I'll admit, I'm a mural buff, as a casual glance at this blog will attest. Tucson is home to hundreds of murals. Has anyone counted them? I don't know, but they're everywhere. Murals are a thing now, and they pop up almost daily, legally and less so. But Tucson has a history of artists and sign painters decorating vertical, flat surfaces.
Some have seen better days, and this, unfortunately, is one of them. It's on the north side of Grant Road, just before you hit I-10, heading west. Back in 1963, the company behind Farmer John meats, operating under the name Clougherty Brothers Packing Co., hired Australian Leslie Grimes to paint an expansive mural of cows, sagebrush, cowboys, assorted desert animals--and at least one jilted husband--along the sides and surrounding walls of their Tucson plant. Grimes--aka "Old Grimey"--was an interesting character. A former professional wrestler, boxing referee, stunt man, and Hollywood scenic artist in the '30s, he had already completed a similar mural at the Farmer John pork packing plant in Vernon, California.
The guy must have painted six hundred sagebrushes in the Tucson mural. But one scene, in particular, caught my eye. What appears to be a gun-toting rancher (click on the gallery above) rousting a wife-stealing rogue, who leaps from a back window sans shirt. The statuesque and no-doubt amused wife (I presume), is framed in the doorway, hand on hip.
The Tucson Farmer John's closed in 2001, and laid vacant and vandalized for years. There was a fire, urban tales of missing children, ghost hunters--all the depressing post-mortems that haunt old, unwanted buildings. It now has a new tenant--The Slaughter House--an extreme haunted house with a Voodoo Bayou, Cirque du Slay, zombie-infested boiler room...the same old family fun my parents dragged me to.
I'm glad the old plant has been re-purposed. I might even give the scary clowns a go, and the place is a ready-made set--Hellraiser: Heifer Apocalypse anyone? But as a child of the West, I'm sad to see the murals flaking into the sand, tagged, painted over, tagged again...really, maybe they should just leave the graffiti as is because the attempts to remove it are almost worse, leaving rectangular blues and grays where a cow used to be.
Leslie Grimes died in 1968--from a fall off a ladder, painting a mural, of course. He, too, might be wiping a tear, looking down from his celestial back forty. Or not. Grimes once painted a mural at Mae West's Santa Monica beach house. Maybe she and Old Grimey are having a good old time--her elbowing him in the ribs and saying, "Hey, is that a paintbrush in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"