Thursday, November 30, 2023

Larry McMurtry Remembers The First True Westerner Award

November 30, 2023

   Imagine my pleasant surprise, while reading the new Larry McMurtry biography, that I ran into a second encounter, in the book, regarding a presentation we made ten years go. Here is my blog about it:

BBB, Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry

March 13, 2013
   The presentation of our first True Westerner Award last Saturday night in Tucson was a hoot and a half. Got to talk to both Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana which was fun. I asked Diana how she met McMurtry and she said they met at the Catfish House out on Ruthrauff Road and I did a doubletake because that is where I played in a honkytonk band in the late seventies. The same building was then known as The Hayloft and it was in that bar that I drew the first sketch that would become my cartoon character Honkytonk Sue's best friend Donna Jean.

   End of blog quotes. In the new biography, author Tracy Daugherty talks about an event not long after McMurtry's second heart attack in Tucson, in July of 2013.

   "When he finally did feel like traveling again, he didn't go far—just a few blocks, down to Tucson's La Paloma Hotel, one of the city's grand old hospitality lodges. There, in the Cottonwood Room, Bob Boze Bell, the executive editor of True West magazine, gave McMurtry and Diana Osana the magazine's first True Westerner Award. True West had been publishing for sixty years, covering topics of general interest in the West. The award Bell explained, was meant to celebrate people who had been 'hugely influential on conversations of the west' He also admitted, 'Larry McMurtry bugs the hell out of me. He set out to 'demystify' the West and strip it bare—what kind of respect is that?' Nevertheless, he recognized the value of McMurtry's penchant for 'fanning the flames and promoting national discussion of the region.'

   "He wasn't doing too well that night,' Michael Wallis said. Wallis had come for the ceremony. "He didn't look great. Diana looked great. I couldn't hear him very well. He'd mumble. He was very taken aback—the men were all decked out in Stetson hat and boots. He was wearing something like Hush Puppies. He felt very embarrassed by this. Diana had on these glorious boots which cost her $2,500 or something."

   Despite the frailty, McMurtry enjoyed the evening—his first outing since the heart attack. It was 'low key' with 'little fanfare,' he said appreciatively. Bell gave him a little bronze statue of a cowboy fashioned in the style of J.R. William's old comic strip figures—the strip his father had enjoyed reading so much at the breakfast table in the ranch house.

   "He was very self-effacing," Wallis said. "All evening he shined the light on Diane: "This should be her award."

   End of excerpt from the book. And, by the way, here is a J.R. William's comic strip, Out Our Way:

"That was my country—terrible winds and a
wonderful emptiness."

—Georgia O'Keeffe

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Here's Someone Who Is Doing What He Can to Save Our History

 November 29, 2023

   We just had a vote for our 2024 True Westerner Award and it was unanimous.

"I adopted the philosophy that the best way to preserve history is to make its presentation so extraordinary that people will pay a fair price for a great experience. I am in the business of providing great experiences. I also stress that history is the road map to the future and to achieve a better future we must understand our past."

—Al Harper, owner of the Durango-Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

A Spirit of Spite: New Truths About Old Truths About Jesse James

 November 28, 2023

   If you want to know the truth, it all started with the mother.

Daily Whip Out: "The Widow James"

   She was a Tall Drink of Water and she had a thing for preachers. And, with the fruit of their loins, like many preacher's kids, they went in another direction.

Daily Whip Out: "Frank James Revised"

   I had to take another swing at Jesse's older brother. I didn't intend this, but, to me, he looks like Jeff Daniels gone South.

Jeff Daniels in "Terms of Endearment"

   Meanwhile, here is where we are with Frank's younger brother.

Daily Whip Out: "Bloody Jesse"

   And together those Missouri farm boys raised some major hell.

Daily Whip Out: "Bushwhackers From Hell"

And, they were all just kids, really.

Daily Whip Out:

"Bushwhackers In Training"

They called their leader "The Old Man."

Daily Whip Out: "Bloody Bill"

      William Anderson was all of 23-years-old.

A Spirit of Spite

   "The cycle of violence could be endless. It was expressed in arson, looting, and shooting expeditions, associated with a spirit of spite meant to break the will of civilian enemies and their troops."

—Michael Fellman, "Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During The Civil War"

Monday, November 27, 2023

Well, Isn't This Just Ducky?

 November  27, 2023

   Here we go. I'm so tired of made up, bogus history. It's time for my own made up, bogus histrory.

Daily Whip Out: "Skeeter Crane"

   I want to see a hat like that in a Western. To my knowledge I have never seen anything close to that. Have you? So different and so dang cool.

Daily Whip Out: "Straight Edge Johnny"

   He absolutely hated loosey-goosy-hand-drawn robbery maps. His were meticulous. Unfortunately for him, he was so proud of them he signed them.

Daily Whip Out: "Door Jam Sam"

It absolutely saved his life, when the Pinks tried to come in the door jammed and he made it out the window. Meanwhile, you've seen the following reprobate yesterday, but here he is in context.

Daily Whip Out: "Ducky Davis"

He was the Ducky Gang's fearless leader and together they formed one of more unusual gangs in the history of made up history.

Daily Whip Out: "Allan Pinkerton"

"Well, isn't that just Ducky."
—Allan Pinkerton

Sunday, November 26, 2023

How Should We Handle Mangled History?

 November 26, 2023

   I swear, the truth is so elusive it sometimes makes me wonder if we can ever really know what really happened in so many historical events. Take this one for instance.

   When I was on the Jesse James Outlaw tour of Missouri with author Mark Lee Gardner last May, he took me into the Buchanan County Courthouse in Saint Joseph where the actual bench used in the Ford brothers hearing is still being used.

The actual bench used in the Ford hearing
still being used in the Buchanan County Courthouse in Saint Joseph, Missouri

   In addition to an account of the affair by a competent courthouse historian I received an authentic reproduction of the historic court document of the event. It says, in part:  "On April 17, 1881, just 14 days after the killing of Jesse James, the Ford brothers were indicted, pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to 'hang by the neck until dead' for shooting Jesse in the head while his back was turned.

Daily Whip Out:
"The Dirty Little Coward Takes Aim"

   "The sentencing did not disturb the tough Ford brothers. They had the word of Missouri governor Thomas J. Crittenden that they would be pardoned. They had also been promised a $10,000 reward.

   "News accounts of the sentencing reported that Bob Ford smiled and indicated a laughing contempt for a 'trivial circumstance of this nature.' Charles Ford, one reporter wrote, 'entertained a fuller appreciation for the gravity of the situation.'

   "Both Fords were pardoned the next day and released from jail with only a part of the $10,000 reward that had been promised for Jesse James dead or alive.

   "The Ford brothers from the time of their arrest until the day they were freed from jail were treated like celebrities. Protected by their promised pardon, they talked freely about their crimes.

   "Charles Ford even volunteered that a gold watch found in Jesse's home was one that he, Charles, had stolen from the Governor of Arizona in 1875."

   End of quotes. I was quite curious about how the Ford brothers would be in the vicinity of the governor of Arizona while roaming Missouri so I asked my guide that day if that is true. Here is his reply:

   "That statement on the back of the Ford brothers' sentence is not entirely accurate. Multiple newspapers did indeed report that the stolen watch had belonged to the governor of Arizona, and this information did apparently come from the Ford brothers. However, the watch actually belonged to the former governor of Dakota Territory, John Burbank, and it was taken during the robbery of the Hot Springs stage in January, 1874. Charley Ford wasn't a member of the James-Younger gang at that time, of course."

—Mark Lee Gardner

   Well, thank heavens for researchers and historians like Mark Lee Gardner. This is so much appreciated, but, at the same time what's discouraging is, even when you get official documents much of it isn't true.

   Sometimes I think if so many of the things we study turn out to be BS, why not make up some better BS?

Daily Whip Out:

"The Redoubtable Ducky Davis"

   Only one man knew the true story of what actually happened in Pete Maxwell's bedroom, at Little Bighorn, in San Vicente and in the sideyard of Fly's Photo Studio. And now, finally, his footnoted journal has been located and vetted by two members of The Western Writers of America. Is the Western world ready for "The Man Who Knew Everything And Lived to Tell About It"? 

   Soon to be a major podcast!

"There is no greater angony than bearing an untold story inside you."

—Maya Angelou

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Where Do Wild Women Come From?

 November 25, 2023

   If it's spunk and mischievousness you are looking for in a woman, check out the grandmother, like I did.

Grandma Jennie Willet

   Then if you are wondering about inner beauty, check out the mother of the woman you are intrigued with.

Betty Radina

   From these simple extrapolations you should be able to correctly ascertain what the offspring of these wild women are going to resemble.

Our damn happy kids at Hoover Dam

"France is a paradise inhabited by people who think they are in hell."

—Sylvain Tesson

Friday, November 24, 2023

The One Thing That Occassionally Beats Handsomness

 November 24, 2023

   In my experience, it isn't very often that anything beats a good looking person, especially in the romance department.

The Sexiest Man Alive

   Yes, Kathy Sue Radina brought home some major hunks to the State Avenue abode in north Phoenix where the Radinas lived.

Kathy And Roger

   Last week I was talking to her brother Brad and he told me how his sister brought home all these long-haired hunks, most of them with lots of turquoise jewelry and man purses and how they were all so studly and good looking. Then, he said, with an ironic, but amused smile: "Then she came home with you."

Kathy brings home a major Yahoo

   How in the hell did a goober from Kingman win against all that handsomeness?

"You made me laugh."

—Kathy Sue

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving Day Sunrise And The Sunset On A Way of Life

 November 23, 2023

   It pays to get up early. Case in point. Got up around six, went out to get the papers and spotted this glorious little weather happening creeping across Ratcliff Ridge.

Thanksgiving Day Sunrise 

   Uno approves, although he spots something to the north he would like to get in his mouth. Ironic, yes?

   And, here is the view looking the other way.

First light on the Seven Sisters

      And, here, on this thankful day, is a sketch I noodled this morning.

Daily Whip Out:

"Last Light On Idiot Ridge Rider"

   Larry McMurtry grew up on a ranch near Archer City, Texas and one of the prominent landmarks on his dad's ranch is Idiot Ridge, so called because, well, the local tradition is that who would want to live there but idiots. Having a healthy sense of humor, the McMurtry family called the whole place the "Monkey Ward house on Idiot Ridge."

"When as I was growing up something was wrong. I didn't know what. My father couldn't. . .have articulated it. But I could tell something was over and it was not going to come back. And I knew my father knew that."

—Larry McMurtry, explaining his writing mission early on

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Usual Yee-hawery Plus A Whole lotta Hoo Ha

 November 22, 2023

   The years pile up but the open-secret-mystery remains: How involved was the CIA in JFK's assassination? Current assessment: more than we were led to believe. So, what else is new?

   Well for one thing, we've got the usual Yee-hawery.

   My view this morning on the hike up to Morningstar. That's Uno up ahead, parallel to that first big saguaro. I asked my grandson Weston if he knew why that mountain range in the background makes me laugh and when he didn't know I told him  because it's hill areas. As I said earlier, that's just good Yee-hawery.

    Meanwhile, here's your daily Hoo Ha.

Larry McMurtry Shows The Way

  I am reading, with much pleasure, the Tracy Daugherty biography of Larry McMurtry. When Larry published his early novel "Moving On," an irate reader in Dallas told the Atlantic Monthly that McMurtry's view of the Lone Star state was "about five coon-ass miles southwest of reality." That's certainly a direction I'd like to go.

Archer City, Texas 

   This image, above, is from the opening pan shot of "The Last Picture Show." A very forlorn downtown which happens to be Larry McMurtry's actual hometown. This destitution is something we in the West know quite well.

"It's Boot Hill son. The last roundup, motherfuckers."

—A film crew gaffer on "The Last Picture Show" staging the cemetery burial scene of Sam The Lion (Ben Johnson) as quoted by Tracy Daugherty in "Larry McMurtry: A Life"

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Deep In The Dust

 November 21, 2023

   People often ask me, Hey Bob, why do you have this obsession with dust? Well, never mind that one of my favorite dogs was named Dusty, or that some of my artist friends have taken to calling me The Duke of Dust, or that when I was growing up, incessant dust storms prevailed over our humble home on Hilltop, outside Kingman, Arizona, which is on the eastern edge of the dust driven Mojave Desert.

Daily. Whip Out: "Dust Rider #20"

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Rider #23"

Daily Whip Out: "Deep In The Dust"

Daily Whip Out: "Dust Up at Oraibi"

Daily Whip Out:

"Ghost Rider In The Dusty Sky"

   So, as you can see, I've got some major dust issues.

"Yeah, well, that's just like your opinion, man."

—The Dude from The Big Lebowsky

Monday, November 20, 2023

The First Time I Heard "Apache" by The Shadows

November 20, 2023

   Sometimes the oddest things take me back to the land where I was raised.

Billy Logas: King of The Quarter Mile

    Proof that the only thing new in this world is the history you don't know:

True that.
Civics Class, Fifth Period,
Mohave County Union High School,
"Walk, Don't Run."

A Classic Instrumental Takes Me Back

  My son lives in Thailand and he collects rare and esoteric rock records—all vinyl. Last week he sent me an article on, what is called over there, Wong Shadow Music, which is a genre rift off of Shadow Music developed by Thai musicians and inspired by Western groups like Cliff Richard & The Shadows. They also dig The Ventures and Dick Dale so obviously my respect for them knows no bounds. My number one son sent me a link to the tune (below). All of which took me straight back to a lonesome desert highway near Topock, Arizona on the Az-Cal border.
   The Kingman Junior High Bobcats basketball team was coming back from a road trip to Poston, Arizona on the bus we called "The Traveler" because it was tricked out with better seats. It was late at night and Wendell Havatone was anxious to have us hear this new instrumental that was climbing the charts. He went up and asked the bus driver, Finnie (real name Mr. Finnigan), if we could try and get KOMA, the 50,000 watt rocker radio station out of OKCity in Oklahoma. Finnie said yes and Wendell dialed around until he managed to find KOMA, the only station we could get at that time that played rock music (1960). 

Bus Driver Extraordinaire
Maurice "Finnie" Finnegan

   Wendell gave us the signal and Charlie Waters and I came up to the front of the bus and crouched down with our ears next to the speaker and it was quite faint and staticky, but that is the first time I heard the song "Apache" by the Shadows. Of course, we formed a band not long after that and played that classic ditty prominently in all our shows. And, to this day, every time I hear it, it takes me back to that dang bus on that dang road back to Kingman.

The Exits: L to R: Wendell Havatone, Terry Mitchell, Charlie Waters, BBB and Wayne Rutschman, New Year's Eve 1964, Girl's Gym, Kingman, Arizona

Country Roads Take Me Home
   It's been awhile, but sometimes I still go out and support live music by my old bandmates, especially if I can be home by five in the afternoon. Yesterday was just that case as my old Razz Band bandmate, Jack Alves appeared at Crying Coyote Barbecue in Cave Creek.

Jack Alves Still Rocks!

   And, here we are in a publicity shot for our gig at Dooley's back in the day. 

The Razz Band, 1986, L to R: Jack Alves,
BBB, Hans Olsen and Rick Unger
(of Cosmo Topper fame)

   Yes, I still have the hat.

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
—Beverly Sills

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Good Morning Ancient Ones!

 November 19, 2023

This is part of my morning ritual.

Good Morning Ancient Ones!

After our walk up to Morningstar, Uno and I come back to the backyard where he has his morning constitutional, then I look over the back fence at the cave where the Apaches and the Hohokam hung out for centuries and I say, "Good morning Ancient Ones." They rarely answer, but it does give me a connection to the past, which I cling to like an ancient, tottering child.

"If you feel good about speaking to them, they have answered."

—Rod Timanus

   For the last week I have dealt with the feedback—and blow back—from a letter we got about True West magazine evolving and changing into something that upsets our readers. Or, at least two of them from Corpus Christi. Oh, and also, us running a piece on the Quentin Tarrantino Western Django Unchained by my favorite little Aussie Bastard James B. Mills. What follows is part of the conversation that has taken place on social media. And, by the way, if you want to know what tribe I belong to it's this one:

   "As time passes… today becomes history.
We either move or die. The West we love is still there but we know (now) about all there is about any multitude of things and people.
I for one have a great interest in the west of the 1910s to the late 1930s.
I think the magazine is heading right where it should and is doing a fantastic job of it!
So as Jerry Jeff Walker sang, 'the man in the big hat is buying'!
   "So … Triple B .. I will belly up to the bar for one more round. You my friend are tending bar very well!!"


"Wow, there's a lot to unpack in all of this, the letter you received, your thoughtful reply and the editorial commentary. These things all touch on relevance, genre, theme, and the question as old as the tumbleweeds, 'what is the 'West'? I think there's a generation that prefers that 'true' somehow conveniently intersects with myth. They appreciate western films that nail material culture ('Tombstone'), but not necessarily the actual culture or history of the period. Reactions to 'Deadwood' in the 2000s, 'Django' in the 2010s, and to a lesser extent maybe 'Killers of The Flower Moon' in the 2020s all sort of follow a certain theme. People, even self-proclaimed history buffs, often don't want much history in their westerns. When my first book came out, one blogger that I hoped would review it called it 'too grim.' I don't write novels. I deal in facts. 'America was never innocent,' James Ellroy reminds us and he's right. You also touch on another age old question, is the west a place or a time? Of the three books I've written, the second is the only one that sells. It covers events between 1880 and 1910. My third book, 'The Line Riders', never sells. I think I know the first names and phone numbers of everyone that bought a copy. I can't give them away (I've tried). That book was exhaustively researched. I was foolish to believe that nonfiction readers of the old west might care to read about the violence of the Prohibition Era on the Mexican Border, especially given how relevant that is to our current politics. I was wrong. It's too bad, those lawmen deserve to be remembered too. Hopefully, with time, the millenials and Gen Zers will embrace a more generous and open concept of 'the West' but I guess we'll see."

—Samuel K. Dolan

   And speaking of ancient ones, my longtime art director and fellow Kingman compadre, turns 76 today. It's been a long strange ride, but what the hell, Happy Birthday to Dan the Man Harshberger!

Daily Whip Out: "Opodepe Mamacita"

"Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out."

—Old Vaquera Saying

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Ed Mell And I Celebrate A Fifty Year Friendship

 November 18, 2023

   Last night I had the honor of giving a testimonial for my good friend Ed Mell. Or, as he is formally known, Edmund Mell II—the Second!—and, who I call with much affection: Edmundo Segundo.

   A retrospective of his life and career was celebrated at the Shemer Art Center in Phoenix and a crowd of 179 of his most faithful fans and art patrons showed up to honor him.

   The show opened with the Dusty Ramblers who set up on the patio and rocked out.

The Dusty Ramblers Jamming Into An

Ed Mell Sunset at the Shemer Art Center

   Of course, Ed and I go way back to the wild and crazy seventies. When Dan The Man Harshberger and I started the Razz Revue (not a magazine, not a comic, it's a magazomic!) the Mell brothers were already famous in the burgeoning Phoenix counterculture. Ed was notorious for a cover he and Skip Andrews (another Valley artist) had produced during their time in New York City. They got the assignment from the humor magazine National Lampoon to do an art piece of Minnie Mouse topless. So Ed and Skip did the first cover with a reconfigured Ms. Mouse, so the magazine could perhaps dodge copyright issues, but the editors told the Arizona boys they wanted it to be dead on Minnie and so Ed and Skip went back to the studio and produced this, now classic cover:

Minnie Mouse Topless!

By Sagebrush Studios

   They were paid $150. Disney immediately sued (some say for $25 million, others $10 million) and Ed later learned that the owners of the magazine were going broke and they needed attention and the lawsuit certainly gave them that! 

   After a summer teaching silkscreen at the Hopi Mesa in northern Arizona, Ed came back to Phoenix in 1973 and landed at Third Street and Roanoke. This is when I met Ed, who was greeted by the local counter culture as a conquering hero, at least to anyone under 30 with hair over their ears, which we all had at that precious time.

   From there, I joined Ed in his old grocery store at 10th and Oak and it was here that I got my real education.

A Prestigious Inspirational Background

   Ed Mell is without question one of the premiere artists of the great Southwest, standing shoulder to shoulder with his heroes, Maynard Dixon and the New Mexico modernist painters Victor Higgins and Raymond Jonson.

"Taos In Winter"

by Victor Higgins, ca. 1920s

"Arroyo 4"
By Raymond Jonson, 1922

   Ed told me yesterday, he loves the imaginative, loosely spiritual abstractions of the Taos Seven. That mental thinking is what drives him. This art, that he loves, also celebrates the land and the color.

Edmundo and BBB

in the 10th Street and Oak Art Studo,

circa 1986, photo by Ralph Rippe

   A confession: I have known Ed for fifty years and I had never heard of Raymond Jonson until yesterday when he told me of the other artists beside Maynard Dixon who were his influences. This speaks to how deep his scholarship and dedication is, drilling down deeper than I even realized. And, it probably speaks to why I don't have a degree in Art History.

Edmundo Mocking My Hat
(photo by Ralph Rippe)

Carson Carries On The Western Tradition

"In 2020 Ed was blessed with the arrival of his first grandchild. Ed often spoke of naming his sons Carson and Taylor because he wanted 'western sounding names' and Carson followed suit, suggesting the name 'Dusty' for his daughter. His wife, Kelly, was just weird enough to love the name so Carson managed to keep the western name tradition alive and then some. Dusty Jean Mell lives in LA where she enjoys drawing monsters and riding a horse named Peanut Butter."
—Carson Mell

Dusty Jean drawing monsters

"One loyal friend is worth 10,000 relatives."

   So let's give it up for one loyal friend and an Arizona treasure, Edmundo Segundo!

Old Man Zinger
   During the reception on the patio a retired Federal Judge walked up to me and said, "I am so old I know who you are."
   We laughed, then I pushed him over a drink cart and went inside to get ready for my talk.