Tag Archives: Kingman Arizona

Capture Time in a Bottle


Can you fry an egg on a rock in Arizona?  Well, you can melt a glass bottle, so!

Once contents are gone, the glass bottle has no value – toss the bottle. That is what people do!  That is why we find em’ out there.

This bottle was discarded, but not tossed, it was set down.  How do I know this? Because of how I found it.

I stumbled across this sun-melted and warped beauty in the high Arizona desert almost 55 years ago, in a canyon lying amongst ancient lava flows.  It was not far from the “Old Trail,” later the path of the famous Route 66.  I imagine it was “discarded by someone on a wagon train or mule or horse back rider, who stepped off the trail a hundred yards or so up that canyon for, well, for something.  Perhaps a campsite, perhaps just a pit stop.  Resting on some round rocks still protruding from washed sand, it sat in a natural heat oven amongst the rocks, in direct Arizona sunlight.  There was also a part of a tin can resting on the glass that left an impression in it.  Look closely and you can see the round impression in the glass (center image).  I wish I had saved it also, but there wasn’t much left of the can.  The bottle has started to turn blue as certain old bottles will do in Arizona.  If it were tossed it would have broken on the rocks, which is why I believe someone sat down and finished off its contents, put the lid back on with satisfaction I assume, and placed it there.

It slowly collapsed of its own weight as it softened under the Arizona sun.

There it rested for how many years I don’t know; perhaps it was lost 80+ years before I found it.  That was when I was a teenager of 15.  It has an alloy screw top which places it after the time of just corked bottles and before ubiquitous plastic screw tops.  The writing cast into the bottle is in English and warns against reuse of the bottle, so it was a controlled substance of some kind; rum or liquor of some sort.  It is 4/5 of a quart, which is an alcohol measure.

It has begun to turn violet from sun exposure and has since developed a crack that makes it very fragile.  Given that I have moved it over twenty times in five decades it is a surprise it is still intact at all.  I used to collect old bottles, going out into old settlements and ghost towns to dig for them.  Selling, trading, swapping them to collectors, keeping the pretty ones or unusual ones to use as painting props during a “still life” painting jag.

After many years an old tossed bottle has more value than any contents ever placed within it.  Now I have only a very few and not very valuable bottles; I consider this a favorite object find.  It is rare, even though others have found similar artifacts warped by the sun, but this one is unusual and I treasure it because I found it.

There are so many “things” of interest, too many to possibly ever paint or even consider to collect, and so we all must both curate and cull what we react to and carry with us on our life journey. This bottle is like several other “treasures” I have burdened myself with because, well, I don’t really know, I can’t seem to turn loose of it, just because.

Will I yet paint the impressions of ghost towns, or a lost soul in the desert sitting by his last bottle of rum, looking out at tomorrow’s promise and yesterday’s regrets?  I wondered at the bottle when I discovered it, looking all melted and wobbly; thinking it a rum bottle, had the bottle become an image, a sign somehow of the one who left it there?  I kinda doubt I will paint that, but the bottle already did tell a story.  The day I found it, images were conjured up, and carried for half a century.  Every time I handle this old bottle, I recall both the moment I discovered it and the moment my imagination saw stories emerge to explain it.  Wagon trains, cowboys and Indians, settlers on a new quest, right there within walking distance of my home.  Now with a blog I can try word painting it into your memory and you can help me carry it around for another 50 years.

The ghost towns of Oatman, Gold RoadChloride, White Hills, Jerome, are all worth exploring.  When I was a child they were fairly untouched; you could walk into stores that still had merchandise on the shelves, people just walked away from them.  After time they were striped of their treasures.  Wagon wheels and hitching posts went last.  Even today, you can find chandeliers made of wagon wheels, hitching posts still used in front of restaurants, and if you look close you will see lots of picture frames made of wood moldings captured from these ghost towns. Finally people had to be restrained by laws, or the very wood of the buildings would be taken too; but back then, no one cared much.  I used to gather a few boards to make old picture frames out of.  I still have just one such frame.  I sold many western art images framed in ghost town lumber. Mostly given to me by my uncle.


Hualapai-pallet-knife_web HUALAPAI PEAKS

Acrylic on Upson board 9″x12″

This frame was originally  the crown molding from an old hotel lobby in White Hills ghost town.  My uncle owned the town back then, and we went there to target practice.  My parents, brother and sister, shot old bottles for target practice (doesn’t that make you ill?),  and I collected framing material. (I was “the good one” – my daughter’s favorite saying). The painting in this frame is of the Hualapai Mountains as seen from Kingman, AZ.  The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe RR siding had some old crew cars stored there for several decades; the railroad runs right beside Route 66 and I just decided one day to go and paint them.  My wife and I pulled off Route 66 and had a picnic painting session there. The spot is now somewhat developed with a car wash and service garage, but if you walk around back it is still the same view as it was 45 years ago. The Hualapai Mountains, 14 miles distant, are an ancient volcano, and the town of Kingman is thought to set in a smaller caldera volcano.

All this because of a bottle!


The basic ingredient in glass is sand; sand has iron in it and has a tendency to turn green when exposed to light.  The thicker the glass is, the more the edge has a pronounced green color.  Throughout time, different additives were used to stabilize the color, having varying effects.  Up to about 1915, the element of choice was manganese. Manganese exposed to ultraviolet sun radiation oxidizes it, giving a purple tinge to the glass.  Older glass becomes collectible because of this, and Arizona is a favorite place for turning bottles purple-blue.

Did you know that glass is always a liquid?  Over time, it sags under its own weight and window panes get thicker at the bottom than they are at the top.  That is why my bottle is all warped, because it is a liquid, made soft in the Arizona sun!




Clowns and Art Supplies and the Muse.

Sad-and-Blue_web It is not that I am a fan of clowns, though I am somewhat, it is that I have a story of why I am a fan.  Across the street and two doors down from our house, on the north-east corner of Beale and 6th Street (in my hometown of Kingman, AZ), there was a flower shop, “June Bond’s Flowers.”  To me, it was more than that; the lady who owned it and ran it was June Bond. She was older then, than I am now – she was born in the early 1880s.  Between us, it would add up to nearly 145 years. Think of what she saw; well, actually, think of what I have seen!  When I was 7 she was 70 plus, widowed, had Parkinson’s Disease and seemed ever so old.  But she was kind, quiet and gentle in every way.  She loved the arts, painted many floral plates and china cups, made paintings and did countless embroidery items before her condition interfered.  In her flower shop, she did the most amazing thing: she sold art supplies because no one else in town did!

It was 1950 and Beale Street was not paved, or not in the sense of today’s roads.  It had an oil spray strip, down the middle of a dirt road with no curbs, to keep the dust down. They called it paving, but because Route 66 was a block south of Beale Street, and was paved, most cross town traffic went that way.  Why is that important?  Because in 1950 as a 7 year old I was allowed to cross the sleepy dirt street all alone, walk the short distance of two doors down and go into the flower shop.  There were two whole shelves of art stuff, magical tools of the dreaming child. Real sketch tablets, real paint and real charcoal, tempera and watercolor, even oils.  Brushes that real artists used.  She carried only one of each size brush and one tube of each of the main 8 colors in oil and watercolor. All magical strange exotic names of paint.  Tempera came in small jars (4 oz), sets of 6 colors, and cost $2.00 a set.  She had several opened sets of single jars of Tempera for 45 cents each.  You could order from the catalogue anything else, and it only took 4 to 6 weeks to get it (two months, usually). She had the biggest magical thing of all.  She did layaway!  I bought my first set of Tempera on layaway. 50 cents down and it only took two months to pay it off.  25 cents a week. I had an allowance of 50 cents a week, big money in those days, but it was meant to cover movies, goodies, and personal supplies. I did without movies for two months to get those paints! For the first 12 years of my life, the June Bond’s Flower Shop was the only art supplies I knew. But she had other supplies, too; she loved ceramics, pottery, fiber arts, embroidery supplies and glassware, knick knacks.  To me, she was the artist best friend.  I was a child; I had little money, but from here came my whole world of art.  She tolerated my looking at her catalogues; I could hardly read but it had pictures.  From her, I bought my first red sable brush (5 dozen coke bottle deposits @ 4 cents each).

Acrylic on Upson board 8"x10" (1969)

Acrylic on Upson board 8″x10″ (1969)

Clowns, I mentioned clowns, so here is that part of the story. On one occasion that same year, my mother and I went to June Bond’s Flower Shop to buy flowers for a funeral.  I saw a set of 3 porcelain clowns, only $9.99, a huge sum in those days. They were facinating: little porcelain people in costumes, with a beautiful shiny surface.  It was as if the muse was blowing wind into the sails of my very soul, as something in them moved me.  That thing artists get/feel or whatever.  I stared at them as if they could only be mine.  My mother couldn’t help but notice; I did not ask for them, but she offered if I would pay half, she would gift the other half.  She put a dollar down, I produced a quarter, and for the next nine months every other week I paid a quarter and she paid a quarter.  It took 9 long months to bring those clowns home.  I had never seen a real clown, and it would be a year before I did. These little porceline objects were magic; they were a sign from the outside world that people did things, went places and dressed up to have fun.  They invited me out to play.  Remember, there was no T.V. in our town then, and one local radio station.  We had a wind-up Victrola at home and a movie house in the center of town.  Clowns were in one world that did not exist where I was.  Books looked into another, the other world coming.  Because of that moment, I was fascinated not by clowns, but by that strange emotion of a doorway unseen; I was 7 and the muse was calling.  I still remember the feeling, do you? I have scoured the internet to try and find those clowns again, long lost to me. No luck, so maybe I will sketch up something from memory and post that, then feel guilty until I get them painted.

Clown napping on circus car G awaiting the next performance.

Clown napping on circus car G awaiting the next performance.


B-tween Acts

Clown napping on circus car G awaiting the next performance.

B-tween Acts

Napping Between Acts. Oil on canvas 12″x16″. (1973)

I painted this back when I still made my own stretcher bars and hand stretched the raw canvas, prepped it with gesso and marble dust, sized it with rabbit glue and primed it with lead based white oil. It is a layered painting (old traditional style process).  I wonder how many oil paintings are out there with lead based paints today?  They are only dangerous if you eat them!  You are not supposed to touch them, either.  For whatever reason, back then clown paintings were a favorite of mine.  I only have three or maybe four of them still around, I will post the third known one next week.  If I find the fourth one, I will probably make a set of prints of them.