HOWARD DAY IN CROSS PLAINS, TEXAS - 2006
Steve "Korak" Allsup
Copyright © 2006
This year I went to Cross Plains with two buddies, Red Hawk from the ERBlist and Ironhand from the Conan boards. This was quite an ill fated expedition but ultimately I think we accomplished something worthy. The first night we arrived, I stayed in the single room in Cross Plains next door to Howard's house, while Jim (Red Hawk) and Steve (Ironhand) stayed in Cisco. Unfortunately Hindoos have bought out Best Western and they charged them 25 dollars more than last year, and the pool was scummy. Then, after they took the van and drove back for the night, I went over to the pavilion and joined the party.
As I left about 1 am thursday night, I came to a long horizontal branch and tried to do some chin ups, but the bark was loose and slippery and I felt my feet go out from under me as I fell. Halfway down I thought Man am I going to make a fool of myself! Then just before I hit the ground, realizing how really far I was falling, I thought Man I am going to do a lot more than that! WHAM!!! Landed flat on my shoulders and ribs. Ouch ooch moan and groan I climbed agonizingly into a nearby lawn chair and recovered my crushed breath. My shoulder blade felt totally shattered and many ribs broken. None of those still lingering even noticed in the dark. I finally shuffled like a zombie to my room and tried to sleep without any pills.
Fortunately my men arrived around 11 the next morning and went for some meds. I could not move, I was paralzyed in pure agony. But with the meds I was able to become mobile enough to take a shower and attend a show Friday evening.
I had to miss Roy Thomas' first talk Friday morning, about the origins of the Conan comic, because of my injuries, but Friday night REHupan fan-scholar Mark Finn gave a theatrical presentation in the high school gym. It was a double feature done in Radio style, and the first was a dramaization of a Sailor Steve Costigan fight story, the second was a play that Robert's one time girl friend Novalyne Price had written which was inspired by the time that she thought she saw REH getting off of a bus after his death. It was about a girl who meets a guy who looks just like her fiance killed recently in the war. The implication is that he is actually a ghost I guess, though that is never made explicit. The actors that Mark had assembled and hired, plus a three piece jazz combo, were really talented and professional. AFterward they had a drawing and I won a small Conan statue with my raffle ticket. So did Jim
The next day I was able to attend Roy Thomas' talk in the gym, and afterward he was kind enough to hang out with some of the more faithful followers. Roy spoke on his involvement with the various media incarnations of Conan, such as comic strips and cartoons and movies. I asked a couple of questions during this session. Afterward he stayed around signing a few more autographs for people who were not there Friday, etc, and I approached him and told him that I had collected Conan comics since issue one at the age of thirteen in 1970. He seemed to take a liking to me and stood there with me and about 6 or 7 other guys for the better part of an hour, just talking his head off. We knew all the comments to make to set him off for another round, and so kept it going until he finally had to keep an appointment with his wife Dann. Even then he walked very slowly with us out to the car; he had obviously decided to visit the festival primarily for enjoyment and discussion. He was a smallish man about five foot eight, with the same blond hair and glasses as I had seen in pictures. He had an intelligent and commanding presence. As we approached the cars I mentioned that it would be great to see a compilation of the Invaders. He told me that there were plans to do DC archives of his work on the Justice Society related titles and also that Marvel was going to do a Masterworks hardback of Adam Warlock, who he and Gil Kane had created in the early seventies. I am a big fan of Warlock. Heard a ERB scoop too--- the reason that Roy quit the Marvel Tarzan comic was because Marion Burroughs virtually accused him of plagiarism. She accused him of plagiarizing Burne Hogarth's JUngle Tales with the Marvel one shot issues of Jungle Tales adaptations. That made Roy quite mad and he resigned from the title.
Saturday night we went to the cook out at Caddo Peak ranch and there I continued pestering Roy, this time trying to see if he could use Conan and the Vaults of Zin as a mini-series for DArk Horse. It is a prequel to Lovecraft's the Mound, and Roy had never read this particular HPL tale. He seemed amicable to reading it and then see what he thought about it. Under the circumstances that is about all I could manage to accomplish, considering that I was a dead man walking, trench-kill, a stumbling burning zombie under heavy narcotics. He did admit that it would be ideal considering that the last story he wrote for Marvel was chronologically immediatley preceding this suggested episode.
Jim took a number of really neat photos along with some less notable ones. The picture shown here is my humble self at a strapping 220 pounds. If I look like I am grimacing in pain, I am... this was the third day after my fall, on Sunday morning. My buddies were able to enjoy themselves in spite of my useless worthlessness the whole weekend.
The sward wound under my shoulder blade is throbbing.
Sward equals Sword
Wound equals Ground
Axccording to REH's eccentric pronounciation at least.
Because of my injury Jim did not get to visit Howard's grave in Brownwood and for that I was sorry. I donated a copy of Tarzan the Untamed to Robert's bedroom, just as I had Beasts last year. I thought that it was a good choice because Howard probably got some inspiration for the famous scene of Conan killing the Vulture in A Witch Shall Be Born from the scene of Tarzan killing the vulture in the desert. Howard may well have owned a copy of the Grosset and Dunlap UNTAMED exactly liike the one that I donated. I was quite surprised and flattered when Barbara Baum, the Howard heir, ran up to me and lamented that she had not had a chance to visit with me very much. After I explained my the injuries that were the cause of my scarcity, she had me to pose for her camera with Michael Meyers, the fellow who wrote the screenplay of Whole Wide World, and she got both our autographs.
Mark Finn had a small panel discussion on writing a bio of Howard, and assessed the ultimately essential contribution of Decamp as well as his own more advanced version and other theoretical versions. AFterward at the cook out at Caddo Peak ranch, he came over and sat down with me for a good long chat about some issues that we had been discussing on the Conan.com board recently. I confessed that I did not realize that Robert and Novalyne had actually been "in love," but I found that out because Saturday afternoon for about an hour and a half I had sat in the courtyard of the motel and read the last chapters of Dark Valley Destiny. It was a perfect spot because occasionally I could look up from my reading and glance over at Robert's house right there. This was during the time that Jim and Steve B had gone to the gym to listen to Glenn Lord discuss his experiences. I stayed at the motel to rest.
The great thing about such an event is that you can talk to anyone no matter how much of a celebrity they are. Everybody is very friendly and likes to talk. We met one fellow from England named Terry who runs a REH listserv, and he sat with the three of us for an hour or two discussing the difference between British and American editions and comics. Jim and Steve and I walked around the perimeters of the property and I showed them where Howard had shot himself. We toured through the house during the afternoon and each room had a different guide to explain it all.
One good thing is that we bought almost no souvenirs... I think that Jim and Steve B had picked up a couple of cheap paperbacks at the silent auction Friday afternoon, and Jim bought one fanzine that had an article about Howard's pronunciation of the word Tarzan (and a letter exchange on the subject between ERB and REH; Danton will need to look up REH's letter in the files), but that was it. We came back with most of our money. My favorite meal of the trip was an authentic mexican restaurant on Robert's street. It had a buffet and was superb-- the kind of expert cooking that does not leave one with acid indigestion.
The only reason I went this year was because of Roy Thomas. I did not know in advance if I would have an opportunity to actually speak with him one to one. But fortunately I was entirely satisfied in that regard. I must have stood right next to him, either just us or a handful of others, for at least and hour and a half total, talking continuously about the classic Marvel comics of yore, and the creators involved. I told him that for me he would always be the "Pope" of Conan! He told me to explain that to Dark Horse, and I readily agreed to.
Since we were three fairly big guys, we had to take a van instead of my red tracker, and so we were unable to enjoy listening to the DVD player the whole way down and back. Instead we had to content ourselves with rock or country western radio. The van was much more comfortable for the three of us. They stayed at my house a couple of nights, and on Monday Steve flew back to St Louis and Jim flew back to Chicago.