In the spring of 1959, when I was aged 9, while on a vacation in Taos, NM, my parents took me along to see a local real estate agent and professional "character" named Doughbelly Price. Price had been a chuckwagon cook and rodeo cowboy in his youth not long after the turn of the century, and had settled down in Taos to sell real estate and tell stories, some of which wound up in columns in the local newspaper and were eventually collected into books. He was a scrappy little bantam of a man, and I retained a vivid memory of him. His fame beyond Taos began in 1949 when Life magazine ran a profile of him.
Doughbelly died on 8 June 1963. There was a news report in The New Mexican on 10 June, an editorial on the 11th, and a news report about his funeral on the 12th.
Doughbelly produced at least one (and I believe more than one) self-published collection of his columns from local newspapers, the Taos News and El Crepusculo. One of those, doughBelly's sCrap Book, bears the legend "Printed by El Crepusculo, 1951" and the following distinctive copyright statement:
I did not entend to copyright it all. but I got to talking to one of these men of the legal Profession and he said some one might steal it. now I cannot amagine anyone stealing anything as worthless as this will be. but they might. human beings do such funny things sometimes. And if some one was to steal it. I dont know what I could say. as I have stold nearly every thing but A book. And if it was A book to show you how to beat income tax. I would be Tempted to steal that. as I know how. and my concience would not bother me in the least. And there is not A doubt in my mind. that some of the people that read this thing. has stold plenty. but if you told them so they would want to do a fistic combat with you. which is the real American way of setteling A difference of opinion. so if anything in this mess will give you an idea. how to make A living honest or other wise. I dont see why you should not use it. and if there is any profit. send me my Cut.
I trust and hope that all of Doughbelly's words contained on and though this page are presented in full compliance with the principles he enunciated and since there is unlikely to be any profit, I do not need to inquire into the matter of sending him his Cut these 33 years after his passing.
A similar booklet was Doughbelly's Wisdom and Insanity, published in Taos in 1954. He also wrote an autobiography (Short Stirrups: The Saga of Doughbelly Price (Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1960), and the western novelist of that day, Frank O'Rourke, published a "novel" called The Diamond Hitch (New York: William Morrow, 1956), with a dedication which reads: "to my friend DOUGHBELLY PRICE who lived this book"; I own one copy and have seen another autographed by both O'Rourke and Doughbelly. The main character in that novel is named "Dewey Jones," which has an unsettling effect on me as I read it, inasmuch as I can recall on a family trip in 1961 our eating at a restaurant in Lordsburg NM, which I could swear was called "Dewey Jones's" and which stood ever after in our family legendary as the most godawful place we ever ate. Lordsburg is in the far southwestern corner of the state, well away from Taos (a point befuddled by John Ford having the passengers in Stagecoach go from Tombstone to Lordsburg by way of Monument Valley, hundreds of miles to the north of either), so any connection would be hard to establish, and I may have the name of the restaurant incorrect.
At all events, I hope to find opportunity to incorporate some or all of Doughbelly's prose on this WWW site eventually. If any reader knows of additional books/booklets published by Doughbelly, I would be glad for information. I have searched for his literary remains on two trips to Taos, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, and what I report above is what I have been able to find in the libraries, archives, and second-hand bookstores of those towns.
In 1950, an ethnomusicologist at the University of New Mexico went around collecting recordings of authentic western songs, and included a raft of Doughbelly's songs and stories. Here are the complete recordings, from the John Donald Robb Archive of Southwestern Music, maintained in the Center for Southwest Research of the General Library, University of New Mexico. (I am grateful to Monique Durham of the Center for assistance in locating and preserving these recordings.)
Another set of recordings was made in Taos on 27 April, 1952. These songs may be found in one of the collections of American folk songs published by Alan Lomax:
I caught only the vaguest flicker of a memory of Doughbelly's name among people I spoke to in Taos, and that from the editor of a newspaper for which he wrote. Second-hand bookshops draw a complete blank (copies of his works I have found come from Santa Fe shops). The formal memory that I can trace had already made it, in the Taos home page, onto the WWW ahead of this page, in this homey advice:
Employment in Taos can be different. Some have moved here in order to have a "kicked back" life style, one where they can work a little less strenuously than was the case wherever they escaped from. Others have lived here from day one, as have their families, for generations. They might work in a family business, one where hours are not to be counted. Sometimes one is reminded of the old joke: "They say that the number of jobs available has gone up of late... I'll agree to that... I've got three, myself, so far!" Take the case of Doughbelly Price: After renting a house in Taos, he created and ran the first official bootlegging business here, from 1927 until 1929. Then he ran a restaurant on the Plaza for four months, until the business was sold and he went back to bootlegging. A couple of months later he received a 90 day sentence and had to quit. When he got out he resumed a career of bootlegging, gambling, and buying cattle (sometimes with his own money). In his own way, he could be seen as quite resourceful. Seasonal work in a tourist economy is not unusual. New businesses are started here, and some have become quite successful. Others have discovered that the way to become a millionare in Taos is to be sure and start out with two million. Safe bet? Know just what you want to do here before you come...and plan to work very hard in order to reach your goal.
Memoirs of Job Matusow
more stories from Taos
A convenience store in Bentonville, Arkansas, bears Doughbelly's name and is available for sale.
This page maintained by James J. O'Donnell (created 1995: some links may have faded).