About dal

dal is an occasional filmmaker, writer and photographer who lives on an island in Washington State's Salish Sea.

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Nine…

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APRIL 2017

 

Heck With Those Guys

In high school I don’t remember anyone giving me instructions on how to write. They probably did and I just wasn’t paying attention. So in later life, when I became interested in words and how they were used, I naturally gravitated to a trial and error style of writing that suited me best.

In 2011, when my book, The Thrill of the Chase, co-won an award for best independently published book of the year, I received a letter from the judges. It said my entry was among other things, childish, which they must have thought was pretty good because otherwise how could I have won the award? It started me thinking about how different people write.

William F. Buckley Jr.

William F. Buckley Jr. was one of my heroes. I saw him once in an airport in Newark and he looked straight at me, so I’ll call him Bill. Bill had a daily column in the NY Times. When he got on the commuter train in Connecticut each morning he didn’t know what he would write about, but when he alit an hour later in New York City, his creation was finished. He rarely rewrote, he said, and no one ever dared to edit him. While his method is on the Technicolor end of the writing spectrum, mine is on the black and white. That’s okay with me because our composing modes are diabolically opposed to each other.

My habit when writing something short, is to decide on a subject, then start gathering sentences together with some kind of focus, but not much direction. They need to stay close to the topic and carry my theme or plot to the end of the story. Often, the thoughts come rushing out as I think along. One notion propagates the next. Sometimes I can’t type fast enough.

Then I retreat to the beginning and try to reorganize my words into some kind of acceptable cohesive unit. How can I say a line better and keep it in the same flavor as the others? Is this sentence too predictable? Do I want to misspell a word to make the reader stop and look it up, and maybe feel a need to respond? It’s okay if the reader wants to work with me. I use other techniques too, like corrupting a word or idea. In my Thrill book I wrote about courting my wife. “Everyone knew she was too good for me, but tenacity was never one of my shortcomings.” That sort of thing causes the kind of word-of-mouth publicity that I need because I self-publish and don’t have any distribution. And it’s my way of keeping a reader’s attention fresh. If one knows exactly what I mean then who cares what the word is, or how it’s used. Educated editors disapprove of me en-masse, but they don’t have a Pulitzer either.

I am frequently criticized for where I put commas. My reply is that I don’t want to use anybody’s book-writing rules. It is my prerogative as the writer to decide when I want the reader to pause, not the reader’s, and certainly not the critic’s. Cormac McCarthy was known to write a story and then go back and remove all of the commas.

The hardest part of writing for me is sitting down and getting started. Some of my techniques develop themselves as I write along. For instance, I learned when researching my J. H. Sharp biography that the elderly Taos Indian models wouldn’t answer my questions about the artist. I quickly discovered that if I said something to them that I knew was wrong, they would correct me, on and on, and tell me things I wanted to know. Success sometimes hides in squinting wrappings, but a delicate new bow, if tied correctly, can widen eyes.

I wrote this someplace a few years ago and maybe you’ll think it’s worth remembering, Imagination isn’t a technique, it’s a key. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Eight…

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APRIL 2017

 

The Graciella Experience

Pony Ault was the only important client our gallery had in Santa Fe, and she seemed to know everyone. It was not unusual for her to bring celebrities in to meet me, and I loved that. And I equally loved that she could write a check for nearly anything she wanted, a fact that did not go undetected by my banker.

Everyone loved Pony, especially me. She was a chatterbox conversationalist so I always gravitated to her at parties, dinners, and art openings. She took chitchatting to an intellectual plateau that was several layers above where I normally felt ease. Our discussion time found me mostly listening, smiling, and nodding. Being seen with her was always good for my sometimes flailing ego.

Robert Henri

Pony said she wanted a painting by Robert Henri (1865-1929), so I started looking. The problem was that she had a great eye for art, a trait that never worked to the advantage of art dealers. When discussing art Pony nearly always knew more about the artist whose work was hanging on my walls, than I did. So when we talked price I was somewhat disarmed and usually capitulated to what she delicately described as her “medicinal discount.”

Henri paintings were very important and quite valuable so my eyes were always on alert for his name in auction catalogs. After a few weeks I bought one. It was a picture of a little girl named Graciella. But for some unknown reason it didn’t appeal to me. Her face was, well, I don’t know.

Graciella by Robert Henri

So we hung it on the wall in my office opposite my desk. Every time I sat in my chair, there she was, her stern face staring at me. I didn’t expect to actually warm up to Graciella, but at least I hoped we could establish some kind of meaningful rapport.

When I called Pony she made an appointment for the next afternoon. She wanted me to meet Cary Grant. I couldn’t have been more thrilled because To Catch a Thief was one of my favorite movies.

When they entered my office, introductions were made and I shook hands with the debonair Mr. Grant. We talked for several minutes and then Pony turned around.

And there it was in grand lighting, the Graciella Henri. It was hanging where it had been for a month while I tried to warm up to that little girl. No other clients were allowed to see her because I was saving it for my special client.

Well, Pony immediately recognized the artist’s style, palette, subject, and personality. She wasn’t impressed, and as if possessed by the spirit of Thor, she turned to face me. “Is that what you called me down here for, to look at that thang?” Her face looked unsympathetic as her nose pointed toward the 17th century wooden door to my office, beside which one must pass to exit, and out she strode, the sensitive Mister Grant silently following in close trail. Neither of them even said goodbye.

Gulp!

I went to my refrigerator and took a long pull of Worchestershire Sauce to clear my head.

Pony liked to show off our gallery to her lunching friends and house guests, so over the next few weeks she strolled them into my office and acted as docent. Often she was seen to glance at the You-Know-What that was hanging on the wall opposite my desk. Each time she left without comment. I didn’t care because Graciella and I were becoming friends.

During an evening art opening at our gallery Pony open the door to my office and sneaked in. She was in there for a minute or more. That’s when I started to worry.

A week later she called me on the phone. “Forrest I want that painting, and I’ll be there in thirty minutes to get it.” My heart sank. “Pony,” I lamented. “You didn’t say anything and I’ve grown to love that “thang.” I’ve decided to keep it in my own collection.” There was a gravid few-second pause in our conversation, necessitated by a requirement for Pony to recover. Then a loud sound vibrated against my ear drum. “What?” she sputtered. I felt like my tail was under a rocking chair, and Pony was sitting in it.

What could I do but capitulate? After all, she was a good friend and she was a good client, and I did offer it to her, and I sensed that she was about to have an unfortunate physical issue. Not to mention that I needed the money.

An hour later my wife walked into the office and asked why I was reading my bible. I didn’t mean to be rude, I just didn’t want to talk about it. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Seven…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

The other side of Eric

I wrote a book about Eric Sloane that most people who read this blog haven’t seen. It’s called Seventeen Dollars a Square Inch. If you think I talk too much about Eric please try to overlook this effort. It’s just that I think about him a lot. He died ten years into our relationship, but they were significant times for me, and I hope they were worthwhile for him. In a perfect world everyone would have their very own Eric. Maybe it would be fun to show parts of Eric that no one knows about anymore:

Eric could be dapper.

Or he could be pensive.

Eric could be serious with a bite.

Sometimes he was playful. He didn’t drink.

Or he could be all business.

Here he is with Jimmy Doolittle and Neal Armstrong.

Showing his talent with a pen and ink.

Modern art was like an itch to Eric.

And he could be overboard generous. One year for Christmas he gave me a copy of his book I Remember America. It had 59 original drawings in it. This is one of them.

No one knows for sure how many books Eric wrote but I have forty-five, most of them with doodles or a personal note to me from him. Once I asked him about his total output of paintings. He didn’t know, but he said “If you placed them side by side they would stretch five miles.”

As what I thought would be a fitting ending to my book about Eric I wrote this poem. I called it a Quadplet:

Mighty oaks from little acorns slowly grow
Then finally fall and wisp to naught,
But those who plant a seed of words
Live on in groves of human thought. f

 

Fenn’s Searchers – A Film by Matt Maisano…

Matt’s documentary about those searching for Forrest’s hidden chest will premiere in Albuquerque at the Albuquerque Film & Music Experience, aka the Albuquerque Film Festival, aka ABQFILMX.

This is the day before Fennboree 2017 begins…so you can go see it before you head up to Hyde Park in Santa Fe.

 

To learn more and get a ticket to see Matt’s film see the contact information on the flyer below or just head to abqfilmx.com

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Six…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

The White Fox

Every store needs a client like Dr. Gene Scott. He was fun, decisive, and he had money. His long chalk-white hair didn’t abide by anyone’s decorum, certainly not his own.

He always came into my gallery with a male assistant who carried a large humidor. While he was in coat and tie, Gene wore a relaxed collar and a thread-bare cashmere sweater. Everything he was or did made you like him. He was especially fond of my wife and she always came running when his call for her boomed through the gallery.

Gene collected art, and when he bought a painting the humidor lid came off, and a top thin tray of cigars was set aside. All that remained was two layers of paper money so tightly packed in that you couldn’t tell what it was.

At our first meeting, he left me with 350 one hundred dollar bills. As they were counted out on our front desk, I felt a little uncomfortable. I had not seen anything like that before. A check doesn’t look like much money, but 350 big bills spread out was a different view for me.

Gene was a preacher with a long list of important religious achievements. I often watched him on his Sunday morning television program. His chair was on the front edge of a huge stage and he sat there each Sunday wearing a different hat. It was almost like he wore them chronologically by type. His stage was bare, but for his chair, a small table that held a pitcher of water and a glass. That’s all.

The preacher almost looked swallowed up. But he spoke with a melodic voice that was mesmerizing as the golden bible verses rolled through his lips and were distributed to his audience of thousands. They sat rapt as he talked about human frailties, apostles, scriptures, prophets, and sin. I wondered if his viewers were paying him by the word.

During the commercials, which were rare, Pastor Scott was at his best. Quite often he would say something like, “Okay my friends, I need a new car. Please send money to our church,” as an address flashed on the screen. They responded in droves, and Gene probably had a lot of automobiles. 

Everything they gave him was legal and tax free, to both him and them, but not me. When I walked into my bank carrying a big sack of money, other customers stared and the tellers smiled.

When I sold my gallery, in 1988, I lost track of
Gene. He died seventeen years later. But the memory of that indelible man has not faded. It has been easy for me to hold his image. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Five…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

The Iron Rooster of Santa Fe County

Years ago I got a bargain on two old cast iron chickens. They’re probably 20th century Spanish or from over there someplace. The rooster weighs 70 pounds, and is almost 2’ tall. Here’s a photo of the hen. Both were rusty brown and ugly-dull finished.

Joe Anna Arnett

I really liked those things, but my wife saw them on our kitchen table asked if I was okay, and felt my forehead to see if I had a temperature. That suddenly gave me terrible buyer’s remorse. I looked at the chickens again and out in the garage they went. It really bothers me to make art mistakes like that. And then I thought of my friend Joe Anna Arnett.

No one in the world is better at painting still life florals than she is, and you have to love her as a person. That’s an envious position for anyone to be in.

Joe Anna Arnett painting

Joe Anna Arnett painting

A call to Joe Anna brought her running with her husband, Jim Asher, who also is a world class painter, a watercolorist.

Joe and Jim

Jim Asher painting

Jim Asher painting

Joe Anna took one look at my rooster and groped for the nearest chair. I’m sure she was thinking, “Oh my, what did I do to deserve this?” She had never put paint on an iron rooster before, at least not a tall, heavy, cold, brown one. She was not smiling when I put that thing in the back of her car. At home, Jim put it by a heater to warm it up, probably hoping it would melt.

I didn’t hear from Joe Anna for a month, then one day an email came in. She wanted to bring my chicken home. I just knew she was weary of it, and whatever catastrophes that occurred in her studio would probably be my fault. Maybe it fell over and broke her paint box, or the weight of it collapsed a leg on her Woodbridge table and sent her coffee cup splashing across the floor. I didn’t feel too good.

The iron rooster was covered with a black garbage bag when Jim put it on my table, and stepped back behind the counter. I looked at Joe Anna and she looked at me, neither of us smiling. After a long few seconds, she nodded toward the plastic bag, insinuating that I should pull it off.

Wow, this is what was under the bag. When Joe Anna saw me grinning she started laughing, and we hugged. I love it when I make really great art decisions. f

Google them and look at their paintings.
James Asher Santa Fe
Joe Anna Arnett

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Four…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

 

The Quahada Chief on a Black Pony.

I was born and raised in Central Texas where the Comanche Indians often ranged and plundered. Being an early student of their history, and an avid collector of their clothing, weapons, and photographs, my imagination long ago fell prey to their way of life. Historians call them the “Lords of the Plains,” and that name is well-merited because no other tribe could sit a horse and ride with such a handsome manner.

Quanah and Wekea, one of his seven wives?

Of special interest to me is the Quahada band, and Quanah Parker especially. His father was Peta Nakona, chief of the Quahadas, and his mother was Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman who, in 1836, was captured by the Comanches. She lived with them for 24 years, and had three children. When she was “rescued” by Sul Ross, a Texas Ranger, and returned to her people, Cynthia Ann couldn’t speak the language. She yearned to go back, a plea that was repeatedly denied. After a few years she stopped eating and died. The doctors said it was influenza.

On October the 10th, 1871, during the Battle of Blanco Canyon, Quanah Parker rode up to Trooper Gregg of the 4th US Cavalry and shot him with a Smith and Wesson American. The trooper was interred where he fell and rocks were placed on his grave.

Blanco Canyon

Captain R.G. Carter, a witness to the event, said Gregg’s horse was faltering, and gave this written account:

A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal-black racing pony. Leaning forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal’s side, with six-shooter poised in air, he seemed the incarnation of savage brutal joy. His face was smeared with black war paint, which gave his features a satanic look. A large, cruel mouth added to his ferocious appearance. A full-length headdress or war bonnet of eagle’s feathers, spreading out as he rode, and descending from his forehead, overhead and back, to his pony’s tail, almost swept the ground. Large brass hoops were in his ears; he was naked to his waist, wearing simply leggings, moccasins and a breechclout. A necklace of bear’s claws hung about his neck. His scalp lock was carefully braided in with otter fur, and tied with bright red flannel. His horse’s bridle was profusely ornamented with bits of silver, and red flannel was also braided in his mane and tail, but, being black, he was not painted. Bells jingled as he rode at headlong speed, followed by the leading warriors, all eager to outstrip him in the race. It was Quanah, principal war chief of the wild Qua-ha-das.

 

Captain Carter, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action in the fight, drew a map of the battle, which loosely identified the burial location. Ninety-five years later, when I was stationed in Lubbock, a friend, Bill Griggs, and I searched relentlessly for the trooper’s grave. The evidence showed it to be somewhere about 46 miles north of where I lived.

With Captain Carter’s original map in hand (I didn’t want to carry a copy.) Bill and I hiked on weekends. Back and forth across the grassy rises and rugged dips we walked, binoculars in hand. We were ever watchful for the errant pile of rocks that were deliberately placed to keep scavenging animals from digging.

Blanco Canyon

Twenty days or more we did that, often finding remnants of the fight, a canteen, a rusty knife, a brass cavalry uniform button, lots of bullet casings, but no pile of rocks. We replaced everything as it lay, lest we betray the sanctity of that battle ground.

Comanche beaded moccasins

We didn’t locate Trooper Gregg’s resting place. My wish now is that the chaparral and long-living creosote bushes will protect that soldier and permit him to rest in the dignity of the North Texas soil where Mother Wind will forever wail the long mournful sound of Taps.

Did this Comanche bow and arrow set belong to Quanah Parker?

My motive for searching was important to me. I just wanted to stand there and render one last salute to the fallen fighter, and to “watch” as hundreds of yelping natives and Army troopers fought one of the most decisive battles of the Indian Wars. I would like to have thrown a rock at Quanah as he sped by on his “coal-black racing pony.”

Please allow me to explain something.

I would like to have known R. G. Carter, but he died when I was 5 years old. I collected his personal papers, letters, documents, and books, so I probably have more information about him than anyone alive today

Now, about Quanah Parker. J. Evetts Haley and I went to the spot in the Palo Duro Canyon where, in 1874, General Mackenzie routed the Comanches, including Quanah. Visiting his gravesite at the Ft. Sill Indian Cemetery where he’s buried beside his mother and daughter (Prairie Flower), was a spiritual experience for me. I just love the Indian history of this country. Thank you. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Three…

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

 

The Prince of the Comancheros

Jose Tafoya

They said that Jose Tafoya was 7’ tall, and that he stuck out of both ends of his blanket. Maybe he couldn’t decide which part he wanted to keep warm. I don’t know about that, but I do know that in the 1860s, and 70s, he struck a pretty wide swath through Eastern New Mexico and across the Staked Planes of North Texas. From south of Lubbock to north of Amarillo and into Oklahoma, the land was table-flat, and almost totally devoid of trees. You may be able to guess how the little town of Plainview got its name. The women who travelled the long miles across that brushless country on horseback were frequently embarrassed to the point of mortification, but the men probably didn’t care.

That was Indian country, and the Comanches under Chief Quanah Parker were raiding, and plundering with resolve. Jose didn’t care. He traded the Indians cattle, horses, rifles, ammo, whisky, and anything else he could steal.

Quanah Parker, 1879

President Grant got fed up, and the order came down, “Control the Indians no matter what you have to do.” In September of 1874, General Randal S. Mackenzie and his 4th US Calvary went looking for Quanah and couldn’t find him. So they tied Jose Tafoya to a wagon wheel and tortured him until he revealed where the Comanches were camped in the Palo Duro. With that knowledge the soldiers swept into the canyon, routed the Indians, burned their lodges, and killed 2,000 horses. With winter coming, and their stores gone, the 1,500 Comanches were forced to seek shelter under Army supervision at Ft. Sill.

Quanah at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma

Quanah was mad at his old friend. “If I ever catch Jose Tafoya I’ll boil him in oil.” With that said, the big Comanchero, his wife and four children, retired to his sheep ranch in New Mexico where he died in 1913.

The life or death of a Comanchero on the Staked Plains in those days often hung on the whim of a trigger finger. Rarely is it written in the annals of western history that someone like Jose would live to be 83 years old.

A personal note:

I was about to cast this 28” portrait of Jose Tafoya in an old abandoned grain elevator in Lubbock. It was 1969, and I was still in the Air Force. Bill McClure, the artist, was standing there as I put finishing touches on the wax model. “I’m not happy with his shirt,” Bill said. So I soaked an old piece of potato-sack burlap in hot wax, and with thick rubber gloves, I draped it around Jose’s shoulders. Bill was laughing at me.

 

When I poured the piece in bronze every detail in the burlap came out perfectly, and gave me the effect I wanted. Bill too, and he agreed that I should be credited as co-artist.

We sold that bronze, and both Bill and I made a few bucks that were badly needed. More than twenty years later, I was happy to buy the bronze back from the man I sold it to. Being a pioneer is really fun. f

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy Two …

scrapbook

APRIL 2017

The Sound of Bells

That’s the name of a wonderful book that Eric Sloane wrote in 1966. Later, he bought all of the remaining copies from the publisher so he could re-issue it into a special bicentennial edition. It never happened, and my copy, a gift from the author, is one of those he wished to modify, but didn’t.

Eric hand lettered most of the book

Eric loved bells, and noted that under ideal conditions their rings can be heard nine miles distant. He said, “The far-away sound of a bell could be both “forlorn and soul-stirring.” Funny I remembered that.

I acquired this generic cast iron train bell from Eric. He probably apprehended it from some old wrecked steam locomotive somewhere, but who knows? The bell has the loudest clang in our whole area. I know that from how many miles away I get complaints.

The support upon which the bell rests held up the roof in Kiva A at San Lazaro Pueblo. The Dendrochronology Lab at the U of Arizona said the tree was cut in 1475 plus a few years added for residual rottage. That means it was cut with prehistoric stone tools because metal did not come to the pueblo for at least another 65 years.

It was set 24” into the ground, and that’s about as deep as a man’s arm can reach and hand-dig the dirt out. At my home I cut the post to fit, tarred the bottom 24” and placed it back in the ground. Then I mounted the bell on top. My wife rings it to summon me when I’m working way out in the trees. One ring means come to supper, two means carry the trash out, and three means “Come at once, I need you.” I always do what she rings.

A cross section of the post. It still contains its ancient cedar scent

Because it personally cannot relate its history, my bell tower invites little more than a curious glance. I wonder if the owners of my home a hundred years from now will appreciate the dichotomy that stands just off the east end of my portal. f