If you've ever wondered what it's like to run a magazine or how crazy my personal life is, be sure to read the behind-the-scenes peek at the daily trials and tribulations of running True West. Culled straight from my Franklin Daytimer, it contains actual journal entries, laid out raw and uncensored. Some of it is enlightening. Much of it is embarrassing, but all of it is painfully true.
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April 29, 2019 Another weekend lost on the deadliest street in America and the young cat who walked that red and dusty road. . .
"Billy Advances On The Street of Blood"
Fifty people died on the half-mile main street of Lincoln, New Mexico Territory. Forty-nine men and one woman in a ten year period. That is just crazy. Kid Krazy. Meanwhile, wherever he rode, severe weather followed. Whether it be a storm rolling over the Capitans or the squall in a young school marm's heart, he disrupted everything. They called him. . .
"The Cyclone Kid"
The place was deadly and dark and it's hard to imagine the horrors of the past as you walk the street today. "Here, thick black trunks crowded close together while twisted branches wove a dense canopy overhead and misshapen roots wrestled beneath the soil. This was a place of deep silence and brooding shadows, and the Gods who lived here had no names." —George R.R. Martin
April 28, 2019 Went for a walk this morning and discovered some interesting and important things. Up on Morningstar, I witnessed the moon, cradled in the arms of a giant saguaro.
And, if you can't see the moon, here is a closer look:
The Moon Nestled
in A Saguaro's Arm
Meanwhile, down on the flats we have been invaded by a blanket of pretty, orange buds.
At first glance these orange buds are beautiful, but then when I actually read up about them. . . Globe Trotting Globe Chamomile Invades Sonoran Desert Globe Chamomile (Oncosiphon piluliferum) is a pretty, but prolifically invasive, species. It is currently expanding its range in the Phoenix area. It is a native of South Africa. It was first recorded as an invasive near Los Angeles and San Diego in the eighties. The other name for this plant is Stinknet because of its strong, unpleasant odor. Handling the plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction. It is also an extreme fire hazard as each ball contains 400 flowers and when they are dry they turn into millions of matches. Oh, wonderful. I can't wait for summer. "The older you get the more you realize that ignorance is bliss." —Old Vaquero Saying
April 26, 2019 John Langellier drove up from Tucson this morning and when the professor is in the house I get to see some of his latest treasures, including this original cabinet card, 1888, of Alchesay, standing center, with three of his Apache scouts.
Alchesay became a major proponent of education and the high school at the Fort Apache Reservation is named for him. When I met the Lutheran Pastor Arthur Alchesay Guenther at White River about a decade ago, I was thrilled because not only was he named for Alchesay (who became a Lutheran!) but the great Apache leader held the young baby Guenther in his arms for his baptism. Now THAT, my friend, is two degrees of historical separation. John also brought up some very cool shots of Colonel Tim McCoy, like this photo:
Tim McCoy in "Bush Ranger"
And, then there's this stunner:
Castle Hot Springs Outing?
This photo, above, is unmarked (no date or location), but it looks a bit like Castle Hot Springs east of Wickenburg. Of course, it could be Sabino Canyon, outside Tucson; or Aravaipa Creek; or even on the Gila, north of Silver City. Or, for that matter, a dozen other Southwestern canyon creeks. Hard to say.
Meanwhile, I often talk about Martha Summerhays and her arrival at Fort Apache after a three month journey, and her witnessing a Lieutenant's wife playing a game of tennis, in 1874. Well, here is a tennis court scene from Fort Huachuca, Arizona Territory.
Tennis Foursome at Fort Huachuca, 1891
I have heard of people hitching odd animals to children's wagons, but this, ahem, Go Cart, takes the cake:
The Goat Cart, "Corner of Bake Shop
& Quartermaster Stables"
Fort Wingate, New Mexico Territory, late 1880s
And a patented Kepi Kap Kid Kart.
There are hundreds more, but this will give you a taste of what my day is like when the French lad is in town.
John Langellier and his 600-plus page manuscript (195,000 words!)
on Powhatan Clarke.
"A friend is someone who listens to your bullshit, tells you it's bullshit, then listens some more."
April 25, 2019 Okay, I lied. I have to do more Billys because I want it to be good, and the whole thing is not quite there yet. In my defense, I once read Maynard Dixon did 85 versions of a drawing before he was satisfied. So, based on that yardstick, I'm not even half way there. Close to half, which seems ridiculous, but there you go. To give credit, where credit is due, I got this unsolicited email two days ago: "I like the attached image of Billy the best from your blog."
"He looks, Billyish and dangerous, daring all comers with his angry stare. Between the swirling gunsmoke and swirling clouds this illustration has a sort of dream-like/mythical mood I find appealing. I really like the composition and coloring but would suggest a bit more southwestern detail to a few of the buildings. Final thought, April, May and June TW are predominantly brown covers. Time for some blue, as in Billy's clothes and that stormy, deep blue swirling sky? I think this image should be used somewhere.
"I know you need my unsolicited, amateurish two cents worth like Billy needed Pat Garrett. No need to reply."
I appreciate the encouragement Frank. Thanks to you, I got up this morning and give it another go:
"Billy Walks The Most
Dangerous Street In America"
I think he's young enough and tall enough. How's that for Red Head Redemption? "The idea is to die young, as late as possible." —Old Vaquero Saying
April 24, 2019 Failed yesterday at saving the Billy cover. Came home from work last night, tired and defeated, and parked in the garage, listening to John Prine on my phone. Glanced behind me, and saw this scene of Ratcliff Ridge lit up like a birthday cake. Took the photo without turning off the song, “Hello In There.” Gave it all a movie soundtrack vibe.
"5:45 Storm Over Ratcliff Ridge"
Grabbed a bag of groceries out of the back of the Flex, turned for one more look and it was gone. The bright light on the ridge had dimmed and the storm looked a pale gray.
Pay attention. It goes quick.
"Old People just grow lonesome waiting for someone to say, hello in there."
April 23, 2019 Finished a sketchbook yesterday and cleaned out all the best quotes and artwork I have been noodling and collecting for the past two months:
"Life was hard for the pioneers, but every now and then someone would pull out a fiddle and a banjo and make it worse."
—Old Vaquero Saying
My fave babysitter
"It's easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled." —Mark Twain
Chicas de Boom Boom
"You're on earth. There's no cure for that." —Samuel Beckett
El Paso Cowboy: Burt Mossman
"When you're twenty, you care what everyone thinks, when you're forty, you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you're sixty, you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place." —Winston Churchill
Daily Whip Out:
"Those Texas Boys Stood In The Road
"Husbands are the best people to share a secret with. They'll never tell anyone, because they aren't even listening." —Old Vaquero Saying
Honkytonk Sue Wisdom
"Only one more week until people who don't watch 'Game of Thrones' tell everyone that they don't watch 'Game of Thrones'." —April 11, 2019
Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"Doc In Shadows"
"We came from dust and we will return to dust. That's why I never dust. It might be someone I loved." —Old Housewife Saying
Daily Whip Out:
"Van Gogh Vanguard Billy"
"Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything." —Ray Bradbury
Kathy Sue as
"You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from." —Cormac McCarthy
"One hundred years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars. Today everyone has cars and only the rich have horses. The stables have turned." —Old Vaquero Saying
"When you study history you realize people have been this stupid for thousands of years."
—Old Vaquero Saying
"When you can't see the future it's easy to forget the past."
—Old Vaquero Saying
J.C. Leyendecker Painting
"Nothing disturbs me more than the glorification of stupidity."
"Here's some good advice, don't listen to my advice."
—BBB, who bought a magazine when everyone told him it was a bad idea
April 22, 2019 Went down the "Billy the Kid rabbit hole" this weekend.
After 25 years you'd think I would a.) get his face down pat, and b.) get over it when I don't. But, NO! I get obsessed on that little twit's visage and I sure can burn the candle at both ends of the canvas. It all re-started with a sketch I did on March 20th, during a staff meeting to talk about upcoming issues.
We had a placeholder cover which I did not like, so I doodled this as an example of what might be better.
I love the looseness of this sketch and the cockiness in his walk—swinging his arm out wide to the side—and I thought it might make a good cover. Unfortunately, when I tried to capture the idea and expand on it, I got Daddy Long Legs Saunters Down The Street.
"Billy Saunters #1"
"Billy Saunters #2"
On Friday I decided to go in another direction and started this very ambitious piece on Saturday morning.
After lunch I realized I didn't like his face and hated the Lincoln buildings, so I decided to just concentrate on doing a Lincoln street scene before the pitched roofs.
Not too bad. Thought I could improve on this and
I'm not sure I did:
Lincoln Street Overdone
Started a different version of Billy Sauntering on Saturday afternoon.
Then another one. . .
Still not right. Dang it!
Of course, I had excellent reference, so I really had no excuse.
John T. Holbrook as The Kid
So, I sent some of these down to Dan The Man to see if he can save it all.
Okay, Dan gave it a thumbs down, commenting, "I think Billy looks like an old man with some toy guns."
Back to the drawing board. More results tomorrow.
"One of the signs of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
April 20, 2019 Been painting like crazy today on Billy the Kid walking the most dangerous street in America. Results on Monday. Did this little study a couple days ago:
Daily Whip Out: "Lonesome Valley Blues"
I got a newsstand report from our Albuquerque stringer about a sighting in Costco.
A weird combo of titles in there, but we'll take it. Thanks Paul Andrew Hutton.
Cleaning in my studio and ran across this old photo from the eighties at an event in downtown Phoenix. I think it was a Mexican food judging contest.
That's the New Times restaurant reviewer Ellen Jeffords, third from left; Nora Burba from Phoenix Magazine, third from right; the editor of Arizona Highways, Don Dedera, fourth from right; and Phil Allen from Channel 3, second from right.
Okay, I sent this to Don Dedera to see if it jogged his memory and here is his reply:
"The occasion is etched upon my memory like a diamond wheel cutting on crystal. We are pictured as judges in a downtown Phoenix food tasting event, circa 1987. I have no explanation for your presence, but would question the credentials of a dude raised near US 66 cafes advertising 'eats' and 'good grub.' On the other hand, I, following a childhood blessed with heaping portions of sow belly, fried green tomatoes, squirrel pie and peanut butter-and-grape-jelly-on-white bread school lunch brown-baggers, had graduated to universal fame as a chili cook/chili head. (My 15 minutes of fame--creating a recipe for Endangered Whooping Crane Chili, when there were only 37 batches of that species possible in the world). In a day when Arizona Highways can feature a xxxing hamburger on its cover, maybe TW should do a whole issue on chili, and I do not mean the Texas concoction made with 50% used transmission fluid and over-done beans. Beans! If you ever get to the bottom of the gunfight at the OK, the disagreement probably involved chili with or without beans. By the way, you geniuses continue to label the famed corral the O.K. Wrong. It's a brand. No periods. And behind it all: diverse opinions about the staff of Gods."
While I appreciate and respect the solid memory of my 90-year-old mentor-editor, I do disagree with the O.K. Corral editorial edict. Why?
Mark Boardman reminded me that the original O.K. Corral in Tombstone had periods in the sign:
The Brand had periods. Period.
So, that's why we style it as O.K., okay?
Had a weird flyover on Friday morning.
Yes, it looks like a tiny paraglider landing on our saguaro, doesn't it? A sailer from San Diego met a girl who took him to a birthday party in Hollywood and he met all these famous actors and an astronaut, to boot. Over the years, he forgot the name of the girl, but he finally found my blog about the party and thanked me. It was this party: Hugh O'Brian's 86th Birthday Party "When you study history you realize people have been this stupid for thousands of years." —Old Vaquero Saying
April 18, 2019 I was revisiting one of our Doc pieces on Facebook and marveled, yet again, at the wonderful eloquence of Mary Doria Russell.
The cup-spinning scene, a truly classic moment in a Western film, provoked bad blood between Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo. After the pair exchange Latin phrases at a gaming table, Holliday says, “Evidently, Mr. Ringo’s an educated man. Now I really hate him.” A ticked off Ringo points his Colt .45 at Holliday’s face and then does a bunch of spins over and over again, to antagonize Doc. Then comes the scene topper: When Ringo finishes his gunplay, Holliday picks up his silver cup and spins it by the handle, repeating Ringo’s gun spins.
Take that, Ringo! "In life, he had few friends, but in American mythology Doc has become clever Odysseus to Wyatt Earp’s stalwart Achilles—a source of detached amusement and witty commentary. Wyatt’s the hero, but Doc is the one we love." —Mary Doria Russell You can read the whole piece, right here: The Best Doc Holliday