4;44,…40,-., 4,..00,oii ..4,,,,A400444,4047,,-.4-tiVAL 4P 0++ 0 P 0 k 0-4 t l . 474 P0 0 11**0.4 14.4 : I. # * .41 4 ‘.4 04 +4 14,1 4.4P .114,1 0041 1 tee+ki** ***Vi t: . ***4 Pr ‘ 4 1 t co 44%.* 46,04t * ,..S….11-.+4,9 044 0.4 f 0 4 4.#40 4 tp “I t 4. +.4.. 4 *I ,ro , 4 41., 4* ..10. .. w 6 AtAtetiltutt,…04.,..6 440tAll’44, 4 4t . 10……………w ,–4,, . 4 tiu10r .M.c.igoziPe … . 4 , . … .. r 4A l j S’.!3 The Writing on the Rails BY BRAD TYER Bill Daniel’s Mostly True Edited By Bill Daniel Microcosm Publishing 144 pages, $6.95 onrail Twitty. Coaltrain. Palm Tree Herby. Smokin’ Joe. Waterbed Lou. Seldom Seen. Bozo Texino. The Rambler. Colossus of Roads. Is there any way to read names like these tagged in dusty chalk or greasy paint stick on steel sidewalls rushing by behind closed crossing gateswithout falling under the rhythmic sway of America’s longtime romance with railroads? Not for peripatetic film artist and aficionado of cultural obscurities Bill Daniel, who began researching railcar graffiti tagsand the transient hobo communities and rail worker fraternities that spawn them-25 years ago. Daniel, himself the spawn of Austin’s mid-’80s Do It Yourself punk styles and strategies, has documented the neglected art form and underexplored history, first with black-and-white photographs, and later on Super 8 and 16 mm film. He took to the rails himself, riding freight with the old-timers and looking on as a new generation of train-hoppers began assuming the hobo mantle, bringing their own aerosol aesthetic along for the ride. Sixteen years of footage, shot mostly from moving railcars, found beautifully condensed form in Daniel’s 2006 film, Who Is Bozo Texino?, which manages to answer the titular question while leaving its essential mystery undisturbed. At the most literal level, Bozo Texino was J.H. McKinley, an early-20th-century trainman stationed in Laredo, Texas, who developed as his graphic signature the simple bust of a pipe-smoking character in a peaked , hat with an infinity-shaped brim. Given that McKinley has been followed over the course of at least 80 years by a succession of Bozo Texinos, each dedicated to the semi-anonymous continuance of the character, the truer answer ends up having more to do with mythology and community than biography. Mostly True is an addendum to the film, a place to publish transcripts of the film’s interviews, still photos, and what Daniel calls the “paper-based ephemera” of his quarter-century exploration. Lest “paper-based ephemera” strike too academic a nervesuggesting a beach book burdened with bibliographies and footnotesrest assured that Mostly True, true to its name, puts its most ambiguous foot forward. The bookDaniel’s 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 11, 2008
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.