Thursday, November 17, 2005

November 17, 2005
So far so good on my Get-Out-of-My-Comfort-Zone plan. I have done six drawings a day, everyday, all this week, and I have gotten into the office an hour earlier, and I am sticking to my worklist with some regularity.

As for the ‘49 Ford, Eric came by on Tuesday morning, shot some ether in the carburetor and it started right up. I got this bit of good advice this morning:

Dear Bob,
I was telling my husband about your problems with your '49 Ford, and he says he knows what your problem is. You need to change the fuel pump pushrod. That's what activates the fuel pump. They wear down - that was a common problem with all the old V-8 Fords. Also take the carb apart and clean and set the floats, and the needle and seat valve. He also recommends putting Sta-bil or Marvel Mystery Oil in the gas tank to keep the gas from gumming up the carb, and to keep the floats from sticking, especially when you don't drive it all the time. My husband also says that we didn't have these problems when gas had lead in it, and cost 19 cents a gallon.
—Lauren TWM #19

While we're in the mailbag:

"Are you related to Senator John Bell of Colorado? See attached photo."
—Elizabeth BELL

Actually, no, but I have sure started to see more of those pesky Bells showing up everywhere.

Carole Glenn told me Paul Harvey mentioned the gay Western Brokeback Mountain this morning. Esquire magazine did a review of the movie in the new issue and gave it a surprisingly positive pass (the reviewer did mention squirming a bit). They are predicting a success, especially at Oscar time.

Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal featured quotes from me in an oped page feature written by Leo Banks. Speaking of Leo, who also wrote the LA Times Wyatt Earp piece that ran last weekend, here’s my take on the. . .

Anatomy of a “Quote”

Monday I received a very nasty Email (see November 14 posting). This is not at all unusual considering my precarious position around here and my predilection for courting controversy. However, I was somewhat irked when I saw the actual quote in the Times that precipitated the irate Email to me. Here’s the actual quote:

“True West's Bell describes Earp as a jerk. ‘But he was a brave jerk, says Bell.’ As someone once said about Wyatt, all the bullet holes were in the front, I'll give him that much."

I have never described Earp as a jerk. I have always maintained that this is my grandmother's take on him. She is the one who claimed Wyatt Earp was a jerk. I often use this personal anecdote in my speeches and after I tell the story about my grandmother calling Earp "the biggest jerk in the West," and at the end of my speech, I ask for questions, and usually someone will ask, "Well, was your grandmother right? Was Earp a jerk?" And I give my honest answer which is, I understand why she didn't like him, she was from a ranching family near Rodeo, New Mexico, who knew the actual cowboys involved in the Earp-Clanton feud. I, on the other hand discovered a human being who had good points and bad points.

I am more bugged with the LA Times and their policy of not reading the quote to me prior to publication. True, a fact checker did call me and asked me if I thought Wyatt Earp was a jerk, and my memory of the conversation is, I said, "No, I didn't say that. My grandmother did. Give me the context," and Little Miss Fact Checker declined (see archives of two weeks ago), and after three or four exchanges like this I finally said, "Well, I guess I just have to trust Leo to quote me correctly."

In Leo’s defense, I seem to remember him hammering me about the details of the "jerk" comment. Actually, here’s Leo take on it:

"in my notes i do indeed have you saying that about your grandmother ... but it sounded to me as if you agreed, with modifications ... i know your view of earp contains measures of admiration and revulsion ... in the draft i sent to the magazine, i had you saying, ‘nobody could question the sand he had’ ... a positive remark that was edited out ... not sure why ... probably because of space, or the belief that readers wouldn't know what sand meant, although i think most people could dope it out ... to me, the idea that all the bullets were in the front is admirable as well ... it suggests a guy who believes he was acting in the name of the law and had nothing to hide.... I thought that would cover the good half... but bottom line, this was my story, and if I'm wrong, blog away."

So it’s hard to be mad at Leo, who, as you can clearly see, is a straight up guy. In the scheme of things, it's a minor difference (in the quote). Unfortunately, now I own that quote until hell freezes over, which is about how long it will be before some Earp fans give me another chance at any sort of historic objectivity. It will be all to easy to dismiss my efforts by saying, "Oh, he’s anti-Earp." When in reality, I’m anti-myth.

"In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired."
—Lao Tzu

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