Ol' Max Evans: The First Thousand Years
A documentary portrait of New Mexican writer Max Evans, author best known for The Rounders and The Hi Lo Country (both made into feature films). The film is the story of Max’s improbable life from teenage cowboy, to soldier in WWII (Max landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day), to struggling small ranch owner, to mining speculator, to painter working in the artists’ colony of Taos.
>>Sam Elliott: Not very long ago I had been one of them, but
I had left and gone to another part of the land. The people
were fast becoming strangers to me as I to them, but the
land, the great swelling earth under my feet, was mine,
and I belonged to it even as the man it now reclaimed.
>>Candy Moulton: Max Evans writes about people and
connections to the land.
>>Luther Wilson: Max has a great sense of life
itself and he writes about universal human issues.
>>Max Evans: This is the first hand scribbled treatment for
The Hi Lo Country . It was a strange feeling to go back to
that country and watch them bury my best friend killed
by his brother. That is what inspired that book.
>>Ruth Francis: He's a writer of place about the
transitions of life.
>>Forrest Fenn: He knows how to turn a phrase, he told me,
he said, "One day I was so broke I forgot how to count."
>>Sam Elliott: Half farm, half grassland and only
half enough of either one.
>>Ollie Reed: Nowadays we give prizes for everything
except knife throwing.
>>Sam Elliott: A voice as smooth and slick as new shoes on ice.
>>Slim Randles: There's just been all these wonderful
things going on in his mind all these years.
>>Luther Wilson: Mostly though what you see is a very, very
astute observer, not only of the human world, but
of the animal world and the physical world itself.
>>Hall of Fame Announcer: Please welcome the one
and only Max Evans.
>>Candy Moulton: We're inducting Max into the Western Writers
Hall of Fame, Lifetime Achievement in Western Writing
or writing about the west.
>>Ollie Reed: He is a cowboy, he is a writer, but he's not a
cowboy writer. I think he writes great American literature.
>>Max Evans: I don't think I deserve this cockeyed
award, but I'll take it.
>> Slim Randles: People say, "oh yeah, he's that western
writer," he's never written a western in his life.
>>Luther Wilson: Very rarely is there a gun play in one
of his books. There aren't swaggering characters with
guns on their hips having shootouts on Main Street.
He sees life as tragicomic and many of his characters
are that and most of them the tragic wins in the end.
>>Candy Moulton: Max Evans has the ability to capture story
and character. His work is fiction, but there was
some kernel of reality in everything he writes.
>>Peter Coyote: Ol' Max Evans, as he would come to be known,
was born in a small town in West Texas, in 1924.
>>Max Evans: My parents and their parents, my grandparents,
it was a big family, about seven of them and a girl.
They had a great blizzard and froze all their cattle in the
1918 blizzard. Killed their chickens, all their cows,
everything, there was one mule left alive. They just had it
with the cow business, so my father put in a mercantile
and a grocery store so that's what we were doing
in Ropes where I was born.
>>Max Evans with Luther Wilson: The thing about it is they
didn't even have these corrals, they tied ropes together to
hold the cattle, that's why it's named Ropes. And they were
shipping thousands of cattle out of Ropes at one time.
>>Max Evans: My dad was always a pioneer and he built a little
town halfway between Hobbs and Lovington and called it Humble
City. His concept was that the two towns would grow together
and it'd be one town and there he'd be owning all that in
the middle. It really was named properly, it was really
humble. That was all ranch country then, just a few little
farms starting up. The Great Depression was on, people
just had to struggle just to get food. And I hunted all
over those pastures, horseback and afoot, had great adventures
for a kid. I'd go out in the pastures all day, never tell
them I was going or when I was coming back, they just trusted
me and I had a great childhood.
>>Peter Coyote: Years later, Max would write of his early
years in Humble City in several short stories, including one
named after his first pony.
>>Sam Elliott: Cricket didn't realize he was thriving in the
era of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the thirties.
I didn't either, it seemed to have always been this way and
I thought it always would be. A few scattered lots sold and
eight or ten houses were built, but it still looked like what
it was, a dried up cow pasture. There was a small grocery and
a filling station. He soon got a two room schoolhouse built
and an authorized post office which was located in the front
room of our house. My mother, Hazel, was the Post Mistress.
>>Max Evans: And got rabbits and learned how to hunt quail
with a little rifle, I had a 22, and I supplied a lot
of our food. And I got to where I could really shoot.
[sound of gunshot]. >>Slim Randles: Max is a
fantastic shot with a gun. He would wait until these quail
would line up together and then he'd shoot 'em through
the head and get two or three with one shot. I said,
"Why did you do that?" He said, "Well ammunition costs money."
>>Sam Elliott: I soon learned how to make every shot
count by easing the sites onto a critter's head and
pulling the trigger softly. [sound of gunshot]
This not only killed our food instantly, but it saved
damaging edible meat or having a wounded animal to run down.
>>Max Evans: Hunting for food when I was a kid, I learned
to respect animals and their habits and their ways. I had
a pair of old dogs that I loved them so much and they were just
like my brother and sisters and closest of friends.
>>Sam Elliott: Sometimes, when I'd had a good day with the dogs
and rabbits, I'd simply ride Cricket way out in a big circle,
either to the east or west of Humble City, just to look at the
prairie so flat that on a clear day, that was a day when the
wind hid out, we could observe the horizon to the vanishing
point and actually see the earth bend in the beginning of
its great circle. And the sky, well it was so big and blue
that all I could measure in my little mind was forever
and ever, up, down and around. I'll never forget the
wondrous feeling of the two of us being all alone way out
there, at great peace and thankfulness for the magic
of all that quiet space.
>>Peter Coyote: Max hated being confined in school. He was quite
the rascal and later pranked the audience of a theater by
covering up its chimney with an empty lard can, laughing
as the patrons ran out, coughing and wheezing. He also
ran into more serious trouble.
>>Max Evans: In that little town the houses were all scattered
except this one house was close to us, so there's a kid there
in that house, for what reason I'll never know, he threw a rock
and hit my dog and my dog was really hurt. So I just didn't
even think, I was in a rage, my grandfather had given me
a little ten cent knife, it had a blade that you could just
bend and I ran him up on his front porch and threw him down
and got his hand and I stabbed him in the hand and stuck his
hand to the porch. So I told him, "Now you little S.O.B.
see how you can rock a dog now," and walked off and left him
there screaming and yowling.
>>Peter Coyote: The uproar got Max expelled from school.
His parents sent him to live with his Grandmother, across
the border on the outskirts of Ropes, Texas. Max loved his
Grandmother. Birdy Swafford was half Choctaw Indian, a medicine
woman, a healer, people came to her for advice and she
passed on her gifts to Max.
>>Max Evans: I see these people come to her back door and they
were ashamed to have their fortunes read. She showed me
how she'd do it with a teacup, but that wasn't really it,
that was just a focal point. She never charged anything,
but people would sometimes give her gifts. Supernatural
things are natural things, they just seem super because
people are not adjusted to or experienced them. But there
is something in the sky you see that guides us all,
gives us all breath and everything else, so I've called
on the Great Mystery in the Sky many times. Our stories
come from sources that we have no reckoning of actually,
we have no way of explaining, no one ever has. I used to
come over here when I was a little kid and sat around
that old potbellied stove and listened to the old timers talk.
They were real old timers, back before automobiles, and I don't
know whether their stories were true or not, didn't matter,
they were great. It seemed wild to me in those days, but they
were true about, most of the time they were true stories.
>>Ollie Reed: I got to sit around. Listening is
as important as telling stories and Max did pay
attention to these old timers when he was young
and started soaking them up.
>>Peter Coyote: Out by the rope corrals, young Max once
witnessed a horse bucking off down along the tracks with an
odd character of a cowboy named Boggs along for the ride.
Max later wrote about him in his novella, My Pardner .
It tells the mostly true story of Boggs and the
twelve-year-old Max, driving a small herd of horses across
the Texas panhandle to auction, crossing the treacherous
Canadian River along the way.
>>Sam Elliott: The old gray stumbled and the extra force
against the ground broke the crust, He went in up to
his belly. I rode up beside him and pulled his mane,
my horse was sweated and excited and almost jumped out
from under me, For a moment I thought the quicksand would
get him. The more I pulled, the more the old gray fought,
the deeper he sank. I was crying and begging the old horse now
and it wasn't just because it meant another loss to Papa, but
it was a loss to me, He was my friend, this old horse. In his
eyes there was an acceptance along with the terror.
>>Peter Coyote: When Max was eleven, he began his
cowboy career up on Glorieta Mesa, southeast of Santa Fe.
He went up there to visit his Uncle Slim Evans,
an amazing horseman. Working for rancher Pete Coleman and later
Ed Young, Max survived many an ordeal over the next few years,
great fodder for his short stories. The ranchers grew to
appreciate his determination and a certain, very useful skill.
>>Max Evans: I just naturally could use a rope and if you're
branding and you heel a calf and drag it to the fire you
don't lose near as much weight, you don't injure it. So the
old ranchers really started liking me because I could heel.
>>Sam Elliott: Most fellers make the mistake of throwing too
fast a loop to be good heelers. You've got to kind of let it
float down, then just as the hind legs move against the loop,
you pull the slack and you've got him. The big calf began
bucking and bellering, but I turned Old Snip and dragged
it to the fire. Eldon ran up and got ahold of his tail and
over he went. Pretty soon you could smell the hair burning
from where they put the brand to him. Ed castrated,
earmarked and vaccinated him while Eldon held him. I let
them have the slack and the finished product got up shaking
his head wondering what in the world had happened to him.
>>Peter Coyote: The older cowboys invited Max on a
trip into Santa Fe, the state capital, The Big City.
>>Ollie Reed: They went to LaFonda - I guess they let
dusty cowboys into LaFonda back in those days - to have some
drinks, but Max was too little to go and because he's got
this artistic soul, he went to the museum and spent his day
looking at art there and when he came back to meet the cowboys,
they had forgotten about him and gone home and left him there.
Those benches that are still sitting around the plaza now,
he curled up on the one nearest La Fonda and just went to sleep
there. A policeman found him. They took him over to the jail
so he could just sleep in a cell, you know and might have
been Max's first time in jail, although it's not his last.
>>Sam Elliott: In order to give me time to do my cowboy
job, we had worked it out so I could go to school in
Andrews, Texas, just across the New Mexico line, during
football season. I was a fair halfback and a punter so I was
allowed certain privileges.
>>Slim Randles: If you can play football in Texas,
all is forgiven. He didn't go to class, the principal
gave him books to take to the ranch to study.
>>Sam Elliott: I choose Balzac, Tolstoy, Chekhov and
Shakespeare by assignment to continue my education.
>>Ruth Francis: He discovered a library up in Glorieta and they
had shelves of books and he discovered Balzac when he was
a very young man and Balzac wrote short stories and
Max was very, very taken with those short stories.
>>Max Evans: I moved to the Hi Lo Country when I was
17 years old. I had a wonderful aunt who had a little ranch.
She said if you can raise $500 for a down payment I'll sell you
that ranch at a real reasonable rate. I went out and did it,
I raised the 500 and now I've got me a little ranch up there,
beautiful little ranch, good water and it's a great
time in my life. I loved the country because there was
hunting and I could have deer, I ran coyotes to sell their
pelts, then I got married.
>>Peter Coyote: Max and Helene Caterlin were sweethearts
in high school and married soon after Max got his ranch.
He bought a few cows and worked for local ranchers.
Max loved the cowboy life and gave it everything he had.
>>Max Evans: A working cowboy, it's a miracle if they
ever get anything you know because there wasn't any
social security or anything for them. They used to wind
up sweeping out the saloons.
>>Peter Coyote: Mending fences, rounding up cattle and the
million adventures that make up a cowboy's life all went
into Max's most famous book published by Macmillan in 1960.
>>Ollie Reed: My favorite book of Max's is still
The Rounders, about Dusty and his friend, Wrangler,
and the horse, Old Fooler, a couple of crazy cowboys
and an even crazier horse.
>>Peter Coyote: "Rounders" spend months as itinerant
laborers doing the rounds of farms and ranches. This
builds up plenty of steam. When they do get to town,
rounders hit the bars with predictable results, drunk
and disorderly for a night or two and then back to work.
>>Forrest Fenn: A rounder to me is somebody that can do
it all, building fences, digging postholes, breaking
broncs or buying your friend a beer in a bar.
>>Peter Coyote: Max's rounders, Dusty and Wrangler, played
in the 1965 film by Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford.
>>Jim Ed Love: "Howdy Boys!"
round up cattle 'for wealthy rancher Jim Ed Love. First they
have to break in a string of horses, one horse in particular.
>>Jim Ed Love: "Boys I'm tellin' you that roan's got the
makings of a good rope pony. Probly' want him for the old
lady and the kids to ride!"
>>Sam Elliott: I had my right hand around that saddle horn
like it was the doorknob to Heaven's Gate, and my right
elbow was crimped down over my hipbone like a vice.
But it just didn't do any good, that son of a bitch bogged his
head and jumped way off toward the Arizona border and came
down hard on his front legs. The next jump was just as high
and just as long, but when he drove into the ground again he
was headed toward the Texas border. The world was jumping
around and going in crazy circles and eleven hundred
pounds of horseflesh was pounding my behind to pieces.
"Hell's fire he sure fooled the hell out of me,"
I said. "That's what I'll call him Old Fooler."
>>Candy Moulton: Well, we all love The Rounders, right?
It's just sort of iconic to the time and the era,
everything is somehow steeped in the connection to place.
>>Peter Coyote: Max's place has weathered some in the
past seventy five odd years.
>>Max Evans: That little ranch was 14 miles from a little town
way up northeastern New Mexico, called Des Moines. I call it
Hi Lo in the book and the movie and one thing and another.
>>Sam Elliott: Hi Lo is a little cow town, population of about
one hundred and fifty, on a long piece of pavement from way
down somewhere in Texas into and across northern New Mexico.
To the south of town is Sierra Grande Mountain, some
claim it to be the largest lone mountain in the world. It is
forty-five miles around at the base and about nine thousand
feet high. To the north, east and west is rolling
gramma-covered rangeland broken now and then by a steep,
jagged, malpais-studded canyon.
>>Peter Coyote: Dominating the landscape near Des Moines
is Capulin Mountain, an extinct volcanic cinder cone.
>>Max Evans: It was a grand, grand adventure to be there
in that vast country. You go up there right now and you can
find places where you can just see the gramma grass hills
just roll on and on and on, and it looks like it goes on
forever. In my mind they did.
>>Candy Moulton: The Hi Lo Country, that's a special place.
It's hard to make a living in a place like that. What's
gonna happen with the weather, are you gonna get enough
snow, are you gonna have water, are you gonna get enough rain.
Is it gonna be so darn windy that even if you get the rain
it just sucks the moisture right out of the land.
>>Max Evans: So there I am, just getting started,
I have a baby coming, been so lucky, so absolutely lucky
beyond comprehension. All of a sudden the war comes along.
The experience was pretty bad, we landed on June the 6th,
D-Day, the 2nd Infantry Division, the supporting
division for the 1st and the 4th, on that great invasion.
And we couldn't get in, there were just ships as far as you
could see in every direction, it was the most amazing thing
to me. We lost about 200 men that day, our engineers.
So when we finally got on land the next day, well we
didn't have any heavy weapons, our engineers had lost them
because they got shot up, no artillery, nothing. Many, many,
many years later I did what I think's the major work of
my life, Blue Feather Fellini . It came to a point in the
story that if he hadn't had war experience he couldn't carry
on and do the things he had to, so I wrote 90 pages of war.
>>Sam Elliott: On the beach were parts of men, and in
the water were parts of men. A small percentage were whole,
however, having drowned as their landing craft disgorged
them into water too deep for solid footing. The beach was
a cauldron of chaos beyond the limbs and bones and scraps
of torn flesh mingled with discarded gas masks, useless
punctured canteens, broken and bent concrete and steel
beach obstacles, erratic piles of smashed and destroyed
equipment, and disabled and destroyed vehicles already being
reclaimed by the sand and the sea. Destruction incarnate.
The war was a blur, like a barroom brawl. There were
no great organized plans and brilliant military tactics,
no inflamed thoughts of glory and winning of great
battles, no patriotic images of heroics and the flags of
one's country waving in victory. There was simply a moving
blur of frazzled images in a twenty-yard circle. The war,
the world, everything, was all in this very small twenty-yard
circle. That's all he knew. All he felt. All he realized of
existence and nonexistence. All.
>>Max Evans: All the patriotism, all that political agendas and
one thing and another goes way out into the breeze when you're
in deadly combat and people dying on both sides and in front
and the back and everywhere else. I wasn't thinking about
killing anybody just had to. My being a good shot led to the
infantry I'm sure. Eventually though I switched it around
on them and fired mortars. At impact, you know we
didn't, we weren't trained to take care of our hearing.
>>Ollie Reed: Messed up his inner ear and over the years
it's gotten real bad for him.
>>Peter Coyote: Max fought on for six months, until another
injury ended his war.
>>Max Evans: I got a little bit of shrapnel in my skull,
but the main thing was the explosion goofed up
my head for a long time.
>>Slim Radles: He said, "Well yeah, I was stumbling along
there and kept whamming into trees. My inner ear was
all messed up and I was falling down and puking all
over the place." So he said they, they sent me, they
said, "You're going back to England." So they shipped him
back to England where they put him to work as a lineman,
climbing up telephone poles. He says, "You know only
the Army would do something like that." I said, "Yeah
that's true, that's true."
>>Ruth Francis: Humor and comedy come out of deep sorrow,
deep trauma, even physical pain of war. You know in
a way I think Balzac gave him permission to say,
"yeah the human condition it is absurd and it is funny."
>>Peter Coyote: Home at last, Max got back to ranching,
cowpunchin' an' huntin' coyotes. His daughter Sharon was now
a toddler. His best friend, Wiley "Big Boy" Hittson,
also made it back from the war.
>>Max Evans: All the guys that survived in that lonely country
up there, we went pretty crazy for a while, and I must say
that the people of that Hi Lo Country, they really treated us
with great kindness because they just put up with us.
>>Slim Randles: The fictional town of Hi Lo is Des Moines, New
Mexico, with the Wildcat Bar on one side of the street. That was
Des Moines and it's just a little wide spot in the road.
>>Max Evans: I wanted to tell the country all
about the wildlife and the land and the cattle and
the people and the wind.
>>Sam Elliott: The everlasting wind naturally creates
great thirst. Hi Lo has two establishments for the relief
of this torture, The Wild Cat Saloon is on the south side
of the highway and directly across the street stands
the Double Duty Saloon. The two places eye each other
like two young herd bulls.
>>Max Evans: So we'd get to drink in one for a while and go
over and close it down at night or the other one or vice versa.
>>Sam Elliott: Big Boy picked up a chair and broke it all to
pieces over the top of a table, then he jumped up on it to
dance. The table collapsed under his weight and piled
up alongside the chair. He fell down flat on his back,
kicking and hollering. It wasn't long afterward that Delfino
decided he was a tiger and went to snarling and trying to climb
the wall. Then he ran his head through a large plate-glass
window. The blood running down in his eyes from a three-inch
cut in his scalp made him stop and consider. He said,
"I make my mind now, I go home." Delfino wound her up
and backward he went. He took about six inches off one corner
of the Double Duty Saloon and was gaining speed all the time
until he crashed through Mitch Peabody's henhouse. Then he
changed gears with a terrible clashing and drove back through
the same big hole he'd just made and hit the highway. You could
hear him gaining speed as he headed south for Sano. It would
take him six months to pay the damages and Hi Lo wouldn't
see him till he had the money.
The party was just about over, besides, after Delfino
knocked the window out the wind whooshed in and made
>>Ollie Reed: He's just a gifted master of the language, of a
natural voice, it doesn't come off as pretentious at all, You
know it's just the way people talk, it's just the way he
talks. And when you can take the way you are and put it
into what you write, then you're getting something that's true.
>>Ruth Francis: The one thing through all of his work are
the transitions of life. Max started his writing about
transitions back with the war.
>>Max Evans: You know I've been writing about this my
whole cockeyed life, but this thing right here, it's hard
to believe, but this is what changed the west forever,
completely changed it forever. Cattlemen made a lot of money
during the war. The pickup truck suddenly came in and they had
the money to buy them you see.
We're now a pickup cattle country, you see the pickups
everywhere. Instead of all day long to get someplace
you could just jump in the pickup and boom you're there.
>>Ollie Reed: One time I was asked to do a story about pickup
trucks, that's it, just pickup trucks. Well I called Max,
I said, "Max have you got any pickup truck stories?" He said,
"I owned the first new pickup truck in New Mexico after World
War II." I said, "You did not." He said, "I did too!" He was
a little upset with me that I would even question that.
And he had an uncle who had some connections and managed
to get him, I think it was a Dodge pickup truck.
>>Ruth Francis: You have a horse and you love your horse, but
you know that horse is another living animal, you may think
you possess it, but you don't, the pickup truck you possess.
>>Slim Randles: He mostly was a coyote hunter in those days.
He had dogs and he'd go chase these coyotes and shoot
'em for the bounty. The idea was you kill a coyote so
the calves don't get eaten.
>>Sam Elliott: We turned the dogs loose and took out after
them at top speed. We had about a three-quarter mile downhill
run before we hit a snag between two hills. I didn't
know it, but the radiator was low on water and by the
time we'd run half a mile the motor was getting pretty hot.
Big Boy was bouncing around in the back, barely able to stay
inside. Then I saw smoke coming out of the glove compartment.
I yelled at Uncle Bob to reach in and take out the box of
shotgun shells before they went off. He was standing,
holding onto the steel posts where the windshield had once
been, yelling, "They're goin' to get him, they're goin'
to get him, hurry, hurry!" I was hurrying as fast as
I could, but at the same time I didn't want those shotgun
shells exploding. I needn't have worried, though, because
just then we hit a gully about three feet wide and three
feet deep and the vehicle did a flip and the trip was over.
Since there was no top to hold us in, all three of us were
propelled toward the sky like a trio of big-assed birds.
>>Slim Randles: One day a coyote pup ran back to help
its mother and got killed for its pain and Max hasn't
killed a coyote since.
>>Max Evans: Two of the pups up on the hill watching and these
dogs were killing their mother. And one pup came just full
speed and he just dived right into that, into those hounds
and he gave up his life. One of them turned loose, caught it
and killed it, I could never hunt coyotes ever again. I got
to respecting them so much, the vastness of their knowledge
and their cunning and their understanding of all kinds
of animals and the human animal especially, and all
I do is admire them from afar, deeply with all my heart.
>>Slim Randles: He has always told me that the coyote
is his brother and he said that would be like shooting
a brother of mine now and he said I won't do it.
>>Peter Coyote: Max's many and varied pursuits distracted
him from his life with Helene. Their marriage ended and
she moved back to Texas with their daughter, Sharon.
His ranching days were over.
>>Max Evans: I couldn't really make a living, a decent living.
I couldn't run enough cattle, it's just too small. But before
I sold that little ranch over there, I decided to do
a painting called Normandy Night Fire. We fought at night
you know we'd shell one another, I hadn't studied that much,
I hadn't painted hardly anything, it was a magic thing,
I don't know where it came from. So I moved to town to be an
artist and old Luis Martinez was the only artist in that
whole country, we teamed up.
>>Sam Elliott: I bought a lot of paint in little metal tubes,
some brushes made out of camel hair, a sketch pad, a few
canvas boards, and started painting horses and cowboys.
Whenever I finished a picture I would tack it up on the
wall at a fancy price, I had gone that silly. No one else
in that country did any serious painting. We called our place,
Ye Olde Masters Art Gallery. Nobody ever stopped by.
>> Slim Randles: That tended to be when he got real colorful.
One night an entire row of mailboxes got mowed down by a
drunk driving a pickup truck. And there was a gas pump got run
over when Max was gonna go down and shoot this guy that ran the
gas station because he didn't like him. He said he called
in every IOU from every old cowboy he'd ever met and
they got it all patched up. He did a leave an indelible
impression on that bird.
>>Max Evans: No matter what the hardships were in the art world,
and there's plenty of 'em, they were nothing compared
to what I'd already survived. The war actually helped me
become a painter and a writer.
I moved to Taos to be a painter and become rich
and famous. I figured I could get that done in about a year.
>>Forrest Fenn: Taos was an art colony in those days and
Max was part of it. It was a dusty little mountain town
watered by the Rio Grande River and shaded by the Taos
Mountain and of course the Indians were there and Max
mixed with all those people.
>>Max Evans: They had wide open gambling, Ol' Long John Dunn
was running wide open gambling. My best friend, Big Boy
Hittson, we'd go into Taos, just for adventure, you drink,
you raise hell. We won $4,000 if you can imagine how much
money that was. I thought it was a lucky place for me and
in some ways I guess it was.
>>Slim Randles: He's kind of a legendary bar brawler.
>>Ruth Francis: And he did, he got into a lot of scuffles
and really bad fistfights.
>>Forrest Fenn: Max was sinew tough, everybody knew that.
He was not a big person, but he was known to fight in the bars.
I think he had the tough beat out of him a few times too,
I mean you can look at Max's knuckles and tell that he
didn't win all those fights.
>>Max Evans: My hands have been through quite
a trip in this world.
>>Slim Randles: To Max, hey you know this is recreation.
>>Max Evans: If somebody disagreed with me a certain
way on things we'd have a nice fistfight.
>>Slim Randles: He looks like he's been rode hard and put
away wet you know and one nice thing about Max, you always
know where you stand with him.
>>Peter Coyote: He's always been a hard worker, Ol' Max. His
paintings are tough to find now, but they were plentiful
back in his Taos days.
>>Forrest Fenn: I think he painted something like,
he told me 300 paintings, that's a pretty big inventory.
>>Peter Coyote: The Great Mystery in the Sky clearly
intended that Max meet Woody Crumbo, the great artist
from the Potawatomi Nation. Woody became his artistic
and spiritual mentor.
>>Slim Randles: And he said it was like oh, there you are.
These guys had been friends for several lifetimes.
>>Max Evans: He taught me a lot of things about art and
painting and the Indian side of the spiritual world.
>>Slim Randles: Woody taught Max how to do nocturnals, night
paintings, and he did a lot of them. He'd go into bars
and he'd find these single women and he'd go hustle them
and buy 'em drinks until they bought his paintings, He's kind
of a smooth talking old devil.
>>Ollie Reed: Max told me one time about painting and
writing, painting always relaxed him, but writing if
you mean it, was a torture. He became a writer because
that's what he should be.
>>Max Evans: Taos was lucky for me. The luckiest part was
meeting Pat. Her father had a station and a garage and
a motel and a little ol' store and I got acquainted with him
and we became real good friends. Doc James he was called.
We'd get drunk and dance and raise hell and have a great
time together and then they kept talking about their
daughter's off to college. I really got sick of hearing
about her. Anyway, she did come home, I came in one day,
she's running that little ol' store and I really had
a hangover. And she said, "I know you've seen the pink
elephants" and I said, "Have you ever seen a purple bubble?"
And she was chewing some purple bubble gum, she blew
a great big purple bubble and I fell in love with her right
there. I can't explain it, this is a wonderful, crazy
woman that she could put up with me because she
can blow a purple bubble.
>>Ollie Reed: Pat has stayed with him through you know all
those tough times you know. You can't say enough about
what a sweet and generous and patient person Pat is man.
>>Max Evans: I'd bought this little tiny ranch out west
of Taos in the mesa. We were married quite a while before
she got pregnant. We took Pat down to the hospital at Embudo.
The nurse came running through there waving this x-ray,
and said it's twins, it's twins. I was really, really
happy, I thought my God, two for one shot. Yeah, we had
twin daughters, Charlotte and Cheryl, they're great, great
kids, we love them very much.
>>Peter Coyote: You can get a lot done in a year when
you're twenty-six. Max worked ranches, kept a few head
o' cattle and some ropin' horses, painted, and began to
write when he had the chance.
>>Forrest Fenn: He says, you know, "How do you know
where the edge is if you don't go out there and look."
And Max was always on the edge. Max was an adventurer,
it always back to that.
>>Peter Coyote: As if that weren't enough for a young
feller in 1950, he and Woody went into business together.
>>Max Evans: It's a surprising thing, two artists in the
mining business, and we really did good. We started selling
claims for uranium around the country. It was a great
boom, people were going out in the mountains to look for
uranium with their Geiger counters and everything.
We bought and staked a lot of claims around the country
and just sold them. And we opened up these mines in copper,
and we were shipping ore, really fixing to clean up.
I saw where somebody had dug a prospect hole, back up on
this hill here. And I imagine they were looking for gold or
some other mineral and I saw that and I thought that could
possibly be perlite. It purifies medicine and makes plants grow
all over the world. This was a very poor area. People didn't
have any money, they didn't have any jobs. No telling how many
kids went to college from this mine, the mine and the mill did
a lot of good, I'm proud of it.
And without the mines, I would never have understood the
relationship with the earth, the animals. You see all the
world in the rocks and that's what the world is, it's rock.
And the wonder of discovering something that will benefit
people, the Great Mystery, that's where you get in
tune with the Great Mystery.
And then the price of copper dropped from 48 cents
to 19 cents in just 90 days. We went from millionaires
to semi-paupers overnight. it was a strange feeling
and a wonderful feeling, I've used it all through
my works all my life. The worst thing in the
world can happen to you and it all winds up on the page.
>>Ollie Reed: Every part of Max's life plays into his
books at one time or another. His mining, for example,
in Mountain of Gold .
>>Sam Elliott: The muscles in Benito Anaya's legs were
like those of a mountain lion. So many miles of up and down
were worked into them that he could walk and climb the whole
day long without stopping except to take a quick breath into
his strong, leathery lungs.
The mountain had forged this strength in him. So now he
walked with his shaggy, greying hair eternally bent forward,
and with that hump that comes in the prospector's shoulders
from the ageless bending and the set, stabbing stare of
eyes fronting for a dream. eyes fronting for a dream.
The hundreds of miles behind had The hundreds of miles behind had
no meaning, all that mattered was the next step. Each time
Benito made another track he felt sure his eyes would fall
upon the white quartz rock, pregnant with the glistening
strands of purest gold.
>>Peter Coyote: The failure of the mining enterprise
convinced Max that he should turn his attention to
a more secure profession.
>>Max Evans (panel discussion): I walked in there one day and
told Pat, said well hell I'm gonna be a writer.
she's a dead shot by the way. And I saw her look, I saw her
look around the room for a gun and I'd already hidden the
guns before I asked her that question. She said, "we just
got to where we can eat, now we're gonna start starving
again." And of course we did off and on for the rest of
our damn lives. Lived there twenty years, lived ten years
out in the country, I thought well I'll move into town and
somehow this great big old house appealed to me and sure
enough the attic, we turned it into a studio. Something
happened to me in that place, it just fit. I remember I did
the One Eyed Sky in one night. Pat was sitting down in the
kitchen with her best friend, the next morning and they
were having coffee and I came down the stairs, that lady,
Betty Mullen, she said, "Max, you look like you've lost
all your blood, you're pale as a ghost." And I had that
manuscript in my hand here and I said, "Yeah there's my blood
all over these pages right here." And that came from my
adventures in the Hi Lo Country.
>>Sam Elliott: The old coyote turned over a cow chip and let
one of the pups eat the black bugs underneath. They could
survive this way, but their whole bodies ached for meat.
>>Ruth Francis: This poor mama cow is trying to protect her
calf from a coyote and the coyote eyes the calf, just
basic competition between two species and what
is going to happen here.
>>Sam Elliott: The old one smelled the tracks of the cow,
hesitating, sniffing again. Then she raised her head to
taste the air with her nostrils. The pups all stood motionless,
heads up, waiting. There was a dim scent there. With head
dropping now and then to delineate the trail of the
old cow, the old coyote moved swiftly, silently
followed by four hungry pups, copying her every move.
>>Slim Randles: Not everybody can write something like
that, that takes a guy who has seen this happen.
>>Luther Wilson: Hunters, good ones as Max was, really
know animals better than almost anybody. There's
an authenticity to what he writes, those animals act
as they would in the wild.
>>Max Evans: I had no idea it was gonna be my best, I think
every one's gonna be, but it was, it turned out to be the
best thing in my life's work.
My favorite form in the world to read and write is the
novella, half way between a short story and a novel.
>>Ollie Reed: His rhythm as a writer kind of fits that
length, the novella, the long story or the short novel.
>>Slim Randles: He writes what he has to write and that's it.
>>Ollie Reed: And even though his subjects are about
cowboys and horses, he's not just a western writer.
>>Forrest Fenn: Some of these people that write western books
today, the hero gets shot four times on each page, well Max
was never that kind of a guy.
>>Candy Moulton: When you think of western writers, often
it's the perception that they write about, this very
specific time span of the quote "cowboy west, 1860 to
1890, last of the frontier period, Manifest Destiny."
(sound of shot fired)
>>Luther Wilson: Max does not like being pigeonholed as
a western writer. Even our marketing people wanted
to pigeonhole him that way and I kept telling them,
position him as a writer who happens to live and write
about the 20th Century west.
>>Ruth Francis: I take issue with any human being that says
that Max Evans is a cowboy writer. He is writing literature
about the human condition.
>>Peter Coyote: Max kept in touch with his family down in
Ropes and often visited his Grandmother, Birdy Swafford.
>>Max Evans: We were down there one time and she called me
and Pat off in the kitchen and she said I'm just gonna
be here about another month, on this earth, and she said
I wanna show you how to really read these tea leaves.
>>Peter Coyote: The Great Mystery worked in Max to
such an extent that Woody, among others, pestered Max
for readings. But that wasn't his only distraction.
>>Max Evans: I was reading people's minds, what they're
thinking, and it didn't matter who it was, you'd have a
thought here and it'd jump over here. I didn't want
that to happen, it just was.
>>Slim Randles: This interfered with his writing so much
that he had to kind of go through a cleansing to
get it out of his system.
>>Max Evans: Woody Crumbo, my mentor, had introduced to me to
Joe Bernal at Taos Pueblo and he was really a noted medicine
man. So I went out to see him and he said, "Well you just
have to make up your mind if you're gonna be a spiritualist
or go on creating your books and your stories." He gave
me two pods of peyote, just to instigate it a little bit.
One of the visions I had was this beautiful, clear river,
except it wasn't moving, it was just pure emerald
water and you could see the sand in the bottom.
This guy walked over on the, way across the river, up to the
bank, and he looked at me and he waved me like this, come on
over here. And, I didn't do it, I couldn't do it. I wasn't
bothered anymore, I got to where I could just concentrate on what
I was supposed to do in life.
>>Slim Randles: When you meet Max you find out these kind of
things really happened to him. And sometimes they turn up in
his stories. In Bluefeather Fellini , his main character
slips peyote to some bad guys in their tea to get out of a jam.
>>Sam Elliott: Bluefeather pounded at the drum with
swiftly increasing velocity. He sang now, songs of
the Pueblos, the Anasazi before them, and the ancients
even before them. The sounds vibrated into the air like
the noise of a million geese rising in migratory flight.
The men stared at him, mouths slowly opening, eyes flickering
as things began to flutter and move in their peripheral vision.
The trees of the forest were uprooting and flying through
the air leaving a vast circle. Lightning ripped jagged holes in
the sky without letup, crossing, crisscrossing and colliding with
such force that great balls of whirling blue and orange lights
were formed, whizzing so fast the best eyes could not begin
to follow, much less endure the brilliant kaleidoscope
of plunging, bouncing lights that inundated everything.
The skeletons under all things were visible, even the inner
textures of wood and rocks.
>>Peter Coyote: Bluefeather Fellini is Max's magnum
opus in every way.
>>Luther Wilson: I looked at it and by that time I had
been friends with Max a long time, and used to a long
manuscript from Max being a hundred and fifty pages, maybe
two hundred, max. And this one was eleven hundred pages.
Max could barely see me over the desktop, I was
startled to say the least.
>>Ollie Reed: He's told me that it was his grandparents
that called him Bluefeather when he was little. Fellini,
the Italian director of films like 8-1/2, is Max's
favorite movie director.
>>Luther Wilson: I proposed that we do it as two volumes,
it had a kind of a natural break in it and we did it that way.
Max is a mystic, most people don't recognize that in him,
but he really is and he believes that there are many
dimensions to the world and that occasionally we bump into them.
And he's had experiences that he cannot explain any other way.
That shows up in his writing. The second volume was called
Bluefeather Fellini In the Sacred Realm, when he creates
this whole underground world in southern New Mexico, the very
intelligent, highly advanced civilization that never chose
to appear above ground. From front to back there are mystical
experiences in that book and in many of his other writings.
With The Rounders he was selling paintings still dripping paint,
barely scraping by with a wife and twin kids. Somebody told
him if he's gonna be a writer, write what you know and he
wrote what he knew and wrote The Rounders. But he did it in
a very short amount of time and it was an instant success.
>>Ollie Reed: It's our earliest work that really expresses
who we are. We're not really stretching as writers yet,
so we're basing everything on what we know best and how
we grew up, so The Hi Lo Country tells that story and
I think that's why it's got the heart of Max Evans in it.
>>Max Evans: It was a strange feeling to go back to that
country and watch them bury my best friend, killed
by his brother, survived the invasion of four or five
islands in the South Pacific in the Marine Corps, and there
he was, that's what inspired that book, The Hi Lo Count .
>>Sam Elliott: I watched them lower Big Boy Matson into his
grave. It was a large coffin, and yet I half expected it
to burst apart from the weight and size of the man. Not only
his physical bigness, but from the whole of his being. Not very
long ago, I had been one of them, but I had left and gone
to another part of the land.
The people were fast becoming strangers to me as I to them;
but the land, the great swelling earth under my feet, was mine,
and I belonged to it even as the man it now reclaimed.
I looked down from the wind stroked hill to the town, Hi Lo,
New Mexico. It didn't seem to be affected by the death
of its strongest son. The event had been anticipated for so
long it had lost its impact.
>>Luther Wilson: He had gained a lot of publicity from the
publication of The Rounders and the making of the movie,
and his editor at MacMillan was in London at the time,
very eager to promote him more widely worldwide.
>>Peter Coyote: Ol' Max was on the brink of big
success, but a fight in a bar in Taos threatened
the whole deal. Apparently, there was a woman involved.
>>Slim Randles: She was trying to kill him with a high heel
or something, she was hitting him on the head with that.
>>Ollie Reed: News of that got into wire services
and there were papers all over the country.
>>Luther Wilson: And it just scandalized the editor so
he dropped his publicity of The Hi Lo Country at that time.
I think there are a lot of stories, either embellished or
totally made up, about Max, from people who don't know him.
>>Slim Randles: The Code of the West is kind of America's
knighthood, cowboys consider themselves knights in many ways.
Max is chairman of the board of that outfit. You don't
hit women, you protect women. He got blamed for hitting some
woman and he didn't do it.
>>Ollie Reed: Max is finally getting to tell his side of
the story. "Well your honor I was just lying on the floor,
minding my own business, and this woman I didn't even know
came up and started kicking me in the head." Now you could
not buy publicity like that.
>>Luther Wilson: And Max I think felt that it had a significant
effect on his career. On the other hand, it probably gave
him some credibility and legitimacy with the Hollywood
people he came in contact with.
>>Max Evans: My agent called me and said a big star wants to
meet you about The Rounders , Fess Parker, he loves it and
he wants to talk to you about making a movie. So anyway
I went out there and for just a little bit of money
optioned The Rounders and I sent the money home to
Pat and there I am broke.
>>Peter Coyote: A few weeks later Ol' Max found he
couldn't pay his hotel bill. The managers were unsympathetic.
>>Max Evans: They said well we have to just throw you out
in the street here. I'd met an actor in Texas, Morgan
Woodward, and I called old Morgan and here drives Morgan
up in a great big Lincoln car. We were loading my bags in
there and I looked in at those people staring out the window,
wondering, what's that bum, what's that famous actor in the
huge limousine picking him up and I just looked in there and
grinned at 'em. I stayed around there a month, made friends with
the some of the finest stars and directors in the world
and some of them personal friends for a lifetime.
>>Slim Randles: Max became kind of a legend in Hollywood when he
first went out there because they'd say well we'll just get
this old cowboy drunk and steal his stuff. He could drink
those producers and directors under the table, and did.
>>Peter Coyote: The director Burt Kennedy became one
of Max's closest friends. He both directed and
wrote the film version of The Rounders . Max himself is
an accomplished screenwriter. Many of his original scripts
are now archived at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
>>Andy Wilkinson: Max, thanks for coming in and going through
a few of these scripts with me so that we can get a
little background on them. This is one of my favorite of
your stories, Xavier's Folly .
>>Max Evans: This was a Rogo Productions, Robert Goulet, one
of the most famous singers in America. After they dropped it,
theatrical producers optioned it and I was amazed at that.
They kept the option for five years, I really made good money
out of this little novella.
>>Peter Coyote: Tony Hillerman, the great mystery writer,
was very familiar with the Hollywood game and gave
Max a piece of advice.
>>Max Evans (with Andy Wilkinson): He told me one
time, once you get a movie made, you can't ever sell any
more options, so just don't get one made. It's all just
ridiculous. I made a livin' doing that kind o' stuff.
>>Ollie Reed: Movies were a big deal for him, he was very
doggone happy they, The Rounds was made, but the one he
really wanted to get made was The Hi Lo Country and it took
a long time for that to happen.
>>Max Evans: The option run out and my agent sent it out to some
other people and one of them happened to be a young director
that had just been recognized, Sam Peckinpah and he'd made
a film called Ride the High Country . He called my agent
and he said, "I wanna meet the sonofabitch that wrote
this book." Sam flew me out there and we became lifelong
friends, and then he became a world famous director.
>>Slim Randles: They were buddies, both of them had
been soldiers in combat in World War II, Peckinpah in the
Pacific. Lee Marvin was one of their close buddies. These were
all tough old veterans that hung together and got drunk and
beat each other up all the time.
>>Luther Wilson: Max describes in his book on Peckinpah many,
many times brawls that they got in and tried to kill each other.
>>Slim Randles: He described him to me as a magnificent,
Max is completely loyal, he said,
"be a good friend even if you can't stand the sonofabitch."
Max broke Peckinpah's arm once, "had to, that sonofabitch was
trying to drown me, you know I can't swim. But he said
it was all a mistake. I was trying to break his neck."
>>Luther Wilson: Max wrote a book called Sam Peckinpah,
Master of Violence , just abot the filming of The Ballad of
Cable Hogue . Max I think was a screen consultant on that
for dialogue. Max knew the voice of the west and was able
to speak for the voice of the characters that Peckinpah
tried to portray in his film. And Peckinpah asked Max to
play a part in the film.
>>Max Evans: He really trapped me, I didn't wanna work
in his films, that's not what I intended to do in
this world. So I became an actor for one film.
("The Ballad of Cable Hogue")
Slim Pickens yelling at horses
>>Jason Robards, Jr: "Hey wait a minute fellers ..."
>>Slim Randles: Ride shotgun for Slim Pickens in The Ballad
of Cable Hogue . It was a marvelous, marvelous, piece,
He actually spoke too.
("The Ballad of Cable Hogue") >>Max Evans: We're near halfway
in, how about three dollars? >>Jason Robards, Jr.: Now, if
sugar were two cents a barrel I couldn't afford a pinch of
salt and an egg to put it on.
>>Luther Wilson: It's more than just a walk on, it's a,
it's a major, minor part I guess I would call it.
("The Ballad of Cable Hogue")
>>Max Evans: Mister you're damn lucky to be alive.
>>Man in stagecoach: Your language is
disgusting, both of you. >>Slim Pickens: Hell we
know that. >>Max Evans: Don't fret
your honor, we're just fixing to leave as soon
as I count my money. >>Man in stagecoach:
Count your what? >>Max Evans: As soon as
I water my mule!
>>Luther Wilson: Apparently Peckinpah had to get him
drunk every time he put him in front of the camera.
>>Max Evans (panel discussion): Yeah he thought I was afraid
to get up on that stagecoach, I mean that's kind of silly,
and I just went along with it and he gave me a full glass,
glass of whiskey, and I was glad to get it and Jason Robards
told him, why Max is drunk, he ain't moving, he's paralyzed.
And ol' Slim Pickens he said, "well where in the hell's
my part of the whiskey?" And Sam said, "you're an actor,
you act like it, go ahead."
>>Ollie Reed: Max is probably a part of a lot more movies
than we know because I think he doctored a lot of
scripts over the years that he probably doesn't even get
screen credit for, but he worked on and helped along.
>>Max Evans (with Andy Wilkinson): I didn't intend to
be a screenwriter, that wasn't what I really loved. The stuff
I did with Sam, he was so afraid they'd catch on that we had to
completely swear to never give anything away and he got me
a lot of jobs that way because he knew I'd keep my mouth shut.
>>Andy Wilkinson: I was looking at this one, I was particularly
interested because it says it's a treatment
for The Hi Lo Country .
>>Max Evans: Yeah, this is the first treatment I did this
for Sam Peckinpah. He went off on a picture and forgot all
about this. And he, he spent the rest of his life trying to
get this made, never did get it made, but this is the first
hand scribbled treatment for The Hi Lo Country .
>>Andy Wilkinson: So this would be the very first
one that you did. >>Max Evans: People would think
about it, producers and studios would say, oh you got a western,
oh God we don't want to have anything to do with anymore
westerns, they're going out of fashion. And, Scorsese
read it and he decided to make it, it's the characters,
he said they're so real.
These are contemporary cowboys and the whole story is
very modern, contemporary. It's still called a western
you know no matter what.
Stephen Frears, he read it and he really liked it, Scorsese
had the name, I guess he still does, to get a
film made that he likes.
(" The Hi Lo Country ") >>Jim Ed Love: "Them boys
come back from the war with a stink on 'em that
draws women like flies."
>>Big Boy Matson: "Mona, this Mona that everyone's
so damn interested in,". (slams down gun on bar)
....she is a beautiful woman. And there ain't no backstabbin'
gossiping bunch 'o yellobellied chickenshits gonna stop me."
>>Max Evans: I really enjoyed the movie world, I never
intended to stay in it at all, but I enjoyed it
as just part of my life.
>>Peter Coyote: Vertigo, the result of his wartime inner ear
injury, kept Max from flying. He took the train back and
forth from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, and Pat drove
down from Taos to pick him up. Finally, it was time to move.
They've lived in Albuquerque since New Year's Day, 1967.
>>Max Evans (narrating Rio Grande: River of Legends ):
Albuquerque, named for a Duke from Spain, settled
because of the nourishment from the Rio Grande.
>>Max Evans: I made two documentaries that I'm really
proud of, Every Man's Mountain , on Sandia Mountain, and The Rio
Grande River , I filmed it all the way to the Gulf of Mexico
and I narrated that film myself.
>>Max Evans ( narrating Rio Grande: River of Legends ):
The great river splitting Albuquerque is spanned
by famed Highway 66.
>>Peter Coyote: When he was in town, Max often had lunch
with authors Rudolfo Anaya, Tony Hillerman and others
at Baca's on Albuquerque's Central Avenue. Those lunches
became as legendary as Route 66.
>>Slim Randles: Jim Belshaw, another columnist, said, "Have
you met Max" And I said, "No."
>>Luther Wilson: And he said, "Well let's meet at Baca's on
Central at 11:30, that's Max's favorite time to have lunch."
>>Slim Randles: Don't plan to do anything else for
the rest of the day. Well I thought he was kidding.
>>Ollie Reed: I met him there at noon and before I know it it's
8 o'clock at night, you know we'd been there eight hours.
>>Slim Randles: Lunches usually lasted from 11:30 in the
morning until closing time.
>>Luther Wilson: Max and I, I think we stayed until about
9:30 or 10:00 that night.
>>Ollie Reed: Trouble was I'd had so much to drink
I couldn't find the door out.
>>Slim Randles: I had made up little red and white gimme caps
that said, "I Survived Lunch with Max Evans" on it. In all
that time, these 30 years, I've only seen Max drunk once.
>>Luther Wilson: One thing that Max has never done is
drink and write. When he was committed to writing something
sometimes he would write around the clock and then
just be totally wrung out and when he's finished he feels
really it's been his blood that's gone into those words.
>>Ollie Reed: There's an element of him that has nothing to
do with busted up cowboy hats and old boots, there's
something more going on there.
>>Max Evans: I've called on the Great Mystery
in the Sky many times.
>>Pete Coyote: Writing became real trouble for Max,
because of his beat-up hands he could no longer type.
>>Max Evans: Then with a pen, a lot of my books were really
hard to write, I wrote Blue Feather Fellini in absolute
agony most of the time.
>>Sam Elliott: The war was a bugger, like a barroom brawl.
That's all he knew. All he felt. all he realized of existence
and non-existence. All.
>>Forrest Fenn: Of course, it falls to Pat's lot to type
all of those manuscripts for him and I've seen those things.
>>Max Evans: She was a good typist and a good editor,
so she cleaned those stories up. She's been my editor and
confidant through all my work.
>>Slim Randles: And she's quite an artist, she did the cover
for Blue Feather Fellini I know.
>>Peter Coyote: A mysterious and unexpected visitation was the
inspiration for another book.
>>Slim Randles: FarAway Blue, which was his story
about the buffalo soldiers that were down there at the
fort fighting the Apaches.
>>Max Evans: The only historical novel I ever did, about Nana,
the great Apache warrior. I was walking out in the
backyard here taking a walk, this book, all this stuff came
to me out there just walking, you know. This great big
golden butterfly came over my head and just followed me
and the story of Nana came from this butterfly, somehow.
Really accurate history, that butterfly wrote that book.
>>Slim Randles: Nana told him how to write it, Max is
full of surprises like that. There's one thing in that book
that describes a bullet coming to a guy, unlike anything
I have ever read in my life.
>>Sam Elliott: Nana went into the floating space now.
The vacuum of time stopped, where everything hesitated for
a fulfillment. The Winchester centered on the general's mouth
and Nana saw the lead leave his gun and his old, half
blind eyes could see the bullet as it moved toward its target.
The hunting spirit left his body and guided the bullet
through the general's upper lip, knocking the roots of two
teeth to bits and tearing apart the vertebrae that
connected his head to his spine. Before the general
fell backward, spewing blood on the ground, the hunting spirit
had returned to Nana's soul.
>>Ollie Reed: And of course he's a writer of both fiction and
nonfiction. His nonfiction is as strong as his fiction.
Madam Millie, she was a madam in houses of prostitution, up in
Alaska and down in Silver City.
>>Slim Randles: Max told me that they had to wait to
publish that book until a whole bunch of judges and
politicians died because they'd all been customers
at one time or another.
>>Sam Elliott: When Debbie and the bishop went into her room,
Pluto, in the manner of cats, silently followed right at
Debbie's feet, before the door was closed. It was only a short
time later, by whorehouse standards, that a terrifying
scream of agony ripped apart the pleasant air. A door was
heard bursting open, a pair of white socks came racing down
a long hail with the naked bishop in them, charging right
into the parlor, yelling unintelligible words and
clawing at his behind.
>> Slim Randles: Let's just say the cat attacked
at the wrong time.
>>Sam Elliott: The beloved canine pets of the house, along
with other cats, joined in the melee, barking, squealing and
adding to a whorehouse symphony of sound so originally musical,
that had it been recorded, it would most likely have been
number one on the charts of both heaven and hell forever.
>>Max Evans: In the old days these two amateur rodeos that
were really famous across the west, that's Cimarron
and Magdalena. The last time I went down and roped at
Magdalena, I was 60 years old, I celebrated my 6Oth birthday
at a hotel there, they had a team roped and roped calves.
>>Peter Coyote: In 1998, Max helped found the New Mexico
Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. It's devoted
to the important contributions made by farmers, ranchers,
cowboys and farm hands in building the state.
New Mexico has a vibrant film industry and Max had a hand
in that, too. Back in the sixties, he helped Governor
Dave Cargo, Albuquerque Tribune editor Ralph Loonie and others
pitch New Mexico talent and locations to Hollywood insiders.
The effort led to the creation of the New Mexico Film Office.
Max has been honored many times for his writing and
contributions to life in New Mexico, including being the
first recipient of the annual Rounders Award. He has won two
Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America and was
a 2014 inductee into the Texas Institute of Letters.
>>Slim Randles: You know Max is the only guy I know who has
at least 200 people that says that he's their best friend and
every one of them is telling the truth and I'm one of them.
>>Ruth Francis: He's mined, he's ranched, he was a soldier, he's
a husband, a father, Hollywood screenwriter, an observer
of life across the world.
>>Ollie Reed: From Des Moines, New Mexico to Hollywood.
>>Slim Randles: There's isn't anybody like Max.
>>Luther Wilson: He's many, many people, he really has lived
a hundred lives apparently.
>>Slim Randles: Max will tell you he's a thousand
and thirty-four years old.
>>Luther Wilson: I think he's right and the way he's going
he may make it that far.
>>Ollie Reed: The question I always ask him is what are
you doing next? It's important for me to know that he's still
doing something next, you know?
>>Ruth Francis: He and I have been pretty much focused on
The King of Taos , his new book. And there are two or three
incidents that are incredibly tragic, you want to start crying
and then you're laughing, you're laughing about it.
>>Slim Randles: It's been a really long life and we're
planning his 100th birthday party and I told him that too,
so he'd better stick around.
>>Ruth Francis: Well he's, he's 92 years old and
I just can't imagine not talking to him and you know
that's not gonna . . . last.
>>Ollie Reed: I'm finding it hard to think about a world
where Max isn't and that he's not working on that next novel.
>>Slim Randles: He was terribly sick, 'bout a year or two ago,
almost died, but he said, "I made a trip into space,"
he said, " I was way out there. I was goin' past all these
worlds and everything, he said, "It's really beautiful and
there's this and I saw that and I saw all these different
worlds and everything. And I got out there and
I thought, Well, I'm just gonna keep goin' forever."
We invite you to watch some archival interviews with
Lorene Mills and Max Evans at the close of these credits.
DVD copies of Ol' Max Evans: The First Thousand Years
are available by calling 1 888 367-5369, that's
1 888 FOR-KENW. They can also be ordered at our
website kenw.org. DVDs cost $20.00 plus $5.00 shipping
and handling. Blu-ray discs are available for $25.00 plus
$5.00 shipping and handling.
>>Lorene: Hi, I'm Lorene Mills, the co-director and co-producer
of the film you just watched. This movie came about because
each time I interviewed Max on my Report from Santa Fe program,
and it was 10 times over 15 years, I would say to myself,
"Max is so amazing, somebody has to do a documentary about him."
Well, it was me it turned out, with Paul Barnes, and David
Leach, along with KENW-TV and Eastern New Mexico University,
and the generous support of the Healy Foundation in Taos, NM.
We wanted to share with you a few choice Max interviews
from the archives of Report from Santa Fe . We thought
you would really enjoy them and we thank you for watching.
>>Lorene: This one is called Now and Forever and I just finished
it and I must tell you its an extraordinary read and its set
in the most unusual setting that no one in New Mexico has
even touched - the Uranium Rush around Grants, NM.
>>Max: It's an astounding thing and there's nothing that
threatens the world for instantaneous destruction
like this does and I thought my God here's the thing that has
actually created the greatest fear in the history of the
human race in its totality of what it could just instantly
wipe us all out, and there's nothing written about it and
I can write that down in that manner - how it operated, what
affected the people's minds, how the humor, the tragedy
that occurred. They came from every state in the Union and
they were all over our hills with Geiger counters. And if you
found a patch of ground that had uranium, that little magic
buzz on that Geiger counter, that would be like a person that
picked up that first gold nugget and stared at it, the gleam,
the gold, the weight of it, the feel, they would go crazy.
And it was a tremendous study for me of the human animal.
>>Lorene: So what was the first book you wrote?
>>Max: It was a collection of short stories called Southwest
Wind. And my first review that I ever read about myself was
done by a book reviewer here at the Santa Fe New Mexican
and it said if you read this book, at all, start at the end,
read through the middle and throw the cockeyed thing away.
>>Lorene: Oh, no. >>Max: So that was the first
words I ever read about myself as a writer.
>>Lorene: So, after that you only wrote the
second half of books. >>Max: So I did pinch them down
a little. And I didn't even get mad about that I thought it
was pretty close to the truth. And anyway, a lot of people
would have been defeated right there and I thought well here's
where I find out if I'm tough enough to be a writer on my
own terms, not anybody else's terms in this whole world
just mine. It's a very selfish thing but it's the way you
have to be if you're going to write and get out of your soul
what you've absorbed in truth, real truth, not somebody else's
truth and that experienced truth, visionary truth.
>>Lorene: You write the most passionate love stories, Hi Lo
Country is an extraordinary love story and Now and
Forever , Bluefeather Fellini, they're just great love stories
and yet you're such a cowboy. >>Max: Well, cowboying was just
the early part of my life and I got obsessed with ropin' calves
for a while but I knew I wasn't ever going to be a champion
and make a living at it or anything but I liked it, it was
beautiful, it was like music to me, like a symphony calf ropin',
the horse and the rope and the calf and yourself and the rhythm
it has to be like music and I'm a musical idiot so this
kind of made up for music to me. And I have no concept of why
I went into all these other things but I suppose that in the
end it had to be, I had to have these adventures to know these
truths that I had been trying to write my whole long life.
>>Lorene: How did you ever become a writer, how many
books have you written? >>Max: You know I don't know
I think about 30 or so. >>Lorene: How did you
first start writing? >>Max: Well I guess just stories
and reading, my mother read to me there at that little old town
there in Lea County, she read to me nearly every night and
if you got me to read, I was reading, she had me reading
by the time I started school. And I actually read better than
anyone in that little school, of course there was only
15 or 20 in the whole school. But, the worlds that open up
to me through reading were just so wonderfully magic and huge.
And my love of the word, the written word, was formed right
there by my mother, reading and sacrificing the time, giving
me the time. That was hard for her to do, I realize now, what
a great gift she was giving me. And I kind of, I kind of hope
that more mothers and fathers will think of that and realize
their children need that, it's a great, great gift
you give them to open their mind with the words, the great
words of the past, people who have experienced it and lived
it and loved it and wrote it down in beautiful poetic ways.
It's no greater gift, maybe that's why I had
to write, I don't know.
>>Lorene: And now, same month, we are celebrating after 50
years, you say your last novel, I pray it's not so, War and
Music - an extraordinary book. Congratulations!
>>Max: Well, thank you and I'm kind of proud myself
for breathing that long much less writing that book.
>>Lorene: Tell me about writing and how did you first know
you were a writer and how did you perfect your craft say in
this last book War and Music . It will become an American
classic, it is impeccably, beautifully written.
>>Max: The classics attracted me and it isn't that I didn't
read Will James and Jack London, well, of course, they are both
classics in their own world, but when I was really young
I got into Balzac and people like that, Chekov and it just
obsessed me and the only thing I can think Lorene is that
rubbed off into my old blood some way and I thought well
they're telling them beautifully and magnificently about their
world and what was going on in their world, I'll just
try it with mine. But all my life's experiences, metaphysical
or wars or cowboying or mining or whatever I was painting,
whatever I had been involved in, motion pictures, all of it came
into being, the essence of that, in this book. And I had dreamed
that I could concentrate a book with that much power and
with so few words. That's what I dreamed of accomplishing in
my writing and that's why I say it's my final novel, I just
happen to know that I can't write any better than that.
>>Lorene: I don't think anybody can write any better than that.
>>Max: Well thank you so much. >>Lorene: There are passages
that are so lyrical and you manage to combine so many
things, the horror, and for me, having been in war, you
reproduce the sounds of war that I actually thought I was there.
You're a story teller, and you tell some of the
best stories I have ever read. >>Max: Well, thank you so much
>>Max: Well, thank you so much >>Lorene: I also want
to mention your advice to young writers which
was don't hit a critic. >>Max: Not only is it against
the law, but it'll get you some bad reviews.