Chronicles of Tombstone's TurbulEnt Years

Tombstone History Archives

Letters to the Editor of True West - by Glenn Boyer

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True West

Truly Western

March, 1995

 

Wyatt Earp still stirs controversy

 

By way of introduction, my book John Ringo, The Gunfighter Who Never Was, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 1987.  In it, I analyzed the myth that has developed around John Ringo and brought out the reality of a mythical figure. I recently retired as a professor of American history at San Jose City College.

 

I bear no personal rancor toward Glenn G. Boyer and found him helpful and insightful, but I have found much of Wyatt Earp: Legendary American (True West, August 1993 — October 1994) questionable and unsubstantiated. He has published three different memoirs telling how Wyatt Earp killed Ringo, all giving different stories.  In Wyatt Earp by Wyatt Earp, he tells of killing Ringo on the way out of Arizona. But in a story in the Tombstone Epitaph, he gives a far different version, supposedly out of Josephine Earp’s memoirs. In your magazine and in his book, Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone Vendetta, he tells another version, which he say came from the hidden memoirs of Theodore Ten Eyck. That none of these versions is plausible is only part of the problem.

 

The version in Josephine Earp’s memoir is completely different from her husband’s. Why would she have more information than he did? Most troubling about this is that Mr. Boyer has never allowed other historians to study either the Josephine Earp or Ten Eyck manuscripts or — to my knowledge — even to substantiate their existence. Do they really exist? If so, has Boyer interpreted them correctly? These are troubling questions for serious students of frontier history.

 

In your "Legendary American" series, Boyer attributed much of his material to the mysterious Ten Eyck. Yet as far as we know, we have only Boyer’s word that such a document exists. It is time for True West to do a true service and present this as the subject of debate. Your magazine has served as Boyer’s primary forum for dispensing his information, and your magazine should address the question of his historical accuracy. He has presented far too many items as fact with absolutely no substantiation. Now is the time for him to document and prove his sources, if he can.

 

–Jack Burrows, San Jose, California

 

Editor’s Note: Like everything else about Wyatt Earp, Glenn G. Boyer’s "Wyatt Earp: Legendary American," has raised quite a ruckus. In general, the response, whether pro or con, has been extreme, with little or no middle ground. Even as I write this, however, Mr. Boyer is hard at work preparing a revised and expanded publication in book form. That fully documented version will address the issues raised by Mr. Burrows and others in these pages and elsewhere. In the meantime, I cast my vote with Pappy Cason.

 

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Truly Western

May, 1995

 

Two votes for Boyer

 

I am writing in response to Jack Burrows’ letter attacking Glenn G. Boyer’s "Wyatt Earp: Legendary American" series (True West, August 1993 — September 1994) and, in fact, Mr. Boyer’s life work.

 

I do not use the word attack lightly, for while claiming no personal rancor and mentioning his finding Mr. Boyer both helpful and insightful, Mr. Burrows goes on to challenge the very existence of the memoirs edited by Mr. Boyer. “Do they really exist?  If so, has Mr. Boyer interpreted them correctly?” In other words Mr. Boyer is at best incapable of interpreting a manuscript, and at worst is a forger, fraud, and liar.

 

Burrows is troubled by the fact that the three memoirs edited by Mr. Boyer have different versions of the Earp killing of John Ringo. Why? Since the memoirs were written by three different people, or more correctly were written by authors of differing levels of ability from information supplied by three different Tombstone pioneers, it would be surprising if they did agree. It would be a sign of the fraud Burrows so fears if the versions were to agree closely in particulars. Similarities, not differences, are evidence of a common authorship. Anyone reading all three accounts could not fail to notice the different writing styles of each. This is what you would expect if different people wrote the memoirs.

 

Burrows questions Josephine Earp’s account on the grounds that it is more detailed than Wyatt’s. “Why would she have more information than her husband?” She didn’t. Josephine did not get her account from Wyatt as she stated in her account. After Wyatt’s death she and her coauthors did research among other Tombstone old-timers and even went on a fact-finding trip back to Tombstone.

 

John Flood wrote down what Wyatt Earp told him some forty-five years after the events. Wyatt obviously spoke from memory only, and was apparently a man of few words. The memoir is written in the style of a movie script. John Flood, while a very good friend, was a very poor writer. The maps of the gunfight are the best part of the entire work.

 

Mabel Earp Cason and John P. Clum, authors of Josephine’s two separate memoirs, were much better writers, and Clum had also been a witness and participant to much of what went on in Tombstone.

 

As for the existence and accuracy of Mr. Boyer’s printed accounts of the memoirs, this past July at the Western Outlaw Lawman History Association meeting in Deadwood, Mr. Boyer presented the membership with documentation and affidavits, sworn and signed by the family members who supplied him with the original copies of the memoirs. These affidavits attested to the existence of the originals, the fidelity of Mr. Boyer’s printed work to these originals, and their personal knowledge of the history of the manuscripts.

 

The families entrusted the manuscripts to Mr. Boyer, trusting in his integrity and skill to bring the story of their relatives to the public. The families asked only that the truth as they knew it be told. They did not feel their trust was misplaced. Neither do I.

 

Glenn G. Boyer has spent decades researching, collecting, and sharing generously his knowledge of the Earps and Tombstone with anyone who expressed an interest.

 

In addition to the three memoirs under discussion, there is his wonderful Suppressed Murder of Wyatt Earp. This is the best analysis of myth building I have ever read. I highly recommend it to anyone who can find a copy. In addition there are his twenty some periodical articles. Without Mr. Boyer’s work our knowledge of the Earp brothers would be poorer indeed.

 

Any of us interested in the Earp brothers owes Mr. Boyer a debt of gratitude for his work. I too cast my vote with Pappy Cason, and with Glenn Boyer.

 

–Gail K. Allen, Flushing, New York

 

Editor’s note: Me, too. A vote for Pappy is a vote for Glenn.

 

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Aiming at the Top Gun

 

I dislike becoming involved in these pitiful little conspiracies among Earp history buffs. They are usually prompted by persons who have done little or nothing and have little standing anywhere.

 

However, in this case, I am inclined to defend Glenn G. Boyer because I know that the facts are not true in Jack Burrows’ letter to the editor.

 

Boyer is a much different man than most try to picture him. I have known him for twenty-six years. We do not totally agree on everything — but we have remained friends. He has never refused me any information or any photograph that I have requested.

 

Some years ago, when he discussed photos of Morgan and Louisa Earp, he allowed me to publish them for the first time. Later, he made sure that I met Louisa’s family members who had the photos.

 

Many times I have looked through Glenn’s files, and he has given me portions of them to take home with me. Why does he allow me his access? Because he knows that I am trustworthy and he has learned the hard way that many are not. I have used a great deal of his information, but I also clearly identify it and credit him for it.

 

Burrows’ statement that Boyer has allowed no one to see his Earp manuscripts is clearly without basis. I saw the Wyatt Earp manuscript long before it was ever published. In fact, I went through it in detail before it ever went to the printer.

 

The Josephine Earp manuscript is lying on my desk as I write. Glenn gave it to me a few months ago, saying, “Ben, you’d better take all this and go through it so you’ll know the story.”

 

I spent many hours going through the notes and journals relating to Boyer’s nonfiction novel, Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone Vendetta, before he even wrote his rough draft.

 

He does have a massive amount of information and items relating to the Earps, and I have gone through much of it. I have also witnessed at least two other historians doing the same.

 

Glenn G. Boyer is the top gun in the territory and the others are trying to knock him off to gain a bit of notoriety of their own. If they would concentrate on their own pursuits, they would perhaps achieve much more than they do by berating Boyer. If anyone could prove that Boyer’s work is wrong, I’m sure he would graciously acknowledge his mistake. But it ain’t going to happen. I have seen documents, letters, diaries, notes, notarized statements, and other items that would make the “wannabes” sick with envy.

 

–Ben T. Traywick, Tombstone, Arizona

 

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True Inwardness of the Situation

 

Regarding such as Jack Burrows’ letter in True West, and other windy blasts, I’ve been asked, “How can you remain unruffled by such attacks?”

 

Wal, podner, I set out to make those guys froth at the mouth. Why? How does just for the hell of it grab you? They’ve been rustling my research for years and venting the brand. I finally wrote a completely unannotated book — Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone Vendetta – that contradicted the stuff they’d stolen, as well as a lot of my own past work. It’s known as updating, or maybe bull-baiting, depending on the bull. So why get ruffled at success?

 

At Deadwood, South Dakota, last July, I talked to the WOLA convention and blew several of my detractors out of the water. My video coverage of the WOLA affair, where I blasted everything but motherhood and dogs, will be available to the public if I can get the sound — which is poor — enhanced. In addition, I’ll have a book on the same subject out within a year; it will be titled The Earp Curse. Both tell where sticks and stones were flung with names, dates and motivation, etc. Sticks and stones don’t bother me for figs. I’ve been conditioned too well.

 

–Glenn G. Boyer, Rodeo, New Mexico

 

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True West

Truly Western

July, 1995

 

Counting the Votes

 

I am writing this letter for my father. He is a western history fan because he was born in the nineteenth century and actually lived history. He uses his age as an excuse to get me to write his letters for him, so here is what he wants to tell you. You sub-titled “Truly Western” in your May issue “Two Votes for Boyer,” referring to Glenn Boyer’s series, “Wyatt Earp: Legendary American” (True West, August 1993-September 1994). You then proceeded to print two letters to the editor in favor of the series and an editor’s note that says, “Me, too.” Dad says in the one-room country school where he studied that makes three votes.

 

But leaving arithmetic aside, what he really wants to talk about is the Burrows-Boyer feud discussed in those letters. Having read True West longer than he will admit, he assumes that any fair-minded editor will follow the pro-Boyer May “Truly Western” with one that is pro-Burrows. When you do, please include his vote for Burrows. Dad rates Jack Burrows as the keenest intellect and best western history scholar alive today. Dad lives in Oklahoma City and his name is James Orrin Tallman, but he doesn’t care whether you include it; he just wants his vote to be registered as a pro-Burrows man.

 

–Ruth Morgan, Sunnyvale, California

 

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Dried Cow Pies

 

I have been following this matter of the Jack Burrows and Glenn Boyer controversy with great interest. Thank you for bringing it to us. Since I once had a history class in California from Professor Burrows, I naturally took his side. When I read your May 1995 issue with letters voting for Glenn Boyer, I decided I should give the matter more serious thought. After due consideration, I retained my original opinion that Burrows was correct in questioning Boyer.

 

I will not go into all of my reasons, but the language of Boyer’s letter in the May “Truly Western” seemed so insincere that it caused me grave doubts about the sincerity of his research. He did not have to use hokey language to convince readers that he knows western history. Good research is sufficient for that.

 

I certainly do not wish to belittle Mr. Boyer’s contribution to western history. On the contrary, I feel obligated to acknowledge it. But for the past twenty years I have earned my living as a freelance journalist and naturally have come to judge people by the words they write. Mr. Boyer’s letter seems to ooze with phoniness intended to appeal to those interested in the Old West. To me, this phoniness of language is an insult, making it appear that one has to use poor grammar to love the history of the Old West. We don’t have to have dried cow pies on our cowboy boots to appreciate True West.

 

–Hal Sylvie, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

 

Editor’s Note: My arithmetic might not be so good, but I do recognize irony when I see it. And I wear the dried cow pies on my boots with pride, as do many of the finest folks I know.

 

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Western Hospitality Personified

 

I first met Glenn Boyer in 1985, when I was researching the Arizona Rangers. Glenn gave up an evening to invite a stranger to his home, where I was astounded at the enormity of his files. Glenn shared numerous documents and photos with me, then graciously offered to spend the next day taking me to the site of the Ringo killing, not because it had anything to do with my project, but simply because he knew I was interested.

 

A year later, while serving as program chairman for the Tucson rendezvous of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History, I prevailed upon Glenn to deliver a presentation on the Earp-Clanton-McLaury troubles. For nearly two hours he regaled a large audience by sharing his expertise in colorful and dramatic fashion.

 

Unable to live in the Old West, like many of us Glenn has immersed himself in researching and writing about frontier people and events. Had he lived a century ago, we probably would be writing about him; he is opinionated, unafraid of trouble, and an expert marksman. Other frontier traits include conviviality, a wild sense of humor, a bullwhacker’s tongue, and an open-hearted generosity that is the embodiment of western hospitality. Glenn Boyer is a Westerner whose accomplishments and personality command respect and admiration, and his detractors are fortunate to challenge him late in the twentieth century rather than a century ago.

 

– Bill O’Neal, Carthage, Texas

 

Editor’s Note: To paraphrase Sherman, if I were a UN peacekeeping force and owned Bosnia-Herzegovina and Tombstone, I’d live in Bosnia-Herzegovina and rent out Tombstone.

 

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