Tuesday, April 27, 2010
14) When was the last time you were in Mexico?
I live on a cow ranch near Patagonia, Arizona 17 miles from the border. I go across to Nogales, Sonora periodically for my haircut, mine and my wife Patsy’s dental care, our prescription drugs, our saddle maker, and once in a while to have brunch in a nice restaurant with the music of the mariachis. For the past ten years I haven’t had occasion to do any business, or go any farther south than the ranch that I used to lease at Agua Zarca, Sonora. That ranch is only 12 miles south of Nogales, Sonora and I still visit my vaqueros and their families there from time to time.
15)You're a man whose done it all, ( writer, cattle man, bronco buster, gold prospector, cowboy, rodeo cowboy, ranch hand, pilot, smuggled guns and whiskey into Mexico, wrangled horses for Hollywood Westerns, and worked on a alpine search and rescue team.) Is there anything you haven't done that you wished you could have?
I’ve been plenty happy doing what I’ve done, but I’ve always wanted to do one job more. That has been to visit the home country of every great husbandman of the world and write a novel based in its folklore. Those husbandmen would include: the Argentine gaucho, The brave bull rancher in Spain, the Scottish sheep man, the Basque sheep man, the Mongolian horseman, the Arab horseman, the Australian stock man, the Finnish reindeersman, the Russian Cossack. If I could have done one novel about each of only these few, I would have been happy.
16) When you wrote your first novel "Jim Kane", did you have any idea that it would be a success and then go on to be made into a film?
No, I only wanted to write a novel about the work that cowboys do. The movies weren’t doing it and only two real cowboys have become writers to win recognition for their work. They were Will James and Max Evans. All other books, even the good ones, were about the shoot-em-up cowboys that had been heralded by the old pulps and later done over and over and over again in modern movies.
Sure, I hoped Jim Kane would become a movie and the actor that I dreamed would portray the protagonist turned out to be the one who played Jim Kane, Paul Newman. If the movie had told of the real work of cowboy Jim Kane, Paul would have been credited with revolutionizing the cowboy genre.
17) You were once the heavyweight champion at Notre Dame and you sparred with Rocky Marciano, and fought professionally in Northern Mexico. Can you share some of your memories of those days boxing & what was it like to be in the ring with a legend like Rocky Marciano?
I won Middle weight and Light heavyweight championships of Notre Dame in ’51 and ’53.
I started boxing in state tournaments when I was 12 and continued boxing as an amateur through my four years of active duty in the Marine Corps. I had 106 amateur fights and lost six. I won two state championships of New Mexico, the two Notre Dame championships, the Third Marine Division championship and the All Marine Pacific Ocean area championship in 1956. Because ’56 was an Olympic Games year, I was able to compete, although I was an officer. I also coached the Third Marine Division team.
When I was a senior at Notre Dame, before he became heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano visited our campus as our guest celebrity for the boxing finals of 1952. The finals bouts decided the boxing championships in eight weight divisions. He came a few days before the finals so that all of us boxers got to meet him and work out with him.
One day, after all the rest of the boxers had gone to shower and then to the dining room for supper, Dominick Napolitano, our coach and mentor, put me in the ring with Rocky. I had a lot of reach on him and always had a great left hand. We both had enough confidence in ourselves and in the other’s respect for us that we weren’t pouring it on, but I kept that jab in his face. I knew my range very well and he knew his, so we could make contact without injuring each other. In other words, we threw our punches right, but pulled them before they caused injury.
About the middle of the third round as I stuck out another jab, he dropped a nice, sharp right hand on my bicep and shocked my whole arm numb. After that I had to work inside and that’s when I found out how strong he was. His legs were like concrete pillars, except that he moved like a cat. His arms were strong as a blacksmith’s but he had great hand speed and snap in his hooks, both the wide ones and the short ones. He sparred with a quickness and ease that never seemed to tire him. We went six rounds and he never drew a long breath.
In the light heavyweight finals two evenings later, I stopped my opponent Larry Ash in the second round. When asked to comment on my fight, Rocky said, “He’s very good. He’s very, very good. He ought to be a professional.
I had a shabby career as a professional. I often fought under assumed names and only to make a quick payday. I didn’t use my own name and try to make a professional go at it until I was 33. In the Fall of 1963, under my own name, I stopped light heavyweight Indio Lopez in the second round. In January, 1964, I stopped his brother, heavyweight Yaqui Lopez, in the second. My old manager Mike McNulty flew down to Mexico to be in my corner for those fights.
In March of 1964, against a good middleweight named Ramon Hernandez I found out in the second round why he was called “Buffalo.” I will only say this as an excuse for losing that fight as ignominiously as I did. I had to lose twenty pounds below my fighting weight of 185 pounds for that fight. That weakened me, and besides that the Buffalo’s head was harder than any human head has a right to be.
I broke my right hand on the top of his head near the end of the second round. He went down on his back and I prayed that he wouldn’t get up, but he dammit did. I fought the next 8 rounds with only my left jab. I won the 1st two rounds and the 9th and 10th, but lost the decision, because he beat me hands down in all the middle rounds.
After my hand mended Mike called to tell me that he had arranged for me to go to Las Vegas to spar with Sonny Liston in preparation of another of his championship fights. A card was being made up for two world championship bouts on the same night and I might get to fight a preliminary bout.
On my way to Las Vegas from my home in Navojoa, Sonora, I came down with hepatitis. I got as far as Gila Bend, Arizona and had to turn back. I holed up with my grandmother in Nogales. She gave me a dose of Epsom Salts as soon as I showed up, then another dose the next day.
I couldn’t work cattle, could barely hold up my head, but I had to do something to make some money to feed my family. So I started writing the stories that became my first novel, Jim Kane. Of course, I didn’t sell a thing until 1970.
The Las Vegas card never happened.
Several other border cattlemen got hepatitis at the same time I did, but I was never as sick as the others. Some of them spent time in the hospital. I was up and able to go back to work with my cattle after a month of convalescence at my Granny’s house, even though I was still plenty weak. I always credited Granny’s salts cure with being able to go back to work so quick. Nevertheless, I needed another year before I thought about fighting again and decided that I didn’t have the liver for it.
My Mexican fans all knew about the hand that I broke, but after that when anybody else asked me if I regretted having to quit I always answered, “No, because I kept breaking my hands.” That was true, after I grew to be a middleweight I always had to go have one or the other hand put in a cast after the finals of a tournament. However, when I told someone who had not seen me fight that I had to quit because of my brittle hands, without fail, they always answered, “I never boxed, because I knew that I hit so hard my hands wouldn’t stand it.”
I always answered that kind of phony with, “Yeah, I know what you mean, but I didn’t quit because I hit too hard, my hands got broken up from the referees walking on them.”
The truth is, I never knew a fighter who quit the sport because of glass hands. A good taping always fixed them for another go in the ring.
One year after I contacted hepatitis I was in Calexico, California crossing cattle through Mexicali. My partner had been in the Yuma, Arizona country club the night before where he had been introduced to Rocky Marciano. My partner knew about my friendship with Rocky from having read my scrapbook and he told Rocky that I was nearby. Rocky told him to call me and arrange for me to meet him at the Hotel De Anza in Calexico the next day. Rocky was on his way to referee a fight in Mexicali.
We had a long visit in his room before he went across the line to referee the fight, and a long visit at breakfast the next morning. He had retired from fighting, but he said that if I decided to take it up again, to call him.
I said, “Rocky, I would, but my hands won’t stand it.”
He smiled. I said, “Even the step of light foot referee breaks them up.”
We both laughed at that, because the referees breaking hands by walking on them is an old joke among fighters.
Then I said, “Besides that, I just got over a whole year of the shits and it’s left me with a chicken liver.”
And that was finally the end of my 22 year boxing career.
18) When you wrote "Forest of the Night" in the 1970's, you lost it (the transcript) after a 4 day drinking binge, I believe. You finally found it in a garbage can. That sounds like something out of a Bukowski novel. Life is truly stranger than fiction is it not?
I was crazy wild in those days, and especially after a month of working on Forests day and night without letup except to eat. I never slept over two hours at a time during that month, either. It isn’t strange that I lost the manuscript during the week long Parranda, or celebration, that I gave myself when I finished it. My mistake was in carrying it around with me so that I could from time to time satisfy myself by rereading passages of my O-so-deathless prose. It’s not strange, either that a bunch of cowboys, some that I had never even met, ganged together to search every corner of every bar on both sides of the Mexico-Arizona border in Agua Prieta and Douglas. It is strange that there were two garbage cans in that pool hall where the manuscript was found. One had been emptied completely and the other only contained my manuscript.
19) Have you ever met or read Edward Abbey or Cormac McCarthy?
20) Craig McDonald has a series out about a fictional writer named Hector Lassiter whose tag line is "The man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives". Could that tag line fit you as well?
All through my childhood and adolescence writing was easy for me, because a lot happened to the people in my family for me to write stories about. I never liked to write, so I only wrote when I had to turn in a composition or a book report.
However, because it was easy for me, when I wanted to go to Notre Dame, I thought I could make it by majoring in journalism. I never would have graduated if I had majored in anything else.
I had a very hard time passing all the required courses during my first two years at ND, but an easy and happy time learning to write and finding an appreciation of good literature during the two years of my study of journalism. I also, for the first time in my life, found out how much professors who know about stories appreciated mine about cowboys, horses, cattle, and boxing.
After I graduated, I forgot about writing, because I didn’t have to do it anymore. Besides that, I figured I had exhausted the experiences of my life that were interesting and didn’t want to get into the kind of fiction that would require me to make up stories.
Then, I left the ranch after graduation and struck out on my own. I was half an invalid and couldn’t do hard work as a cowboy. On the way home from graduation a blood clot in my labyrinth, my inner ear, had laid me low for about a year and I lost 40 pounds. The only work I could do was write, so I found work first on two Arizona weekly newspapers and later on the Herald-Post.
I wrote on that newspaper for two years while I recovered from the blood clot, then joined the Marine Corps and forgot about writing again. After two years of writing five or six stories a day for the newspaper, I didn’t ever want to write another one.
The only writing I did in the Marine Corps was a manual for animal packing for the Mountain Leadership School at Pickle Meadows, California where I served as an instructor-guide. I was one of the first five officers who helped found that program.
I went to work in the cattle business when I was released from active duty in ’58 and the only times I wrote after that was when I was laid up injured, sick, or by myself in some camp way out where the sun set between me and town, until the hepatitis hit me.
I had plenty to write about then, a good warehouse full of stories that were unlike any that any other cowpuncher had written, or any other writer had written, for that matter. I was able to see the value of those stories as material for a book. Once I decided to write a book of those stories, I got hooked on writing. The more I wrote, the more I had to keep at it. The more that I could remember of the experiences, the more value I saw in the stories and in the way they had to be written, So, I had to see that they were written. The only trouble, that kind of writing got harder and harder. It still does. It ain’t easy anymore at all.
I have never liked to write and I have not enjoyed it any more than I have enjoyed going on drunken binges for months at a time. What’s to enjoy about being so totally absorbed in a task that you can’t eat, or sleep, or stop doing it? That’s what I’ve done as a drunkard and is exactly what I’ve done as a writer. The trouble is, I’ve never felt duty bound to go on a drunk, and I do feel duty bound to go on writing.
21) You come from I believe 5 generation of ranchers, do you have any children following in your footsteps?
I have two sons that I can count on to help me run another ranch, if I ever make another stake to buy and stock one. One son is a movie stuntman and the other is an artist. One of my three grandsons is a cowboy who works on a ranch near Austin, Texas. One studies to be an actor. The other has been studying classic guitar for four years in Seville, Spain and plans to remain there for two more years. Three out of five cowboys who can succeed me ain’t bad, but who knows if it will ever happen again. I hope to write 30 more books. If I get that done, it will happen.
22) You've said that some of the worst people in the world and also some of the best live in the Sierra Madres. Have all the best fled from there in recent days?
Decent people find it very, very hard to stay in the Sierra Madre these days. That’s not to say that the people who stay are all villains. The best of people everywhere in the world, find it to difficult to remain hardcore good all their lives. I know people in the Sierra Madre who live by earnings from illegal crops. I respect them, trust them, and am not bothered by what they do to make a living. They have survived because their goodness is universally respected. They are part of the hard core of good people of Mexico that no villainy will ever contaminate. They have kept their ranches and raised their children to respect justice and decency while their neighbors turned to banditry, lawlessness, and dissipation. What more could anyone expect of them?
Posted by Rod Norman at 3:29 PM
13) Tom Russell has written a terrific song called" Who's Gonna Build The Walls" which questions that if the illegals are sent home, who's gonna build the wall across the border. The state of Texas relies heavily on the illegals to work on their farms, as they provide cheap labor. Is there an answer to the immigrant issue? Shouldn't the real worry be that some terrorist is sneaking across that same border?
American business must need Mexican labor, or it would not risk what it does to hire Mexican labor.
One of my first jobs after I grew up and left the ranch on which I was raised was to work as a general assignment reporter for the El Paso Herald-Post. I also wrote its weekly farm and ranch page.
At that time, farmers and ranchers all along the border were subjected to the strictest, most stringent punishment for hiring illegal crossers. If caught in the act of using them, they were fined $20,000 or they went to jail. This was in 1953 and 1954. $20,000 was more than a life’s savings for a cotton farmer in the El Paso Valley.
Then, all of a sudden, someone admitted that we better let Mexican workers in, because they were drastically needed. Farmers and ranchers could not make it without them. A program was formed in which workers in Mexico were screened and documented and assigned to the American farms and ranches that needed them. They were able to stay in our country on the job for a certain time only, and then required to return to their homes in Mexico. However, their employers usually saw to their documentation so that they could return after their required rest in Mexico was over.
Overnight, the problem was solved. The Mexicans wanted to return to their homes and often found it difficult to stay on this side for the time required, but the program worked. It was called the Bracero program.
The solution to the problem of illegal crossers, be they drug traffickers or people who seek work, is the same to most border ranchers and farmers who depend on their land and cattle for a living. There are some border hotheads who call themselves ranchers and strut and arm themselves like John Wayne, but don’t ever see a cow turd dropped on their property and are against all immigrant labor. These people most of whom join or form Militia groups, have no need and no compassion for anyone, not even themselves. They only want to shout, “I’m a rancher. As per the tradition of the movie Wild West, I will shoot any Mexican who crosses my land.” It doesn’t matter that his border “ranch” and his “livestock” only consist of one old 20 year old goat and an acre and a half of sandy wash. It doesn’t matter that he’s never learned a word of Spanish or worked and depended on Mexican vaqueros and horsemen for his living. It doesn’t matter that he never crossed the border into Mexico like his neighbor ranchers have done all their lives with Mexican vaqueros guarding them with their lives and celebrating their coming with fiestas in the bosoms of their families.
The solution that I propose is this: Through a common institution like the Chambers of Commerce of Mexico and the U.S., workers are solicited by U.S. employers, screened by an American-Mexican institution or agency, transported to the border at the employer’s expense, met at the border by the employer, and transported by him to the place of employment. The employer is responsible for the worker throughout the term of his employment. After his term is over, the employee has to go home. If he wants to come back to work, he goes through the relatively simple task of submitting himself to the machinations of the agency that handles workers who seek employment in the U.S., only this will be much facilitated, because he already has a job and a reputable sponsor.
Mexicans love their country. They want to live in Mexico. They want to end their lives in the company of their families in the country they love more than life itself. The desire of illegal crossers is to eventually be able to return with their savings to build lives, businesses and fortunes in their own country. Anybody who doesn’t know that this can be done with even small capital, is a fool. Mexico is as rich in resources as the U.S. It’s politics is all that needs a drastic remedy.
This would reinforce the wonderful core of goodness in the Mexican people. And that core of people would be our ally, an ally that we could trust, an ally that would trust us and be grateful to us.
Illegal workers don’t go back, because it’s too hard and dangerous and expensive for them to return to Mexico and then again have to cross the border illegally to return to their jobs in Illinois, or Minnesota, or Northern Arizona.
If they could work in the U.S. my way, which is the way that almost anyone who hires Mexican labor would want to do it, they could return to their families and homes in Mexico without fear of losing their American jobs.
To me, that’s the solution to all of our problems of drug traffic and to all of ours and the Mexicans’ labor problems. The workers that we treat good would perhaps go home and clean up their own country’s government and lawlessness. If they could come across under the protection of our laws, we could turn our guns on the sonsofbitches that are stuffing drugs into our country.
Terrorists are sneaking across our border, that’s why we need to screen every worker before we let them in. With that in place, we goddam shoot every son of a bitch that tries to sneak across our border, because we know he’s not on ours or the Mexicans’ side.
Posted by Rod Norman at 3:26 PM
11)You made your first trip to Mexico almost 75 years ago. It has always been a wild & lawless sort of place, but do the things going on today down there even amaze you?
Mexico has a core of very fine and elegant people and that will never change. They are stubborn about not allowing their youngsters to stray from that core, and that is what makes me say that they’ll not change. People who are influenced to stray from that core, mainly the youngsters, become the thugs of their generation. What bothers me most is that thugs have been taking on hero status. The corridos, folk-ranch songs, used to tell romantic tales of great and noble and romantic hero's, love of the land, love of the livestock. Today the corridos romanticize the smugglers, murderers, victims of the cartels, thugs, and belittle their white gringo enemies.
People had just begun to notice that their youth was beginning to stray about the time I came out to live and ranch again on this side of the line in 1974. Youngsters began to take marijuana and cocaine at that time. Before that, a marijuano, one who stooped so low as to take it, was a pariah in his society. The town dogs and little children chased him down the street. Before that, in the interior, women didn’t go barelegged or in slacks. They put a re bozo, a shawl, over their head when they walked to town. They carried a parasol. Not any more. They are all almost exactly like American kids now, with little modesty, little self-respect, little respect for anyone else, except for the ones who stand erect in the core of their families.
12) I just read where a farmer from Bisbee, Az. was murdered on his farm near the border. I'm sure you're aware of it and possibly even knew the gentleman. Some reports claim he was killed by the drug cartel and others claim he was killed by illegal immigrants crossing back and forth. I'd really like to hear your thoughts on the border issue and the drug wars that are raging all through Mexico.
I live on the border. My family settled here in 1850 when it was still Mexico. At one time mine was the largest Anglo family in the region. Only a few of us remain. Of course, Mexican families that were here three hundred years before mine are still here, only now much more plentiful than Anglo families. Why is it so surprising that they want to come back? It doesn’t surprise me any more than the migration of wild ducks surprises me.
In my childhood, Anglo families owned most of the businesses. Now, Mexican families do as they did before Anglos came here. Anglo families in my day all spoke Spanish as well as they did English, learned Spanish as their first language, because they spoke it more as children. My mother and her brothers grew up in the culture of Sonora and were more like Sonorans than they were like people of Phoenix or Prescott or any Arizona people who lived north of Tucson. Sonorans were and are more like people of Southern Arizona than they were or are like their countrymen in states south of Sonora. I also feel more akin to Sonorans than I do to my own countrymen. This is true of almost all ranchers and farmers of this area, except, or course, the dudes who have come from the east and bought up a lot of the ranches.
I didn’t know Mr. Krantz. I met him at a book signing in the Gadsden hotel in Douglas a year or two ago and liked him and talked to him for awhile. He liked my books a lot.
There are four kinds of illegal border crossers that are swarming into our country. Among the thugs are the ones who come in files that resemble paramilitary combat patrols, big, husky youngsters, well shod, well equipped, well armed. They have all, or more, of the technology, including satellite technology, that our own military does, and I suspect, better technology. These crossers have strict orders not to engage anybody, not even to ask for a drink of water. They carry the three powders, meth, heroin, cocaine and they carry 120 or 130 pounds of gear including their payload. They will defend it, but they are much better armed than our Border Patrol and local county and city police and so far no firefights have occurred.
These cartel men march all the way to Tucson at night, because the farther they get from the border, the safer it is for them. Besides that, the BP and other law enforcement have roadblocks on the freeways and highways and patrol the roads in their four-wheel pickups, and carry small arms that are no match for any paramilitary unit. The BP truck is more often than not manned by a single man or woman. I had a flat tire the other day on the Harshaw road and a little girl BP who could not have weighed 110 stopped to help me.
The second kind of crosser is a more ragtag drug trafficker who gets paid by the load. Some are thugs and some are not. This kind goes unarmed, but well shod and clothed. He always straggles back as far as he can go and unless overcome by bad weather or accident, he walks all the way back across the line. However, if something waylays him, usually bad weather, he gives himself up to a BP patrol car and is taken to Tucson, processed, then taken to a border crossing and turned loose.
The third kind of crosser is the man, or woman, or child whose shoes wear out before they cross the first ranch on the American side. Of course, 99 percent of all illegal foot traffic crosses American ranches. This third kind of crosser has always been and will always be helped by people who ranch on this border, unless the rancher is a dude and can’t tell a trafficker in stout boots from a ragged and barefoot person seeking work.
I live on the Rocking Chair ranch on Harshaw Creek road. All kinds of traffickers come by my house and past my horse corral all the time. If I started a war against every crosser I saw or who asked me for help, drug trafficker, or seeker of a better life, I would not last long. All I have to do to have a better than average chance of not being molested, is to show a little compassion from time to time and to live and let live.
Of course there is one other kind of crosser, and he is called a pollero. A pollero is a hawk that preys on baby chickens. This pollero preys on his own people who are weakened and vulnerable from hunger and exhaustion and exposure. These polleros cross to catch their countrymen when they are at their worst, take them back, sell them into all kinds of slavery, rob them, take the tikes for adoption organizations, or sell them to cold-blooded sonsofbitches who kill them for their organs, steal from ranchers, burglarize, invade homes of old people and of women and children.
These are the dangerous ones. They often come across loaded with dope with an independent, non-cartel group, but after they hand over their cargo they look for something to steal, or hurt on their way back to Mexico.
One of these might have shot Mr. Krantz just to watch him die. The rancher might have caught him in the act of trying to steal. He might have decided to show cruelty instead of compassion. He might have tried to apprehend a crosser…..or he might have made an enemy of one of his own neighbors. I can’t judge the victim and I can’t judge the killer. I know this, I am armed everywhere I go. When I carry coffee and doughnuts, blankets and dry socks to crossers who straggle sopping wet onto my porch in a winter rainstorm, I carry them in one hand because my .22 Beretta or my .38 special is in my other and in plain sight, although pointed at the ground.
Posted by Rod Norman at 3:24 PM
Pt. 2 of an on-going interview with author J.P.S. Brown. Questions 1-4 were posted previously and can be found in the archives on 4/18/10 We pick up with questions 5-10
5) Could he make the same journey today ( in 2010) successfully?
I don’t believe anyone could get him to go back to the Sierra. He’s had it. I figure that he had about a 75 percent chance of making it back to his home in Tucson alive before he wrote the book. Now, he would probably have about a 90 percent chance of losing his life and having his book stuffed in a place where the sun don’t shine.
6)I understand you once wrote a novel entirely from a horses point of view. What was it called and where did the inspiration come from?
The book was called I, Horse. My William Morris agent who had given me lavish praise for my work was so put out with I, Horse, that he quit me. So, I rewrote the book in third person about a top horse of mine that inspired the book and called it Steeldust. It was published by Walker and Co., New York as Steeldust and Steeldust II: The Flight.
The only reason I could see that Walker split the book in half and published the halves a year apart was so it could sell one book for the price of two.
Horses have been on this earth in more or less their modern form for about 40,000,000 years and all they have had to help them survive has been their grace and speed. Man has been here I guess in his present form for about 5,000 years. Horses haven’t poisoned the earth or their fellow beings in any way, haven’t ruined anything, except when used as a tool by men, have not murdered, and have not dealt in betrayal, or for that matter not dealt in any of the sins that man rationalizes to be necessary for his survival.
I figured a horse’s language to be a sort of poetic plain talk, but I finally abandoned the idea when I realized that my idea of a horse’s talk was too “literary.” I kept running into the problem of liking my choice and use of words more than I did my subject. I had always hated that kind of “literary” writing that showed off high-toned language ad nausea and realized that the only reason I wanted to do the book that way was to see what I could do with words about the great horse that inspired the work.
7) It's on the record that you hated the movie "Pocket Change" and "that it made you want to puke and hurt somebody". The film was based on your novel "Jim Kane" which was based factually on aspects of your life. Paul Newman played the central character based on you. Was it Newman or the studios fault, or both, for the silly characterization we see in that film.
I got along good with Paul and I thought we respected each other. I think he was trying to portray me, but if that is true, he sure missed it. I fell out with his company before the production began, so if I had wanted it to be better, it’s my own fault for not staying with it.
However, to stay with the company was just too big a sacrifice for me. I had cattle and a ranch in Mexico and I wanted it done down there. I got them to promise me they would do it there.
When I saw their first screenplay I was alone in a hotel room. It was so bad I kicked a chair through a window and crippled myself for about a month. They didn’t get it then and they couldn’t ever get it after several script conferences that I attended before production began.
Paul never attended those conferences and I am told that during the production he kept shouting at the producers to get Joe Brown involved. However, I had made it very clear to them that I hated their dishonesty and their lying, phony, Hollywood ways and they had all they wanted of me for all time already, because when I told them off I waited until I had them all together.
In order to make the movie in Mexico, they had to show the script to the government censor in Mexico City. When the censor read it, he declined to give them permission to make it in Mexico. In the book I showed Mexicans the way I saw them, with love and respect. Pocket Money depicts them as overbearing greasers.
Then, I was called on the carpet by the Mexican Consul in Nogales and told to hand in my Mexican work visa, because the censors believed that the screenplay must closely follow the book I couldn’t go back to my ranch and livestock until the matter was resolved. The Consul was my friend, so she had me produce five copies of Jim Kane for the censors to review. After five months I was allowed to return to my business in Mexico.
I should have known that I would have no influence on the production company. In the beginning, we spent two weeks in Mexico looking for locations. My town Navojoa had to brush the landing strip by hand so that the Newman-Foreman Productions Falcon jet could land and take off there. The town turned all out for us and gave us a fiesta. Paul didn’t go with us.
Marty Ritt had been hired to be the movie’s director at that time. One day, as we drove through town all ten of us crowded into two cars, Marty piped up, “Don’t worry, Joe, we’re going to put fire and life into your book.”
I was already getting the picture of the kind of movie they would make. I said, “No, Marty. You’re not going to put anything into my book. My book is what it is and you can’t put one thing into it. My book has a good, sound reputation. Let’s see what you do with your movie.”
I could write a whole lot more about this, but I’d rather tell stories about truth and honor which would not grace that Newman-Foreman production company at all. To his everlasting credit, Paul stuck to his acting and stayed clear out of his company’s dirty business. I’ve never seen a movie company that was any better, except Ron Howard’s.
8)Tom Russell comments on his album "Hotwalker" that we don't need these phony heroes ( like athletes, actors & politicians, fake tough guys ) when we have real heroes living amongst us. We would have to put you in the class of real heroes I believe. Would you be uncomfortable with that?
I’m a Marine. All real heroes are dead. I still have to try hard to stay alive and be a man.
9) What kind of man was Lee Marvin? Can you tell us any stories about him from the times you spent together?
Lee was a warm and kind friend. He had a distinguished career as a Marine rifleman in the Pacific during WWII. I met him on the set of Pocket Money on the only day I visited its set. He and I and Paul got together to visit behind the camera. We were having a very funny and lively conversation, when all of a sudden I looked over at Lee and he was sitting up in his canvas chair with his name on it, sound asleep.
The producers told him a lot of stories about me, as they came away from my presence, I guess, with their hair standing on end and their complexions ghostly. When anyone asked Lee about me, he always said, the g.d. Hollywood's talk about Joe Brown in subdued tones, much as they would mention a terrorist who might mark them for death. Joe’s without a doubt the wildest SOB I’ve ever known.
10)How are Oscar Russo ( your old partners nephew) and your good friend Adan Martinez ( who you've called the best tracker and outdoors men you ever saw) doing these days ?
Oscar still retains the El Limon and Guazaremos sections of the old ranch that was founded by my partner Rafael Russo’s Sicilian immigrant grandfather. He is the only member if the family who still wants to keep the ranch, but he doesn’t know much about ranching and he won’t stay up in the Sierra for long. He only visits it to count his diminishing herd of Black Angus cattle that aren’t fitted for life in the Sierra. He and I have tried to get together to go to the Sierra, because I have to show him the place where Rafael used to pan for gold for spending money for mariachis and beer he required when he drove his father’s cattle out of the Sierra to market. I’m the only one left who knows where it is. Also, I want to see what became of the remnant of Rafael’s cattle that were very well suited for survival as natives of the Sierra. Those cattle are sure to have gone wild just as all their ancestors did, become wild as wolves to survive and thrive and multiply. Oscar doesn’t even know they still have to exist in that vast country. I want to go up there one time and bring some of them out before I die.
Adan Martiniz brought his family out of the Sierra and moved to Hermosillo, Sonora when killings over the drug traffic began about 1974. He and his sons own several five ton trucks with which they haul needed goods to Mulatos, their hometown in the Sierra. He still runs cattle on his part of the Mulatos Ejido, or communal ranch. I’ve visited him in Hermosillo. He and his family are healthy, his sons that were so tiny when they were little are all big and strapping and miraculously alive and making a good living with the trucks.
Posted by Rod Norman at 3:22 PM