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Highball on the Redball Manifest, a painting with a black ground, dominated by a circular image resembling the front of a train. In the center of the painting a red circle holds a yellow number 25. This circle is within a gray circle with small black circles all around its edge. Wrapping around this circle is a black ring with the text "High Ball Redball Mannifest" painted in stenciled yellow letters and small gray circles around the text. A larger yellow circle sits between the words High and Ball

Highball on the Redball Manifest, 1963. Photo: Rick Hall. Courtesy of the Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin; Artwork: © Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

HIGHBALL ON THE REDBALL MANIFEST is an old American railroading term for the signal “All-Clear for a fast express,” which is probably how I rather immodestly thought of my own progress in the pop-roaring year of 1963. However, with the assassination of President Kennedy the “big train” and many little locals got seriously derailled [sic]. I painted HIGHBALL because my paternal grandfather was a locomotive driver for the Big 4, which occupation he called, as I remember, “engineer”—accurate but, nevertheless, confusing. He was a gruff, moustachioed proper Victorian from the plains of Kansas and passed on his interest in railroading to his son who worked briefly for the Pennsylvania Railroad some time before I entered the scene. That the canvas should hang in the Allentown Museum for many years seemed very appropriate.

In fact, the grays of this predominantly grissaille [sic] work were taken from the same paint jars that provided the palette for my diptych portrait MOTHER AND FATHER which was begun in 1963, too, but not finished until 1967. Since HIGHBALL ON THE REDBALL MANIFEST is a head-on view of an old steam locomotive—with the address, “25,” of my second Coenties Slip studio imposed upon its boiler as its number, it stands with the Model-T Fords of MOTHER AND FATHER as my only excursions into the mechanical genius of America, a theme I could have explored much further—but, alas! I was side-tracked by LOVE.