September 30, 2020
My old Razz pard, Judy Darbyshire, gifted us this little, life-size owl to put in the mouth of Hoyo. Ain't this sweet?
“Your sons weren’t made to like you. That’s what grandchildren are for.”
September 30, 2020
My old Razz pard, Judy Darbyshire, gifted us this little, life-size owl to put in the mouth of Hoyo. Ain't this sweet?
“Your sons weren’t made to like you. That’s what grandchildren are for.”
September 29, 2020
Proof that interest in Billy the Kid is far from over.
Love the comments from our readers:
"Well that explains the whole litter box thing."
"I'll keep an open mind , but I'm going to have to see some provenance on these new feline tintypes before I'm totally convinced."
Meanwhile, on a related note, I have been curious to see the reaction to some of the oral history regarding the Kid. For example, the great-great grandson of Emil Fritz, whose insurance policy set in motion the Lincoln County War, claimed the Kid "wet the bed" when he stayed at the Fritz ranch. And while the National Enquirer once wondered: "Was Billy the Kid actually a girl?" Jesus Silva, who helped bury the Kid, claimed Billy, in fact, dressed up like a girl to avoid capture.
To steal a phrase from Errol Morris, we are in a "wilderness of unreliable narrators." What is it about memory and after-the-fact interviews that always seem to slander the truth? And why do most remembrances almost always seem to veer off into ridiculousness? Perhaps some of it is just the fact that everyone in this world is about half right.
Or, is it the truth and we just don't want to believe it?
How's this for a rollout header: Just what the world needs right now, a cross-dressing, bed wetter.
"The truth brings no man a fortune."
September 28, 2020
The young McCarty brothers and their sick mother endured a long and circuitous 2,500 mile journey from New York to New Mexico, probably all by wagon. They joined thousands of migrants moving along westward trails, in the late 1860s, trying to find a better life. The wagons creaked and bumped along the rough, uneven roads and once they crossed the Mississippi, they encountered seemingly endless expanses of short and tall prairie grass. One traveler on the Santa Fe trail marveled, "In spring, the vast plain heaves and rolls around like a green ocean." Others spoke of the "purity of the plains" and how it seemed to cure sickness. This was surely the silent wish of the McCarty kids whose mother was sick with tuberculosis.
"You boys get down from there. You'll hurt yourself."
—Every mother who ever lived
The Daily Routine On The Trail
At dawn, they heard the cries of the trail hands, rounding up stock, sorting and hitching up the teams. The women and children packing up and moving out, the air ringing with whoops and cries of "Stretch out!" And "Catch up! Catch Up!" Someone was always lagging behind. On good days, there was usually a stop at mid-morning and the crews unhitched and grazed the teams. They hauled water, gathered wood and buffalo chips for fires. They cooked and ate the day's main meal, usually coffee, beans, dried apples and wild game when it was available. After dinner (the main meal at noon) men repaired the wagons, yokes and harnesses, greased the wagon wheels and doctored animals. Soon enough they were back out on the trail, pushing across and past running streams and dry washes. They often timed their crossings to make it across before dark because storms could turn into raging torrents and more than one wagon train was swept away after lounging too long on the banks of a placid stream. On a good day, wagon trains could make about fifteen to twenty miles, before finding a high, safe spot, and bedding down for the night. This routine was continued for eight weeks on a straight run, but the McCartys stopped often and even tried to put down routes at various locations (see map), but they didn't take and by the March of 1873, they found themselves in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Inspired by the greatest paragraph in the history of New Mexico, which says in part: "Shrewd as the coyote. Free as the hawk. The outlaw of our dreams—forever free, forever young, forever riding."
—Mark Lee Gardner, author of To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett
September 27, 2020
The other day Bob Reece asked me how I met Billy Gibbons and here is the true story.
Back in 1977 I was living in Tucson and doing a humor magazine with Dan The Man Harshberger, called the Razz Revue.
I was always looking for ways to promote the magazine—I mean Magazomic! One day I came up with the bright idea of putting together a care package of back issues and T-shirt designs, like these:
Yes that is Ed Mell, doing his best Doper Roper, second from left, and that is Dan The Man, far right. The female model was the girlfriend of a publisher friend and she was very pretty, but she thought giving a cross-eyed look would help "zane it up," and she might be correct, although I doubt her grandchildren would agree.
So, I put a handfull of back issues and an assortment of Razz T-shirts in a box and then I would drive downtown and drop it off at the box office, whenever big time rock groups came to town. The first box went to the Beach Boys. I went to the concert and nothing happened, no mention, no thank you, no contact from the band, not even the promoter had the courtesy to respond. Undeterred, I did Jethro Tull. Same result. Then came the Eagles, and I got real excited when a roadie came out on stage before the show and he was wearing a Razz shirt (the one, above that the cross-eyed looker is wearing). But then, nothing else. I was very discouraged, but I decided to do one more and that was a ZZ Top show at the Convention Center in Tucson. At the last minute, I had to go to Phoenix on Razz business and couldn't attend the show. When I got back to Tucson, I dropped in to see these guys.
"Hey, Boze," said Johnny Weinkauf (kneeling at left, with the Coors can), "you must have been thrilled when Billy Gibbons gave you a shout out at the show last night?"
"What the hell?" I said.
Johnny laughed: "You weren't there?"
"Dammit, no," I said, "You've got to be kidding me? What did he say?
"Well the lights went down, the band came out and Billy came up to the microphone and said, 'Anybody here tonight from the Razz Revue?' And someone yelled, and I thought it was you, and Billy said, 'This one's for you,' and they went into La Grange."
A few days later, I got a funky, low rider postcard from Billy, who was still on the road. The greeting said "Hay Mane," which was just the coolest. In fact, it inspired me to do all of my own postcards, I mean Bozecards. From there, he ordered subscriptions for all of his friends and we were off to the races. Everything I hoped the care packages would bring, had come true. I just had to get the right band and the right guy. And, I'm here to tell you, Billy Gibbons is the right Guy.
We had breakfast at the Nogales Cafe in 1982. He sent me a ZZ Top ball cap. For many years I got Christmas cards from the band and then last year we did this.
Yes, that's Ed Mell, center, once again. Turns out Billy is writing a Billy the Kid song and he asked me if I wanted co-writing credit. Ha. I'll believe it when I see it, but still, Hey Mane! Can't complain.
And now, you know the true story of my ZZ Top connection.
"Lord take me downtown, I'm just looking for some good mole."
—Billy Gibbons at Mariscos Ensenada, Phoenix
September 25, 2020
I love oldtimers and their stories. Invariably you have to take some of the stuff we say—I mean THEY say—with a grain of salt. Other times, well, it kind of blows your mind, if it's true.
This is for a section of the book where Billy's friends remember him and are being interviewed by the press.
They Knew The Kid
Jesus Silva built the coffin and helped dig the grave for his friend Billy the Kid. A newspaperman interviewed him in 1936 when he was 85 and Silva had this to say about the Kid: “If Chisum had paid him, Billy would have been all right."
As regards the Kid and his fugitive status, “I gave him a hat or shirt or somethin’ ever’ time he came. There were many times when the outlaw was broke, even hungry."
In the interview, Silva claimed to have helped the Kid hide out after his escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse, when he killed deputies Bell and Olinger.
Here's the kicker: “Anaya had three daughters, and when strangers would come, Billy dressed up like a girl and stayed in the kitchen with the Anaya girls. And he made a good one, too — he was small, his hair was long and he talked Mexican just as good as them."
Silva also claimed he went to the Maxwell house when he heard the Kid had been shot by Garrett.
"There wasn’t even one Mexican cent in the outlaw’s pockets when the officers searched him; Pat Garrett took his gun."
September 24, 2020
Here is my foreword to the new Billy book.
My first book on Billy the Kid was published back in 1992. It was supposed to be a graphic novel, but thanks to my art studio mate at the time, Ed Mell, I landed at his prestigious art gallery in Scottsdale—Suzanne Brown's—to premiere the art from the book, and the next thing you know, I'm publishing a half-art, half-history, quasi-graphic novel. Looking back, I would call this first effort a naive-mash-up-lark.
Billy, Book One
The second book was born from my reaction to a comment made by the late, great historian, Nora Henn, about the first book. She took me aside, in Lincoln, and said, "I like you Bob, but if you are going to do history, you need to be serious, and do history. You can't tell jokes at the expense of the reader." She was correct, of course, because there were numerous jokes in the first effort, because, well, I am a cartoonist. So, I threw myself into putting together a massive extension of the first book, adding 70-some pages and including every aspect of the Lincoln County War AND Billy's life. I would deem this second effort the Nora Henn-Kitchen Sink version of the Kid story.
Billy, Book Two
And, so, here we are, with the third book. I am combining all the lessons learned from the first two and, I might add, it's much more lyrical in nature. By now, thirty years later, I know the story backwards and forward and I have nothing to prove or add to the scholarship. I have left the rigorous documenting behind (sorry, Nora!) and I've attempted to get at the beating heart of Billy the Kid. Is it the final word on Billy the Kid? No, of course not. That is the cartoonist making a joke. But it is my final word.
The Third & Final Billy Book
Can you trust a cartoonist to never do anything on the Kid ever again?
"Never say never."
—Charles Dickens, 1837
September 23, 2020
Get ready for some mucho-macho-muy-Mexicano Mayhem on the Mexican Revolution. Thanks to the True West creative team—that would be Stuart Rosebrook, Dan Harshberger and Robert Ray—and some humongous support from heavyweight historians, Linda Sanchez and Salome Hernandez, we've got some muy malamigos features in the next issue (November) of True West magazine.
Here's a taste:
"Zapata was the embodiment of sullen, suspicious, defiant, insolent brute force."
September 21, 2020
Like most cartoonists who are owners of history magazines, I have my share of mental issues. For one thing I am still chasing ghosts from my childhood.
I can't justify the obsession, but thanks to a certain therapist, I think I can spot the cause.
The Good-Bad Boy
Walter Noble Burns gets the credit for creating the first good-bad boy in his seminal book, "The Saga of Billy the Kid." Burns is the one who gave form and substance to the conundrum: William H. Bonney was the All-American Boy and a cold-blooded killer. Those are two poles apart and that is the perfect metaphor: two poles of a battery, a plus and a minus, that keep the sparks flying and the legend burning bright.
Of course, not everyone loves Billy the Kid like I do. Just ask the history honchos in Santa Fe who look down their noses at the boy bandit and refuse to even mention his name at the state monument in Old Fort Sumner. "He's not historically worthy," one of them told me with glee, as if it was a badge of honor to NOT mention, much less glorify, arguably the most famous citizen in the history of New Mexico.
But the snotheads in Santa Fe are not alone. Here's a typical letter I get from time to time:
"I wouldn't want your job which entails glorifying outlaws, murderers and thieves. My integrity means more to me than fame and fortune. The lawless Old West myth was created by journalists, so-called historians, dime-novelists and movie producers."
—Franklin L. Boren, Tinnie, New Mexico
I believe Mr. Boren is about half right. The lawlessness in the Old West was real enough—as is the lawlessness in our own era. Has it been fanned by journalists and "so-called historians" like me? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean the lawlessness didn't exist.
Sometimes the Billy blowback hits closer to home. I know this very attractive woman, she shall remain nameless, who has serious issues with Billy the Kid. She once said to me, "What do you find so fascinating about this thug? He seems like a psychopath to me?"
Full disclosure: she has a Masters Degree in Counseling and she is the mother of my children.
So, I asked this very attractive woman, who, thank God is a family therapist, why she thinks I am so enamored of this boy bandit and she said, and I quote, "If I had to venture a guess, I would say you were like many young boys and were probably compensating for a lack of courage."
"Young BBB King of The Fanner-Fifty"
All I can say is, "Boy Howdy. I resemble that remark."
"Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."
—Old Vaquero Saying
September 20, 2020
Here's a sneak peek at a full page ad designed by Dan The Man for our November issue.
Still noodling some new images I want for the book, like this unfinished piece:
Daily Whip Out:
"Forever Young, Forever Riding"
And this painfully accurate depiction:
Daily Whip Out:
"White Bread Boy Whips It Out"
Part of my angle on this book is how a certain skinny kid from the sticks got courage from modeling that historical Kid.
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."
September 19, 2020
I mentioned yesterday that back in 2002 I met Dave Daiss at the Black Mountain Feed Store when he showed me the plans for what became the True West World Headquarters and this prompted my friend Jim Arndt to email me his classic picture of the place back in the day.
September 18, 2020
We moved into the True West World Headquarters way back in 2002 when you could walk into a grocery store and actually start making out with someone. Anyone. And it was healthy!
Those days are gone.
Previously, we were in a funky house in the wash behind the Goatsucker Saloon in Frontier Town. It was the late, great Bob McCubbin who dubbed it "Clantonville."
About two years later, I went into the Black Mountain Feed store and ran into a neighbor from down the creek, named Dave Daiss who had some building plans rolled up under his arm. He said to me as I was buying feed for my chickens, "Hey, Bob Bell, you're a creative guy. I want you to look at these plans and tell me what I should call this building I am constructing east of the Dairy Queen." So we stepped outside and he unrolled the plans on the hood of his pickup and I took one look at the falsefront Old West style look of the architectural drawings and said, "I know exactly what the name of that building is," and he looked at me kind of funny and said, "What?" And I said, "That, my friend is the True West Building."
Darned if he didn't agree with me.
Moving is such a pain. You think you are on the last load out when you spot something you missed, and then twenty loads later you are still finding crap—or treasures—like this:
But then, Kathy Sue came in and said, "No, everything has to go," so three loads later, we had this.
This is the end my friend, and, as the song says, those were days we thought would never end.
“I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.”
― Andy Bernard
September 17, 2020
This morning you have a chance to own a piece of the historic True West World Headquarters.
Got to this link and check out the paintings that are priced ridiculously low.
We are selling off 75 paintings that were hung in the hallowed halls of the soon-to-be-vacated offices we inhabited for the better part of the past two decades. Here's one of my favorites that is still available.
September 16, 2020
Putting the finishing touches on our big Zapata & Villa issue which goes to press this weekend. Got up this morning and tweaked an ambitious idea I have for the forthcoming book, "The Illustrated Life & Times of Pancho Villa," which will come out in 2021. This image will also be used in my editorial for the November issue.
Speaking of Pancho & Lefty, I am left-handed but the Federales never really showed me any kindness.
Meanwhile, here is a sneak peek at the paintings and artwork for sale in tomorrow's art auction. The actual auction will formally open at nine a.m. tomorrow morning, but if you want an edge, email me at email@example.com and I will give you the inside skinny. Here is the artwork.
September 15, 2020
Nobody has a better collection of Billy the Kid stuff than The Top Secret Writer.
I thought I had seen it all, but Noooo. . .
September 14, 2020
Up to my eyebrows in dueling projects. This is my view of the battlefield this morning.
My biggest problem is trying to understand Pulse call technology in order to attack the Billy book and it's just kicking my old, sagging patootie.
Meanwhile, we have an issue going out the door on Thursday and I need to finish this "Brown Water" project as well.
"Agua Prieta is going to be mine. I am through with them, and all and forever. Do you understand?"
The End of the Cavalry Charge
Pancho Villa was known for his furious, full strength cavalry charges, usually unleashed at around midnight for full suprise effect. After the almost complete destruction of his forces at the Battle of Celaya the previous April, by General Alvara Obregon, Villa hedged his charges at Agua Prieta. Still, 200 Villista horses were killed and left on the battlefield, so some habits died hard.
November 1, 1915
Moving into position two miles east of Agua Prieta, Pancho Villa and a force of 8,000 soldiers spread out along a low ridge, shielding them from the fire of the bordertown defenders. At 1:37 p.m. a vigorous artillery shelling begins with Villa's big guns unleashing round after round on their objective. Several small buildings and a flour mill are hit and set afire. Under cover of the artillery barrage, Villa's infantry advance forward, which draws the fire of the Calles defenders, including their own heavy artillery.
Incredibly, as the Villista infantry troops advance towards a slaughter house they then veer off to the border fence and beg a line of American specators for water! Ironically, Agua Prieta is Spanish for "brown water."
By 3:15 p.m. Villa's second wave of attackers advance a quarter mile and they also went to the fence and begged for water. The main attack comes at 2 a.m. but even the darkness did not protect them as the Carranza defenders utilize search lights to light up and mow down the invaders. By dawn, no attackers have breached the mine strewn battlefield, or the town itself.
Another attack is attempted on the west side of Agua Prieta on the morning of the second, but it too is repulsed. Villa and his troops stumble on to Naco to reassemble, but some 1,400 of his troops desert him. The battle is over and so is the cavalry charge.
News Dispatches On The Fighting
"Reinforcements for Calles have begun to arrive through the United States. . .the first of nine trains bearing Carranza troops, and equipment from Laredo [Texas] arrived late today for Agua Prieta.
". . .the Carranza garrison was sweeping from all sides of the town with rifles and machine gun volleys guilded by searchlights. Although it is believed the volleys went over the heads of the Villa forces, cheers rang out in the Carranza trenches as every volley was fired."
"The general opinion among American army officers is that Villa has fooled the Crranza forces; that he merely 'nibbled' at Agua Prieta, and finding it much tougher than he expected, will now ignore it with its much coveted supplies or provisions and ammunition, and after his army is thoroughly rested and provisioned, will strike down through Hermosilla and Magdalena to the west coast for a campaign of much greater importance."
—The Arizona Republican, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 1915
"Further information, concerning Villa forces, was given by Juan Mendoza aged sixteen, who was wounded in the leg during a skirmish at Gallardo yesterday and brought to the Carranza hospital at Agua Prieta.
"We have had no beans or flour sine we left Casas Grandes," the boy declared. "Our food has been just. plain vaca—cow." Mendoza declared the Villa men were tired and hungry."
DOUGLAS, Nov. 1 (11 p.m.)—Corporal M. Jones, Company G. Seventh Infantry, stationed with his company near the United States customs house, was shot through both legs in a sharp firing between 9 and 10 o'clock tonight. The soldier was taken to the Y.M.C.A. building. His wound is not considered dangerous.
DOUGLAS, Nov. 2 (2 a.m.)—The fighting has commenced at 1 o'clock and has grown apace and the bullets from the Mexican rifles are flying over the southern part of Douglas. The artillery bombardment is terrific.
H.K. Jones, a letter carrier was shot during the firing and was hurried to the Calumet hospital. [apparently, these are two different Jones, this Jones was standing in his front yard when he was hit]
DOUGLAS, Nov. 2 (3:15 a.m.)—Though the firing has abated somewhat there is every indication the fighting will continue all morning. Villa's big guns seem to have stopped and Calles' artillery appears to be, alone, active in this division."
"It was apparent at sundown that Villa had extended his lines to the south and west in an enveloping movement, striving to get to the west of Agua Prieta whence a dash could be made should opportunity afford."
"At no time during the day did other than random bullets fall across the international boundary line. Some of these fell on the roof of the Douglas Y.M.C.A. but their force was spent and no one was injurted."
"[General] Calles reported his losses today as eight killed and 24 wounded. He claimed the dash of the Villa troops to the Agua Prieta barbed wire entanglements had been repulsed with a loss of at least 200 to the Villa troops."
One of the Villa attackers, Captain Estrella has been wounded. He crawled over the boundary "west of the slaughter house where he was found by Sheriff Harry Wheeler and taken to the Twenty-Second infantry camp hospital."
—The Bisbee Daily Review
"Tall tales make the impossible possible."
September 13, 2020
As I head for the last roundup of all things Billy the Kid I am struck by the circuitous nature of tall tales vs. hard history. While seeking the latter, it's damn hard to avoid stepping in the former.
Eventually, it's all "he said-she said" memory and this is undercut by the cold fact that everytime an oldtimer retells a "true" story he gets closer to the center of the stage.
September 12, 2020
Spied this Cactus Wren Home Security System today.
Not too many predators are going to try a home invasion on this little duplex. Very homey inside. Back porch is a little small, but the amenities are nice.
Cleaned out my office today and realized I haven't seen the bottom of my desk in 18 years. It's wood!
“Beyond myself, somewhere,
I wait for my arrival.”
― Octavio Paz
September 11, 2020
A day—9 •11—that will shift in infamy. I predict if you live long enough, like I have, you will see things that once seemed inviolate, become the opposite. Mark my words, this is on the way.
Osama bin Laden has recently been declared a martyr. I would give it maybe twenty years before there is a demand to put his statue at the foot of the Twin Towers. It's coming whether you like it or not.
"There are no historians in the mob."
"Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance and intolerance armed with power."
A Fitting Headline for 2020
Founding Fathers Strapped Down In Graves to Prevent Further Spinning
"Art gives life to what history killed. Art gives voice to what history denied, silenced, or persecuted. Art brings truth to the lies of history."