Tuesday, August 01, 2023

A Tombstone Reckoning Through A Notorious History Hardass

 August 1, 2023

   One thing is clear: we have done our share to keep Tombstone alive. That would be the movie and the town. Here's a gaggle of the Wyatt-Doc-Tombstone covers we have produced in the past 23 years.


    Part of me is not quite proud of this achievement because my mother's side of the family did not like Wyatt Earp one bit.

Bobbi Guess at King Tut Mine, 1936


 Speaking of my mother, when I was young and cocky, I didn't believe in "writer's block." I thought it was a lame excuse by weak little whiners who didn't want to work. But then, when I turned forty, I suddenly found myself blocked and discouraged. One of blessings of marrying a therapist is getting the inside track on dealing with stuff like this. She recommended a guy named Will Heywood, who, as unlikely as it seems, specialized in artist's hitting the wall at age forty.

   Will Heywood wrote his thesis on artist's hitting the wall at the age of forty. Long story short, Will freed me from my self-imposed chains and I co-dedicated my first Wyatt Earp book to him and the woman who recommended him to me. As an amazing offshoot, he came back from a vacation with his girlfriend, in Santa Fe, and told me his next door B&B neighbor was the set designer on a movie being filmed out at Cook's Ranch. It was "Wyatt Earp" starring Kevin Costner. The neighbor asked Will to ask me to send him my new book and I did and the set designer ended up buying 75 of my Wyatt Earp books for the crew and he invited me to visit the set. So, on Thanksgiving Day of 1993 Kathy and I visited the set and watched them film a scene on a very cold day.

When Cartooning Actually Paid Off

   I met this key guy in the Wyatt Earp World because of a cartoon I did in New Times Weekly. He was a notorious history hard ass and had rebuffed me when I tried to contact him through the normal channels ( a gushing and naive letter asking for his historical help on Wyatt Earp), but a cartoon sent to him by a New Times fan, softened his heart and he invited me to Tucson and we had an amazing lunch at Ye-Old Lantern on Miracle Mile. I quickly realized I couldn't ask him a direct question about Wyatt Earp. He would immediately go into a rant ("You wouldn't like him! He's not who you think he was!?) and so, I quickly learned to ask him other questions about Tombstone and then he would answer and tell me many things about Wyatt and all the Earps.

John Gilchriese at Earp's grave in the Hills of Eternity Memorial Park in Colma, California, on March 29, 1956

It was Gilchriese who actually found the lost grave of Wyatt Earp and "Sadie." And, it was Gilchriese and Frank Waters who discovered the coroner's inquest for Mattie Earp who died from an overdose of laudanum at Pinal, Arizona. And, it was Mattie who said. . .

"Wyatt Earp ruined my life."

—Mattie Earp

And it was my grandmother who said,

"Wyatt Earp was the biggest jerk who ever walked the West!"

—Lue Guess Swafford


  1. Anonymous7:47 PM

    Well it seems those who like to dis Ole Wyatt are the ones who have and continue to make lots off money off him selling books and magazines about him.Butvwwho is the pimp, lol.

  2. After recently reading Tom Clavin's book on Tombstone, I walked away with the impression that maybe they've been making these books and movies about the wrong Earp all along. Virgil was quite a guy, it seems. At least I would probably rather have a conversation with him over the others.


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