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.

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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.

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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!

As Seen on Television…

Media Surprise Day! No advisory notice from Facebook or the 5-Things-4-Friday newspaper column, but we found out early in the day that we were on TV and featured in a magazine!

The early morning guests were just about as startled as I was.

“Saw you on TV this morning!” said the early-arriver, smiling.

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“You saw me?” I replied, thinking that if a camera crew had wandered in, I would have noticed. (Apparently, that isn’t the case, as proven by the next episode…)

“Sure did,” he answered. “This morning.”

We went through a mutual we-must-be-crazy moment, when I was pretty sure I couldn’t have been the one he had seen, and he was fairly certain I was. It was settled when he asked, “Do you have a first edition copy of a Charles Dickens book?”

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“I do,” I answered, and then remembered that the TV program Discover Oklahoma! had included a bit on the book when they interviewed Dustin and me last summer.

We’re a re-run, I guess. I missed it again. Fortunately, the OETA-produced program keeps its episodes on YouTube, so I was able to see the segment later. (You can watch it clicking here. Our segment starts at about the 9-minute mark.)

The TV Mystery had just been solved when a group of ladies arrived for lunch. Ms Judy whipped out a copy of TULSA PEOPLE magazine and opened it immediately to a page with a picture of cup of stew.

Familiar-looking.

“That looks just like our stew,” I said aloud, amazed at the incredible similarity.

It was a large photo and I could clearly see the finely-diced carrots, the potatoes, the thick brown gravy. Just. Like. Dustin’s. When I spotted flecks of basil, I thought – Wait a minute here. Looked at the text and our store name jumped out at me.

It wasn’t until later that I was able to read the short paragraph (we had to serve their lunch, after all…) and look again at the picture. No by-line or credit was given for the photograph or the text, but it is beautifully done (as far as stew can be a beautiful thing…), and presented in a very high quality publication. Nice slick pages and glossy photos.

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The ladies told me that they loved to go try out new places for lunch, and at having seen the cup of stew and the address, decided to give us a try.

I’m not certain the text is legible in the attached image, but the fine print after the headline reads:

“Dream of Dublin with a stop at Broken Arrow’s McHuston Booksellers and Irish Bistro. Nestled in the booming Rose District, the bookstore and café fills its tables for lunch, which features daily sandwiches and traditional Irish fare. Try the Everyday Special ($7), a cup of Irish stew – a menu staple – with a half sandwich for a hearty meal.”

They even included our internet address and store location.

Thanks right here and now to Dustin – it’s a grand-looking cup ‘o stew in the picture! A rousing Thank You to daughter (and Dustin’s sister) Kristen for helping in the front of the house today, and keeping the ladies happy.

And a Thanks! to the uncredited photographer who was wily enough to slip in and take pictures during our lunch rush – without me being any the wiser! (It has been extra-busy, of late, and I don’t seem to get any wiser…)

An official
McHuston Booksellers and Irish Bistro shout-out to TULSA PEOPLE publisher Jim Langdon, for allowing us to be included in the fine-looking and informative magazine!

Another year is upon us, and our wish to you is that your hand reaches out in friendship and never in need, so you may forget the troubles that pass away, and remember blessings that come each day.

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?

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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!