Friday, August 31, 2012

Queen City of Santa-Cali-Gon

If you have come upon this blog before, if you've ever heard of me & my books, then you might know that I live in Independence, MO. Hometown of President HST, No. 33.  Queen City of the Trails.  Meaning that William Becknell & his mules passed through here on his way to Santa Fe right about the time that MO was admitted to the Union. And it wasn't long before this was a place of hand-over-fist, hook-by-crook, eager trading, talking in French, Spanish, English + assorted dialects of all of the above and more between between peoples of many nations as they exchanged Mexican silver & such for saddles, laces, cloth, livestock, information....That my town used to be an absolute cacophony of campfires. A teeming world of tents & wagons. A plethora of poop, that of cattle, horses, and mules. Pigs & chickens, too. A temporary empire of emigrants in the springs of the years when the Trail to Oregon was a new & frightening, thrilling & death-defying fantastic prospect - not just another cockamamie, tired-out factoid & staple of the Western Expansion chapter in your basic Am Hist. 
   And oh baybee - when word finally got out that GOLD had been discovered out in California
   SO that is why the townsfolk hereabouts decided, in 1940, to stage pageants & parades & who knows what all to celebrate the Three Trails. Men let their whiskers grow. Women spread out calico on their kitchen tables to cut out & sew new old-timey dresses. all of this is a roundabout way, my taking the scenic route to get around to telling you why my town is nuts right now & lots of people around my town are absolutely avoiding the old Courthouse Square: Pavilions. Temporary upright shoebox privies. Electrical cables. A carnival. Crafters. Food dispensers turning out hotdogs, popcorn, cotton candy, corn dogs, BBQ, shaved ice, & beer. Info dispensers turning out tracts, flyers, campaign buttons. The concerts will set the heavens throbbing. And for the next three days people, people, throngs of people will mill around  Santa-Cali-Gon.
What does in mean?
Summer's over. 
That and there are funnel cakes to be had mere blocks away.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shovelful of Sunshine

"Diligence is the mother of good luck."  
Benjamin Franklin

   So. It's always with hope that I welcome the coming of a new book. It won't be long before I can set it on the shelf with all of the others I've written &/or illustrated over the years. And with every single one of them, the question was the same: Will people like it?  BY GOLLY, I DEVOUTLY HOPE SO! 

 This one is not one that I've written, but it IS one that I 
got to illustrate. It will be published in October.  Shovelful of Sunshine was written by Stacie Vaughn Hutton of Ohio and hers is a touching story about a little girl who worries about the dangers her daddy faces when he goes to his job, down deep in the mines where the sun never shines.  And how the two of them, together, come to terms with those worries. Find the sunlight.

  We weren't shoveling coal, but we worked very hard on the words and the pictures. We met the task. Now let there be luck!

   And, completely by the way, one of my favorite actresses of all time was born on this day in history. Gosh, she was so wonderful.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bloody Island

Showdown on Bloody Island
         There’s a little sandbar of an island in the Mississippi River. It’s early August 27, 1856. It’s quiet and cool – but the country is not. Northerners and Southerners are getting angrier and more divided over the slavery issue. In May in the US Capitol, a South Carolina Representative uses his cane to beat a Massachusetts Senator nearly to death! Now, on this river island, two of MO’s future governors are ready to shoot one another. And it’s not the first time men came out here to fight a duel, the traditional way of settling an argument or satisfying one’s honor. In the summer of 1817, MO's then future US Senator Thomas Hart Benton killed a man in a duel here on Bloody Island.
         On this day in the summer of 1856, one the duelists is B. Gratz Brown, editor of the Missouri Democrat.  (He’s part of the Free Soil movement, too meaning he and his newspaper are against slavery spreading west.) The other, Thomas C. Reynolds, is a proslavery lawyer. Bang, bang! Shots are fired. Brown misses and gets Reynold’s bullet in his leg. By the way, that bullet will still be there in 1871, when Gov. Brown (MO's 20th) limps into the brand new Governor's Mansion to take up residence. And, by the way one more time, Thos. Reynolds will be a MO Governor-in-Exile after his hotheaded predecessor croaks down in Arkansas in 1862, but oh my god, that's entirely another story!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

August 26, 1920

  "I never doubted 
that equal rights was the right direction.
Most reforms, most problems are
complicated. But to me there is nothing
complicated about ordinary equality."

Alice Paul, one of a century-spanning army of suffrage activists, who knocked themselves out trying to pry the
vote out of men's tight fists.

      I promise I'll remember you when this long, expensive, blathering BS-ification of a campaign finally ends in November. I'll think of you all when I go to the polls and cast my ballot.

     Now, what knocks me out is the fact that the glorious,
dreamed of day in a sometime future, the day when female citizens of the republic would be allowed full civil rights,
is now 92 years back in the quaint-looking, Masterpiece 
Theatre-looking past.  

       Thank you, Mrs. Stanton. Thank you, Aunt Susan

Thank you all.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The 25th

  So, thanks to Christmas (and George Harrison's birthday in February), any 25th of any month is magical.  But thanks to the workings of my mind - and the fact that I read These Happy Golden Years [I was a total Beatlemaniac as well] at least a dozen times, the knowledge that the 25th of August is Laura & Almanzo's wedding anniversary absolutely sticks in my mind. They'd be celebrating their 117th today, dozing at the old folks' home, i.e. God's waiting room or in the ICU so thanks be to all that's holy, Mr. & Mrs. A. J. Wilder of Mansfield, MO - Manly & Bessie to their many friends - got their tickets punched years ago. And for all I know the two of them got reincarnated before I ever hit junior high. Wherever they are off in the Blue Beyond or back again in this Vale of Tears in other guises - or merely sleeping [dreaming?] in their graves, bless 'em forever. 
   If you are off in heaven, dear Laura & Almanzo, whose stories saw me through my bizwang childhood, I know you'll be gracious welcoming Neil Armstrong into the afterlife. Only fitting that the space ranger would pass through Portal No. 25. 
    It's magic. 
   To think that that shy man had to go through all the rest of his life w/ people like me, wanting to tell him their memories of his - and Buzz Aldrin's  - big day. So I was lying in the back of my folks' station wagon w/ a bunch o' little brothers, listening to the moon landing on the radio. Big deal.
   Yes, well, fine. It was a seriously big deal. I hope Laura & Almanzo and all the other dear departed got to hear about it. But then again - think what they all have seen, off on the other side.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"The cow is of the bovine ilk

one end is moo, the other milk." 

Ogden Nash, b. on the 19th of August, 1902, 

when bumptious, earnest, energetic 

Theodore Roosevelt was the President of the United


Mr. Nash is maybe my favorite poet.

When it comes to poems, I'm

fond of those that rhyme.

He shares a birthday w/ Orville Wright (1871)

 & Bill Clinton (1946).

And allow me to point out that, were it not for 

Wikipedia, I might not have known, nor be able to 

share w/ the one or two individuals who will see 

what I'm typing here,  that on this day in 1848,

readers of the New York Herald, saw that gold was

discovered in California way back at the end of 


     And surprise lilies are popping up hereabouts. They 

mean that summer is ending. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

So. It's kind of a mixed blessing getting one's picture on the front page of one's local newspaper. This isn't the picture, but the topic's the same: The new historical panels installed by the Nat'l Park Service about a block away from my house here in Independence, MO, "the Queen City of the Trails."   Proud I am, seeing as they feature paintings of mine, but as has been the case for years, my artwork looks better than I do. Because heaven knows I've certainly devoted a whole lot more time to my paintings than to my appearance!  Ah well.  

There's going to be an official dedication ceremony for the panels first thing tomorrow morning. I reckon I'd better find me a better pair of jeans, huh?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mimi Squashface Barkymouth

So.          Allow me to note that it was four years ago that I got my dog Mimi. I'd post a  picture of her here, but I can't figure out how, which makes me sad + mad + impatient to get back to real work. Can't be wrestling w/ that so lemme tell you that she's a Shih Tsu who was lost in the world and she found her way here. Thank goodness.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


So. I meant to write yesterday, on the first of the month. Calamity Jane's deathday [1903], poor soul, when she was only about 52 yrs old, after a rough, hard life in the Old West, which is only romantic from a distance. Generous. Teller of tall tales, that got all the taller as she got older &, too often, drunker. So different, looks-wise, than Doris Day. But I got busy with a revision, working at it the better part of yesterday so, oh well. So now it's the 2nd of August. Anniversary of the day ol' Warren G. Harding kicked the bucket and not because the first lady poisoned him and I'll bet people wouldn't have thought so if she'd been pretty, but alas.  Poor Florence....