Saturday, November 28, 2009

There's Good News Tonight

As my backache slowly heals I have two things to celebrate tonight.

1) The University of Washington Huskies declawed the Washington State University Cougars 30-0 in the Apple Cup.  If I recall correctly, that puts the Huskies ahead 65-31-6 in the 102-year history of the in-state rivalry.

2) Less than five minutes after I sat down at a slot machine at the Emerald Queen Casino I won $153 and change.

Last night I finished my chapter in the round robin western story yclept The Story With No Name. It will be published Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wahl, Let Me Tell Ya', Pilgrim...

      In about 80 minutes it will be Thanksbuddy, so I'd like to take a moment to wish all who read this pathetic blog a happy day and sumptuous feast. Since I can't find either of my Marx pioneers carrying game birds, I'll present a small tableau of two Indian ladies--one with a papoose--preparing dinner. The woman with the papoose and the animal on a spit are by Atlantic, an Italian figure maker. The woman with the bowl, standing, is from Marx.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Favorite TV Show

As part of the blog-world-wide attempt to discuss our favorite TV shows, I'm adding my voice to the chorus. Frankly, Pattinase took my first choice, LEAVE TO BEAVER. But when I thought it over there was another show that was more of a must-see for me in my pre-teen days: GUNSMOKE

I have to qualify that a bit. My favorite GUNSMOKE shows were the episodes with Chester, 1955-1964.  The show lasted an incredible 20 years (1955-1975) although the star, James Arness, was frequently a cameo in many of the later years.

The series took place in Dodge City, Kansas, after the Civil War, and in the days of the trail drives from Texas to the Kansas railheads. Marshall Matt Dillon (Arness), his deputy Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver), Miss Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake), and Doctor Galen "Doc" Adams (Milburn Stone), provided the nexus for the stories. GUNSMOKE, along with THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP (which premiered the same week), were the first adult TV westerns and portrayed gritty violence absent from shows like THE LONE RANGER and HOPALONG CASSIDY--shows I also loved. I recall one episode in which a gang of killers is running rampant through the countryside wiping out entire farm families and trying to make it look like the work of Indians, including murdering and scalping children. Matt and Chester eventually confront the bad guys and shoot them down like the dogs they were, Chester's shotgun being very effective in the close quarter lead fest. Heady stuff, and it taught me a valuable lesson: no mercy for evil killers.

GUNSMOKE started out as a radio show, with William Conrad as the voice of Matt. The rotund, short Conrad, while a fine actor, wasn't right for the TV version of Matt and the role was offered to John Wayne. The Duke didn't want to do televison and suggested his friend James Arness, a 6'7" actor who'd played supporting parts in a couple of John Wayne movies and was the monster in THE THING. After a slow first season the show picked up steam and was soon number one in the ratings.

Over the years a lot of supporting roles came and went. When Chester left he was replaced by Ken Curtis as Festus Hagen (another guy who'd played parts in Wayne movies, as well as doing a stint in The Sons of the Pioneers). Sam the bartender was played by Glenn Strange, who once portrayed Frankenstein. Burt Reynolds showed up for three seasons as a blacksmith.

Perhaps one of my sentimental favorites was Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty, the owner of the Long Branch Saloon and Matt's paramour. I wasn't interested in girls at that young age, but Miss Kitty stirred something in my child's mind that made me admire her greatly. It's no accident that the female lead in my first book is named Amanda. I was saddened when I learned she died from AIDS contracted from her bi-sexual husband.

For the first six years of its existence GUNSMOKE was a 30-minute show, in glorious black & white. Color came along in the middle sixties. I believe many of the scripts from these 30-minute episodes were cribbed from the radio incarnation. You might remember Matt walking through Boot Hill, his voiceover setting up the premise for that evening's telecast. Or maybe you remember the show's opening of the gunfight, or Matt riding hell for leather across the plains. Since Arness didn't much like horses, that must have been a fun shoot for him. BYW, Matt's horse was named Buck.

Another sharp memory for me was watching the show the two years we lived at Rosewood Lane in Denbigh, Virginia. In order to get the prime seat in the rec room (a converted garage) I'd stake out my spot early. That meant I had to endure my father's weekly viewing of THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW. For this little rock 'n' roller, that was dedication.

PS: Marx made a GUNSMOKE playset with character figures of Matt, Chester, Miss Kitty, and Doc. For some reason it included a mining operation.

Friday, November 20, 2009

They're Out To Get Me

Three--count 'em--three different drivers tried to run into me today. I know most people can't drive for squat, but this was a red letter day for them. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it being my birthday yesterday. Apparently there's a plot afoot to see that I never have another one.

If you need me for anything else I'll be in my room. In bed. Under the covers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It Comes But Once a Year.

Happy 39th Birthday to me, again. It's a rotten day for celebrating: stormy, cold, and both my girls are sick. No big plans. Dinner, maybe a trip to the casino.

In lieu of gifts please send a cash donation to The Cap'n Bob Relief Fund c/o this blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Vet's Day

Here's a salute from the Cap'n to my brother and sister veterans. Pictured at left is Le, the mascot of my old unit in Viet Nam at Base Camp Bearcat, the 595th Engineer  Company (LE). I remember three distinct things about this old mule: 1) He was mean, 2) He was tethered at the end of a 50' rope and allowed to graze in an abandoned company area across from ours, and 3) He was promoted ahead of me.
He was later sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, and from the photo it seems he was promoted again, to sergeant. If you look closely you can see the Engineer castle insignia on his blanket.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Clay Burnham

Steve Kaye, of Beaverton, Oregon, writes as Clay Burnham. After much seeking I found his third Western from Black Horse, Bloody Montana. (Black Horse Western, 2005, hc.)

Rafe McDonough is lost in a Montana blizzard and close to freezing when he comes across the corpse of a man who'd been shot and left on the trail. Since Rafe doesn't have warm clothing and the corpse does, Rafe helps himself to the unfortunate's thick coat and warm hat, thus saving his own life. Later, when Rafe finds a town, he's mistaken for the dead man because of the telltale attire, a situation which causes quite a stir among the locals. Even when they realize he's not the murdered man, his refusal to depart with the noteworthy duds creates serious trouble. He takes it upon himself to discover why people are so afraid of the dead man, and who left the body out in the snow. Also, he finds a letter on the corpse addressed to Clara, whom none of the locals know, and Rafe wants to locate her because it seems like the right thing to do.

In addition to the mystery of the dead man, Rafe has to decide which of the two women who show interest in him to pick--the gal who runs the restaurant or the lady rancher who seems to hire men who twirl sixguns instead of ropes. There's also a crazy coot roaming the hills and the question of why some people are so interested in what seems to be worthless property. Burnham keeps the action flowing and fleshes out the characters fully in the scant 160 pages he's allowed. His prose flows effortlessly and evokes the spirit of the Old West. He handles action or romance with equal skill. It would be nice if an American publisher would pick up the Clay Burnham books so more of his countrymen could enjoy his work.

Black Horse creates a handsome package, too. Their covers are reminiscent of classic pulp work. Instead of loose dust wrappers, the covers are attached and laminated. Check 'em out.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Looking for something to read on your Kindle? My first book, Love, Death and the Toyman, is now on Kindle via Amazon and can be downloaded (if that's how it works) for a mere $3.00. Such a deal. Such a chance for me to monetize.

As I type this the Phillies are losing to NY in the fourth game of the World Series. Horrors!