Friday, May 25, 2018

The Duke of Dust Channels Edmundo Mell

May 25, 2018
   Sometimes I wake up and think to myself, "What would Edmundo Mell do?"

Daily Whip Out: "Vaquero Mell-o"

   Other times I think to myself, what would the Duke of Dust do? 

"Visibility Dropped to Zero
But Still He Rode On"

   When I'm not thinking up weird challenges to myself, I am often looking through one of the 10,000 books I own, looking for inspiration, and, sometimes when I see a picture like this one, below, I think to myself, "Wow. Now THAT'S a forrest of sombreros!"

A political meeting, circa 1916, where the Zapatistas and Constitutionalists fought it out rhetorically in gatherings like this before they resorted to out and out warfare.

 This photo is from, "Mexico: A Photographic History," 2006, which I bought in Valencia, Spain when we were visiting my son Tomas, who was going to school there at the time.

   My friend Lauren Kormylo sent me a 1902 travelogue piece from Mexico about buying hats and, in the piece, it states, "There are few places of more interest in Mexico than a hat store. the prices range from 50 cents for a cheap straw to [$50] for a gold or silver encrusted felt. . .while we export to Mexico many things, we import from that country [$25,000] worth of hats every year.

   "Brims went out and crowns went up, and gold and silver, gallon, monograms, and what not, decorated these wondrous head coverings, until the Spanish hat en regal, represented a small fortune. . .Mexican's love and display of a big hat as elegant as his purse will allow, then, too, these big hats are delightful in a land of almost perpetual sunshine. You laugh at the big sugarloaf hat on the border, but find yourself wearing it in the heart of Mexico."
—By Mrs. James Edwin Morris, "A Tour of Mexico," 1902

   Now, one of my criticisms of the modern day hatmakers who are trying to emulate the sugarloaf (God bless them!!) is that the crowns are too symmetrical, and give off a submarine coning tower look—which results in derisive comments like the one my friend Doc Ingalls gets when he wears his: "What are you supposed to be, a conehead?"

   Check out this 1905 photo of two classic sugarloafs and note the subtle, elegant slope of the crowns:

Examining fruit, on the porch of the Cuesta Gallardo Hacienda, south of Guadalajara

   Not sure how the Mexican hatmakers achieved this, but it's a very sophisticated look.

   And by the way, I have been all over Sonora and Chihuahua looking for a shop that sells these sugarloafs and they are all extinct.

"Funny how blessings brighten as they take their flight."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mailbox: Praise of the Belle of Old Fort Sumner & Infantor

May 24, 2018
   Got some interesting mail this week. The first request was to see "the family who likes to camp." This is an inside joke because we actually hated camping, but someone in Hands Across The Border saw us at a school event and remarked, "Oh, yes, you are the family that likes to camp."

The Bell family eighties version

Praise for "The Bell of Old Fort Sumner"

   "Boy did I love the Billy the Kid multi-page story in the May True West.  And the lost manuscript based on the interview with Billy's lover.  I read it twice!   The explanation of the events at Pete Maxwell's place that night was such great reading.  Thanks to your team for committing so many pages to one subject.  Sometimes your authors are too brief but this time they were 'spot on!'."
—Allen Fossenkemper, Fountain Hills, Arizona

"The Belle of Old Fort Sumner"

Infantor! He Never Minds He-Dad!

   "In the mid 80’s a comic strip ran briefly in Westword, an alt weekly here in Denver.  Westword gave me your contact link and said you had the rights. The strip featured an infant/toddler in diapers called Infantor.  I think you are the artist.  If not I’m sorry to bother you. It was hilarious. Thanks for your time."

 —Steve Kelly, Denver, Colorado

   Here you go:

He-Dad is no match for Infantor!

"Radical change is the nature of American life. That's the only permanent thing."

—Philip Roth

Rurales Sporting High-Pinched, Matching, Sugarloaf Sombreros

May 24, 2018
   I am on the hunt for an almost extinct hat style: that would be the big-brimmed Mexican Sugarloaf. Check out this great image:

Mexican Rurales With Matching Sugarloafs

   This is a wonderful photo of detrained Rurales lined up, and waiting for their horses. They are under the command of Carlos Rincon Gallardo, the duke of Regla, marquis of Guadalupe and an aristocratic charro. Gallardo rose to the rank of division general and is famous for his contributions to charreria, the Mexican national sport. The Rurales seen here, are sporting matching, high-pinched, sugarloaf headgear, and on the back of the photo it says they  are on their way to Aguacalientes, on May 18, 1914.

   Each hat appears to have the number 8 embroidered on the side of the crown (it may be a "B"). I'd love to see a photograph of all them mounted and coming down the lane. I have a hunch they would be intimidating.

   Of course, this amazing hat style is all but gone and only a bastardized, low crown version remains (you see it on charros competing in charrerias).    

   Eventually, somebody is going to get hip to this headgear baddasserie and use it in a Western. Until that time, check this out:

Daily Whip Out: "Big Brimmed Vaquero"

Daily Whip Out:
"Another Red Dust Vaquero"

"Doroteo Arrango"

"It is useless to put all this into past tense: there are always other generals in Mexico. Everything is repeated there, even the blood sacrifices of the Aztecs; the age of Mexico falls on the spirit like a cloud."
— Graham Greene, "The Lawless Roads"

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Red Dust Riders & Other Atmospheric Phenoms

May 23, 2018
   You know that fading light phenom when you can still see but it's all thin in detail?

Daily Whip Out: "Red Dust Riders"

   You know that phenom where a dust devil comes right at you, and you zig when you should have zagged?

"Dust Devils Are Bad Medicine"

   You know that phenom when there's a big storm brewing in the north and you think you can make it home, but you're not sure you'll make it without getting wet?

"Cowboy's Dream"

    You know that phenom where you do a quick painting and you don't even try to make it work and then one of your favorite recording artists sees it on your blog, contacts you about using it on a CD cover and you can't find the original because you didn't think it was worth saving?

"Magic Hour"

   I wonder if there's a theory about how all these phenoms work together?

"Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn't."
—Chief Dan George, "Little Big Man"

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Split Decision

May 22, 2018
   Our most recent cover dilemma did not turn out the way I thought it might. The staff was equally torn between two, pretty spectacular cover concepts:

Dueling Covers

   When I put the two covers on this blog and Facebook and asked our readers to weigh in, one cover polled much stronger than the other (the Curtis cover, at left, got the most votes). The comments on both sides were compelling and passionate:

"I believe the Curtis cover (Vanishing Illusions) is a homerun. Super compelling."
—John Fusco

"The Curtis cover graphic grabs you immediately."
—Jeff Prechtel

"I think Curtis would have a broader appeal."
—Marshall Trimble

"What a difficult choice! I love both. I don't know the story of the Power brothers and feel that the Curtis cover may have more universal appeal."
—Carole Glenn

"For me, long shots are not as interesting as faces and close ups. So I think cover #2 (The Power of Redemption) is stronger."
—Larry Winget

"Both are great covers. I love the artistic nature of the Curtis cover but my gut tells me the Power cover would have more newsstand appeal."
—Linda Blair, our newsstand consultant

"I am obviously prejudiced in favor of outlaws and lawmen, but I vote for the Power shootout. I think that will really grab anyone at the newsstand."
—John Boessenecker

"As much as I like Curtiss work, I prefer the redemption photo for our cover."
—Jana Bommersbach

"I like the Curtis cover better, but the Power cover is eye-grabbing and makes you wonder what the story is. I think that's your newsstand cover."
—Jeff Mariotte

"The Power of Redemption cover has imperative. The Curtis cover is passive."
—Red Shuttleworth

"Redemption looks like it would grab more attention on the newsstand, and I say that in spite of how much I love Curtis' work."
—Mark Tickler

"It looks to me like the Power cover has it."
—Mundo Con Queso

    On the day we went to press—about ten days ago—we had one final, spirited debate about the pros and cons on the covers and it mirrored pretty closely to the comments, above. 

   In the end, however, when we broke it down, everyone agreed we had made the right call.

   If you are a subscriber, you will know within the next 48 hours which cover we went with. If you buy True West off the newsstand you will have to wait another week, and if you are slumming here for free, and have no intention of buying the issue, I'm not going to tell you. Ever.

"Everything may, in fact, want to be free, as they say, but that's not how you pay the bills."
—Old Norwegian Saying

Dust Devils Are Bad Medicine

May 22, 2018
   Got up this morning and took a run at a favorite topic:

Daily Whip Out:
"Dust Devils Are Bad Medicine"

"He who laughs, lasts."
—Mary Pettibone Poole

Monday, May 21, 2018

Our Gang: The Genesis of The Top Secret Writer

May 21, 2018
   Ever sit around and wonder where all the members of the True West staff matriculated from and what exactly made them want to be a part of the history biz and hang with the True West gang?

   Me neither. No, that's not true, it was actually my idea to honor all our fine staff on our 65th anniversary as a magazine, and find out when and where they all got into the game. It's intriguing, to me, just how different each and every member of the True West Class of 2018 is, and how they each came to be involved with the best Old West history magazine on the planet:

The Top Secret Writer at Age 10

   Here is his own personal account in his words:

   "This military dependent ID card was made in July 1960 when my Air Force family was transferred to Taipei, Taiwan.  I was a very unhappy ten year old. I had loved our four years in San Angelo, Texas, where I had fallen in love with tales of Davy Crockett and the Alamo that I learned in school. From those days grew my obsession with western history. When we returned to the states in 1963 I bought my very first issue of True West magazine at a local drugstore for 35 cents. That was a fortune to me back then but the colorful Paxson painting of Custer's Last Stand on the cover of the October 1963 issue enthralled me. I hardly ever missed an issue after that.I remember when the magazine's historical consultant, Dr. Walter Prescott Webb, was killed in a car accident. I did not know who he was back then but I sensed from the obituary in the magazine that he was really important. Later I learned that he was one of our nations greatest historians. Many years later I asked my friend Bob Boze Bell, now the owner and publisher of True West, to assign me to the same position once held by Dr. Webb. He did and that is why I am listed as"historical consultant" on the magazine's editorial credits.  

"Well,  isn't that special."

—The Church Lady

The Master Laughers & Santa Res

May 21, 2018
   Got some more In-din humor stuff over the weekend:

Santa Res: "Ay-Ho, Ay-Hot, Ay-Ho!"

   He don't wear White Man boots. No, he wears moccasins made out of Dasher. He don't need no reins, he navigates his sled by pointing his lips. All his elves are Hopis from Second Mesa and he sometimes doesn't show up with his gift bag until February.
—Distilled from a humor piece by Arnold Richardson

The Master Laughers

When I interviewed Wes Studi last week he talked about the different ways In-din women laugh. Sometimes it's gentle, sometimes it can be very cutting and sometimes when they hit a high pitch together they can almost break glass. 

Daily Whip Out: "The Master Laughers"

   And speaking of White People who claim to have a "Cherokee Princess" in their lineage:

   "Every time my old, late friend, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, was introduced to someone who claimed a Cherokee grandmother he would turn them around and look at their butt and say, 'I can usually tell by the high cheekbones.'"

—Bobby Bridger

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Custer Wore Arrow Shirts And Beating A Dead Horse

May 20, 2018
   It's an old joke first told by Vine Deloria, Jr. in his seminal book, "Custer Died for Your Sins" (1969). "Indians say Custer was well-dressed for the occasion. When the Sioux found his body after the battle, he had on an Arrow shirt." 

Daily Whip Out:
"Custer Wore Arrow Shirts, Idea #1"

   In terms of illustrating this joke for the upcoming article (August issue), I wanted to approach it more from an advertising angle, as if the 150-year-old clothing company was going to mount an ad campaign to promote their line of Custer Arrow Shirts.

"Custer Wore Arrow Shirts, Idea #2"

   According to a Google search, "The idea of a man’s shirt having a detachable collar was invented in Troy, New York, in 1825. Hannah Lord Montague came up with the idea as a way to keep a shirt looking fresh and crisp without daily laundering. Soon, several companies in the area began manufacturing the collars, including Maullin & Blanchard. Cluett Peabody & Company acquired the company in 1885, and soon Arrow collars and cuffs were being widely distributed."

   This is from the Arrow Shirt Co. website. Reading on, I found out this:

The Arrow Collar Man

   "Part of the Arrow collar popularity was the creation of the Arrow Collar Man by artist J.C. Leyendecker. This good-looking man, always dressed in the latest Arrow items, became one of the most recognizable brand icons of the time. President Theodore Roosevelt was among his many fans, and at the height of his popularity, the fictional Arrow Collar Man was getting up to 17,000 fan letters a day -- mostly from young women."

   Wow! A day? That is in the Shawn Cassidy-Princess Diana zone. And, to me, it just proves there is nothing new under the sun. Here is a good example of the Leyendecker look:

The Arrow Collar Stud, by J.C. Leyendecker

   I have been a longtime fan and knew that J.C. Leyendecker was a prolific commercial artist and a neighbor of Norman Rockwell (the recent biography on Rockwell outed Leyendecker). "Not that there's anything wrong with that," said the defensive artist, referring to the artist's alleged gayness, not the scumbag journalism.

   So, back to the arrow shirt concept. It's a decent parody, but is it funny? Because what I really want, is to portray the joke in the funniest way I can. One of my first ideas—first idea, best idea—was to have Custer in a Vaudeville pose, strutting across the prairie with his "arrow" shirt:

"Custer Wears Arrow Shirts, Idea #4"

  Then I got caught up in the whole hair problem deal (everyone knows Custer didn't have long hair at the Little Big Horn, yadda, yadda. . .) so I decided, okay, what if he's scalped, and still strutting?

"Custer Wears Arrow Shirts, Idea #5"

   Ben Foster, maybe, but not a great likeness of the Boy General and besides, my late mother and the still here, Paul Hutton, would hate this one.

   This is my usual problem: overwrought and under-rendered. I often beat myself up for beating a dead horse,  which is an ugly metaphor, but an accurate one, just the same.

Dead at the Post Office

   Our post office has become the go-to place to find out who has died in our small town. Here is the entrance, a couple days ago, featuring two recently passed Cave Creekers. As I was reading the details, a guy came out and saw me reading and said, "I hope I don't see myself up there."

  "Don't worry," I said with all the gravity I could muster, "You won't live to see it, but my only hope is that the graphics on mine are better than these."

"All men think all men mortal but themselves."
—Edward Young

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Bogus Cherokee Princess

May 19, 2018
   Additions to our upcoming In-din Humor issue include:

   Why do so many Americans (my own family included) persist in believing they have Cherokee blood? And why are there so many of us who believe our grandmother, or, great-grandmother, was a "Cherokee Princess"?

           My Cherokee Grandmother Princess

    Just kidding. This is actually "Zacharias Bones" and "Running White Fawn" of Wichita, Kansas, circa "recently." They illustrate a typical fantasy of many White Eyes (myself included). So, where did this In-din envy come from, and why Cherokees?

"Throughout the South in the 1840s and 1850s, large numbers of whites began claiming they were descended from a Cherokee great-grandmother. That great-grandmother was often a 'princess,' a not-inconsequential detail in a region obsessed with social status and suspicious of outsiders. By claiming a royal Cherokee ancestor, white Southerners were legitimating the antiquity of their native-born status as sons or daughters of the South, as well as establishing their determination to defend their rights against an aggressive federal government, as they imagined the Cherokees had done. These may have been self-serving historical delusions, but they have proven to be enduring."

Check out these stats:

"In 2000, the federal census reported that 729,533 Americans self-identified as Cherokee. By 2010, that number increased, with the Census Bureau reporting that 819,105 Americans claimed at least one Cherokee ancestor."

   Both quotes are from a very good article by Gregory D. Smithers, and you can read it right here:

Why Do So Many Americans Believe They Have Cherokee Blood?

"If every white person who claims to have Cherokee blood is really Cherokee, our grandfathers would not have had time to sleep."
—Old Cherokee Saying

Friday, May 18, 2018

Madame La Tule Offer

May 18, 2018
   Got a sweet little offer for just the people who read this blog:

Madame La Tule

   Her real name was Maria Gertrudis Tules Barcel√≥ (c. 1800 – January 17, 1852), she was commonly known as La Tules, and she was a Santa Fe saloon owner and master gambler in the Territory of New Mexico at the time of the U.S.-Mexican War.

Special Limited Edition of Madame La Tule

   I am OFFERING a LIMITED EDITION of fifteen (15) black and white relief prints of Madame La Tules printed with archival inks and embossed with the Santo Press chop. All are titled, numbered, copyrighted and hand-signed by me: Bob Boze Bell. Priced at $100 plus shipping and handling, the image measures 15.5”h x 7”w on 20”h x 11”w on 300-gram acid free paper.

A SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION of ten (10) hand-colored prints is offered at 
$150 each plus shipping and handling.

"Painted Lady Tules #1"

Going to go quick, so send me an email to lock down your order. Place your order to me at so I have your
email and can more readily respond to your requests.

"In truth, every person deserves a museum of his, or her, own life, because every life is so irreducibly strange, every mind so infinitely rich. There ought to be 7.6 billion little museums all over the world."

—Samanth Subramanian

The Earth Is Passing Gas, Man

May 18, 2018
    Sometimes scientists fall short in conveying to the rest of us what is actually happening on the planet.

The Best Explanation I Have Heard So Far
"That's the earth, farting, Man. All I know is, that volcano is demanding some respect."
—Rufus Daigle, 69, Klaueo, Hawaii

A ring of flowers on budding saguaro, Cahava Ranch Road

Where Do My Book Ideas Come From?
   Book ideas come to me like female hot flashes: out of the blue, often at odd hours, they burn bright, then I go back to sleep and I'm awakened by another one. Got this from my curator, Kristi Jacobs who was digging deep in my blog for a missing art piece:

"Your May 10, 2010 blog ends with. . .

"These are grave matters."
—BBB, from the forthcoming book The Fine Art of Becoming A Fine Artist
   "What ever happened to that book?"

   Oh, my, I have had so many book ideas it's not even funny. This "Fine Art" idea is one of them. I saw this quote today which pretty much sums it all up:

"It's never been easy to make something new. Inspiration strikes; insight occurs; shit happens."
—Bijan Stephen

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Duke of Dust Gets Down In The Dirt

May 17, 2018
   Back in May of 2010, Ed Mell and I, traveled to Utah on a plein air expedition. On the way home we hit a really bad dust storm at Kayenta and it sandblasted Ed's new car (he still growls about it), but I got a vivid memory of Agatha Peak shrouded like a ghost off in the middle-distance. A scene I have taken several runs at.

   This morning I was looking for something else (actually a painting called "Magic Hour" for Juni Fisher) when I came across a half-finished study of Agatha Peak painted from the memory of that trip, and I knew what it needed—a rippling, sand swept foreground to lock it together.

"Agatha Peak Shrouded In Dust"

   I also found another unfinished mesa which I gave a couple key strokes to:

Daily Whip Out: "Windswept Mesa"

   And I added a background to another piece:

Daily Whip out: "Mojave Laughers"

   And gave another one a go here:

Daily Whip Out: "Foolish Cloud People"

   Funny what you can accomplish when you're supposed to be doing something else.

Daily Whip Out: "Land of Dry Lakes"

   "Originality is the art of concealing your sources."
—Old Vaquero Saying