Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cowboy Hat Etiquette, Part V: Bronc Riders Take Their Hats Off for Nobody

March 21, 2018
   Two weeks ago I was on a panel at the Tucson Festival of Books with two very interesting cowboys. One of them, Alan Day, is the co-author of "The Lazy B" a classic book about growing up on a ranch near Duncan, Arizona. His co-author was his sister, Sandra Day O'Connor, and he told some great stories about cowboying all over the southeastern part of Arizona.

   The other session cowboy was the author Rod Miller, who said a very interesting thing about hat etiquette. Rod is a former bronc rider. Here he is, when he was on the Utah State University Rodeo Team:

Rod Miller, middle row, far left, with the
Utah State University Rodeo Team, 1973

And here's Rod in action, back in the day:

       And here's Rod after landing face first in the mud:

Key point: his hat resembles a mudflap but he's still got it on!

   Here's what Rod told the audience about cowboy hat etiquette:

Bronc Riders Take Their Hats Off for Nobody

   During the late sixties and through the mid-seventies I rode bareback broncs in high school, college, amateur, and pro rodeos around the Intermountain West. The rodeo cowboys—rounders—I hung out with believed being a cowboy was an all-the-time thing, and we dressed the part with pride. That included hats. Going without one was akin to being naked, and we wore our hats everywhere, including classes at college, in cafés and bars, at home, and pretty much everywhere we went. The only rule concerning hats in our crowd was never—ever—put your hat on a bed, as that was considered bad luck. We screwed them down tight when we rode, the thought being that if a horse or bull bucked off your hat, you wouldn’t be far behind. Off-the-rack Resistol hats were the preferred brand, with Bailey a distant second. Felt in fall, winter, and spring; straw in summer. But, always, a hat. 

Well, what about your mama's house? Did you doff there?

   Mom didn't care much about head cover. But when I first met my future mother-in-law my hat was on my head and stayed there, and it never occurred to me it should be otherwise. I found out later that my lack of couth did not impress her much. She got over it--or used to it--and came to appreciate my finer qualities, even so far as to actually like having me around as a son-in-law. 

   I did take my hat off for the Star Spangled banner at rodeos, unless I was astride a bronc in the bucking chutes setting my rigging. In those instances, someone might or might not hold it for me while my latigoes were being stretched. 

   Coming and going for short periods we wore our hats in and out of the house, but when settling in for the evening they went on the peg, to be put on again when going out. 
—Rod Miller

We've covered old time rodeo, like this cover back in 2010.

   And if you want to see our coverage of cowboy hat etiquette, here are a couple posts:

The History of Hat Etiquette, Part I

   And if you want to read even more, check this out:

Saloon Etiquette for Cowboys

   And here's Rod's latest book. Check it out:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Five Unattainable Girls I'm Still Trying to Impress

March 20, 2018
   Like more than a few boys who grew up in a small town, I have a thing for beautiful women who are unattainable. At that time (late fifties, early sixties) there were perhaps a couple hundred available "girls" in Mohave County and five of them were absolutely beautiful. These gorgeous "babes" (Sorry, I'm not sorry) also had another thing in common: they wanted nothing to do with me. Some of my friends said it was because I was too skinny. Others reminded me I was obnoxious and had a severe case of acne. Whatever the real reason (all of the above?) I finally realized, quite a few people are into that whole physically attractive deal and apparently it's reciprocal.

   So when you are totally out of the running, what does a poor boy do—except play in a rock 'n' roll band—well, you fixate on totally unattainable females. And when I was in the eighth grade that would be this very mature and very unattainable girl:

   When I got to high school, the unattainables branched out a bit:

A mixture of the unattainable babes on my pubescent radar

   Eventually, I actually did date a few of the babes, above, with the notable exception of Brigitte Bardot.

   But back to the High Five from Kingman. The irony is, it's been sixty years, and I'm still trying to impress those five girls.

   And two of them are dead! ("The first edition is sold out, Renee. Now, will you go to prom with me?")

    I know it sounds weird and comes off as extremely immature, but it has been my motivation and driver for a very long time and on some level I will die with this odd, five-unattainable-girls-muse pushing me onward.

One of the High Five is in this old picture.

"Gently remind yourself that life is okay the way it is, right now. In the absence of your judgment, everything would be fine. As you begin to eliminate your need for perfection in all areas of your life, you'll begin to discover the perfection in life itself."
—Richard Carlson

Monday, March 19, 2018

The History of Truth, Or, Seeking Truth In A Post-Truth World

March 19, 2018
   I have been seeking the truth about Wyatt Earp since 1959 when my grandmother told me the real Wyatt Earp was the biggest jerk who ever walked the West. I was stunned by the discrepancy between my favorite tv show, "The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp" starring Hugh O'Brian, and my grandmother's body slam of said Legend as being untrue.

"Wyatt Whips It Out"

   Fast forward a quarter century and the question became this: was Wyatt Earp a stalwart lawman, or a low life pimp? I would argue he was both, but there are advocates for Mr. Earp who favor the former and dismiss the latter "profession" as, fake news.

   And, by the way, today is Wyatt's birthday, March 19. 

   What I have learned over the last sixty-some-odd years is that there is more than one truth about each and every event and person who ever walked the stage we know as the Old West.

Here is the hard truth about historic truth:

• We have a tendency to select the truths that align with our belief systems and ignore, or deny the rest.

• Nothing changes more than the past. Things we believed to be true are disproven, or changed, almost daily. For example, did van Gogh cut his ear off and gift it to a prostitute? That's what I have read all of my life, until today, when I read a new version that claims van Gogh actually lost his ear in a heated argument with his fellow artist and housemate Paul Gauguin, who was a fencer, and severed Vincent's ear off with his sword and van Gogh tried to protect his friend with the "false" story.

"Happy is the one who is taught by the truth."
—Vincent van Gogh

   And so it goes.

   There is a new book out about "Truth" by Hector MacDonald and many of the statements and claims apply to the study of history.

   "Most of what we assert to be true — in politics and in other realms of experience — is in fact just partial and selective truths, shaped consciously or unconsciously by our attachments, beliefs, wishes and preferences." 

   "Very few statements or beliefs in this world can be pinned down as unmistakably true. Even expert opinion by historians can be open to question or rival interpretations. 

   In the seventies we had, "unearned righteousness superseding patient argumentation. That was the era that first popularized the grating phrase 'speak my truth,' which ironically undermines its own demands to be heard with its implicit relativism."

"There is more than one truth about most things. Eating meat is nutritious but it’s also damaging to the environment. The Internet disseminates knowledge but it also spreads hatred. As communicators, we select the truths that are most useful to our agenda."

—Hector MacDonald

Bob Guess, Louise Guess and their first daughter,
Sadie Pearl in the boot-heel of New Mexico.

   One final note: my grandmother, Louise Guess, lived for a time in the Steins Pass, Animus Valley area of New Mexico, which is right across the border from Arizona (for a short time, they lived in Rodeo, New Mexico, which is right on the line). She, and my grandfather, Bob Guess, were there in the early part of the Twentieth Century and many of the cow-boys who participated in the Tombstone dramas of the 1880s were still alive and had many things to say about the "carpetbagging" Earps. In fact, if you go out into that area today, you will still find it hard to find a cow-boy who has nice things to say about the Earps.

"One of the problems in this world is that everyone is about half right."


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Don Dedera Still Has The Power

March 17, 2018
  I had a speech at the Rotary Club in Prescott yesterday and then traveled the back way to Payson to pay my respects to a legendary Arizona journalist, editor and author, Don Dedera. It was his 89th birthday and Marshall Trimble and myself spent part of the afternoon listening to the Man of the hour regale us with old-time Arizona history.

Marshall Trimble, Don Dedera and BBB

   Don is holding the pair of spurs the Power brothers made for him in prison. Their tragic story will be featured in an upcoming issue of True West.

The Power Brother's Spurs

    I later told Marsh I felt like we were visiting an old school teacher we admired from our youth. Don is a handful. At one point he said to me, "Where'd you get those ugly boots?" I started to answer, but he didn't want to hear the answer, he was off on another story. I think it's safe to say Marsh and I like to talk, but I don't think we got in ten words between us. As it should be!

      Full disclosure: The Power brothers is a story I have avoided telling for the past thirty-five years. I'm not sure why it never connected with me. Perhaps it's the pettiness of the spark that created the disaster—draft dodging! The newspaper at the time screamed, "OFFICERS KILLED IN BATTLE WITH SLACKERS".

   At any rate, this is a story I intend to tell with help from Don and a new book out on the 100th anniversary of the killing, "Arizona's Deadliest Gunfight: Draft Resistance and Tragedy at the Power Cabin, 1918," by Heidi Osselaer.

"Two old men, ghosts from the Old West, freed from prison by a crusading newspaper columnist, into a world of freeways, jetliners and space exploration."
—Scott Seckel

"These guys were in prison for 10 years before I was born. They served another decade before I ever set foot in Arizona. We're talking 20 years. They served another decade before I could get through school and my service and get through (Arizona State College) and get a job on the paper. Thirty years! They served another decade before I'm sitting across the table from them at Florence. That's 40 years!"
—Don Dedera, on how he came to the story of the Power brothers

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Rebirth of Print and Harvey Weinstein Gets Punched in The Face

March 16, 2018
   Drove up the hill to Prescott yesterday for a speech at the Phippen Museum on Olive Oatman. Big, ragged clouds all the way. Shot this right out the front window:

Storm Clouds Over Prescott Valley

   If you have been wondering where Harvey Weinstein has been hiding out, wonder no more. He did time at the Meadows in Wickenburg and he allegedly has a place in Scottsdale and has been seen out on the town, sometimes wearing a wig, a black T-shirt and a fedora. According to an article in the New York Times, someone punched him in the face at the Sanctuary, an upscale restaurant in Paradise Valley.

   I have another speech in Prescott today, then I'm heading over to Payson for Don Dedera's birthday party. I believe he's 89. I grew up reading his columns in the Arizona Republic where he was the driving force behind pardons for the Power brothers. We are doing a feature on that tragic shootout in an upcoming issue of True West. When Don was editor for Arizona Highways he gave me my first illustration assignment, thus the quote, below.

   Speaking of print:

   "We love print. I’m a huge believer in it. We’ve lived with devices long enough to understand their enormous advantages and disadvantages. If you’ve spent 90 minutes scrolling on your phone, you don’t necessarily feel more informed. You may feel listless and restless. We’re moving into a post-digital euphoria. We’ve seen e-books have plateaued, and real books have had an enormous rebirth. A magazine is restorative. You need to be able to unplug. You absorb information differently when you read it on the page."
Joanna Coles, chief content officer at Hearst Magazines

"I invented you."

—Don Dedera, in his invite to me for his birthday party

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Cowgirl Code: Honkytonk Sue Lays Down The Law

March 15, 2018
   Here's a board that has been sitting in my studio morgue for at least two decades. In fact, Robert Steinhilber did the lettering when he still lived in Phoenix. The actual drawing was unfinished, and this morning I finally decided to fix that and went home for lunch and returned with this:

   The model for this was Jackie King, one of the prettiest and nicest cowgirls Arizona has ever produced.

   More treasures from the garage. Back in the mid-eighties I got an assignment to go to Prescott and do illustrations for Arizona Highways. I found Jay Dusard on his spread and took this photograph of him (as reference for an illustration).

Legendary Arizona Photographer Jay Dusard, in Prescott

   Here's another photo I found that made me smile:

Carson Mell "Looks Familiar"

Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.” 
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Words to Live By And Clever Words Lined Up

March 14, 2018
   My mother and her four sisters had a way of speaking that was clever and infectious. Here's a list of words they used that I miss:

Lillie Louise Guess at the King Tut Mine, Mohave County

Ho Hum
Phony Baloney
Hardy Har Har

The Coffee Pot Cafe where all the above words were spoken.

Words lined up, like a train pulling cars.

Words Lined Up    I believe good writing is simply choosing the right words and putting them in the right order. So, with that in mind, here's a bunch of words put in an order that is pretty damn clever:

• "I have a step ladder. I never knew my real ladder."
• "I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize."
• "Borrow money from pessimists—they don't expect it back."
• "Half the people you know are below average."
• "99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name."
• "All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand."
• "The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
• "I almost had a psychic girlfriend, but she left me before we met."
• "OK, so what's the speed of dark?"
• "How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?"
• "Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now."
• "I intend to live forever. So far, so good."
• "What happens if you get scared half to death twice?"
• "Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?"
• "Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don't have film."
• "If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you."
• "If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?"

• "It's a small world but I wouldn't want to paint it."
—attributed to comedian Steven Wright, although I believe there are some ringers in here.

BBB Bad Men Duo Monoprint

“Success doesn’t come with painting one picture. It results from taking a certain definite line of action and staying with it."
—Georgia O'Keefe

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Unfinished Kid: A Killer Billy the Kid Manuscript Surfaces

March 13, 2018
   I got a serious offer on this painting today:

"A Belle of Old Fort Sumner"

   I can't really sell it, and here's the inside skinny on why. 

   Several months ago, author Mark Lee Gardner bought an unknown collection of Walter Noble Burns manuscripts on eBay. It consisted of hundreds of pages of manuscript materials, mostly Burns' unpublished western fiction and an unpublished play about pirates! But there was some killer Billy the Kid-related items mixed in, and one of them was an unpublished article titled "A Belle of Old Fort Sumner," which predates the chapter of the same name in Saga that gave Burns' publisher fits.  Fearing a libel suit from the still living "Belle," Paulita Maxwell Jaramillo, his publisher forced Burns to rewrite the chapter.  Pete's sister (not his daughter as is often stated) was only 15 at the time of the alleged tryst with the Kid and this was probably the motive for Pete to throw the outlaw under the bus.

We are going to run this "lost" version in the next issue of True West (May) with Mark's commentary and annotations. It's very cool. 

When the design for the piece came back, I didn't like the art in the original layout (a typical bad, early drawing of the Kid in the same old pose and old-yellowed pages with Burns' handwriting underneath):

First layout

   So I asked our production manager, if the title is "A Belle of Old Fort Sumner" don't you think there should be a picture of the Kid with said Belle?

   To which he said, "When are you going to paint it?" 

   So I went home for lunch and found an old board upstairs which had this exact subject matter, but I got stuck and never finished it. I grabbed it and quickly gave it a go, but I ran out of time (lot's of nuance going on behind that picket fence) and the saddle and back end of the horse are unfinished. Here is the entire painting, un-cropped:

"The Unfinished Kid"

   I know what you're thinking—Why don't you just finish the painting and sell it? Well, because this issue goes to press on Thursday and I have June steaming in right behind it!

"If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Tucson Festival of Books Lovefest And Rockout

March 12, 2018
   We had a wild weekend down in the Old Pueblo. Woke up Saturday morning in our hotel and looked out at this fine sight:

The Mighty Catalinas at daybreak

   I had a book session with authors Rod Miller (below, center) and Alan Day (Sandra Day's brother), moderated by John Langellier, and we told some tall windies and then went out to the University of Arizona Book Tent and sold a slew of books.

   Went and visited Greg Carroll and Sarah at their digs which they found on AirBnB: they found a place called The Tin House at 7th Street and Tyndall. 

Pat Afseth, The Queen of The Tin House
(that's Greg and Sarah at the bar)

Quite a fantastic hodge-podge of Old West artifacts memorabilia, like this old sign, below, for the Round-up Bar on Benson Highway. I have a connection to the sign because I actually played the Round-up when I was moonlighting in a Country-Western band back in the day.

The Round-up Bar sign

   The Tucson Festival of Books gets about 150,000 people and there are hundreds of booksellers in tents, like the ones you see in the background of the photo, below. Sometimes it's hard to find your favorite author. 

Debbie Mecom and her daughter, Amaya, 8. 
Note the names on card.

This young lady, Debbie Mecom, walked up to our tent at about two yesterday and held up a hand written card and read off of it: "Can anyone tell me where I can find the tent that Bob Boze Bell and Johnny Boggs are in?" Johnny and I laughed out loud because we were chatting behind the table as she walked up. Turns out her father asked her to find us and buy our books for him, and she did.

At five, Kathy and I walked down to the free concert, featuring The Rock Bottom Remainders, a legendary (and literary) rock band put together by humorist Dave Barry—and his brother Sam Barry—featuring well known authors like Stephen King (who was not present for this gig) and Amy Tan, among other best selling wordsmiths. I have heard about this band for years and often thought I could be their drummer if I ever had a best-selling book. I wasn't expecting much but I have to tell you, they rocked the house (I think they had a ringer drummer, who was very good). They closed with "Wild Thing" and the encore was "Gloria," so they hit me right where I live. Kathy and I danced and grooved to the beat and had more fun than most of the retirees who were in the audience. Best free show I have ever seen and I saw the Beach Boys at a Get-Out-The-Vote free show at Phoenix Muni in 1971.

The Rock Bottom Remainders Kick Out The Jams

   The funniest guy at the festival was the writer Alan Zweibel (on stage, above, first guy from left) who has a new book out, co-written with Dave Barry, called "For This We Left Egypt?" He revealed what Larry David is really like ("very likeable and generous and not the loud cartoon he plays on 'Curb.'") and Alan also told the joke that got him hired by Lorne Michaels for "Saturday Night Live": "The U.S. Post Office has issued a commemorative stamp to honor prostitution. It's 10 cents, or 25 cents if you lick it." Alan started out writing jokes for comedians like Rodney Dangerfield and he got $7 IF the joke got a laugh. This one got a laugh:

"My mother didn't breast feed me. She said she just wanted to be my friend."
—Alan Zweibel

Saturday, March 10, 2018

It Was A Different Time

March 10, 2018
   When I was cleaning out my files in the garage last weekend, I ran across a slew of old magazines, a couple of which made me cringe—and, ultimately mutter, "Well, it was a different time." 

   Here are some ads and cartoons from one of those mags, a 1968 issue of Playboy. Hard to believe, but I have been carrying this mag from my dorm at the University of Arizona (Cochise), to five different apartments in Tucson, thru a rental house and a divorce and up to Phoenix (two houses) and out to Cave Creek where it has resided for the past 30 years in a box in the garage. It's a long, strange trip for a publication that once-upon-a-time had some major cultural clout (it's a whopping 242 pages!):

   And here for your cringing pleasure are just a couple of the outdated and very unenlightened tidbits that were considered so groovy at the time:

Big Tip Pall Mall Gold ad, 1968

   At the time it all seemed so liberated (seriously!) and new. We were all dreaming of a time in the distant future when no one would be hung up on sex. Well, at least for a certain type of old-school man:

Playboy cartoon, 1968

   Funny how the guy looks a bit like a cranky Hugh Heffner. But it gets worse, or, better, depending on your idea of progress:

Playboy cartoon, 1968


But One Thing Has Not Changed at All
   But the shocker, at least to me, is that the gun debate is exactly the same. It hasn't budged an inch in fifty years! Playboy sites the same statistics ("75 percent of Americans want gun control") and the readers site efforts they are making to change Congress and for two pages the case is made that imminent change is on the way.

"The More things change, the more they remain the same."

—Old Vaquero Saying