Here’s another cartooning memory from my buddy, Randy Enos.
When I was in the 8th grade, we had desks that had lids. You lifted the lid and there inside were your pencils, notebooks and school books.
A Saturday Evening Post had come to my house with an amazing double-page Harold von Schmidt illustration. I cut it out and took it to school to paste on the inside of my desk so I could look at it every morning. It depicted a stalwart cavalry soldier standing astride a fallen comrade while he faced, rifle in hand, what seemed to be the entire Indian nation bearing down on him. The hopelessness and drama of the situation gripped me. I was enthralled by the terrifying way the action was depicted. Each morning, I would lift the desk top, look at the picture and then over to my right where my friend Ottello sat and say, “He’s still standing!”
Years later, I met the illustrator who everybody called “Von” when I worked at the Famous Artists Schools. He lived nearby in Westport and would visit the school frequently. A former cowboy, he would ride a horse in our Memorial day parades.
When Von died, his son Eric came down from Boston and moved into his father’s studio and rented out the big family house across the driveway. Eric and I became good friends. He was also an illustrator, painter and a well known blues and folk musician. He was close friends with all the famous folk people of the day like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan (Eric taught Dylan the song “Baby, Let Me Carry You Down” and is mentioned by name in Dylan’s introduction to the song on his first Columbia record). Another great friend of his was Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (called “Ramblin’” not because he travels a lot but because he rambles on and on when he talks). I got to play music with him one time at Eric’s studio/house.
The studio was a fantastic place where, every New Year’s Eve, Eric would throw a humdinger of a party where, it seemed like, hundreds of people would cram into the small studio with the big dusty north light window and where the Indian headdresses and drums and racks and racks of big canvases depicting scenes of the old west competed with space alongside easels, drawing boards, a model stand and an old piano. You could barely move in there when more and more people would show up as the evening wore on. Musicians also filled the room. There were banjos, guitars, gut-buckets, washboards, fiddles and mandolins… and, of course, the piano manned by a crippled fellow also named Eric. Chance Browne, who draws Hi & Lois, would always be there playing his great blues guitar and as the morning hours approached, Guy Lombardo’s nephew would arrive from his gig in New York all dressed up in a tuxedo. We always ended the evening with a very loooooong rendition of “Irene Goodnight”. While everybody always sang the accepted version “I’ll see you in my dreams”, I always insisted on singing Led Belly’s original lyric which was “I’ll GET you in my dreams”.
One year, Leann and I went to the party early before the crowd arrived because I wanted to ask Eric something. I told him about loving that picture of the lone cavalryman standing his ground in the face of certain death. I asked him if he knew the picture. I said that I’d really like to see it again. It didn’t register on his memory but he said, “Let’s take a look at these books I have of my father’s work and see if we can find it”.
We went through a few books and suddenly there it was. What a jolt it was to see that old familiar picture again! The memories flooded back… of the 8th grade and my daily morning ritual of opening my desk to that dynamic flurry of stampeding hooves, howling Indians and the one Indian who was bearing down on the poor cavalryman with his rifle pointed dead at him.
And then Eric said … “Oh, yeah, I posed for that cavalryman. I remember standing on that model stand over there while my father painted me”.
Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories: