot easier to 'prove' Doc, or any other Western figure was a scoundrel or a hero than to find the truth.  All you have to do is find sources that support preconceived prejudice."
—Dr. Gary L. Roberts

"What people choose to believe, is a fact in itself."
—Leon Metz

"Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult risk is to be honest with ourselves."
—Walter Anderson

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Revenge of The Buffalo, Or, The Cauldron

August 26, 2017
   Planning a road trip with my honey, so I spread out our topo maps on the breakfast table to plan a route. Edmundo Mell came out last night and before we went out to dinner, we poured over the maps, since he knows that area pretty well. 

That's Utah on the right and Jacob's Lake, AZ on the left.

   The art in progress, in the above photo, is for my next book on Wild Bill, to be published this fall. The flowers were an impulse buy at Bashas' and I consider them a quality-of-life purchase. Don't tell anyone, but I talk to them in the morning: "Well, hello ladies."

   This morning I noodled storm clouds that evolved into something a little more metaphoric:

Daily Whip Out: "The Cauldron"

"What courage to make sketches."
—Edgar Degas

Friday, August 25, 2017

Newsstand Wars & Waiting On A Song

August 25, 2017
   Readers often send me shots of how True West is displayed on the newsstand. 

True West magazines on display at Smith's Grocery Store in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

   This is from The Top Secret Writer in a Smith's grocery store in Albuquerque. We are in the second row, which is why we design for that upper left corner because it's often the only thing a potential reader sees. Remember, if you see this at your newsstand, please move all the True West magazines to the front.

   Thank you.

  Got home last night and caught this sunset light across the street:

Ratcliff Ridge

Got up this morning and did a loosey goosey piece.

Daily Whip Out: "Waiting"

   Speaking of waiting, one of my favorite new tunes is by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) and this is a sample of the lyrics which I believe he wrote with John Prine, (who also gave Dan the inside skinny on where to find the best meatloaf in Nashville):

I been hitching and I been thumbin'
I can almost hear one coming
I'm just waiting, waiting on a song

I looked down in my pocket
Underneath the bed
Walked under the lamp post
And one hit me on the head

Am I blind or too dumb to see
All the sound surrounding me?
I'm just waiting, waiting on a song

And the final stanza, which I love (it applies to all of life):

"When those railroad gates come down, you better stop and turn around, you're just waiting, waiting on a song."

"Life begins when a person first realizes how soon it will end."
—Marcelene Cox

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Don't Touch My Hat Jack!

August 24, 2017
   We've got a big hat feature coming up next issue. To recap, here are a few of my attempts at capturing the opening shot:

Daily Whip Out: "Don't Touch My Hat Series #13"

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Are You Satisfied Mrs. Wild Bill?

August 23, 2017
   Got up this morning and finished a little study:

Daily Whip Out: "Are You Satisfied?"

  Went into work and finished a couple hangouts for the November issue. Went home for lunch and took another stab at Wild Bill Looms, but this one is a little different from the original premise. Chalk it up to lunchtime proclivities:

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill And The Number 10"

   Which brings us to another thrilling episode in Hickok's life:

Wild Bill's Wedding

 Are You Satisfied, Mrs. Wild Bill?
   In 1871, Wild Bill met Agnes Lake Thatcher, who was the widow of a circus owner. By most accounts the two sent letters to each other for several years before they were married in Cheyenne, Wyoming on March 5, 1876. The Reverend W.F. Warren, who married the couple, wrote in his register that he didn't think they "meant it." The marriage ceremony was witnessed by S.L. and Minnie Moyer. Ironically, both would also be the witnesses at Agnes's rebound marriage about a year after the death of Hickok. A photograph survives of Hickok and S.L Moyer which may have been taken at the time of the wedding (it will be in the book). Mr. and Mrs. Hickok honeymooned in St. Louis and her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. After two weeks of supposed connubial bliss, Hickok returned to Cheyenne to organize an expedition to the Black Hills where a reporter noted that "he is a trifle pale now, because of a recent illness." Hickok had eye problems.

A Love Letter From Wild Bill
   Here is a letter he wrote to his wife from the illegal mining camp of Deadwood on July 17, 1876, only a couple weeks before his assassination. I have cleaned up the spelling, punctuation and syntax:

"My own darling wife Agnes. I have but a few moments left before this letter starts [on its way to you]. I never was as well in my life but you would laugh to see me now. Just got in from prospecting [and] will go away again tomorrow [and, I] will write in the morning. . .I don't expect to hear from you but it is all the same. I know my Agnes and [I] only live to love her. Never mind Pet, we will have a home yet then we will be so happy. I am almost sure I will do well here, the man is hurrying me [to finish the letter]. Goodbye my Dear wife. Love to Emma."
—J. B. Hickok, Wild Bill

Hardly the letter one might expect from someone who didn't really "mean it."

Full disclosure: Back in 1996 when I was first hot on the trail of Wild Bill, I shot a bunch of reference photos out at Pioneer, Arizona. I took one of these reference shots taken in the church at Pioneer, for my proposed wedding sequence, and had our crack designer, Rebecca Edwards, funk it up to make it look authentic. The models are, L to R: Jenny Smith, Jim Dunham and Jerry Terrantino. 

"Pretty near all these stories are true."
—Wild Bill

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Wild Bill Looms Large Series

August 22, 2017
   Been noodling a scene for the book for some time now:

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Looms Large Series, #2"

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Looms Large Series, #1"

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Looms Large Series, #3"

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Looms Large Series, #4"

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Looms Large Series, #5"

   Going home for lunch to work on the final. Hopefully I can live up to the praise from The Top Secret Writer:

"The 'Prince of Pistoleers' meets the 'Prince of Western History' in this much anticipated new book from Bob Boze Bell—chock full of the great art, rare photos, authoritative history, and that unique dose of Boze whimsy that we have come to expect.  More fun than any history book should be and a must have addition to every Western collection."
Paul Andrew Hutton

Monday, August 21, 2017

Those Were The Days My Friend

August 21, 2017
   Didn't see the eclipse. Clouds, and a deadline, got in my way.
   Last week when I was in Tombstone, I had a great talk with Ben Traywick who showed me the very first building he worked in when he came to town in 1968 (over his left shoulder). 

Ben Traywick, age 90, on Allen Street in Tombstone

   Ben said back in those days he wrote for ten different Western history magazines, four treasure magazines and two In-din mags. Those were the days, my friend, we thought they would never end.

   Today, there are two Western history magazines and one In-din magazine that I know of. In general, I think maybe there's hope for the future.

"To generalize is to be an idiot."
—William Blake

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tall In The Saddle And Other Ridiculous Scenes

August 20, 2017
   Some more of my chine colles for your perusal. These were done in 1999 in conjunction with my book premiere of "Bad Men." I had a one-man show at the Desert Caballeros Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona to coincide with the book being published. These layered prints were done at Armstrong-Prior in Phoenix, utilizing antique hand-cranked presses and lots of rusted metal and tin for funky patinas.

Bad Men: "Tall In The Saddle"

Bad Men: "Cornered"

Bad Men: "California Bandidos"

Bad Men: "Curly Bill Yucks It Up"

Bad Men: "Muy Malo Duo"

"Bob Boze Bell is a master at recreating a time, place and a man, utilizing a variety of utilities; his own artwork, ink & watercolor; old photos & engravings; old advertisements, recreated photos, scenes from movies, etc. The melange holds together to form a narrative that comprises a new kind of history. Not scholarship, but almost more illuminating & immediate."
—Gary Zaboly, writing in his journal, after reading The Illustrated Life & Times of Doc Holliday" on December 26, 1996

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Age of The Gunfighters

August 19, 2017
   We tend to think of all the gunfighters of the Old West as being contemporaries, as if they graduated from the same class in school. That's kind of what I was driving at with this semi-parody:

The Class of Quantrell

   In a certain sense this was true, at least for these Civil War brigands who were all about the same age. But when we spread out the search across the entire spectrum of the frontier West we get some serious spreads. Let's start with the first gunfighter:

Daily Whip Out: Wild Bill In His Prime, 1867

   While Wild Bill Hickok was being celebrated in Harper's in 1867, for his various gunfights, here's the age of his fellow classmates.

Wyatt Earp was 19.

Doc Holliday was 15.

John Wesley Hardin was 14.

Billy the Kid was eight.

Tom Horn was seven.

Black Jack Ketchum was four.

Robert Leroy Parker (Butch Cassidy) was one

And the Sundance Kid was six months old!

Daily Whip Out: "The Sundance Kid"

Full Disclosure: Some of the above ages were not quite right and I have Jack DeMattos to thank for fact checking me. I originally pegged all the ages of Wild Bill's classmates to the date of the Harper's article—1867—but then I referenced the Tutt gunfight, which is 1865, so, of course, if you peg it to the gunfight date it throws off all the above ages. I have since changed everything to 1867, which is when the Harper's article came out and Hickok begins his ascent to myth.

"Be careful Slade. That kid might have a hideout in his diaper!"
—Ernie Cavendish of the Cavendish gang

Friday, August 18, 2017

Doc Holliday Treasure Trove Surfaces

August 18, 2017
   Thanks to Curator Kristi, a treasure trove of Doc Holliday monoprints have surfaced.

Daily Whip Out: "Doc—Dawn of The Dying #3"

Daily Whip Out: "You're A Daisy If You Do!"

Daily Whip Out: "Doc Portrait #13"

Daily Whip Out: "Doc Guards Right Flank"

Daily Whip Out: "The Walk Down"

Daily Whip Out: "Doc [And Crew] Walk to The Gunfight"

   Full disclosure: these are circa 1999, they were printed at Armstrong-Prior in Phoenix and Kristi dug them out of my garage.

"Why worry about history being erased when you're so busy repeating it?"
—Old Vaquero Saying

"Gonna pitch an alternate-reality tv show where the civil war is over."
—Russ Shaw, Jr.