A couple of weeks ago, the Joplin Globe highlighted Neosho artist Don Draper. It certainly brought back memories of a man I considered a good friend. Besides being a fine painter, he was quite a character and the stories of his life are equally fine.

A couple of weeks ago, the Joplin Globe highlighted Neosho artist Don Draper. It certainly brought back memories of a man I considered a good friend. Besides being a fine painter, he was quite a character and the stories of his life are equally fine.
Russell and I visited his home and studio many times. We either went there to buy a painting or to look at one that he had called for us to come and see. He had many paintings in his home, some for sale and some to keep. One of the most striking ones was a self portrait of him in "buckskin hunting clothes." It was full sized, showing him head to toe, dressed in his buckskins, holding his treasured gun. It was not hung because it was too tall, but leaned up again the wall in his living room.
Don loved to hunt groundhogs, and he would go out nearly everyday, at least in fall and winter, often on Dan Longwell's farm. He knew where the entrances to their holes were so he would sit under a tree and wait for one to show. He usually only shot one and knew a man in town who would take it to eat.
He kept a tally of his groundhogs kills. His tally sheet was the back of a used envelope.
He did not wear his buckskins when he hunted, and I cannot guarantee that he even owned a buckskin suit although I think he did.
Don had one painting that I fell in love with but he would not sell it. It was a scene in a country store and showed an old man in a chair beside the wood stove. At the man's feet was a dead fox and several spent matches. The old man is demonstrating to the others in the hot stove crowd just how he killed the fox.
The man is smoking a pipe and Don pointed to the spent matches on the floor, showing how many times he had to relight his pipe. The storekeeper is leaning over his counter, looking bored. Don said the storekeeper had heard that story a hundred times.
I was disappointed that Don would not sell the painting. But one day he showed up at my door with a full-sized photograph of it. He had taken the painting to a portrait studio and had it reproduced. He gave me the photograph and would not accept any money for it. It hangs on a wall in the den.
Another favorite of mine is of a wolf, on a hill, howling to the moon on a clear, cold night. Off in the distance, in the valley below is a simple farmstead which also has a small cemetery. Don told me that this is his family's homestead in Kansas, where he was born and raised. He said when he died, he would be buried in that little cemetery on the family farm.
And so he was.

Kay Lively writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.