Friends P4

"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"

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Taos, New Mexico USA




  Frank and Ann Zwinger, 1991


Doctoring the Land

Before his “retirement,” Bill Farr was Frank Waters’ invaluable gerontologist in Tucson.  He now serves  on our FWF board of directors and is webmaster for our exceptional site.  His wife, Elsa Sell Farr, was a pediatrician and now serves on our advisory board.  The following lowdown on this dynamic duo is excerpted for the most part from their last Christmas letter.  


                        We have had an exciting 2001 at the Sell Farm in Georgia during our first full year of being in the beef cattle business.  We have learned a great deal and have more to learn.  Actually, it is much like medicine in that we are learning about genetics, nutrition, physiology, and how to implement what is learned, hopefully in a cost effective and profitable manner.

                        We’ve built new barns and new roofs on old barns, sprayed lots of paint, installed new barbed wire fences and a new electric fence system used for rotational grazing, and provided water to all pastures.  We have added some new and very good genetics to our herd.  We now have registered Angus and Brangus mommas with babies at their sides, and we purchased a number of good looking crossbred Angus-Brangus-Simmental heifers that are giving us some nice calves.

                        Bill won first place in the Lamar County hay contest and third place in the Mid-Georgia Cattlemen’s hay contest for quality of harvested hay.  This took a lot of work, good weather, timing, and $.  It has also been a great year for the pecans, grapes, blueberries, and our vegetable garden.  We can’t believe what can be produced with the correct environment and a little moisture and fertilizer.  

  Bill and the Girls       Elsa

                        Elsa has done a wonderful job as the wine maker for Sell Farm, producing red, white, and rose varieties from our Muscadine grapes.  Aging in oak barrels added flavors and made an enormous difference.  The wine tastes fantastic and Bill really likes it.  She produced a very good rose that we call Mooo-se, and we are looking forward next year to the release of a Mooo-Sell.

                        Elsa has been very active with the Bearded Collie Health Foundation that she founded and runs.  She is in the process of completing studies and developing data on genetics as it affects health of this breed, besides raising and training our own dogs.  Sheep have been added to our menagerie in order to improve the Beardies’ herding skills and to munch down our grass.

                        For a time, Bill has set aside his artistic painting in favor of farm activities. He is a director of the Mid-Georgia Cattlemen’s Association......  He is also webmaster for the Frank Waters Foundation website (, the farm website ( and Grass-Fed Beef Farming.

                        Bill is vice-chairman of the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC) and editor of their online newsletter.  In 1976 he started the first free-standing hospice in the US at Hillhaven in Tucson.  A dozen hospices now exist in Tucson along with thousands across the nation, and the IAHPC is spreading this concept around the world by assisting in training, instructional fellowships, and other funding.

                        To view our Sell Farm Rogues’ Gallery on the Internet, go to:

                                                Bill and Elsa Farr, the Girls, and Assorted Animal Friends





  Pete and Isabelle Concha, 1989




  Frank and Frank Samora ( the man in "The Man Who Killed the Deer", 1992)


Frank on left and  W.Y. Evans-Wentz on far right


Dream Team

   Working and socializing with Tal and Marilyn Luther are a joy. The pair has worked together constructively for so long that they are indeed a Dream Team who gets a job done with little or no friction, besides enriching social events with their own pure enjoyment of the moment. Marilyn has an appropriate joke for almost any occasion. And Tal will have something pertinent to say about literature, art, classical music (Mozart is his favorite), or Muggins, their curly-haired poodle mix who rules the roost. Although he politely remains in the car, Muggins gets to ride along on scenic Sunday drives to Red River for prime rib at Texas Red's or to Angel Fire on a week night for barbecued pork. He expects, and gets, his due.

   Marilyn is a fine hostess, a gourmet cook, and a well-known artist who shows her oil paintings at Susan Wilder Fine Art Gallery in Taos and Johnson's Gallery in Madrid, New Mexico. Her work has attracted numerous collectors; and in 1998 one of her landscapes was awarded first place in representational art at the select "Taos Invites Taos" show, part of an annual fall arts festival, where year after year she has been invited to display her paintings. "My work has been called representational in a contemporary manner," she clarifies. Influenced by expressionists and Van Gogh, her landscapes are "homages to Southwestern light," according to one art critic. Marilyn says, "For me, all things are spiritual, and I try to put a sense of joy and peace into every painting."

   Her large easel looms to the right of her husband's desk, and her new computer is tucked in opposite his work space. He says, "It's been hard for Marilyn to paint full time. Besides raising a family, she has always helped me in my business."

   At one time Marilyn worked for the government near Independendence, Missouri, at a location shared with Remington Arms Company where Talmage Luther was employed. Introduced when her boss engineered a meeting, the couple later married in 1959; their only child, Faith, was born in 1963. Tal, a New Englander by birth and a Yale gradulate, went on to become Wage Administrator at Remington, a subsidiary of DuPont. After frequent visits to northern New Mexico and Tal's retirement in 1986, the Luthers moved permanently from Prairie Village, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, to Taos.

   "I never took any art instruction at Graceland College in Iowa," Marilyn explains, " since my parents cautioned me that artists starve to death." And that's about right, usually. I had a natural talent and the inclination, but didn't consider it part of my life until a neighbor gave me a starter set of oils for Mother's Day as she thought I'd done so much for her. I cannot remember why she thought that, or how she knew it was the perfect gift. I didn't cry when she gave it to me, but tears poured down my face when I opened its lid and saw the oils and accessories.

   "Painting then possessed me like a fever. I cooked and kept our place looking neat, and cared for my husband and baby, but every single spare minute was spent with those paints. I was filled with energy and stayed up late. Then I almost got colitis, and almost is bad enough for anyone. I left painting alone until I was well. When I went back to it, I found that I had control and discipline, and my priorities were in order. I have learned that you cannot really be a good painter without this control."

Her husband interrupts, "Please, Marilyn. Please! Come and help me with this."

   A collector par excellence who specializes in book-collecting, Tal at one time or another has collected treasures ranging from paintings and rugs to Indian pottery and Staffordshire china.  He recently sold his Tony Hillerman and John Nichols book collections to universities but still has the largest Frank Waters collection in the world, numbering more than 1900 items. Several times a year he issues a catalog typed by his wife and listing books for sale, a project they have undertaken together since 1962 when Tal began his book dealer business in earnest as a spare-time pursuit.

Paul Hutton writes in his foreword to an updating of Tal's bibliography, Custer High Spots, that twenty years later it is still a "valuable guide" and "remains the first book to consult...Luther cut through the morass of Custer publications ­ the vast majority of which are worthless ­ to pick the very best books on Custer divided into useful categories and with illuminating commentary." In writing of Tal's Kansas City days Hutton states that the collector was also "one of the great dealers in Western Americana." He continues, "Luther ranked among the top of a truly extraordinary group of bookmen. His catalogs were eagerly awaited by a host of collectors in many fields, and none more so than the Custer collectors. His prices were always fair, his book grading impeccable, and his knowledge of the field unsurpassed."

   Luther has written another book titled Collecting Taos Authors, which is illustrated by his wife; three monographs on Custer; and ten articles about Santa Fe authors for Book Talk. He edited and wrote an introduction for Important First in Missouri Imprints 1808-1858 and has written papers like the one partially excerpted from Studies in Frank Waters in this newsletter. He is reticent about his poetry, long an interest.

   Tal shares with Marilyn a love of gardening. Their Taos home is a casual masterpiece of good taste ­ warmed outside with a riot of flowers and inside with exotic orchid plants, thousands of books, paintings by New Mexico's premier artists, and a loving snapshot gallery on the refrigerator door featuring special friends and relatives like their three grandchildren: Zoie, Joshua, and Haven Hensley.

   As in their home, the Luthers' community endeavors in Taos have centered on the arts. Tal has served as a top officer, on the board of directors, or as a member of Harwood Museum, Taos County Historical Society, Taos Art Association, New Mexico Book League, Friends of the Taos Library, and the Frank Waters Society. In addition to participating in some of these same organizations, Marilyn has belonged to the local garden club, and is secretary of docents for the Van Vechten Lineberry Taos Art Museum and an associate member of Taos Watercolor Society.

Important to us is the couple's volunteer work on the board of directors of the Frank Waters Foundation and on the Frank Waters Centennial Celebration Committee. With Tal serving as chairman of the latter and Marilyn as secretary, leadership and teamwork flourish simultaneously. Exuding optimism, enthusiasm, humor, and warmth, a typical meeting moves smoothly toward objectives. An easy give-and-take and a free flow of creative ideas characterize interactions; each person¹s contribution is valued. Marilyn¹s sharp, detailed minutes and organizational skills keep us on track. And good contacts cemented over the years are helpful in fundraising and participation. When Tal says he'll try to get Tony Hillerman as a speaker at our Centennial, for instance, he gets his man.

The humanitarian goals of this creative Dream Team, along with its humanity, make it one of the odds-on favorites to prevail in our great game of Life.

Barbara Waters



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