Monday, January 16, 2017

The Sun Comes Out for Jim Young

January 16, 2017
   Today was a big day. We gathered in Tucson to honor this guy:

   It rained all the way to Tucson yesterday.and I worried that our unveiling was going to be spoiled. It still looked like rain this morning, and it was overcast with tattered clouds hanging low on the Catalinas.

Catalina clouds at eight this morning.

   After breakfast, John Langellier and I drove over to Holy Hope Cemetery and found the grave.  No one else was there. It was located in a very large field of mostly flat to the ground tombstones. We live in an age where the lawn mower has precedence. Even though we were confined by the flat surface, we wanted Jim to have a dignified headstone, something that perhaps he would like.

Got this shot of a very proud John Langellier standing over the new headstone:

John Langallier beams with joy beside the new James Young headstone.

   It was designed by Dan The Man Harshberger. At ten o'clock sharp the color guard showed up and, almost magically, the clouds parted and the sun shown down on our man.

The James Young Color Guard: Frank E. Bothwell and Doug Woodpac

   An unsung Arizona pioneer finally got his day in the sun. Thanks to John Langellier, who found James Young's unmarked grave, and worked tirelessly to convince all of us at True West to help produce a marker for the one-time Texas John Slaughter cowboy. We gathered at his grave to honor his memory. It was a touching tribute and we were all glad to have been there.

The James Young Crew: L to R: Marshall Palmer, Frank E. Bothwell, John Langellier, Doug Woodpac, Dr. Michael S. Engs, Brenda Davis, Linda C. Leatherman and Murryelle Bothwell

James Young in Tombstone, in July of 1927 when he was 94 years old.

James Young The Bodyguard

   James Young accompanied his boss "Texas" John Slaughter every Wednesday night to his poker games in Bisbee, Arizona. Young stood outside with a shotgun, to ensure nobody got frisky about the pot. Nobody ever did.

"I've got to tell the story before it's time to go."
—Neil Young

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Tombstone Tribute to An Unsung Arizona Pioneer

January 15, 2017
   Driving down to Tucson today to be present at the unveiling of the James Young gravestone dedication tomorrow, Martin Luther King Day. Historian John Langellier is the guy who gets the credit for this long overdue tribute to an unsung Arizona pioneer who was buried without a tombstone back in 1935.

  When John told me he had found Young's unmarked grave at Holy Hope Cemetery in Tucson I told him I would help design a simple headstone to honor him. I turned my rough design (below) over to Dan The Man Harshberger, who did his usual brilliant design treatment. Our goal was to design a headstone that Jim himself would perhaps want. I hope we have succeeded.

Daily Whip Out: "James Young Headstone Sketches"

   The gravestone dedication is open to the public and will come off tomorrow (January 16) at 10 in the morning at Holy Hope Cemetery in Tucson. Pictures tomorrow.

   Hans Olson produced the video for my induction into the Arizona Music And Entertainment Hall of Fame induction ceremony last November 13 in Tempe. The video—also narrated by the Blues legend—is now up on You Tube and available for viewing. I especially love the opening music, which, if I had my way, would play, loudly, when anyone walked past my own headstone.

BBB Induction Video

"Never did lose that twenty pounds."
—Facetious gravestone epitaph that always makes me chuckle

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wyatt Earp Cashes in

January 13, 2017
   It was on this date, January 13, 1929 that a certain gamblin'-lawdog, cashed in his chips:

Daily Whip Out: "Wyatt Earp Cashes In"

"Suppose, suppose. . ."
—Wyatt Earp's last words

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Zane Grey Meets The Coen Brothers Should Make for A New Breed of Zany Westerns

January 12, 2017
    If you loved old TV Westerns like The Rifleman, Wanted: Dead Or Alive and The Rebel, get ready for some exciting news. According to Variety, Joel and Ethan Coen are the latest auteurs moving into television, with a new event anthology set in the Old West.

 Annapurna Television is partnering with the Coen brothers on a limited series Western called “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” Sources tell Variety that Annapurna intends to pursue an innovative approach that could combine television and theatrical.

Chuck Connors as "The Rifleman," Steve McQueen in "Wanted: Dead Or Alive"
and Nick Adams as "The Rebel" all came from a one-off anthology series.

"I'm particularly excited that it's going to be an anthology series, a form which disappeared decades ago.  I always think of Dick Powell Presents Zane Grey Theater, and the fact that The Rifleman, Wanted Dead Or Alive, The Westerner, Johnny Ringo and, for all practical purposes The Rebel, all started as one-episode pilots on Zane Grey."
—Henry Parke, Westerns Film Editor, True West magazine

"I hope this is the ultra-violent script they mentioned before settling on True Grit for their "proper Western". They said it featured torture with fire ants and that there was an unforgettable scene involving a chicken."
David Lambert

   And thanks to David Lambert, here is the actual quote:

Joel Coen warns: ”We've written a western with a lot of violence in it. There's scalping and hanging ... it's good. Indians torturing people with ants, cutting their eyelids off.”Of course, this being the Coen brothers, you know that will be graphic in its depiction and not just an implied violence. Still, the intent is not to make a horror picture, but a Western says Ethan Coen: "It's a proper western, a real western, set in the 1870s. It's got a scene that no one will ever forget because of one particular chicken." 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Random Ropes & Sunset at Secret Pass

January 11, 2016
   Been on a Purple Sage-Jim Bowie binge for the past three weeks, so it was nice to cleanse the ol' palette this morning.

Daily Whip Out: "Sunset at Secret Pass." 

  Received some nice old time cowboy postcards from my good friend Betty Drake. i'm going to use this one to illustrate an upcoming article I'm working on about the Pleasant Valley War.

The Tonto Basin problem: random ropes on someone else's cow.

  "When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself."
—Karen Blixen (Isak Dineson) Danish author

Looking The Other Way

January  11, 2017
   Last Sunday, after a full day of painting, I retired to the back patio to have a glass of wine and enjoy a very nice sunset shaping up over the Seven Sisters. I clicked off a few photos with my phone.

Sunset Over The Seven Sisters

   As an artist, sometimes you have to look away from the action and see what's behind you. At one point, I instinctively turned around and snapped this shot, away from the sunset, and, to my eye, captured the best image of the night. That's my crow's nest, above my studio, at right, where I often climb up into for inspiration.

Crow's Nest Sky

"No matter how pretty the picture is, if there is not story or meaning in it, there will be no interest."
—Hal Foster, cartoonist of Prince Valiant

Monday, January 09, 2017

Was Jim Bowie Murdered? Or Did He Commit Suicide?

January 8, 2017
   One of the most controversial aspects of the Alamo fight is what happened to the legendary Jim Bowie? He was, of course, the inventor of the most famous pig sticker in the history of the Republic, if not the world.

Daily Whip Out: "Jim Bowie With His Pig Sticker"

   Got a little too much of Porter Wagoner in this sketch, so I wound up and whipped out another one last Friday:

Daily Whip Out: "Jim Bowie With His Big Tennessee Toothpick, No. 1"

   Better, but perhaps a little too Daniel Webster-ish? So, I did another take on Saturday:

Daily Whip Out: "Jim Bowie Cover Idea No. 7"

   I really liked this concept, but my partner, Ken, thought I was being too cute with it, although I still have a hunch the Texas flag would grab some attention on the newsstand. Anyway, Ken wanted to see a more traditional portrait of the fighter. without all my flourishes and gimmicks.

Daily Whip Out: "Jim Bowie Portrait No. 13"

After a dozen more ideas and rough sketches I tried one with the knife a little more prominent:

Daily Whip Out: "Jim Bowie Brandishes Bowie Knife"

   Unfortunately, I think the knife in the first sketch is the best. Dang it all to hell!

   We are doing a cover story on this for the next issue of True West. The preeminent historian and Alamo expert William Groneman III takes us through the lively debate as to whether the famed Alamo defender went down as a gallant hero, fighting to the death, or should history remember him dying as a sick and feeble coward?

"Our friend Bowie, unable to get out of bed, shot himself as the soldiers approached it."
—General Sam Houston

Guidon Books Makes An Offer You Can't Refuse

January 8, 2017
   Our good friends down at Guidon Books are offering a great deal for all our readers:

   Celebrate 2017 with Guidon Books
We are proud to announce that Guidon Books has been designated the Best Western History Bookstore for 2017 by both the readers and the editorial staff of “True West Magazine.” Gordon and I feel honored. We strive to have the best selection of books on the American West and Civil War. John Langellier was in the store recently (and posed with the latest issue of TWM) which featured his cover story on Frederic Remington and Powhatan Clarke.
 To thank all our loyal friends and customers, when you purchase online, use the coupon code TWM to receive a 10% discount. If you come in the store, or call on the phone, just mention how great True West Magazine (and Guidon Books) are to receive the discount.

The Last of The Guess Girls Is Gone

January 8, 2017
   The last of the Guess girls, Jean Guess Linn, passed the day after Christmas. To me she was Aunt Jean (my mother's sister) and she was a beauty. And she was the inspiration for Honkytonk Sue.

Aunt Jean The Rodeo Queen

"You sure know a lot for being a damn woosie."
—Honkytonk Sue

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Stage to Lordsburg & The Ringo Kid

January 7, 2017
   Some movies resonate with us for mere enjoyment factors. But, sometimes the connections are more personal and in a couple instances, certain Westerns seem attached directly to our family tree. That would especially be true of this classic Western.

The Ringo Kid flags down the Lordsburg stage

   John Ford's masterpiece, Stagecoach, was based on the short story, "Stage to Lordsburg," by Ernest Haycox, which appeared in Colliers magazine, on April 10, 1937. However, the story in Colliers was, in fact, based on a French short story by Guy de Maupassant, called "Boule de Suif" (Ball of Fat) about a group of ne'er do wells in a stagecoach during the Prussian War. It was published in 1880, which puts it before the O.K. Corral fight. This is not significant to the genesis of the story, but I think it's interesting we don't think of this familiar story as having roots from the French, and so early in the game of creating Western stories.

    In the Haycox-Colliers version, the John Wayne character is called Malpais Bill (Malpais is Spanish for bad country). John Ford thankfully changed it to something not quite as comedic and once again, Ford, or someone in the production, rustled up the Cochise County stalwart John Ringold for the new handle. So, I dig that as well.

   I also have a soft spot for this story because, my mother was born in Lordsburg, New Mexico in 1925 and her family, my grandparents, ranched in the Bootheel of New Mexico, later settling at Steins Pass, which would have been on the route of the stage line in the story. My great grandfather Henry Guess, died on my birthday—December 19— and is buried there, among the bushes in the overgrown cemetery, not a stone's throw from I-10. 

   And finally, another Kingman boy—Andy Devine—got the part of Happy Stuart, the stagecoach driver, because Ward Bond couldn't drive a "six-up." Stagecoach slang for a six-horse-team. So, Stagecoach, rings a few bells, in my neighborhood, if you know what I mean.

Kingman boy Andy Devine holds "the ribbons" on what looks to be a sound stage shot.

"His name was Malpais Bill, and she could see the wildness in the corners of his eyes and in the long crease of his lips; it was a stamp that would never come off."
—Ernest Haycox, "The Stage to Lordsburg"

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Purple Sage Studies for Riders of The Purple Sage TW Cover

January 5, 2017
   Working on purple sage as it relates to Zane Grey's seminal title: "Riders of The Purple Sage." We're doing a feature on the best-selling book and the fact that it's being made into an opera. Funny that our younger staff members (including our 55-year-old publisher!) think the musical group of the same name, is where the title came from. Yikes! Getting old, Man. Getting old.

Daily Whip Out: "Purple Sage Study No. 6"

Here's how it might play as background on a proposed cover idea:

Daily Whip Out: "Purple Sage Study No. 7"

The trick will be to combine the purple sage, above, with this sketch:

Daily Whip Out: "Rider of Purple Sage Sketch No. 12"

And here is Dan The Man's cover layout utilizing the two design elements:

Unfinished Cover Rough FPO (for position only)

"Purple Haze sounding like TV. . ."
—Neil Young, "My Pledge"

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Once Upon A Mama Mia In The West?

January 3, 2017
   The great director, Elia Kazan (Zapata!, On The Waterfront), made it a habit to condense a movie script down to one sentence. That way he could understand what the story was really about and anything that didn't adhere to that one-sentence-idea was stripped away.

   I decided this is a good exercise. So I took a handful of movies that popped into my head and gave them the one sentence treatment:

• Tombstone: two gangs collide in a frontier town.

• McCabe & Mrs. Miller: An ambitious gambler gets in over his head.

• The Searchers: A racist loner seeks revenge but finds redemption.

• 26 Men: A handful of Arizona Rangers saddle up to solve crimes in the vast Arizona Territory.

• Hell Or High Water: A retiring Texas Ranger tries to catch two brothers who are losing the family farm to a crooked bank.

• Once Upon A Time In The West: The railroad brings woosies.

   Now you may disagree with me on some of these, especially the last one, but I was merely taking my cue from Sergio Leone himself:

"A great nation has been born. It's been a difficult birth. But all the violence has made the greatness possible. [From there] the West has given way to the great American Matriarchy, the worship of 'mom.' America has come to be based on this, and the arrival of the railroad ushers in the beginning of a world without balls."
—Sergio Leone, explaining the ending of Once Upon A Time In The West

Sarah Brava Stares Down Her Enemies

January 3, 2017
   Here's a big woman with a big heart and a saber scar on her cheek. 

Daily Whip Out: "Sarah Brava Stares Down Her Enemies."

"A work of art may be the only thing in life that we have full control over."
—Jeffery Allen

Monday, January 02, 2017

Confessions of A Taskmaster Grandfather

January 2, 2017
   Sometimes I worry that I didn't push my kids hard enough. Other times I worry that I pushed them too hard. I guess the bottom line is even an ex-Lutheran can find almost any excuse to feel guilty.

   That said, when my grandson was in town for the holidays, I pushed him hard. First off, I demanded that he do 100 reps of weight lift training every morning:

Weston The Weight Lifter

   Full disclosure: I think he did, perhaps, one rep, but I can't completely vouch for that. Okay, he did half a rep. Are you happy?

Weston The Branch Dragger

What can I say, the kid loves to drag branches all over the place, just like last year and probably next year.

Weston The Crow's Nest Climber

   Weston liked it that Grandpa has a Crow's Nest in his studio. Here he is coming up from below grandpa who is steadying the ladder for him. I'm not sure he enjoyed the view up there like his mama and papa did, but he sure liked the climb. It's the journey, you know

Weston The Tree Climber

   If there's one thing that kids like to do, it's climb stuff.

Weston The Gila Monster Climber

   This is a great slide up at the Carefree Town Center where we took Weston when he got bored with climbing all the stuff at our house.

Weston The Abstract Expressionist

   Of course, the main task was to get in some serious painting every day, and that I did mange to do with the boy. He's got bold ideas of how paint should go on and I must say I learned a thing or two from his mixing philosophy: squeeze as much out as you can and don't be shy about mixing right on top of other colors!

Mister Toilet Head

   At the end of the day, we like to laugh at the Triple B Ranch and we try to train them young. I think he will be fine, in the laughing department.

   That's it. That's my confession.

“How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Sharing My Studio With A Master

January 1, 2017
   We had a very nice visit from Weston and his family this last week. His parents had reservations at the Camelback Inn so they left the lad with grandpa and grandma Ha ha, as we are known to the boy.

Weston and his parents enjoyed the Arizona sun (they live in Seattle).

   Not long after they arrived, Weston sat in his favorite little chair and watched as his parents abandoned him for three whole days.

Bye bye, Mama and Papa. It's been nice knowing you.

   Once his parents were out of the picture, I drove the little guy pretty hard, kicking him out of bed at 6:30 every morning to build a fire in my studio stove:

Weston learned to use a bellows to stoke the stove fire.

And then I had him wash all the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink:

Weston does his best pearl diver imitation.

   Child Protection Services may have a limit on how much garbage a little boy can haul out to the curb, but it never even phased me, because we don't have curb and gutter out where we live.

Weston hauls out a ton of garbage to the end of the driveway.

Sure, it was heavy but how are they going to learn?

"He Man" Weston admiring his handyman work.

Weston watching the garbage truck closely to make sure he picked up both cans
and that the driver honked his horn, more than once.

   Then it was back to the studio to make sure he got in some serious painting:

Weston's first Daily Whip Out on Christmas Day. He did five paintings in all.

   And after a session of painting, Weston joined me as we drove up to Z's Asian Fusion in Cave Creek for a little takeout lunch.

Weston scores with Asian beauty

   He's gone home now, but I sure miss my studio partner. He was a fearless painter and I admire his approach and his skills.

"It took me 80 years to learn to paint like a child."
—Pablo Picasso

Ominous Clouds to The South

January 1, 2017
   I usually end with a quote, but since it's the first day of a new year, let's start with one:

"Everything in this world tries to be round."
—Squibe Nish

   Leave it to some Walapai guy to capture the circular essence of life on this planet. When I was a boy and we studied fascism and the rise of Nazism, I viewed it as a historical event that the world learned from and moved away from, in a linear fashion, on thru the sixties and seventies towards enlightenment. Recently, it dawned on me we have merely made a large orbit, back around to the year 1939, and we are on the eve of another inevitable collision. The more things change. . .and all that.

Proof Positive
   Just went for my first walk of the new year. Ominous clouds to the south. 

A scary face peers through the blue. Or, is that a hopeful hue?

   Damn you Squibe!

"Be silly. Be honest. Be kind."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."
—Mark Twain