November 19, 2023
This is part of my morning ritual.
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."
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!
"Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out."
—Old Vaquera Saying