Sunday, May 28, 2023

Snacks in The Northwest Country Where We Lounge And Do Nothing

 May 28, 2023

   When we are in Issaquah, we get treated royally with snacks on the half hour.

The Bearer of Snacks

   And when we're in the kitchen, and the stereo stystem is playing Billy Ocean, well, as you can clearly see we have an episode of girls gone wild.

Rockin' In The Free World

   Not to mention major trampoline action.

Trampoline Frances


   Lounging and snacking, and in the afternoon, we reverse it and it's all a good time.

"The problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you are finished."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, May 26, 2023

Weston Rocks T-Mobile Stadium for The Mariners Game

 May 26, 2023

   Traveled to Seattle today to watch this guy lead his chorale group sing the National Anthem at a Mariners game against the Pittsburg Pirates.

Weston Rocks The Jumbotron

   That's Weston under the right elbow of the director. Were his grandparents proud? I kind of think so.

"I think I'm turning Japanese, I'm turning Japanese, I really think so."

— The Vapors

Thursday, May 25, 2023

A Younger Kit Carson Gets His Close-up

 May 25, 2023

   I am proud and excited to report we are publishing a very cool original article based on a chapter in Paul Andrew Hutton's next book. As we were prepping this issue for press we realized that most of the photographs of the legendary—and now controversial—scout and frontiersman, show him in old age, pained and a tad weather beaten and emaciated. 

First mockup from Dan The Man

   And, yet, at the time of the events covered in Paul's masterful story which you will read in the next issue about the so-called Bear Flag Revolt, Carson was 36- years-old, and in the prime of his life.

   Fortunately for me, our editor, Stuart Rosebrook, found this photo which I had never seen before of Carson.

A Much Younger Kit Carson

So we scrapped that original cover and I took a swing at a cover painting that skewed more towards his younger visage.

Daily Whip Out:
"Kit Carson In Fighting Form"

Kit Carson's Conflicted Descriptions
   As large as Kit Carson looms on the American frontier it's interesting how those who knew him described him. Here is John C. Fremont' description: "He was a man of medium height, broad-shouldered, and deep chested, with a clear steady blue eye and frank speech and address: quiet and unassuming." Contrast that with General William Tecumseh Sherman's description, who met the famous scout in Monterrey in 1847: "I cannot express my surprise at beholding such a small, stoop-shouldered man, with reddish hair, freckled face, soft blue eyes, and nothing to indicate extraordinary courage or daring. He spoke but little and answered questions in monosyllables." Either way, Carson made his mark on the West.
   Let's take a short look at a legendary life:

Kit Carson & The Conquest of California
   When he was a mere lad of 15, Kit Carson ran away from home in Missouri and joined a caravan of traders on the Santa Fe Trail. He fell in with a group of mountain men and for the next 15 years he learned the ropes on fur trapping and trading. He also got into a horseback duel with a French-Canadian bully named Joseph Chouinard, who was on a drunk tear at the annual trapper's rendezvous on the upper Green River in Wyoming. This was in August of 1835, when the two mountain men shot it out on horseback at close range. Carson severely wounded Chouinard. It's unclear whether his adversary was killed, but Carson  received a bullet crease on his neck and the spent power burns damaged Carson's eye and singed his hair.

   After witnessing the collapse of the fur trade, Carson had a chance encounter with explorer John C. Fremont, in 1842, that allowed him to act as a guide and fighter before he joined the fight in the 1846-48 Mexican-American War which became known as the Bear Flag Revolt. In 1849, he moved to Taos, New Mexico; five years later, he became an Ute Indian agent.

   By 1861, he was back in battle, in this case, fighting for the Union in the Civil War. Carson joined the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Infantry where he served as its colonel. After clashing with Confederates at the 1862 Battle of Valverde, he defeated the Navajos and rounded them up for a forced march to the Fort Sumner reservation.

   A year after being named a brigadier general in 1865, Carson moved to Colorado to serve as commander at Fort Garland. While there, he negotiated a peace treaty with the Utes.

   Carson left the Army in 1867 because of declining health. He died at Fort Lyon on May 23, 1868. His final words were, “Doctor, compadre, adios!”

Paul Andrew Hutton's Next Book

The Undiscovered Country is an epic history of the frontier movement and the struggle for the American West from colonial times through 1900, using seven lives —Daniel Boone, Red Eagle, Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Mangas Coloradas, Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody—to tell the story. It will be published late next year by Penguin Random House/Dutton.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Coffee's On And The "Hello, Bob" Coffee Mug Is Finally Ready For You

 May 24, 2023

  Coffee's on, and the perfect coffee mug is ready for your eyes only.

A Special offer, just for my blog friends

   Just for those of you who read this blog, I am going to include a brand new—totally free!— a set of four original BBB Old Vaquero Sayings Coasters, in with your order, when you buy the mug and a "Hello, Bob" shirt.

One of the BBB coasters

(you will get four different ones!)

"Quit your lollygagging and jump on this muy generous offer, Dude."

—Old Huckster Saying

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Fistfight at The Assisted Living Corral

 May 23, 2023

   Proof you can't make up anything funnier than the historic truth.

Jim Cummins In His Fighting Years

Fistfight at The Assisted Living Corral
   The late, great Ted Yeatman, in his fine book, "Frank And Jesse James: The Story Behind The Legend," relates how, in 1909, a former James Gang member, Jim Cummins, by then a resident of the Confederate Soldiers Home in Higginsville, southeast of Lexington, got into a lethal fistfight with J.R. McCormick an 85-year-old veteran of the Mexican and Civil War. Apparently McCormick called Cummins a name and tried to strike him, but the old James Gang fighter got in a good hook, and killed the old coot. Crazy. Or perhaps, staying with the Paul Simon theme, that should be, still lethal after all these years. 

After the breakup of the James Gang, Jim Cummins became a farmer in Arkansas and actually tried to turn himself in several times, but no one believed he was really Jim Cummins.

   Ted Yeatman also has the goods on Frank James in Oklahoma which I'll use to good effect in the book. I didn't know Cole continued on the show circuit with Cole Younger's Coliseum. In June of 1908 when his carnival played Richmond, Missouri, Cole learned about "Bloody Bill's" potters field grave and went there with the carnival band and said a few words and had a pastor speak. Some newspaper in the area reported, "He is advertised as the last of the famous Younger brothers, which, it seems to us, is going in the right direction."

Mark Lee Gardner at the memorial sign at the Richmond, Missouri cemetery (actually a small park and Anderson is one of the few graves there)

Bloody Bill's bloody grave

Reports of Frank's Death Have Been Exaggerated

"My friend, Greg Higginbotham, has portrayed Frank James for years and a few years ago we were walking the streets of St. Joe and Greg was walking up to folks, shaking hands, welcoming them to St. Joe. 'Howdy, I'm Frank James.' As we walked away, I heard a couple of ladies behind me whispering, 'I thought he was dead.'"

—Deb Goodrich

"If it's the sizzle and not the steak, then the outlaw name Jesse James takes the cake."

—Old Ad Man Saying

Monday, May 22, 2023

Frank James Changes His tune

 May 22, 2023

   It's been said that Frank James resembled his father and that Jesse favored his mother. A newspaper reporter, John Newman Edwards, rode out to the James family farm north of Kearney, Missouri, and interviewed the brothers and captured the differences between them, in a St. Louis Dispatch article, published on November 22, 1873:

“Jesse laughs at everything—Frank at nothing at all. Jesse is light-hearted, reckless, devil-may-care—Frank sober, sedate, a dangerous man always in ambush in the midst of society. Jesse knows there is a price upon his head and discusses the whys and wherefores of it—Frank knows it too, but it chafes him sorely and arouses all the tiger that is in his heart. Neither will be taken alive. Killed—that may be."

Daily Whip Out: "The Sober One"

   Now, contrast that description of Frank, with this comment by him late in life:

“The dad-binged play glorifies these outlaws and makes heroes of them…. I am told the Gilliss Theatre was packed to the doors last night, and that most of those there were boys and men. What will be the effect on these young men to see the acts of a train robber and outlaw glorified?”

—Frank James, in 1902, seeking a court order to prevent the play, The James Boys in Missouri, from being staged in Kansas City

   Sorry Frank, it has been all downhill from there:

Movie poster for Jesse James Rides Again

   By my count there have been at least 35 movies, so far, on the life of Jesse James. And what does this say about us?

"A distinctly American bandit has been remembered in a distinctly American fashion, through tourism, mass media, and show business."

—Erin H. Turner, editor of "Badasses of the Old West" 2010

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Wedding Research Begets Wedding Bells

 May 21, 2023

   If there is one thing I enjoy more than almost anything else it's trying to fill in the gaps of Old West stories with illustrations that might pass for the real thing or at the very least be authentic to the times.

   On this note, I was rather surprised to learn that there are no known photos of Jesse James' mother, Zerelda, when she was a young woman. She was described by those who knew her as being "radiantly beautiful" in her youth and being almost six feet tall. Add to that her strong personality—it was said she was "not afraid of the devil himself." It's no surprise that many have claimed Jesse took after his mother.

Daily Whip Out: "Mama's Boy"

   So, I'm looking for photo reference to accurately illustrate the wedding of Robert Sallee James (no known photos of him either!) to Zerelda Elizabeth Cole on December 28, 1841 at Stamping Ground, Kentucky. Mark Lee Gardner suggested I Google "wedding daguerreotypes" and man did that kick up some cool images.

An 1850s couple

A brooding beauty

A wedding portrait

A smiling couple

   This last one is actually from the 1840s and it has a couple things going for it. Notice the tight, slim sleeves on the gent's coat. Seems odd to our eyes but that was the fashion in the forties. Even though the previous photos, above it, are more 1850s, and it's only about ten years off, think about the difference in fashion between the 1950s and 60s. That's why it's imperative we keep it as close as we can to the time frame. I also like that the photographer had her standing, which may have been the case with Zerelda if she was taller than her husband. We don't know how tall Jesse's father was, but for the sake of illustrating, this is probably the route I will take.

    A few sketches tomorrow.

“A good marriage is one where each partner secretly suspects they got the better deal.” 

—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Old Kingman Saying

 May 20, 2023

   We've got some ducks that visit almost every day. My assumption is they are flying between the El Encanto Restuarant pond and Cave Creek proper and they see our pool as a cleansing pool.

Isn't this just ducky?

   Meanwhile, we just had our first bud on the rangy cacti guarding the pump house:

   First Bud

   And, two nights ago we had a double rainbow. Here's one of them. I know. Uno is not that impressed.

   Great to get out once in a while, but you know what they say:

"It's important to get out of the house every once in a while to remind yourself why you don't go out."

—Old Kingman Saying

Friday, May 19, 2023

A Good Boy Goes Bad: The Truth About Jesse James

 May 19, 2023

   One of the hardest things for me to get my head around is how a typical Missouri farm kid went from being a good boy to being a stone cold killer.

Daily Whip Out: "Jesse Before The Storm"

   So far, the best explanation I have found came right here on the pages of my own magazine.

  In the, March 2020 cover story, by Pulitzer Prize winning author, T.J. Stiles, he spells out "The Birth of A Killer." For starters, Jesse's mother was a fierce secessionist with a lacerating tongue, so her boys, Frank and Jesse, got some major rebel-style encouragement at home. After Frank and his savage set of comrades—"Fletch" Taylor, and "Little Archie" Clement—returned to Clay County in April of 1864, they all had been blistered by butchery at Lawrence and elsewhere. When they landed at the James farm, young Jesse had violence coaches on every side. Taylor and Clement took over as Jesse's mentors. As T.J. puts it, "He now belonged to a group that believed a man must murder for respect."

Vicious Mentors

   An 1863 photograph of three Missouri partisan rangers, l.-r., Archie Clement, Dave Pool and Bill Hendricks. Jesse became a great admirer of the vicious bushwhacker, "Little Archie."

"They were guerrillas. They were not engaged in a war that a colonel of the Army of the Potomac or a general of the Army of Northern Virginia could recognize. They had no lines, no objectives, no strategy, no command structure. Theirs was a purely tactical war, a war to inflict pain, to punish, to kill and destroy. Every barn and brook was a battlefield; every civilian, either an ally or a target. By stepping into that brooding, deathlike camp, Jesse James entered a race to find and kill as many enemies as he could."

—T.J. Stiles, "Jesse James: Last Rebel of The Civil War"

   And, as Frank James himself put it, “If you ever want to pick a company to do desperate work, select young men from 17 to 21 years old. …Take our company and there has never been a more reckless lot of men. Only one or two were over 25. Most of them were under 21. Scarcely a dozen boasted a mustache.”

   So, there's your turn. And, from there on, there were those who made excuses for Jesse, especially this guy:

"We called him an outlaw, and he was, but fate made him so."

—John Newman Edwards

Daily Whip Out: "Jesse The Blue-Eyed Devil"


  The truth is other boys had similar circumstances, lived through the same era and did not rob banks and kill innocent people. That is the hard reality of the Jesse James story. Can his memory be redeemed? Not really. And, for the record, that is part of his legendary charm. The bad boy who defies gravity. Don't we all wish on some level to have that impunity. That is the charm of the story. That is why we still make the pilgrimage to his farm and his grave.

   Of course, he became other things and I'll get to those as the book is built, one chapter at a time.

Daily Whip Out: "Jesse The Paranoid"

   Does he deserve a pass? No. Does he deserve a halo? Hardly. Does he matter? Yes, and on some level that doesn't make sense logically but nobody has said it better than this:

"The history of the race, and each individual's experience, are thick with evidence that the truth is not hard to kill and that a lie well told is immortal."

—Mark Twain

Thursday, May 18, 2023

BBB Road Rules & Close But No Cigar

 May 18, 2023

   Stuart Rosebrook found this fine photo to go with our fall coverage of northern cowboys.

Three Montana Cowboys:
Teddy Blue Abbott, at left;
Foreman John Burgess, standing;
John Bowen at right, taken in
Miles City, Montana, 1884
by Charles E. Finn.

   Two people on Facebook commented they thought the guy standing looks like a younger BBB? Sorry, close, but no cigar.

BBB doing 1878, but, circa 1978

BBB Road Trip Rules

   A week ago I was packing for my Jesse James Road Trip and when I got home I realized what makes a great road tip. Here are my road trip criteria.

• Stop at every cemetery and museum

• For meals, no chains, eat local

• Smell the rain, feel the humidity

• Be open for happy accidents. Then ask the tough questions.

My Proposed Dedication

   This book is dedicated to Mark Lee Gardner, who showed me the true heart of Jesse James country.

"Is it a bigger crime to rob a bank or to open one?"
—Ted Allan

   Most people don't know that the Rebs carried multiple pistols during the border wars.

Capt. Francis Marion 'Dave' Poole

My intrepid researcher Gay Mathis found these 1897 quotes from Frank James on the two pistol question:

   "Each guerrilla carried two to four pistols. I nearly always carried two. I was small and slender and more than that number was too many for me."

   "The stories about guerrillas riding with the reins of the horses between their teeth and firing with pistols in both hands is simply dime novel stuff."

   "We always held our horses with one hand and the pistol with another."
—Frank James

"By some intelligent people they are regarded as myths; by others they are in league with the devil. They are neither, but they are uncommon men."
—John Newman Edwards

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Bushwhackers, The Souvenir Hunters & The Map Makers

 May 17, 2023

   My Jesse James Missouri Tour with Mark Lee Gardner really got my juices flowing. Came home yesterday brimming with inspiration and ideas. It's one thing to read about historical events and it's an entirely different level of experience to be on the ground and walk where they walked. Like I said about the Centralia battlefield, it's so helpful just to hear the birds and feel the humidity.

Daily Whip Out:

"First Sketch for 'The Bushwhacker'"

   And, here for your reading pleasure is a great description of the Confederate Bushwhackers.

   This is a pull quote on the wall at the Arrow Rock Museum in Arrow Rock, Missouri. And, by the way, the Arrow Rock Museum gets my vote for the best overall historic displays on the trip, with excellent commentary, like the example above, or of their clear, concise maps to show you what they are describing.

An Arrow Rock Museum Location Map

The Arrow Rock Map of the Santa Fe Trail

(which began in Franklin)

   This is precision storytelling. You see the location of Franklin in the top map and then you see that it is the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail. Really puts it all in perspective. Thank you Arrow Rock display designers!

Mark Lee Gardner and BBB at the
Katy Railroad Depot in Sedalia.
(Photo by Randy Kirby)

How bad are tourists at the James Farm outside Kearny, Missouri? Here is the wallpaper in their historic home. Or, more correctly, what is left of it, thanks to paying customers who want to take a little souvenir home with them.

  And lest we get too judgemental about souvenir hunters, at the Rocky Cut robbery site, I found this railroad spike loose on the ground and claimed it. I think it's human nature to want a piece of history and it's a matter of degree of how ridiculous we get in purloining it.

BBB's Claimed Spike at Rocky Cut

"So when is this 'old enough to know better' supposed to kick in?"

—Old Vaquero Question

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

When In Saint Jo Here's Where You Got to Go

 May 16, 2023

   It took me over a half century but I finally made it to the Jesse James House to see the bullet hole.

   Me staring at the "bullet hole" under the sign.  

   The mystery of the bullet hole is the shot that killed Jesse did not exit his head, so all of these years we have been looking at what exactly?

   This is what the house looked like on the day Jesse James died.

The gathering crowd on April 3, 1882

  The problem with the two images of the house is that the original house, directly above, faced north and was higher on the hill. It was later moved out on to the Belt Highway next to a gas station for tourists to see, then, after a good amount of time there, it came back to this location, facing west (which is a block, or two, from the original site). If you love Jesse James, it's close enough.

   Meanwhile, in the same neighborhood you will find this,

Pony Express mural on the side of a building. 

   And another one in the downtown area.

A Union Soldier Looks at Lincoln Mural

   And, another one just down the street.

A Covered Wagon Train Mural
In Downtown Saint Jo

We stayed at the Whiskey Mansion not far away.

Photo by Mark Lee Gardner

   Mark Lee Gardner was a wonderful guide and I saw everything I wanted to see related to Jesse James and then some. I am confident it is going to inform my next book in a wonderful way.

"I had hope, however; I had been wounded seven times during the war, and once before in this same lung; and I did not believe I was going to die."
—Jesse James

Monday, May 15, 2023

The Mark Lee Gardner Missouri Jesse James Related Grave & Battle Tour

 May 15, 2023

   It's day four of the Mark Lee Gardner Missouri (he pronounces it Missour-ah) Jesse James Related Grave & Battle Tour. A few highlights.

A Typical Small Town Missouri Home

  The houses in the small towns and in the countryside have been nothing short of amazing to see. I would have come here just to see them. I thought the farm houses and homes in Iowa and Minnesota had Victorian grandeur but Missouri really takes the cake.

Jesse James Empty Grave at the James Farm

   Yes, they moved Jesse's body into Kearny a while back but the gravestone remains at the farm. Yes, this is the famous grave that Frank James sold pebbles off of when he lived on the place.

BBB at Rocky Cut, Missouri

   Up ahead of me, at the curve, is the famous cut near Otterville, where the James Younger Gang robbed the Missouri Pacific Railroad on July 17, 1876. The boys got away with $15,000 and used the proceeds to fund their ill-fated jaunt to Northfield, Minnesota.

   The legendary Santa Fe Trail began at Franklin, Missouri and the highway follows the famous path along the Missouri River. In some small towns you can still see the wagon ruts, like here running right through the local cemetery.

Wagon Tracks at Grand Pass, Missouri

   Mark has been studying and visiting all these out of the way cemeteries and here we are at the James Gang's Number One PR agent's grave near Dover, Missouri.

   In Richmond we found the two meager and unkept grave markers for the Ford Brothers.

The Lonely Spot of the Ford Brothers Graves

   Some have visited and left pennies on their meager headstones. Bob even got a dime. Rather ironic considering the song.

"And the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard and laid poor Jesse in his grave."

—Missouri Folk Song