Without a doubt, the number one question I get from readers of True West magazine is "where do you go to get the truth about Old West gunfights?" The answer is quite simple: find the expert.
Case in point: when it comes to The Pleasant Valley War, there are several experts, our own Marshall Trimble, being one of the best. But even Marshall defers to the late Don Dedera, who, as the editor of Arizona Highways, gave me my first break in illustration. Don spent 30 years researching all aspects of the infamous feud between the Tewksburys and the Grahams and his seminal book, "A Little War of Our Own" is the book I relied upon to get the truth about the opening salvo in that killfest that came off on July 22, 1884.
Here's a sneak peek at my photo reference for another scene of the gunfight. Yes that is John Boessenecker's book, "Gold Dust & Gunsmoke" in the back, left.
And here's the final:
"A document untended, like a child or calf or lamb, may stray. Destructive coyotes rove everywhere. Raptors of ruin—fire and mildew and acid and flood and radiation and inattention and pilferage—circle written knowledge in infinite patience. Faceless, faithful file clerks, not famous historians, are the shepherds of the past. And when an anonymous pastor of fact dozes on watch, a word or image may wander, allowing time's predators to pounce. Often, there is not even a small cry in the dark. Some precious fact voicelessly vanishes, likely forever."
—Don Dedera, author of "A Little War of Our Own: The Pleasant Valley