Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Florid Flood

June 25, 2015
   Got up this morning and took a crack at another crack at Wyatt Earp, wearing his shirt sleeves with the unique badge he and fellow deputy, Bat Masterson wore in Dodge City when they were policemen.

 Daily Whip Out: "Wyatt Earp In Dodge, 1876"

   I sit in my office, surrounded by Wyatt Earp books. There's Casey Tefertiller's classic "The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp," and Allen Barra's "Inventing Wyatt Earp," plus "Lady at The O.K. Corral" by Ann Kirschner, and, "Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal," along with "Tombstone: An Iliad of The Southwest," and the newest book of the bunch "Epitaph" (actually historical fiction) by Mary Doria Russell. All of them pack a punch and every one has something pertinent to say about Wyatt B.S. Earp. Most of the above books deal, allude to, or talk about The Flood Manuscript. John H. Flood was a mining engineer who befriended the Earps and typed their correspondence and took care of business matters from time to time. They didn't pay him, they needed him, and he felt kindly towards them. At some point, around 1915, they all decided that Flood should write a book about Wyatt's life. We assume Flood was flattered and so the young mining engineer came to their house in the evenings and wrote down what the old gambler and lawman had to say. He once said the cigar smoke got pretty thick in there. I imagine that wasn't all that was thick. I've always wanted to read the Flood Manuscript because I felt like it was probably closer to Wyatt's version of the Tombstone events than either Burns or Lake, and perhaps the truth would be more apparent, or at least not as adorned, or stretched. A copy is very expensive (Glenn Boyer published a limited edition of 100 for $100 each back in the early eighties) and I never bought one. Well, thanks to Mark Boardman, who has a copy, I finally have a chance to take a peek at it.

The Flood Manuscript Title Page
I wonder how long it took Flood to create that title using a manual typewriter?

John H. Flood, left, circa 1896, and as an older man

Flood gave it his best shot, but the manuscript was rejected by everyone the Earps sent it to. Everyone who tried to read it agreed that it was "florid." Here's a taste from page 32:

"The breeze was warm, and mingled with the breath of Spring, was the smell of sawdust and the sound of pounding hammers. Hope was new, and courage, and anticipation; they filled the air, even to exhilaration, and Wichita, flat squat, pudgy Wichita, toiled with perspiration and struggled upward with a pomposity and importance that heralded to the world that it was the one great, great howling cow-town, paramount to all other cow-towns, big cow-towns and little cow-towns."

   More to report as I work my way through it.

"The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment."
—Pema Chodron

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