Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Annual Sketchbook Purge: Pro Prose And Random BBB Sketches of 2019

December 31, 2019
   Traditionally, today and tomorrow are days when I like to go back through my sketchbooks for the year and cull out the best prose from the pros (quotes and ideas from the news and books I'm reading) and any sketches I find amusing, and, or, half-way decent. It's both a purge and an inventory of effort to hopefully build on in the coming year.

   Was any of it worth it? I've said it before and I'll say it again: half the stuff I do is a total waste of time. I just wish I knew which half!

   For the record, I finished 5-and-a-half sketchbooks (size 11" X 14", 100 Strathmore paper sheets in each one). 

Not so random pages from all six 2019 sketchbooks

   I started 2019 hell bent on finally doing a graphic novel on Sharlot Hall and Olive Oatman. Looking back, I'm pleasantly surprised that I achieved some decent coverage, although I eventually got hijacked by other projects (mainly True West covers and features, plus a book on Geronimo). We will see the G-Man in tomorrow's continuation of my sketchbook purging. My good friend Mort Mortensen did manage to produce a snappy script of the story. But, back to the first part of 2019:

Daily Whip Out: "Sharlot Hall In Red"

Old Man Hall

    I also spent quite a bit of time trying to capture Sharlot's mentor and boss.

Charles Fletcher Lummis at El Alisal

   When Carson Mell got married last summer, I finally got to see the Lummis house in Pasadena and I wasn't disappointed:

BBB with the curators of the
Charlie Lummis hand built home, El Alisal
June 9, 2019

   From this visit I also got inspired to tell the story of this guy.

"You can't wake a person who is pretending to be asleep."

—El Pendejo

   I've got big plans for that story next year.

   Another longtime obsession of mine had a minor resurgence in 2019:

Daily Whip Out: "Four Billys"

"That old boy would rather lie on credit than tell the truth for cash."

—Granthum P. Hooker

Actress Maude Fealy early 1900s

"Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, you don't have to sit on it."
—Joyce Meyer

Kathy faking like she sat on one at Saguaro National Monument Eastside Tucson

Random Observations Culled From My Sketchbooks for 2019

  I can tell if people are judgmental just by looking at them.

   For men, the first 50 years of childhood are the hardest.

   I can't believe I forgot to go to the gym today. That's seven years in a row now.

   Nothing kills a story quicker than the truth.

   There is plenty that is false and wildly absurd in any era. There isn't more lying, or false news now, everything is simply louder and in your face.

"Almost every story is some kind of lie, except this time."
—Orson Welles, trying to sell his questionable opus "The Other Side of The Wind"

"Old myths, old gods, old heroes have never died. They are only sleeping at the bottom of our mind, waiting for our call. We have a need for them. They represent the wisdom of our race."
—Stanley Kunitz

"I have never made but one prayer to God. A very short one: 'Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it."

"The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you how it felt."
—E. L. Doctorow

"It's a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give people is to be a little kinder to each other."
—Aldous Huxley

Dear Diary,
   The One Hundred Years War started today.
[the absurdity of looking back]

"The whore man came out the back, yellow-toothed and nervous, smoothing his hair. . ."
—Pete Dexter, "Deadwood"

"If you can talk about it, why paint it?"
—Francis Bacon

"You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from."
—Cormac McCarthy

"Grandpa, tell us about the days when you had to buy the whole album even if you only wanted one song."
—Dave Sipress

"It's easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled."
—Mark Twain

"Originality is nothing more than connecting familiar elements in unfamiliar ways."
—James Scott Bell

"Captain Jack [Crawford] told the account three different times that night, which to Charlie [Utter] was unforgivable for a man drinking milk."
—Pete Dexter, "Deadwood"

"Funny guys are dangerous. They make you laugh and laugh, and laugh and laugh. Then, Boom! you're naked."
—Old Vaquero Saying

"You're on earth. There's no cure for that."
—Samuel Beckett

Daily Whip Out: "Samuel Beckett"

"Husbands are the best people to share a secret with. They'll never tell anyone, because they aren't even listening."
—Old Wife Wisdom

"The reason it's so difficult to find men who are sensitive, caring and good looking is because they already have boyfriends."
—Old Maid's Lament

"Life could be really hard on the early pioneers, but every now and then someone would pull out a fiddle and a banjo and make it worse."
—Old Show Low Saying

Daily Whip Out: "Not-So-Gentle Tamer"

"She wasn't doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together."
—J. D. Salinger

"An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way."
—Charles Bukowski

"There's nothing worse than an idiot with a valid point."
—Old Republican Saying

"The arc of history bends towards delusion."
—Stephen Kotkin

"What did our parents do to kill boredom before the internet? I asked my ten brothers and sisters and they didn't know either."
—Old OK Boomer Story

"Crap! That's due tomorrow?"
—Thomas Jefferson, July 3, 1776

"Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
—The Big Lebowski

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Mysterious Sniper On Sharpshooter's Ridge

December 29, 2019
   Besides grandkid wrangling I have been finishing up some artwork lying around the studio.

Daily Whip Out:
"The Mysterious Sniper On Sharpshooter's Ridge"

Daily Whip Out Final:
"Charlie Windolph's Shattered Butt Stock"

   When I recently interviewed historian Robert M. Utley about his interview with Charlie Windolph, the last surviving trooper of the Little Bighorn Battle, I realized our lifespans connected 143 years of history. Here is my illustration of Utley's interview with Charlie in Lead, South Dakota in the summer of 1947.

"On The Porch With Charlie Windolph"

   When I ran this illustration by Utley (I may use it in my editorial comments) he was quick to point out, he wasn't a park ranger yet, so the uniform is innacurate.

   Damn, sometimes I hate dealing with nitpicking historians!

   My good neighbor Tom Augherton came up yesterday for his annual Choose-Some-Artwork Day and he gravitated to one of my scratchboards featuring El Alisal, the historic, stone house near Pasadena, California, hand-built by this guy:

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"Charles Fletcher Lummis Had A Roving Eye"

"A smart person knows what to say. A wise person knows whether to say it or not."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Hangin' With The Noodlers

December 28, 2019
   Hung out with the kids all day today. And by kids I mean the grandkids.

The Noodler

   Went into Cave Creek this afternoon and had lunch at Fantasticos, then played around on the rocks at Janey's, next door to the True West World Headquarters.

Hangin' at Janey's

   Came back home and fooled around and danced in the streets, in this case our driveway.

Dancin' In The Streets

   And, of course, there were art lessons involved:

The Drawers

"Every child is an artist until someone tells them they are not."
—John Lennon

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Hangin' With The Ha Ha

December 26, 2019
   It's been raining here for the last couple days, so when it cleared up briefly, this morning, I went out to bring in some more firewood, only this time I had a helper. After delivering a wheelbarrel load to the studio and the living room, I came back out to discover my grandson Fenton posing exactly as he is here with his trusty red shovel.

"The Wood Worker"

   I know you are not going to believe this, but I didn't pose this at all. I will say I couldn't believe he held the pose long enough for me to get out my phone and capture this scene, but he did.

   Here's a shot of his big sister, Harper, on a walk up Morningstar on Christmas day:

Harper Amongst The Saguaros

   They call our neighborhood "Cactusland" and all four grandkids call me Grandpa Ha ha. It was Weston who christened me with the name because every time I would see him I would lean forward and let out two quick bursts of laughter, Ha! Ha! and after a couple visits like this, when his mother Deena asked Weston who I was he said—dead serious— "He's Grandpa Ha ha."

   It stuck.

Hangin' With The Ha Ha
   As a grandparent, I often think about all the things I want to teach these little boogers so they don't end up like their parents, or worse, their grandparents. Certain trends and cycles make themselves apparent when you hit your eighth decade and, well, Grandpa Ha ha has some news for them. I guess I was inspired by a book I'm reading.

"Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by  hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed."
—Paulette Jiles,  "News of The World"

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas On The Very Wet Desert

December 25, 2019
   We've got a full house, with more kids coming in on Thursday. Rained all night on Christmas Eve and we woke up to a wet wonderland this morning.

   One thing is certain, if Grandma Goose is happy and the grandkids are happy and the living room is a total wreck, you know it's a good Christmas morning.

   We enjoyed a wet walk up to Morningstar and Harper had to pose in front of her favorite saguaro.

   Going out for Chinese tonight and building a fire in the fireplace when we get home, plus I'm reading a good book.

"He smelled the gunpowder smoke rising up from below in long windless strands that snarled in the cedar."
—Paulette Jiles, "News of The World"

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Ridge Fighters And The Shattered Stock

December 23, 2019
   Getting some traction on a couple scenes for the Reno Hill fight. This will be a Classic Gunfight appearing in the Feb-March issue of True West magazine.

Daily Whip Out: "The Ridge Fighters"

"It just happened that the four of us who were posted on the hill were all German boys: Geiger, Meckling, Voit and myself. None of us four were wounded, although we stood exposed on that ridge for more than twenty minutes, and they threw plenty of lead at us. Several of the water party, however, were badly wounded. . ."
—Charlie Windolph, remembering the ridge fight on June 26, 1876

   Here's another incident in the fight I was itching to illustrate:

". . .another bullet from the hilltop tore into the hickory butt of my rifle, splitting it squarely in two. I was plenty mad because my army carbine wouldn't let me return the compliment."

Daily Whip Out: "The Shattered Stock"

The 13th Horse
   Gong back to the Civil War, Custer had a dozen horses shot out from under him in combat. Not long after the Reno Hill fight we get this:

"Suddenly we caught glimpses of white objects lying along a ridge that led northward. We pulled up our horses. This was the battlefield. Here Custer's luck had run out."
—Charlie Windolph

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The West May Be Dead But We Carry The Seeds of Interest

December 22, 2019
   It is Charlie Waters' birthday today. He would have been 72. Miss the boy.

The Seeds of Interest Lay Dormant
   I had a great talk with a fellow Boomer about the current lack of interest in the Old West. 

We are both impacted about it. He is the director of a history based museum and I am the editor of a history magazine. A huge part of that apathy is a direct result of the rejection of the significance of that era, based on identity politics and revenge narratives, among other trends and the key to the following quote is in the last line:

"The West is dead my friends
But the writers hold the seed
And what they sow
Will live and grow again
To all those who read."
—Charlie M. Russell

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Stand And Fire

December 21, 2019
   So, I want to illustrate Private Charlie Windolph and the three other "German" troopers who were ordered by Major Benteen to draw fire, so the water carriers could descend down to the river and retrieve much needed water for the pinned down soldiers on Reno Hill.

Rough sketch of four shooters on bluff

   George says they "stood there" and fired down at the Indians below and I am tempted to draw them standing tall, all four of them, and firing down, but as I am doing the sketches I just can't help but think this is a tad too heroic—and, perhaps stupid? Might one of them, at the very least, be down on one knee? With another one crouching and moving to get another shot off? I was just curious about what the longtime researchers and historians would think of this, so, I asked them.

   Thanks to Bob Reece, this is a screen grab off of a 1940s film taken by Luce of Charlie Windolph. This is the same porch, Robert Utley, met Charlie on a year, or two, later.

"We can only go with the historical record by Windolph...'we were to stand up and not only draw the fire of the Indians below, but we were to pump as much lead as we could into the bushes where the Indians were hiding, while the water party hurried down to the draw...None of is four were wounded, although we stood exposed on that ridge for more than 20 minutes, and they threw plenty of lead at us.' Po 104-105 'I fought with Custer.' Sounds to me that Benteen ordered them to stand."
—Michael Donahue

Windolph sketch with shattered stock

"Charlie says that the purpose of the four was to draw the fire of the warriors in the brush along the river, warriors who would otherwise fire at the men coming down the ravine to secure water. That would require all four to stand up."
—Robert M. Utley

From the same film Bob Reece sent me.

   Then, Robert Utley sent me an interview with Charlie and here are Windolph's actual words:

   "Finally Captain Benteen called for volunteers. I think there were seventeen of us altogether who stepped forward. He detailed four of us from 'H' [Company] who were extra good marksmen to take up an exposed position on the brow of the hill, facing the river. We were to stand up and not only draw the fire of the Indians below, but we were to pump as much lead as we could into the bushes where the Indians were hiding, while the water party hurried down to the draw, got their buckets and pots and canteens filled, and then made their way back. It just happened that the four of us who were posted on the hill were all German boys: Geiger, Meckling, Voit and myself. None of us four were wounded, although we stood exposed on that ridge for more than twenty minutes, and they threw plenty of lead at us. Several of the water party, however, were badly wounded, although we kept up a steady fire into the bushes where the Indians were hiding. Each of us was given a Congressional Medal of Honor."

Random Quotes From Windolph's Recollections:

"To us troopers it was a good deal like going on a prolonged picnic."

—Charlie Windolph describing the Black Hills expedition, at least in the beginning

"We'd make great campfires and almost every evening there'd be a band concert. General Custer was mighty proud of our Seventh Regiment band. They were mounted on white horses and he had them along on all his expeditions and campaigns."

"We made only fourteen miles that first day, and camped on Heart River."

"We got $13 a month in those days."

"'H,' my own troop rode blood bays. 'A' had coal blacks. . .'E' troop had grays. . .'M' troop was the only one who had mixed colors."

On the second day out they only made about 11 miles because of heavy rain. "We had our own beef herd along, and always they'd slaughter enough beeves for the following day's use."

"I don't believe many of the troopers were very worried. We knew there'd be some hard fighting, but a soldier always feels that it's the other fellow who's going to get it. Never himself."

—Charlie Windolph, reflecting on the events of June 22-25

"We were tired and dirty and hungry. Our horses hadn't had a drink of good water since the day before and we weren't much better off."

—Charlie Windolph, on the events of Sunday morning, June 25, 1876

"We were trotting briskly now, and there was a good deal of excitement. Horses seem to know when they're heading into trouble the same as men do and some of the mounts were anxious to run away, tired as they were."

—Charlie Windolph, on the approach to the Little Bighorn

"They'd had a a lot of men killed, and it had only been the grace of God, and the bad aim of the Indians, that had let them escape across the river with their lives."

—Charlie Windolph, describing the disorganized retreat towards Reno Hill

   Most of the Indians who repulsed Reno's charge and followed the commander and Benteen's men up on the ridge, disengaged and galloped to the northwest to join the fight with Custer. "Except for an odd hostile shot, fired from a distance, there was no firing near us now. . .we could hear the sound of distant firing down through the hills and valleys from that direction. Custer must be down there."

"As I recall, Reno had seven wounded men, some of them in pretty bad shape. But altogether he now had around 310 effective, which was a little more than half the total number in the regiment. Custer had around 200 men with him."

—Charlie Windolph

"Hurriedly Reno, with Benteen helping him with advice and suggestions, posted his forces for the coming attack. In the center in a slight depression the horses and mules were staked out, and an inadequate little field hospital was established. But it was impossible to shield the men and stock from the Indians firing from a hilltop off to the east. Animal after animal was killed, and men were hit. It was tough not to be able to do something."

   Park ranger Bob Murray showing tourists in the 1940s, the Reno defense positions, and yes, that is Sharpshooter's Ridge in the background where so much of the deadly fire, described above, was coming from.

   "My own Troop 'H' was posted to the south, in a dangerous position, bordering the river. There was higher ground behind us and we were as helpless as the animals and wounded men to protect ourselves from fire. But we were not yet fully aware of our peril as we hurriedly piled up such inadequate barricades as we could find. We used pack saddles, boxes of hard tack, and bacon, anything we could lay our hands on. For the most part it wasn't any real protection at all, but it made you feel a lot safer."

"There was no full-fledged charge, but little groups of Indians would creep up as close as they could get, and from behind bushes or little knolls open fire. They'd practice all kinds of cute tricks to draw our fire. Maybe a naked redskin would suddenly jump to his feet, and while you drew a bead on him he'd throw himself to the ground. Then they'd show a blanket or a headdress and we'd blaze away, until we learned better."

—Charlie Windolph, in his classic book, "I Fought With Custer"