Archive for the 'Howard’s School Days' Category

Conan_the_Barbarian

Weapons, especially edged weapons, axes, swords, and spears, hold my attention as nothing else can. Long ago I started collecting them, but found it a taste far too expensive for my means. I still have the things I did manage to get hold of — a few sabers, swords, bayonets and the like.

— Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, 6 March 1933, CL3.31

By the time Bob Howard reached puberty, the sword was almost defunct as a weapon of war. Aside from ceremonial weapons, the only combat swords in the United States military were issued to the cavalry, though the day of the cavalry charge itself was finished, and the navy, which retained a few cutlasses. The sword had its day, and the weapons were surplused, or taken home by old soldiers to be kept, passed down, or sold to the likes of Robert E. Howard.

Yet for centuries the sword was one of the principal weapons of war, its form evolving to changing technologies, needs, and styles of combat, and it features heavily in the fiction and poetry of Robert E. Howard. It is of interest then to examine swords and swordsmanship in the writings and life of Robert E. Howard from a technical viewpoint, to see both what he wrote about swords and using them, and what that tells us about him.

Part of this article will retread familiar ground—readers may recall that several years ago, Barbara Barrett wrote two excellent articles, Robert E. Howard: The Sword Collector and His Poetry and Robert E. Howard: The Sword Collector’s Sword Collection, which illustrated the several types of swords in Howard’s collection, and which were mentioned in his poetry—but are repeated here for the sake of completeness in addressing this subject.

The Swords of Robert E. Howard

We know very little about Howard’s collection, including when or where he bought them, however, from the few details given in his letters and the memoirs of others we can make some educated guesses—and, as fortune has it, a few photographs of Bob Howard and his blades survive, which allows us to at least tentatively identify a few of them.

I enacted these wars in my games and galloped full tilt through the mesquite on a bare-backed racing mare, hewing right and left with a Mexican machete and slicing off cactus pears which I pretended were the heads of English knights. (CL2.292)

Howard’s first “sword” was probably that self-same Mexican machete from his private games; the “racing mare” might have been the same that he had named Gypsy. (CL3.55n39) This was probably the same machete that Howard was wielding in a staged photograph with Truett Vinson.

Robert E. Howard (left), Truett Vinson (right)

Robert E. Howard (left), Truett Vinson (right)

In 1922 at the age of sixteen, Robert E. Howard transferred to Brownwood High School, as the Cross Plains School District only went up to the tenth grade. There, he first made the acquaintance of Truett Vinson and Tevis Clyde Smith, who became fast friends. Howard by that point had either already begun acquiring his collection of swords, or would soon thereafter and they came into play during their leisure:

I used to wish that I could learn to fence, but the opportunity never presented itself, fencing masters not being very commonly met with in West Texas. A friend and I, several years ago, decided to try to learn the art by practice, and being unable to obtain foils, we used a pair of army swords. It was my misfortune, however, to run him through the right hand in the very first bout, and thereafter he could never be persuaded to fence again. I doubt, though, if fencing could ever have interested me like boxing, since it is, apparently, founded on finesse, and gives little opportunity for the exercise of ruggedness and sheer physical power. (CL3.242)

And sometimes less playfully, as Clyde Smith would write:

A mutual friend, talking of the futility of existence, said life meant nothing. “Just the same, you’d jump like hell if I made a pass at you with this knife,” said Bob. He was at the moment trimming his nails with one of his sabres; as the friend went ahead with his discourse, Bob slashed out at him with the cold steel. For some reason or other he missed, no doubt because the friend, in the midst of his eloquent desires for death, leaped out of the way, and howled in a pale voice: “My God, you’d kill a feller!” (RWM 10)

Of course, from Bob’s own accounts, he and his friends were well-used to a bit of rough-and-tumble play:

Two of them had me down once, one big gazabo was on top of me with a quarter-Nelson on me and another guy had me by the feet and was alternately kicking me on the shins and jabbing me in the ribs with a bayonet sheath. I drove my elbow into the neck of the guy that was holding my hands, got one hand free, got hold of a bayonet — and they let go. I used the bayonet, not the sheath, and the point at that. (CL1.11-12)

A few photographs from this period survive, and showcase elements of Howard’s collection from this period. One such depicts Robert E. Howard his neighbor’s children, brother and sister Leroy and Faustine Butler:

reh-big

Leroy Butler (left), Faustine Butler (center), Robert E. Howard (right)

While shadowed and partially concealed, these swords—evidently from Bob’s collection—provide enough details that they many can be reasonably identified. The basis for this identification are the key characteristics of the weapon: the length and shape of the blade, the shape of the hilt, which includes the guard (any device to protect the hand), handle, and pommel (the fitting at the end of the handle), the present of quillons (a projection on the guard of a sword), langets (flaps of metal extending from the guard), and any ornamentation. Manufacturer and issue marks on the blades are indistinguishable in the photograph.

The blade in Leroy Butler’s right hand is a long, slightly curved, single-edged blade with a distinct fuller (a groove in the blade to save weight and add stiffness) running most of the length of the blade, stopping several inches before the tip of the blade; the hilt is of the type called a “three-bar hilt” with an oval guard with no quillons or langets; the handle appears to be ribbed, with a ribbed pommel. The three-bar hilt is characteristic of French model cavalry swords of the 18th and 19th century, which were frequently the basis of American cavalry swords, and this appears to be a US Model 1860 Cavalry Trooper’s Sword, or an equivalent weapon.

On his left hip, we can just see the handle of a short sword or dagger—if it was a longer blade, it would likely be evident in Butler’s shadow, and the handle seems to be bare of decoration, with a small rectangular metal guard. Unfortunately, too little of this weapon is showing to identify it.

Faustine Butler carries a straight-bladed sword; the hilt features a knuckle guard with one quillon, with a handle that narrows as it approached the egg-shaped pommel. Blade is shorter than saber on the left. Such blades were based on the military smallsword of the 18th century, designed primarily for thrusting with a single or double-edged blade, and appears to be a US Model 1840 Infantry Non-Commissioned Officer’s Sword.

Robert E. Howard is holding a curved single-edged blade—more curved than Leroy Butler’s saber—with a fuller that stops several inches before the tip of the blade; the blade is apparently not sharpened, or Howard would not be gripping the cutting edge. The hilt is distinguished by small guard with a quillon and langets on either side of the blade, and possibly a knuckleguard, though this and the handle are mostly obscured by the angle of Howard’s hand. The strong curve suggests a saber, and the arrangement of quillon and langets suggests a US Model 1812 Dragoon Saber, or similar blade. The term “Dragoon” originally referred to a French cavalry trooper armed with a firearm called a dragon, but developed into a term for mounted infantry.

Two fixed-blade knives or daggers are stuck through Bob Howard’s belt-sash. On the left is a double-edged dagger with no scabbard, a short cross-guard, and a round handle that is flattened at the end; a very generic design that resists identification, the best that can be said about it is that it does not appear to be a bayonet, being both short and lacking an attachment point.

The blade on Bob’s left hip is a larger knife or short-sword, in a scabbard that suggests it is curved with a single edge; on the handle you can see two places where bolts extend through the handle and the tang (the portion of the blade that extends into the handle), and ends with a rounded, forward-projecting knob. Given the evidence, it appears to be a US Model 1909 Bolo Machete.

Some of these guesses can be at least partially verified when another photograph from the same period is considered:

REH_Three_Swords

Robert E. Howard (left), Truett Vinson (center), Tevis Clyde Smith (right)

Here, these appear to be the same three swords that were in the prior photograph; this time it is notable that all three young men are carrying the the scabbards for their sword.

Clyde Smith (right) appears to be wielding the same curved blade that Howard was grasping in the previous photograph: you can see the curve of the blade, the fuller, the quillon and one of the langets, and in addition it has the distended knuckleguard (sometimes called a “stirrup hilt”) typical of many cavalry sabers of the 19th century, including the US M1812 Dragoon Saber and the Prussian M1811 cavalry saber. The scabbard slipped into his belt appears to be metal (as opposed to wood and leather), and you can see a single band with the ring mount used to adjust the hang of the sword, which would normally be carried in a leather harness or “frog.”

Truett Vinson holds the three-bar hilted saber, where you can fairly see all three bars; swords of this type were typically made primarily for right-handed users, and you can see the bars cover the outside of the right hand when carried in that manner. Bob Howard is carrying the straight-bladed NCO Infantry sword, with few other details discernable.

After Robert E. Howard’s death, his father gave his collection of blades to Bob’s friend Earl Baker, who described them as including:

Robert E. Howard’s collection of edged weapons consisted of eight or nine pieces altogether. There were two swords, both sabers of Civil War vintage – one a battle saber, heavy and sharp; the other a handsome dress saber without an edge. There was a double-curved French bayonet of the late 19th century modeled after the Turkish yataghan. There was a World War I trench knife, with a triangular blade and an iron knuckle-guard. There was a boomerang, and there were three or four heavy knives of various kinds. (Barrett)

The de Camps, who interviewed Baker for their biography Dark Valley Destiny, add:

The collection eventually included a pair of foils, a cavalry saber of Civil War vintage, a Latin American machete, a boomerang, and several knives and daggers, one of which was a World War I trench knife with a triangular blade and a scalloped knuckle guard. He even obtained a long French double-curved bayonet of a type copied from the Turkish yataghan. (DVD 215)

A few things stand out in these descriptions; keeping in mind that that the de Camps’ account is based largely on Baker’s interview, as well as other sources. The two sabers that Baker describes could well be the US M1860 cavalry saber and the US M1812 dragoon saber pictured in the photograph of Howard and the Butlers. The M1860 (or even the early M1840) would be Civil War era, though it is important to remember that the model number refers to when the sword pattern was adopted and pattern swords could be produced for decades, and the M1812, as noted above, may not have had an edge.

The “double-curved French bayonet of the late 19th century modeled after the Turkish yataghan” could be any number of a family of yataghan-style bayonets that were popular in the 19th century, including the sword bayonet for the M1861 Navy rifle; Barrett also suggests the M1841 Mississippi Rifle bayonet which is of the same basic design. These bayonets typically featured cast-brass grips, with a quillon on one end of the cross guard and a muzzle ring to attach to the rifle on the other. The yataghan that this style of bayonet derives its name from is a short Ottoman sabre with a forward curve—that is, the part of the blade farthest from the handle is curved to be ahead of the hilt, to provide more striking power.

The “World War I trench knife, with a triangular blade and an iron knuckle-guard” is almost certainly a US M1917 knucklebow knife. The stiletto-like blade has a triangular cross-section and a steel knucklebow studded with small pyramidal projections. The US M1918 knuckle knife, also known as the Mark One Trench Knife, had a cast brass hilt with a studded knuckleduster grip.

The De Camps’ list contains “a Latin American machete”—probably the Mexican machete Howard described in his letter (CL2.292)—and, curiously, a pair of fencing foils. They go on to say of the foils:

Robert and Lindsey took a pair of empty brass cartridge cases, taped them over the ends of the foils, and tried to fence without the fencer’s usual mask, jacket, and gloves. Luckily no eyes were injured. Robert also fenced a little with Earl Baker. (DVD 215)

This is very curious given that in Howard’s 1933 letter to H. P. Lovecraft, he claims “being unable to obtain foils, we used a pair of army swords.” (CL3.242) While it is possible that Howard obtained the foils at a later date, given Howard’s own statement and the lack of mention of foils by Baker, it seems likely that this is an error on the part of the De Camps, or a misrecollection. More likely, Howard and his erstwhile partners used two of the three swords in the above photographs.

As for where Bob kept his collection:

As opportunity and finances permitted, Robert began to collect weapons, some of which decorated the bathroom wall itself, while others were stashed with his guns in the long closet built into the west wall of the room. (DVD 215)

  1. E. Hoffmann Price, in a letter to L. Sprague de Camp (who had apparently specifically asked about it), wrote that “I was in his work room, but, saw nothing. Can’t imagine where he kept the stuff.” But admitted “Or, I may have seen them and without really noting them at all.” (CLIMH 313)

Read Part 2,  Part 3

This year at Howard Days, I talked to a couple of people about my obsession with the minutia of Robert E. Howard’s life. While I am a firm believer that the more we know, the clearer the picture of the writer from Cross Plains will become, I still think some of the things that intrigue me are pretty far out in left field. But the folks I talked to said that they found these things interesting, too, and that I should keep on keeping on. Well, I’ve got a few things lined up that may change their minds. Read on, if you dare.

When I first became interested in Howard’s life he seemed to be characterized as kind of a lone nut, with only a couple of friends over in Brownwood and maybe one or two more in Cross Plains. But when you start digging, others emerge. Without mentioning any female companionship (we’ll get to that at a later time), Howard had more friends than just Clyde Smith, Truett Vinson, Dave Lee, and Lindsey Tyson.

Reading Howard’s correspondence and autobiographical writings reveals other friends, including Aud “Slue Foot” Cross, Winfred Brigner, and Ottie Gill, not to mention Harold Preece and E. Hoffmann Price who both visited Cross Plains on more than one occasion. The de Camp papers at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin contain interviews with other Howard pals like Austin Newton, Leroy Butler, and Tom Ray Wilson. Even Howard’s hometown newspaper, the Cross Plains Review, has items of interest like this one from July 25, 1924: “Earl Baker of Ballinger visited Robert Howard last week.” (Baker was a buddy from the Burkett days.) These were all people who came in and out of Howard’s life, friends of circumstance like we all have from time to time, while our core group remains somewhat stable. To this list we should add Ray Adams.

Not too long ago Patrice Louinet sent me a clipping from the November 16, 1923 edition of the Cross Plains Review:

1923 11-16 REH in CPR

One little clipping, and a question: did I know anything about Ray Adams. At the time, I’d never even heard of him, now I know more than anyone outside of his family needs to know. I’ll share the relevant bits here.

Alton Ray Adams was born in Eastland County, Texas, on October 11, 1905, the first child of William and Fannie. His father was a farmer. Sometime after the 1910 enumeration of the U.S. Census but before the end of the year 1919, the Adams family had moved to Cross Plains and gained two more members: Kermit and Bonnie. And if they hadn’t met earlier, Ray Adams and Robert E. Howard would have bumped into each other at the Methodist Church on Christmas Eve 1919 where they are both on the program giving readings, as reported on December 26.

1919 12-26 REH in CPR

Presumably, Adams attended school in Cross Plains and, since he was just a few months older, may have had classes with Robert E. Howard, whose family had moved to Cross Plains in 1919. If they attended school together, they don’t appear to have been in the same class: Adams is not listed with Howard in the graduating class of 1922 that appeared in the paper. But he is one of the young men, along with Howard, mentioned in the following July 28, 1922 item:

1922 07-28 REH in CPR

After the radio experiment, Robert E. Howard went off to Brownwood for another year of high school. Ray Adams moved back to Eastland County, Cisco to be precise. But the two appear to have been good enough friends that they tried to stay in touch. When Howard returned to Cross Plains in 1923, Adams visited at least once, as the clip at the head of this post indicates.

How long the pair remained friends is a mystery. Like many school friendships, it may have simply dwindled away, or perhaps they became pen pals, though I haven’t found reference to Adams in Howard’s surviving correspondence. Whatever the case, sometime before the death of his father, W. M. Adams in June 1934, Ray had moved to Montana. He died there in 1942.

1934 06-29 Family info in CPR(From the June 29, 1934 Cross Plains Review)

 

1924 09-07 REH to TCS 01

Following his graduation from Brownwood High in May 1923, Robert E. Howard went home to Cross Plains and worked on his writing; he also worked at a few odd jobs. By the spring of 1924, he was working at a tailor shop, but this wouldn’t last long; another shop had opened in Cross Plains, the third, and he hadn’t “made very much money lately.” (REH to TCS April 21, 1924)

Despite his seeming lack of cash, Howard visited the American Legion convention in Brownwood early in the summer. In a June 19 letter to Clyde Smith, he says, “I looked all over the convention for you but didn’t see you. There were quite a few drunks there but all I saw were good-natured drunks. I didn’t see a single fight. Speaking confidentially, though, you ought to have been up in the Cross Plains band headquarters. Oh, boy, talk about hilarity. I’ll tell you about it when I see you.”

Also that June, Howard tried to trade up in employment, as he explained to Smith in the same letter: “I was promised a job in Brownwood, quit my job in the tailor shop here, then the guy went back on it. Leaves me without a job. I’ve been heaving freight at the depot some but there’s not much money in it.”

While Howard was working, some of his friends and neighbors had been off pursuing their educations. That June, Tom Ray Wilson came home from nearby Coleman where he had been going to school and Renerick Clark, with whom Howard had tried to launch a radio station two summers ago, came home from A & M College, where he “finished this year with high honors.” Besides these items of a perhaps more personal nature, Howard was no doubt aware of the local news that the town was buzzing about: the new oil rig that was being erected northwest of town and the speaker from the Ku Klux Klan who spoke on June 1st, both of which were reported on in the Cross Plains Review (CPR) for June 6: “R. G. Brown, of Atlanta, Ga., Klan lecturer, spoke here Saturday night in the interest of the Klan. The Review is informed that about 25 members were added to the local organization. One hundred men attended the meeting it is stated.”

The paper also began running a serial, The Lord of the Thunder Gate by Sidney Herschel Small, which Howard may have read.

At the end of the month, June 27 and 28, the town of Burkett had its big picnic, which featured “Candidate speaking, Rodeo, ball games, Merry-go-round, Klan speaking and parade.” (CPR 1924 June 13). As a former resident with friends in the area, Howard may have attended (though in his June letter to Smith he says that picnics “get on my nerves”). The July 4 Cross Plains Review had a page-one write-up on the event under the headline “Big Crowds Attend Picnic at Burkett”:

The big two-day picnic at Burkett last Friday and Saturday drew thousands of people both days. Cross Plains was well represented Friday and Saturday nights. Friday night the Klan staged a spectacular parade followed by a lecture on Klan principles, by Rev. Wright of Plainview. And Saturday night, A. V. Dairymple Anti-klan speaker, who spoke here Saturday afternoon, lectured there. Both speakers were given a good hearing. Other attractions featured at the picnic were baseball games, rodeo performances, the Merry-Go-Round, and candidate speakers.

A few weeks later, July 16-17, it was Cross Plains’ turn for a picnic. The July 11 CPR reported that it would feature a “Big Round-up, Free for all Prize contest, Merry-Go-Round, Big Ferris Wheel, the Whip, general assortment of amusements by the famous H. B. Poole Shows, candidate speaking which will include a number of prominent state men and good music by the best band in Texas its age—The Cross Plains C of C Band.” Our man Robert Howard even invited Clyde Smith to attend in his June letter:

But if you want to see real drunkenness, come to the Cross Plains picnic. Why can’t you come and stay with me and attend it? It’s July 16 and 17. Of course as a source of entertainment it isn’t much, usually a merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel and a few dozen booths of various kinds. But there’s always a lot of drunks and usually several fights. Oh, yes, they usually have a rodeo too. They have it in a big enclosure surrounded by tow sacking or something and it’s amusing to watch the efforts of the officers to keep kids from sneaking in. Sometimes, too, they have prize-fights. I haven’t attended the picnic much the last few years, they get on my nerves, but if you’ll come over and stay with me we’ll take it in, maybe.

Whether or not Smith made the trip is unknown—the 16th and 17th were a Wednesday and a Thursday in 1924—but we do know that Howard saw a friend that week: his former Burkett buddy, Earl Baker. The July 25 Cross Plains Review had these two items: “Earl Baker of Ballinger visited Robert Howard last week” and “Alma Baker spent Wednesday and Thursday in Cross Plains, guest of Mrs. I. M. Howard.” The same edition of the paper tells us what Howard did after the picnic, whether or not he actually attended it:

1924 07-25 CPR p01

If not in July, we know that Smith visited Cross Plains at least once that summer. An item from the August 23 Review says that “Clyde Smith of Brownwood was a week end guest of Robert Howard.” The same paper reports that “Dr. and Mrs. Howard and son visited in Brownwood Tuesday.” Perhaps they gave Smith a ride home.

And there was still time for one more trip that summer. No one can know when the Howard family first planned its trip to south Texas, but the August 8 edition of the Review had the following, which may have piqued Dr. Howard’s interest:

Cross Cut, Texas, 7, 29 24.
Mr. Editor Review:

I am moving with family to Weslaco, Texas, Hidalgo Co., to contract a farm home on land I bought one mile southeast of town the first of the year, where I have a fine cotton crop being gathered on 23 acres and I am to get 1-4 of the cotton. It is estimated to make one to two bales of cotton per acre.

Mrs. A. L. DeBusk also bought 41 acres and that too in cotton. We expect to place all eventually in grapefruit orchards. I expect to buy more of this cheap land, as it is being taken fast. I will only be there one week, then return to move 25th of August.

I am not selling any thing here, as I think lots of the mineral rights on my holdings in and near Cross Cut. Will see you some more,

W. A. Prater.

Whether or not the Howards knew those involved with the above prospecting, by early September they had traveled south. On September 7, Howard sent Clyde Smith a letter/illustrated poem from Weslaco, Texas. Two days later, September 9, opening exercises for the fall term at Howard Payne College began; Howard was enrolled at the Howard Payne Academy that term—perhaps he missed the opening. On September 19, the Review had the following item:

1924 09-19 CPR p05

With that, summer was over. Two months later, Robert E. Howard made his first professional sale.

1923 Pecan Yearbook

Here’s another brief biography for one of Robert E. Howard’s classmates in the graduating class of Cross Plains High School for 1922.

Clarence Scott Boyles, Jr. was born to his namesake, C. S. Boyles, Sr., and Prudence Lucile “Lucy” (Cutbirth) Boyles on August 1, 1905 in Baird, Texas. In 1959, the senior Clarence provided an oral history to his oldest child, Laura Boyles Freeman. Here’s what Laura recorded (I found this on ancestry.com):

On April 29, 1890 a red-haired, freckled-faced, 16-year old boy landed in Abilene, Texas. That boy was Clarence Boyles. With $3.00 in his pocket, he had come west to make his fortune. His mother having died in September, Clarence came to West Texas principally for his health. Nearly all of his family—parents, two brothers, and one sister—had passed away. Addie, who was studying music at Baylor College, and a younger brother, Henry, were all the family that remained.

The train from Waco left at sunrise and arrived at Cisco at sunset. The engine burned cordwood, and there was never a time all day that the engine crew had a supply of wood and water at the same time. The passengers would all pile off and help load the cordwood so the train could get started again.

At Cisco, Clarence took the “Texas and Pacific” midnight train for Abilene. The next several years were spent as an apprentice in a saddle and harness shop. However, Clarence doubled as a delivery boy for a meat market and spent his summer months on the Chris Seale Ranch at Belle Plains as an extra hand during the round-up.

On May 15, 1894, Clarence S. Boyles went into the saddle and harness business at Baird, Texas, with a capital of $60.00. He made all the harness he sold, and most of the saddles. He had a saddle stock patented.

One summer, while working on the Seale Ranch, Clarence Boyles met [Prudence] Lucy Cutbirth, daughter of a neighboring rancher, Sam Cutbirth.

Three years after he opened his saddle shop in Baird, he and Prudence were married on May 25, 1897 at Belle Plains, Texas. The couple bought a home in Baird. Four children were born: Laura Alice, Clara Adelaide, C.S. Jr., and William James. The family continued to live there until 1911, when they moved to Cross Plains, 30 miles south of Baird. There he again went into the hardware business. A daughter, Patsy Frances, was born in 1913.

The June 14, 1919 issue of Lone Scout gives us an idea of Junior’s interests at the time. Boyles appears in that week’s “Lone Scout Messenger Department,” a place where Lone Scouts solicited for like-minded correspondents. He listed his interests as Stamp/Coin Collecting, Photography/Postcards, Jokes/Riddles, and Scout Boosting (publicity). He appears again in the August 2, 1919 issue with a short article, “New Stunt for a Phonograph”:

1919 08-02 p09 Boyles cu

The August 16, 1919 issue has a short note from Boyles: “Of course contributing [to Lone Scout] is all right, but do not forget to ‘Do a Useful Thing Each Day.’” This was the Lone Scout motto. He doesn’t appear again in Lone Scout until the July 10, 1920 “Messenger Department.” This time his interests appear as Tribe Papers, Exchanging Papers, Athletics, Hiking/Camping, and Foreign Correspondence. That same year, Boyles’ two older sisters married and moved away from Cross Plains.

The January 14, 1921 Cross Plains Review reports that C. S.’s mother “is now at a sanitarium in Brownwood, where she has the last few days undergone two operations.” This was just the beginning of Mrs. Boyles’ health problems and she ended up dying on July 27, 1922, of peritonitis following an appendectomy. Just a few days later, August 4, 1922, Boyles appeared in an article in the Cross Plains Review entitled “Radio Station Being Installed.” The article describes the efforts of several residents to have an “up to date radio plant” in Cross Plains. Also mentioned in the article are Renerick Clark (who appeared in the November 27, 1920 “Messenger Department”) and Robert E. Howard.

Come fall, Boyles ended up at Brownwood High School to pick up the college-required 11th year. Like his classmate Robert E. Howard, Boyles took the science course, was in the “Heels Club,” and contributed to the school paper, The Tattler, though Boyles part was a bit more official: he was the associate editor. Boyles also participated in the W.O.N. Club (whatever that was), the Cadet Corps, and was on the basketball team. While attending BHS, if not before, he met fellow senior Eunice Ilene Embrey, who was taking the Spanish Course, was in the Glee Club and Pep Squad, on the swimming and tennis teams, and was class secretary. They all graduated in May 1923.

After graduation, Boyles entered Howard Payne College and continued his newspaper activities with The Yellow Jacket; he even solicited material from his former classmate, Robert E. Howard, who supplied two short pieces, both entitled “Letter of a Chinese Student,” during the 1923-24 school year [more info on this is here]. Howard was not a student at Howard Payne that school year, and by the time he actually enrolled, 1924-25, Boyles was gone—married to former BHS classmate Ilene Embry and living in Sweetwater, Texas, where his father had moved and remarried.

1949 Chromascope Austin College

Boyles began a series of newspapers jobs with the Sweetwater Daily Reporter, and had his first child, Betty Ilene, in 1928. A son, Cullen S., followed in 1930. When World War Two began, Boyles enlisted in the Marines. After the war, he began placing stories in the Western pulps using the alias Will C. Brown and spent some time teaching Journalism at Austin College. He returned to military duty during the Korean conflict, rising to the rank of Major. Upon his discharge, he resumed writing and published his first novel, The Border Jumpers, in 1955. This was adapted to film in 1958’s Man of the West with Gary Cooper.

Regarding Boyles’ new career, his sister Laura Boyles Freeman wrote the following in 1959:

The talent for writing is evident in several of the family, principally my oldest brother, C. S. Boyles (alias Will C. Brown). He really writes. He has been in the newspaper business, but at present is publicity director for Austin College at Sherman, Texas. He writes for magazines (principally Western Magazines), and many of his plots are inspired by letters Papa has written telling of some incident he remembers about his first years in West Texas.

Not long after the above was written, Boyles and family moved to the California coast. His wife died in 1965, his son in 1973. Both are buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. Boyles lived the rest of his days in and around the San Diego area. He died on June 25, 1995 and joined his wife and son five days later at Fort Rosecrans.

This entry filed under Howard Biography, Howard's School Days.

1922-05-05 - Cross Plains Review - REH

There were ten kids in the graduating class of 1922 at Cross Plains High School. Readers of this blog know quite a bit about the most famous student, Robert E. Howard, and I’ve posted a good amount of information on a few of the others, Winfred Brigner, C. S. Boyles, and Edith Odom. In June, I ran some biographies of the other graduates in my REHupa ’zine. Since then, I’ve found a little more information on Ruth Brewer. Pretty esoteric stuff, but some of it is quite interesting.

Ruth’s parents, Kate Cornelia Pledger and James “Jim” Hollis Brewer, were married in Tyler, Texas, on January 16 (maybe 17), 1900. That year’s Census shows the couple in Tyler Ward 2. James, 38, is a grocery dealer, 14 years his wife’s senior. Kate’s mother, Addie, lives with the newlyweds, her own husband having died sometime before. On Ancestry.com, a couple of people have Jim on their family trees and show him as being married to someone else, prior to his marriage to Kate; there appears to be at least one child attached to the new couple that was born before their wedding. Whether this child was born out of wedlock or was the result of a previous marriage, I don’t know. At any rate, Kate and James soon have children of their own: Hollis Ryan in 1902, Mammie Ruth in 1904, and Charlsey Kate in 1906. There may have been another after Charlsey, but that is unconfirmed. On May 16, 1908, James died.

1908 05-22 Brewer

Mr. Brewer’s death is a bit of a mystery. I’ve found a few clippings from newspapers that identify him as a grocer in Tyler. One story references a bad fire at the business a few years prior and states that there wasn’t enough insurance to cover the loss. The cause of death is listed as “Strychnine Poison” and at least one member on Ancestry.com hints that his death was a suicide. Whatever the case, the remaining Brewers drop off the record until 1920 (I can’t find any of them on the 1910 Census or information on Addie Pledger’s 1913 death).

The 1920 Census has widowed Kate and her two daughters, Ruth and Charlsey, in Cross Plains as roomers in the home of Edith Bond. Kate is a music teacher at the public school; her daughters are students. In 1921, Ruth and Charlsey sang together at meetings of the Epworth League and were featured in a play put on at the high school.

1921 05-06 CPR Brewer

Ruth was awarded “Honorable Mention” upon her 1922 graduation from CPHS for her yearly average of 88%; she was third in her class. Sometime between November 1922 and June 1923, she married a local farmer’s son, Edwin Glenn Adams, who, in an August 8, 1924 item in the Cross Plains Review, is mentioned as “Our efficient Printer” and by the end of the year is listed as one of the paper’s owners.

Probably in 1925, the couple had their first child, and on November 21, 1926, their second: Wayne Laneire Adams. Wayne’s birth certificate has two interesting items: first, it reveals that Ruth’s first child had died sometime before Wayne’s birth; second, Wayne was delivered by a certain local physician:

IMH

In 1930, the Census has Ruth’s mother living in Abilene, working as music teacher. In the home is divorced daughter Charlsey Davidson (occupation: “advertising”; industry: “theatrical”) and son, Harold. Back in Cross Plains, the Census has Ruth at home with her son; her husband is a “manager” of some kind in the publishing industry. The family life didn’t last much longer. On October 24, 1932, Ruth’s husband died at the Sealy Hospital in nearby Santa Anna of an “intestinal obstruction.” He was buried back home in Cross Plains.

Less than a year later, on August 2, 1933, while visiting her sister-in-law in Gregg County, Ruth shot herself “through [the] breast” and died. On the death certificate, the cause of death is listed as “Suicide by gunshot.” She is buried with her husband in the Cross Plains cemetery. I imagine Robert E. Howard knew most of this sad story.

BtS_cover-sm2

As Damon mentioned in his previous post, Back to School is now available. Details here:

Back to School

This entry filed under Howard Biography, Howard's School Days.

This is final post for 2012 of the online version of Nemedian Dispatches. This feature previously appeared in the print journal and is now on the blog. On roughly a quarterly basis, Nemedian Dispatches will highlight new and upcoming appearances of Howard’s fiction in print, as well as Howard in other types of media.

In Print:

Conan Meets the Academy: Multidisciplinary Essays on the Enduring Barbarian
Just  published, this volume from McFarland & Company, Inc., takes on Howard’s Conan as its only subject. Two TGR contributors, Frank Coffman and Jeff Shanks, are among the many contributors The collection of Conan essays focuses on the following topics: stylometry, archeology, cultural studies, folklore studies, and literary history, additionally the essays examine statistical analyses of Howard’s texts, as well as the literary genesis of Conan, later-day parodies, Conan video games, movies, and pop culture in general. By displaying the wide range of academic interest in Conan, this volume reveals the hidden scholarly depth of this seemingly unsophisticated fictional character. The book is edited by Jonas Prida.

The Complete Marvel Tales
Lance Thingmaker, the publisher of the highly acclaimed complete collection of The Fantasy Fan, has published an equally impressive follow volume his next project — a hardback book that collects the five issue run of William Crawford’s Marvel Tales. Each issue was filled with fantasy from top Weird Tales writers, with Howard’s “The Garden of Fear” appearing in the second issue. To order, contact the publisher. The price of the book is $50.00 (includes US postage), but if you mention the TGR blog, you can save $5.00 and pay only $45.00 (includes US postage). Just like The Fantasy Fan, this volume is sure to be an instant collector’s item.

Skullcrusher
The cover of this collection of various  Howard’ stories is either laughable or terrifying, depending on you point of view. Skullcrusher is the first volume of a two-volume collection of fantasy stories by Howard. The contents feature all of Howard’s most famous creations — Conan, King Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn — and also includes Cormac Mac Art, James Allison, Red Sonya, and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey. The anthology covers several genres: sword and sorcery, fantasy, horror and adventure.

Weird Tales Magazine
The present day incarnation of this classic pulp Howard contributed many stories has returned to its roots. Gone are the slick, modern logos that were on the cover the past several years — the current editor as brought back the classic Weird Tales logo. Check out the website for the new issue and plans for the magazine’s future. Judging from the list of contents, the new owner of the magazine seems to be returning the “Unique Magazine” to its glory days.

Weird Tales, May 1934Weird Tales Pulp Replicas
Speaking of Weird Tales, in recent months Girasol Collectable, Inc. has published three pulp replicas of WT featuring Conan, two of them cover stories. The most recent replica is the December 1932, which features the first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword. The other two contain “Black Colossus” and ‘Queen of the Black Coast.”

Adventures in Science Fantasy
Copies of this collection of Robert E. Howard’s sort of science fiction stories published by REH Foundation Press are still available. The centerpiece of this collection is Howard’s interplanetary adventure novel, Almuric, backed up by a dozen or so other science fantasy yarns from Howard’s battered Underwood typewriter. The book features a stunning wraparound cover by Mark Schulz, an introduction by Michal Stackpole and is edited by Rob Roehm. Some of the Foundation books are selling out — the first volume of Collected Letters is out-of-print.

 

Coming Soon:

 REH - Back to SchoolBack to School
In addition to the pirate book, this volume from the REH Foundation Press will be on sale by the end of the month. The book is a collection of all the known, surviving work for school that REH produced. It includes works for practically every class you can think of: English, History, Biology, Geometry, etc. Most of the contents have never before been published. Also, REHF members can look forward to a holiday card in the mail that contains a previously unpublished poem and the year-end edition of the Newsletter — two more reasons to join the Foundation’s membership ranks.

The Dark Man Vol 7, No. 1
The new issue is due out any day now. Contents include: “The Writer’s Style: Sound and Syntax in Howard’s Sentences” by David C. Smith, “I and I Liberate Zimbabwe: Motifs of Africa and Freedom in Howard’s “The Grisly Horror” by Patrick R. Burger and “Robert E. Howard and the Lone Scouts” by Rob Roehm, plus reviews and more. TDM will be available from Lulu.com.

Alluring Art of BrundageThe Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage
This volume, due out the end of February, is an extensive tribute to  Brundage  and her art. Her fantasy, science-fiction, and horror paintings graced the cover of many an issue of Weird Tales and other pulps during Howard’s lifetime. The sexy, alluring and sensationalistic Brundage covers even featured Conan nine times. She was the first female cover artist of the pulp era and her work was controversial for the day, often featuring bondage themes, with semi-nude young women bearing whips. The book comes in three editions, all with full color art. Visit the publisher’s website for more details and ordering information.

At the end of my last post I went off on a tangent regarding Robert E. Howard’s cousin, Earl Lee Comer; he was the subject of my mania last summer and I “published” my findings in a REHupa ’zine. Since then, a few more nuggets of information have emerged, including a couple of interesting items from Glenn Lord’s collection of Howard’s typescripts. Anyway, let’s see what most people already know about Earl Lee before we get into that.

Most of us were introduced to Mr. Comer in the pages of L. Sprague de Camp’s biography of Howard, Dark Valley Destiny:

Robert Howard was thirteen years old when his family bought their home in Cross Plains. Although Robert had not outgrown the Burkett school system, which lacked high-school facilities, we surmise that Mrs. Howard’s nephew, Earl Lee Comer, who had come to live with them, had already reached high-school age. Very little is known about this nephew, except that he shared the Howards’ house for several years. Robert, in his later letters to Lovecraft, never once mentions the slightly older lad whose presence must have affected him in one way or another. Since the two boys shared the sleeping porch, ate at the same table, and even attended the same high school, it is indeed curious that no mention of him appears in the correspondence of either Robert or his father.

Queries to former teachers at the Cross Plains school and to others who lived in the neighborhood have revealed nothing. All we know is that after completing his high school courses, Lee Comer left Cross Plains to work for one of the oil companies in Dallas. Perhaps no one will ever know what Robert thought of this interloper in his home or what this orphaned youth thought of his thirteen-year-old cousin.

In later pages, discussing the family’s house in Cross Plains, de Camp adds the following: “Several years later, when Lee Comer moved out, the family’s sleeping arrangements were entirely rearranged.” And that’s all for DVD. De Camp’s use of “interloper” seems to be designed to put a negative spin on the whole arrangement, even though he had no information to that effect. The only mention of Comer that I’ve found in de Camp’s papers is from an October 10, 1977 letter from Lindsey Tyson:

There was one relative of the Howards that no one seems to remember much about. His name was Earl Lee Comer. Earl Lee was a nephew of Mrs. Howard’s, he came to live with the Howards while they were still in Burkett. He was an orphan.

Earl Lee left here in the early twenties, went to Dallas, and Bob told me went to work for the Mobile Oil Co. Earl Lee was I think four or five years older than Bob. He came back here to the funeral service and I talked to him for a few minutes before the services, but I did not get to ask some things I was interested in. I was one of the pall bearers, thought I would talk to him some more later, but he left as soon as the service was over and I have never seen him again.

Rusty Burke’s “Short Biography” does not mention Comer, but the most-recent biography, Mark Finn’s Blood and Thunder, adds some more details:

Robert had to endure the first of many boarders. His cousin, Earl Lee Comer, was staying at the Howard house, most likely to work in the nearby oil fields. Robert was forced to share the sleeping porch with this older man, who came to them through Hester’s side of the family. Comer stayed for at least a year, presumably until the work ran out, and then moved on like the rest of the oil field folks. Robert never discussed his cousin to anyone.

Now why does everyone assume that Comer’s coming was a bad thing? Howard had to “endure” his cousin’s presence and was “forced” to share sleeping quarters? Finn takes it a step further in his discussion of bullying when he speculates: “Was his older cousin, Earl Lee Comer, a tormentor in addition to being an oil field roughneck? Nobody knows.” We’ll have more on Howard’s reaction to his cousin later, but first, let’s see what we can find out with some internet archeology.

The friends of Miss Alice Ervin, formerly a resident of Muskogee, and a sister of Mrs. J. O. Cobb, will be interested in learning that Miss Ervin was married on Wednesday of last week to Rev. J. Frank Comer, of St. Louis, Mo., at the home of the bride’s parents at Commerce, Mo. The many friends of Miss Ervin in Muskogee join the friends at her home in wishing the wedded couple all the peace, joy and contentment that life affords. — Muskogee Phoenix – March 12, 1896

Following their marriage, Rev. J. Frank Comer and Hester’s sister Alice vanish from the internet record. There is a “J. F. Comer” listed as a land owner in Richmond, Missouri, Ray County, in 1897. Looking at the map (below), there is a cemetery right next door. If Mr. Comer was a reverend, that could make sense, but this is the only mention I’ve found. They are not listed on the 1900 Census, so it’s a mystery what the couple did from 1896 to 1910, except that on July 13, 1898, Earl Lee was born in Saint Louis. We pick up the trail on April 23, 1910, where the now widowed “Alice G.” and her son were enumerated on the Census at Big Spring.  She is listed as a dress-maker. The pair probably moved to Big Spring following the death of Frank to be near Alice’s older brother, William Vinson Ervin.

In 1911, Earl Lee participated in Texas’s Troop No. 1, the so-called “oldest Boy Scout troop in Texas,” which began in Big Spring that year (“Scout Troop Completes 25 Years,” from the December 27, 1936 edition of the Big Spring Herald). The good times didn’t last long, though, as his mother died a few years later, July 14, 1915. With both of his parents now gone, and Uncle William already having several of his own children, Earl Lee ended up with his Aunt Hester in Cross Cut. He appears in “Cross Cut Items,” from the December 10, 1915 edition of the Cross Plains Review (thanks Rusty), where it is reported that he is part of the Cross Cut school’s basketball team. Earl was 17 years old; his cousin Robert was 9.

If Tyson’s statement above is accurate, Comer went with the Howards when they moved to Burkett—but he was gone before they moved to Cross Plains. On May 25, 1918, he signed up for the U.S. Navy. After the war, the 1920 Census has an “Earl E. Comer” listed as a “Lodger” in Milwaukee, Ward 4, Wisconsin, of all places. Perhaps he was sent there as part of his enlistment. This appears to be our Earl as the Big Spring Herald reported the following on January 7, 1921:

Earl Lee Comer who recently returned from Milwaukee, Wis., where he had been to take a course in mechanical drawing, after spending the holidays with friends and relatives in this city left for Cross Plains where he will make his home.

What he did in Cross Plains is a mystery. One would suppose that he was put to work using the training he’d received in Wisconsin. Whatever he did, Earl’s second stay with the Howards didn’t last long. By Christmas 1923 he was living in Dallas, as reported in the Big Spring paper for December 28th: “Earl Comer was here from Dallas to spend Christmas with Dr. W. C. Barnett and family,” and again on May 9, 1924: “Earl Comer of Dallas was here this week for a visit with the family of Dr. W. C. Barnett.”

It is unclear what Earl was doing for a living at this time, but he seems to have landed a permanent position by the time the following item appeared in the Big Spring paper, September 10, 1926: “Earl Comer, en route from Los Angeles to Dallas, where he has accepted a position, visited friends in this city this week, leaving Thursday morning for Dallas.” What he was doing in LA is a mystery. [UPDATE: Looks like we know at least one thing he was doing, writing a letter to Weird Tales. Look here.]

The next Earl sighting is in Cross Plains. It appears that Earl enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday with the Howards in 1928: “E. L. Comer of Dallas, nephew of Dr. and Mrs. Howard, spent past weekend here” (Cross Plains Review, Nov. 30, 1928).

Also around 1928, apparently, we get a glimpse at how Robert Howard felt about his cousin. In March of that year, the first mailing of The Junto was circulated. Its editor, Booth Mooney, appears on a list of Howard’s friends and the cities they lived in: Truett Vinson, Clyde Smith, Booth Mooney—and “Earl Lee Comer, Dallas, Texas.” Another stray page has a list of three: “Truett Vinson / Clyde Smith / Earl Lee Comer.” Earl’s inclusion on these lists seems to indicate that Howard considered him as a friend; they may have even corresponded.

The 1930 Census has “Earl L. Comer” as a draftsman lodger in Dallas, Texas, and from there we lose sight of Earl until his appearance at the Howards’ funeral. Sometime before December 1938, Earl got married. He and his wife visited Big Spring a few times in 1938 and 1939. We know from his military record that he was divorced at the time of his death, and Earl’s trips to Big Spring in 1941 were taken alone, so perhaps the marriage was a brief one.

There is an Earl Comer being brought up on charges of child desertion in Rusk, Texas, in 1963; whether or not this Earl is our Earl, we’ll probably never know. The earliest mention of a Mrs. Earl Lee is December 1938. It seems odd that the couple would have a child young enough to be “deserted” in 1963. I’m guessing this was someone else.

The last definitive sighting of Earl is from the Galveston Daily News for Sept. 16, 1970:

Earl Lee Comer, 72, a retired Galveston draftsman, was found dead in his room at Moody House Tuesday. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Brookside Memorial Park in Houston, the Rev. William C. Webb Jr. officiating. Cremation will follow under the director of J. Levy and Bro. Funeral Home of Galveston. Born in St. Louis, Mo., Comer worked as a draftsman for the U.S. Bureau of Mines prior to his retirement. No survivors were reported.

ADDENDUM: In response to some emails I’ve received, I thought I’d add the following comment to the post. This is in response to de Camp’s claim that “Robert, in his later letters to Lovecraft, never once mentions the slightly older lad whose presence must have affected him in one way or another.”

I think we can now explain why Howard doesn’t mention Earl in his correspondence: Earl was probably gone before Howard started writing letters, at least any that have survived. The first letter we have is dated June 8, 1923 and we know that Earl was living in Dallas before Christmas of that year. So we’ve got Earl living with the Howards in Cross Cut and maybe Burkett, a period that Howard doesn’t mention much in his correspondence, and then again from 1921 to some point before December 1923, when Howard was in high school—another period he doesn’t talk about much. But there *are* a few unnamed cousins in the correspondence. This one, in particular:

Another thing that discourages me, is the absolute unreliability of human senses. If a hunting hound’s nose fooled him as often as a human’s faculties betray him, the hound wouldn’t be worth a damn. The first time this fact was brought to my mind was when I was quite small, and hearing a cousin relate the details of a camping trip, on which one Boy Scout shot another through the heart with a .22 calibre target rifle. I was never a Boy Scout, but I understand that they are trained to be keen observers. Well, there were about twenty looking on, and no two of them told the same story in court. And each insisted that his version was the correct one, and stuck to it. And I understand that this is common among all witnesses.

Of course, this could be Howard hyperbole, but given the “quite small” comment, and the fact that Earl was a Boy Scout, could be . . . And here’s another:

One of the damndest falls I ever got in my life was on a frozen pool — or tank, as we call them in these parts. I was just a kid, and wrestling with my cousin who was much older and larger. Eventually our feet went from under us, and we both came down on my head.

Now that we know the real age difference, that sounds like it could be Earl, too. So maybe it’s not that Howard never talked about Earl, maybe it’s just that we didn’t know enough about Earl to find him in the letters. But again, we’ll never really know; these could just be coincidences.

More on Earl Lee here: An Earl Addendum

Still more: Another Earl Addendum

[Photo credits: Downtown Big Spring , Photograph, n.d.; digital image, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth50477/ : accessed July 08, 2012), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Hardin-Simmons University Library , Abilene, Texas. Thanks to Damon Sasser for making the trip to the Houston National Cemetery and taking the picture of Earl’s headstone.]

Five years ago, while beginning research for what eventually became The Brownwood Connection, I visited the Walker Memorial Library at Howard Payne University in Brownwood. I was interested in acquiring copies or photographs of Robert E. Howard’s stories in The Yellow Jacket. I also wanted to go through their yearbooks and catalogues, anything and everything from the 1920s. Unfortunately, some of the material was not available for viewing on that first visit, and I ended up returning to HPU several more times in the years that followed, each time getting more and different information, much of which has appeared on this blog.

About three years ago, I was told why the library never seemed to have everything I was looking for at any one time: their archives were being digitized and uploaded to the web. Uploaded to the web?

Yup. And where on the web would these archives be? I wanted to know. This would save me lots of time and travel expense. The answer is here: The Portal to Texas History. Not only do they have the files from Howard Payne, but also the archives from Daniel Baker College (where Clyde Smith and Novalyne Price attended), McMurray College (Austin Newton’s alma mater), and many others. Each college’s collection of catalogues, yearbooks, and school newspapers are available in searchable format. It’s a researcher’s dream.

And that’s not all that’s available on the website. There are also period photos from all over the state, city directories, legislative documents, various books and journals, a whole slew of information. There are a few drawbacks: the available images aren’t always of the best quality and the search function doesn’t always turn up all the results, especially from the school newspapers. So, when looking for something in those publications, sometimes the old-school approach—a page-by-page search—yields better results.

And there are some gaps in the available material. For example, while they do have issues of Daniel Baker’s Collegian, they don’t have any of the issues from Tevis Clyde Smith’s reign as editor, hence none of Bob Howard’s poems. But the issues they do have, especially when coupled with the yearbooks, provide a good picture of what it must have been like to be a student there in the 1920s.

The website takes some getting used to, but for the first-time visitor, I’d suggest clicking on the “Explore” tab at the top right of the home page, and then the letter “Y” under Collections. This will take you directly to the Yellow Jacket files.

Have fun.

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.