Thursday, September 23, 2010

John Tunstall And The "Idiots" Who Write About Him

September 23, 2010
I always ask the people who answer the phones here at True West to copy me on any feedback. Got this from Carole Glenn this afternoon:

"Russ Allen from Oak Park Hts, MN called to give an address change. Before hanging up, he said he is 62 and loves the magazine. He said True West is the only magazine he reads cover to cover."
—Carole Glenn

And, if you think it's all positive, here's a message we got this morning:

"I just finished reading the Tunstall article in the October issue and had to comment. Surely Mr. Boardman was being facetious when stating 'That type of crime would not have happened in England'. Only an idiot would seriously say that, and only the most egregiously obtuse would ever believe it."
—Ron Thomas

And here's Mark Boardman's reply:

"Mr. Thomas,
"Thanks for your feedback on the Tunstall article in the October issue of the magazine.

"I think your judgment of the Tunstalls, both then and now, is a bit harsh.

"Gun violence in late 19th century England was very, very rare. During a three year period in the late 1880s-1890s, there were a total of three gun homicides in England (and that was when they had very liberal gun ownership and carrying laws).

"Beyond that, the Tunstalls were shocked and frustrated that they could not get legal redress for John's killing. After all, it was a legally constituted posse that gunned him down. Territorial authorities refused to get involved since the Santa Fe Ring was closely tied to the Murphy-Dolan faction in Lincoln County. Federal officials also stayed out of it--despite the fact that Sheriff Brady and at least two of his deputies also held deputy US marshal commissions. The Tunstalls truly believed that the English government would have handled things differently.

"To make matters worse, Jimmy Dolan and company the 'acquired ' all of Tunstall's property--with no compensation to the family. And their efforts to sue for such compensation ran into brick walls at every turn.

"The Tunstalls--including John--never entertained the thought that he might be the target of violence. That sort of thing did not happen in England; it was rare even in the U.S. John actually waited for the posse that killed him, instead of heading for the hills like BIlly the Kid and co. Was he naive? Undoubtedly. But he had no reason to think his life was in danger. And based on the letters he wrote home, his family never thought he was in danger, either.

"Considering the geographic distance, the socio-economic differences, the contrast in gun violence between the US and England, and even the shock that a family feels when one of their own is senselessly murdered, I think it's understandable that the Tunstalls--then and now--believed that such a crime would not and could not have happened in their country. I know for a fact that they even talked about what would have happened if he'd stayed in England to work--that he could have taken over the very successful family company with no danger to his life (even in the heat of tough competition).

"I've met the current Tunstalls, and I can tell you they are neither idiots or egregiously obtuse. And based on my readings and research, neither were their ancestors. It was a different time and place, that's all."


Mark Boardman
Features Editor
True West

"It's far easier to destroy than create."
—Old Vaquero Saying

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