Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The Tom Mix Death Ride In Some Detail

 January 31, 2024

   Wrapping up some loose ends on the Tom Mix feature in the next issue of True West.

A 1940 road map of Highway 89 going from Oracle Junction to Florence, which at the time was still unpaved. Tom Mix Wash is the third wash south of the highway shield in red.

The Mystery of The Warning Signs

   There is some controversy about what kind of signs, or barricades were up around the bridge under construction on the Florence Highway when Tom Mix came roaring up the road at 80 m.p.h.

The Tom Mix Cord upside down in the wash

Washed Up And Washed Out

   The Western pulp writer, Walt Colburn, wrote up the death of Tom Mix for our sister publication, Frontier Times, and he described the Tom Mix death scene this way: "Tom Mix owned a flashy looking Cord that he drove with the top down. The rear seat held his luggage, including a locker trunk. A highway crew was working on the Florence highway and they had put up a barrier with a detour sign. Tom Mix, traveling eighty miles an hour, had smashed through the barrier, turning the Cord over in a dry wash. The heavy trunk had been dislodged  with the sudden impact, striking Tom on the back of the head and breaking his neck. He was killed instantly."

   Of course, Colburn was not there and got his information from a friend who also was not there. Although basically accurate, two things jump out at me. The first is, why would Tom Mix blindly drive through a "barrier with a detour sign" without slowing down? And, two, we now know the "heavy trunk" was actually a medium sized metal suitcase—made by Haliburton!—and it is in the Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Oklahoma.

Tom Mix Cord Custom Dash with
Gun and holster on steering column

Impaired? Or Drunk?

   We know that Tom Mix visited with Walt Colburn and Pima County Sheriff Ed Echols at Colburn's Catalina Foothills ranchito on the outskirts of Tucson on the day before the accident. In the Frontier Times article, Coburn describes the King of the Cowboys sipping whiskey and trading stories with his two old friends. That night, Mix reportedly gambled and drank until 3 a.m. with Santa Rita Hotel musicians. He left Tucson around noon the next day, October 12, and drove north on Oracle Road and stopped at Oracle Junction (near the present day Lupe's Restaurant) and allegedly played poker and drank whiskey at a roadside establishment before driving off to his appointment with the washed out roadway south of Florence. Invariably, when a famous person dies, local legend grows up around the event with everyone remembering him stopping at their place of business and enhancing the encounter with tales of playing cards and drinking. I'm not saying it didn't happen but I am saying I take some of these "remembrances" with a grain of salt. That said, it is probably safe to say Mix had a few nips of whiskey before he took the highway to hell. How high was he? Maybe high enough to ignore the detour signs (let's be honest, it's hard to read distant road signs at 80 miles an hour, no matter how much you have had to drink.)

   One of the local newspapers gave this account: "He was driving so fast that he didn't notice—or failed to heed—signs warning that one of the bridges was out on the road ahead." A small highway crew was working on the bridge at the time of the accident. John Adams of Oracle, claimed that after the car overturned, Adams saw a figure move from beneath the Cord and start to stand up. Mix supposedly took a step and fell dead.

   Several minutes after the crash, Martin Younkers, of Beloit, Wisconsin and Anthony Monts of Rockfore, Illinois drove up to the crash site from the south and helped pull the actor's body from under his racing car. They had been passed by Mix on the dirt road, and they reported Mix used his siren to pass them at a high rate of speed. Yonkers and Monts also claimed a heavy suitcase had fallen against Mix's head, burying his face in the soft sand.

   If there was a barrier it must have been hard to see from a distance. And, perhaps it created an optical illusion, with the rebuilt bridge abutments below the roadway and made it appear as if the road was unobstructed and therefore unable to be seen by Mix in the speeding roadster. 

   In the end, drunk or sober, signs or no signs, The King of the Cowboys was dead. He had cheated death numerous times in his long career and it's more than a little ironic that this anonymous wash, one of thousands that criss cross Arizona's roadways, had finally claimed "The Road Demon."

Prescient? Boy Howdy!

"We will never see Tom Mix again."

—A Canadian lament seven months before he died

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

A Band Brother From Another Mother Meets The Tom Mix Cord!

 January 30, 2024

   Yesterday I had the privilege and honor to ride in the Tom Mix super-charged 1937 Cord, the actual car The King of The Cowboys was driving on October 12, 1940.

Dan The Man's Bozecard version of the ride

   Let me assure you, that baby can still haul some sass. And, not only did I get to ride in the legendary car, I got to try on the hat Mix is wearing on the cover of this book by a fellow drummer, Bob White, who owns the car. 

Band Brothers From Another Mother

Full disclosure: while it's not possible to say this is the actual hat Tom Mix is wearing in the above cover photo it is accurate to say this hat belonged to Tom Mix (and it is the same exact crown style and rolled brim) and it came out of his estate, along with the belt in the below picture. And, I must add, the hat fit better on my head than my own hat which is custom made. Go figure!

Tom Mix's hat and belt and a bitchin' model
of his Cord Phaeton

   Here's Bob and his band back in the day.

Bob White, at left, and The Excalibers

   We bonded over "Wipeout" and our mutual love for history. Watch for the forthcoming YouTube video interview I did with Bob, the band brother from another mother! It totally rocks!

"Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, Wipeout!"

—The screechy, classic opening to the song that almost took my life, not once, but twice.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Six Spreads In The Next Issue

January 29, 2024

   I spent most of today in a certain souped up Cord Phaeton. And I am closing in on what actually happened in a certain wash named for the guy in the Cord.

Daily Whip Out:

"Rough Topo of What Actually Happened

On October 12, 1940"

      More details tomorrow.

Daily Whip Out: "Spread Two Rough"

"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."

—Pablo Picasso

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Tom Mix, BBB & Anthony Hopkins: "We Did OK, Kid."

 January 28, 2024

   Scarfing up a piece of Arizona history one sale at a time. Here are the first buyers who showed up today for the BBB Art Studio Garage Sale. Note how clean the walls are in the background!

Dan The Man & Darlene
(head in the clouds these two)

   Here's the deal: You didn't miss the sale. I am still trying to figure out how to manage this so that my neighbors don't disown me ("That damn Triple B, there must have been a hundred cars in his driveway!") and the meth heads don't find out where I live. So The D's came out for lunch today at The Crying Coyote Cafe and we jammed on ideas on how to make this sale work and give everyone a fair chance to go home with good stuff.

   A quick nod to the folks who sent me proof they love the West. Here is a sampling:

"I'm a long time True West subscriber, living in Prescott. I would love to help you with your divestiture’s."

—Jim and Mary Ruch

[Subscribers have the right of way. Approved!]

"When I told my wife about the requirements for attendance at your yard sale she said, 'just tell him that I made you do the rifle sound in the canyon' and that will get you in."

—Ken and Robin Siverts

[Yes, back in the Jones & Boze Show radio days, we did a bit on the air about calling up and imitating a rifle being shot down a canyon with echo effects and Robin is correct. Ken is approved!]

"I'm a 5th generation Arizonian from Show Low with a 1,600+ volume library of Arizona history."

—Doc Daniels


   For starters the above people will come out  to take a gander and then, we'll have a big party for everyone at Crying Coyote on one of the upcoming Thursdays. Going to be a blow out party. Either way, if you want a crack at the Whip Outs you will get your turn.

Tom Mix Washed Up

   They said he was washed up and over the hill. He would show those Hollywood Yahoos. He had been down before and every time he bounced back, better than before—Big Time. 

Prescient? Boy Howdy

   He clipped along at eighty in his custom Cord, with his custom holster attached to the steering wheel and a siren to pass cars with a courtesy blast and then he triggered a swinging tail light that told the slow pokes he was coming back over into their lane.

   Up ahead he saw nothing but straight road to the horizon. He put the petal to the metal so he could get to Florence and see his ex-son-in-law about some livestock for his upcoming South America shows. His estimated speed was eighty miles per hour and he never even slowed down.

   Until it was too late. A metal suitcase did the rest.

Meanwhile. . .

   When Anthony Hopkins was 18, he had terrible grades and his parents were afraid he was going to be a failure. Anthony said he told them, "One day I will show you, both of you." He didn't mean it in a mean way, just a reassuring way. Within ten years Hopkins was understudying Laurence Olivier and two years after that Peter O'Toole was playing his father in the 1988 movie "The Lion In Winter." He later, of course played a pope and a serial killer among other great roles. He relates that in the 70s, "my parents came to New York to see me in a play, and when my father arrived, he burst into tears and said, 'How did you do that?'" And Hopkins says he replied, "I don't know."

Little Boze Billy

(photo taken at a photography studio

in Fairmont, Minnesota, 1954)

   That's a Lone Ranger rig I got for Christmas and the hat is a tad wonky with a wire rim (remember those?) but the shirt and pants are good because my mother was born in Lordsburg and grew up on a ranch near Rodeo, New Mexico.

Mamacita Bobbi Guess

"We did OK, Kid."

—Anthony Hopkins, confessing that he carries a photo of himself at age four which he often looks at and says this line to himself.

   Seems very affirming. I may start doing this myself (see my photo above), just as a reminder that it's all okay. I did what I could with what I had.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Collectable Categories for The BBB Art Studio Yard Sale

 January 27, 2024

    Day two of the BBB Art Studio clean up. In case, you missed it, here was the highlight from yesterday:

Junkyard Dog Guards Artist's Crap In Garage 

   Speaking of which, I have decided to do a literal yard sale out of the garage, which, I guess technically will make it a Garage-Yard Sale. It will be by invitation only. If you want to come steal some of these precious items you need to prove to me you love the West and that you are not a troll or a meth head. You ready? Here's how:

   Tell me why you love the West. Send your comments—the shorter the better—to me at If I think you qualify and you are not a troll, I will send you my address and the date and time of the sale. Simple enough. See you at the Steal, I mean BBB Art Studio Yard-Garage Sale. Here's what you will find.

Category I: Review books and duplicates
   For the past 25 years we have received many books sent to True West magazine for review. Here is just a small sampling of those.

$10 each

Category II: Weird BBB Collectables
   I have collected odds and ends of weird historical items all my life. Here is a snapshot of some of them.

$25 each

   Yes, that is a working True West clock. Yes, that is an authentic Lone Ranger lunch box. Yes, that is a sealed Arizona Highways with Billy on the cover. And, yes, that is a Billy the Kid decanter.

Category III: Chicken Pot Pie Rough Cuts
   Includes many Daily Whip Outs and Zane Outs all unframed and ready to take home.

$50 each
   Yes,  that is Mae West with the big guns. Yes, that is a punk family with zaned-out hairdos. Yes, that is Hoot Gibson and yes, that is Nick Nolte from "Extreme Prejudice."

Category IV: Daily Whip Outs On Jesse James
   Lots of nice Jesse stuff. One note, however, the framed Bloody Bill at bottom, center is spoken for.

$250 each
   And, of course, you know I have just as many on Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Wild Bill & Custer.

Category V: Framed Big Suckers
   These are big paintings, posters and scratchboards framed and ready to hang. Images tomorrow.

"Ms. Kathy's not putting you in a home, is she?? If you need to run for the border, I got people. . ."

—Randie Lee O'Neal

Friday, January 26, 2024

Honkytonk Mahem: Stevie Ray Vaughn, Stetson Hatboxes and Resistol Dreams

 January 26, 2024

   The painters have finished the north room of the studio and it's a beautiful thing.

   Kathy and I spent a good hour this afternoon utilizing Swedish Death Cleaning techniques on all the crap, I mean treasures, in the garage.

   Does it bring me joy? Can it be replaced? Do I really want to saddle my offspring with this?

Uno Watches The Questions Go Down

   Those are the questions she asked me as I picked up every piece. Needless to say, I filled a big, fat trash container pretty quickly. However, we culled ten pieces for consideration in the BBB Art Studio Yard Sale and this is one of them.

BBB's First Honkytonk Hat

Yes, this is my very first honkytonk hat bought in Austin, Texas in 1978, from Texas Hatters, and I wore this hat when our host Marty Manning took us to the Broken Spoke and we heard Stevie Ray Vaughn and the Fabulous Thunderbirds in the other room while we were in a side barroom and I remember saying, "That band in the other room is pretty damn good." Anyway, this is the hat that heard that classic Texas blues sound. And, full disclosure, the hat is a Resistol and the box is for Stetsons. So sue me.

Daily Whip Outs: "Honkytonk Mahem"

   These are some of the best scenes of my career in this composite of pen and ink and scratchboard scenes culled from real life in real honkytonks. Yes, that is Honkytonk Sue in the upper right and yes, that Jackpot Roper, with the dollar sign shades, was a cover that appeared in New Times Weekly back in the seventies.

   I can't even put a price on these, but I'm sure someone can. Let me know.

"Turn down!"

—The number one request we got in every band I played in for two decades

Thursday, January 25, 2024

A Sneak Preview of The BBB Art Studio Yard Sale (for Your Eyes Only)

 January 25, 2024

  This is for readers of this blog only. Here is a sneak preview of some of the random items in the BBB Art Studio Yard Sale:

Heatwave Aerial 

   This is an aerial view of The Doper Roper leaving the Heatwave Cafe with Cornhead to go hunt up some evil hippie's on Crazycrack Mountain, circa 1973. I was a surveyor and draftsman in my earlier life and it shows in the hardcore-topo-reality of this line drawing that ran in the Razz Revue, Arizona's Other Humor Publication (The Arizona Republic being the other). This is part of a larger set of scenes (see, below) and it will be in the BBB Art Studio Yard Sale and it is the original and it's $250 with my signature.

The Doper Roper vs. The Car Kid

Eight BBB Custom Hats

    Eight BBB custom hats, some with super ornate one-of-a-kind hatbands, a few worse for wear, $100 each.

 A Shay Maxwell Custom-made Faro Table


"Thought I should mention I remember that board it had the high rim and it is '1 of 1' or I should say the only one and was one of my early boards. At the time I was trying to create a style with the high rim but decided to stick with traditional layouts. Anyway just thought I would mention it was nice to see the photo and I am honored to see it and the casekeeper."

—Shay Maxwell

Not sure I will sell this faro keepsake, but feel free to make a bid on it.

Email me at if you have any questions or want to put in a placeholder bid.

We are still working out details of how the actual yard sale will work (shipping, delivery, postage and handling, etc.), but wanted you to see a peek at what will be offered.

"Simplicity doesn't need to be greased."

—Billy Joe Shaver

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Road Walk Community Bulletin Board & BBB Studio Online Garage Sale

 January 24, 2024

   The rain started to lift this morning and when we headed out. . .

We met Larry and Fluffy On Old Stage Road

Road Walk Community Bulletin Board

Uno (at left, behind bush) and I ran into Larry who lives up the road. Got the latest on Fluffy (at right) who has been having balance issues and is going to the groomer today. Larry told me someone just bought the old Dick Van Dyke Ranch for $4.5 million. The ranch later was bought by Jerry Foster and we went up there for parties in the nineties. Interesting that Van Dyke is still kickin' at 99 and Jerry Foster passed last year. See what you learn by going for walks? And, speaking of community bulletin boards events. . .

The BBB Art Studio Online Garage Sale

Get ready for the BBB Art Studio Online Garage Sale. I will post each individual item here and it will be first come, first serve. Some will have a set price, but most of it is going to be make me an offer I can't refuse and it's yours. I am setting up a shipping deal with UPS so if you live far away you can still participate. Going to be fun, going to be fair and it's going to be a cleansing religious experience for me and especially for my family.

  I grabbed a few items to give you an idea on how it will work.

Selected Items from $10 to $100 each

I didn't even get this posted on my blog (there is a mention on Facebook) before I got a knock on the door.

First Responder

My neighbor Tom Augherton ran up the hill and bought the boots and spurs plus two other items.

"We will sell no item before its time."

—BB "Orson" Bell

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Five Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Turned 41

 January 23, 2024

   A historic day today in the Bell family.

Thomas Charles, age 1

   This was in 1984 on a trip to Iowa. Today, my son turns 41. 

Five Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Turned 41

1. Don't worry about getting old. Worry about thinking old.

2. Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

3. When you get to 78 you will find that rolling out of bed is easy. It's the getting up off the floor that is a bitch.

4. At my age "getting lucky" means finding my car in the parking lot.

5. Seeing your grandchildren crack a joke is about the best thing in the entire world.

   Happy Birthday Tomas! Always remember the immortal words of Jack White:

"Well, I sort of don't trust anybody who doesn't like Led Zeppelin."

Monday, January 22, 2024

On The Border With A Hoarder

 January 22, 2024

   In 1991, at the height of our success on the morning drive radio show—Jones & Boze—David K. and I each received a bonus of $20k (for landing in the top five morning shows in a very crowded market). I spent my windfall on building an addition onto my existing art studio which I had quickly outgrown since it was built in 1987. When it was finished I had a Studio Warming Party and all my artist friends came and a few brought gifts, one even created a Vin du Billy bottle of wine and a few made cards. I kept this one.

   Ed Mell's hand written note to me which I posted on my library wall for the past 30 years. Notice the "B" within the O. Even his notes are damned creative!

   So Kathy hired some painters to redo some corners that are rain damaged and peeling and to repaint the whole kit and kaboodle, so I spent the last two days taking everything off the walls and schlepping everything out to the garage. See anything you want?

   This was when I had it about half loaded out this morning and here it is at ten with the final load out.

Uno Is Not Impressed

   To him, it's the same crap, but in a different place.

Matt prepping the walls and ceiling

for painting

   Of course, I harbor the hope that my kids will want everything in the studio, but I think this classic New Yorker cartoon nails that illusion pretty well.

   As mentioned, one of my zany friends created a bottle of Billy the Kid wine complete with label for my Studio Warming. Here's my personal wine taster taking a crack at opening it.

Uno Uncorks A Nice Vin du Billy

Closeup on zany label

   Credit on the label goes to the Newman-Zimmerman foundation for Historical Accuracy in films.

   Like I said, I have some zany friends who have contributed many treasures to the BBB Studio Collection.

"There is a fine line between collecting and hoarding."

—Kathy Sue Radina

Sunday, January 21, 2024

A Classic True West, Mickey Free Returns & Hanky Does The Hanky Panky

 January 21, 2024

   Kathy came home from Mahjong yesterday and handed me a stack of Old West and True West magazines that were gifted to her by fellow Mahjongers Cathy, Mark and Andrea. It was a cool stash and one of them, below, jumped out at me.

The August, 1963 issue of True West:

"It's Different!

This is the way the West REALLY WAS!"

   This issue had some personal memories for me because I bought it off the newsstand—35 cents!— at Desert Drug in downtown Kingman.

Desert Drug, Kingman, Arizona, 1953

   And, speaking of being high, in my hometown gas prices have always been sky high ("You got gold in your gas?!" was the common refrain when our regular was at 35.9 cents a gallon circa 1962) and I just read in the Republic that Arizona gas prices are currently rising and they listed the average price of gas throughout the state and Graham County had the lowest price at $3.01 per gallon and Mohave County had the highest at $3.42. So it's nice to know that when it comes to being high, it's still hard to beat Mohave County. Another slogan for the Chamber might be "Still High After All These Years."

   You are welcome.

Daily Reworked Whip Out:

"Mickey Free Returns"

   I still harbor big plans for the one-eyed captivo galloping across a crusty barranca on his semi-trusty mule Tu. Somehow, some way, his cranky and cantankerous mule will save the day, time after time.

The Girl In The Beehive Do

"My father had a good friend named Olivia who had a black widow’s nest in her beehive. My father would make the sign of the cross before he visited her!"

Buckeye Blake


"My baby does the Hanky Panky."

—Tommy James & The Shondells, 1966

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The Zany History of The 66 Kids Including "Harpo" Harshberger

 January 20, 2024

    Walked outside at sunrise and said hello to the Anazazi Ancients hovering over the cave that Cave Creek was named for.

   I love what my friend and fellow historian Rod Timanus said about greeting them in the morning, "If it makes you feel good talking to them, they have answered."


Dan The Man "Harpo" Harshberger

The 66 Kids gang is expanding to include some stellar Mother Road authors and notables, including Jim Hinckley, Marshall Trimble, and Dan the Man Harshberger. When Stuart Rosebrook asked me if we could interview Dan on our podcast about growing up on Route 66 I told him Dan does not do talking gigs. This prompted Stuart to wonder if, perhaps, Dan might be the Harpo Marx of our group. When I told this to Dan, he sent me this.

"Harpo" Harshberger

Such a zany bastard, Dan The Man "Harpo" Harshberger is.

The Bridge Across Tom Mix Wash

I'm going to be doing several illustrations this weekend to try and capture the last seconds of Tom Mix on this planet.

The bridge over Tom Mix Wash

"Amazing that he died in a wash named after him."

—Craig Wilson

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The Saguaro That Witnessed The Tom Mix Crash

 January 18, 2024

   This morning I really wanted to take a side trip to the Tom Mix Wash, because Stuart Rosebrook and I were at the White Stallion Guest Ranch near Marana, doing a series of podcasts and it's a little out of the way, but, I got my wish.

Tom Mix and the custom Cord
he was driving on the day he died.

 As I remembered it, from memory there is a slight hill approaching from the east and in my mind, Tom Mix, going 80 mph couldn't see over the rise, and the bridge was out and he came over the hill and saw too late that the bridge was out and tried to stop but careened into the wash and his Cord car flipped over on its side and a suitcase behind him (made by Haliburton!) slammed forward and broke his neck.

Tom Mix Cover Rough by Dan The Man

   As we approached the site this morning, it turned out my memory was not correct. There is no hill. It's a straight shot to the wash.

Looking east from the bridge

   In the photo above I'm standing on the bridge they were building, or repairing, on October 12, 1940. We are looking east, or technically southeast, on the road Tom Mix was driving on when he crashed. Note the tall saguaro on the right side of the road. By the way, the road wasn't paved. It was dirt back in those days and probably looked more like this:

   Upon seeing with my own eyes the approach it beame clear to me that Mix was blasting along at 80 mph and couldn't see the bridge out because it was in a draw. One eyewitness said he "blasted past the first barricade." This presumes the highway department had warning signs out to warn drivers to slow down. I'm not sure I believe this (who would be cruising at 80 in those days?), BUT it is from an eyewitness account so we have to deal with it. Here is the bridge as it appears today.

The Bridge across Tom Mix Wash
as it appears today

   Remember that saguaro off to the right in the first road photo?

Tom Mix Wash Sagauro

   This saguaro is within sight of the Tom Mix wash (see the car going across the bridge, at lower right). So this giant cacti, which is probably more than 250 years old, witnessed the crash. It almost looks like its arms are bowing to the gravity of the incident.

   Mix was sixty years old.

"I never claimed to be an actor. I just wanted to put on a good clean show for the young kids, and make a good impression in our coming generation."

—Tom Mix