Sunday, April 8, 2007


Today is my birthday (yes, there is still time to send gifts!). I'm trying to concentrate on writing but the Flatlanders (left) are on "Prairie Home Companion." I cannot think about anything other than lust and dust and cold beer and cowboy hats when I hear Jimmie Dale Gilmore. He and his buds--Butch Hannock and Joe Ely--are from Lubbock, Texas, home of Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings, where the land is so flat you can see for fifty miles, and if you stand on a tuna can you can see for a hundred. We have much in common. I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains, the descendant of Scotch-Irish fiddlers where day-to-day life had a soundtrack. I always have music in the background, must have music somewhere just to function. I type and tap my foot. There is a genetic link, I believe, between hillbillies and Texas flatlanders, and when I hear that whiny, warbly, tenor of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, I become hopelessly lost and a smoky honky-tonk beckons before me as ethereal as the Great White City. . . .

Birthday Girls

I share this day with two incredible women--Josephine Marcus Earp and Elizabeth Bacon Custer.

There was a quote by one of Wyatt Earp's nieces or nephews (when asked about the uncle's exploits) that I found very interesting. Paraphrasing here, he/she replied, "Well, they said Uncle Wyatt was a murderer but he lived with that woman for 50 years and never harmed a hair on her head."

This implies, of course, that Josie Earp, or Sadie, as her family called her, was the kind of woman that might inspire exasperation. I like that. If a woman isn't exasperating, well, there's just not much point, is there?

Of course, when we think of Josie today, we imagine her as Dana Delaney who played her so boldly in the movie Tombstone. There aren't many images of Josie, and the pretty pornographic image purported for decades to be her-- isn't. I found this picture (above), sold by John's Western Gallery in San Francisco a couple of years ago, that is supposed to Josie in 1881. She looks like such a nice Jewish girl!

Josie was born in Brooklyn in 1861 and died in Los Angeles in 1944. (Her beloved Wyatt died in 1929.) They are buried together in Hills of Eternity Memorial Park in Colma, California.


Elizabeth Bacon (right) married the dashing Union officer, George Custer, in 1864 while the Civil War still raged. She joined him, when possible, while he participated in the Appomattox Campaign. After the War, George served on the Plains and Libbie followed him there, enduring danger and hardships to be near the man she fairly worshipped. Libbie is his redeeming quality. Beautiful and accomplished, George must have had a depth of soul we rarely see to have won the love of such a woman. Her courage matched that of her mate. While so many army wives in the West hated the assignment, Libbie reveled in the experiences. Like Josephine Marcus, Libbie knew she was living in historic times with a remarkable man.

George died, of course, in 1876. Libbie devoted the rest of her life to sustaining his memory and perpetuating his reputation as a hero. She was so universally loved and respected, that many critical of her husband refrained from expressing such publicly out of concern for her feelings. Libbie died in 1933 and is interred with her husband at West Point.
Again, the movies have shaped much of our perception of Libbie. As played by Olivia De Havilland, Libbie is the consummate belle--lovely, lively, ladylike. The parting scene (left) between Olivia and Errol Flynn, playing Custer, is one of the most poignant in Hollywood history, and that was the last time the two acted together. I like to believe Libbie would have been flattered by Olivia's performance.

Happy Birthday to Josie, Libbie, and Debbie. I aspire to live as boldly (and as long!) as each of you. And if you bend your ear to the earth, I will put in a CD of Jimmie Dale Gilmore just for you.

Photo of the Day

Policeman Mike Peter, Vice-President of the Meade Society, defends the reputation of General George Meade at the recent Preservation Dinner in Philadelphia. (Probably one of those uppity Rebels got invited by mistake. Probably a cousin of mine. . . .) Or, Mike got to the refreshment table first and someone cut-lined and jumped in front of him. . . .


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, somewhat belatedly. Odd that yøu should equate Jimmie Dale Gilmore with lust and dust and cold beer and cowboy hats, since he's a zen kind of guy whose dad founded the Lubbock AA, and I don't think I've ever seen JDG in a hat. Still, that west Texas sound is unmistakable, isn't it? Always good to hear. Have you heard his CD Come On Back?
Your blog popped up on a Google Alert I have for Gilmore, but I see that you're also into the Civil War along the Kansas/Missouri border. I'll have to dig deeper here. Thanks!

Deb Goodrich said...

"Come on Back" is on my birthday list. My all time favorite song by Jimmie Dale is "You're just the wave, you're not the water." I know a little of Jimmie Dale's bio, the Eastern philosophy, etc, but whatever is in his mind, there is lust and dust in his heart. You can feel it in his voice. . . .:)Thanks for the good wishes!