Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Wild Bill Bone Scraping Incident

September 30, 2017
   Sometimes it's the quiet moments of courage that impress us the most.

March 18, 1869
   "Last week Wild Bill was stopping at the Passenger House and was visited by many of our citizens. He was the center of attraction."
—Mendota, Illinois Bulletin

   By the first week of April, James Butler Hickok had arrived at his hometown of Troy Grove and found his mother standing at her garden gate with tears streaming down her cheeks. When she last saw her fair-haired, youngest boy, he was just a raw-boned kid, but now, 14 years later, he stood before her as one of the most famous men on the frontier. He was almost 32-years-old. He walked with a limp from a lance wound from an In-din fight with Cheyenne warriors, in February, and he sought out a Dr. Thomas of Mendota. His sister Lydia recalled the visit in 1896:

   "The doctor came one evening to perform the operation, but Bill would not take chloroform. The doctor made four cuts outward from the wound, making a cross with the lance. Then he drew the flesh back and began to scrape the bone. I was holding the lamp and began to feel myself growing faint. 'Here, give it to me,' said Bill. He took the lamp and held it while the doctor scraped away, never flinching once during the operation."

Daily Whip Out: Study for "The Bone Scraping Incident"

   "Wild Bill had his faults, grievous ones, perhaps, but he never was the human fiend some writers have pictured him."
—Capt. Jack Crawford, 1895

Friday, September 29, 2017

How Calamity Jane Stole The Dead Man's Hand

September 29, 2017
   Her real name is Martha Canary, but everyone today knows her as Calamity Jane. There are many myths about this wild woman who sometimes passed as a man and may, or may not, have been a Soiled Dove. For one thing, she is thought to be the most written about Western American woman of the nineteenth century.

Calamity Jane mugging at Wild Bill Hickok's grave.

So why is the real Mrs. Wild Bill Hickok almost totally forgotten? I contacted Carrie Bowers, who co-wrote the book on Agnes Lake Hickok—Wild Bill's lawful wedded wife—and here is her main point:

• Calamity Jane lived until 1903, almost a quarter century beyond Hickok's death—and she spent much of that time inserting herself into the Hickok narrative. She didn't have to work real hard at it because Dime novelists jumped on Calamity Jane's version of events, such as cradling Wild Bill's head as he lay dying, or chasing after Jack MCall with a meat cleaver. This is much more exciting than Bill being married to Agnes Lake, a retired circus performer who was about to become a grandmother.

   Before Calamity Jane's passing, she requested to be buried beside Hickok, who, in reality barely knew her. The town fathers of Deadwood granted her wish—partially as a joke on Bill and because they knew it would be a good tourist draw. They were right on both accounts!

   Here's part of a letter in the Buffalo Bill Center of The West archives, stating the joke part:

"At the time of Jane's death, it so happened that several prominent Deadwood men met in Mike Russell's Saloon and someone remarked that Jane was dead. After another drink or two, they decided that Jane was entitled to a good funeral send-off in recognition of her untiring care of miners during the smallpox epidemic. Then the question came up, 'Where would they bury her?' Someone suggested it would be a good joke on Wild Bill if she would be buried alongside of him in the Mount Moriah Cemetery. As the conversation progressed, they were sure it would be a good joke on Bill if he knew that he would lay up with Jane for all eternity."
—Russell Thorp, August 31, 1960

Thanks to the Top Secret Writer for scoring this letter for the book.

"Calamity Jane lives on—raunchy, unabashed, contradictory, and ambiguous as ever."
—Richard W. Etulaine

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Eye Yi Yi! The Future's So Bright Hickok's Got to Wear Shades

September 27, 2017
   By the time Wild Bill reached Deadwood, he had some serious issues. His shooting days were over and his eyes were going bad. Some speculate he was suffering from syphilis and one report has him wearing sun glasses, which, believe it or not, were actually worn in the Old West. 

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill's Future Not So Bright"

   And, by the way, this is why you get Charles Bronson wearing sunglasses as Hickok in "The White Buffalo," 1977.

The Legend of Wild Bill
   Legend is presumed to have some basis in historical fact. The truth has merely been exaggerated for the sake of a good story. And if there is one thing historians do better than anybody else, it is ruining a good story.   

"By the light of their rise and fall can be traced the outlines of the country itself, like night terrain glimpsed via flares."
—Tom Shone, in a review of "Warner Bros" in The New York Times

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Of All The Actors Who Have Portrayed Wild Bill, One Guy Nailed Hickok

September 26, 2017
   In my humble opinion the actor who nailed the look of James Butler Hickok the best, is this cat:

Jeff Bridges as "Wild Bill," 1995

   Too bad the movie was so weak. Here's an in-progress sneak peek at the layout in the book for the others:

Wild Bill Wannabes from, "The Illustrated Life & Times of Wild Bill Hickok"

Getting closer.

This is a rough ad layout. There is no pre-orders being taken, yet.

"If there's one thing a historian does better than anything else, it's ruin a good story."
—Old Vaquero Sying

Monday, September 25, 2017

We All Die Twice But So Far Wild Bill Has Only Died Once

September 25, 2017
   I worked all weekend on the Wild Bill book. Coming to the end of the project and his life. I've grown to like him even more than before, although I'm conflicted by his contradictions. He lived rough. He did bad things. He deserved a better ending.

Final Thoughts On Wild Bill
   Did he suffer from a dose of syphilis that led to eyesight issues? In my opinion, he probably did. Could he have hit a big strike in Deadwood and settled down with Agnes on a horse ranch? Probably not, but that was his dream.

   Instead, he became something else: "The Prince of The Pistoleers." All the terms that followed: "Gun Man," "Gunslinger," "The Showdown," and, of course, "Gunfighter," came directly from him and his storied life. He was the first. And his boast came true: he did things Kit Carson never dreamed of doing. Hickok started it all. He was the first gunfighter.

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Still Lives!"

"We die twice; The first time when our hearts cease to beat; The second time when our stories cease to be told."
—Old Vaquero Saying

   Going by that definition, good ol' Wild Bill still has some life left in him. Of course, there is a downside, if you listen to my crazy amigo from Lamy, New Mexico:

"Dying young is a great PR move, but it doesn't do much for family reunions."
—Thom Ross

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Was Hickok A Hopeless Drunk at The End?

September 24, 2017
   I have some crazy friends and I have some astute friends. Sometimes they inhabit the same body. Here's my fellow outlaw loving artist pard (we call ourselves "The Bang Gang") on the tragedy of Wild Bill:

Daily Whip Out: "Hickok In His Prime"

"There is a great sense of tragedy in Hickok's story. The classic gunfighter who starts going blind. The last man he kills is a dear friend of his and he never shoots at anyone again. He parades himself on stage until the sham is more than he can take. He returns West where the proverbial "last bullet" is waiting for him. Sitting with his back to an open room he is dealt a mythic hand in his last game of poker. A single shot from a revolver kills him and when the assassin turns the gun on others in the room the gun fails to fire; as if firing that one last bullet was the gun's entire purpose. The assassin meets a just, and horrible, end. Like a true mystic, Hickok enjoys his resurrection thru art work, films, poems, and biographies. The perfect mythical man."
—Thom Ross

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Smirks"

Was Hickok A Hopeless Drunk at The End?
   Sometimes when we are digging deep for facts and clues, we stumble upon a string of disparate anecdotes that, when strung together, point in a direction we didn't see coming. Like Thom Ross, I love Wild Bill, but as I piece together Hickok's last months I have been forced to look at some troubling patterns. If you look at these incidents with a sober eye, it begs the question—Are me and my outlaw worshipping friends just scared little boys genuflecting at the trough of a drunken thug?

   As my late Aunt Jean might say, "Boy, Howdy."

   Wild Bill liked to drink and carouse. That is a known fact. 

   So, when we read about Wild Bill acting out in "The Scouts of The Plains" it can either be taken as someone who hates the fakery of show biz, or, he hates what he has become after the tragedy of shooting and killing his friend, and he is coping by drinking too much before, during and after the show. One has integrity, the other version is rather pathetic.

   After Hickok leaves Cody and the Combination crew, he goes to New York, and there are numerous accounts of him drinking too much and gambling away his parting money (Cody and Omohundro presented Wild Bill with two pistols and $500 each, or $1,000, when he left the show). We want to think that Hickok left the show on his own terms, but did his partners kick Hickok out of the Combination because he was drinking too much and causing them too many problems? That is, in fact, one of the stories that floated around after Wild Bill left. 

   When Hickok returned to the West it didn't get much better. He was accused of being "a worthless loafer and bummer" in Cheyenne, and the city marshal ordered him out of town "by virtue of the provisoin of the vagrant act." He essentially was spending his days in the Gold Room bar, bragging and drinking all day. When he married Agnes Lake, the minister wrote in the registry that he didn't think they "meant it." Would that be because Wild Bill was in the bag during the ceremony? When Hickok goes to Deadwood, ostensibly to stake a claim for he and his wife, he spends most of his time in saloons drinking and gambling, and that's where he gets the fateful bullet in the back of the head.

   After Hickok's death we get this:

"Years ago, before wine and women had ruined his constitution and impaired his facilities, he was more worthy of the fame which he attained on the border."
Cheyenne Daily Leader, August 16, 1876

The Illegal Town
   By the way, the incomparable Joseph Rosa described the haphazard building of Deadwood proper as "one main street which weaved like a moving rattlesnake in and out among the tree stumps and potholes left by the early arrivals."

   It's one thing to be going blind and go out on your own terms (our popular conception of Wild Bill) and it's another to turn into a drunken joke. Perhaps both are true. Still, the words of another astute friend of mine, rings more true than the facts on the ground:

"Myth beats reality every time."
—Paul Andrew Hutton

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Stag His Nibs!

September 23, 2017
   It ended, rather appropriately, in the blowing snow and freezing slush of the upper East Coast. Rochester, New York, to be exact. March misery. He started touring with The Combination in late September of 1873, but after only five months and change, Wild Bill Hickok was through with Show Biz.

   True, he and Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack played to capacity houses wherever they went.

Daily Whip Out: "A Full House"

 But Hickok hated the fakery and artifice. He drank to relieve the boredom of the road, and wounded his fellow actors with shots aimed too close to their legs.

Daily Whip Out: "Stag His Nibs!"

   The Rocky Mountains beckoned him home, but it was not to be a happy homecoming. He had two years to live.

"Years ago, before wine and women had ruined his constitution and impaired his facilities, he was more worthy of the fame which he attained on the border."
Cheyenne Daily Leader, August 16, 1876

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Top Secret Writer Nabs Emma Hickok Original

September 22, 2017
   The Top Secret Writer successfully bid on an original stereoscope of Miss Emma Hickok Equestrian. Then he sent the original to me IN THE MAIL, for usage in my Wild Bill book. 

Miss Emma Hickok (she was Wild Bill's step-daughter) Equestrian

   With friends like these I could conquer the world. Or, at least, the publishing world. What's left of it, anyway.

   Went home for lunch and finished a painting:

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill, The Leg Burner"

   After a couple months on the road, Hickok hated show biz. He was bored and he especially hated the fakery. To amuse himself, he started firing his blanks closer to the "Indians" (anglos dressed as In-dins) legs. Sending them howling and hopping, instead of howling and dying, as the script of "Scouts of the Plains" called for.

   In March of 1874, Hickok quit the show and went back out West. However, Cody and Omohundro continued to feature Wild Bill as a star in the show. This is a handbill for a show in Keokuk, Iowa in April of 1874, a month after he left the show!

A handbill for an appearance by Wild Bill
but featuring an impersonator. Perhaps that's why it
says, "Representative Men!"

   It also helps explain a handbill for Scouts of the Plains that belonged to the Hickok family, that had this hand written note on it: "I was not in the hall but I don't think Jim was there." The Hickok family always called him Jim, and this is an allusion to the show featuring a Wild Bill impersonator.

The Eternal Wash
Got a request for a Daily Whip Out from several years ago to be in an art show at Cattletrack Art Gallery in November. That was a couple hundred paintings ago, but thankfully I have this woman, Kristi Jacobs, who curates my artwork and she tracked it down and found it this morning, exactly where it was supposed to be. Sweet!

Daily Whip Out: "The Eternal Wash"

 Rack Tweaking, Part II
   I always encourage True West readers to rearrange the newsstand so that we get better exposure. We are often buried in the back. This is a good example:

Fry's Grocery Store, Carefree Highway, west of Cave Creek, AZ.

Full disclosure: there was rack position tweaking of two titles before this photo was taken. Just got this report from the owner and director of the Great American Wild West Show:

"Checked my Wal-Mart mag display yesterday. You were hidden behind gun magazine and I rose to my Western duty and moved you to the front. It was the Pony Express issue. And, of course, I told the manager if it happened again I would start getting my flip-flops and depends at the Dollar Store."
—Don Endsley

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Touring Seventies Rock Stars Hickok, Cody and Omohundro

September 21, 2017
      Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody were the rock stars of their day. Think Crosby, Stills & Nash, only this is Hickok, Cody & Omohundro. (Granted, it's a mouthful, but you get the picture)

Seventies (that would be the 1870s) rock stars: Wild Bill, Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack
who tour under the name "The Combination" and perform all their classic hits.

   Touring from town to town and flaunting their Western frontier manliness, "The Combination" attracted large crowds—and eager women—and they encountered all of the problems and side effects attendant to the latter day rock 'n' roll tour, including security issues. The only difference is, Cody and crew didn't have bodyguards or a security detail.

November 6, 1873
   The Combination, featuring Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill and Texas Jack, appears for several nights at the Parshal Opera House in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The hotel manager where the cast is staying warns the troupe local toughs have made a vow to beat up these so-called "Scouts of the Plains." The actors are encouraged to use a side door to enter the hotel from the Opera House. This works for a couple nights until Wild Bill gets tired of the evasive action and seeks out the toughs, who he finds in a billiard hall nearby. One of the bad boys sneers, "Hello, Buffalo Bill! We have been looking for you all day."

   "My name is not Buffalo Bill; you are mistaken in the man," Hickok replies.

   "You are a liar!" comes the cocky reply. Hickok punches out the tough guy, then takes a chair to the rest, clearing the room. Hickok later informs Cody they will not have to be using the side door anymore.

   Besides this kind of "frontier fun," Hickok is not happy. According to Cody, Wild Bill hates the fakery, is bored and deliberately upsets the "Indians" by discharging his pistols on stage, too close to the performer's legs, burning them with black powder, thus creating un-rehearsed yelps of pain and mad hopping, when they should be dying.

   In 1911, Cody also had this to say about the reluctant thespian: "Wild Bill was a bad actor most anywhere, but he was an especially bad actor on the stage. Jack Omohundro, known as Texas Jack, was with the show, and when the curtain fell at the close of the first act he and I and Wild Bill were supposed to stand out near the front of the stage clasping rescued maidens to our breasts in the white glare of the calcium. but Wild Bill was never out there where he belonged. He invariably hung back in the shadows at the rear or remained half-hidden behind a painted tree or rock. He was a poor hand to pose or show off and hated to have a lot of people staring at him. One night when the spot light found him leaning against a gnarled oak in the background, it made him mad, and he took a shot at the spot light machine in the central aisle of the balcony, shattered the bull's eye and broke the machine. The show had to go on to the end without the usual calcium effects."

   In another version of this story, Hickok gets blasted with the intense light and yells, "Turn the blamed thing off!"

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill's Lamp Damnation"

   There were perhaps other reasons for Hickok's unhappiness. One of the troupe, Hiram Robbins, later reported on Wild Bill's "effeminate voice," saying, "Although [Hickok] was a large and powerful man, he had a voice like a girl, altogether too weak for the part which he would naturally take."

   Others have claimed Wild Bill's drinking become a problem and he had to be shipped home. Another report, described Hickok's departure this way:

March 14, 1874
   A reporter for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, spots Wild Bill "passing down State Street" while the troupe of scouts, including Cody and Texas Jack, he had been performing with have departed for Lockport. Approaching Hickok in the blowing snow, the scribe is greeted by the frontiersman with a firm handshake ("an iron vice from which we were glad to be released."). A newsboy standing nearby, an "impudent youngster," recognizes the famous Westerner and cries out, "Oh! Stag his nibs wid the long hair!" [translation: "Oh, look at that self-important man with the long hair." Or, the British version: "Oh, look at the fancy posh bloke with the long hair."] Moving away from the gathering crowd the reporter shadows Hickok and learns the following: "We were informed that Bill had received a call to the frontier. Recognized as one of the best scouts and Indian fighters that have appeared upon the great Western frontier, his services are highly valued and eagerly sought for when there is danger of war with the Red man. . .He will first proceed to New York where he has some business to transact, remain there a few days and then go direct to the frontier. . .We shook hands with the hero, bade him good-bye, and wished him a pleasant journey to his far western home. He left at 12:15 this morning for New York."

   His time in New York is vague and unclear, although there are stories of heavy gambling and drinking—and heavy losses (Cody and Omohundro reportedly gave Hickok a parting gift of $500 and two .44-caliber Smith & Wesson "American" revolvers). One famous legend has him joining a rival show, and leaving and then hearing they had hired an actor to portray Wild Bill, so he returned and wrecked the set. Whatever the truth, Wild Bill was through with acting. He just wanted to return to the West he loved.

   Special thanks to Mark Boardman, Gay Mathis and Micheal Bell for the translation on the "Stag his nibs" oath. Gay found an 1880 news article about backstage actor slang and apparently it means, "Look at him."

"The time to relax is when you don't have time for it."
—Sydney J. Harris

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Bad Actor

September 20, 2017
   Wild Bill Hickok excelled at many things. By most accounts, he was a crack shot and an excellent rider. He worked as a wagon boss and freighter, and for the Pony Express, although he was too big to qualify as a rider. He also took turns as a scout, a spy, a lawman and he even tried acting.

   On a whim and a promise from his friend, Buffalo Bill, James Butler Hickok tried his hand at striding the boards.

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill's Smirk"

   It was William F. Cody's idea to put on a traveling show featuring "The Combination" of Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill and Texas Jack. Cody describes what happens when Hickok shows up in New York to join the show: "Bill arrived in New York after dark, and being unacquainted with the city—this being his first visit there—he took a hack, instructing the driver to take him to the Metropolitan Hotel. Upon arriving at the house, Bill asked the driver his charges.

   "Five dollars, sir," was the reply.

   "And you wouldn't accept anything less, would you?" asked Bill.

   "No sir, that the charge and nothing less."

   "Bill then handed the driver five dollars, at the same time striking him a blow in the face that sent him plowing up the settlings in the gutter. A policeman very soon came after Bill, but bail being furnished by me, he was kept out of the Tombs; but the next day I paid a fine of $10 for him. This was his first experience in New York." 

   At the hotel and on the road to their first gig, Cody tries to school Hickok in the art of being on stage and how to move and say his lines to best effect.

September 8, 1873
   Inexperienced and nervous, Wild Bill steps out on a stage for the first time in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He is appearing, along with Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro, in a play written by Fred G. Maeder, called, "The Scouts of the Plains." The show bill gives us a pretty good idea of the plot:

BUFFALO BILL                                                                   W. F. Cody
TEXAS JACK                                                             J. B. Omohundro
WILD BILL                                                                        J. B. Hickok
PALE DOVE (wife of Texas Jack)                                 Mlle Morlacchi
JIM DAWS, a renegade horse thief                              Frank Mordaunt
AUNT ANNIE CARTER                                         Miss Jennie Fisher
ELLA                                                                      Miss Lizzie Safford
LOTTA                                                                     Miss Eliza Hudson
UNCLE HENRY CARTER, a friend of the scouts          J.V. Arlington
NICK BLUNDER, with song and dance                        Walter Fletche
TOM DOGGETT, in cahoot with Daws                          W. S. McEvoy
EBENEZER LONGLANK. Gov't Peace Commissioner     A. Johnson
TALL OAK, a Kiowa, but on the square                              W. A. Reid
BIG THUNDER, a Comanche Chief                                   B. Meredith
BEAR CLAW, a Comanche Brave                                      H. Mainhall
RAVEN FEATHER                                                                J. W. Buck

   The stories of Wild Bill's  discomfort on stage are legion, but the following one is a good example of his apparent inability to "pretend": Two scouts are on stage swapping yarns. A bottle of whiskey is passed between them and as each takes a swig the actor is supposed to "spout a blood curdling yarn." When it's Wild Bill's turn, he takes a swig, looks horrified, spits out the liquid and yells, "cold tea don't count—either I get real whisky or I ain't tellin' no story!" Allegedly Cody sent out for real whiskey so the show could continue. This seems almost too precious to be true, but there are others as well.

   In spite of Wild Bill's discomfort, the reviews are good: "We can only say today that Wild Bill, buffalo Bill, Texas Jack and [Guiseppina] Morlacchi drew an immense audience to Music Hall last evening. The applause was frequent and hearty and Morlacchi's dancing aroused immense enthusiasm."
—The Portland, Maine Advertiser

   The above mentioned Miss Morlacchi is an exotic dancer from Milan who came to the U.S. in 1867 and soon became the toast of the town (New York). Although she was squired around Manhattan by rich bachelors, including Jack Fisk, she fell in love with Texas Jack and they eloped to Rochester, New York to get married on August 31, 1873

Coming Next: Wild Bill burns the legs of Big Thunder and Bear Claw

"Turn the blame thing off!"
—Wild Bill Hickok, to the lamp man

Monday, September 18, 2017

Everybody Wants A Piece of Wild Bill

September 18, 2017
   We all want to own a piece of history. I have an original photo of Lotta Crabtree which I bought for $200 at Argonaut Bookstore in 1998. It is a treasure. I also have a rusted beer can I found at Wyatt Earp's campsite near his Happy Days Mine in 1995. It sits on my desk in my office at True West. It is a natural, or, at least a common human desire to take a souvenir home with you. It's known as "souvenir hunting" and like anything, it can be taken too far.

Everybody Wants A Piece of Wild Bill
   A year after Hickok's death Agnes Lake Hickok shows up in Deadwood with Mr. and Mrs. "Buckskin" Charley Dalton and one "Texas" George Carson.

September 4, 1877
  The widow, Agnes Lake Hickok visits Wild Bill's grave site and announces that a fenced monument to his memory will be erected with assistance from Buffalo Bill Cody, Texas Jack and Buckskin Charley.

   In September of 1877, The Black Hills Daily Times reported "The inscription on the headboard of Wild Bill's grave has become a great curiosity among people outside of the hills, and many pilgrims pay the cemetery a visit before returning east, and copy it."

September 1, 1879
   Deadwood is growing. Colorado Charlie, John McClintok and Lewis Shoenfield dig up Wild Bill to move him up to the new cemetery, high on the hill, to be called Mount Moriah. After digging for some time, the three men lift Wild Bill's coffin out of his old grave and cart it up the hill. Beside the new grave they open the casket and notice his body is white as stone. "Why, he's petrified!" Charlie gasps. After placing Hickok in his new grave, they replace the headstone. But, at this new location, traffic increases and relic hunters begin whittling away at the headboard until it is all but destroyed.

An Icon Behind Bars
   A more ambitious headstone for Wild Bill is erected in 1891, this time with a statue of Hickok, with two crossed pistol carved into the stone at the base. Erected by J. H. Riordan of New York, this impressive monument stands nine feet tall. Souvenir hunters immediately began shaving off pieces of the statue and nine years later it is all but gone.

The Riordan Bust of Wild Bill was picked to pieces by souvenir hunters.

   In 1902 another sculptor, Alvin Smith, of Deadwood, is commissioned to carve a statue using Black Hills sandstone. It is erected in 1903 and immediately relic hunters disfigure the monument. The citizens of Deadwood take drastic measures to protect it and enclose the statue with a heavy wire screen, but the relic retrievers simply cut the screen and get inside, carving off pieces of the new statue. 

The Alvin Smith statue of Wild Bill before it was was picked to pieces.

Wild Bill Behind Bars, 1919, with two souvenir hunters posing inside.

   It lasts until 1955, but by then it has no head, a leg is broken and most of the detail work on the arms and hands is gone. 

Wild Bill bowed and broken and stored in the Adams Memorial Hall, 1957

   The remains of the statue are removed and a simple slab is put in the statue's place, but it is soon stolen. Today there is only a plaque marked "Wild Bill, James Butler Hickok." So far, no one has taken that.

"Are you satisfied?"
—Wild Bill Hickok

Wild Bill Stylin'

September 18, 2017
   Still book crazy after all these years. Home stretch.

Wild Bill Stylin'
   When it comes to the Wild West, nobody left a wider range of impressive images behind than James Butler Hickok. The gunfighter, lawman and scout posed in so many different outfits it's a bit hard to track his many "looks." Unlike Billy the Kid who left only one known photo (and wearing a crappy hat, to boot), or Wyatt Earp, who never broke out of his bank teller look, Hickok always had it goin' on. 

Daily Whip Out: "Wild Bill Stylin'" (from a photo)

"Roses are red. Violets are blue. Horses that buck get turned into glue."
—Lee Pehl, horse breaker, from the new book "Orejano Outfit," by Kathy McGraine

Sunday, September 17, 2017

More Hat Etiquette Fodder

September 17, 2017
   If you are a subscriber to True West magazine you should be receiving the November issue this week. Inside this packed issue is my Cowboy Hat Etiquette feature, which is a survival guide for city folks who want to stay alive out West (Rule No. 1: Don't touch my hat!).

   One of the rules we had the hardest time with is the rule about when do you take your hat off in doors? Many current day cowboys have been influenced by their service in the armed forces, where the standing rule is: if you are inside the hat comes off. However, we found plenty of exceptions to this rule, including Cowboy Church, where you can wear your hat in church, but it comes off during the Lord's prayer.

   Meanwhile, we sometimes assume, incorrectly, that big hats didn't really come into vogue out West until the 1920s (Tom Mix, Tim McCoy, Hoot Gibson, those guys). Here's a guy in the 1870s sporting what can only be described as a monster brim.

Deadwood Thespian Jack Langrishe
with big hat with monster brim, 1870s

  Here's another odd twist—okay, a French twist. I was searching for art reference on theatre goers from the 1870s-80s and I came across numerous paintings depicting the theatre and bar scene in Paris. In virtually every scene, we see men and women with hats on, inside.

Toulouse Lautrec: "At The Moulin Rouge"

Toulouse Lautrec: "The Dance"

Edgar Degas: "Absinthe" 

Edgar Degas: Cafe Concert at Les Ambassadeurs"

   There must have been quite a few altercations, given those tall stove pipe hats blocking everyone's view. Now granted, this is French society, but you'd think they would be even more formal than the American frontier rubes, no? In terms of taking off your hat inside? Just very interesting, how hat etiquette evolved. I really think it was the military that changed the indoor hat etiquette, probably in WWII.

"My hats off to you, sir."
—An English Gentleman, pre 1965


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Paiutes Dressed as Apaches And A Mormon Too Funny to Be President

September 16, 2017
   Here's an interesting image. What appears to be an early photograph of Apache warriors, is actually young Kaibab Paiutes dressed up as Apaches. This was taken in the 1940s during a movie shoot. The irony is that the Paiutes were mortal enemies of the Apaches, but these young "braves" seem to be having a good time of it. 

Photo on display at the Pipe Spring National Monument Museum.

   And, by the way, the museum displays it as exactly what it is: a staged photo. I saw this photo after visiting Zion National Park last Wednesday and then traveling by Flex south into Arizona. The museum is between Colorado City and Fredonia,  in Arizona. All my life I have seen photographs of the Pipe Spring fortification and have wanted to visit it since it's in my home county, but due to weird state and county jerrymandering, the northern part of Mohave County is way-in-the-hell north of Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon and you really have to want to go there from Kingman (you can only access the area through Las Vegas and up into Utah and back down into Arizona, or, by traveling east to Flagstaff and then north to Page and into Kanab, Utah, and then drop down from there). This is the area where Warren Jeffs held sway at Colorado City (originally called Short Creek), with his polygamy empire, because it's so isolated and in no-man's-land. 

Pipe Spring Fortification today

"We have opened a telegraph office here this morning—Miss Ella Stewart operator."
—A.M. Musser, December 15, 1871. Ella Stewart is the future mother of the legendary Mo and Stewart Udall, prominent politicos in Arizona and on the national stage. Mo wrote a book, "Too Funny to Be President," and it was true at the time, although today, he might have to amend that title to "Intentionally Funny."

"Lord, give us the wisdom to utter words that are gentle and tender, for tomorrow we may have to eat them."
—Mo Udall

Friday, September 15, 2017

White Mesa In Paintngs And Photos

September 15, 2017
   For the past several days we have had a stunning view of the cliffs across from Maynard Dixon's cabin. He did several paintings of this same view as you can see from the photos and the paintings. Great stuff all around.

Maynard Dixon paintings of the cliffs across the valley from his cabin.

Maynard Dixon's "White Mesa"

White Mesa at sunset on Wednesday evening.

Sugar Something butte on the White Mesa range, also at sunset on Wednesday evening.

A stylized White Mesa in the Dixon painting over the mantel.
(sorry about the glare)

"Good to go, good to come home."
—Allen P. Bell