The Crossbell Incident Part 2 & The International Finals Rodeo

If you missed Part 1 you can find it on this website…

Welcome back. This week I’m bringing you Part 2 of the “Crossbell Incident”.

It was December 8, 1981when Dale Kurtz received his contract and the project synopsis from Filmworks. The script was included in his packet along with a list of the actors under consideration for each of the major roles.

In addition to Rory Calhoun who was to play patriarch Gene Mullendore, there were several actresses in the running to play E.C.’s wife Linda. According to a handwritten note in Dale’s file Anne Archer was considered to be perfect for the part but she was already starring in “Waltz Across Texas”.  Barbara Horan was also mentioned but the biggest name was Lynda Day George. The5’8” beauty had been in the hit TV series “Mission Impossible” and also appeared on “Love Boat” and “Charlie’s Angels”. She had starred opposite John Wayne in “Chisolm” and had met her actor husband Christopher George on the set of “The Gentle Rain”. At the time he was starring in the hugely popular World War II based series “Rat Patrol”.

For the role of Gene’s wife Kathleen Filmworks had focused on veteran film actress Lois Hall. Hall was part of director John Ford’s legendary “Western Stock Company”, a group who appeared repeatedly in his films.  According to Wikipedia, over time this group included Will Rogers, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Maureen O’Hara, James Stewart, Ben Johnson and John Carradine. Quite a group

At this juncture I need space to bring you the report on this week’s adventures during my most visit to Oklahoma City. Next week in Part 3, producer Don Hawk’s pick to play E.C. will be coming up and his choice for Chub Anderson will surprise you.

With that said, I’ve spent a lot of time in Oklahoma City this past week and I had the opportunity to attend several interesting events so here’s a brief rundown:

A big boat and travel show was going on at the Cox Convention Center in the heart of downtown. Even with 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, I don’t know how they fit the hundreds of boats and travel trailers into the building not to mention the thousands of visitors. It is always a treat to look at all the new recreational toys that come on the market every year and dream….

After touring this show, it was on to the State Fair Arena and the 46th annual International Finals Rodeo where the top rodeo contestants in this association would be selected as this year’s champions

The Rodeo is put on by the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) which was founded in 1957 with headquarters in Paul’s Valley, OK. In 1993 the association moved its headquarters to Oklahoma City where each year the association recognizes champions in 9 categories: all around, bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, bull riding and cowgirls’ barrel racing along with calf roping. The IPRA is now the sport’s second largest association with over 2,400 members and 300 sanctioned events including 15 in Oklahoma.

The four performances on Saturday and Sunday each drew a big crowd. One of the highlights of the rodeo for me was watching barrel racer Tracey Nowlin who’s from Nowata. Tracy has been barrel racing for 14 years and she usually finishes in the money as she did at the Finals this year. Her story and that of her horse deserve more space than I have now but trust me, she’ll be back next year for sure. Of course the whole rodeo was extremely exciting and my scoop of the week is: if you’ve never been to a rodeo check out the next one in your area, it doesn’t get any more American than that.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road……………….




Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame

Had a great time last night at the reception for the new rodeo exhibit sponsored by Express Employment Professionals. Tomorrow night I’ll be signing books at the Caney Historical Society from 6-7:30PM- Hope to see you there!

Welcome to the Movies!

Looking for a good director….

Welcome back.  I am frequently asked if Footprints in the Dew might be made into a movie and of course I am hoping this will happen. In the meantime, this week and next I’ll be bringing you the story of an early attempt to make a film about this famous murder which I learned about several years ago.

In 2006 I began interviewing a man named Dale Kurtz who had been the ranch manager on the Cross Bell Ranch at the time of the murder. He had been the first person on the scene after a shot and bleeding Chub Anderson came running to his house.

Dale now lived in Arkansas, about a three hour drive from my house, and he and I had been meeting a couple times a week for about a month. I had all of his work history and it was very impressive. Dale was a real cow man and had worked on several big outfits in his life. Now retired, he kept busy breeding and training border collies.

Much of our conversation over my previous three visits had focused on the details of the night of the murder. Things were going well and I anticipated that my fourth visit would be the same but it wasn’t. When I arrived at Dale’s house a large 2’x 2’ cardboard box was sitting on his kitchen table. The box was full of papers, some in file folders, some in spiral note books and others just loose. There were photos and receipt along with what Dale said were his personal notes. When I asked about what he was giving me and why he had saved these things for so many years he just replied “I knew someone would come along”.  It was obvious that it would take some time to review all of these materials which included all Dale’s records of his work at the Cross Bell.

I took the box with me when I left that day and I soon discovered something in the papers I hadn’t expected, the manuscript of a film that had been planned about the murder. In a separate binder there was a contract between Dale and a company called Filmworks. Dated December 8, 1981, the contract specified that Dale would work on the project as a consultant and would advise on details such as locations. The contract was signed by a famous actor and producer named Don Hawks.

According to Hawks official bio, he had appeared in lots of big films including the Grapes of Wrath, Sands of Iwa Jima, Stagecoach, Red River and El Dorado. Among his co-stars were John Wayne, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood. Hawks had also been in numerous television shows such as Gunsmoke and Bonanza and had appeared in commercials for Miller Beer and Marlboro cigarettes. Don Hawks was a big shot and a closer inspection of the contract revealed that the entire budget for the production was laid out down to the penny. There was also information about the investment company backing the film and a list of the actors who would potentially play the leading roles. The complete script was also in Dale’s box and these are some of the details I discovered.

The film was going to be called “The Cross Bell Incident” and the script was written by Dianne S. Conyers. Several big name actors had been chosen to play the principal characters in the drama.  The role of patriarch Gene Mullendore was the first one mentioned and Rory Calhoun had been cast. Calhoun had appeared in movies with the biggest names in Hollywood of the time including Marilyn Monroe, Robert Mitchum, Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Susan Hayward.

Calhoun was a very big star and at 6’4” he was known to be a tough guy off the set as well. A high school dropout at 13, Calhoun got caught stealing a gun and then was arrested for robbing several jewelry stores and stealing a car as a boy. He did time in a federal prison and was also jailed in San Quentin in California. After his release, an accidental meeting with a director got him into the movie business. Gene Mullendore was also known to be a tough man and to Don Hawks Calhoun must have seemed the perfect choice to play a man who had built a ranching empire with sheer determination.

Who did Don Hawks have in mind for Chub, E.C. and the other roles?  Here’s a hint, for Linda it’s an actress who co-starred with John Wayne in Chisum and whose real life husband was the star of the TV series Rat Patrol.  I’ll give you her name and all the others next week.

Till then I’ll see ya down the road…………




New Book Signing Schedule

I have several book signings scheduled for January and February  and expect to add more!

January 22nd………………Caney Historical Society 6-7:30 PM

January 30th………………Half Price Books in Edmond 1-4 PM

January 31st………………Half Price Books in south Oklahoma City 1-3 PM

February 4th………………Full Circle Books, Oklahoma City 6:30 PM

February 7th……………..Half Price Books, May & 63rd, Oklahoma City 2-4 PM

February 11th…………..Orscheln’s Farm & Home Supply, 2900 W. Main, Independence, KS 5-7 PM: Doris “Coke” Meyer will be with me, signing her memoir of her uncle Will Rogers. The event is sponsored by 2B Smokin’ BBQ and Barry and Barb Beurskens


A Little Local History and the Skiing Report from New Mexico

Welcome back.  Being at home for the holidays gave me a chance to catch up on several interesting stories and this is one of them:

The year was 1965 when Cassis Clay (now known as Muhammed Ali) defeated Sonny Liston and won the World Heavyweight Boxing Title. This was also the year that the World’s Fair took place in New York, the St. Louis Arch was completed, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law and singer Nat King Cole died. Overseas, World War II icon Winston Churchill died at the age of 90.

According to the Centennial History of Washington County, in Bartlesville and Washington County things were going full speed ahead. The Ekofish oil field was developed in the North Sea during this period bringing additional growth to Phillips Petroleum and to Bartlesville as scientists, engineers and accountants moved into this booming city. W.W. Keeler was the Chief Executive of Phillips Petroleum and was also the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Tribe when Congressman Ed Edmondson and business leaders Charlie Cummings and C.R. Musgrave approached him for advice on improving the economies in surrounding counties that weren’t doing as well. The outcome made local history when Green Country, Inc. was created. The organization was made up of sixteen counties dedicated to promoting tourism and industry in order to bring growth and jobs to the area.

New businesses were popping up everywhere in town, trying to keep pace with the needs of the ever-growing Phillips workforce. Many of these outfits came and went but a few became fixtures in the community. This is a short history of one of those places.

419 E. Frank Phillips Boulevard was a busy corner in 1965. The courthouse was on the opposite corner and Jane Phillips Hospital was just across the street. Hundreds of people passed by every day so what better spot for a TV and appliance store. This is where Ted Schwermer opened his store that through a series of abbreviations of “Ted’s Company” became known as “Teco’s”. From day one it was a success. Teco’s sold a wide variety of home appliances but service was always the most important part of the business. Boots Adams, the Artunoffs and the Price family all came to Teco’s to purchase TVs, washers and dryers and refrigerators. Ted’s son Gary (a ’68 graduate of Sooner High) estimates that during the past 50 years over 150,000 units have been sold through their store. For the past twelve years, Teco’s has been selected as the best appliance store in town by readers of the Examiner-Enterprise. The store also provided a backdrop for scenes in Terrance Malick’s movie “To the Wonder”.

With that said, this week I am here to announce that Gary is retiring and Teco’s has closed as of New Year’s Day. Gary will still be working at the store a few afternoons a week for a while to help past customers. He also tells me that his service techs have formed their own repair business so he can put you in touch with them as well. It was quite a run that became a piece of Bartlesville’s history.

For you folks with time on your hands around this time of the year, a ten hour drive can put you in another world. In New Mexico the Christmas and New Year’s crowds are gone, the college kids are back in school and if you like to ski lift tickets are cheaper. Snowfall has been good so far this season and both Angel Fire and Red River are reporting over 30” of snow with all of their trails and lifts open. There are special deals for ski passes and lodging especially during the week.

For those of you who don’t ski, the mountain village of Red River where elk and deer share main street with people or the super family friendly Angel Fire Resort are both just a short drive from Taos and Philmont where Waite Phillips’ mansion is open year around and Cimarron, New Mexico where western history was made. These are all wonderful places to visit in the winter and I hope to be out there again soon myself.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road….


The Year in Review…….

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2016! I’ll be back on the road soon and will be posting my book signing schedule for January.

Welcome back.  An end of the year wrap-up of my weekly columns has become something of a tradition for me and as it is the last week of the year, here we go.

I was there in Alva, Oklahoma where Chiefs Dull Knife and Lone Wolf made their last stand and the Cheyenne lost their last chance at freedom.

In Centennial, Colorado I lived on media row for several weeks during the trial of now convicted movie theater mass murderer James Holmes. I made many great connections there as I did in Stephenville, Texas where I attended the trial of Eddie Ray Routh who was convicted of killing American Sniper Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield.

I’ve taken you to some of my favorite spots in New Mexico including Waite Phillip’s Philmont Scout Ranch and his beloved UUBar Ranch. I also and told you about visited Taos, Red River, Angel Fire and Albuquerque.

One of the highlights in Kansas that I wrote about is Kansas City but during the past months I have had the chance to profile many of the smaller communities in that state that are similar to many small towns across our country.

A trip to San Antonio, Texas brought a story about the old Spanish mission called the Alamo which is visited by 25 million people a year. Just two hours west of the Alamo is Fredericksburg, Texas which was founded by German immigrants and still retains much of that heritage today. I told you that Fredericksburg is the site of the South Pacific War Museum and is the birthplace of Admiral Nimitz.   Well known Bartian from the 1960s Al Dingman and his wife Sue live in this area which is not far from the LBJ Ranch which I also wrote about during this trip.

I made several trips to the East Coast in 2015 sending back stories about New York City and the Woodstock, New York area where a wonderful museum preserves the legacy of peace and love from 60s era Woodstock Music Festival.

My column isn’t just about travel and through the year I have written about many interesting people with ties to Oklahoma including Kenny Fox who was king of the beer business at one time. There was also Gordon William Lillie, or Pawnee Bill as he came to be known and most recently performer Michael Martin Murphy. I have also had the opportunity to visit with civic and business leaders such as Governor Mary Fallin, Vice Governor Todd Lamb, Bob Funk and T. Boone Pickens.

Every year I go to dozens of fundraisers both here and around the country. I have written about the big events at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City on several occasions as well as Elder Care’s The Big, The Bad & The Barbeque out at the Mullendore Ranch. Other events that come to mind include Bowl for Kids’ Sake, All That Jazz and Woolaroc’s Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion and these are just a few of the many events supporting worthy causes in our community.

Several people who have touched my life died in 2015, some of them more well-known than others. Both John Kane and Harry Woods were recognized business leaders and philanthropists and I first met them both as a young boy at the old downtown YMCA. I met Harry’s son Craig at the same place and later served with him on the Y Board. Some of you will remember that Craig died young and I wrote about him in one of my early columns. Don Boatman who was the Director of the Y when Craig and I were boys also recently passed away. Don worked with Dick Kane, Walter Allison, Derry Ebert and a handful of others to put the financing together for the present Y building.

As always over the past year I have written several stories recognizing the dedicated volunteers who support our area museums and make our many festivals and fundraisers possible. I have also covered the lives of several bad guys including the ones involved in the famous Lufthansa heist and the solving of the murder of E.C. Mullendore III. All of these stories can be found on my website and hard copies can be picked at the offices of the Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise. All in all it’s been quite a year and I hope you had a good one as well. Thanks for your support and till next year I’ll see ya down the road…..