Tuesday, February 24, 2004

February 24, 2004
Still rainy and wet. Great excuse to build fires and stand around my studio stove and mull my muddy artwork. Lots of feedback and opinions on the direction of this blog and the new issue.

Got a call yesterday from Darrell Hooker of Angelus Oaks, California. (a mining settlement, pop. 190, on the way up to Big Bear Lake). Darrell has been collecting True West since 1959 and pays extra to have it sent via a padded envelope to insure pristine-ness. “I do like the new look,” Darrell told me. “I just don’t like all the ads. You’re running too many.” He just got the new Travel Issue (April) and thinks the ads are oppressive. We had a good 45 minute talk about the whys and the why-nots, the end result being he told me he wasn’t going to renew, but that he would hang in there for “awhile.” I told Darrell I appreciated him calling and that I have never called a magazine to tell them I was leaving. Speaks to the dedication and connection many people feel for this venerable publication.

Heard from Steve Sederwall in Capitan, New Mexico. He shared with me some of the leads he has uncovered in his quest to dig up Billy the Kid. Among them:

“This summer as we worked the case we run leads down. One of the leads I developed was a lead on the work bench they placed the Kid’s body on July 14, 1881. I chased that lead hard and located it. It was in really good shape and I had no trouble knowing it was the same bench from the photos and the line in which the bench was passed down. It was the real deal. We have yet to do the CSI on it. As I ran down my leads I discovered that there was more out there and two weeks later I found all the things that belonged to Pete Maxwell by discovering a brief filed in 1936.

“On May 18, 1936 Vernon Smithson filed a brief entitled “Points of Interest”. It can be found in the National Archives in the WPA section. They do not have it logged very well and stuff seems to be scattered from hell to breakfast but it is there. If you want to see it I have it in my files. In this brief he writes about the artifacts that were in the
Maxwell room the night Garrett fired two rounds into the dark. In 1936 Smithson saw and had his hands on these artifacts telling me they were not lost in a flood as I was told. Smithson writes the following;

“From the room in which Billy the Kid met his death at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett is the bed in which Pete Maxwell was sleeping….Tapestry, pitchers, candle-sticks, tables and other furnishings of the room, including the wash-stand which was pierced by Garrett’s second bullet gives one an intimate picture of the death of this famous character of the Southwest. A picture of Lucian B. Maxwell, painted in his working cloths. (Dating back to about 1840 – 1860) Account books and ledgers kept by Lucian B. Maxwell dating back as far as 1850 showing accounts with Kit Carson and with the soldiers of Bosque Redondo Reservation and old Fort Sumner. The first piano that was brought to New Mexico, after his return from the gold rush of California in 1849. This piano is in a fair state of preservation and does credit to its
manufactures, Kindt and Mans of New York. There is an old chest which Maxwell brought with him in 1849.

“It is all still with us, I’ve had my hands on most of it. They were dusty, stored in a chicken coop and have been there since 1957 without moving but they are in good shape. They were so well taken care of I could tell that Maxwell used three slats on his bed and they were still there. I held letters in lead pencil sent to Lucian that look as if they
had been mailed the day before. The wash-stand is also mentioned in one statement contributed to Delivina Maxwell as she talked about the shooting of the Kid. There is no bullet hole in the head or foot board of Maxwell’s bed. We have not had a furniture expert examine the articles but shall. If they are the real McCoy then Poe and Garrett lied. Poe could not have gone into that room after the shooting or he would have known that the bullet hit the wash-stand not the headboard. The question I have is why would he lie?

“Here is something else you might want to check. June 1978 True West Magazine there is a story about Poe. That story matches with the evidence closer then the one history gives us. Poe said Garrett never let him see the body and that they had a falling out over it. History tells us Garrett and Poe were close, Garrett even named one of his boys
Poe. But later Garrett and Poe had a falling out and it is never clear. Remember the first time we met? I told you how I felt the shooting went down in the hallway of Lincoln County Courthouse. I think we have evidence that Bell and the Kid were at the top of the steps and Bell had his hands on the pistol when the Kid shot him. It was not Bell’s shooter
that did the killing. We believe we have a good idea where that gun came from. We do not have the CSI done on the courthouse but with what we have so far we are being lead in a different direction. It is an amazing story.

“Now you’re wondering if we think the Kid is in the Ft. Sumner grave. I know someone is in that grave and that grave can be found. The body did not wash away in the flood. I have a drawing with measurements to the grave and others there done in 1906 by the army.

“In my heart and not driven by evidence I believe the Kid is in that grave. But the evidence that is held up to show me is not strong and some of which is a lie. Such as the statements of the lawmen that were there that night. I do not know if it is because they want to cover up a bad shooting or if they did not kill the right guy. We just do not know yet. Tom and I never thought we would be standing where we now are.”

Yesterday, I finally met one of the giants of the Western history field. Howard Bryan (see photo, left), of Albuquerque, New Mexico walked into our offices unannounced (he was visiting his brother, who drove him out to visit us). I have talked to Howard for years on the phone but had never met him. Howard will be 84 next month and actually interviewed people who knew Black Jack Ketchum and Elfego Baca (he drove over dirt roads all the way to Reserve, New Mexico in the 1940s and interviewed Montague Stevens, who he says, “didn’t think much of Elfego Baca.” Stuff like this makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.). We had a great talk in my office and at one point, Howard told me he doesn’t believe the stories of Black Jack Christian being a separate character from Black Jack Ketchum. I told Howard he is on assignment and we want that story. We took several photos of Howard for posterity and our files, and after he left Robert Ray asked me who that old guy was and I told him and Robert said, “I’m going to have to pay more attention around here.” To which Gus said, mockingly, “So you actually knew Bob Boze Bell?” and Robert quipped, “Yeh, I knew him and he wasn’t funny at all.” Now that is funny.

Worked on two paintings for the May cover. Ruined both and that wasn’t funny at all. Need to get something better going today. Here’s a scratchboard of the original idea. Not bad, but needs to be a little more ghostly.

”"There is no wholly satisfactory substitute for brains, but silence does pretty well."
—Herbert Prochnow

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