Wednesday, July 11, 2018

History vs. Poetry

July 11, 2018
   The final pages of our September issue went out the door on Monday and I regret to say I had to swallow a couple bitter pills. I had a great quote for the cover that I thought really set up the entire package:

"Don't follow me. I've made a wreck of my life."
—Cole Younger

 But, on Monday morning I got an email from our editor asking where I got the quote, since it does not show up in his autobiography or anywhere else she could find. For the life of me I couldn't find it in my notes, which date back to September of 2001 when I was in Minnesota tracking the James-Younger Gang with master researcher Jack Koblas. Unfortunately, Jack has passed, but I contacted Mark Lee Gardner but he had never seen the quote, either, so rather than take a chance, I pulled it off the cover. 

   It gets worse. Another one of my favorite quotes from this story is: "We are rough men. Used to rough ways." I've seen it attributed to Cole, but more often to Bob Younger. I even used this quote on the opening spread of my Bad Men book back in 1999. Well, Meghan, once again finds a newspaper account that contains the quote and here it is:

   So, technically it's the newspaper reporter who says, quoting Bob Younger: "We are rough boys, used to rough work." Well, crap, that is not as good a quote. The first one is poetry and this second one is, well, certainly not as strong. So, rather than fight this (and try and find the genesis of the rough men quote), I had to let both quotes go for the sake of accurate history.

"History has ruined many a good story. This is one of them."
—Old Vaquero Saying


  1. It'll work in the screenplay...

  2. "Be True to your Friends if the Heaven's Fall" That's the best quote from Cole Younger. He never pinned the murder of Heywood on Frank James and he never admitted that Frank and Jesse were ever even in Northfield. That's one hombre who know how to keep a secret.

  3. I don't like it when it isn't what it was...


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