Scrapbook Two Hundred Twenty Two…

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October, 2019

 

Athletic Addie

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Addie Fleischaker was athletic, or at least she used to be. At a decade or so past middle age her physical prowess, when I knew her, was mostly used up on the golf course. 

She was part of the Singer/Fleischaker Oil Company in Oklahoma City, and a very good friend and art client of mine. I saw her as a quiet and reserved person who liked to seclude in the background. 

We didn’t communicate much but I considered her to be a very good friend. So when I heard through the grape vine that she was going into the hospital for a very serious backbone operation, I was understandably distressed. 

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Without saying anything to Addie, I went into my private collection of prehistoric Zuni fetishes. There were a few that fit the description of what I needed, a stone bear or mountain lion fetish with an elongated back. I wrapped it carefully, and put it in a box with a note.

Addie, I hear you are going under the knife for a bone fusion. If it were anyone but you, I’d be worried. I’ll throw in some powerful medicine to help you. This is a back fetish. Please keep it in your hand during the operation. It will work for you if you have faith. I’ll be with you in my prayers. Good luck.

Forrest

PS it is important that you have faith.

Addie was quiet. I didn’t hear anything from her for a long time. No news was out there anywhere.

Then I received a letter.

Forrest, 
Not only am I playing golf with the girls again, but today I made a birdie on the 4th hole. That never happened to me before. I want you to know that I went into the operation with your fetish in my left hand. I had the nurse tape it closed so it couldn’t fall out when I was asleep. I had faith in it and the doctor said it probably helped me. I owe you a boa hug.

PS I really did have faith in the fetish. 

Addie

Don’t you just love stories that have a happy ending? f

 

 

Scrapbook Two Hundred Twenty One…

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October, 2019

 

Us and Mexico Beach

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The date on this photo reminds me of some fun times. I had recently graduated from pilot training and was now learning to fly the F-86D at Tyndall AFB, Florida.

Peggy and I rented a very little house at Mexico Beach. It was on the Gulf of Mexico and only a few feet from high tide. My twenty-five-minute drive to work along the Gulf of Mexico was very relaxing.

Immediately behind our place was a fresh water lake that had a mind of its own. It was fed by a small streamlet of water that was barely big enough to get you wet. But over time it dumped enough water into the lake to fill it up.

But there was a problem. The tide came in every day and moved enough sand to dam up the outlet that allowed spill-water to flow from the lake into the gulf. So the lake just kept filling and kept filling.

Something had to give, and eventually the lake over filled and breached the sandy dam. Water rushed out for a day or two and drained the lake. Then the process was ready to start all over again. This took place not far from where we lived.

Enter me. 

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One time some tourists walked on the beach past our house and picked up some of my sea shells that had washed up overnight. I just watched, trying to contain myself. How dare do those guys do that without my permission and in broad sunlight. 

Coincidentally, the lake had reached its total fill, and the tourists were almost out of sight. It was my turn. I took a stick and drew a thin line several inches deep. It was about 50’ long and spanned from the lake water to the downhill side of the sandy berm. As gravity worked its magic, fresh water pushed the sand down my manmade gutter toward the salt water in the gulf.

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At first it was a dribble that turned into a trickle, that turned into a flow. And before long it was a maniac river 40’ wide and 4’ deep. I wondered if the sheriff would come and get me.

He didn’t. When the tourists returned, they couldn’t figure out where the river came from all of a sudden. After their bewilderment subsided, they backtracked and cut up to the road. It was the only way they could get back to where they started several hours before. I never saw those guys again and I hope they’re not still mad at me.

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 In 1954 I was drawing 2nd Lieutenants pay. I don’t remember how much it was but I remember it wasn’t very much, and we had a monthly car payment. To help make ends meet Peggy fished off the pier at Mexico Beach. She didn’t like to bait the hook or take the fish off. Fortunately, there were always a few old guy fishermen around to help her.

That evening after work, I cleaned the fish and Peggy cooked them. We even had shark filets once in a while. It was a young family effort and life was good. 

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Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael

Then, 44 years later hurricane Michael came along and almost completely disappeared Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base. I took it personally. It was kind of like life got mad at me. Look at it this way. My family home in Temple burned to the ground twice, they tore down my junior high school building and they liked it so much they tore down my high school building. Over time I’ve lost 2 ½ inches and 24 pounds, my family won’t let me drive outside of Santa Fe, trout in the Pecos River contain mercury, and I probably have less than 20 years to live. How can things get any worse? If it were not for my upbeat attitude and a bunch of good treasure hunting acquaintances, I’d worry about myself. f

 

 

Scrapbook Two Hundred Twenty…

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October, 2019

Singer-Fleischaker Oil Company

 

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Armand Hammer

Armand Hammer was a good acquaintance of mine.  He said, “Every great happening begins with a benevolent gesture.” I made it one of my rules. This Joe Singer story is about that philosophy. 

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Oscar Berninghaus painting similar to “Forgotten”

I always wanted to advertise full page color. The Santa Fe opera bulletin was small so they allowed me only a 1/4th page ad. The painting I gave them was an Oscar Berninghaus night scene of a horse tied to a hitching post. It was snowing and the lights in the cantina across the street were inviting. You could almost see music coming from the windows. The painting was untitled, so I called it Forgotten.

I’m guessing about this next part but I think it’s a pretty good guess. Joe and Richard, and their wives, were at the opera. Ann and Addie were full of the music and scenery, but the men were seriously bored. While thumbing through the bulletin, wishing the opera would hurry up, the men came upon my ad. It was a melancholy scene and it struck a chord with them. They wanted to look at it. 

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Fenn Galleries, now the Matteuchi Gallery

The next day, they came in Fenn Galleries Ltd, and I met them at the door. It was love at first handshake. We drank coffee (I always put cream and sugar in mine to help kill the taste) and laughed a lot. We just really got along. 

The women headed for the vault where the Indian jewelry was housed. And there was plenty of it on display. Squash blossom necklaces were hanging from every square inch of the ceiling, turquoise bracelets, rings, and ear drops were everywhere. There must have been 1000 pieces if you counted them slowly. The girls (you can call a female a girl until she 16 and after she’s 70, but not in-between) wore big grins. They didn’t have any Indian jewelry but suddenly they wanted some. The romance of Santa Fe was homing in on them.

I gave my secretary a wink, and she knew what that meant. As the girls darted from one display to another, I unlocked all of the glass cases. It was fun to watch their enthusiasm. Soon, my secretary appeared, right on cue. “Mister Fenn, you’re wanted on the phone. It’s an important call and I think you should take it.”

As I was walking out, I said, “OK girls, I’ve got so much of this stuff, pick out what you want and it’ll be a gift from me to start you on your Indian Jewelry collection. I’ll be back in a minute.” 

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After about 10 minutes I returned to see what they had amassed. Ann was wearing a $6,500 #8 spider web turquoise chunk necklace, and Addie had on a bracelet-ring set that was worth about $4,800. I said, “Lordie, I should have known you’d pick my very best things.” The girls giggled.

Joe and Richard were the Singer/Fleischaker oil company in Oklahoma City. They were not art collectors especially, but when they saw what we offered, they started thinking about it.

That night we had dinner at The Pink. After about an hour of talking about everything, and eating some of Rosalie’s hot apple pie with rum sauce on the side, the girls got up and walked across the street to the Desert Inn, where they were staying. Joe and Richard lit up expensive Cuban cigars. The air got quiet and I just sat there, taking it in. I liked both of those guys.

Finally, Joe said, “Forrest, we’ve got a lot of money and everyone is trying to get it. We never had anyone treat us like you did today.” Suddenly I felt like we had a father/son relationship, but I don’t remember which was which.

The next day they came in our gallery and purchased about $265,000 worth of paintings, including Forgotten, 

Armand Hammer was right. 

But there were shadows on the horizon. Ann told me a story in private. Their son Paul was a medical doctor in the Army. Without telling his father, Paul volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam. The news infuriated Joe. He argued, why in the world would you willingly put your brilliant future in harm’s way? The arguments were fierce and frequent. 

The night before Paul was to leave for Southeast Asia, Joe and Ann threw their son and his wife, a huge black-tie dinner/dance bash at the country club. Hundreds of their friends and relatives were in attendance. Two hours into the event, and right in the middle of the dance floor, Joe and his Paul got into it again. 

Paul stalked out of the dance, went to Vietnam, and was killed in action.

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It weighed heavily on Joe, who blamed himself for what happened. He suffered long periods of severe depression.

Some months later Joe happened into our gallery unannounced. He was in Santa Fe to buy oil leases from the state. 

I had recently traded four big Walter Ufer paintings from the Houston Art Museum. They were big, two were 30”x 40” and the others were 40”x 50.” They had been purchased with an endowment left to the museum by a wealthy philanthropist named Ima Hogg. 

The paintings were hanging in our high room and the two of us were looking at them. “Joe,” I said, “these smaller paintings are perfect for your collection, but the 40 x 50s are too big for your house. Why don’t you buy all 4 of them and give the two large ones to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, in memory of your son.”

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National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City

Joe didn’t say anything. I think he was stunned. Finally, he said something silly. “How do I know they want them.” I told Joe that Dean Krakel was the director. “I’ll go call him.”

The problem was that Krakel was an expert, and if you didn’t know it, he would surely find a way to tell you. I had had a couple of strained business deals with him in the past. I worried about it most of the night. He could blow the deal if he wanted to. It was no skin off of his nose either way. I almost felt subservient to the situation. 

Then, in the wee morning hours it came to me. I predicted nearly every word that would be said. I had to bait Dean one time then close the deal if I could. I needed some luck.

The next afternoon we were standing in front of the paintings. Dean on the right and Joe on the left. I was relaxed in the middle.

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Dean didn’t act like he was impressed, but I knew he was. “They’re very nice,” he said, and he walked over to the big painting on the right. The wall sticker said $275,000. “Wow” came out of his mouth. “Where’d you get the precedence for that price?”

“Dean, there’s no precedence for that price because there’s is no precedence for that painting.”

“Yes there is, we have “The Corn Thief,” it’s the same size, same artist, and a better painting. We gave $250,000 for it.”

“I know that Dean, and I’ll give you $300,000 for it right now. You’ve either got to buy mine or sell me yours.” 

“There’s no way you’re gonna get mine.”

Joe Singer said, “Well then, I guess we bought some paintings.” I smiled inside and congratulated both Joe and Dean.

We hanged the paintings and remodeled one corner of the museum. Paul’s stethoscope and Purple Heart were proudly displayed in a glass case alongside his scrubs. I gave them some Indian rugs and other things to warm the place a little. It looked really nice and Joe was beaming.

Later, Ann told me, with a tear, that the veil of remorse had lifted from Joe’s body and he was his old self again. 

A personal note.
They said I was eccentric, and they still do. Maybe it’s true. The art business was good to me because I gave so much away. It was certainly unorthodox. When you start out with no education, no experience, no inventory and no money, there are not many more nos that you don’t have. So you do what you have to do to make things work. My rewards came from every direction, and helping them along was just good business. f

 

 

Scrapbook Two Hundred Nineteen…

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October, 2019

 

Good food times in SF

Today is Saturday, October the 26th and that means it’s chili cook-out time at Christ Church in Santa Fe. I attended the event last year and that experience demanded that I not miss it this one, The temp is above 50, the sun is shining full bloom, and the wind is naught but a wisp. So I drove about 15 blocks down hill to the church. The parking lot was packed, so I had to walk a short distance past an antique car show to get in.

That church must be the friendliest place in the whole country. Two of the 3 pastors worked their way through the crowd to shake my hand. One of them was John Standridge. He’s originally from Kerrville, Texas so we had to talk about BBQ. He’s also bearded and I couldn’t let that pass without a comment. But then to the chili line. 

Twenty-two crock pots were all lined up in a row. They were full of 22 different kinds of chili, all plugged in and steaming hot. I read some of the labels: beef, chicken, buffalo, “meat,” glutton free, and green. I’m sure each recipe was a very closely guarded family secret.

 My plan was to check each one. It was a contest to see who was the best chili cook, and I planned to vote. The first pot I tried had some thin white pasta things in it. I never saw pasta in chili before and I’m sure the chili purists would disapprove. Anyway, I put a little in my bowl and sat down to eat. When no one was looking I removed a Tabasco bottle from my pocket and sprinkled some on. 

The pasta chili was good, really good and a little of it just made me hungrier. So back in the line I pretended to walk up and down checking out the other 21 crocks, knowing full well that I would end up back the #5 crock, the pasta chili crock. Heck with the contest, I was seriously focused and not at all interested in being distracted. I don’t know who made that pasta chili but I’d like to put her on my Christmas card list.

The other 299 people who passed past the crock line depleted the respective pots pretty fast, and as soon as one got low it was quickly filled again.

There were other things to eat also, like veggy queso, corn bread, green and red salsa with chips, regular “mac and cheese,” sour cream, and beans “cooked in tequila & beer.” I hope somebody around there had a liquor license. A volunteer wandered through the tables carrying large pitchers of ice water. 

A bunch of costumed little kids were running around everywhere, a few being chased by their moms who were also in costume. It was a recipe for chaos but it wasn’t. It was just fun. I think the kid contest was won by Zoro, but the adult contest was much more complex. The serious competitors were 3 ladies wearing huge hats made of feathers, leaves, and something else. My favorite had dangerous looking red hair under a pull-down feather fedora. It was a rather striking ensemble. The runner up was a young-looking middle-aged woman who had really short green hair. She was soothing to look at so I just watched her. 

A few dogs of carryable size were there also. I checked them out and decided that none were as cute as Willie. 

My path to the door was almost blocked by the dessert trough. I didn’t even want to think about it because I was totally totaled out.

Everything was free and the caterers were all church volunteers. Those people really know how to put on a do. You have to love that Christ Church. I have friends and a daughter who attend services there regularly. Maybe I’ll start going more often. 

The way to my car took me through the antique auto show. About 20 were being shown off, and it was interesting. One silver thing was so low that if you were riding in it down the road your jockey shorts would be about 8” above the asphalt. A speck of dust would not dare land on that thing. I asked the owner if it would go 500 miles an hour, and he said, “not with me in it.”

My favorite though was a strikingly blue 1956 Ford Thunderbird. It had a V-8 engine with 255 horse power. There were only 15,631 made and it sold new for $3,151. 

I drove home in my dirty Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was made in the USA in June of 2011. It says on the side that its trail rated and I’m not completely sure what that means. The odometer reads 19,139 miles. The right-side mirror is broken and the back-left tire is 2 pounds low. I have no idea how many horsepower the engine has and I don’t even care. That car has always taken me there and brought me back again. We’re a team, and that’s all that matters to me. f

 

 

 

 

 

Scrapbook Two Hundred Eighteen…

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October, 2019

 

Kid’s Toys  

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Here’s an old photo of me and Skippy in the back yard of our house in Temple. I don’t remember that car. Wish I had it now.

It looks like my big brother is holding me back from running him over. Makes me wonder what happens to great toys like that when the kids get too big to play with them. They’re probably just thrown in the dump.

If I were 50 years younger I might go back to Temple and excavate the dump and see.

The swing behind us is strung from a grape arbor my father built. Can you see the grapes growing up on wire to the left? It’s hard to see the wire, but it’s there just the same. The swing was my mother’s idea.

I don’t know how old I am in that picture, but I was born in 1930. You guess. f

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My house is gone now, but the arbor once stood in the green splotch shown in this photo, and left of our garage, which still stands. f

 

 

 

Scrapbook Two Hundred Seventeen…

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October, 2019

 

Verdun  

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I took this picture in 1958. It’s a small part of the Verdun battle field where in WW-l, the Germans fought the French for 303 days, the longest battle in that war. 143,000 soldiers were killed.

Because this “war zone” was still littered with land mines and other terrible killing devices, no civilians were allowed near it.032

I was one of 26 pilots in the 23rd Fighter Squadron stationed at Bitburg, Germany. There were many other fighter squadrons scattered around Europe, and we needed a gunnery range.

So a very narrow swath of a dirt road was cleared of mines all the way to the end, where a makeshift tower was erected. A chair and a radio were its only inhabitants. I stood duty as range officer there several times. It was a terrible job. Big red signs were planted every 200’ or so along the road going in, DANGER – DO NOT GET OFF OF THE ROAD. I didn’t.

Occasionally, a strafing F-100, using ball ammo, would hit some kind of live ordinance that was hidden just under the ground surface of that seemingly extinct battle field, causing an explosion. And once again the echoes of 1916 would rumble across the serene French country side, causing temporary panic in the local kitchens.

In some places the residuals of war last on for many years after the formal fighting has stopped. Verdun is one of them.

Plato said, “Only the dead will know the end of wars.” When are we going to stop this madness? f