Wednesday, June 21, 2006

June 21, 2006 Bonus Blog
Got into the office early to finish the Medicine Lodge layouts. I needed to fax the finished gunfight to the experts in Caldwell and Medicine Lodge, Kansas and get the corrections in place before I hit the road for New Mexico in the morning.

Robert Ray personally tweaked my very complicated map (which Gus perfected in Alabama), which follows the outlaws every move out of Medicine Lodge to Jackass Canyon (or so I thought it was named. Read on). Robert, Meghan and I crammed and jammed, working around niggling layout obstacles and confusing, jigsaw culdesacs until it all finally fit. We printed it out at about 10:30 and I faxed it to Bev McCollom, who works at the Medicine Lodge Hospital (remember, she was the one who wanted to title her tome “I’ll Always Be Horney”?). She called me right back and had four corrections. The outlaws rode into town on Kansas Avenue not First Avenue, Brown and Wheeler were not lawmen in “the next county”, there is another county between the two bergs, and last, but most importantly, Jackass Canyon was never called that in the old days. A promoter, Jibo Hewitt, came to town in the 1960s and tried to make everything sexier, and he named the canyon “Jackass Canyon.” Ouch! We pulled the four references to that immediately (two were in my editorial column). Another case of revisionist history gone amuck.

At eleven, Kathy and I took Carole to lunch at Saba’s for her birthday ($35, my biz account). Fun yacking to my two favorite ex-roommates.

After Lunch I Got This E-Mail
“My name is Len Gratteri and I was reading the Caldwell Kansas newspaper and seen where True West is going to do a story on Caldwell and Medicine Lodge. I have been researching Ben Wheeler and Henry Brown since 1989. I know more about Ben Wheeler than anyone else. After he was hung in 1884 his wife remarried and in 1905 moved to Portland Oregon. In 1988 from her family I was able to buy Ben Wheeler's asst. marshals badge, photos of his wife, his son and other documents. I since purchased his gun that he killed the bank cashier with. I have hundreds of unpublished photos along with a room full of artifacts from these two towns. The badge was also worn by Henry Brown since he too was an asst. marshal. I have the clock that hung in the bank during the robbery and also a piece of one of the hanging ropes. By the way there was only two ropes, they hung Ben with one and Smith and Wesley with the other. For four years a man in Texas has been researching Wheeler’s past criminal activity and I have more than enough for a book, I just need to start writing. The three people you met in Caldwell know me, Rod Cook, Colin Wood and Karen Strum. Bob McCubbin also is aware of my collection and interest in this event. If you are interested I am willing to share information for your article.”
—Len Gratteri, Sisters, Oregon

I am very familiar with Len’s work and had been hearing about his extraordinary collection all over Kansas (and by the way, we got front page press in the Caldwell Messenger and The Gyp Hill Premiere). So, I immediately faxed Len a copy of the article and got this reply back:

“Your article is very close, however very few people think that the photo of Fred Waite has Henry Brown at his side. Fred Waite was said to be six feet tall and Brown was not over five feet eight inches. Ask McCubbin his thoughts on the photo. I wish I could have been involved early on with this project. There is much more to tell especially about Ben Wheeler. "
—Len Gratteri

The photo in question has been identified as Henry Brown and Frederick Waite for a long time and in fact I used it in both editions of my Billy books. So I e-mailed Len back and asked when this change, or debate, of ID happened, or who determined this? Here’s his reply:

"Bob I am not sure as to the why, when, or where but if you look at the photo of the four bank robbers you can see how much taller Ben Wheeler is than Henry Brown. Wheeler is six feet two and Brown is much shorter. McCubbin has this photo and he and I have talked about it several times. I think you will find Fred Nolan is not sold on it either.”

Oh, great. Fred, The Cranky One is involved! Again. So, Meghan went online and found that the photo in question is now speculated to be John Middleton (see Fred Nolan’s quotes and footnotes extraordinaire, regarding Brown and Middleton, posted here last week). And, if you’d like to see the photo for yourself, check out page 85 of my Billy book (editions, II and III), under the heading “Pards.” So we massaged that clarification in, but the best, or worst boner, was yet to come.

After reading the proofs for the 78th time, I noticed the copy of the mobbing, where it says, “”Wheeler has been shot several times, and he staggers through the crowd with his vest on fire, ignited by the point blank explosions. A bullet rips off two fingers of his left hand (above), and a Winchester ball shatters his right arm.” Wait a minute. That damn, bad painting I slaved over yesterday shows him missing two fingers on his right hand! Yikes! I ran into production and Meghan, Robert Ray and I debated the pros and cons of flopping the artwork. The problem with this is all the shooters become left-handed and Brown is running the wrong way (I know, I know, like anybody but the faxed people above, and me, actually cares, but we do!). So we flopped it.

The artwork is posted here (see above), with Wheeler going the right way, but the wrong hand has the missing fingers. Maybe I should just listen to the old vaqueros.

”The surest way to to spoil a good story is by sticking to the facts.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

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