Billy Bob

Most all-serious artists that paint outside (plein air) have stories to tell about their experiences with interaction with nature, the elements and life forms that present themselves while painting. This is one of my funny art stories although indirect; it is still one of my stories.

During a workshop that I was teaching here in Santa Fe a few years back, I had a very interesting young painter from west Texas that attended my class by the name of Billy Bob. We were all out painting at one of my favorite spots in this area at “El Rancho de las Golondrinas” and I approached Billy Bob to see how he was fairing with his morning oil painting. He immediately intimated to me that he really enjoyed landscape painting but his real heart and intention was to become a “Western Artist” “I want to paint cowboys” he confidently expressed in his west Texas drawl. I suggested that if that was indeed what he wanted to do, that he should go paint and study the “Real working cowboys” where cowboys in North America originated. A bit puzzled, he responded “Where might that be?” I explained to him that there is a large working population of cowboys down in Chihuahua Mexico just south of Texas. Mexico is where the cowboy or “vaquero” originated. I advised him where to go to a small village not far from Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua. He thanked me and said that he would give it a shot. Several months later, he called me and related all the wonderful experiences and adventures he had while in Chihuahua. One of them stood out in my memory.


Billy Bob spent days sketching and observing the “Vaqueros” in this little Mexican town. After one long arduous day Billy Bob went into a small restaurant to get something to eat. He sat down and the waiter carrying a large plate of food passed by him serving the gentlemen next to him. The plate of food he saw looked delicious, so he told the waiter once again in his “West Texas English drawl” “Señor, I’ll have one of those plates.” Pointing to the gentlemen’s plate next to him. As luck would have it, the waiter spoke some English and he responded to Billy Bob with his thick Mexican accent, “ oh, I am so sorry señor, that plate is what we call, “cajones del toro – the testicles of the bull” and we only have one of those a day because we only have one bullfight a day. He went on to tell Billy Bob that if he came back tomorrow a bit earlier he might get lucky.

Billy Bob went out painting cowboys the next day but quit a bit early to go eat at the restaurant. He could not get that chile-covered meal out of his mind and once again he was famished. He sat down and ordered his plate of food “cajones del toro” The waiter brought him his plate smothered in chile and Billy Bob pleasantly scarfed down his dinner. Still hungry, he mentioned to the waiter how much smaller that plate was compared to the one he saw that previous day. The polite waiter responded, “ Oh, I’m so sorry señor, as I mentioned before, we only have one bull fight a day, but sometimes the bull wins.” “Can I get you anything else?”