Saturday, August 18, 2018

Things You Should Know I Know

August 18, 2018
   Here's a quote I love: "If you are going to tell the truth, better make them laugh, otherwise they will kill you."

   This brilliant sentiment—variously ascribed to George Berhnard Shaw, Cecile Starr, Charles Ludlam, Richard Pryor, James L. Brooks and others, I kid you not—perfectly captures what I am about to tell you.

   Two weeks ago I talked my good friend, the Top Secret Writer, into giving us a no-holds-barred rant on the state of history in this country. Long story short, he did just that, at some expense,  in terms of time and effort.

   I love Paul Andrew Hutton and I love his rants. When he gets going on a topic, it is nothing short of mesmerizing to hear him launch off on something he sees as untrue, unfair and hypocritical. And through it all, he makes me laugh, and then some.

   I asked for a thousand words, I got two thousand. I asked for examples and he was quite specific.

   I believed my staff and our readers would get the acerbic wit and the insights and enjoy the hell out of it. Well, my staff had a cow when they read it, so the piece has gone through some emotional editing gyrations since last Thursday and the tweaking continues into the weekend. I will keep you posted.

   Meanwhile, other sources are weighing in as well on this controversial subject, i.e., our sordid past.

   "The U.S. has. . . endured reversals, crises, malaise and committed its share of crimes. There is an extensive literature, dating to the 1780s and continuing through the present, predicting imminent doom or long-term decline. There's an equally long literature cataloging America's many sins, most of them real but very few of them all that particular to us, including slavery, ethnic cleansing, territorial conquest, racism and misogyny.

   "But the consistent theme of American history has been one of continual overcoming by way of direct recourse to first principals—principals that are timeless and universal, even if they were laid down by hypocrites."
—Bret Stephens, in The New York Times

"There is nothing wrong with America, that cannot be cured by what is right with America."
—President Bill Clinton

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Richest Hole of All

August 17, 2018
   Got up this morning and re-attacked a painting that I thought needed another tweak, or two:

"Ace Up The Sleeve, Death at The Door, #4"

   This is for the third edition of "The Illustrated Life & Times of Doc Holliday" which will come out next year.

   Speaking of rare and out of print books, when I was at Bookman's in Flag on Tuesday, I spied three of my books. A first edition of "The Illustrated life & Times of Billy the Kid," signed by me to "Lynda, your grandparents got you this. They must really love you. 10-24-92". That was at Suzanne Brown's Art Gallery when the book premiered and evidently Lynda didn't love the book as much as her grandparents because it's for sale at Bookman's for $30. The other two books were hardback editions of my Wyatt Earp books and one was for sale for $50 and the other for $60 (with the annotation "Very rare").

    I picked up a great little gem at Bookman's. "Ballad of a Laughing Mountain" by Art Clark and Richard Snodgreass. It's a black and white photo book that documents the not-quite-ghost town of Jerome from the year 1955, when the town went from 16,000 down to 300 almost over night. The striking photos are of the stubborn stragglers who hung on, hoping the town would come back. 

 One of those stragglers was an old Mexican miner named Tisnado who walked from Phoenix in 1899 to get a job (that is a 110 mile hike!). He worked in the mines for 53 years, and as he puts it, "never lose one shift. Never sick, never hurt." Now THERE is a hero.

"The Ballad of Tisnado"

   The local bartender at Paul's Place, in Jerome, remembers when the town was roaring: "Rough as hell, and tougher. Four deep at shift time, she was. Dutch lunch every Monday. Them boys [could] kill six, seven kegs [every] Mondays. A shot was fifteen, beer a dime. I've still got a tear gas bomb the cops gave me over in the safe. They could drink, them boys."

   According to the book, by 1897 they were pulling four million pounds of copper out of the mines every month! In 1915 the Little Daisy claim was discovered and is considered "the richest hole of all." The mines and the town went on highrolling until "one cool morning in 1953" when it all ran out.

"To see a mine die is to see a living thing die. For months, even years after the last shift comes off, the people refuse to accept or recognize the death, laugh about it, agree this is only temporary."
—Richard Snodgrass

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Face Out vs. Face Down

August 16, 2018
   Back from Flagstaff, and back into the fireball. It wasn't all work and no play while we were there. I checked out all the local bookstores because I love books and because I want to check up on a certain magazine's rack position:


Face-out at a Flagstaff Bookstore

   Unfortunately, this is not where I found the magazine. When I walked into the bookstore, our rack position was here:

Original Rack Position

   Look at that! You can't even see the headline in the sweet spot.

   A day later, I walked into Bookman's next to the NAU campus and saw this:

Bookman's Triple Face Out!

   Bookman's is a used book store and they had three True West issues on the front rack (full disclosure: I spread them out for the effect).

   The end result is this. We live and die by the newsstand and when our magazines are hidden, we don't get seen and our sales go down. I need you to check your local newsstand and when you see us there, make sure we're in front!

   Thank you.

"Bite the bullet, old man, and don't let them think you are afraid."

—Rudyard Kipling, 1890

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Did An Amazon Warrior Woman Name California?

August 14, 2018
    Another cool day in Flagstaff. Had breakfast at this little cafe, Carmels. Fresh squeezed orange juice, huevos rancheros with homemade pinto beans. Excellent food.

Breakfast at Carmel's

   And then dinner here:

BBB at Tourist Home

Rush hour weather in the rain

Queen Califia 
  Doing research on Baja I ran across a reference to an Amazon queen named Calafia (also styled as Califia) who allegedly lived on an island—California was thought to be an island until abut 1710—and it is from her that the name California resulted. 

   Here's a clarification on the island concept: "In 1539 Francisco de Ulloa sailed around both shores of the Sea of Cortes/Gulf of California and half way up the Pacific coast of Baja.  So he proved it was a peninsula.  A lot of people continued to claim Baja was an island, but there might be a method to this madness.  Spain claimed a lot of unexplored land in North & South America and they didn't want too much information to get out to the other European powers. This might be an early example of disinformation."
—Richard Coyer

 Queen Califia of the Baja Amazons

Here is a quote from the first published reference to her is mentioned:

“Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies [the American Continent] there is an island called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.”
—Spanish writer, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, in 1500 in his novel, "Las sergas de Esplandián" (The Adventures of Esplandián)

    Some 30 years later, Hernan Cortez, who was very familiar with the popular novel, mounted two expeditions to find this island and the Amazon queen. The first expedition was marred by mutiny and the leaders were wiped out when they went ashore to find water, but Cortez himself succeeded in the second expedition and this is where the name The Sea of Cortez originated.

 From Wikipedia, we get this: "The name of Calafia was likely formed from the Arabic word khalifa (religious state leader) which is known as caliph in English and califa in Spanish. Similarly, the name of Calafia's monarchy, California, likely originated from the same root, fabricated by the author to remind the 16th-century Spanish reader of the reconquista, a centuries-long fight between Christians and Muslims which had recently concluded in Spain."

"Once you go black you'll never go back."
—Rejected early California state motto

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Making more mistakes

August 12, 2018
   Kathy got in from Korea at seven last night. We drove up the hill this morning to escape the heat and celebrate 39 years together.

   At 11:30, we checked into our hotel with a suite overlooking the San Francisco peaks.  

Kathy's Rack in Flag

   Check out those massive tetons, the Chi-Chi’s the Tatas, the big ol’ rack on those peaks in the background.

   We had a celebratory brunch at one of our favorite little restaurants, The Cottage, which is in an old house, and then we walked in the rain back to the hotel. For scorched flatlanders from the Valley of the Sun, this is as close to heaven as we can get.

Blessed Rain and 71 degrees

   As Charlie Daniels sings in one of my favorite tunes, "I know where heaven is, it's just above the trees."

   Heading out tonight to hear some music, The Grass Fed Giants, and the Americana folk group The Kruger Brothers at the Opheum Theater.

    I've made some mistakes in my life, but this isn't one of them.

"Some mistakes are just too much fun to only make once."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, August 11, 2018

You talkin' to me, Pendejo?

August 11, 2018
    Worked on a variety of images today, including this one:

Daily Whip Out:
"Tall, Dark Rider"

   Also worked on a back story for Gringo Eyes:

   "His mother is Indio. His father was a missionary from the States who ended up teaching her the missionary position. There was a scandal in the church and he was sent home. 

Daily Whip Out: "The Missionary Position"

   The boy grew up as an outsider. The Mexicans don't trust him cuz he's a half-breed and he's got the Yankee eyes. The Gringos don't trust him cuz he looks too Mexican. We trust him a little, cuz he's my cousin."

   Ojos is shy, like most of us Indios. He don't make a scene. One time I seen a group of toughs from Ensenada try to bully him and his friends. They punched a friend of Ojos in the face and then beat another boy, knocking him in the dirt. They didn't think Ojos was a threat. Finally, after one of the cavrones was laughing at how weak our boys were, Ojos calmly pulled a pistol out of his jacket and said,

"You talkin' to me, Pendejo?"

   That changed their tune. "Don't hurt us, Gringo Eyes!" they yelped like the dogs they were. It was very funny.

   Ojos didn't hurt them but he put the hurt on their manhood, and they don't like that down here.

   He grew up to be a first rate vaquero and horse trainer. He has the magic hands. He got that from his mamacita. She was a healer.

Daily Whip Out:
"You talkin' to me, Pendejo"

   Kathy flies home tonight. We're headed to Flagstaff for a couple days of coolness.

"We don't have a lot of Latinos in Canada. It's too cold. We don't need a wall. We have winter."
—Sammy Sugar

Friday, August 10, 2018

Jaw Droppers & Random Renderings

August 10, 2018
   My son, Thomas Charles, wants to know where he got his jutting jaw and I told him it most likely came from this Norsky guy:

Carl Marvel Bell

   That is my farming grandfather on my father's side, from Thompson, Iowa, who I greatly admire.

Daily Whip Out: "Ojos Quest"

   I was going through my sketchbook and found this little gem:

   I was impressed with the Ed Borein art gallery at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum when I was attending the Hutton wedding a couple weeks ago. I did a couple sketches while I was there. The wedding was on the grounds and I had some time before it started.

   I have always loved the song "Peter Gunn," and that's where this sketch ended up.

Daily Whip Out: "Peter's Gun"

   I'm also still dealing with word balloons and how to do them effectively.

Daily Whip Out: Mexicali Balloons"

My sketchbooks are full of notes and excerpts from articles that inspire me, like this:

   This was very impactful. How? I'll show you tomorrow.

"We want to know what happens next."
—Adam Kirsch

Thursday, August 09, 2018

The Truth About The Truth

August 9, 2018
   A local historian, William Porter, dropped into the True West World Headquarters yesterday and paid me a high compliment. Two, actually: he told me he admires the fact that I always strive for accuracy in the magazine and that as far as he can tell it seems like I'm having a good time doing it.

   Both are true, to a point. Like everyone, I am fighting other battles I don't seem to be winning. I'm not alone. As the writer Sam Anderson put it, "No one is ever truly out of the woods." 

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"A New Old Vaquero Logo"

   As for the constant struggle for accuracy, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Ingersoll:

"The grandest ambition that can enter the soul is to know the truth."

—Robert Green Ingersoll

   I have dedicated a good part of my life to seeking the truth about all the Old West characters we cover. The quest has been satisfying and, by turns, frustrating. For one thing, no one can ever get it completely right and then to make matters really frustrating, nothing changes more than the past. 

   We used to believe Billy the Kid was left-handed based on the only known photo of him with his holstered pistol, on his left hip. 

A big iron on his left hip

   Articles were written to back it up (some old-timers even testified to him being left handed), some psychologists claimed his being left-handed contributed to his delinquent behavior, which then led to a movie, "The Left-Handed Gun."

   But then someone noticed the buttons on his vest in the photo were on the wrong side and someone else noticed the loading port on the Winchester was on the wrong side and eventually it dawned on everyone that the photo was a ferreotype and the image was reversed, and, well, scratch all of the above.


   When I was in Prescott last weekend I spent some quality time with Paul Hutton talking about how so much of our history is being twisted and bent by forces hell bent on destroying our heritage. I asked Paul to write up an editorial for our 65th Anniversary Issue, which is November. I asked Dan the Man to take a run at some cover ideas and as usual, Dan covers the dog, as we like to say out here.

   He's since done two more cover ideas and I'll share those later.

"Truth is the shattered mirror strown in myriad bits; while each believes his little bit the whole to own."
—Richard Francis Burton

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Make No Mistake I Make Plenty of Mistakes

August 8, 2018
   Okay today is 8•8•18, that is kind of cool. 

   Frustrating day drawing today. made lots of mistakes and just couldn't get it where I wanted. It happens (see Ralph's quote, below). 

   So, to back up a bit, I drew a series of sketches a couple weeks ago, imagining what Ojos de Gringo would look like. I ended up here:

Ojos de Gringo Sketch #10

   Moving on from there, I had two problems: One, I needed the hat to model different angles, and two, I needed a good Mexican model.

   So, R.J. Preston solved the first problem and my neighbor Tom Augherton fixed the second problem. Tom sent over a friend of his named Ramido and the sugarloaf fit him perfectly.


Ramido Smiles

   From there I was off to the races.

"Ojos de Gringo And The Mexicali Stud"

"There is no such thing as a mistake. A mistake is an opportunity to do something else."
—Ralph Steadman

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Buck Sanders Hunts A Hat

August 7, 2018
   Growing up around cowboy storytellers I noticed early on they have a rhythm, style and cadence peculiar to other storytellers. This is a good example, told by a Texas cowboy:

"Buck Sanders Hunts A Hat"

   This fellow I know—Jake the Snake, we call him—runs a horse outfit up in Montana. He run a herd down into Nevada and on the way he lost his hat in a dust storm, dang thing sailed right down into a deep canyon up near Battle Mountain. Rough country. Anyways, he had a neckerchief around his head, like those Mex peckerwoods sometimes wear. I met him goin’ over to get a new hat in Bodine, which was a ninety mile ride and after he got himself a new hat he got on a good drunk and he laid in the middle of the street all afternoon and everybody in town had to walk around him. So, then he gets on the train and goes down to Reno where he proceeds to go on another bender and then he took another train to Stockton, California and he knew a gal down there who used to live in Nevada, so he went over and looked her up and asked her if she would like to get married and she said, ‘All right,’ and so he gives her a hundred dollars and told her to buy some duds and he’d go and shave and be right back so they could get hitched. Instead he went and bought another bottle of rattler juice and got on the train back to Reno, fooled around there some, then came back up to Montana where I saw him on the street and told him I admired his new hat, which was a Boss of The Plains type deal. Simple, but not too extravagant like some folks are fond of wearing (looks at Ojos). Anyway, I asked him what it cost him and he said, “Oh, 'bout $2,500 and change,” and when I told him that was plumb loco, he told me that wasn’t the half of it. Turns out the father of his intended bride came clear up to Montana to sue him for breach of promise. Cost him three horses and $150 in court costs. He told me he was wearing that damn hat 'til the day he died. And I damn sure believed him.
—Buck "The Texican" Sanders

Full Disclosure: I poached this from a story Ed Borein told in a booklet, "Vaquero," I bought at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum last week. Frankly, it was a pretty bad story, but I was struck by the odd turns he took and strange specifics he added, and although I felt I had to improve on it with the ending and give it some sort of punchline, almost all the locations are intact from the original story. And, frankly, that's the part that's almost unbelievable (the cowboy went from Montana to Reno, Nevada to Stockton, California and back!), and yet those old-time cowboys thought nothing about those kinds of distances and it was not uncommon for those old boys to stay drunk for days.

   I rest my case.

"If you can't improve on a story you've got no business telling it in the first place."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, August 06, 2018

Death Rides A Pale Horse

August 6, 2018
   Went home after lunch at Janie's and met the plumber to unplug a sink in the bedroom ($150) and while I waited, I decided to do a scratchboard.

Daily Whip Out:
"Death Rides A Pale Horse" 

   And, of course, it was over a woman.

"As a superhero I would be 'Typoman' the writer of wrongs."
—Old Cartoonist Saying

The Genesis of The Mexicali Stud

August 6, 2018
   How do you pump out a dozen books and keep on going? If you are like me, you need the courage to be imperfect. Several highly respected researchers I know can never make it to the publishing stage because they always seem to need just one more tidbit or fact, or explanation. It has to be perfect, and, unfortunately, it never is.


   While I was at the history dinner in Prescott over the weekend someone asked me how I came up with the title of my next book project and here is the exact date and time and place it happened:

La Muralla China Restaurant,
Mexicali, Mexico
4:19 p.m. on August 17, 1991

  We were returning to Arizona from a week on Mission Beach in San Diego and during our stay I read about this unique Chinese community in nearby Mexicali and how there are five Chinese restaurants in a row and they are all mighty tasty. So I decided we would make a detour on the way home and see this place with the musical sounding name, and try the food.

   The above photo was taken by a roving photographer who gave us a framed copy to commemorate our visit. On the back, I wrote the date and time and also what we had for lunch:

Combination #2
• Carnitas Colorados
• Brocoli con carne de res
• Pollo cantones
• Arroz frito con puerco
• Ala de pollo asada
• camarones al mojo de ajo
• costilla a de puerco al estilo Chino

The price: 17,000 pesos per person

   I remember it seemed a little bizarre hearing all these Chinese waiters and hostesses speaking Spanish, but then we don't flinch when they speak English, so that is a turd on me.

   As we were recrossing the border, the title hit me: "The Mexicali Stud." It just rolls off the tongue and I knew someday I would do a story with that title.

The Scene:

   East of Mexicali, out on the great Mojave Desert, three riders pick their way across the sand and bicker:

"Ojos de Gringo On The Hunt
for The Mexicali Stud"

Buck "The Texican" Sanders: "The problem with you Mex people is you need to talk more English."

Ojos de Gringo: "Maybeso, maybeso."

Fang (from Peru) in Spanish to Ojos: "When the wind blows, guess whose mouth is open?"

Buck (sensing he is being made fun of): "And the problem with you southern Mex is you need to honor your elders and keep your trap shut." 

"The present, in the future, will be just as crazy-looking to us, in the present, as the past is, presently, to us, right now!"

—Zadie Smith

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Mexicali Mission, Peregrine Booty & Top Secret Kookiness

August 5, 2018
   Drove up to Prescott on Friday afternoon. By the time I got to Dewey, the temperature dropped from 103 to 73—30 degrees!—and it rained! Man, that was nice.

   Landed at Buckey O'Neill's Resort and ran into a happy Mexican in the parking lot.

A Happy Mexican

   On Saturday I went downtown and walked into the Peregrine Bookstore and immediately went to the magazine rack to see our position:

Peregrine Book Store Rack Position

   This made me so happy. Not only did they save the previous issue but they combined the last two issues, and placed them front and center. (okay, full disclosure: I moved the Wild West magazines to the back and put all of these in front) So, in appreciation, I bought up everything I needed to make solid decisions on the state of printed matter going forward.

$150 worth of Peregrine Booty

   Thus armed, on Saturday evening I joined the Prescott Westerner's Corral at the Prescott Centennial Hall for a speech by this guy:

The Top Secret Writer Cracks Up A Room
of History Nuts

   Drove home this morning and watched the temperature go the other way, from the high seventies to 104 in about 85 miles.

   Got inspired by some of the booty I brought home from the trip and applied it to a certain graphic novel project I am working on:

Daily Whip Out: "Mexicali Mission"

   I have big plans for the Mexicali Stud story. Talked at length with the Top Secret Writer about how to accomplish that. He had great advice.

"There is a great hunger in our culture for grand mythic narratives. They dramatize the spiritual truths and longings that shape our world."
—Adam Kirsch, in The Wall Street Journal

Friday, August 03, 2018

Sugarloaf Tom

August 3, 2018
   Here's a neighbor sporting my new RJ Custom Sombrero. Meet Sugarloaf Tom. 

   Notice the high pinch on the crown. Dig it!

"I see by your hat you are a Mexican wannabe."
—Old Redneck Saying