As a very young and incredibly naive 19-year old whippersnapper writer/photographer/movie maker/grunt at Ralston-Purina, I was taken under the wing of some really great mentors. Don Danforth, Jr., Bill Sims, Wally Wangerin, Dick Wood, Bill Becher, Don Kidwell, Bob Kurt, Will Haynes, Morris Garrett, "Texas Don" Plagge, R.B. Thomas, Tom Barnidge, Don Rix, Don Peach, Lloyd Clay, Jim Monahan, Al Tolin, Hank Hoester, Meade Sommers, Frank Sandford, Harry Holmes, Jack Duggan, Don Wimberly, Gene Hoy and Tex Faucett.
I also got a special assist from Ronnie Bogdanovich and the one and only Jean Harris.
I was a very young, completely unthethered moron, who was so lucky to have a job that it still defies imagination! I also had one surrogate father there. Ed Smyth, The Horse Chow Advertising Director. Ed was a New Yorker by birth who fell in love with the West while in the service out in Alamagordo, New Mexico.
I was a West Point, Annapolis and Air Force Academy reject and Ed's son Gary, who was my age was in the army in Viet Nam. The irony was, no matter how hard I tried to get into a service academy I could not. Gary died over there. Ed and I used to talk about it a lot.
Ed kinda adopted me. He had lost a son. I had lost my Dad at age 19, which is why I went to work so young. So, Ed used to give me good advice and wise counsel. He was a terrific man. And a terrifically talented man, too.
Ed was a writer, cartoonist, fine arts painter - he painted magazine covers for Western Horseman and rodeo covers for John Justin's Custom Boot Catalogs. John and Ed were really tight pals.
Ed was a cowboy by choice. But he drove a fire engine red VOLVO 2-seater sports car with little "fins" and always had on a Stetson and Justin Boots. Ed made the Marlboro Man look like a Rhinestone Cowboy.
We lived in the same condo development and since Ed was a footloose long-divorced batchelor and a helluva handsome guy, he used to model for Boyd's, Maritz, SBF and Famous Barr whenever a long, lean man's man was needed.
I used to see him at every weekend Covington Manor pool parties. The ladies really liked the tall, lean, tanned and muscularly thin Ed. And, he returned the favor. He was cooler that the other side of the pillow.
Well, since my first job was as a very junior level do-whatever-you-are-told-to-do grunt in the Hog Chow Marketing Group, Ed used to tease the hell out of me about going PIgback Riding, or to Pork Polo Matches, Pig Rodeos, Hog Roundups and Pork Drives.
Horsemen look down with unfiltered amusement on other livestockmen, except for the cattle boys, because horses, cowboys, cattle and rodeos all go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Later in life Ed retired to Story, Wyoming, just below the Custer Battlefield and the Montana line. He had a great place up in the foothills of the Tetons near the legendary Bradford Brinton Ranch and Yellowstone was just up the road. I visited Ed there and kept up with him for many years.
He passed away a few years ago. But I think of him almost every day. Two of my proudest possessions were gifts from Ed. One is a painting he did in 1948 of a pueblo casita out in Alamagordo and the other is a statue of a bartender serving a drink to the drunkest cowboy with the ugliest date on the planet. It came from the Buffalo Bill Hotel up in Cody, Wyoming. Ed swapped the hotel's owner one of his cowboy paintings for it.
I miss Ed. And when we meet up one day along some cloudy draw, I'm going to forgive him for giving me the nickname, Porky Porklemeier. Let this be a lesson to me. Never make stupid bets with old friends with long memories.
Birk, Commonsensetarian, Citizen of the Republic, Mob of One.
PS: Thanks Ed..keep on chasin' that Devil's herd!
Yippee Yi Oh!! Yippee Yi Yea!!! Ghost Riders in the Sky!