By Beau Smith

The other day I was hangin’ a new autographed photo of former Chicago Bear quarterback-Bobby Douglass up here at the Flying Fist Ranch. As I was doin’ this I started thinkin’ about my old work place; the place where I started the whole “Temple Of Testosterone” deal.

As much as I love where I’m at now, much bigger and better, I still miss the old place quite a bit. There were very fond memories of hangin’ there and fightin’ the good fight for comics. Not a week would go by when some of the ususal suspects would stop by and have a cold beer with me. (It was ok to crack a beer after 5pm? after workin’ hours.)

My best buddy, Ray Crabtree, who I’ve mentioned many times before here in my column, was always comin’ around and distractin’ me with a cold Grizzly Beer or some new beer that he had just discovered. When it comes to discoverin’ new beers to drink, Crab is the Christopher Columbus of beer.

The old office was filled with so many manly items it would take a person 20 mintues just to look and soak it all in once they walked in. Everybody loved hangin out there. It was THE place to be seen. Then one fateful day a bad thing happened.

On March 12, 1996. My office was consumed by fire, water and smoke. The former vast Eclipse Sales Office, Image Sales Ranch and Spawn Outpost was no more.

“That’s what insurance is for.” Said the insurance agent with a smile.

My office wasn’t just an office. Not one of these sterile fiberboard and carpeted cubes of bland piped in muzak. Nope. It was a true museum of manliness. A temple of testosterone. A place of awe and wonderment.

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Sure, I had the usual office stuff. Computer, copier, fax machines and the like. That kinda stuff can be replaced. But as I waded my way through the stench of burnt memories, and the over turned furniture, I could see many years of my life lookin’ and smellin’ like over cooked steaks in a bad steak house.

“That’s what insurance is for.” Said the insurance agent with a smile.

My many years of collectin’ sports and celebrity autographed photos were now just roasted trophies of ash. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Raquel Welch, Maria Conchita Alonzo–all now way too hot to handle.

The interior wall of the old Eclipse Sales Ranch.

The same for Doak Walker, Art Donovan, Lance Alworth, and Dick Butkus. Now all members of the Hall of “Flame.” It just aint right.

Most every sports card I had ever owned since 1958 was in there, along with my golden age Black Terror collection that I used as reference when writing the new Black Terror back in 1989. Gone.

“That’s what insurance is for.” Said the insurance agent with a smile.

Beer Buddies: R-to-L Crab, Beau, and Harv.

The two stuffed alligators that one of my Beau LaDuke fans sent me were now burnt to a crackly crunch. For eight years they guarded the office from those seeking to sell me things I did not want. My old boxing gloves were now split, cracked and black. A couple of cases of McFarlane toys went through the test of fire. I gotta say-McFarlane Toys melt real good. I guess you won’t see that in any of his ads. Twenty years of original art now smelled like the inside of a black lung victim. Nick Cardy, Don Heck, and Flint Henry art now carry the smell Smoky The Bear is so used to.

“That’s what insurance is for.” said the insurance agent with a smile.

I did manage to save my .357 magnum from the drawer of my desk. I shoved it into the waistband of my pants. Then the claims adjuster showed up like Bruce Dern in the John Wayne movie-The Cowboys. A smile of mock concern across his face. He looked around and took photos. He said all the usual moron remarks that most of us in the comic book business are all too used to.

“I remember when funny books were just five cents.”
“You mean they still make funny books?”
“Just who is this Jack Kirby?”

As he smiled and told me that I had a ton of paperwork ahead of me, I let him see the butt end of my gun. His smile went away.

“Uh? is that thing real?” he asked with a stumbling laugh.
“Yup.” I answered, lookin’ him in his now darting eyes.
“Well? ” He stammered, slowly backin’ away towards the charred doorway.
“I? uh? guess I’ve seen enough today, Mr. Smith. I’ll get things rolling for you this afternoon. Thank you for you time. I’m very sorry for your loss? goodbye!” he said as he scampered away to his little car.
“Yeah. I’ll be seein’ ya.. real soon.” I smiled. He peeled off longing for my image in his rear view mirror to get smaller.

The thing I’m gonna miss most about the ol’ Sales Ranch are the times folks in the comics industry stopped by for beers and shootin’ the bull. Many a industry crisis was solved here at the ranch. Many a story was believed. Many a lie was told. From the steer skull that hung proudly on the wall to the photos of friends, family and loved ones. This was my place. My castle. My fortress of all that is manly.

Outside of the Old Eclipse Sales Ranch.
The Old Beau Vehicle of Violence parked out front.

This wasn’t a place that you’d find sissy Star Trek junk, role playin’ I-aint-got-a-real-life-cards, no fantasy books about elves and gnomes, If ya want that kinda atmosphere, then ya better head off to New York or L.A. You won’t find it here.

“That’s what insurance is for.” Said the insurance agent with a smile.

Yeah. That’s what it’s for.

Now I got a new place to hang my cowboy hat. I’ve already got a stuffed armadillo put in a place of honor here in the new joint. I guess just as old legends die new ones will have to be made. This is the new temple of testosterone. Bigger and better.

Most of? semi-fireproof.

“That’s what insurance is for.” I said with a smile across my face.

So in the last few years since the great fire I’ve loaded the Flying Fist Ranch up with all sorts of manly things. Crab was kind enough to give me an eight foot whalin’ harpoon, Kris Oprisko gave me a six foot surfboard, The guys at Wizard gave me an autographed hockey stick from Mark Recchi? the list goes on and on. Many a fan sent loads of photos of babes and all things manly. It was a good time dressin’ up the Flying Fist Ranch? but I still miss the old joint. Good thing is I’ll always have the memories of that little hunk of he-man hospitality.

From the fireside,

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507

Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!

About The Author


Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin