Archive for the 'Book Reviews' Category
Saturday, February 20th, 2016
“There is going to be a real old-fashioned lynching on the Rio Grande….”
With these words, the Las Cruces newspaper announced that Clint Eastwood would soon arrive in Las Cruces — to film HANG ‘EM HIGH.
The co-producer of the movie, Leonard Freeman, had been in town for several days and had already found the perfect location for the opening scene: a spectacular, lonely tree on the west bank of the Rio Grande River, about 12 miles north of Las Cruces.
In the opening scene, which appears even before the credits, Eastwood is dragged across the Rio Grande River, and then lynched.
The lynching is the driving event of the movie. Eastwood plays ex-lawman Jed Cooper. He is herding cattle he has just purchased back to his ranch when he is brutally arrested by a citizenâ€™s posse. Unknown to the posse, the person who sold the cattle to Cooper had killed the true owners just prior to selling them to Cooper. The remainder of the movie consists of Cooper ruthlessly pursuing the men responsible for his hanging and enacting suitable revenge.
Formal shooting of the film began June 21, 1967. The hanging scene was filmed June 29. Eastwood did the entire scene himself, except for the swinging by his neck, which was done by his stunt double Walter Scott (shown in photo). The Las Cruces location shooting wrapped July 1.
The tree where Eastwood was hung is no longer standing and the riverbed is now overgrown with thick brush.
Thursday, September 19th, 2013
“Best history of Mesilla.”
- Chapter 1 is a history of Mesilla, beginning with its founding in 1850 by Rafael Ruelas.
- Chapter 2 gives the original and early ownership of all the properties around the public square in Mesilla, identifying previously uncertain locations such as the Butterfield Overland Stage location.
- Chapter 3 is a history of the Corn Exchange Hotel, founded in 1874, the most famous hotel in New Mexico at the time. Almost all the major participants of the Lincoln County War stayed at the hotel.
- Chapter 4 is a history of the Billy the Kid museum and its founder, Mesilla pioneer and impresario George Griggs.
- Chapter 5 is a history of La Posta, Mesilla’s most famous landmark.
“Mesilla is full of Billy the Kid history. It’s where he started off rustling with Jesse Evans and it’s where he was tried and convicted of murder. At one point, rumor has it, he even stayed at the Corn Exchange Hotel (along with many of the other heavy hitters from the Lincoln County War).”
“For someone who grew up in the area of Mesilla, it’s nice to have a well-researched book about the area — and the giant photographs don’t hurt either (honestly, I love to see photos that take up the whole page so you can actually make out the detail)….”
“And the thing I was most excited to see is a photo of the hotel registry where the name of “William Bonney” is scrawled on the page. I knew this registry had existed at one point but I always thought it was missing…. There is some debate as to whether or not Billy the Kid really signed the book, which the author goes into, but what would Billy the Kid history be without a little controversy.”
— Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang Newsletter, Winter, 2013
Friday, October 27th, 2006
Las Cruces has one of Peter Wolf Toth’s Whispering Giants, as noted here.
Since yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, this is a good time to review his book on his sculptures and life, Indian Giver.
Indian Giver was published in 1980. It begins with his childhood in Hungary. He was born in 1947, the seventh child in a family that eventually numbered 11 kids.
Conditions under the communists were brutally harsh, and got even worse when what little property his father had was taken and given to a party member. They were left with a dirt-floored house in which the only furniture was a table and 13 chairs.
When the people of Hungary revolted against the Russians, it appeared at first they had succeeded. The Russians even agreed to negotiate — but it was a ruse. They returned with a huge force, mercilessly crushing all opposition. Mass arrests and executions followed.
Two of Toth’s brothers escaped to the West, and Toth’s parents decided they would follow. For a short period of time the Yugoslavian border was open because the United States was paying Yugoslavia a bounty for every Hungarian that was permitted to leave Hungary.
After a dangerous escape and two years in refugee camps in Europe, Toth and his family came to the United States as sponsored immigrants.
Following his account of his life, Toth describes how he carved his first sculpture in a rock cliff, motivated by a compelling image he saw in the stone. That was 1972.
After carving a second sculpture in wood, he decided he would carve one for each state in the country, taking nothing for his work.
The difficulties and rewards of the first 27 “Whispering Giants” are described, and pictured. These sculptures are not “works” created in a studio — they are his life, requiring months of travel searching for the appropriate tree and location, and months of carving.
In releasing the image he sees in each unique piece of wood, he satisfies something deep in himself. But he also makes it clear the work itself is a physical pleasure — the outdoors, the textures, the fragrances — even scrubbing pitch out of his hair.
This is a wonderful, exuberant book. It is no longer in print, so see if you can find a used copy.