Footnotes #2

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Now the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, the old Baylor College for Women in Belton, Texas, ran an annual high school poetry contest starting in 1922. When they opened the contest up to boys in 1923, Robert E. Howard submitted “The Sea.” I wrote about this contest a few years ago in “The Poetry Contest.” For that article, I had to rely on community newspapers for the bulk of the information regarding the contest in which Howard won an Honorable Mention. Now I’ve found a better source.

In his June 22, 1923, letter to Clyde Smith, Howard doesn’t mention the Honorable Mention, but he does describe the fate of his poem:

I got a letter from the assistant editor of The Campus, S.M.U. He said he saw my poem “The Sea” in The Baylor United Statement [sic.] and he asked me to contribute to The Campus. I sent him a poem.

Moved to action by this reference, several years ago I spent an afternoon in front of the microfiche reader at Southern Methodist University in Dallas looking through old issues of their newspaper, The Campus. I didn’t find any Howard poems. I have also been on the lookout for issues of The Baylorian and The United Statements, especially the issue containing “The Sea,” which, as far as I know, no one has ever seen. If Howard hadn’t mentioned it to Smith, we wouldn’t know about that appearance. Not long after visiting SMU, I contacted the library at Mary Hardin-Baylor and learned that they did have some issues of those papers, but not the ones I was looking for. So, I put those papers on the back burner and moved on to the next thing.

Not long ago I reopened the investigation and discovered several digital copies of the college’s publications from the right time period, including the issue of The Baylorian that contains the rules for the 1923 poetry contest. At the bottom of that page, partially obscured by their “Courtesy of . . .” watermark, is the following publication information:

Announcement of the awards, together with the publication of the poem winning first place, will be made through the press of the state; and all poems winning prizes or honorable mention will be published in the May issue of the Baylorian.

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The May 1923 issue of The Baylorian is available, and it does contain a lot of poetry, but none of it is from the poetry contest. So, it seems that at some point it was decided to publish the poems in The United Statements, instead. News of the contest winners started appearing in state newspapers as early as May 9, 1923. Presumably, “The Sea” must have appeared in The United Statements around then. There are two 1923 issues available at the website, but neither the March 31st nor the May 19th edition has a poem by Robert E. Howard.

And the search continues.

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The Aztec Bar, er . . . Cafe

2009 REH 162

[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted February 22, 2010, at rehtwogunraconteur.com]

I was in Brownwood during my school’s winter break. I’d gone with my dad to tie up a few loose ends from our previous excursions. After crossing most of the “things to do” off our list, we decided to hit the road early, just ahead of some pretty bad weather that was coming in from the north. We spent the first night of our homeward trek in Odessa.

Having shaved a few hours off the trip, the next day we decided to stop in Old El Paso. It was nearing lunchtime, and I could think of nothing better to do than track down “The Aztec Bar” and have a cold one. Why, you ask? In a lengthy letter to Lovecraft, circa July 1934, Howard describes a trip west that he took with Truett Vinson. After visiting the Carlsbad Caverns, Howard and Vinson head for El Paso where they “saw pictures of the Baer-Carnera fight” from June 14, 1934 (below), and then “primed” themselves at, you guessed it, The Aztec Bar.

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We were still a half hour or so from the city, so Pop suggested that I put my cell phone to use. I pulled out the AAA tour book, found the correct phone number, and called the El Paso Visitors’ Center. “No,” the voice on the other end of the line said, “we don’t have a genealogy library, but there is a Heritage section in the public library.” I got the number and made another call. We were good to go.

We found the library with little trouble; finding a parking spot was another matter. We put an hour’s worth of coins in the closest meter we could find and walked the two blocks to the El Paso Public Library. Once inside, we found our way to the Heritage section. I immediately asked the gentleman at the help desk if they had a city directory from 1934. He asked what I was looking for and, after I explained, he went looking in a cabinet that contained an old-school card system. A few minutes later, he hadn’t found anything, and I repeated my request for a city directory. This time, he led me to a locked section of the library and went inside. A minute later, he returned with the book I’d requested.

Aztec listing

In a matter of moments we found what we were looking for, listed not under “bars” or “taverns”—Prohibition had been repealed in December of ’33—but under “beverages”: 100 San Antonio E. We double checked the address in the street listings and then asked for a 1934 map.

Lucky for us, the library had electronic copies of Sanborn maps. We pulled up the appropriate El Paso map (below) and printed the page that showed 100 E. San Antonio (corner building pictured at the top of this post). We were going to leave so that we could consult our modern map, but when we stopped at the counter to pick up our copy, the gentleman behind the desk gave us directions. It was just a few blocks away. You can type the address into Google Earth and it’ll get you in the right building.

Aztec map

We got back to the car with a couple of minutes left on the parking meter. We checked our modern map anyway, of course, and then followed the librarian’s directions downtown. After navigating the one-way streets, we found a parking spot right in front of 110 E. San Antonio. From there, it was a very short walk back to “The Aztec Bar.” Of course, it’s not a bar anymore. Today, it’s “Sunny’s Accessories” and, man, is it colorful inside.

2009 REH 159

2009 REH 170

Anyway, we took a few pictures of the place, and the old Plaza Hotel that towers nearby, and then hit the road again. We weren’t going to get anything cold to drink there. The downtown area has plenty of old buildings to look at, but I’d recommend visiting in the spring instead of the winter. And it’s always nice to knock another REH location off the list.

2009 REH 164

Or so I thought. It’s never that easy.

Back home, I started sorting through the pile of memorabilia that I’d scored while in Brownwood and, as usual, for every new item that answered one question, it created one or two new questions. Of course, it all started with my dad.

He was browsing around in a newspaper archive and found this:

SHOPPING PLEASURES come with a pleasant lunch or relaxing afternoon drink at the popular AZTEC CAFE, 102 E. San Antonio St. This week there are some special Chinese lunches by a fine Chinese chef for only 35c, besides the good American menus at the same prices. The ever-attractive bar is a popular meeting place for the business men of El Paso.

Aztec Cafe at 102 E. San Antonio? Great. The article above appeared in the El Paso Herald-Post on December 6, 1935, and not sometime in ’34. So, what happened? In 1934 the only listing for “Aztec” is the 100 San Antonio address. 102 is listed as an art shop. I’m guessing that sometime after the 1934 city directory was printed and before the above article was published, The Aztec expanded their business into the adjacent section of the building. This supposition caused me to reexamine the Sanborn map and my photos.

While Sunny’s Accessories is indeed located at 100 E. San Antonio today, based on a comparison of the Sanborn map, my modern pictures, and Google Earth’s satellite images, I’m now pretty sure that in 1934 Sunny’s would be in 102 E. San Antonio. So, the colorful shop I poked my head into was the Aztec Cafe. Oh well, at least I stood in front of The Aztec Bar.

Footnotes #1

Beginning a series of footnotes for Robert E. Howard’s letters. Most are far too obscure for publication.

1930 03-27 HaroldPreecefrom Lenore scrapbook-crop-sm

Preece’s Nose

Toward the end of 1928, Harold Preece, one of Robert E. Howard’s correspondents, was complaining about a nose problem. In his ca. October or early November 1930 letter, Howard responded:

Well, Harold, I’m sorry to hear your nose is troubling you again. I hope it will get alright. My own nose is nothing to brag about, having been broken several times. Man is a frail and very imperfect piece of nature.

Howard brings it up again in the ca. Dec 1928: “Hate to hear about your nose. What is that—sinus trouble, or septum or what? It must be Hell. Be careful about it.” Little details like this stick in my brain for some reason so, when I stumbled on the following passage from “The Spirit of Old” by Harold Preece, I immediately made the connection:

Within a month [of meeting Hildon V. Collins, a member of The Junto, in Waco] necessity forced me to undergo an operation upon my nose. Hildon went with me to the doctor’s office on the day of the operation. He conducted me back to the hotel and sat up all night with me. In a few days I was able to go to my home in Austin and recuperate. Hildon assisted me in getting my baggage to the station, seeing also that I was comfortably seated on the train. All this kindness to a youth he had known a short time [. . .]”

So the timeline for Preece’s nose trouble goes like this:

On July 13, 1928, Robert E. Howard and Harold Preece attended a prize fight together in Fort Worth, Texas (see “Dula Due to Be Champion” in Collected Letters vol. 1). That August, Howard wrote to Preece in Waco: “Glad you enjoyed our reunion at Fort Worth. I sure as Hell did. Yes, I’d have liked to have been with Truett, Hildon and yourself at Waco.”

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“The Spirit of Old” appears in the December 1928 issue of The Lone Indian, a “tribe paper” put out by a member of the Lone Scouts of America, an organization to which both Preece and Collins belonged (Clyde Smith, Truett Vinson, and possibly Robert Howard as well). In the article, Preece explains when he first met Collins:

Two months previous to the time of this writing, I came to Waco, Texas, to fill an assignment made by the concern by which I am employed [the city directory crew]. Shortly after arriving, I became acquainted with Hildon V. Collins, LSB, who joined the LSA in 1926. We became quite intimate friends.

If tribe papers came out the month before the date on their covers, we can assume that the “time of this writing” is sometime in October or November, which places the time that Preece first met Collins around August. But in a letter from Waco, Texas, dated Thursday, July 26, 1928, Preece told Tevis Clyde Smith: “I wish you could have been with Truett, Hildon, and myself, the early part of the week. We had a prolonged and interesting session, and nothing was too sacred for the gamut of conversation.” That would place the meeting early in the week of July 23, 1928.

So, putting it all together, Preece tells Howard about his nose trouble sometime in July or August, possibly at the boxing match. A week and a half later, Preece meets Hildon V. Collins for the first time, somewhere around July 23. “Within a month,” Preece has an operation on his nose with Collins taking him to the doctor’s office and then seeing him to the train station to recuperate in Austin, this would be in late August or September. And we can do a bit better than that.

As luck would have it, Preece was a stickler for starting his letters with dates and places. His September 15 letter to Tevis Clyde Smith is from Waco. The September 30 letter is from Capital Station in Austin and begins, “Back home again. It is my intention to attend the State University for the spring term. I think that I can stand Austin for the next nine months, provided I am going to school.” So I’m betting that the operation happened between September 15 and 30.

All of which would end up like this in a footnote:

Well, Harold, I’m sorry to hear your nose is troubling you again 1

1 Preece had an operation on his nose at Waco in September.

And people say I’m obsessed.

1928 12 Lone Indian p29 Preece

Back to School

BHS 1920s

[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted August 18, 2007, at thecimmerian.com; this version lightly edited.]

The school district that I work for has been fiddling with the calendar for a couple of years now—the end result has arrived: gone are the post-Labor Day start-ups of a traditional school year; they have been replaced with a mid-August return to books and homework and lunch lines. I won’t comment on the wisdom of sending kids (and teachers) back to school in the middle of August—the hottest month of the year in California’s High Desert. The “pre-game” meetings and scheduling, the lesson planning and room organizing have kept me away from the blog for a few weeks now, but my return to school got me thinking . . .

Robert E. Howard’s opinion of school is no secret to the fans who have studied his correspondence. In one of his most often published letters, Howard told Wilfred Blanch Talman (ca. September 1931):

I got through high school by the skin of my teeth. I always hated school, and as I look back on my school days now, I still hate them with a deep and abiding hatred. Outside of mathematics—at which I was a terrible mug—I didn’t particularly mind the studies, but I hated being confined indoors—having to keep regular hours—having to think up stupid answers for equally irritating questions asked me by people who considered themselves in authority over me.

I have often wondered what teaching practices were like in the 1920s, when Howard attended Cross Plains High School, and later Brownwood High—I’m sure that things were much stricter than they are now—but what could have caused Howard’s intense dislike for school? Was it as simple as what he told Talman? More than a year after his spring 1923 graduation from Brownwood High, Howard still had a bad taste in his mouth, as evidenced by a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith, dated January 30, 1925: “I see you are still as madly, passionately devoted to school, as blindly loyal to the faculty as ever. Ah, yes, I wish I were back in good old Bnwd. High—with a couple of bombs.”

Part of the reason, I’m sure, that Howard disliked school was the shenanigans of his schoolmates. I’ve seen for myself the ridicule that can be heaped on bright students by their less scholastically inclined brethren, but Howard doesn’t have much to say about bullying in his correspondence. He does, however, have a few things to say about students in general. In a circa January 1931 letter he explains to Lovecraft:

Take the average high school. Ten, or perhaps fifteen percent of the pupils go in for the grinding grill of competitive athletics; the rest do nothing in the way of building their bodies, or dissipating their natural animal spirits in wholesome ways. No wonder drunkenness and immorality are so prevalent among students. To the average boy or girl the accumulation of knowledge isn’t enough to spend their energy on—they can learn only so much, anyhow, and the Devil himself couldn’t teach the average pupil, with his undoubtedly limited capacity, very much, anyway. They must have a physical outlet, and since systematic sport denies this to all but a chosen few, the rest naturally turn to amusements less wholesome. This seems to be the trend of modern life, to me.

While Howard is largely silent on the subject of his classmates, he does, however, have something to say about his instructors. In a letter to H. P. Lovecraft, September 22, 1932, Howard describes his walk to school on a snowy winter morning. After having walked some distance in the snow, which caused his shoes and socks to be soaked, he hoped to warm himself by the stove, but such was not to be:

When I got to school, the teacher, who was enveloped in a fur coat, wouldn’t let us go to the stove to warm, because we generally got into a fight if we did. I sat there until noon, at the back of the room where the heat couldn’t reach, and I want to say that it was about as lousy a morning as I ever spent, viewed from a purely physical standpoint. It’s a wonder my feet hadn’t been frost-bitten.

Earlier that same year, May 24, 1932, Howard described another instance of teacher indifference to Lovecraft:

One day the teachers came out of the school-house to watch us play—a rare event. I happened to be wrestling with a friend of mine, and they stopped to watch us. I wished to make an impression on them—to show off, in other words. I wished for a worthier opponent—since I had thrown this particular friend forty or fifty times. And while I was wishing, suddenly and stunningly I found myself thrown! It never happened before, and it never happened again—at least, with that boy. I was shocked, humiliated, well-nigh maddened. I urged a renewal of the strife, but the teachers laughed mockingly and withdrew into their sanctum. I withdrew from public view, and broodingly contemplated my shameful defeat.

But the teachers weren’t the only thing about school that Howard disliked; the content of his courses also left a little something to be desired. In an August 21, 1926 letter to Clyde Smith, Howard berates the reading selections made for him by a nameless English teacher: “when one considers the confounded balderdash handed out to us as students, in grammar school, under the name of poetry! Shades of the creator of Mother Goose. I’ve about decided that the only American poets worth much are Sidney Lanier, Poe and Viereck; they are equal to any England ever produced.” One can only assume that these names did not appear on Howard’s course syllabus.

One thing that we know did appear was The Vicar of Wakefield, by Oliver Goldsmith. Howard’s book report on this title has been published, and it’s clear that he wasn’t fond of the novel. He remembered the book, and his school experience with it, to Lovecraft in a letter dated November 2, 1932:

I read this abomination [The Vicar of Wakefield] as a part of my high-school work, and in writing my report, I let myself go the only time I ever did in school, and gave my own honest opinion in my own honest words, allowing myself the freedom of frothing at the mouth. I expected to flunk the course, so many teachers being slaves of the established, but that particular teacher was a black-headed Irish woman who evidently entertained similar ideas on the subject to mine, and she gave me a good grade instead of the tongue-lashing I expected.

Despite his attitude toward school and his teachers, Howard did what was necessary to receive passing marks. He told Lovecraft, circa January 1934, “In high school I showed something of a knack for biology; certainly my science grades were infinitely higher than my English and literature grades. I have reason to believe that I had more capacity for biology than I have for literature. My teacher—who detested me as a human being but seemed to appreciate my laboratory work—suggested that I take up biology as a career.” But Howard wasn’t interested in Biology, he wanted the freedom that a literary career would provide.

In a letter received by Harold Preece—who was attending Texas Christian University in Fort Worth—on October 20, 1928, Howard said, “How is the university? Frankly, I know very little about the school and the little I do know is bad. But I’m prejudiced against all colleges—to Hell with them.”

Despite this early opinion of higher learning, Howard would later agree that some college courses might have helped him in his chosen field. He told Farnsworth Wright, ca. June-July 1931, “I have only a high school education, and not a particularly elaborate one at that” and Wilfred Blanch Talman, ca. September 1931, “A literary course in some college would doubtless have been a help to me, but I never felt I could afford it, bedsides, college is too much like school to interest me much” and Lovecraft, March 6, 1933, “A literary college education probably would have helped me immensely. That’s neither here nor there; I didn’t feel that I could afford it, and that’s all there was to it.”

While his admission that college might have helped him is a bit surprising, considering his overall opinion of schooling, Howard’s resentments from his early schooling held strong. In the same letter to Lovecraft in which he makes the admission, he blasts his early experiences:

I might have liked college, but I hated grammar and high school with a vindictiveness that has not softened in later years. I didn’t spend too much time there, anyway; I didn’t start to school until I was eight, and I graduated at seventeen. No record broken there, but no time lost, either. I hated school as I hate the memory of school. It wasn’t the work I minded; I had no trouble learning the tripe they dished out in the way of lessons — except arithmetic, and I might have learned that if I’d gone to the trouble of studying it. I wasn’t at the head of my classes — except in history — but I wasn’t at the foot either. I generally did just enough work to keep from flunking the courses, and I don’t regret the loafing I did. But what I hated was the confinement — the clock-like regularity of everything; the regulation of my speech and actions; most of all the idea that someone considered himself or herself in authority over me, with the right to question my actions and interfere with my thoughts. Some of my teachers I liked, and those liked me; most didn’t. I complied with the rules of the school as well as I could, got up my lessons at least as well as most of the others, and was careful to cause the teachers no unnecessary trouble; beyond that I lived my own life, and fiercely resented any interference or regulation.

Howard continued to express his dislike of school to Lovecraft in July 1933:

Our feelings in school, again, differ. I hated school, not because any particular tyranny was practiced on me—I wouldn’t have stood for it, anyway—but simply because the whole system irked me. Sitting still in one place for hours at time got on my nerves. Having to go and come at certain times irked me; I hated for my actions to be controlled by the ringing of a bell. The fact that these things were necessary had nothing to do with it. School, any way it is looked at, was a restriction of my freedom. I accepted it as a necessary evil, and got through with it as quickly as possible, and I’ll never forget the wild and passionate feeling of relief that surged through me as I bounded out of the building where the graduation exercizes had been held, with my diploma in my hand, and halting on the lawn, expressed my pleasure at being through with school, and my opinion of the whole works in language more picturesque than choice. The passing of ten years has not dimmed that feeling in the slightest. Yet there was a good deal of comedy in my last year in high school; I look back on it, not with any pleasure, but with some amusement. I attended Brownwood High, and it was overcrowded—fairly flowing over with students. Next year they built a Junior High and took care of the surplus, but that year it was like a sardine can. We had to gang up, two or three to a seat in the main study hall. The Senior class was given separate study halls, but they were eventually abolished, because the students didn’t keep order any too well. Some of them were mean as the devil, but most were just exuberant kids, overflowing with a superabundance of vigor and animal spirits. My biology class was the biggest in the school, and all the unruly spirits that could got in there. The teacher was a poor misfit who didn’t know his stuff; that is, he was a good biologist, but he couldn’t handle students. They gave him hell. The very last day of school, for instance, while he was trying to lecture to the class, certain unregenerate spirits kept galloping past the door, firing various objects at him, such as old shirts wadded up and soaked with water, to the hilarious enjoyment of the class. At last he shut the door, and then they locked it from the outside and he had to telephone down to the janitor to come and open it. I had no part in harassing the poor devil; but he never gave me a square deal if he could help it, so I didn’t much give a damn what they did to him. The class in which I graduated was the biggest that had ever graduated from a Texas High School, up to that time.

I was much amused and interested by your account of your tilt with the English teacher concerning your astronomical essay. It was in truth a dramatic situation, and one I wish I’d had a chance to duplicate at some time or other. But the only place my stuff was appearing when I was in school was in the school paper—and some of it was barred from print by the teacher-censors on account of a certain Rabelaisian tang that would creep in in spite of myself.

I had a hell of a time with mathematics. I blundered through algebra, geometry and trigonometry without learning a blamed thing about any of them. The only reason I passed my last year’s math was a combination of luck and a teacher’s laziness. The final exam was split in half, part to be taken one day and part the next, the results to be added on the basis of 100; thus, if a scholar made 100 on the first exam, he was given 50, etc. the results of both exams to be added. I made 60 on the first exam, and came in the next day to take the rest of it. The teacher was there alone, to my surprize, leaning back with his feet on a desk. I told him I was there to take my exam. He asked me what I made; I told him; he said then my grade was really 30, and asked me if I could improve that in another exam. “Hell, no,” quoth I; “I worked the only problem in the book I could work, yesterday.” He then asked me what grades I made in other subjects—they ran something like this: English 80, science 100, economics 85. He allowed that we’d let it go and say nothing; and call my mathematics grade 60, which would pass me.

I never studied Latin much, and disliked it intensely; my old antipathy for anything Roman. The only reason I ever took it up was because I knew it would help me in Spanish; but I never got a chance to study Spanish. I had a short course in agriculture once, which interested me immensely, and I made very high grades in it, as well as in its various branching, such as the grafting of trees, etc.. But I was unable to continue it, and I’ve long ago forgotten all I learned. I’ve also forgotten what elementary science I learned, as well as the business English, commercial law and business arithmetic I learned in the business college. I generally made my highest grades in history and science, though I found the latter of scant interest, as a general thing.

If Howard’s recollections of his scores are accurate, and if he wasn’t bending the truth by saying that he didn’t apply himself to his coursework, he might have made an excellent college student, where he could pick and choose the courses he wanted to take and make his own schedule, which, I’m sure, would not have included a math class. Imagine that for a moment, a college educated Robert E. Howard. Without the benefit of a “literary college education” Howard created works of fiction that have stood the test of time, that have been translated into numerous languages, and that have been increasingly studied for their literary achievement. Would a college education have hurt his accomplishments or helped him to even greater fame? I guess we’ll never know.

Aw hell, I’ve got papers to grade.

“Uncle Gus”: A Footnote

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(Photo found here.)

[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted February 4, 2007 at thecimmerian.com; this version lightly edited.]

Superbowl Sunday: halftime.

Among the obscure references found in Robert E. Howard’s correspondence is the following, from a letter to H.P. Lovecraft, dated October 3, 1935:

Here are some clippings which might interest you. The one about “Uncle Gus” and the one about the generous plutocrat who gave the boy a dime for returning a $39,000 check were on the same page of the same paper, and I was struck by the contrast of human natures, and of the methods of the old-time frontier people with modern go-getting business men. There were plenty of “Uncle Gus’s” [sic.] in the past generations of Texas, though not many were financially as able to exercise their quiet philanthropy as he. But there’s damn few “Uncle Gus’s” [sic.] being produced by this highly-advanced age, anywhere.

References like the above never fail to intrigue: who was “Uncle Gus”? What did his “quiet philanthropy” consist of? Where did Howard read about him?

I’ve been unable to find a newspaper with stories about Uncle Gus and a “generous plutocrat” on the same page, but I have found the following, from The Galveston Daily News, Thursday, October 3, 1935:

McKinney Buries Man Who Gave Away Fortune to Deserving Poor

McKinney, Tex, Oct. 2.—AP—Simply, Collin County buried its 91-year-old farmer-philanthropist today.

In the coffin and under the tombstone he selected and paid for ten years ago rested A. M. (Uncle Gus) Wilson, distributor of an $800,000 fortune among deserving farm folk.

Elder R. C. Horn, himself an octogenarian and a Christian minister for 60 years, said last rites for his old friend. The same simplicity of Wilson’s life marked the funeral service.

He was buried in the family plot, just a few paces from the log cabin in which he lived 86 years. The burial ground and home were remnants of a huge fortune, dissipated by philanthropic deeds.

Uncle Gus erected churches, regardless of denomination; built schools and homes for teachers; underwrote teachers’ salaries when doors of the schoolhouse were threatened with closing because of lack of funds; gave youth a financial boost when the cause seemed worthy.

Natives recalled his many deeds of kindness. They remembered the day he walked along a lane, stopped to watch a farm boy hoeing cotton. The boy did not look up at Uncle Gus. He hoed down the row. Uncle Gus gave the lad $1000 in stocks because he worked—did not stop to talk.

The wealthy landowner, who chose the dress of the farmer and lived the same life, held many mortgages, but it didn’t make much difference. A farm couple who toiled long each day to pay off a debt on their farm to Uncle Gus, lifted their supper plates one night and found the heavy balance marked “paid in full.”

He took a group of Boy Scouts on an extended trip across the continent; had new automobiles waiting in the garages of newly-married couples when they returned from honeymoons and gave rich farming land to men of the soil who struck him as being industrious and appreciative.

Uncle Gus never missed a world’s fair until the Chicago century of progress. Ill health kept him away.

He was unmarried and lived alone with a faithful dog who died a few years ago. He buried the dog on his grounds and erected a handsome tombstone.

He lies within a few paces of his dog.

There’s not much information about “Uncle Gus” Wilson on the web, if any. All I’ve been able to find is that at the 84th annual meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, in April 2000, “Pioneer Angel: Uncle Gus Wilson” was a session topic.

Well, Prince has finished singing; time for kickoff. Go Colts!

 

Addendum: “Uncle Gus” Mystery Solved
Posted February 8, 2007
by Rob Roehm

Thanks to a couple of Cimmerian Blog readers, the “Uncle Gus” mystery has been solved. After reading the initial post, Rusty Burke contacted me:

“Good work on the ‘Uncle Gus’ story [. . .] This certainly helps narrow down the date for the ‘Uncle Gus’ story. I’ll wager that the Dallas News is where Bob saw it; I’m pretty sure that’s the Dallas paper that was available as a dual subscription with the [Cross Plains] Review.”

Later that same day, I received the following from Cimmerian Award nominee David Hardy:

“Rusty sent me an e-mail about your Blog entry on the Cimmerian. I did a bit of checking and found the stories in the Dallas Morning News.”

So, the clippings that REH sent HPL were from the front page of the Dallas Morning News, October 2, 1935. Besides a very similar “Uncle Gus” clipping, the News also ran the following story about the “generous plutocrat”:

Return of $39,000 Check Wins Dime Reward for Boy

First Offer Was Nickel, but Donor Thought That Hardly Enough

ST. LOUIS, Mo. Oct. 1 (AP)—For returning a $39,000 bank check he had found, Woody Robinson, 18-year-old messenger boy, received a dime reward Tuesday.

As the youth was crossing the street he noticed a slip of paper covered with tire marks. It was a Mississippi Valley Trust Company check for $39,000, indorsed David E. Woods, 12 Garrswold Park.

“The man seemed awfully happy to get the check back,” Woody said. “He dug down in his pocket and pulled out a nickel. Then he told me he thought it was worth more than that and handed me a dime. I hardly knew what to say.”

Woods declined to comment.

Well, that’s one mystery solved . . .

A Tale of Two Letters

2018 09-24 REH to Archer

[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted August 11, 2006, at thecimmerian.com; this version lightly edited.]

So I’m going through The Last Celt the other day, looking through the letters section in the back, and I see the letter to “Managing Editor Denis Archer Publisher” dated May 20, 1934. This letter briefly explains the genesis of Howard’s one and only Conan novel, and ends by stating “Under separate cover I am sending you a 75,000 word novel, entitled ‘The Hour of the Dragon’ . . .” Fine, I think, Howard sends the letter to the publisher in advance, and later, when he gets around to it, packages and sends the typescript. This gets me thinking, though, and I pull out a copy of Glenn Lord’s Ultima Thule to read the rest of the letters in this series.

On June 15, 1933, Howard sent a letter to Hugh G. Schonfield at the Denis Archer publishing house, enquiring about a collection of his short stories. On January 9, 1934, he got the famous response about there being a “prejudice that is very strong . . . against collections of short stories” in England at the time and a recommendation that he “produce a full-length novel of about 70000-75000 words.” Apparently Howard took that advice; he was ready to send The Hour of the Dragon off to England in late May of that year. We all know that Denis Archer never published the story, however, but that it appeared in Weird Tales, instead.

But I’m getting off my subject. A couple of years ago I found a copy of the May 20 letter on the internet, I forget where; I think it was the Necronomicon Press website. Wherever it was, they had a nice scan of the letter on their page, and I downloaded and saved it. More recently, Glenn Lord sent me a few photocopies of letters when I was preparing to reprint Ultima Thule. Just for kicks, I pulled out the photocopies and leafed through them. When I came across the letter to Denis Archer, something wasn’t right: it was dated May 22.

2018 09-24 REH to Archer 2

That can’t be right, I thought. So I pulled out Ultima Thule and checked the letter: May 20. That’s right, sports fans, Howard wrote two letters to the publisher, but don’t get too excited. Besides the different dates, the only difference in the letters is the beginning of the second paragraph. The May 20 letter starts “Under separate cover I am sending,” and the May 22 letter starts “Enclosed I am sending.” No big deal, I guess.

But I wish I knew how these two letters came about. Did Howard send the one on the 20th and include the other with the typescript on the 22nd? Did he change his mind and decide to send both the letter and the story in the same package instead of separately? Maybe he was just too lazy to go to the post office on the 20th? Who knows?

And people say I’m obsessed.