Scrapbook Ninety…

scrapbook

AUGUST 2014

Forgotten Memories

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They don’t build guys like George Dabich anymore. If you saw him walking down the street wearing a brown cowboy hat you probably wouldn’t be impressed. He wasn’t tall, athletic, flashy, famous or rich. But you’d run out of things he wasn’t pretty fast because he had assets we all should wish to emulate.

As a 22-year old sailor in WW-2 George was cruising the South Pacific on a destroyer, the USS Brooks, when it was hit by a kamikaze. George was blasted end-over-end out into the ocean where he flailed around in burning oil and gasoline for hours until he was rescued and put aboard the USS Hovey, another destroyer.

In less than 24-hours that ship was torpedoed and sank while George watched again from the vantage point of an ocean burning all around him. He didn’t much care for the turn his life had suddenly taken.

After the Navy, George settled in Cody where he became a professional outbacker and hunting guide. And he was painting some pretty good Indian pictures. When we met, about 1967, I was teaching pilot training in the Air Force but had orders to Vietnam. His parting words to me were, “If you come back whole I’ll take you out where we can pick up some buffalo caps and maybe a skull or two.” We both were collecting western history things. That invitation may have motivated me to fly faster and keep my head down deeper.

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“Salute to a Warrior”, by George Dabich, cast at Fenn Bronze in Lubbock, Texas.

Upon my return I gave George a hunk wax and asked him to create some figures for me to cast in bronze. I’d set up a foundry in my garage. He did that and so did I. Our relationship flourished into close personal and professional bonds.

 

And of course he took me out into the Skylight country north of Cody where we found several dozen buffalo horn caps and a few skulls. This is my best one. It was a young bull. I found in some shades of a giant lodge pole pine. It was covered with reddish-yellow lichen, the faded remnants of which can still be seen between the horns and down. I removed the pine needles that populated the eye sockets and nose cavity. Wish now I hadn’t.

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And a basalt arrowhead was imbedded in the bone just inside his left eye. It penetrated only half an inch and broke where it was affixed to the arrow shaft. It didn’t kill the animal and the bone grew back around, holding it tight. I wish it had been me with the Crow Indian hunting party who released the arrow to fly on its last mission.

“In my solitude, it haunts me with memories of days gone by. In my solitude, it taunts me, with reveries that never die.” (Thank you Tony Bennett).

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The brown hat I wear so proudly was George’s. He wore it while his hunters killed 28 grizzlies out there just east of Yellowstone. He placed it on my head beside a campfire one night, and said, “Fits you like a glass fits water, so I want you to have it.”

 

George died last year at age 91, and his passage went largely unnoticed, save for a scant few guys like me and some relatives. But the coyotes and sage brush know he’s gone, and so do the tall pines, under which he sat and drank coffee from a tin cup. The red embers of his camp fires will miss him badly, but not as much as me.

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Preparing Sweat Lodge – George Dabich

 

69 thoughts on “Scrapbook Ninety…

    • I played for a band in the 80’s with Georges stepson Dave. There i met George in cody. What an artist. Some of the best western paintings ive ever seen. God bless George

  1. Thank you for sharing Forrest. In the big picture…….stories like this are so much more important than gold. Here lies the true treasures!

  2. Oh my gosh!! I need to go take a pill, I’m blubbering like a baby. I hope my friends that have passed were even half aware of my friendship with them as your friends were of your friendship. So descriptively written, I could see the campfire.

    • Pass the tissues BW, I’m right there with ya. I don’t know who I admire more, Forrest for having so many fascinating friends or Forrest’ friends like George Dabich who Forrest is so generous to share with us. Thank you Forrest for introducing us to this interesting and talented man. (I can only imagine the excitement you must have felt when you found that skull with an arrowhead in it–any idea of its age?)

  3. Thank you for introducing us to a wonderful artist most of us have probably never heard of, I know I haven’t. I love both the painting and the bronze you cast for him – great work by both of you!

  4. I love George’s painting “Night Hawk” which depicts a rider watching a herd of horses under a full moon lite night http://www.meadowlarkgallery.com/013652gd.html

    In the lower 2/3rds of the painting you can see a buffalo cap on the ground. Two horses with blazes look surprised. Interesting he added a bay horse in the middle. (just the back of the horse) Looks like the rider is just rounding up his mystical hovering lasso as he gazes into the eyes of a distant Camarillo White Horse.

    His works are very imaginative. Thank you for introducing George to us all.

    • I just noticed George’s signature on that link I posted earlier. It looks like a cup of coffee with steam rising off of it and a lowercase upsilon underneath. He has a very endearing signature. You’re right they just don’t make ’em that way anymore (except in podunk towns).

      • Maybe its a horse shoe instead of an upsilon?

        Forrest can you tell us anything about Geroge’s signature on his paintings?

        • That “coffee cup with steam rising,” is actually a grizzly paw with claws rising. That was George’s logo and he used it on all of his paintings and bronzes. George helped Bob Edgar excavate Mummy Cave that was inhabited by Sheepeater Indians. Maybe I’ll write something about that. f

      • George Dabich was my grandpa! His signature is a grizzly bear paw. He was the most amazing artist and man I have ever known. He had so many stories and I never got sick of listening to them. His artwork is amazing! Many are in the museum. Now that he has passed my family have sketch books upon sketch books and paintings as well as the molds for his bronzes to cast new ones in case anyone is ever interested. So great to hear these stories about him.

        • Susan,

          I read all 4 of your comments….LOL. One would have been enough… 🙂

          It’s really neat to have one of his descendants find a story about him here on Dal’s blog. It’s fantastic! Welcome and I hope Forrest will share more of him in the days to come, so you may see him from a different perspective.

          • I was replying to other people’s responses that’s probably why there were four different comments because I was replying to four different people I hope they didn’t all come up under the same post. Didn’t mean to bother you. Sorry I didn’t know that they would show up to everyone for times

          • No problem Susan. When you post a comment, it is emailed to everyone who subscribes to the numerous blog pages. So, you only need to post once and everyone will see it.

        • i live in spain and I have just bought a small water colour signed by g dabich it is really nice it also has the bear paw mark at the end of the signature .love it .

        • George is my Uncle, I am the oldest daughter of his younger brother Ted. Uncle George was an amazing person, so talented, and didn’t you love his laugh. My sister Marilyn has the pictures my Grandmother had in her home….now proudly displaced in her house. I have a bird carved from jade he made for me❤️

    • Agreed BW: I think FF’s metalworking skill is much more important , both to the treasure hunt & the extraordinariness of his life, than many seem to consider. His early/mid 70’s bronzes were good enough to jump start his art biz:
      at the very least: he is a quietly modest metal artisan, at best: he’s a master knock-off artist akin to Elmyr de Hory.

      For example, the Russell sculpture which Spielberg bought off of FF: was it the real thing, ? Or was it a case of “it only matters who they think you are”?

      For all we know / IMO.

  5. He reminds me of Pat Mantle a horseman from CO. Not that I knew him at all just remember him around town and he looked the part of a true cowboy! He did a lot with the rodeo and they still have a Pat Mantle award near the end of the season.

  6. mr. forrest,what a beautiful picture your friend painted.I love your true stories so much,you have so many wonderful memories,I could sit and listen to you all day.because you are so interesting with your memories to tell.no wonder you write books.just came back from cody,wy.rode horses,got a raw spot on my bum,it was a long hour up and down the mountain.since ralph has cancer,we decided to go,also saw Yellowstone ,went into east entrance,wow.what a beautiful place.saw the gibeon river,but never got to go up to mammoth .that place is hugh and so much to see.and you stop and take pictures a lot.we came out at night,and a buffalo was walking down beside the road in Yellowstone.I thought I never would ever get to see something so beautiful.that lake that goes on forever is beautiful.I could hear it lap up against the shore and reminded me of home when I was a kid,growing up around the bay and the gulf of mexico.love you mr. forrest.take care.

  7. George sounds like a great man. I love meeting tough old sailors like him. It puts time in perspective for me, how things were in the Navy then, versus how soft life is now.
    The bronze cast of the buffalo is so awesome, the time when they roamed this beautiful place we consume as home. We have all done it tired and now it is weak. I would take a 100 years earlier and smile through the hard times just as much as I do through these hard times now.

    • George Dabich was my grandpa! He was the most amazing artist and man I have ever known. He had so many stories and I never got sick of listening to them. His artwork is amazing! Many are in the museum. Now that he has passed my family have sketch books upon sketch books and paintings as well as the molds for his bronzes to cast new ones in case anyone is ever interested. So great to hear these stories about him.

  8. Some say guys like George don’t die, they just go home.

    He’s sitting around a fire with the likes of Hugh Glass, Jim Bridger, Louis Vasquez, John Garrison, Osborne Russell, and Jedediah Smith swapping stories and laughing at us.

  9. Forrest, thank you for being a friend to all of us on Dal’s blog:-)
    It’s been enlightening to share a part of history with you through your stories, ideas, poets, and your collection of artifacts and friends!

    I’m not searching any longer but wanted to say sign in and say thanks.

  10. Forrest, what an extraordinary life George had. To have survived two traumatic events like he did is beyond comprehension to me. I have to thank you and him for helping to keep the Western world safe. I often think how fortunate I am in Oz when my only worry is huge logging trucks on winding country roads compared to countries with tanks on theirs. Forever grateful.

    I would also like to thank you for my new found inspiration. I’m at an age now that I have time to get back to my true love of painting. Growing up, both my parents encouraged being creative but it was frowned upon to consider it as a means of income. I think Mum put a paintbrush in my hand before I could write and my Father would magically on sheets of butchers paper with a black marker make Fred Flinstone, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck appear in a couple of minutes. I have paintings by Mum, a folio of drawings my Father did when he was 12 and a folio of my Grandfathers (who I never met) drawings. These are my most prized possessions.
    It is paintings like Georges above and of course Eric Sloanes, coupled with reading about your life, your ethos and friendships that have rekindled my passion and for this, again I am grateful. Cheers.

  11. Nice painting. How is it that I have never heard of him? I bought an original indian oil painting from a painter in a parking lot in Lake Tahoe. His work is now found in some Scottsdale galleries – I wonder what it is worth now, but I really do not care as I will not part with it. It talks to me.

  12. Hi Pip

    Glad you are inspired by the paintings! My husband and both kids have very artistic bones when it comes to art. They laugh at my stick figures! My passions lie elsewhere. My sister and I are getting our family history written. I have been accused of spending too much time with dead people! I would love to work at the museum. I also have an idea for a screenplay based on some family stories that I would like to take a sstab at. If I find TC I would spend more time doing these things.

  13. Mr. Fenn, and everyone on here, in regards to history and artists; I hope you look up an old friend of mine from my early youth and neighbor who has made a name for himself here in Missouri. Brian (Bryan) Haynes. His work is breathtaking in his interpretation of early Missouri Indians and early life on the Missouri River.

    He is accomplished enough his name associated with St. Louis should complete your search. My favorite is of the Indian warriors running along the banks of the Missouri River with the firefly’s. It’s worth a look if interested.

  14. Note that the actual lyrics to the song are:
    In my solitude you haunt me With reveries of days gone by In my solitude you taunt me With memories that never die

    This is Fenn’s quote
    “In my solitude, it haunts me with memories of days gone by. In my solitude, it taunts me, with reveries that never die.”

    Notice what he changed? Solve that and you have a better understanding of the usage of the word “it” in the poem

    • Hi Wolf — just read this Scrapbook for the first time today and spotted the reversed (reveries/memories swapped & “it” substituted for “you”) Tony Bennett lyrics. Was reading through all the comments to see if anyone had noticed this back in 2014. Was getting close to the bottom of the comments and beginning to think I would be the first, but then saw your post. (I’m not surprised that if anyone would spot it, it would be you!)

      I find several good hints in this SB, and the significance of swapping reveries and memories ties in well with one of the clues in my solution. I know a lot of searchers poo-poo the notion that Forrest would deliberately put hints in the SBs, but ask yourself why wouldn’t he?

  15. It was a treat to meet George years ago in Cody. I treasure the slabs of Wyoming jade he gave me, now gracing the shelf above my computer. His exquisite carving of the hummingbird was to die for.

  16. George Dabich was my grandpa! His signature is a grizzly bear paw. He was the most amazing artist and man I have ever known. He had so many stories and I never got sick of listening to them. He knew everything about this area. His artwork is amazing! Many are in the museum. Now that he has passed my family have sketch books upon sketch books and paintings as well as the molds for his bronzes to cast new ones in case anyone is ever interested. So great to hear these stories about him. I miss him so much. Just last week we were rummaging through many of the boxes of arrowheads and hide scrapers and tools that he had. After he died I was able to choose any painting of his that was in his house. There were so many to choose from. In the end I chose one with a Native American and her 2 babies (1 next to her and 1 papoosed sp? on the horse) grieving for her fallen husband. It was titled “The Ultimate Sacrifice”. It hangs in my living room proudly. His stories of Mummy Cave and Mummy Joe always fascinated me when I was growing up. But my favorite part was every time we would go over to his house when I was a child, I would grab a copy of the children’s book “Old Mac Donald” and sit on his lap while he read it to me over and over.

  17. George was more than a friend to me and my family. We have several of George ‘s pieces andi wouldn’t take any price for them. He always had time to tell me about the Natives, or to hunt arrowheads, or to show me how to correct a drawing. He took a true interest in my art attempts. He was my best friend, my hero and my idol. From him I learned my true love of the Natives and their way of life. There isn’t a day that tpasses that I don’t miss him.

  18. George was my hero. He took me jade hunting and arrowhead hunting. He told me stories of the west and taught me how to draw. He always encouraged me with my passion for Native art. My hero is gone, but his lessons live on.

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