Sunday, August 5, 2018

Tales from The Book of the Dead: Son of Texas

Not all of E Hoffman Price's visit to Texas was filled with bad news. Here, he recalls his introduction to Robert E. Howard in person, leaving no doubt that Howard was indeed a son of Texas:
Soon after tucking home a farm style-breakfast, I met Bob: tall, broad, towering--squarish face, tanned to swarthiness--deep chest, short, solid neck--a lot of man. His expression was stolid, phlegmatic until he thrust out a big hand, smiled, and spoke. The quite friendliness of his voice came as a surprise. I'd expected the rumble of a bull, with a bit of lion-mutter. H. P. L., who had never met Howard, had fancifully characterized him in letters to the "Circle," in terms which suggested what I'd expected. 
He was utterly unlike the grim fellows he presented in W. T.  His manner and voice were gracious, winning as his "presence." Presence is that which, if a shipwrecked sailor has it, enables him to preach to the cannibal natives instead of joining his shipmates as part of the long-pig banquet. 
Our meeting, after five or six years of amiable correspondence, was as heart warming as the hospitality of his parents. 
Bob had two idiosyncrasies of pronunciation: W-O-U-N-D, which Conan inflicted whenever possible, was vocalized as in saying, I wound the clock. In S-W-O-R-D, he gave W its full force as a consonant. This was mildly interesting. The first of the several utterances which left me blinking and groping was delivered as he and I strolled down the un-notable main street of Cross Plains. 
"Ed. I am God-damn proud to have you come and see me." 
Like that. Blunt, forthright, and without any relation whatsoever to the context of anything we'd said during our short walk from home. 
"What the hell have you to be proud of? It's the other way around. As I was telling your Dad, you're the only one of the Weird Tales crowd that's breaking into everything but confessions and love pulps!. I'm sweating peach seeds, trying to follow your example. If there's any being proud, it's my turn, being your guest." 
Bob grimaced, shook his head. "Nobody in Cross Plains thinks I amount to much. So I am proud to show these sons of bitches that a successful writer drove a thousand miles to hell and gone out of his way to see me." 
This left me gaping and puzzled. Considering the readership he reached, acceptance in what was just another of many nondescript Texas towns was no great matter. Furthermore, the man rated more than he seemed to realize. There was friendly greetings all along the way to the barber shop where I'd have my first hair-cut in a long while. 
On our way home, I learned that Bob neither smoked nor drank hard liquor. He explained, "The lowest bastard I know in a number of fairy sized counties goes for whiskey and tobacco, so to show my contempt for him and all his breed of stinkers, I turn down drinking and smoking." The dark, stern face brightened in a grin and a chuckle. Then, "She, I know I am inconsistent. That low down skunk breaths, and so do I. Sometimes you've got to compromise in matters of principle."

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