Sunday, May 31, 2020

Into The Fire

May 31, 2020
   Kathy lost her phone in the fire. She also lost her her computer and her car. We are lucky she didn't lose her life.

   Yesterday morning we had Bud and Carole Glenn over for a brunch. John built our house back in 1987 and I remember the day he informed me it would cost an extra $20,000 to build it with block. It was a tough decision but we went with block. Over scrambled eggs, we laughed about the construction and all the pitfalls and problems that come with building a house. John free-handed our Santa Fe inspired fireplace and it is a wonderful piece of work and I told him how much I admire it every day.

   We laughed and traded stories about our children, and then, after we solved many of today's world problems, the Glenns left. This was around 11 and I went out to the studio to work on a sketch idea I was pursuing.

Daily Whip Out In Progress:
"El Pendejo In Firelight"

   While I was painting, I smelled smoke and at first thought it might be my neighbor Tom barbecuing, but in a few minutes, I realized it was too thick for casual cooking and I walked outside and immediately saw the thick smoke billowing up from the south.

Thick smoke rising out of the south

   This is about 100 yards south of our house. We heard sirens coming and at this time we didn't know how big the fire was, or whether we should evacuate. But we went through this same drill the previous week with the Seven Sisters Fire (to the west of us) and in that tense incident we felt like we left too early, so this time we waited. A fire truck came down Old Stage Road and took the road to the left, above. I thought perhaps they would simply put out the brush fire and we would be saved, which has happened numerous times before, but I was wrong.

Tall flames at the end of our driveway

   Five minutes later, the fire jumped into the invasive weed-choked, open desert across the street. This is when we decided to evacuate. Kathy took her car—a Kia—and her most important items like her phone and her computers and she went out the driveway ahead of me. I snapped this photo, above, which may have saved our lives, I don't know. When I turned the Flex out onto our narrow road that leads out, white smoke was billowing across the road obliterating everything. I drove into it, hoping it was just a brief obstruction, but it got worse and visibility dropped to zero. I gunned the Flex to muscle my way through as flames streaked across the windshield. I must have been going at least forty miles an hour when I cleared the fire and looked ahead of me, but I couldn't see Kathy. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw her car in flames. How I didn't run into the back of her on that narrow road, I will never know.

   She got out and started running, but she left everything she needed in the car.

   I took her to the emergency room and she has bad blisters but she is alive.

Friday, May 29, 2020

"Street Fighter" Scan Fight

May 29, 2020
   Oh, the tiny details involving scanner subtleties! Here are two different scans of my latest art piece. Which one do you think is stronger?

Daily Whip Out: "Street Fighter"
Scan # one

Daily Whip Out: "Street Fighter"
scan # two

   Is it my imagination, or does number two have a slightly more in depth dust effect? On the other hand, the number one scan has a more solid dust background.

   Which one works better to your eye?

"Art is in the eye of the beholder"
—Old Vaquero Prejudice

Thursday, May 28, 2020

My Son, The Straddler

May 28, 2020
   When you are the parent of wild children, you invariably have two fall back positions: the first being, you are always super appreciative of the fact that they are not in jail (at this specific point in time), and two, you are thrilled when they finally take up the family business.

The Straddler
    Great shot of my crazy son doing a crazy stunt.

   Thomas Charles Bell straddling a chasm at Canyon de Chelly many moons ago. That is a 1,000 foot drop between his legs. After this photo was taken, the boy spent some quality time in Spain (University of Valencia) and in Yanqui, Peru (Peace Corp) so he speaks Spanish fluently. He even speaks Qeuchua, a rare Peruvian In-din dialect.

   Now he is starting to write stories and he has a unique perspective on the cultural chasm between South America and North America, and he is also adept at straddling the sometimes contentious line between Mexican culture and American culture.

   And, of course, he is my son, so he has a pretty strong funny bone. So watch out world, for the Straddler.

"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face."
—Victor Hugo

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Strange Pandemic Wisdom of El Pendejo

May 27, 2020
   We finally have someone who can see the light at the end of the pandemic.

Daily Whip Out:
"El Pendejo Shows The Way"

• The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest.  The first to forget is the happiest.

• The easily shamed will never learn.

• The problem with government of the people, by the people, and for the people, is the people.

• All days seems strange when you are living them. Eventually we will see the humor because in the end, everything is a joke.

• On the road to herd immunity, expect a stampede, or two.

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

• Times change, the complaints remain the same.

• You can't wake a person pretending to be asleep.

• Whoever said one person can't change the world never ate an undercooked bat.

• It's a slow process, but quitting won't speed it up.

• Your struggle is your strength. Your struggles will give you everything.

• There is a fine line between telling the truth and being a pendejo.

• If drunkards had wings the sky would be cloudy all day.

• The tiger and lion may be more powerful, but the wolf doesn't perform in the circus.

• A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.

• When the secular wins there are less rules to break and, therefore, no more thrills to gain.

• Love lays down rules it delights in breaking.

   Other lessons are beginning to emerge. We merely have to pay attention. Here's what we know so far:

• Google has seen an increase in the search for "What day is it?"

• Alcohol sales have spiked 55% since late March.

• Quarantiners have created a new drink, called the Quarantini, which is a mix of vodka and Emergen-C, which is an effervescent powdered vitamin C supplement, thought to fend off Covid-19.

• A suggestion has been made that when this quarantine is over, we not tell certain people.

• We are turning into dogs. We get really excited about going for walks and riding in cars.

Daily Flashback Whip Out:
"Hungry Like The Wolf sketches"
January 21, 2020

The State of Print

 • The Atlantic laid off 68 editorial positions and reduced "executive's salaries."

• Buzzfeed furloughed 68 as well and cut all the salaries for anyone making over $40k.

• Conde Nast publishing group laid off "nearly 100" and cut pay to the remaining employees by 10 to 20 percent.

The Dallas Morning News cut the newsroom employees by 17 percent and "even more for executives."

The Economist laid off 90 "non-newsroom employees." Wow! Who would be left after that?

• Gannett furloughed "most of the 20,000 employees for one week in each of April, May and June."

The Los Angeles Times reduced work hours by 20 percent.

True West magazine has maintained pre-Covid salaries and everyone is working remotely.

"Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenges, wish for more wisdom. The major value in life is not what you get. The major value in life is what you become."
—Jim Rhon, via Wonderful Russ

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Dust Devil Divas And A Maelstrom of Flame

May 26, 2020
   Dealing with extremes. Isolation vs. emersion. First dust, then fire. Love and hate. The hallucinations are the same.

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Devil Diva"

   We've all seen her. Very few have actually touched her, but I have. Meanwhile. . .

Daily Whip Out:
"Pendejo Takes A Stroll Thru The Forest"

   Yes, sometimes it can get a little hot, but it's worth the effort.

Daily Whip Out: "Peon Neon"

   Kathy and I went for a walk the other night and happened to see this strange apparition.

Ed Mell Sky #1

Ed Mell Sky #2

   What are the odds? Meanwhile, didn't see this coming.

True West staff Zoom call, 10 A.M.

   Our editor, Stuart Rosebrook, practicing social distancing with a "Back Off Pilgrim!" face mask which he got from the John Wayne Foundation. Funny, yes?

"Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings."
—John Baldessari

Monday, May 25, 2020

Accustations of Motion & Hip Hop Rodeo

May 25, 2020
  Finished another sketchbook this morning. By my count this makes 80 sketchbooks at six drawings a day. Time—and sketches—fly when you're on a deadline. How many sketchbooks would I have finished if I hadn't set out on my 10,000 bad drawings quest way back in 2003?

   Three, maybe four.

   Here's a sample page from January 7, 2006 with the cryptic note "Accusations of Motion."

Daily Whip Out Sketches:
"Hip Hop & Rodeo"

   I love motion and there is, in fact, a prediction in these sketches. Here's the back story. When I did these sketches I had just been in Vegas for Cowboy Christmas (True West magazine had a booth) and while Kathy and I were there we attended the National Finals Rodeo in the Thomas & Mack Arena with my best friend Charlie Waters and his wife Linda. Charlie, at that time, worked for the Las Vegas Review Journal and the newspaper had a fancy suite in the arena, so we all got to see the rodeo in the plush confines of an air-conditioned, mock living room with free food and booze. We had a ton of fun, but the big takeaway for me—in fact it was shocking—to a Kingman country boy, is how all the music played during the rodeo events was heavy metal. "Cat Scratch Fever," "Highway to Hell," "Takin' Care of Business," "Born to Be Wild," in fact, the lightest song they played, "Get Back," by the Beatles, and it was merely a nod to a rodeo rider with the name Jo Jo as the song starts with the line "Jo Jo left his home in Tucson, Arizona. . ." Now granted, all those tunes are not technically "Heavy Metal" but it's certainly a long ways away from Ferlin Husky, if you get my drift.

   Anyway, I thought it was a fluke, or an exception (oh, that's SO Vegas!) until I attended another rodeo in Prescott and it was the same deal, all rock 'n' roll and not one single Country song. What the hell? How could this be?

Late to The Dance
   I began to see a trend. I knew there was a time, not so long ago, when the Grand Ole Opry would not allow a drum set on the stage. In fact, a 1950s Opry audience booed Elvis off the stage and he allegedly cried all the way back to Memphis. 

   The point is that Country has always has been conservative by nature, but eventually, the people who love it and play it, show up late to the dance, but they still show up. Massive drum sets are a mainstream Country staple now (Buck Owens started it?) and Elvis music seems "light" even by Nashville standards (Eric Church does a Led Zeppelin homage in the middle of "How 'Bout You").

   A promoter for the Prescott Rodeo was in my office about this time (2006) and I mentioned my shock at heavy metal music being the go to music at all the rodeos now. The old rodeo cowboy (he was my age, in his mid-sixties) ruefully acknowledged that it makes it more exciting for the audience, and, he called it "a necessary evil."

   I said, "What's next, Hip Hop?"

   He scoffed and said, "Over my dead body."

   First came "Old Town Road," and now we get this:

Don't Touch My Truck

   Get ready for Hip Hop Rodeo. It's coming like a freight train.

"Hey, Mama, look at me, I'm on my way to the Promise Land. . ."
—AC/DC "Highway to Hell"

Sunday, May 24, 2020

El Pendejo Is Coming Your Way

May 24, 2020
   The world is full of pendejos. Get ready to meet the biggest one.

Daily Whip Out:
"El Pendejo Is Coming Your Way"

   Sometimes he could be a good guy, and everyone agrees he did some good things for people but, for some reason, underneath it all, he was just a big, fat, pinche pendejo.

Daily Whip Out: "Pinche Pendejo"

Daily Whip Outs:
"Muchos Gold Tooth Pendejos"

So, why tell his story now?

Daily Whip Out: "Bring Me The Funny"

      In this time of major asinine behavior, we need him more than ever. That's why.

"The tiger and the lion may be more powerful, but the wolf doesn't perform in the circus."
—El Pendejo

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Baja Hinny vs. The BBB Hinny

May 23, 2020
   Some years ago (seven?) I was on a Baja kick. Loved the idea of Baja and how rough it still is down there and how California is named after a mythic amazon tribe of women who waylaid and ate a squad of Cortez's men when they went ashore for water.

   I know, I know. If you don't believe me look it up for yourself.

   A friend of a friend did a wonderful documentary on the vaqueros of Baja and this is a piece I created, below, from that nifty slice of life where the mules down there eat yuccas and cactus to survive. Or, rather it's possible they eat yucca and cactus because they think it's a sweet treat.

Daily Whip Out: "The Baja Hinny"

   Those are not chaps, by the way, but armas, which are attached to the saddle permanently, and the rider mounts the mule, then wraps the leather over his legs and takes off.

Daily Whip Out: "The BBB Hinny"

   This is actually me on "Wyatt" in El Paso, back in 1995. If I remember correctly, this is a mule that belonged to my friend Paul Northrop.

The Leaning Sagauros of Sonora
   As I mentioned yesterday, why do most, if not all, artists portray saguaros as standing straight up? If you've actually looked, more than a few saguaros have a slight lean going on, like this.

A leaner up on Morningstar

   Now granted, this monarch is on a hillside and is bending to stay sable, but still, as you can clearly see, it isn't a straight stalk by any means. Trust me, some leaning saguaros are even more pronounced, like this one, which a friend of mine is trying to save.

The Left Leaner

    Yes, I agree. It looks like a Covid-19 mask wearing saguaro.

Daily Whip Out:
"El Pendejo Approached The Cave Warily"

Operation Cliffhanger
   How do I withhold information, a la "Homeland" and leave people hanging after each and every episode? Well, here's one way:

"At first we thought he was off his rocker, Buck and I both. He looked disheveled and lost. But then he smiled and that's when everything went south."

Daily Whip Out: "Smiling Pendejo"

"He was grinnin' like a jackass eatin' prickly pear."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, May 22, 2020

From Ashes to Ashes, From Dust to Dust

May 22, 2020
   Got going early today.

Daily Whip Out: "Pendejo Rising" 

  I've been busy, no doubt inspired (prodded?) by the near miss on the Seven Sisters Fire. Here's an aerial photograph of the footprint of the fire.

Seven Sisters Fire Footprint
photo by Daniel Brown

   Our house is just off the left side of the photo, along the creek bottom. Very, very close. Thank you firefighters, every one!

Daily Whip Out: "From Dust to Dust"

   Am I the only one who portrays leaning saguaros? I've never seen one portrayed in paintings, ever, which is weird, because, they're just like people, and as they get older they start to lean and collapse.

Cowboy Recipes From Marshall Trimble
   Utah Phillips tells a story about the time he hired out with a "greasy sack" outfit, which is a cow crew that couldn't afford a cook. So the way they chose the cook is the first guy who complained about the food became the camp cook and being the new guy Utah didn't know the rule and so when he complained about the grub the cow boss said, "All right, wise guy, you're the cook."
   So Utah had to figure out a way to make someone else bitch about the grub, but no matter what he cooked up and dished out, nobody would take the bait. Finally, one day he was out gathering firewood and he stumbled upon a fresh moose turd and he gingerly packed it up and brought it back to camp. He cooked up that turd in a pie crust, and then garnished it with paprika and served it for dessert. The biggest cowhand on the crew took one bite and growled, "My God, that's Moose Turd Pie!" He paused for a moment, then added, "But it shore is good!"

"The problem with irony is that not everybody gets it."
—Ray Wylie Hubbard

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Mexico Comes Apart at The Seams And Land of The Burnt Thigh

May 21, 2020
   Sometimes I can't leave well enough alone.

Daily Whip Out: "The Search for Pendejo"

   Alternate title: "Quemado Riders"

Quemado in Spanish is "burned"

Daily Whip Out: "Tres Dusteros"

   Porfirio Diaz ruled Mexico for 34 years and he was very successful for most of that time, until he wasn't. 

   Some of the unravelling was due to Diaz inviting investment from the super U.S. capitalists like Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Doheny and Hearst to come down and build the railroads, dig the mines, extract the oil and run cattle-spreads that covered millions of acres. Any equipment they needed to import came into Mexico duty-free. Any litigation between foreign investors and Mexican nationals were almost without exception decided in favor of the foreigners. And as if this wasn't enough, the Mexican government supplied "huge government subsidies" to the gringos to insure that their enterprises were successful.

   According to some, Diaz believed democracy was a fool's game. How could you give power to 90 percent of the population who could neither read nor write. He believed, and so did the ruling class (3% of the population) in Mexico, that the "Indians and mestizos, were lazy, stupid and child-like."

   We're working on a big Women of the Frontier issue and here and we needed an splash page image of a noted Williams, Arizona madam, so I whipped these out:

Daily Whip Out: "Big Bertha One"

Daily Whip Out: "Big Bertha Two"

   She was a big girl. Our editor, Stuart Rosebrook, found this great quote for the intro to the piece:

"It was a frontier saying that homesteading was a gamble: Yeah, the United States government
is betting you 160 acres of land that you can't live on it eight months. Ida and I weren't betting;
we were holding on, living down to the grass roots. The big problem was no longer how to get off the homestead, but how to keep soul and body together on it."
—Edith Eurdora Kohl, "Land of The Burnt Thigh: A Lively Story of Women Homesteaders On The South Dakota Frontier

   He is a slippery trickster who dresses like a peon but has some very strange powers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Lost Family Connection Is Reclaimed

April 20, 2020
   Everything in this world seems to conspire to make us forget, or to disremember, or worse, to abandon all that came before. Here is one small victory against all of that.

L to R: John Guess, Dolce Guess,
Robert Guess (standing in back),
Lorry Pearl Guess, Sadie Arcane Guess
and William Guess.

In the summer of 1905, my grandfather (Bob Guess, above) contracted diphtheria while tending cattle at a remote waterhole and became so sick
he couldn’t remount his horse. A traveling
family found him and helped him onto his horse and he rode home, only to contaminate his two sisters with the deadly plague. The sisters, pictured above, died within days of each other and were hastily buried with a temporary marker in a remote cemetery. 

   Distraught, the Guess family moved on to Red Rock, then Animas Valley (Steins Pass, my mother was born in Lordsburg), then Duncan (technically, York) and ultimately, Kingman, Arizona.

   When I was growing up my grandmother would often tell the story of the two Guess children who died tragically in the wilds of New Mexico, but who never had a proper tombstone. She hoped that someday, someone from our family would go find those graves and put up a proper headstone.

This temporary, misspelled marker, "Guest Children" was all that marked the graves for more than 84 years.

In the summer of 1991 I had a proper memorial marker created and we took off for New Mexico. Left to right: Sadie Pearl Duncan, BBB, Bobbie Guess Bell and Tommy Bell.

   We flew to El Paso, rented a car and drove out eastward towards Dell, City, Texas, with our ultimate destination being just across the border in New Mexico, to the remote Orange Cemetery.

We stopped at the Cornudas Cafe because
of the cool chile sign.

 We knew the general location of the Orange Cemetery from a topo map I bought at Wide World of Maps in Phoenix, but luckily, a waitress working the counter drew us a map of the correct back roads to take to find the graves. In that part of the country every dirt road Ys about three or four times every mile and you have to make a decision, and unless you know which turn to take, you are not only lost, but it compounds with each wrong turn.

The wonderful waitress in Cornudas
who drew a map for my mother
and Sadie Pearl, at left.

   We wouldn't have found the cemetery without her directions.

Overwhelmed with emotion, Sadie Pearl reacts
to finally being able to honor the two Guess girls who she was named for.

The Orange Cemetery is northeast of Dell City, Texas in a remote side canyon just across the border in New Mexico. It is a lonely spot,
but one that is important in our family history.

   In a later development, my aunt Jean, the youngest of the Guess girls had a much larger tombstone made to honor her aunts, and she and her husband Bud Linn drove down from Fort Sumner, where they were living, and placed the new tombstone on the grave site. I have not seen this newest addition and do not know if they obliterated our modest marker.

   Either way, a small, but important part of our past was salvaged and the lost Guess girls finally have a proper tombstone.

"The greatest gift in life is love."
—Old Vaquero Saying