Howard Days 2010

Another Howard Days has come and gone, and, man, was it a good one. We got home yesterday afternoon, so I’m writing this from my desk and not some hotel on the road, and I’ve got some good coffee sitting here—not the Best Western Blend, yuck!

For me, Howard Days really starts on Thursday night when the “regulars” start showing up at the 36 West in Cross Plains and the Holiday Inn Express in Brownwood. We raid a local eatery and the conversations begin. The talk usually runs well into the evening, and many of the attendees have trouble making it to the Walking or Bus Tours that start around 9:00 on Friday morning.

Above: Mark Finn, Paul Sammon, Barbara Barrett, and Bill Cavalier at the pre-game gathering.

I didn’t, um, celebrate as much as some others on Thursday, so I was able to join Bill “Indy” Cavalier and Damon Sasser for breakfast at Jean’s Feedbarn, right across a side street from the motel. After eating, we strolled over to the Howard House and greeted the early Howard fans and members of Project Pride, made note of the new sign out front, and had a quick look around the house; then it was time for the Walking Tour.

Well, not exactly. This year the Walking Tour was actually the Riding Tour. A flatbed trailer with folding chairs and a pickup truck pulled us from Turkey Creek to the cemetery to downtown, with commentary provided by Rusty Burke and Don Clark (below).

I’m guessing the trailer was added because of the usual Texas heat—it’s a lot more appealing to ride around town in 100+ degrees than walk—but this year the weather cooperated: cloudy and breezy, I doubt that it ever reached the 100 degree mark. Though it was still too humid for my California skin, it was much nicer than last year.

 

After the chili dog lunch provided by Project Pride, we all went downtown to the Cross Plains Library’s new Children’s Library for the first panel discussion: The Illustrators of REH. This panel featured Guests of Honor Jim & Ruth Keegan, as well as Tom Foster and Paul Sammon (above). The acoustics weren’t very good at first, but after the microphone got hooked up, this and all the other panels were great: entertaining and informative—who could ask for more?

After the presentation, Jack Baum pulled me aside to show me yet another discovery he had made while going through the old family home. Last year he discovered an old text book that had been Howard’s; this year he had an old pocket watch (above) with “RH” inscribed on the back (close-up below). I haven’t found any mention of Howard owning any kind of watch in his letters, though that’s hardly the type of thing he would have talked about, and the only mention of a pocket watch I can remember is his failed attempt to win one in an auction that he wrote about in Post Oaks and Sand Roughs. Jack Baum told me that he had had the watch appraised and that it was definitely from the early 1920s; he’d also gone through the genealogy of everyone associated with his house and no one had “RH” for initials except for Bob. Pretty strong circumstantial evidence.

I didn’t stick around for the next panel, but I didn’t leave before the group shot of Cimmerian bloggers, past and present, was taken at Barbara Barrett’s insistence. After the photo (below), my folks and I went out to Burkett. I’d been there a few times before, but I wanted to have a look in the cemetery and revisit the gazebo Howard and his mother used in the 1920s (far below).

Cimmerian bloggers: Mark Finn, Rob Roehm, Al Harron, Deuce Richardson, Barbara Barrett, and Jeffrey Shanks.

Then it was back to Cross Plains for the silent auction and banquet. The auction was a little tamer than in years past, but I did manage to score a copy of Mundy’s King—of the Khyber Rifles. The banquet went off without a hitch: fajitas, with all the trimmings, provided by the Mexico City Restaurant. After the meal, Arlene Stephenson stepped up and made the introductions; Al Harron and Deuce Richardson presented a donation to Project Pride in memory of Dan Goudey (“PainBrush”), a recently deceased member of the Conan forum; and Jim & Ruth Keegan ended the program with one of the better GOH speaches in recent years (with accompanying slideshow, of course).

After people collected their silent auction winnings, Cavalier and Burke presented the Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards for 2008 and 2009. The program had run a bit long, several of the winners were not present, and we were all chomping at the bit to get back to the Pavilion, so the awards presentation was pretty quick. And we still had to put up the tables and chairs!

Once at the Pavilion, we made up for lost time. There was a short Poetry Throwdown, lots of Howard talk, and plenty of beer. I went back to my room around midnight, but there were still plenty of Howard-heads at the Pavilion until the wee hours.

I missed the Walking and Bus Tours on Saturday, but managed to make it to The Jim & Ruth Keegan Hour at 10:00. They talked about how they discovered Howard, how they work together—all kinds of things. And afterwards, they had several of their paintings on display.

 

Above: Ruth Keegan and El Borak.

From the library, Russell Andrew and I high-tailed it to Jean’s for the REH Foundation luncheon. Jack Baum passed around the watch for all to see, and Indy passed out the newest Foundation Newsletter and the goodies that only Legacy Circle members receive. This year, those goodies were the 2010 membership pin and a chapbook of the alternate version of “Black Canaan,” and an untitled synopsis: both never before published.

The Board members had a meeting after lunch, and I wanted to go out to Pioneer after that, so I missed the “What’s Happening with REH” panel at 3:00. I hear that the Paradox representative had fine things to say about various film and television projects that are in the works, but I can’t confirm that.

We got back to the Pavilion just in time to head for the West Caddo Peak Ranch and the annual barbecue provided by the Middleton family. A few brave souls climbed the peak before dinner and everyone enjoyed a few more hours of camaraderie. After dinner, we gathered to watch the sunset and then headed back to the Pavilion for more conversation. Another Howard Days over.

Above: Past and present members of REHupa: Lee Breakiron, Jeffrey Shanks, Rusty Burke, Damon Sasser, Frank Coffman, Gary Romeo, Dennis McHaney, Bill Cavalier, Rob Roehm, Jim & Ruth Keegan, and David Hardy.