Issue 15 : Fall 2008





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by Bill Daniel

24 Sep 2008

Twenty-eight years ago in a small oil-patch town in south Texas an anonymous railroad crane operator, known to us as Grandpa, achieved a personal goal that very likely also set a record in the invisible world of boxcar graffiti. Marking his tag on freight trains had been a life-long habit beginning when he was a child in the early 1920s. 60 years later, after his retirement when he was a child in the early 1920s. 60 years later, after his retirement from Hughes Tool, boxcar drawing became a full-blown obsession. On January 1, 1980, he began to keep a daily record of the number of railcars he marked with his signature graffiti-a simple line drawing of a blank staring face below an infinity-shaped hat with the name BOZO TEXINO squarely lettered below it. By December 31 he had, in that one year alone, decorated 30,358 rail cars with the Bozo Texino logo. An estimate of his lifetime total conceivably exceeds 350,000 drawings.

As a kid, Grandpa's father--also a crane operator--pointed out the name Bozo Texino chalked on freight cars. Bozo was a common nickname at the turn of the century, not unlike Bubba in the 1970s or Dude in the 1990s. History is unclear as to whether the name Bozo Texino was already in use a tag then, or if a Mr. J. H. McKinley, an engineer from Laredo, invented the the Texino surname when he created a fancy cowboy sketch to accompany it. In either case, by the age of five or six, young Grandpa had seen Mr. Mac's drawing, and began fiercely copying it onto any and all freight cars he could get to. Grandpa claims his father had built him a pair of stilts to help him reach the sides of the cars. Meanwhile in Laredo, McKinley was taking heat from his employer, the Missouri Pacific, for marking on their cars. It seems that even though McKinley only drew on non-MoPac rolling stock, MoPac cars kept rolling in from Houston with Bozo Texino drawings on them. It turned out, Grandpa, like any young writer, was hitting anything that rolled with his copy of Mr. Mac's dude. Word came down to Grandpa's father to have that kid quit marking MoPac cars with Mac's drawing. Grandpa, a determined and maturing young artist, said screw that. So he developed his own version of Bozo Texino--his being more streamlined, faster, and using less chalk. Thus Grandpa was able to establish his own character, increase his output, and keep hitting any car regardless of company.

The following conversation took place at Grandpa and Grandma's house in 1992.

Who is Bozo Texino, is that you?

No, it's just a drawing. Talkin' about these, I'm talkin' about the ones that marked on one side--I don't ever count them. I count the ones that marked on both sides of the car.

So that number, 30,000 drawings in one year, that's actual cars marked, not drawings?

Yeah, cars. Yeah.

So for the number of actual drawings we'd multiply that times two?

That's right. If I didn't get it on both sides I didn't count it. To me it used to be if you marked a car it's on both sides. So, you know, it's kinda unbalanced just on one side. I wanted to see that people at both sides of the crossing could see it. It's silly, but that's just one of my quirks, I guess.

60,000 drawings in one year, that's got to make you the top boxcar artist.

Aw, naw. I'll just say this: as far as the number of cars marked, I don't think too many of them would ever tie me.

What do you think people see when they see Bozo Texino?

I don't know, it's kinda confusin'. I guess like on mine, if you see a big hat, why, you'd kinda think cowboy, then whenever you'd read the name, uh, I'm sure there weren't too many cowhands with that kind of a name. But I guess the main thing I thought about was that people would see it. "Where did it come from?" They don't nobody care where it's goin', but "Where did it come from? Where were they when they put this on?" I'll say a big percentage of 'em says, "I wonder why that damn fool spends time doing that when he could be doin' something else?" It's silly to some people. I'm sure at different times people wonder, "Who, who marks that?" And then they'll wonder why, and all that crap. Maybe I'm lookin' on the wrong side of it, but, uh, they'd be right, why would a so-and-so waste that much time doin' it? So you go to get enjoyment out of it or you ain't going to do it.

What did your co-workers think of it?

They'd just see you doin' it. They didn't make no big deal out of it. But you know, it didn't appeal to most people.

People didn't think you were strange?

I don't believe I ever had anybody kid me about it. You know if they did I would have busted their damn jaw. But anyway, I never heard from somebody that said something to somebody about it.

What made you draw so many Bozo Texinos?

I got a pleasure out of puttin' it on there and I hoped people got a pleasure out of seein' it go by. To me the picture and the name has no earthly meaning. It was just a kind of picture, like I said, one I enjoyed and I hoped other people enjoyed. It has no meaning whatsoever. It means nothing.

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