Jerry and Don and "El Jefe" By Horace Gore
Back in early 1999, Jerry Johnston and I were talking about a Journal cover for a fall issue. Jerry inquired about how long it had been since Don Keller’s art had been on the cover. I checked it out and told Jerry that it had been quite a while. “Call Don and see if he wants to paint a good south Texas buck for a Journal cover.” I called Don and he agreed to paint a cover buck for the September-October issue.
Two or three weeks passed and one morning Don walked into the TTHA office with a painting under his arm. “Here’s that cover art that Jerry wanted,” said Don as he laid the painting on my desk. It was a lovely piece of art—a big south Texas buck standing behind some cactus, with a stormy cloud overhead. His antlers against the dark sky were magnificent. “Let’s show it to Jerry,” I suggested, and we took the artwork to Jerry’s office.
Anyone who knows Jerry Johnston knows that he is a perfectionist. He knows what he wants, and won’t settle for anything else. Don shook Jerry’s hand and handed him the artwork. Jerry looked it over, and said,” I hope you don’t expect me to put this on the cover of the magazine,” and handed it back to Keller. “What’s wrong with it,” I asked, as I looked at the beautiful painting. “No drop tines. It is a good painting, but the buck has no drop tines. I don’t want a buck on the Journal cover with no drop tines,” was Jerry’s answer. “Don, take it back and bring me some drop tines.”
Don and I got out of Jerry’s office, pronto! I said, “Don, you heard him—can that old buck grow some drop tines?” Don smiled and replied, “I think I can find the buck some drop tines.”
A week or two passed, and Don showed up at the office with his South Texas buck. I looked at the painting—and sure enough—Don had provided the old buck with a long drop time on each side. We walked into Jerry’s office, smiling like monkeys eating green persimmons, and Don turned the painting so Jerry could get a good look. “Now, that’s more like it,” Jerry said as he carefully looked at all aspects of the painting—the clouds; the cactus; the antlers with drop tines, and the general layout. “I like it. Let’s put it on the September-October cover. We’ll call him “El Jefe.”
As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”