Monday, January 28, 2008

The Semi-Deceased Artists circa 1982

We've established a rather aggressive deadline for getting our book outline done which means we've had to spend every spare minute going through old photos, notes, quotes, articles, etc. I came across this old photo from 1982 and a flood of memories came rushing back to me.

That's Mike loading some artwork into the 1962 Hearse we drove from Sandpoint, Idaho, to Houston, Texas for an art show. The young girl behind him is our daughter, Christi, who is now 34. Across the back of the rig was a huge sign, made by fellow artist, Boots Reynolds, that read SEMI-DECEASED ARTISTS.

At the time, Boots, another artist, Bonnie Shields, and Mike, all lived in the hills of northern Idaho. They were all full time, starving artists and often did art shows together.

This photo was taken in front of the offices for Western Horseman magazine in Colorado Springs, one of several stops we made on the way down to Texas. The show we were going to was arranged by a Texas oil man and coincided with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

That was a wacky year, a wacky trip and a way rickety old car. We made it to Houston okay and got the show all set up. Then, three days later, when we arrived to take down the show, we discovered two large paintings had been stolen (we later learned the guy who put the show on took them).
On the way home, the old hearse broke down in Parks, Arizona, where a very friendly though insanely stoned shade-tree-type mechanic methodically disassembled the car and ordered parts that took two weeks to arrive.

Meanwhile, we stayed overnight in the goat barn he claimed he was converting into living quarters. Mike and I and our two young daughters slept on the floor of the front room while Mr. Marywanna Mechanic drank beer with two hitchhikers he'd brought home for the evening. Actually, the girls slept but Mike and I were pretty much awake all night.

The next morning, we convinced our host to drive us to Flagstaff where we got a motel room and he checked on parts for the hearse, something they had to order from Heaven apparently. Fortunately, Mike's cousin, Chuck, drove over from Las Vegas and picked us up a couple of days later and we stayed with him until the hearse was ready. (There's more to this story but there's not room here to tell it - so you'll have to wait for the book.)

So goes the life of an artist, I suppose. You get a break for a big show; someone cons you into driving a really old, gas guzzling novelty vehicle clear across the country to get to the show where you make a little money but have two of your best paintings stolen. Then on your way home, the novelty vehicle breaks down and you get to spend the night in a goat barn with a friendly, shade tree, pot smoking mechanic and finally, manage to spend what little profit you managed to get in your pocket on a motel room.

Writing this book is going to be more fun than I originally thought.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Different Spirit but a Grand Lady

I spent the day unpacking my aunt's things and arranging her furniture in her new room at Crestview Nursing Home in Waco. It's hard to believe that just two years ago, she was getting around every bit as good as I do and probably had more energy.

That's her - in the photo - with her beloved Santa Gertruda herd in the background. Aunt Mary is one of the most remarkable people I've ever known. She spent most of her life teaching school and her students truly loved her, many of them keeping in touch with her decades after she entered their lives. All the while, she also ran a successful cow/calf operation on her ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Two years ago, shortly after this photo was taken, she suffered a minor stroke. In the last 20 months, she's had repeated strokes that have left her weak and frail, crippled and bent in body - but her spirit soars with the eagles. She has absolutely no bitterness about her declining physical abilities and seems to have no fear about what the future might hold in that regard. She has mastered every walker she's had to graduate to and is getting the hang of the scooter chair pretty fast.

Aunt Mary's room at the nursing home is complete with her big screen LCD flat screen TV, her complete computer set up with high speed internet connection, a fax machine and shredder. She had me decorate the room just like her assisted living apartment had been before she had to move because she was quickly becoming non-ambulatory. Dave Ramsey would love Aunt Mary. She writes down every penny she spends every single day. She pays cash for everything and has for many years. She's had the same financial manager all her adult life and she pays attention to what he does with her investments.

She's everything I ever hope to be one day - financially responsible, fiercly independent, outrageously optimistic and spiritually brave about what the future holds for me. Do I think I'll ever be there? Not really. I'm far too emotional, take too many risks and live a little more on the edge than Aunt Mary ever has.

I don't think I'll ever change that much because my spirit is different than hers. But I have to admit that I have unbelievable admiration for her. So, at least for today, Aunt Mary is my hero.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My own style of Leap Year

Every year, Mike and I seriously collaborate on a new calendar design to take to the Cowboy Christmas show in Las Vegas. It's our biggest show of the year and we try to take several new products or at least, updated products for it.

The calendar has become fairly popular. In fact, we get a lot of repeat orders every year so we work hard to create something truly usable and special.

Well, this year we outdid ourselves. The calendar was designed after an old 1944 Meeteetse Mercantile calendar from Meeteetse, Wyoming. We've had the old calendar for years and have always loved the richness of it's yellowed pages and the large old fashioned lettering. So we used it as a guide for making our new "old looking" 2008 calendar PLUS we added some favorite recipes and put all kinds of funny stories and photos in it. It took over 70 hour to layout and design but it was well worth it. The calendar was a big hit in Vegas and we sold out before the show ended. In fact, we're about to place a small reorder because we still have orders to fill.

Then yesterday, the phone rang. On the other end of the line was Doc Rhoads, Mike's good friend from Afton, Wyoming. Now, Doc is a dentist, chuckwagon cook and champion BBQ'er so naturally, I asked him for a recipe to go in the calendar and he graciously obliged (he's Mister June). He asked me if I had a calendar handy - and I did. Then he asked me to check out January 27th.

My calendar has no January 27th. I leaped all the way from the 26th to the 28th . . . seamlessly. And, I managed to have February start on exactly the right day so basically, what we have is a totally free, non-assigned Thursday at the end of January. It's not on my calendar so you could say, I'm pretty open for anything that day.

I wish I could say I was horrified - or mortified - at my mistake. But, I wasn't. I've learned to embrace and even adore the quirky imperfections old comfortable things in my life - so what better way to start this year than with an slightly incorrect but still usable recipe calendar.

And one more thing . . . apparently Tillie Jane's Fish Chowder recipe in May is missing a key ingredient - FISH! I reckon Tillie Jane figured most folks would just know to add fish to fish chowder. You would, wouldn't you?