"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, October 9, 2017

On the road up to Santa Fe

Sunset on the road to Santa Fe, 11 by 15 watercolor, 300 lb. de'Arches bold press
New Mexico beckons this time of year, and the first stop will be La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis.
We go not a tourists but in pilgrimage for food, art, memories, friends, and of course the landscape and skies.
From there, farther north into the Sangre de Cristos mountains and backroads and towns of northern New Mexico. Aspen, cottonwoods, juniper, pinon, red and green chile, the people and the land and the vistas.
You always go up to Santa Fe from the Great Plains, usually late in the day. Leaving the flatlands,  the mountains begin rising in blue shadows and the skies mirror the land, always changing, always dramatic. This watercolor is inspired by a photo I took years ago, on the road to Santa Fe. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

We will walk the sidelines again, my friend, just not yet

A version of my comments at Steve Booher's funeral celebration yesterday.

We want to celebrate the wonderfully rich life of Steve Booher, one of Oklahoma’s giants, a giant of family, journalism and community service. The two words that come to mind about Steve are “devoted servant.” I don’t mean a namby-pamby devotion, but a strong dedication that you can see in his life. 
For you, the family in your grief, Sonya, Shannan Booher, Mike Booher, Alan Clepper, and Amanda Barrett and families, and brothers Kent and Scott and grandchildren and nieces and nephews, you have our deepest sympathy and admiration. Family was first with Steve. I think his last Facebook posts were bragging about his grandchildren. I’ve witnessed his and Sonya’s great love and care for each other over the years, and I thank Shannan and Mike for their confidence. I’m just an old weekly newspaper man who has been blessed, like you, to have known and worked with Steve.
Steve’s even referenced in the Bible. In Genesis, it is written:
“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” There are Steve’s ancestors, giants.
I’ve known him, of course, as a journalist and friend for more than 40 years, and I so admire how he well balanced his family with the demands of weekly newspapering, a career of long hours and hard work.
He and Sonya were married in February. 1985 and they spent the next three days at the OPA midwinter convention, and every anniversary there too. Steve would joke, “Nothing like being able to write off your honeymoon and anniversary as business expenses.” Sonya has stars in her crown for putting up with that.
Steve telling another story at my retirement
Steve was always a storyteller, a craftsman with the written word, and a natural oral story teller of people, politics and everything else. What one story about Steve do you remember now about how Steve could make you smile, something that happened, some story he’d tell? There are many, aren’t they?
He worked with some giants in newspapers, and became one himself, especially Larry Hammer, graduating with pride from the Hammer School of Journalism. “Never stop learning,” Steve said, and he never did, going from hot metal to computers and beyond, always trying to learn more in trying to put out an excellent newspaper for his town, his readers.
He looked and sounded gruff, was stubborn and strong, and earned it all those years putting out a paper, but he seasoned that with a sense of humor and inside he was generous and gentle to those who knew him.
Mike told me how as a boy he had wanted some expensive athletic shoes, but knew his Dad couldn’t afford them. One day Steve came in and told Mike he had some shoes for him. Expecting the cheaper ones—that I would have bought—Mike found his wish—which was a lot for a small-town journalist to dig for.
 I met Steve when he was at Duncan and I at Waurika, and then got to know him covering Friday night high school football, walking the sidelines, cameras and heavy flash equipment and notepads. We have stories, especially on the nights when the weather turned bad. I think one was at the Ringling Waurika rivalry, and Steve disagrees Comanche-Marlow but he’s the better storyteller. 
    Now Steve would embellish stories, and they’d grow like our waistlines as our hairlines and memories receded. Eventually that game went from light rain to a downpour, and then sleet, and so cold they light blazing fires in oil barrels along the sidelines to keep the players from freezing. I expect the next version to include a blizzard moving in with 10 feet of snow, but he probably never thought of it.
Meanwhile he and I would be out there, plastic draped over the flash heads, trying to take photos, getting soaked. We talked about doing it again this fall, for old time’s sake. What a story that would have been. "Geezers on the gridiron."
In his 37 years at the Cherokee Messenger and Republican, he developed into a giant of journalism and community service, always humble, but always an advocate for the people. His gruffness served him well when standing up for what was right, including his strong opinions and editorials. He earned the respect and admiration of most-–even a few preachers and Republicans--because of his service to the town in the newspaper and personally as a volunteer. It’s no accident Cherokee named him a citizen of the year and awarded him a lifetime achievement award.
His papers were, as my wife commented the other night, thick with news.” His front-page column “From This Corner” told more stories the human side, the humor of living in a small town.
As newspapers , especially big ones are facing troubling times, he and I would joke about the buzz word being used by the big boys.  They used to look down their noses at us, saying we covered “chicken dinner news” Now they want “Hyper-local.” "We were hyper local before they were born,” he’d snort.
In addition to his community and family, he served the state press association for years in various roles, all the way to the top as president, always respected for his experience, his humor and hard work. His awards and honors for quality journalism and service piled up, higher than that blizzard that was about to hit. Most recent this spring was induction into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.   You could count on Steve.
To me he was what every journalist is supposed to be, but despite the long hours he never forgot his family.
When he visited Mike in the Coast Guard at Corpus Cristi a few years ago, we had is camera at his side and Mike told him they wouldn’t let him aboard.  He kept it. When they came up to the XO to look at the bridge, the officer said you can’t take that in. Steve asked the officer for his name, because he was a member of the press. He wanted to he able to tell about the officer who didn’t want people to know how great a job the Coast Guard was doing. Mike said Steve got a tour of the ship.
The story of Steve's retirement cake
His good-natured humor and jibes among friends and colleagues was legendary. I remember going to his retirement reception a few years ago, and when I walked in, he smiled, scowled and said something like, “I thought I told the police to keep you out of town.” “I bribed them” I shot back.
There’s just one thing about Steve I resent. He looked so handsome and distinguished dressed impeccably and with that neatly trimmed beard. As an old guy with ink still under his fingernails, I was jealous. I tried to grow a beard a few years back, and well, I said something to Steve about not measuring up. “I look like a mangy dog,” I said. Steve replied, “Well, shaving might not help either.…”
If I’ve embellished this, I learned from the best.
I do know this, right now, there’s a new hospitality suite in heaven, Michael Martin Murphy music blaring, and Steve and Hammer are telling stories and God is in stitches
“Wrap it up Clark, wrap it up,” Steve is growling. “These people have deadlines.”
  “Ok, Steve. We will walk the sidelines again, my friend, just not yet.”

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October arrives, somberly

October Arrives, 9 by 12 watercolor, 140 lb. d'Arches
Driving through the Oklahoma countryside early this morning to attend and speak at the funeral of my long time friend and fellow weekly newspaperman Steve Booher, we witnessed early autumn. Clouds started building on the horizons and rain is promised tonight.
I love fall and the country and the vistas, death hangs over it all. Coming home, I knew there were clouds and grief, but the bright colors of life, his and his family. This one is for you Steve.
Steve Booher telling me another story at OPA last year.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sangre de Cristo

Sangre de Cristo, 11 by 14 watercolor, 300  lb. d''Arches paper
They marched up the Rio Grande valley almost 500 years ago on foot, on horseback, on oxcarts, exploring soldiers and priests, conquering and converting, for glory, gold and God.
As the conquistadors came, they conquered also with language, naming the landscape and villages and people as they came. Today that language and names remain, and you can glimpse and imagine what they saw and thought so long ago.
Homesick and thirsty in a dry land, they named mountains for the apples nearby (Manzanos), or because some looked like a watermelon and rind (Sandias) when the sun set. And farther north when clouds turned red when the sun set, the green and blue mountains would reflect the red glow. Those Franciscan friars could only think of the Sangre de Cristo.
They built their mission churches out of adobe, and those also reflected the colors of the dominant sky, usually an always varied earthen color. But not always. At Ranchos de Taos one relative new church built in the 1700s carries the name of their saint--San Francisco de Asis. 
It seems every artist has painted that church, Georgia O'Keeffe the most famous. My Dad drew and painted it. I've done so three times.
But something was missing. Thus the latest attempt, trying to paint what I feel when I enter New Mexico, not just see. This watercolor is the result of at least six attempts over the past week, full of failures and experiments, and a little blood. I guess that is fitting. I'm not finished and will try again.
Colors--3 blues, 3 reds, 2 siennas

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dust vewing stars---equinox


Mystical Equinox, 9 by 12 watercolor, 140# Fabriano Artistico
Equinox. For us today,  it is just a day on the calendar, when day and night are the same length, our "official" change of seasons.
But it is also mystical,  humanity's feeble attempt to measure time, as though existence on earth, and our so brief lives, were the center of a wheeling  universe where time and space are so vast.
For ancients, measuring "man-made" time became mystic, requiring stone temples and barbaric rites. 
Perhaps we shouldn't forget, and take time to ponder how small we are, mere dust viewing stars, part of a celestial creation.