Monday, January 31, 2022

Why The F-Bomb In Westerns Sounds So Odd

January 31, 2022

   We're working on a big feature on "1883" for the April issue of True West magazine. Recent posts about the authenticity of swearing in the hit show really went viral (180,000 views, 650 comments!) and it got me to mulling about doing a sidebar like this to help explain how we got here.

A Short History of Swearing On Film
   Quite a few people today still believe swearing in movies started with "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," from "Gone With The Wind" in 1939, but that is a popular misconception. Yes, it was scandalous and a big deal, but, as it turns out, actors had been swearing in films since the beginning of the artform. For example, there is compelling evidence that deaf people complained about swearing in silent movies way back in the teens. Actors were swearing for emphasis and relying on the fact that no one could actually hear them (but deaf people could read their lips!). 

Read My Lips You Son of A Bitch!

   When sound came along a decade, or so, later, swear words came along with "damn" being uttered on film in 1929, "son of a bitch" in 1933 and the "F-bomb" in 1933. Subsequent watchdog groups squelched these early swearers until the above mentioned "Gone With The Wind," scandal and that held sway until the volatile sixties when the F-bomb reappeared in M*A*S*H (1970) and then—perhaps—peaking in "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013), with 506, or 569, F-bombs depending on who is counting. So, the incidents of swearing on film are not new. Of course, prolific swearing in a Western is pegged to "Deadwood" (2004) where David Milch used swearing to connote lawlessness in an outlaw town. By the time we get to "Yellowstone" and "1883" the F-bomb has lost some of its power due to overuse. However, to longtime lovers of Westerns, it still sounds slightly jarring, like hearing your grandmother go toe to toe with a drug dealer. It could happen, it just doesn't quite ring true to our ears. But that probably says more about our history with popular culture rather than with the true history of cursing on film.

"The world may be a stage but the play is badly cast."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Are Frank McCarthy's Paintings Detail Porn?

 January 30, 2022

   It all started with two semi-unrelated events. I was looking for possible future True West covers and came across this painting:

Frank McCarthy's "Coming of The Iron Horse"

(cropped to show the proportions

of a possible TW cover)

   Someone commented that it was a masterpiece and then someone else commented that McCarthy was merely an illustrator and not a fine art painter and then my brother in Art—Kid Ross—weighed in with this:

   "When I was a junior in college I bought a book of Frank McCarthy's paintings.  One of my art teachers scoffed at it.  I didn't know why; now I do.

   "You can see this in much of the contemporary western art scene: these guys get together and dress up to look like a mountain man or an Indian etc.  They take photos of each other and then merely reproduce the photograph....and you can both see and FEEL just how "dead" these paintings are.  (Especially when they give them names!)

   "Look at Remington's paintings and how his brush work merely "suggest" things.....compared to Remington's brush work, Frank McCarthy's is detail pornography in that it shows you everything leaving nothing left to the viewer's imagination.

   "I still have that book of McCarthy's paintings and I keep it as a reminder that it is in the obscure that we find the meaning; the obvious is merely the obvious.

   "As your doctor I suggest that you go back and ingest more acid and listen to Jimi Hendrix at a very high volume.

   "McCarthy was an illustrator, Remington was an artist, I am a drunk. So when these artists paint photo-realism I have no problem with that.....unless it is being judged as great art BECAUSE of it's realism."

   "Respectfully yours!"

—The Kid Ross (as Huey Lewis always called me)

Meeting of the Obnoxious Hat Nitpickers,
December 19, 2015. 

Left to right: Rusty York, Thom "Kid" Ross and Paul Andrew Hutton (showing off his Apache Wars book which was hot off the press and not even out yet)

"All paths lead to Pete Maxwell's darkened bedroom at midnight and when you get there, the Kid is gone, and the house is gone; only the river remains."
—Kid Ross

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Out On The Mickey Free Front

 January 29, 2022

   Got together with one of my cartoonist compadres, Jerry Scott, yesterday. The former Lake Havasu High School grad writes both the nationally syndicated strips, "Baby Blues" and "Zits," and draws, along with two other artists, the cartoons as well.  Jerry and his wife Kim (who also went to Lake Havasu High School), were in town and came out to Cave Creek to see their old home. We solved some life and drank some fine tequila (1800 Reposada) to make our conclusions more eloquent. 

   Meanhile on the Mickey Free front:

Daily Whip Out:

"Somewhere In Sonora A Smirking Captivo On A Grinning Jack Rides Out of A Very Tall Dust Devil"

   Yes, sometimes short and punchy titles give way to long, tedious and descriptive ones, but, eventually we get back to the concise-clipped bits.

Daily Whip Out: "Mick In Flames"

   And, then there is the oddly, but historically correct named.

Daily Whip Out:

"The Penetrating Stare of Doroteo Arrango"

   Meanwhile, our main boy was a little bit of everything and his pancho reflected his mongrel pedigree.

Daily Whip Out:

"Mickey Free's Mishmash Pancho"

   And, he rode that big, bad jack, who was himself a mongrel of sorts and the funny thing is, nobody wanted anything to do with either one of them. They were both cross-eyed mutts who nobody wanted to claim.

Daily Whip Out: "Big Mutts In Cowtown"

"One has fear in front of a goat, in back of a mule, and on every side of a fool!"
—E W Howe

Friday, January 28, 2022

Led Zep Anyone?

 January 28, 2022

Led Zeppelin anyone?

"Wayyyyyyyyy down inside. . .
woman (woman, woman, woman. . .")

Some distant gig, probably in Kingman. The song is "Whole Lotta Love" which I enjoyed doing by applying my best Gabby Hayes meets Robert Plant voice to full effect. I have a hunch if I'm ever up for the host of "Jeopardy," this photo will be used to disqualify me.

"In the days of my youth I was told what it's like to be a man. . ."

—Led Zep, "Good Times-Bad Times"

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Crazy Arms And Dirty Mouths

 January 27, 2022

  Saguaros that grow in the Cave Creek riverbottom often have twisted arms because they bend in a tortured manner from frost and freezing conditions (there is more moisture in the air held in by the canyon walls). When we first moved out here, in 1987, I went out one day and sat underneath this giant near our house, in the creek bottom, and drew it from the ground, underneath, looking up at the sky.

Daily Pen & Ink Whip Out: "Crazy Arms"

Unfortunately, this massive contortion-gymnastic flowering-sky dweller did not survive and fell some time before the millenium.

The Current Dirty Mouth Problem

  With the rise of the new Taylor Sheridan hit show "1883" once again the question is raised: did the citizens of the Old West really swear like they do on the show? If you are skeptical about all this potty mouth stuff, here is someone who agrees with you.

Youthful Depravity

"The fact must come home to every observer that Deadwood's rising generation is very depraved. Go where we will our ears are greeted with profanity and obscenity from almost baby lips, while our visionn is assailed by sights of the most lamentable character. These urchins are not all of that peculiar class known as 'hoodlums' for whom ignorance is some excuse, as many of them receive the kindest and best instruction at home, but from too lenient parents who allow their children to wander through the city, visiting haunts of iniquity where are exerted those pernicious influences which sooner or later deaen the most acute sensibility, destroy all sense of righ and morality and inspire to an emulation of the worst characters of the town."

The Black Hills Daily Pioneer

January 26, 1881

So, exactly ten months before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, people were already complaining about all the swearing in Deadwood, South Dakota, of all places. More than a century later, the home to the HBO hit show of the same name, where swearing was unleashed at an even greater volume than in "1883" or "Yellowstone," put together.

Two things are clear. When people say the swearing in a Western is not authentic, they are actually reflecting to the mid-Twentieth Century morays in poplular culture. The court records from the nineteenth century are replete with plenty of swearing, and it's brutal and all inclusive. And, two, the style of swearing evolves with certain words gaining in prominence (the F-bomb allegedly became ominpresent during WWII). So, a case could be made for the citizens who lived through the actual year of 1883 might not have uttered the F-bomb with such frequency, but—and this is critical—most men in polite society did not swear in front of women or children. Out on the frontier, women like Sarah Bowman aka "The Great Western," swore like sailors with the men. So, the most inauthentic part of "1883" is when Sam Elliott uses the F-bomb in front of the women. That is just, well, flippin' awful.

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey On The Jump"

"I think that if a man has the urge to be an artist, it is because he needs to find himself."

—Georges Simenon

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Sam Is Hot And So Is That Damn Show He Is On!

 January 25, 2022

   A work in progress:

Daily Whip Out:

"Sam Is Hot And So Is That Damn Show

He Is On!"

   I still have to put in a couple burning wagons and one or two tresspass weary In-dins, but we got word this morning that Taylor Sheridan and his crew are exhausted and can't provide the interviews we needed to get our cover story in the next issue. So we'll finish this at a later time.

   Kathy put a few flower pots in the dining room and they have been producing amazing results.

Amaryllis, Kathy and Uno

  As you can see, Kathy is happy with the results. Uno, not so much.

   Two more creative cowboy cussing examples:

• "A Bull-Sha-Vickey!" (Betty Simmons, ahem, swears her father uttered this oath when he was ticked.

• "Gee Ma Knee!" (creative spelling by Janet Dunn Burkhead)

   According to the author Glenn Burns, "All the tribes in the Sierra Madre have a legend of a vengeful rider appearing out of a dust devil."

Daily Whip Out:

"From Out of The Dust Came A Vengeful Rider Brandishing A Machete!"

"Some authors are shameless when it comes to making stuff up."

—Clifford Irving, author of "Autobiography of Howard Hughes"

Monday, January 24, 2022

Creative Cowboy Cussing

 January 24, 2022

   With the F-bomb controversy still raging over the usage of the fornication verb being used willy nilly in "1883" "Yellowstone" and the reigning, and still unbeaten champ "Deadwood," it's time to celebrate the creative aspect of cussing

Creative Cowboy Cussing

   When readers contact me about what they feel is unrealistic, swearing in Westerns, I have two thoughts about it. The first is that the old Westerns we grew up on didn't have explicit swearing but that doesn't mean Old West characters didn't swear. And two, I am amazed at how creative Westerners, not just the men, were in avoiding curse words. 

   First a story from my youth. In 1970 I moved to the big city (Phoenix) and got a job as a rear chainman at APS (Arizona Public Service) working on a survey crew tasked with putting in flagged locations for J-boxes (junction boxes for electricity) in all the new subdivisions springing up all across the desert. Our crew chief, Ralph Tisdale, was an old Texas cowboy, and he was very fond of saying loudly and often, "Heiffer Dust!" as a stand in for stronger epitaphs. This phrase so tickled me, I used it as the catch phrase for a cartoon character I created in 1972 and published in the Razz Revue:

   Here is just a partial list of creative cowboy cussing:

• Jumpin' jehosaphat!

• Road apples, also horse apples, to describe horse manure on the highway

• Tarrnation, usually preceeded by What in the. . .

• Dadbernit, also Dadgummit and Gol-dernit

• Heck! as in What the heck!

• Durn persnickety female! A pure Gabby Hayes-ism

• Yessiree, Bob (not really a swear dodge but used by smart arses everywhere

• Smart Alec!

• Oh, fudge!

• Jackwagon, as in, "You worthless Jackwagon!"

• Sidewindin' as in You sidewindin', bushwackin' Hornswaggler

• (by) Thunder!

• Carnsarnit!

• Whippersnapper, as in "You young whippersnappers!"

• Durn! as in "Yer durn tootin'!"

• Dang it all!

• Sufferin Succatash! Okay, this is the signature saying of Sylvester the cartoon character, but it's allegedly a dodge from "Suffering Savior," which is taking the Lord's name in vain pretty seriously

• Heifer Dust! (see above)

• Hell's Bells! (dang close to swearing and we wouldn't recommend using it in church)

• Sonoma Beach! (a very clever dodge on S.O.B. and a personal favorite)

• What in the Sam Hill! (my grandmother Minnie's favorite oath)

“I've been accused of vulgarity. I say that's bullshit.”
― Mel Brooks

Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Model for Low Pants Vance Turns 39 Today

 January 23, 2022

   My number one—and only—son, turns 39 today. The poor kid posed for so many drawings and paintings, I think he moved to Japan just so I couldn't torture him any more. That said, he grew up to be honest, with a great sense of humor and a father couldn't ask for more than that. I think this is my favorite of him:

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:

"Low Pants Vance"

The True Origins of Low Pants Vance

   When I attended Mohave County Union High School (henceforth referred to as Mucous) we had a kid who wore his pants so low, we called him Low Pants Jance. I changed it to Vance to protect him and his family. Long story short, he fancied himself a writer, but instead he drank himself to death. His wife, however, picked up the torch and is a well known author today.

   J.A. Jance writes three series of novels, centering on retired Seattle Police Department detective J.P. Beaumont. Then there is the Arizona county sheriff, Joanna Brady, and also the former Los Angeles news anchor turned mystery solver, Ali Reynolds.

   How's that for three degrees of Triple B?

"It takes two years to learn to speak and sixty to learn to keep quiet."

—Ernest Hemingway

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Baxter Black Moves On

 January 22, 2022

   Covid claimed one of my Kingman family members this week. Stormie Linn, 62, died of Covid and double pneumonia. She was born on July 28, 1959 to Diana Majenty of the Hualapai tribe, and adopted at birth by Bud and—my aunt—Jean Linn. She was one of my favorites.

   The news has come that Baxter Black is in home hospice (a family member said he has a form of dementia and leukemia) and if anyone could make that funny it would be Baxter. He was a very funny guy for a large animal veternarian (which was hilarious just on that note) and which he mined to the moon. Good work amigo. You earned your rest. See you down the trail and across the divide.

   And, here's a little humor Baxter would no doubt appreciate:

"We stand behind all our equipment except for our manure spreaders."

—Bob Yoho

Friday, January 21, 2022

Watch Your Mouth, Dagnabbit!

 January 21, 2022

   I want to compile a list of all those mild, round-about words that are used in place of actual cursing. You know, like "Dad Gummit!" and "Carnsarn it!" and "Dang straight!" and "Goll Durn It!" and "Son of a gun!" and my grandmother Minnie's favorite, "What in the Sam Hill?"

   Perhaps the zenith of this harmless and neutered joshing was when this guy followed Roy around.

Mr. Dagnabbit!

   Yes, the ultimate sidekick, Gabby Hayes. He never learned to ride a horse until he was 50 and he was the exact opposite of the characters he played. Here's what Dale Evans said of him: “He was very cultured, one of the most well-read men, one of the best educated men I’ve ever met. He wore very natty tweeds, and he smoked a pipe. He was a very distinguished gentleman completely different from his movie character.”

   Keep 'em coming. I want a big, long list. Right as rain.

"You sorry sack of sugar!"

—Homer Simpson, pulling his punch at the last word

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Back to Free Again

 January 20, 2022

   Lots of activity on our YouTube videos today. A whole bunch of BBB videos are on going viral, including last night's "Tombstone On The Cutting Room Floor."

    Meanwhile, we've got a big cover story in the works on the history behind Taylor Sheridan's new hit series. You know, this one.

Sam Elliott in "1883"

   My post about the accuracy of the swearing on the wagon train show has over 150,000 views and 650 comments (so far) and I intend to set the record straight, once and for all, on that damned subject. Among other accuracy things, we will take a good, honest look at all the authenticity with a little help from my friends and that would include Stuart Rosebrook, Johnny Boggs, Candy Moulton, Erik Wright and Henry Parke. We are all over this puppy and it's fun because we all love the show in spite of our nitpicking ways.

   Meanwhile, I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with a better title for our GN, but so far, nothing beats this:

Daily Whip Out Cover Sketch: "Free!"

   Somehow we'll get the right title before it's all over. You know why? David Starr knows. . .

"The world stands aside to let anyone pass who knows where he is going."

—David Starr Jordan

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Mercedes Beat Me Up Good

 January 19 2022

   Traversed the Mojave Desert this week to Desert Hot Springs, driving over via I-10 last Wednesday and then back today, via Joshua Tree, 29 Palms, Vidal Junction, Parker, Hope, Wickenburg and home. I love this latter route because its the same route Wyatt and Josie took every winter from Los Angeles out to their Happy Day Mine west of Parker, Arizona. They made this trip by wagon for 22 years. That's how much they loved it out on the Mojave Desert.

Wyatt Earp Passed By Here

      Stopped to take the above photo, because I dig those shadows, and then I turned the lense around to capture the Flex and the sign.

Soft Sholders

   We stayed seven days and seven nights at the Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis in Desert Hot Springs, California and we were treated royally by the entire staff and crew.

Azure Palm website

   Thanks to Kathy I received a massage every day for seven days. Four of those delightful massages were from this amazing woman, Mercedes, who beat me up pretty good the first two days. But I needed it and as she told me, she needed to unfreeze my shoulders, and that she did!

Magic Mercedes!

   Man, I needed this. Thank you Mercedes. Thank you Azure Palm Spa and thank you Kathy Sue. Love you all.

"Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Miracle Hill Out Our Hotel Window

 January 18, 2022

   One of the joys of visiting a new place is discovering the people who made history in the area. This is the case with Cabot Yerxa, who I had never heard of before our visit, but he is one of the homesteading founders of Desert Hot Springs, California.

Cabot Yerxa and his donkeys,
including Merry Xmas, at left.

   While visiting his ecclectic, ramshackle, pueblo style house the other day, I bought a book of his writings for the local newspaper, describing how he came to the area and all of his arduous journeys on foot to gather water and tools. For example, he writes about walking 11 miles to get a pair of tin snips to fashion a dust pan out of empty tomato cans, then 11 miles back to cut the cans, and then after he finished, he returned the snips and then walked home and surmises it took 44 miles of walking to get a workable dust pan.

   In 1913-14 he built a crude house by hand on the top of a small perch of desert he called Miracle Hill. 

Cabot and his young son Rodney
enjoying the endless sandbox on Miracle Hill.

   Here is the view of Miracle Hill today, taken from our Hotel room window.

Miracle Hill at sunrise today.

   Yes, it's covered with tract homes and I have reached out to the local historical society to see if there is at least a monument up there. I certainly hope so.

   Cabot named it Miracle Hill because "at its base I discovered hot curative mineral waters, and on the other side cold water. . .round about it are beds of red clay and blue clay from which Indians made pottery. Also there were to be found rocks, building sand, good earth and desert soil, all of this is ample reason for the name 'Miracle Hill.'"

   Not to mention the stunning views in all directions and here is one of those views, looking towards San Jacinto Peak, which is the big mountain that buttresses Palm Springs to the west.

The cloud show over San Jacinto Peak

    Cabot, later built his ramshackle pueblo style home to the north of Miracle Hill and today it is a museum. Kathy and I walked to it from our resort and highly recommend it.

   Being the desert rat he was, Cabot often used materials at hand and this doorway is a good example.

A wagon bed turned into a door.

   When he dug a well on the hot side of Miracle Hill it took him quite a while to dig down to water, and when he did he reported:

   "The water temperature turned out to be 132 degrees, was soft as rain water with soap, and tasted good. Bob [Carr] and I sat down and built air castles. We visualized a city here with many people to make proper use of the hot water and climate for healthful purposes and outdoor enjoyment. Those who heard us rave about the future of this desert laughed at us, but today Desert Hot Springs is an actuality."

—Cabot Yerxa, January 17, 1952

   Cabot's favorite donkey, Merry Xmas, seen above, followed him around like a dog and they had many adventures together. Of course, Xmas was allowed to roam freely most of the time and Cabot relates how much time it took to find the donkey and gave, by example, this old prospector joke:

Newcomer: "So you have been out here on the desert 40 years! Have you been mining all that time?"

Prospector: "Well, not all the time because I have hunted burros for 20 years!"

"It takes two Easterners to believe one Westerner."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, January 17, 2022

Warning: Colon Hydrotherapy Potty Humor Ahead

 January 17, 2022

   Well, I survived the Colon Hydrotherapy session yesterday but I will tell you it was a sitstorm from start to finish. 

Shades of Mister Pee Pee Head!

   Warning: there's even more juvenile, potty humor ahead, but for your reading protection I have changed out the offensive scatalogical slang for feces with the word "sit" so you can get the full bowel moving effect of my hilarious, anal probing experience, but not, I hope, sit your pants. 

   First off, here is what the spa brochure says about the procedure: "Colon hydrotherapy is a simple, safe and convenient treatment, taking up to 45 minutes. Cleanses and rehydrates to detoxify and tone the peristatic muscles of the large intestines. FDA approved, closed system, professional equipment means there is no mess or smell and your therapist will work discreetly, always protecting your safety and dignity."

   All true. I should also say that my therapist is the director of the spa here at the resort and she was quite calming, professional and funny. When it was over, she said, "Well, how was it?" and I quipped, "Quite impactful." I thought that was pretty clever, but she rolled her eyes and I immediately realized she has probably heard every crap joke in the history of the world—every single day. So I asked her to name a couple of colon groaners and she laughed and offered me this, "Well, I guess I'm not as full of sit as everyone says," and "I'd rate this as a number two." Oh, man, wish I had thought of that one, or two, as the case may be, but as you can see there are some funny crappers, besides myself, who have done this. She also confessed to me Colon Hydrotherapy changed her life. She told me she used to be high strung and angry and when she did a colon cleanse "ten times in a row," so much of her anger and stress just fell away. I totally bought this, but I just can't quite get passed the "ten times in a row" part.

   The words ass and hole are never used. The catchall term is "speculum," which, at first, gives it a confusing nomenclature: "You want me to insert the tube in my speculum?" And then when she applies the lubricant, you know exactly where the speculum is going. And speculum apparently is an instrument for dilating a body cavity to permit examination of its interior.

   As for the sensation of the experience, you know that feeling you get in your lower body when you have eaten something bad and you are concerned you are not going to make it the bathroom in time. It's that feeling for 45 minutes.

   Honestly, I felt better for having done it, but on the scale of things I have enjoyed on this vacation, colon hydrotherapy would fall somewhere below driving on I-10 thru Palm Springs during rush hour. 

   No sit, Sherlock.

"Rectum? Damn near killed 'em!"

—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

 January 16, 2022

   Fifth day in rehab. And, by rehab, I mean vegging out at a desert spa on the Mojave Desert. Kathy believes my nagging headaches are not Long Haul Covid related, but rather, are caused by the stress from my work, which is invariably executed while crunched over a drawing board and/or a computer screen. Turns out a masseuse here, named Mercedes, agrees with Kathy. She has beat me up pretty good for two days straight. I firmly believe her elbow alone could bring down a charging bull moose and Whoo boy, she really hurt me (in a healthy way), all the while informing me my shoulders and upper back are "frozen," and if I don't learn to stretch and let go, I will have a severely curved spine, like those old people you see who come in the post office and don't have to bend over to open their PO box near the floor. Four more massages to go and we'll see if it makes a difference.

   And, yes, the Colon Hydro-flushing is today. I promise to spare you the intimate details.

   Or, maybe I won't spare you. Could be funny in a shits and giggles kind of way—literally!

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

Beatles 4-ever

   It dawned on me this morning how fragile creative efforts are, especially when it involves a team. I finished the epic "Get Back" Beatles documentary last week and it has been eating at me ever since. On the one hand it was breathtaking to watch those talented Liverpool lads create some of their most classic songs out of thin air, but, at the same time, it was painful to me to witness the backbiting and the bruised egos (George quit the band half way thru!), and that pathetic aspect of being in a band and trying to create something is all too familiar to me. I have been in numerous bands so the terrain is familiar. What invariably happens is, one—or two—of the band members are ambitious and want to practice and create original material and get somewhere, while the other members just want to get laid and do the least amount of work possible. That in a nutshell is what all creative effort is about. The slackers vs. the hackers, the latter hacking away at anything that might lead to a better outcome. A recording contract, a successful tour, an actual house to live in.

   Or, creating covers for True West magazine. It's a very fragile contraption.

"If two people agree on everything, one of them is uncessessary."

—Old Vaquero Saying

"If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse."

—Henry Ford

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Life of A Desert Rat

 January 15, 2022

   We can't visit a new place and be there very long before I start seeking out the history of the region, especially seeking out someone quirky, who helped found the town. In the case of Desert Hot Springs, California, that would be Cabot Yerxa, who homesteaded in the Coachella Valley in 1913 and built a ramshackle pueblo-castle home from 1941 to 1949, that we visited this morning.

A Desert Rat Admiring Another Desert Rat's

Rambling Pueblo

   On this quirky, totally cool homestead, Yerxa, dug his own well and, in doing so, discovered a vast underground mineral springs acquafier.

Cabot Yerxa, at left, digging his well while a friend, Bob Carr, holds Cabot's son, Rodney.

   He discovered 130 degree water at a depth of thirty feet, up on Miracle Hill, which we can see from our resort window.

   Yerxa wrote a column for the local paper—The Desert Hot Springs Sentinel—for many years (he died in 1965) and in one of the columns he describes encountering the local wildlife:

"So every day we learned more about desert animals, birds snakes, lizards and insects. Most were retiring and kept out of the way. Not so with the desert rat. This is the smartest little creature of them all, and it came forward at once to investigate us and our belongings. Rats went in and out of our boxes and bags. If no holes were present, then holes were made. Food was eaten on the spot or carried away to their storehouse in a business like way.

   "A 25-pound box of prunes has 2,000 prunes, and rats left alone will carry every one away in a few nights. They will eat lables off cans, eat corks out of bottles, and cut holes through one inch boards easily, and two-inch boards with more time. Yet they look so clean and are so smart in eluding their enemies that one is tempted to forgive their depredations. All snakes are after them, coyotes work sly tricks, and hawks, owls and birds of prey watch for the busy rats day and night. Yet they prosper in a country where food is a problem and there is no water. Rats can climb a barrel cactus and gather seeds from its top in spite of all the thorns."

—Cabot Yerxa, September 7, 1951

   You might file this one under professional courtesy because Yerxa was a first class desert rat himself. In another column, he writes, "Letters are my only amusement. I do not have radio or visitors. I live entirely alone. I have not seen a moving picture in seven years, nor have I been in a restaurant, or any place styled as amusement, in seven years."

—Cabot Yerxa,  May 21, 1953

   And, so, I love the guy. On a related note the first newspaper I worked on was the Kingman Junior High Desert Rat.

"The trouble with winning the rat race is you're still a rat."

—Lily Tomlin

Friday, January 14, 2022

Colon Flush Anybody?

 January 14, 2022

   So, Kathy told me she was treating me to the spa experience but only if I accepted and tried everything they offered. I agreed. 

Desert Spa Regimen

   Today I got the full menu of all the spa therapy we will be experiencing. Some of it I have already sampled. There is something called a Himalayan Salt Room. Check. There is a regular steam room. Check. There is a Lymphatic Flow Treatment Massage. Check. There is something called The Black Baltic Mud Wrap, which Kathy received and gave me a pass. Whew. I swam laps in the gigantic pool and enjoyed it. Check. And there are even healthy drinks in the Oasis Cafe, on the premises, where I sampled the Orange Immunity and the Agave Lemonade. Check. But, now as we head into the weekend there is one treatment looming, scheduled for Sunday, and I didn't really know about it when I agreed and I am not looking forward to it, but here we go. It's something called Colon-Hydrotherapy and, as I understand it, for all you guys with service station experience, it's basically a radiator flush only the hose clamps are attached to your anus. And, in this case, that would be my anus.

   Oh, boy. Anybody experienced this? Who has the huevos to talk about it?

"Serves you right, for leaving me here."

"I'm thinking about it!"

—Old joke about a guy who is bitten by a rattlesnake on his privates and when he tells his friend if he doesn't suck out the venom he will die, he gets this answer.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Past Coming In Thru Another Gate

 January 13, 2022

   We are holed up at a desert hot springs on the Mojave Desert. Here is the view this morning.

San Jacinto Peak with snow on it

  Love the Mojave Desert and all these hidden hot springs. While we are away, Kathy hired her nephew to babysit a certain dog. EJ sent us this photo of the boy this morning.

The Regal Uno

   One of our readers is bothered by all the swearing on "Yellowstone" and "1883" and wants to know if they really swore that much in the real old west. Here is what I told him.

Old West Potty Mouths

   The short answer is Hell Yes! With one caveat. Men have always had potty mouths around each other going back to the beginning of language. The one area where men cleaned up their act is around women. A good example of this is a memoir I read by a farm woman who remembered an incident soon after her marriage. Her husband was out with several other farm hands, building a barn for their homestead and she thought she would surprise him with a treat, so she went out and sat in the shade to wait for an opportunity to show herself. She wrote that she was mortified to hear her husband cursing up a storm, using words she had never heard him utter, ever. When she showed herself he too was embarrassed. This illustrates to me how swearing was very male oriented in those Victorian times. The other change in our language is that the F-bomb became ubiquitous during WWII when it evolved to be used as a verb, an adjective and everything else. So, yes, there was plenty of swearing in the Old West, but as a general rule, men did not swear around women. 

    Hope that fuckin' helps.

"I believe the future is only the past again, entered through another gate."
—Sir Arthur Wing Pinero

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Hot Springs Tonight!

 January 12, 2022

   We are working on a character for the Mickey Free story I am calling the Gotcha Kid, a young, whippersnapper reporter who hates bad history and exposes many of the lies in the popular Mickey Free story which will anchor the first half of the story. He is very brash and he's hopelessly stuck in the seventies with paisley shirts and a scorpion embedded bola tie. This is how I envision him.

Daily Whip Out: "The Gotcha Kid"

   I was inspired by a bola tie that I was gifted by the New Times Weekly many moons ago, but when I went to find it, I discovered it was not a scorpion but a black widow.

BBB Buttons and ID tags

   Anyway, just giving the reporter a bola tie is hilarious enough, but to make it a scorpion, or even a black widow, is priceless and I'm glad I saved all those do dads just for this art reference.

  Remember the old just married joke: Hot springs tonight! Actually, that's exactly what Kathy and I are doing today. Traveling to a California hot springs. She is convinced my long haul Covid symptoms of having a constant headache and acute tinnitus are due to stress and not the pandemic and she wants me to literally chill in the hot springs for seven days and seven nights.

   Meanwhile my son thinks I'm merely suffering from "oldassittus." Such a smart ass he is.


   An Ed Mell sunrise this morning over Ratcliff Ridge. My daughter Deena remarked it looks like the saguaros are doing their morning yoga excercises and stretching towards the sun. Kids today.

   Let's end with two road trip quotes:

“A tourist is a fellow who drives thousands of miles so he can be photographed standing in front of his car.” 

—Emile Ganest

“Sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason.” 

—Jerry Seinfeld