Bears, horses and writers

Neighbor who lives above Orno Creek reports by email this Sunday morning that a black bear climbed over the wall to his back porch at 12:30 a.m. Bear described as “pretty large and very agile.”

This report on feral horses in New Mexico and the West came in the New York Times this morning: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/us/on-fate-of-wild-horses-stars-and-ndians-spar.html?hp&_r=0

Continuing to read Nathaniel Philbrick’s “The Last Stand.” Philbrick does a good job and I’m enjoying the book, but Evan S. Connell’s “Son of the Morning Start” remains my favorite on Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. I’m still trying to figure out what Larry McMurtry was up to with his 2012 “Custer,” although the illustrations alone are worth the book’s cost.

"The Last Stand," Nathaniel Philbrick
“The Last Stand,” Nathaniel Philbrick

Connell’s book is a bit of a mystery, too. I’ve read it several times and can’t escape thinking that, despite all the death,  it’s at least partly comic history.

Connell, who died earlier this year at the Ponce de Leon senior living place in Santa Fe, was known by my father and stepmother’s crowd as “The Great Stone Face” when he hung out with them at the No Name Bar in Sausalito in the 1960s.

Evan S. Connell Jr.
Evan S. Connell / Ralph Crane – Time & Life

I met Connell once as an awestruck teenager. He came to a party at our house on Caledonia Street in Sausalito with Gale “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” Garnett.  The only other “famous” writer I remember meeting in that house was drunk, had bad teeth and was wearing a maroon tuxedo. Drunk was not unusual there: the half-humorous watchwords of my father’s San Francisco Chronicle crowd were, “Never trust a man who doesn’t drink.” But I won’t name the drunk author, partly because he later jumped off a cliff.  My image of Connell is that he kept to himself and wrote, making him all the more admirable to me.

I like the photograph of Connell in his San Francisco days — I think he had a Post Office job for a while — standing in a no doubt cheap apartment with a Sophia Loren poster behind the kitchen stove.

Oakley Hall cover
California Street

As long as I’m on the subject of West Coast writers, I’ll say how much I miss Oakley Hall, whose images of San Francisco in the late 1880s never leave me. To say nothing of “Warlock” and “The Downhill Racers.”

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