Looking Back is a Bad Habit: Rooster Cogburn

The three of them would walk down to Owl Drugs after school, and there they became a cartoonist’s club – of sorts: Paul Davis, Russell Myers, and Archie Goodwin. And who would have thought of the trio of Will Rogers High School students as headed for stardom?

What?

You don’t know them by name?

I had a surprise there, too. Opened up the mail and pulled out a first edition copy of True Grit by Charles Portis, which ranks somewhere near the top of my list of favorite books. As it is with any new acquisition, I was checking the copy, making sure it was everything it ought to be.

It was.

Portis wrote the story with a rural eloquence that is almost poetic. Then there is that wry humor as typified in the courtroom scene:

Goudy: I believe you testified that you backed away from old man Wharton?
Rooster Cogburn: Yes, sir.
Goudy: Which direction were you going?
Rooster Cogburn: Backward. I always go backward when I’m backin’ away.

My examination had me lingering over the dust jacket and the artwork. A singular style, I thought. Simplistic but powerful. Knowing the story, I thought it captured the essence of both Mattie – the main character – and the title of the book.

paulDavisTrueGrit

I wondered who had painted it, and that’s when I learned about the after-school artists and Owl Drugs in Tulsa. Paul Davis did not linger in Tulsa long after high school. His skill with the brushes earned him a scholarship at a New York City art school, and he established a reputation and a clientele in short order.

His works were visible on the streets, on television, in magazines, and on movie sets. He painted record album covers and advertising art. He was in high demand as an illustrator even before he founded Paul Davis Studio in 1963. It was five years later that he was commissioned to do the dust jacket for True Grit.

It positively shocked me to learn that he grew up in Tulsa.

paulDavisHamlet

But I could relate to the idea of a cartoonist’s club. My ninth grade buddies and I considered ourselves more of a clique than a club, but we spent more time than we should have, putting pen to paper. Shortly before the end of the semester, my English teacher took me aside and informed me that I had turned in so few assignments that she was going to be forced to fail me.

She told me she hated to “Fail” anyone, and intended to record my grade as – I – for Incomplete. The letter wouldn’t make so much difference, I thought – figuring whatever letter she wrote would probably keep me out of tenth grade, or have me in “summer school” at the least.

It likely wouldn’t happen today, but she allowed me to stay after school each day of that last week of school, starting at the top and working my way down the stack of the semester’s worth of assignments I’d failed to turn in…

…because my buddies and I were too busy free-handing the line art from A Tale of Two Cities.

It was passable art that almost kept me from passing out of ninth grade, but – obviously – not enough to win an art school scholarship.

On the other hand, Paul’s art buddies managed to find their ways into the art world. Archie Goodwin – whom I had the good fortune to meet on an occasion – made his mark in the comic book world and was a frequent guest at conventions.

The work of Russell Meyers is something I examine every morning. The Tulsa World carries his comic strip Broom-Hilda, which Meyers syndicated in 1970 – the same year I squeaked into my sophomore year.

It doesn’t surprise me that so many talented folks have ties to the Tulsa area, but I am surprised at the number – with international renown – who have managed to slip under my radar.

Being a fan of True Grit, it tickles me greatly to know that the story is set in our general area (including a visit to JJ McAlester’s General Store!) and is such a wonderfully written book wrapped in artistic local color.

Like to own a copy?

I just happen to know where I can lay hands on a First Edition…

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!

Turning the page on 2016.

A decade of books is just about in the books.

During that span of time, Broken Arrow’s Main Street has undergone significant changes, and – while they are less dramatic – the Rose District (as it is now called) is still evolving.

Some of the modifications are long-term, like the planters currently being constructed in the block between Dallas and El Paso. Others are designed to be short-term, like the installation of an ice skating rink at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion. Judging from the number of skaters I saw the other evening, it has been well received. Who’d have imagined ice skating in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma?

fathertime

Ten years ago, I would not have imagined serving lunches in the bookstore. It was a plan that grew out of the location change, and the popular acceptance of digital reading. Didn’t know what might become of the book business when people began reading on their tablets, but I believed soups and sandwiches might have a continuing appeal.

It’s been a journey getting from 2006 to 2016, and some of our shop-owning neighbors have moved on to other things while new folks have refurbished vacated spots and hung out their own shingle. (An old expression, dating back from when a lettered roof-tile indicated the business being conducted inside – I’m compelled to try to keep vintage sayings around.)

As we wrap up the year and anticipate the beginning of 2017, I’d like to thank each of you who might have popped in and bought a book in those first five years. You kept the shop going long enough to reach the second five years and the opening of the bistro kitchen.

Another heartfelt thanks goes out to those of you who stopped in and bought a book, or a soup and sandwich during these past five years, and particularly those of you who remember when I was serving soup solo.

We’re headed toward three years together – Dustin and I – serving up plates of food at lunchtime. Some of our guests remember times – early on – when they might have been at the only occupied table in the house.

We’ve lasted ten years on Main Street only because people have helped us pay the rent and utilities by buying something, whether it’s a book or a meal. Dustin and I know there are many – many – places to eat lunch in Broken Arrow, and we are grateful when you allow us prepare lunch for you.

We genuinely appreciate your business, and your friendship. From our family to yours – may the New Year be filled with happiness, discovered dreams, and lasting good fortune!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main Street, Broken Arrow OK!

Held Together by Rust and Grime.

I’m not a banjo picker. But then, before this afternoon I wasn’t a banjo repairman. We all have to start somewhere.

In this case, it starts with a well-appreciated (by that I mean pretty beat-up) Kay five-string banjo – which according to several websites (so it has to be true, right?) – was manufactured in Chicago in the 1960s. It came into my hands from one of our lunch guests who was thinning out his collection of musical instruments.

kay1

Over the years I’ve learned that some vintage things are held together by years of collected grease and grime. Apparently, this particular instrument was held intact by the old rusty strings. Before becoming the next Flatt & Scruggs banjo-picking sensation, I thought I’d just whip some new strings on the thing.

Tightening up the first new string, and…

POW!

kay2

The string went all slack (and decidedly non-musical). Tried several times to get some tension on the string before I finally examined the gear and tuning peg.

Well. The tiny spot where over a half century ago some craftsman connected two pieces of metal together – was broken. Probably not beyond repair, but certainly out of my superglue range of skills.

After a little further investigation, I determined that the banjo is no Antiques Roadshow segment, and would not have been even in better shape than its current state. So I ordered some tuning gears and today they arrived.

Wouldn’t fit in the banjo.

kay3

Plan B could have been:

A. “Return to the Internet” to find some other parts
B. Make the parts in hand work out.
C. Give up and just throw the darn thing away

Mostly because I love using my cordless drill, I chose B. That’s how I happen to have an image of a drill bit digging into a banjo.

Fun is where you can find it.

There is probably a special banjo hole-reaming tool out there. Probably expensive. The keep drilling with a larger-diameter drill bit method did the trick for me.

Unfortunately, the cordless drill has been in the cabinet for a time, and ran out juice shortly after taking the picture. So, I’m writing this as the battery recharges.

I hope to have the gears mounted and ready for stringing by this evening.

Then I can pop over to the music section and see if that Beginner’s Guide to Guitar Pickin’ is still on the shelf.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!