Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Women of The Wild West Teasers

 June 30, 2021

   Jana and I have been having fun creating little teasers for our forthcoming book.

Who Is She?

   Kidnapped as a child she was then traded off as a gambling debt to her “husband.” She led strangers with an infant on her back on a 1,000 mile journey and she was never paid a cent but without her the trip was doomed. She will become the most celebrated woman in American history.

   Answers below.

Who Is She?

   She loathed alcohol and the men who drank it. She wrecked more bars than a hundred tornadoes. She withstood the law and scorn and she paved the way for Prohibition.

Who Is She?

   She lost two sets of parents before becoming a national celebrity. She went to her grave with a dark secret.

Who Is She?

   She dressed like a man to fit in. She drank like a fish to survive. She lied like a rug to be remembered. And now she's a legend.


Answers: from top: Sacajawea, Carrie Nation, Olive Oatman and Calamity Jane. All of them featured prominently in our new book on the Women of The Wild West.

   Just in time for Christmas.

“He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”

— Epictetus

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Molcajete Baby!

 June 29, 2021

   Here is a Mexican food flashback from the pre-Covid era. This photo was taken at Mariscos Playa Hermosa in South Phoenix, one of our fave Mexican food joints. We were there for a big family gathering and Amy's mom took this photo of the Bell boys digging the main dish.

Molcajete Baby!

  Me and my son, Thomas Charles, enjoying Molcajete at Mariscos Playa Hermosa at 16th St. and Garfield in Phoenix. We absolutely love "molcajete" which is that big stone bowl at bottom, right. It's a specialty dish served in a molcajete bowl at the restaurant and it's full of steamy meats and fish. Molcajete refers to the bowl which is traditionallly carved out a single block of vesicular basalt and supported by three short legs. While the delicious recipes are usually not cooked in the bowl, the molcajete keeps the dish hot for a very long time because of it thermal mass. It's not unusual for this dish to still be bubbling a half-hour AFTER serving!

A typical Molcajete serving

   When I posted this on Facebook I got this response from a friend:

"The Bell boys at supper. . .best not to disturb them. The young one's a double handful of trouble, but he ain't a patch to the old man."

—Mort Mortensen

Monday, June 28, 2021

Where The Socks Match The Rocks at Zabriskie Point

 June 28, 2021

   From the forthcoming Old Vaquero Sayings book.

Daily Whip Out:

"The wages of sin are unreported."

Where The Socks Match The Rocks

Triple B at Bozinski Point

(actually Zabriskie Point, Death Valley)

October 13, 2018, 9:46 AM

   My daughteer Deena came up with that line: "Where the socks match the rocks." When I was growing up only old men wore black socks (with sandals!) and I can't make the transition, because in my ancient mind—it's dorky! But my kids assure me I'm the one who looks dorky now!

   And, so it goes.

   I look at this spot every morning when I wake up. Well, actually, I open my eyes to a poster of Zabriskie Point on the far wall.

Zabriskie Point Poster With Hats

   The hat on the left dates from the mid-eighties and the one on the right, from the 1880s, and yes, it is an original Boss of The Plains.

"When you're down on your luck and you've lost all your dreams, there's nothing like a campfire and a can of beans."

—Tom Waits

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Rear End of An Era

 June 27, 2021

   It was on this date, in 1985, the legendary Route 66, which originally stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, passed into history as officials decertified the road. Thanks to my friend Daryl Drake for alerting me to this historic milestone. The irony, at least for me is, it didn't seem like the end of an era at the time. In the summers of 1963-64, I worked on survey crews plotting the new I-40 and over the next couple decades the interstate slowly chipped away at old 66 until finally the last leg fell in 1985 (I believe it was the part that bypassed Williams, Arizona). 

The Son of The 66 Kid

   So, sometimes it's hard to see the end of an era because of the whole forest and the trees thing. Other things that pass are easier to spot.

"It is the rear end of an era."

—Jimmy Kimmel, on the recent end of the TV series Keeping Up With The Kardashians

Saturday, June 26, 2021

A Mighty Saguaro Laid Low By A Welding Spark

 June 26, 2021

   Here is a sad testimonial.

A mighty saguaro near the entrance
to the cave that Cave Creek is named for.

   And here is that same saguaro this morning, a little over a year after the Ocotillo Fire.

A Once Mighty Saguro Is Dead And Gone

   The Moral

   Invasive people, invasive grasses and a welding torch do not make for happy endings.

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Triple B Bunkhouse Finally Takes Shape

 June 25, 2021

   Thirty years ago I earned a KSLX bonus of $20k and, so, flush with cash, I commissioned a local contractor to build a free standing garage for my father's 1949 Ford Coup and his restored 1940 John Deere tractor. Unfortunately, the pack rats got in and started eating both units alive and it got so bad I either had to invest another big wad of cash in the garage or find good homes for the vehicles. I chose the latter (my cousin Mike got the tractor so it stayed in the family).

   Fast forward to the Ocotillo Fire in May of 2020 and after that devastation we were forced to either raize the sagging adobe shell, or reinvent it. Kathy rolled up her sleeves and chose the latter.

The third guy to show up and the last to leave

Kathy Picks Up The Story

"This crusty, adobe building has stuff that can get dirty stored in it, and without the doors it looked like a shack on our beautifully burned land……So I thought ….doors. These happen to be the least expensive doors I could find, at Home Depot, and The Amazing Benny Sutton made it work…..referred by George Coppock (the legendary Hippie George), he was the forth person to come look at the project, and the only one to actually want to take it on. What you don’t see, because Benny covered it up with the top beams, is that the whole thing sags, and there are lots of gaps which he creatively filled in. And now it is NOT an eyesore, further renovations like insulation, interior framing, water and electricity, to be determined."

—Kathy Radina

Bennie Sutton Rocks!

   The dude knocked this out in record time. Solid.

The Triple B Bunkhouse last night
looking a little more respectable.

   So, who might come stay in this rough and tumble bunkhouse? Maybe this guy:

Weston Allen, Pasadena Hospital,
June 24, 2013

Yes, it's actually for all the grandkids and for any of you who come to visit us in Cactusland.

"If you build it, they will come."
—Old Cornfield Saying

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Dueling Western Women Checkerboard Collages

 June 24, 2021

    Here's a creative dilemma you might be able to help me with. How do we successfully illustrate a book cover featuring hundreds of notable frontier women? It's hard to have just one image capture it all when there are so many ethnic and regional types we are covering in our forthcoming book on the wonderful women of the Wild West. And by we, I mean myself and Jana Bommersbach. So, this dilemma led me to think that perhaps a checkerboard collage of women portraits might work?

Checkerboard Collage #4

   Perhaps, with one dominate image in the front:

Calamity Jane, colorized by Chris Eveland

Or, perhaps an even more severe checkerboard in the back?

Checkerboard Black & White

magazine covers

   Or, somewhat more random?

Random collage of images

   I collect collages like this, above, for inspiration in my quest for narrative clarity. This is one of my favorites and I can't even remember where I got it from. Expect to see something similar filled with BBB Wild Women in the next few days.   

   Or, we could even go to old school mash ups, like this:

Wild Women Checkerboard Collage #5

   Of course, my first choice would be to have one striking image of a bold woman and my concern is that I will over complicate this. You know what the Old Vaqueros say.

"The simplest thing in the world is to make things complicated."
—Old Vaquero Saying


"The most complicated thing in the world is to be able to keep things simple."
—Even Older Vaquero Saying

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Rain Relief, Curtis Hanging And Wild Women

 June 23, 2021

   I am in the 12th week of Long Haul Covid symptoms. Daily, off-and-on headaches, brain fog and tinnitus. Granted, I have it easy compared to some of my friends who are reduced to putting ice on their pelvic area to cool down from the fever in their rectum. (The previous sentence is a good example of brain fog.)

Sundrise Over Ratcliff Ridge

June 22, 2021

   We got heavenly rain this morning and it was so sweet I almost cried. I sat out in the breezeway with Kathy and Uno and we listened to the rain falling on our roof, which is one of the most wonderful sounds in the world. Especially after a dry spell from hell.

Daily Whip Out: "Dixxy Up On Crow Ridge"

(note the crow at bottom who just winged her hat)

   I've got some other wild women on my mind.

Daily Whip Out:

"Western Wild Woman Silhouette"

Daily Whip Out:

"Western Wild Woman Vignette"

Daily Whip Out:

"Western Wild Woman Vignette #3"

Daily Whip Out:

"Western Wild Woman Rearing"

At ten this morning, Ken Amorosano and I motored down to the Scottsdale Museum of the West to take a photo of the crew mounting their next show. Can you tell from the images what the show will be on?

The Curtis Hangers

"It's such a big dream, I can't see it all."

—Edward S. Curtis, our True West magazine cover boy for September

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Old Vaquero Sayings Book Beckons

 June 22, 2021

   Get ready for some old vaquero fun. Jim Arndt, Rasmus Holmberg and all the boys down at Cattletrack Arts Compound have prodded me long enough. It's time to finally do what I've been claiming I was going do for the last twenty years. 

Daily Whip Out:

"Out Where The BS Begins"

The Old Vaquero's Time Has Come

   A ragged booklet, ideally looking as if it was printed on some dusty press deep in the Sierra Madre, is in the beginning stages of production. I can guarantee, it won't be pretty, but you will learn something, and so will I.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:

"As The Old Vaquero Sees Himself"

   In our mind's eye we're still 24 and dangerous. The Old Vaqueros are no different.

Daily Whip Out: "The Cockfighter"

• "Woe to the house where the hen crows and the rooster keeps still."

—Old Vaquero Saying

• "A campfire is the heart of civilization."

• "If you sit around a campfire long enough, everyone becomes a storyteller."

Daily Whip Out: "Campfire Serenade"

"My mind thinks I'm still 24. My body thinks my mind is an idiot."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, June 21, 2021

Classic True West Postcards From The Carole Glenn Collection

 June 21, 2021

Carole Compton Glenn has been our business manager at True West magazine for 21 years. Not only has she kept us solvent and sane but she has saved all the postcards we created to promote upcoming issues. Here's just a small sample.

And here are four from our very first year:

   We took over the magazine at the turn of the century (2000!) and we borrowed the slogan in the banner—No Bull Since 1953—from Tex Ernhardt, a local car dealer in Phoenix who used the same slogan and year (we both began in 1953, what are the odds?). We thought it was funny to apply this slogan to a history magazine. Not sure if Tex did, although he never called to complain, or, ahem, sue. Tex passed in April of 2020. Us using his slogan seems too clever by half, now, but then, so does half the stuff we have done over the past two decades.

   Maybe the lesson is, in the end everything is a joke, except the jokes you created at the time, which are now just lame.

   And here, for your viewing pleasure, is a super rare TW postcard from the Carole Glenn Collection:

   This is the only issue that we have produced that went back on press for another run of 10,000 more issues. The Little Bighorn Battlefield Museum in Montana took them all. Heady times, they were.

So damn cool. Great memories. Thank you Carole!

"Be like Custer and get what you deserve!"

—Old Copy Editor Hilarity

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Swedish Cowboys Blend In And Colorize Old Photos

 June 19, 2021

    One of the delightful surprises in my life-long journey to study the American frontier is how many dudes from overseas are as passionate as I am about Old West stuff. We've got my favorite "Little Aussie Bastard," James B. Mills, who is turning the Kid world upside down, and of course, Fred Nolan from Chalfont St. Giles, England did the same kind of stellar work a half century ago. And Joe Rosa (a northern Brit Boy), did wonders for the scholarship on Wild Bill Hickok. So, it's not totally a surprise that a lawman from Sweden would shake things up with the colorization of some of our favorite Old West photographs. May I introduce you to the incredible—yet subtle—work of Rasmus Lagerqvist Holmberg.

Texas Rangers Frontier Battalion

  We ran this photo in black and white, above, on the cover of True West magazine in May of 2020. These Texas Rangers are, standing from left are J. Walter Durbin and James W. King. Seated are George Parker and Robert McNamar. This image was taken in Rio Grande City in October of 1887.

   Here's another Rasmus Lagerqvist Holmberg colorized old photo.

Two dudes dressing up as cowboys

And this is a rare one.

A Fly Photo of A Tombstone Cowboy

   Taken by Camilius S. Fly, outside Tombstone, A.T., May of 1887. The cowboy is J. E. Andrews and note his bib-front shirt, small cow pony (this is what so many modern Westerns get wrong when they show everyone riding big quarter horses, instead of these raw-boned ponies) and rifle stock sticking up on the left-hand side. He has Mexican style monkey-face tapaderos and the D-Guard Bowie Knife, which is quite rare at this late date.

Tres Arizona Hombres Armed to Teeth

Swedish Cowboys Blend In
   Rasmus Holmberg and his Swedish compadre, Tommy Johansson, visited me at the old True West World Headquarters five years ago.

Swedish Cowboys:
Tommy Johansson and Rasmus Holmberg, September 13, 2016

   The funny thing is, if you saw them on the street you would never think, "Oh, look a couple Swedes."

   Also, it's pretty amazing that I found this photo on my phone in my pocket, from five years ago! Rasmus told me the date when they visited and I scrolled up into my photo file—on my phone!—and found the photo. Hell, I remember when this was all just a far off fantasy.

1963 news article

"I see by your outfit that you are from around here."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, June 18, 2021

Heroic Weasel Redemption!

 June 18, 2021

   What did the poor weasel ever do to become the brunt of human derision?—Hey, don't weasel out on me! Hey, don't be a weasel! You and your weasel words! Apparently, the weasel's big sin is they are known to suck the contents out of an egg shell and then discard the shell and move on. I'm sorry, that doesn't sound like a negative trait at all. It actually seems like a genius move by a very smart little critter. Shouldn't we be saying,"Hey, clever weasel move, Dude!" Or, "The award for best weasel behavior goes to Elon Musk." Or, "He is damn smart but not weasel smart."

A Delightful Little Snow Weasel

Little Known Weasel History

   If you are older than dirt, like me, you probably remember this Frank Zappa album cover:

   The legendary "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" album cover was actually created by an artist named Neon Park (real name Martin Muller), who worked professionally designing posters at Family Dog, a design firm in San Francisco. The story goes that Frank Zappa summoned Park and showed him this 1953 magazine cover.

   Mister Neon extrapolated that idea and combined it with this ad from a 1953 Saturday Evening Post:

   And now you know the Weasel backstory for the iconic Mothers Of Invention album cover.

More Weasel History You Need to Know

   The next issue of True West (September) will feature this wonderful weasel on the cover.

Weasel Tail, Blackfeet, 1900

Photo by Edward S. Curtis

Exciting New Ways to Honor Weasels

   It's time to name a professional sports team The Weasels. I nominate Dallas, or Cleveland. Okay, granted, Phoenix would be perfect. Let's also change our language to honor this intelligent species.

• "Lord, grant me the wisdom to be like the mighty weasel."

• "You got your intellectuals and then you got your high brow geniuses and then there are the weasels of our community."

• "It is better to live one day as a weasel than a thousand days as a lamb."

"Intelligence without weasel behavior is a bird without wings."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Totally Gay Wild Bill And The Big, Fat Rothko Turnaround


June 17, 2021
   Why did some historians in the 1960s think Wild Bill Hickok was gay? If you watched last night's Facebook Live broadcast you know the ridiculous answer. If you didn't watch it you can still retrieve the answer right here.

    Meanwhile, on the existential artist front, I am reading Louis Menand's "The Free World: Art And Thought In The Cold War" and it is an eye opener, at least for me. Thought I knew the origins of The Cold War, Drip Paintings and Pop Art, but what I didn't know you could apparently fill an 857 page book with. One of the most troubling and maddening things so far, (I'm on page 235), is that one definition of Modern Art is "the imitation of imitating." And, if that isn't enough of a dead end conundrum, another intellectual hipster, back in the day, claimed Modern Art represents reality "by refusing to represent." And the crucial element in the entire effort is allegedly "the silent gesture toward what [is] no longer possible." And, here's the kicker, if a painting starts to make sense it's not art.

   Damn, that pissses me off.

   At least this tail-chasing-expository-BS begins to explain this amusing painting, which by the way, matches my sweatshirt.

BBB In Front of a Rothko
   Okay, so I Googled Mark Rothko (real name Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz) and found out his success in the mid-fifties branded him as a sellout by some of his petty peers and he became depressed and commited suicide in 1970. That I began this day despising him and his work, and now I am feeling empathy towards him says something about context and high school popularity dynamics. That, and he also wore a pretty cool hat,  which gives me even more sympathy for the poor Latvian born, truth-seeking-artist.

Daily Whip Out: "My New Hero Rothko"

 "The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point."
—Mark Rothko

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Communication Breakdown It's Always The Same

 June 16, 2021

   I was talking on the phone to my daughter yesterday, who lives in Seattle and works for Principal Financial. She told me that the discussion in her business is, "What did we learn from the pandemic?" Great question. And one that we should all ask ourselves, both professionally and personally.

   For me and True West it is this:

One Old, Cranky, Stubborn Guy

   We could not sustain our office environment in the pandemic. Several of our key employees were driving 25 to 35 miles to work and the quarantine literally demolished that model. My partner, Ken Amorosano, saw that threat immediately and moved quickly and aggresively to not renew our lease and in fact, we moved out of our offices and started working remotely. Frankly, it probably saved our business. If it were up to me, I would still be there because I loved the True West World Headquarters—it was my sandbox—and would never have made that decision on my own.

Adapt Or Die

   But it isn't just magazines. I had a doctor's appointment in Scottsdale yesterday and as I drove down there and back I saw major, jaw-dropping ruin on almost every corner. Long-time favorite restaurants that did not adapt to outdoor dining are boarded up. Strip malls look like some haphazard wrecking ball has hit every third store. Big mall parking lots look like abandoned drag strips. The wreckage is massive and everywhere.

What Have I Learned Personally?

   On a personal note, I have noticed that key relationships are quite a bit more intense (Hello Kathy!), and sometimes it seems that we are twice as likely to go into full blown catastrophic arguments at the drop of a hat. The stay-at-home mode has created a much more hair-trigger-pressure-cooker environment. This is probably why the old job commute and being gone all day, softened that intensity and made being home more special ("Honey, I'm home!" seems like a distant, quaint memory). Miss that a bit. I also don't like the "every day is Saturday" aspect of the new world order.

   But, really, what I especially learned is, after all is said and done, it's even more important to communicate successfully.

Hey, Chill Out Covid Dude.

"Communication breakdown, it's always the same
Havin' a nervous breakdown, a-drive me insane"
—Led Zeppelin