Sunday, July 31, 2022

From Out of The Dust Rose The Great Western!

 July 31, 2022

   Been awhile, but I still love the real woman behind The Great Western, who never seems to get her proper due:

Daily Whip Out: "Sarah Bowman"
AKA "The Great Western"

   And here she is floating among the clouds like the hazy, crazy dust storm she actually was.

Daily Whip Out:
"From Out of The Dust Rose The Great Western"

"She packed two six-shooters, and they all said she shore could use 'em."

—Jeff Ake, who met The Great Western at her "house" in Sonoita Valley, Arizona Territory in 1856

   And I love this great quote as well:

"She slew a Mexican who cut her across the cheek with his saber. She boasts a large scar on her cheek from this wound. She appears here modest and womanly not withstanding her great size and attire. She has on a crimson velvet waist, a pretty riding skirt and her head is surmounted by a gold laced cap of the Second Artillery. She is carrying pistols and a rifle. She reminds me of Joan of Arc and the days of chivalry."
—Sylvester W. Matson, a soldier at Fort Webster, 1852

   All of this is from the forthcoming book, "Hellraisers & Trailblazers: The Real Women of The Wild West." Not to mention, this:

Daily Whip Out:
"The Biggest Leg In Mexico"

"Who wants a wife with $15,000 and the biggest leg in Mexico? Come my beauties, don't all speak at once—who is the lucky man?"
—Sarah Bowman, AKA The Great Western, during the Mexican American War over Texas, mounted on a horse and riding by a column of soldiers. She had just been told she couldn't continue with the column unless she was married.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Cowboy Ground Zero Revisited

 July 30, 2022

   In April of 2013 I set out on a quest to find Cowboy Ground Zero. My theory was if I could find the epicenter of the Conquistadors, those agressive explorers who brought cattle and horses to the New World, that would be the spot. 

  Deep in Extremadura, I found it at Plaza Mayor de Trujillo, Spain. Kathy Radina took this shot of me all by my lonesome taking it all in. Yes, it was breathtaking.

BBB at Cowboy Ground Zero

Plaza Mayor de Trujillo, Spain

April 10, 2013

   Of course, not everyone agrees with me on the Spain theory. Here is the resulting cover story we did in True West magazine about the main theories being debated:

Where is Cowboy Ground Zero?

Horse Arrives In The New World Map

   Damn that Gus Walker was good! We called him "The Mapinator" and his maps just rock our True West world. Gus passed in 2014.

"And the horse you rode over on."

—Variation on the old profanity

Friday, July 29, 2022

Vengeance Is A Movie Best Served Cold

 July 29, 2022

Celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary today by going out to dinner and taking in a movie ("Vengeance"). Our friend Kristi Jacobs took this shot out front with Uno looking on warily. I agree with him.

   And, here's the view from the other end:

Pioneer Living History Museum
July 28, 1979

"Dang, dude. How in the hell did you pull that off?"


Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Longest Graveyard Revisited

 July 28, 2022

   Working on several fronts, trying to understand a couple others. Crossed a milestone: married to the same woman for 43 years, as of today. Amazing. Feels like it's only been 35.

Death On The Trail

The Oregon Trail has been called the world's longest graveyard. The pioneer immigrants lost their lives to influenza, cholera, severe dysentery, or accidents. They were crushed by wagon wheels, stepped on by oxen or killed when a simple cut turned into a gangrenous infection.

Daily Whip Out: "The Longest Graveyard"

"Passed 7 new-made graves, One had 4 bodies in it—cholera. . . .Another man died. Passed 6 new graves. We have passed 21 new-made graves. . .Made 18 miles. Passed 13 graves today."

—Cecelia Adams, in her 1852 diary

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Sunrise Sunburst Heart Healthy Visions

 July 27, 2022

   Got out on the road at 5:30 this morning for my morning walk with Uno. I just read in a medical journal that if you walk 21 minutes every day you diminish your chance of a heart attack by 30%. So I walked for 25 minutes. As an added benefit, I got to witness this:

Ratcliff Ridge at Sunrise

   And, of course, as I walked up Old Stage Road, it got even more ridiculous.

Ratcliff Ridge with Sunburst Sunrise

The Roundup Continues

   Still finding illustrations for the Legends part of the Women's book, like this one I did for Coors beer back in 1990.

Daily Whip Out: "Lariat Lil'"

   Not to mention, these nice little quads:

Daily Scatchboard Whip Outs:

"Quad Women Axe"

Daily Scatchboard Whip Outs:

"Quad Babes"

   And, finally, I think my fellow cartoonist, Sipress, nails our current malaise, perfectly in this New Yorker cartoon.

   One of the things I was most impressed with in Muskogee last weekend was the volunteerism of the locals. Just loads of people giving their time and effort to make their coumunity better. This is a photo of the photographer who volunteered to take photos of the three day event.

Kelvin Brown Photographer Extraordinaire

"Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say, 'This is my community and it's my responsibility to make it better."

—Studs Terkel

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Hellraisers & Trailblazers Roundup

 July 26, 2022

   Working on rounding up all the loose ends for the Women's book, as we are calling it. Let's start at the ending. This is an image for the ending of our story.  

Daily Whip Out: "Olive Sheds A Tear"

   And, here's someone who probably knew Olive and knew the truth about her five years living among the Mojave.

"Mojave Maiden"

   And here is an image that will figure prominently in the proceedings.

Petticoat Dancers

Not to mentione these fine ladies. 

Cradleboard Love

   And, of course, this one.

Black Beauty

   And, it must be said, some of the cowgirls we are covering grew up to become quite famous.

Cowgirl Sandra Day 

And many toiled away anonimously, until now.

The Outhouse Wood Chopper

   For some reason, there were women who were just weird and unexplainable.

The Waver Girl

   Yes, this original photo is from the BBB collection and is a real photograph. As is this one.

Honkytonk Sue's Grandmother

   Actually, Nan Gable, above, won a bet with Buffalo Bill Cody. Her wager will be explained in the book. All of this from the forthcoming book, "Hellraisers & Trailblazers: The Real Women of The Wild West" which goes to press on September one,

   I love everyone of these real women of the Wild West, and I am grateful that there are images of their time on this planet.

"The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude."

—Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, July 25, 2022

Bennie Reeves' Breakthrough Performance at Third And Cincinnati

 July 25, 2022

   I had been working on my Bass Reeves keynote address for a couple weeks. I wrote copious notes and I had a very tight, straight-ahead idea of where I thought it should go. But then, on the morning of my speech, two things happened. The first is I got an email from a speech coach I admire. His name is Neil Gordon, and he sends out tidbits of advice several times a week. On this Saturday morning he sent this challenge:

   "What if you only had three minutes to give a speech?

   "Believe it or not, you actually have a greater opportunity to impact your audience in three minutes than you may think.

   "For it’s enough time to:

1. Start with the problem that you are there to help the audience to solve

2. Explain the typical but flawed way other people usually try to solve it

3. Provide your big, secret sauce idea as the solution

4. Offer the audience 1-3 tips to take away in the spirit of that idea.

   "If you offer three or four sentences for each one of those points, you’ll have successfully created a powerful three-minute speech."

—Neil Gordon

   I thought about the wisdom of this exercise and realized everyone at this conference, including myself, has the same problem: How do we get more people interested in history? I made up my mind, I was going to retool the speech, but I soon enough had another problem:

   Angie, the director at the Three Rivers Museum insisted I go on the 10 o'clock downtown bus tour departing from the museum in ten minutes. I actually wanted to tweak my speech but I really couldn't say no to my host and, so, I found myself on a packed bus driving thru the emptied streets of downtown Muskogee in 90 degree heat (the bus thankfully had good AC). Basically, the bus would drive about a half block and our tour guide, Jonita Mullins, would come on the speaker and say something like, "Oh, look who we have coming up here, it looks like a banker's wife who wants to talk to us." The bus would then pull over to the curb and a lone woman with a parisol would step onto the bus and using the microphone tell us how she knew, or was related to, Bass Reeves. There was even a gunfight at one stop and one of the bad guys got shot but rather than fall, he went down on one knee (he told me later the pavement was too hot and he has a bad hip!). After about ten of these cute and informative stops (at the Baptist Church we learned Bass Reeves arrested the preacher who baptised him when he caught him bootlegging to pay off a church debt!) we were rounding the corner for the last leg of the tour when our guide, Jonita, said there was no sign of Bennie Reeves who was supposed to be on the corner of Third and Cincinnati. The bus was lurching on towards the next stop when I caught sight of a Black man in a black suit, running along my side of the bus. He didn't really look like a reenactor, he looked like a plain clothes cop from Law & Order. He quickly caught up, frantically waving his arms until Jonita spotted him and, after an abrupt stop, he got on the bus, out of breath, and proceeded to tell us this:

The Real Bennie Reeves

   "No one can tell you more about my father's character than me. I am his son Benjamin, but everyone calls me Bennie. When my father moved to Muskogee, me and my sister Alice came with him. I had a house up on Tower Hill and I worked as a porter for the Katy Railroad.

   "I married a pretty Muskogee girl and we were happy, at first, but my job took me away a lot, mostly on the run between Dallas and Kansas City. She was lonely and I was jealous so we fought a lot. I thought if I found another job things would get better so I went to work for a barber and learned the trade. That helped some, but I guess the damage had been done to our marriage. I heard the whispers in town saying that she wasn't being faithful. So I confronted her about it and she didn't deny it. I was so angry, I pulled a gun and I shot her.

   "I don't know that I meant to kill her. I just wasn't thinking right. But when I realized what I had done, my first thought was how disappointed my father would be in me. So I ran.

   "A bench warrant was issued for my arrest but from what I hear none of the marshals wanted to serve that warrant 'cause they respected my father so much. But there is something in my father—if a warrant has been issued, then it's got to be served. So he went to Marshal Bennett and asked for the warrant and said he would bring me in.

   "I had slipped back into town to get some of my things and my father found me at my house up there on the hill. Foks were peeping out their windows watching as my father stood outside my house and ordered me to come out or he would do whatever he had to do to arrest me. So I came out and surrendered to him. I know that had to be one of the hardest arrests he ever made.

   "He stood by me during the trial, stood by me when I was give a life sentence at Leavenworth Prison and walked with me to the train that took me away. I was determined to make it up to my father and worked hard to be a model prisoner. I never made trouble from that moment on in my life. Folks in Muskogee signed a petition for my release, and I received a pardon. But my father never got to see me walk out of that prison for he had already passed by then.

   "You hear a lot about what a great lawman Bass Reeves was and it's all true. But the greatest work of Bass Reeves was being my father.

   "Thank you for listening to my story."

   All these bio bits were writen by Jonita Mullins. And all of them had been authentic and insightful, but this one caught in my throat. Perhaps it was the effective acting by Ron Mayes (a Muskogee policeman it turns out, and not an actor) who portrayed Bennie, that grabbed me. I felt the emotion and the tragedy of the man and the family. I teared up. I wasn't alone. Many on the bus bowed their heads. Later, at the Civic Center I mentioned this to Jonita and she confessed she wept the entire time she was writing it. 

The Real Jonita Mullins at the grave of Sam Houston's second wife

   I am the father of a son. I would definitely get him the best lawyer I could find and I would do everything in my power to keep him out of prison. It's not hard to imagine a father rationalizing that his son wouldn't get a fair trial and encouraging him to run and actually helping in the effort. Not Bass Reeves.

   Here, without a doubt, is the humanity and the courage of the man, writ large. To me, this is the lynchpin to the Bass Reeves story. A man with so much integrity he arrested his own son and then stood by him as justice was served. It doesn't get any more poignant—or tragic—than that.

   I got on that bus admiring Bass Reeves, but when I got off I realized, I love Bass Reeves. When you look up integrity in the dictionary his photo should be there.

   So I scrapped my prepared speech and told this version of the story. I am honored and humbled to say, the citizens of Muskogee gave me a standing ovation, my first.

   Thank you Neil Gordon, and Jonita Mullins and the entire crew at the Three Rivers Museum. This was a life changing experiece for me.

   Finally, what is the answer to the problem we in the history world face? How do we get more people interested? How do we help Bass Reeves make it into the pantheon of American frontier heroes?   

    Tell better stories.

"There is no history. There is no truth. There is only the way the story is told."

—Richard Avedon

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Where Is The Humanity In The Bass Reeves Story?

 July 24, 2022

   Back from a whirlwind tour of Bass Reeves Country. That would be all around the town of Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA. Yes, that is a riff off of the Merle Haggard classic, "Okie From Muskogee." The irony is I was the keynote speaker at the Bass Reeves Convention last Saturday and the speech was held in a banquet room in the Civic Center where Merle performed the song in 1969.

Bass Reeves Cartoon Balloon
at the entrance to the Three Rivers Musem

   One of the questions I have had for some time is why isn't the story of the legendary lawman, Bass Reeves, a bigger story in  American history and popular culture? I think one of the reasons is that—so far—he has been portrayed as a Super Cop, more or less as an action hero, fearless and unstoppable. That is certainly valid, but unfortunately, it's one dimensional, and not quite enough to launch him into the pantheon of frontier heroes. My question has been, where is the humanity?

   An hour before my speech, on a history bus tour of downtown Muskogee, which I did not want to go on, I found the answer. Or, more accurately, I should say, the answer found me.

"And I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all."

—Merle Haggard, "Okie From Muskogee"

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Road Trip Miracles

 July 20, 2022

   The last time Ken Amorosano and I took a road trip together we started a publishing company. That was in 2017 when we took his motorhome to Bishop, California where I was the grand marshal for the annual Bishop Mule Days Parade. The leap of imagination happened just beyond Hope, Arizona where we were going to stop and film a short video bit at Wyatt Earp's campsite on the California side of the Colorado River. Ken wondered if we might make a profit by publishing a new title every year but not going the normal publishing route of doing a run of hardbounds and softbounds and, what if we only concentrated on publishing softbounds? He also felt the distributing companies that marketed to the chains were not fair and that was unprofitable and if we could just sell books thru the magazine and our webiste we might have a chance.

   He was right.

"Prairie Rose Rears at the

Walla Walla Rodeo, 1914"

at the Phippen Art Museum

in Prescott, Arizona

   Today we drove to Prescott and talked to Jeannette at the Phippen Art Museum about doing an art show to support the launch of our next book. It went really well.

"Tombstone Reckoning" by Bill Nebeker
at his fifty year retrospective at the Phippen

   Our problem is we seldom get a chance to actually chat about stuff. True we do a Slack call on Tuesdays and, ocassionally on Wednesdays, to talk about editorial and design issues at True West but on a road trip it gets a little more silly and fun. For one thing we get to let off steam and rib each other and also to to get more existential. The upshot is, it looks like we are going to do a big, fat show at the Phippen in November.

"Say When" by Bill Nebeker

at the Phippen

"Art is not what you see, but what you make the others see."

—Edgar Degas

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Besame Mucho El Chivato!

 July 19, 2022

   Thanks to James B. Mills and his new book "El Bandido Simpatico" we have a better idea what the Wake for Billy the Kid really looked like and we are going to cover it in the next issue of True West. I thought this old painting I did for BtKI, which belongs to Cleis and Jerry Jordan of Lincoln, New Mexico, might make for a good cover image to illustrate this idea.

Daily Whip Out: "Saint Billy" 

   Now, the Nitpickers have pointed out that there was no church in Fort Sumner at the time of the Kid's demise and therefore this painting is bogus. Whatever. We don't plan on using the bottom part anyway. We're going to marry Saint Billy to this fine sculpture.

"The Kid's Wake"

by Buckeye Blake

And we're going to have some fun with A Fitting Funeral for Billy the Kid. Stay tuned.

   Meanwhile. . .

Jeanne & Company

Mohawk Boy With Jeanne Sedello and A Fan

Those Crazy Navajos Are Damn Funny Dudes

   One of the many joys of doing the Jones, Boze & Jeanne Show on KSLX (1986-1994) was discovering Vincent Craig. We discovered this crazy Navajo musician and we had him in the studio several times and we played his most famous song every chance we could (hint: our program director hated the song and was convinced we were losing boxcars full of listeners every time we played it to our rivals Pratt and KDKB). It was probably true, but we didn't care, because it made us so happy. This is not the best version but it does give you a taste for that Navajo slangster humor which all the Zonies loved.

The Candy Bar Song

   Speaking of Zany Navajos, ever sit around and wonder what Vincent van Gogh might have painted if he was Dine? Well, wonder no more:

Daily Whip Out:

"Yatahey Sumner Sendoff"

by Vincent Be Gay

Besame Mucho Mucho?

  So, for grins, I asked my Spanish speaking family members (everyone but me) to come up with zany lyrics to go with this scratchboard:

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"Day of The Dead Crooner"

   Kathy and Tommy came up with these bawdy balad lyrics riffing off of the Mexican classic,"Besame Mucho":

Kiss me because I have died for your love?
Besame que he muerto por tu amor. 

Kiss me because I will never look better?
Besame que nunca me he visto mejor. 

Kiss me, I might be a prince.
Besame que podria ser un principe.

Kiss me you puta, my penis doesn’t even have a bone so nothing to fear.
Besame que mi pene no tiene ni un hueso así que no tienes nada que temer. 

   Now, lest you think my son is a perverse little cabrone, it was actually his mother who wrote the last lyric. I know. I asked for it, didn't I?

"If you do not ask, the answer will always be no."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, July 18, 2022

Guns Out Baby!

 July 18, 2022

   Here is where we are. Everything we have taken for granted for the past six decades is unravelling.

    Here's where we were:

Eighties flashback: "Guns Out Baby!"

   Jeanne Sedello as La Gata, the Mexican cat girl who knew how to rock the Arizona airways on KSLX, smack dab in the middle of "The West's Most Mid-Western Town!"

   We had a big storm blow in last night. Two chairs and an umbrella ended up in the pool. Broke my favorite outdoor clock and took down this saguaro at the entrance to Cactusland.

Uno checks out the demise of a sentinel

   Funny how blessings brighten as they take their flight. Found this old Vaquero experiment while looking for something else, of course.

Daily Whip Out: "Vaquero In Moonlight."

Daily Whip Out:

"Sacagawea Shows The Way"

   Did this just before I knocked off for the day.

"Follow your heart but take your brain with you."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, July 17, 2022

The Clean Sweep And The Recalibration of the Women's Book

 July 17, 2022

   There is a point in every book project I have done where things start to go sideways. While it's true, new ideas and creative bursts of energy initially lead to a wider and perhaps richer product, there is also a very strong and pervasive tendency to get distracted from the main goal and wander off the trail and get lost in the weeds. This is exactly where we are with the Women's book, as the boys call it around here.

   Meanwhile, got out on the road early and caught this serene scene. Helped clear my head.

The Long And Sort of Winding Road

And then I caught this in the side yard

   Of course, this is all distracting, so, one of the small things I do when I get bogged down like this is to clean off my drawing desk. This may sound simplistic and mundane, but here's my drawing board desk at 7:10 this morning:

Where is the art desk?

   And, here it is semi-cleaned.

Oh, wow. So the desk top is white?

   And here it is after a clean sweep and a new beginning.

Everything lined out for the final push

   Cleaning gives me hope and when I can actually locate my sketchbook, I make decent plans.

Daily Sketchbook Whip Outs:

"The Recalibration"

(Be true to the times!)

   Also, publishing my intentions here gives me just a smidge more incentive to actually live up to my pronouncements. And, believe me, I need all the incentive I can create to ward off my usual lethargy and procrastination.

"A work of art that did not begin in emotion is not art."

—Paul Cezanne

Saturday, July 16, 2022

When Bass Reeves Meets Hayley Mills

 July 16, 2022

   I have an artist friend who really enjoys arguing about history, especially as it relates to art and movies. He is quite loquacious and sometimes profound and, well, he does love to go off on some crazy angles. 

   Case in point: I asked some of my friends about the new Bass Reeves movie projects (two different film productions are currently in the works) and what they thought these stories, i.e. scripts, should adhere to in order to make it work for a modern audience. I have heard reports that one of the productions was toying with a White racist sidekick for Reeves and all the Native Americans are pure and put upon. I am just so tired of this line of preaching—it's not storytelling it is preaching!—which is why I was asking my friends for some creative ideas on how to reinvent not only the Western, but the Bass Reeves story. So far, my argumentative friend has been the only one to reply. Here, in part, is his initial response:

Wait for it. . .

   "If I was to make a movie about Bass Reeves I would work it like the novel, Little Big Man wherein Bass is an old man who has seen American society change.  Old warriors do NOT brag about their killings nor their sexual conquests.  Those things have faded in importance and Reeves COULD be a great vehicle in which to view this changing of America thru the eyes of a black man who risked his life in defense of that same country!  

   "That said, all of the 'Westerns' today are merry excuses for gun violence wherein the fictional plot GIVES the justification for that violence.  Shane took a LONG boil before the shit hit the fan and when it did you understood the justification and it was over in 30 seconds.

  "Have you seen the commercial where the father grabs his son and they jump in a. pick-up.  The son asks,"dad? Are we going fishing?"  and the father replies, "well...sort of......" and the next scene they are NOT outside fishing, they are INSIDE a video arcade blasting away on video games.

   "What we don't need is another shoot-em-up Western.......they make the Wild West look like a video game (which is exactly what happens when you shoot kids in a flippin' classroom or at a Little League Game. There's your flippin' seed of social violence; all the killer does is escalate the weapon.

   "I tried to watch News of the World but couldn't. I tried watching Yellowstone but couldn't. I watched Old Henry but it was so stupid I won't watch it again.

   "Now, for the Hell of you want to watch a truly GREAT movie?  I mean, a real work of thoughtful art?  I saw this when I was 9 and still remember it.  

   "PAY ATTENTION and this movie will blow your flippin' mind with its depth, philosophy, and its re-working of a very old and very famous story.

   "And yeah, there IS a killer in this film..........wait until you see what happens to him.  So take an hour and 40 minutes and see what a great movie really looks like:

   "Now, unplug your phone and watch this movie and see how to reach deep into your audience for real emotion."
—Kid Ross

A rare photo of Kid Ross (with the pocket protector), myself and Buckeye Blake in Santa Fe ten years ago at the launch of Due West Art Gallery
-photo by Lucinda Amorosano-

   One more quote from the Kid on what makes this Hayley Mills vehicle so damn profound.

"The man in the barn is NOT a man!  He is an anomaly: 'something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.'"
—Kid Ross just getting warmed up

Friday, July 15, 2022

How to Make A Wildly Successful Bass Reeves Franchise

 July 15, 2022

   If you haven't heard by now, there are two different productions based on Bass Reeves. Morgan Freeman has been working for the last 30 years on a Bass Reeves movie and now Taylor Sheridan is focusing on the sequel to the hit show 1883 being on Bass Reeves. Which seems like an odd turn, but then it's Taylor Sheridan so what the hell. He can damn well do what he wants to do.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Outs:
"Bass Reeves Galore"

   So the question is how can someone make a new kind of Western that resonates with a modern audience? Here's what Bass Reeve's best biographer thinks of it all:

“Bass walked into the valley of death for 32 years and never flinched. He feared nothing that walked, crawled or breathed on the face of the Earth. If you tried to run, he would catch you, if you tried to hide, he would find you, if you tried to have a gunfight with him, it was tantamount to committing suicide. Bass stood for truth, justice, and the law. As I see it, Bass is the greatest frontier hero in United States history!” 

—Art T. Burton

   Damn dude. Go film that and I will be watching this show!

An Excellent Lead

On a rainy Wednesday night in Brooklyn, after an introduction with a minimum of fanfare, Janeane Garofalo walked onstage at the Eastville Comedy Club and looked out at a dozen people so scattered that calling them a crowd seems like a stretch. She spotted one man by himself who had attended a show of hers a few days earlier and happily pointed him out.

Third on a bill filled with young unknowns, Garofalo, 57, settled into her set with supreme comfort, wandering into multiple tangents and digging into self-deprecation. “When someone tells me I can’t do something,” she said, holding the pause with precision timing honed over three and half decades of telling jokes, “I’m grateful.”

—Jason Zinoman

   And for all you nitpickers who think the above headline should be "lede" not "lead" go read this definitive piece on Lede vs. Lead.