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!

Stormin’ into the Weekend.

It was an interesting lunch hour Friday – needless to say – what with the tornado sirens going off and the lights flickering. We were fortunate.

There was a brief outage, maybe twenty to thirty seconds. It always seems longer when it is completely dark. I was about to locate a flashlight so our guests could find their lunches when the power came back on.

Around the corner on Kenosha, my sister wasn’t quite so fortunate. The power went out at Martha’s Health Foods before noon and stayed off most of the afternoon. They were obliged to move their activities closer to the light through the front windows after the skies cleared.

SpokeHouse

It was a deluge here in the Rose District and brought unfortunate news for The Spoke House, on our side of the street, but at the end of the next block south. Those 80+ mile-an-hour winds caught the brickwork at the top back corner of the building and sent bricks tumbling to the sidewalk. A car parked nearby looked to have caught a little damage as a result, but no one was injured. (Image is courtesy of the Broken Arrow Ledger, subcribe today!)

We’ve had some bad experiences here at the bookstore with driving rainstorms. The typical rain shower caused no problem, but with a strong wind added in, water seemed to find a way to slip through the roof. A crew was on the roof a couple of weeks ago, and today was the first true test.

Success!

Not a single drop of water from the ceiling – no mopping, no mess, no trash can or mop bucket drip collectors.

Books and water don’t mix, and it was a pleasure to report to our leasing agent that the work on the roof did the trick perfectly.

Sometimes I think that folks tend to speak complaints quickly and are slow to give up words of praise. (I’m not excluding myself… frustration often loosens the tongue…) I don’t know the name of the company that did the work, but they were quick and efficient and effective. If you need work on a roof – I’m sure I can get the name of the company to pass along.

While I’m at it (digging into that bag o’ compliments), I should mention the fantastic work done on the Firebird by Ray the Ace Mechanic at Affordable Automotive. It has been years since it has had air conditioning, and I had forgotten what a great thing AC is. It’s really satisfying to get so cold in the car that the AC has to be turned down.

I’ve been driving around like a teenager with a brand-new license.

Unsure of the forecast, but Friday is calling for Croissant Club sandwiches on the chalkboard menu. Delly-delly-delicious on a buttery croissant roll.

Come visit!

McHuston

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

Driller’s Stadium. I remember when…

It was called Sutton Stadium for a short time – named for an oilman who donated money for a major renovation of the ballpark at 15th and Yale. There was a scandal about how the money had been earned, and it became Drillers Stadium.

The Tulsa Drillers don’t play there anymore, what with the fine new park downtown, but there were plenty of good times had at the old location. I didn’t realize it until now, but they plan to tear down the old park.

Kind of sad.

garthConcert

I’ll still have the memories I suppose, but I can’t help feeling something is lost when a place disappears, a spot where so many people came together to enjoy themselves.

Folks have asked me about the significance of a baseball I have in a clear cube near the checkout counter. It’s signed. A nice signature of someone no one has heard of. He played for the Arkansas Travelers and one of his foul balls went skyward near the first base dugout.

That’s where my wife and I were sitting, enjoying an afternoon Drillers game – sort of a rare thing for us, but she had tickets for great seats courtesy of her employer.

Everyone was craning back, watching as the ball finally reached the peak of its flight and started coming back down.

Hmm, I thought. That’s going to come down over here.

I kept watching it – I mean, it was a HIGH pop foul – and when I finally realized that it was going to land in our section it was too late.

Almost.

Without really thinking about it (didn’t have time to make a plan), I stabbed my hand out over my wife’s head and the baseball smacked into my palm. Immediately, I understood why ballplayers wear leather gloves.

The next evening my wife related how she overheard someone in the break room talking about the Driller’s game, and how someone had caught a foul ball an instant before it would have hit his wife’s head.

“That was me!” she told them.

And that’s the story of our personal, but fleeting, baseball fame at Drillers Stadium, and how I came to own an Officials Drillers Baseball signed by a now-forgotten Arkansas Traveler.

The kids and I used to enjoy games (although they might have enjoyed the ballpark ice-cream-in-a-tiny-plastic-helmet more than the action) – we sat near the third base dugout until I realized that those rocketing line drive fouls seemed to target that area. After that, I tried to get seats behind the screen.

My daughter was a little older when she and I went to watch Garth Brooks at one of several concerts at Drillers Stadium. I worked at a country radio station, but had never been much of a fan of the music until she widened my horizons. There was a time she would drive my car and I’d get back in to find a blasting radio at startup, blaring country music.

Once, as I was reaching to hit the station preset button, the singer hit the chorus and it punched me right between the eyes. I listened to the words and thought – He is singing about MY life. And he was. Or could have been. It turns out, a lot of country songs are that way and I became a reluctant convert.

Enough of one that I bought tickets and fought the parking and the crowd and sat with my daughter in the midst of all those Garth Brooks fans smiling and cheering and shedding tears during the sad songs. It was an experience.

There were other occasions, too. A media softball game where I discovered that I couldn’t throw a ball anymore. A Beach Boys concert. 4th of July baseball and fireworks. And I wasn’t the only one there.

A lot of us will have memories of Drillers Stadium – good memories.

But soon the stadium won’t be there anymore.

Hopefully they’ll replace it with something equally eventful that will produce a whole new set of memories for generations to come.

In the meantime – we have books about sports and books about music, so

Come visit!

McHuston

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