Archive for March, 2012

Time to sharpen your pencil and fill out your ballot for the 2012 REH Foundation Awards. Follow the voting rules here and send your ballots to before the polls close on April 15, 2012. You can find the list of nominees here.

Remember, only members of the Foundation are eligible to vote. If you are not a member yet, you are missing out on a whole lot more than just voting. For example, this year’s quarterly newsletters are a Howard collector’s dream come true. The first issue, which just shipped, has the three new pictures that Patrice Louinet discovered and the first publication of “A Rattlesnake Sings in the Grass” (verse) The following three issues will contain items more recently uncovered treasures. So don ‘t get left out, sign up for a membership today.

On a recent trip to Texas I had some time to read. Air travel isn’t the best for concentration, so I selected a couple of “easy reading” novels for the flight, both by Horatio Alger, Jr. I’ve wanted to read Alger since seeing the list of his books on the Robert E. Howard Bookshelf. Over the years, I’ve picked up quite a few titles from the Bookshelf and I was glad to finally read a couple of them. I don’t recall reading any of Alger’s “boys’ adventure” stories as a kid, but I was aware that his novels usually featured a scrappy youth who overcomes the obstacles thrown in his way. What, I wondered, might Robert E. Howard have thought of these books.

The first book I read was Only an Irish Boy. This tells the story of Andy Burke, who struggles to help provide for his mother and sister with the help of an altruistic colonel, Anthony Preston. When Preston dies, his wife attempts to suppress his will, which names Burke’s mother as one of the beneficiaries. The novel has a robbery scene in a forest which sort of reminded me of “In the Forest of Villefére” or a Solomon Kane yarn, but was otherwise uneventful, at least as far as a Howard connection: there is no shortage of ups and downs for the star of the novel. All ends well, of course.

The next book was Mark Mason’s Triumph. It concerns the selling of stocks in a Nevada gold mine, the withholding of the proceeds to Mrs. Mason by her brother-in-law, and Mark Mason’s uncanny ability to overcome all obstacles. One scene has a boy locked in the attic as a punishment, which was slightly reminiscent of “The Ghost with the Silk Hat,” but the really interesting part was the name of that gold mine: “Golden Hope.” This, of course, is the name of the mine in Howard’s own “Golden Hope Christmas,” first published in The Tattler in 1922 while Howard was attending Brownwood High School. Someone has probably noticed this before, but it was news to me.

L. Sprague de Camp described Howard’s tale in Dark Valley Destiny:

Golden Hope Christmas,” a sentimental trifle, tells of a Western badman who sells a worthless gold-mining claim to a tenderfoot and is outraged when the tenderfoot strikes it rich. He lies in wait for the lucky miner but gives up his plan to shoot him because it is Christmas morn.

Reading Howard’s story again, it certainly could have been inspired by his reading of Alger. Red Ghallinan’s change of heart at story’s end would fit nicely in an Alger novel, as would Hal Sharon’s reward for his hard work. But overall, I’ll have to agree with de Camp’s assessment: “sentimental trifle.”

Anyway, there are six other Alger titles on the Howard Bookshelf: The Cash Boy, Joe’s Luck, The Tin Box, Tom the Bootblack, The Young Acrobat, and The Young Miner. I recently purchased a couple of Alger collections for my e-reader; for less than ten bucks I’ve got all of the titles from Howard’s bookshelf. Who knows what other Howardian nuggets these might contain? But I think I’ll wait a while to read more—I’ve had enough of boys’ adventure fiction for now.

We’ve all read countless westerns, as well as seeing them on the big and little screens, in which the rotten predatory cattle rancher who claims the entire range, with a legion of hired guns (or just one really fast one), gets tough on the little people he sees as standing in his way. The classic novel and then movie of the type was Shane. But the hackneyed plot had been played out often enough in the real world, in Colorado, Wyoming, and of course Texas. Robert E. Howard knew the history of those sanguinary feuds and range wars, and he referred to them often in his letters.

In December 1930 he wrote to H.P. Lovecraft:

The fiercest fights were between sheepmen and cattlemen and later between the small farmer and the ranchmen. That last was a bitter war, carried on with neither honor, mercy or human consideration. Ranchmen cut the squatter’s fences, burned his buildings, and frequently wiped out whole families, men, women and children with no more hesitation than Comanche Indians would have shown. In return the squatter stole the ranchman’s cattle and killed them on the sly, fouled the springs, dammed up the streams, dynamited dams on ranchmen’s property, ambushed cowboys and shot them out of their saddles – and made laws. Thats the way they licked the cattlemen – by legislation. They simply swarmed in and took the country, swamping the original settlers just as they, in turn, had swamped the Indians in an earlier age.”

I’d nitpick just one part of that. It doesn’t appear to me that the sheep and cattlemen conflicts, in Texas especially, came much before the big ranchers’ and little farmers’ bloody disputes. The sheep wars principally took place between 1870 and 1900. The famous clashes between Charles Goodnight’s cowboys, and the sheep herders driving their flocks onto his range along the New Mexico-Texas border, took place in the mid-1870s. The small farmers started encroaching on the big cattlemen’s ranges at about the same time, the 1870s, after the Civil War.

In fact the Texas cattle business was started by the Mexicans, with its roots set as early as 1540. The Spaniards had established cattle spreads in Mexico and then pushed their herds northward, looking for good pasture. The first cowboys were Spanish and Mexican “gauchos,” later known as “vaqueros.” They had brought cattle as far north as Texas by 1690. Their commercial value was limited then, and they were left to roam those wide open spaces and breed to their heart’s content. They did, and these feral Mexican cattle between the Neuces and the Rio Grande crossbred with the eastern cattle of the early Anglo settlers in Texas. The result was what some would describe as a hellish bastard animal with horns spanning seven feet or more, an untamed nature, and a frequent infestation of Texas ticks that made it unpopular outside its home state.

As you’d expect of a Texan critter, they were tough. They could survive on the open range where grazing was often marginal or worse. They could come through droughts and blue norther storms still feisty. They were long-lived – if they survived – and their calves could stand and walk sooner after being born than other cattle breeds.

By the early 1800s there were hundreds of thousands of wild longhorns in the region. They weren’t much of a commercial proposition in those days. Beef wasn’t the meat of first choice in the U.S.A. during the early nineteenth century; pork was more popular. Cattle were slaughtered mainly for their hides and tallow. Texas longhorns gave good lean beef from their carcasses but not an immense amount of fat.

The huge spreads that were effectively kingdoms began to appear about that time, in the days when Texas was really wide open and lately freed from Mexican rule, after Sam Houston’s army had thrashed General Santa Ana at San Jacinto in 1836. The biggest ranch ever known, even in the Lone Star State, was founded by Richard King, who had taken a significant part in Texian affairs before he came to own vast tracts of land. Born into a poor Irish family in New York in mid-1824, King was apprenticed to a jeweler as a child, and hated it. The jeweler was a slave-driver and exploiter straight out of a Dickens novel. He (Richard King) scarpered, stowed away on a ship and was welcomed into the crew when they discovered him. From that beginning he became a steamboat pilot by the time he was sixteen. He served in the Second Seminole War in 1842, and after it ended, he operated steamboats in Florida and Georgia for five years.

When the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) broke out over the U.S. annexation of Texas, King and his partner Mifflin Kennedy ferried army supplies on the Rio Grande. King invested his riverboat profits in land in Texas, and from then on continued acquiring it hand over fist. As REH wrote to Lovecraft in January 1931:

How many know of Captain King, who owned the biggest ranch the world has ever seen? It stretched from inland rivers to the Gulf of Mexico and when the country was settled up, it was divided into whole counties. I have seen the old ranch house which cost nearly a million dollars to build, and it looks more like a castle than an ordinary house. How old it is I cannot say, but the great stone stable has a date of 1856 carved over the door, and once cannons were mounted about the building to resist Indian attacks and Mexican raids. It lies adjacent to the little town of Kingsville, a most beautiful town – the prettiest I have yet seen in Texas. The worthy ranch-man was an old sea-captain and I have heard it hinted that, if he followed the same tactics on sea that he did on land, he must have been a pirate.

Years and years ago he was killed by a Mexican vaquero who worked for him, and who, it is said, carried out his orders regarding various men who owned ranches the captain desired. Be that as it may, they died and their ranches were engulfed in the ever growing boundaries of the great ranch. Giant fortunes are not built without intrigue and bloodshed, whether those fortunes be land or gold, or both.

The King Ranch is a legend in Texas. It still exists, is one of the largest in the world, and was officially made a National Historic Landmark in 1961. REH declared that he could not say how old it was, but King apparently saw the land that would become the nucleus of his immense ranch in 1852, when he came to the waters of Santa Gertrudis (Saint Gertrude) Creek, after riding a long way through arid country. He was travelling to the Lone Star Fair at Corpus Christi at the time, and at the fair over drinks, he and a friend of his, Texas Ranger Captain Gideon Lewis (nicknamed “Legs”) agreed to acquire and ranch it. In July 1853 King bought the Rincón de Santa Gertrudis grant for 300 dollars and sold Lewis a half interest in it for 2,000. He was a genuine nineteenth-century entrepreneur and no mistake. Or as one of the Sackett boys observes in a Louis L’Amour western novel, “If a man can buy cheap and sell dear, he naturally ain’t liable to starve.”

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Writing in a letter to H.P. Lovecraft, dated September 22, 1932, Howard asks him if he heard any stories about a certain notorious Illinois landmark and the desperados who frequented it when he was on a recent visit down south:

While you were in the South on your recent visit, did you hear any legends of the Cave-in-the-Rock gang? That’s a bit of scenery I’ve always wanted to visit. A friend of mine [Clyde Smith] saw it a year or so ago, and said it’s really impressive. It certainly harbored a desperate horde. Foremost of these were the Harps, who to my mind were the most terrible outlaws that ever cursed this Continent, not even excluding Boone Helm, from whom Zane Grey apparently drew his hellish “Gulden” of The Border Legion, and who on one occasion, finding himself snowed in with a companion in the mountains of British Columbia, and out of food, murdered the companion, partly devoured his body, and took up his journey again, carrying a leg along for supplies on the way; who, when strung up along with the rest of Plummer gang by the Vigilantes, standing on a wagon with a rope around his neck, asked if he was expected to jump off, or be pushed off. On being told that he could do as he liked, he replied, “Every man to his own principles! Three cheers for Jeff Davis and the Confederacy! Hurrah for hell! Let her rip!” — and jumped off.

The “Cave-in-Rock” landmark Howard mentions is located in southern Illinois and overlooks the Ohio River, just across from Kentucky. The massive cave has a fifty-five foot wide entrance and a one hundred foot vertical fissure leading to a top entrance – this fissure provides the cavern with a natural chimney, thus making it inhabitable. The cave was carved out of the limestone rock by water thousands of years ago and was originally discovered by French explorer M. de Lery, who in 1729 called it caverne dans Le Roc. Today the cave and surrounding area is a state park.

Samuel Mason, a former soldier in the Revolutionary War, found Cave-in-Rock in 1797 shortly after running into some trouble with the law in Virginia. He and his family fled to the southern Illinois and western Kentucky area and the cave became the headquarters and a trap for his large-scale river piracy operation. Mason put up a sign on the bank of the river near the cave that read “Liquor Vault and House of Entertainment.” It was difficult for anyone traveling along the river to avoid noticing the signs, and many captains, crews, and passengers on boats were lured to it. Many disreputable people were attracted to the tavern as well. From this group of men, Mason recruited a band of criminals that terrorized that stretch of the Ohio River for years.

Mason took advantage of the fear that travelers had of hitting the rocks and shallow spots in the river and being grounded. The earliest travelers used small, clumsy boats that were propelled by small paddles or oars, making travel difficult in rough stretches of the river. Boaters, even before Mason had arrived in the area, were advised by people who had traveled the river to pay a man to pilot their vessel through a dangerous channel that ran from about two miles below the cave and extended six miles past it. Playing off this need for pilots, Mason and his pirates passed themselves off as trustworthy local pilots who could steer boats through this area. One pirate stationed himself around ten miles from Cave-in-Rock, and when employed, he would ground the boat at Cave-in-Rock. If he failed to get the job done, another person at Cave-in-Rock would take over and pilot the boat for the next stretch of river. If he was successful, he landed the boat at Hurricane Island. This was another station for the pirates along the Ohio. Boats with too much protection or an unprofitable cargo were allowed to pass through the channel. Another tactic Mason used was to have a young, attractive woman pretend to be stranded. She would station herself at Diamond Island, below Cave-in-Rock and attempt to get picked up by passing vessels. She then had the boat drop her off at Cave-in-Rock where the boat and crew fell into Mason’s trap. Once Mason had the boats in his clutches, he would murder the crew and replace it with his own men. They would then take the cargo down to New Orleans where it would be sold. The bodies of the murdered crew members were disposed of by slitting them open, filling them with rocks, and sinking them in the Ohio River.

In addition to the cave and its outlaw inhabitants, Howard also mentions in his letter to HPL the Harps or Harpes, who were the nation’s first serial killers. Though often referred to as the Harpe Brothers, they were actually cousins who often passed themselves off as brothers. Both of their fathers were Scottish immigrants who had settled in Orange County, North Carolina. Micajah Harpe was born to John Harpe and his wife, while Wiley Harpe, who was actually named Joshua, was born to John’s brother, William and his wife. Soon after the arrival of the Harpes in America, they changed the spelling of their original name from “Harpe” to “Harp.”

Micajah Harpe was otherwise known as Big Harpe. He was, according one account, a man “above ordinary stature” and, with his muscular structure, an imposing sight. He was further described as typically being “dirty and shabby,” the darkness of the grime offset by a thatch of “fiery red hair.” Big Harpe always carried a rifle, knife and tomahawk.

Wiley Harpe stood, literally, in the shadow of his larger cousin. Since he was smaller than Micajah, he went by the name of Little Harpe. Despite his smaller stature, he was every bit as dangerous as his partner in murder. In 1797 Little Harpe, who was in his late twenties or early thirties, married a pretty and delicate woman about 20 years old named Sarah “Sally” Rice. Not to be outdone, Big Harpe came home not with one wife, but two — his legal wife, Susannah Roberts, described as “rather tall, rawboned, dark hair and eyes and rather ugly” and his “subordinate” wife, Susannah’s sister Betsy, described as “rather handsome, light hair and blue eyes and a perfect contrast with her sister.” The five settled down together in a cabin outside of Knoxville.

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Please join me in congratulating the winner of the 2012 Howard House Museum T-Shirt Design Contest, frequent TGR contributor Michael L. Peters. I think you will agree with me when I say it is a wonderful design that captures the essence of Howard and his many literary creations. For those of you who may not be familiar with Michael’s work, here is a blurb from his website:

Who is Michael L. Peters?  I’ve drawn Comics for such publishers as Heavy Metal Magazine, Caliber, Image, and CFD.  I create and sell Prints mostly on mythological and fantasy themes, in pen & ink, watercolor and/or acrylics.  A few years ago, I was hired by Ferris State University to create a series of pen and ink portraits of their former presidents.  I’ve taught drawing and illustration through a local art gallery, though I don’t have a degree.  What I’ve learned about drawing and painting, I’ve learned through my own studies and practice and from following the example of those I respect.

Michael has has done artwork for issues 10 through 15 of TGR and The Chronicler of Cross Plains #2 (four color covers, four portfolios and one full page illustration), and he is currently hard at work on a new portfolio for the upcoming 16th issue of TGR.

As for the t-shirt, it will be screen printed at Salamander Apparel in Cross Plains and held until Howard Days when it will officially go on sale. The color will be in the traditional black and white and sell for $15.00 plus $3.00 shipping.

I know what I’ll be wearing this June.

03/09/2012 Update: You can now pre-order your t-shirts via Project Pride’s PayPal account (, but those orders will not be filled until after Howard Days. The t-shirts will officially go on sale June 8th at the Howard House Museum, so folks that plan on attending will be assured of getting one of the first ones. Just to clarify, the t-shirt will not ship until AFTER Howard Days, so don’t get antsy and starting pestering the nice folks at Project Pride before then.

The shirts will be available in both black on white and white on black, so order both colors – one for daytime wear and one for evening wear. Sizes include Medium though XXX Large. As stated above, the price is $15.00 per shirt, plus $3.00 for US shipping and handling. Obviously, overseas shipping will be more. To get the rate for overseas shipping, send an e-mail to Project Pride.

Richard Toogood, our man in Great Britain, took notice of the new photo of Howard and the Butlers and wanted to share a few of his:

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed seeing the new pic of REH. Although I’ve nothing of any comparable value to supply you, some of the attendant comments did make me wonder whether the attached might be of some small interest to somebody. As there are people who evidently never saw the Butler house, nor had the pleasure of meeting Leroy Butler himself, then they might like seeing these photos which I took back in June 1992. Now I’m sure there are many people with better shots of both, but these are mine and I’m only too pleased to be able to share.

And a tip of the hat to Richard for sharing these photos. In the above photo, the Butler house is in the foreground and you can see the Howard house directly behind it. It is also great to see Glenn Lord in his element, visiting with John Adams and an unarmed Leroy Bulter during a long-ago Howard Days.

This entry filed under Glenn Lord, Howard Days, Howard Fandom.

Well shiver me timbers, matey, if it is not ol’ Two-Gun Bob himself all decked out like the scourge of the Seven Seas! Yes, your eyes do not deceive you – that is a young REH and two neighbors dressed as pirates, specifically Blackbeard, Jean Lafitte and Anny Bonny, who are in fact Howard, Faustine and Leroy Butler, and you are seeing this photo for the very first time. The house in the background is the Butler house, which means that this picture was taken in the Howards’ backyard, probably around 1923 to 1925. As anyone who has been to Cross Plains knows, the house is no longer there. On May 29, 1994, a Magnitude 2 tornado ripped through Cross Plains, destroying eighteen homes, including the Butler house, which was next door to the Howard House Museum. Amazingly, Howard’s home was relatively unscathed, through the roof had to be replaced. The lot is now occupied by the Project Pride Pavilion and Butler Park.

This is only the latest of many finds by Howard scholar and guest TGR blogger Patrice Louinet. As to the origin of this time-lost photograph, here is the lowdown from Patrice himself:

I was rereading some research material I have and stumbled upon a note from an interview with Mrs. Butler conducted by the de Camps at the time they were working on Dark Valley Destiny. Mr. Butler used to be Bob Howard’s neighbor at Cross Plains in his early years. Even before the de Camps asked their first question, Mrs. Butler mentioned that she remembered “seeing a picture of Robert with an old hat on, over in [the Howards’] yard.” She went on to say that “Robert had a bandanna handkerchief tied around his head, and had a belt … big old sword. And they [Howard, Mr. Butler and his sister] weren’t just little boys; they weren’t kids. They were in their teens.” Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Butler hadn’t kept the photos, which had been given to a relative. But I decided to give it a shot. It took me some time, some broadband and some luck in the end, but I was eventually contacted by the son of the relative I was looking for. To say that he was a bit surprized by my request would be an understatement, but he searched for the pictures I described to him and sent me three of them. Yes, three absolutely unknown photographs of Robert E. Howard!

So there are more photos yet to be revealed. The two companion photos, along with this one, will be published in the next issue of The Robert E. Howard Foundation Newsletter. Considering there are only 33 known photos of Howard, the addition of three just increased that total by nearly ten percent. The next issue of the Newsletter is due out next month. If you are not a member of the Foundation, this should give you some incentive to join. There are three levels of membership, with Friend of REH and Legacy Circle members receiving the newsletter as part of their membership.

As for Patrice, he is not resting on his laurels. Aye, there are more treasures buried out there, more discoveries to be made, and the tenacious Frenchman is hot on the trail of of them. So you lubbers have more to look forward to if your scurvy-ridden hides don’t wind up in Davy Jones’ Locker first!

Our friend Lance Thingmaker has been a busy boy. Hot the heels of his highly acclaimed and highly successful volume of The Fantasy Fan, Lance is back with his next fantastic project – a hardback book that collects the five issue run of William Crawford’s Marvel Tales. Each issue was chock full of fantasy from a who’s who of Weird Tales writers, with Howard’s “The Garden of Fear” appearing in the second issue. Lance is now taking pre-orders — the book should be available in April. Here is some additional information from Lance:

Straight from the same hands that brought you The Fantasy Fan, comes a new book. This is the complete five issue run of Marvel Tales, coming in at nearly 300 pages, it is full of incredible stories, comments, and art from some the genres biggest and most influential names, Lovecraft, Howard, Derleth, Long, Jacobi and the list goes on. The original editor was William Crawford, famous for publishing “The Shunned House,” H.P. Lovecraft’s only book published in his lifetime. Crawford printed each of these zines himself, and even went as far as doing alternate covers… My Hero!

Those of you familiar with The Fantasy Fan will know I have taken great care to recreate the look and feel of original 1930’s fanzines, down to the color on the covers and the use of tan paper. This book is no exception, and having learned many lessons from producing The Fantasy Fan, this one is even better! The book is a whopping 3.5 pounds, and will keep the same simple feel of The Fantasy Fan. I will include the alternate covers, also extra items. I print and bind every book myself, nothing digital — just like Mr. Crawford did.

As was the case with The Fantasy Fan, the first 100 copies will be the deluxe numbered version with a slip case and extras. If you bought The Fantasy Fan volume and want the same number, Lance can only hold it until March 15, so please contact him to reserve your number. A website is coming in a few days and this post will be updated with that information. In the meantime, to pre-order contact Lance directly to reserve and order your copy.

The pre-order sale price is $40 (the price will increase $50 when the book is ready) and U.S. shipping is FREE. Pre-orders will be accepted through March 31.

The Trunk is finally here and while it is far from being full, it is off to a good start. What, you may ask, is in the the trunk — well here is an overview from the webpage:

This section of the website features essays, links and other sources of information that is of interest to Robert E. Howard scholars. Much like the trunk Howard tossed his unsold and unfinished manuscripts into, the contents of this webpage will hopefully be as valuable as the contents of Howard’s trunk. The goal of this feature is to serve as a folio of information that will prove useful to anyone doing research on Howard’s writing, and his life and times. If you have something you’d like to contribute to this repository of information, please contact the Editor.

So in the coming weeks and months, the contents of The Trunk will continue to grow and other new additions to the TGR website are also in the works, including a tribute page for the late Steve Tompkins and three additional essays from the pages of the print journal are coming soon to the “Articles & Essays” webpage.

In the meantime, click here and explore The Trunk. There is also a permanent link on the home page under “REH Scholar Resources.” Once you you’ve perused its contents, feel free to offer any suggestions or comments.

This entry filed under Howard Fandom, Howard Scholarship, News.