June 18, 2008
Staring at a double deadline. Not supposed to do this. My Cowboy Statesmen op-ed piece is due today at noon, with the art deadline tomorrow at noon. Meanwhile, I'm trying to finish this issue's Classic Gunfights which has some hangouts regarding the historical veracity of claims made about Canyon Diablo. I have heard for some time that it was the deadliest town in the West, allegedly 35 died in one year, which would make it ten times as wild as Tombstone or Dodge City, combined. Every lawman who put on a badge died, the first put on his badge at 3 P.M. and was dead by 8 P.M. When I started writing this up, my B.S. flag started flying. So I emailed Mark Boardman and Marshall Trimble. Mark sent me an email this morning echoing my suspicions. Need to rewrite the copy this afternoon.
Mark Boardman's Musings On Canyon Diable
"I've got my doubts about these 'facts' regarding Canyon Diablo.
"I mean, most of them say that one marshal, Bill Duckins, lasted 30 days in the job--and killed a man every day. If you extrapolate from those accounts, there should have been hundreds of violent deaths in town over the years--and Boot Hill would have been the largest in the West.
"As far as I can tell, the stories seem to originate with Gladwell Richardson, a trader in the area who also wrote more than 300 novels under the name Maurice Kildare. In 1932, he also wrote the story for a Tim McCoy Western.
"Every written description of the town composed over the last 50 years or so uses much of the same terminology as he did in his stories about Canyon Diablo. They all cite the info on the saloons and lawmen and killings, etc.
"To be honest, I'm not sure where to look to get the real scoop. But on the face of things, I've got serious reservations about that info.
"Gladwell Richardson also wrote books under the pseudonym John Winslowe. The Western writer Luke Short accused Richardson of plagiarizing his 1943 book Ramrod, recasting it for the 1951 publication Short Trigger Man.
"Richardson was a frequent contributor to True West through the years, under various names.
"I found this commentary on the guy at the Amazon.com site--filed by one of our pals:"
"Gladwell Richardson, a.k.a. Maurice Kildare, was perhaps the most prolific writer for western history magazines from the 1950s through the 1970s. Unfortunately, his legacy is tainted. The articles he wrote, though based in fact, are heavily fictionalized. He published a great deal of folklore and fabrications and passed them off as facts. He wrote many memoirs of his childhood, but they conflicted with each other. At different times he claimed to have grown up simultaneously in Oklahoma and Arizona. When called on this by a complaining reader to Real West magazine, he claimed to have grown up in both places. This memoir, and anything else he wrote, should not be relied on as history. Gladwell Richardson was a story teller, not a historian, and his articles should never have been published in magazines like True West and Real West, because much of what he wrote was neither true nor real."
Yesterday's Cowboy Sketches
"Your cowboy's names are Bill Wagoner, Jr. Johnstone, Bob Gibbs, Lee Martinez, Bob Christian and Harold Jarrard. Amazing. Also weird seeing a picture of you seconds before you almost blasted off the planet. At least you were having a good time."
—Julie Smith, Wyoming
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