Last year, my best friend Paul Mears and I did something that we’d been planning since we were freshmen in high school. Namely, we made a road trip across Texas to Cross Plains, in order to crash the Robert E. Howard Days celebration. For those unfamiliar with “Two-Gun Bob,” he was an extremely prolific pulp magazine writer of the 1930s: in many ways, he, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith completely changed the face of American literature, particularly fantastic literature, through their mutual association via the magazine Weird Tales. In fact, a few of you may have seen a little movie called The Whole Wide World starring Vincent D’Onofrio and Renee Zellweger from about fifteen years ago:
Last year, the occasion was a bit somber, as the Saturday we arrived was the 75th anniversary of Howard’s suicide. That didn’t stop fans and enthusiasts from coming to the Robert E. Howard Museum from all over the planet.
What’s funny is that while I was the person who introduced Mears to Howard’s work, he rapidly exceeded me in reading just about everything Howard ever wrote. In particular, he wanted to emulate a famous photo of Howard enjoying the loosening of Prohibition:
This is funny to me, of course, because Mears much more closely resembles a young H.P. Lovecraft.
As mentioned previously, this is a bit of an event for Howard enthusiasts, so we’re also going to hang out with friends. Well, when I say “hang out with friends,” what I really mean is “say hello to Mark Finn.” When I say “say hello to Mark Finn,” what I really mean is “make him regret bitterly not killing me when he had the chance.” Mark and I have been friends and fellow troublemakers for working on twenty years, and he’s blessedly one of the few writer friends from the old days who doesn’t nuhdz me about coming back to writing about science fiction. Part of that is because he secretly enjoys my gardening tirades whenever we get together, and part of that is because he knows and understands that my old science fiction writing sucked the farts from dead cats until their heads caved in. Either way, it’s a good reason to hang out with him, as he’s coming out with a big pile of copies of his book Blood and Thunder, and I’ve been requested by several Day Job friends to snag autographed copies. After that, we’re going to talk about local zoology and botany for a while, because I have an idea for a container garden project that absolutely needs his assistance.
Naturally, this won’t be just about pulp magazine nostalgia and a remembrance of a life cut far too short. This time last year, Cross Plains was at the beginning of a drought that exceeded that in North Texas, and the last time the area was hit so badly was when Howard was still alive. The rains returned this year, though, so I’m looking forward to getting photos of the Edwards Plateau flora. Among many others, I hope to get an identification of this bush on the REH Museum property, seeing as how everyone had left for the day by the time I saw it.
As can be seen, much like the rest of Cross Plains, there’s a lot of beauty, so long as you can get out of the blasting sun to appreciate it.
Anyway, Robert Howard Days runs this Friday and Saturday, so we’ll see you out there if you’re there and lament not being able to torment you mercilessly if you aren’t. See you then.