Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Articles Aren't Going To Please Everyone

Dear Friends,

You have been asking me about my history sources, about the books and the newspapers archives, the websites, and all that I use for source material. You've asked why I don't list my sources and where I get my information from?

Most of my regular readers know that I read a lot of old newspapers, court documents, pioneer journals, and that sorts of things, along with books by assorted writers. Most of my regular readers also know that I do source where I've gotten quotes from.

What most probably don't know is that I don't see any one author or any one book out there as the go-to book for Old West history, especially for information on the Earps. I have used a number of sources and I've had to verify a lot of what I've found.

I take what I find and try to verify the accuracy of what is being said before passing it on to you. Some information I find as good and other information I find that I can't verify and use. There are a few books that I'm going to recommend in the future, but even with those one has to take a hard look at what's being presented.

In one case, such when two newspapers wrote about the same event but had two different spins on what took place, I actually passed on both versions for you to check out for yourselves. Yes, that was the way the Tombstone Epitaph covered the gunfight near the OK Corral versus the way the Tombstone Nugget covered the same story.

OK Corral Gunfight -- Tombstone Epitaph, October 27th,1881

OK Corral Gunfight -- The Tombstone Nugget, October 27th, 1881

There are obvious biases in both reports. Yes, one is slanted to support the Earp faction while the other is slanted to support the Clanton faction. And yes, unlike some newspaper articles from the Old West which are pretty cut-and-dried, trying to ferret out the truth from papers like the Tombstone Epitaph which was pro-Earps and the Nugget which was pro-Clantons can be a real challenge.

Usually the truth lies somewhere in between the two. And frankly, I've found that it takes more work verifying the truth when reading obviously biased newspaper reports. Yes, the same way as it takes a lot more time and effort when trying to verify something said in biased books. For me, I love it when I can sense a writer doesn't have a dog in the fight and just gives me the straight scoop on things. And since I know I like that, I figure you do too.

Whether I'm watching television news, or doing research, I really prefer fair and balanced. And while I know that I really do try to give you my readers the same sort of fair and balanced report when putting out an article on American History, I know real well that I can't help stating my amazement at time.

Even though that might happen now and then, I really try not to be too obvious in how I see some historical figure. The problem of course is that like you, the more I learn about someone the more my own opinion of who they are is formed. The hard task for me is keeping my feelings out of an article until I've made my case of who they were based on the facts.

That's really what I try to say, for example, Killer Jim Miller was Satan and then explain how I arrived at that conclusion. My hope is that my evidence as you saying that he was as well.

I know real well that I'm not going to please everyone. And yes, that is a part of being a writer of history versus someone who writes fiction. Fiction writers can literally say anything and get away with it because it's all not true, it's just fiction. Writing about history is different in that one has to get it right. Or certainly should try without making himself look like a fool by screwing up.

Yes, all while trying to tell a good story. And friends, I really do try telling good stories. I believe you are coming here for that and really not here for my biases when it comes to historical figures and events.

I've stated before that I do not trust what some so-called "Historians" have written simply because of their biases for or against. Many cannot report their findings without reporting their feelings and prejudices. That's why I like to verify what I'm putting out, even when I find it hard to believe for one reason or another. Yes, most times the reason that I find something hard to believe is when it's something that goes completely against who the person has presented themselves to be in one way or another.

Also, it should be noted that I've worked on whole articles and had to scrap them simply because I found evidence that went against the basis, yes the basic premise, of the story. I usually stick those stories in my "draft" files until I can verify what it true or not. And if you're wondering how I can put out a piece every few days these days? Well, over the past 20 years, I've accumulated about two hundred stories about people and events. All were things that I stumbled on that I found fascinating that I wanted to share one day. My blog gives me a venue to share them. And yes, they are sitting in "draft" form just waiting to be attended to. Imagine that.

About now someone who is reading this is saying, what about my feelings and prejudices against Wyatt Earp since I've labeled him a pimp, a horse thief, a con -artist, and a murderer?

Friends, these labels are me just calling a spade a spade. I don't hate or like the man because he means nothing to me. I'm just stating what he was because that's who he was in his lifetime. Like it or not, Wyatt Earp was indeed arrested as a pimp, he was arrested for stealing a horse and escaped jail, he was a known con-artist, and he was charged with the murder of Frank Stilwell and fled Arizona instead of standing trail. These are not disputable. These are true proven facts. No one can say that these things are not true because they are.

Some people have this ludicrous notion that I'm "attacking" Wyatt Earp as if I have some sort of personal vendetta against him. One reader recently wrote to say that I must be a distant relation of the Clantons and McLaurys because of my article taking on the Wyatt Earp myth.

Imagine that. Of course I'm sure my mother will be surprised at that considering my entire family originates from Hawaii and can be traced back to 1849 and the Portuguese whalers who visited there.

Some readers have written to ask that I "soften" how I say what I do about Wyatt Earp. But sadly, these same folks do not understand that these are not "attacks" on Wyatt Earp. I'm just stating indisputable facts of what he did in his lifetime. And no, all of the excuses for him doing these things does not change the fact that he did these things.

A vandal breaks a window during a riot. It doesn't matter why he did it. He is still a vandal. The same goes for a man who steals a horse. It doesn't matter that he stole that horse because he "felt" that he needed one because he didn't have one. That's not a "good excuse" for stealing a horse. There's never been "good excuses" for doing bad things. If one steals a horse, for whatever excuse that that person can come up with, that person is still a horse thief. A man who murders someone, then flees the scene of the crime is a murderer. It doesn't matter if he did it out of revenge or because he suddenly "felt" that in this occasion he couldn't get justice from the courts, even though he himself had always had gotten justice previously, his actions make him a murderer.

No, I don't buy the excuses that people come up with. And that's especially true when it comes to committing capital crimes. Maybe it's a hold over from my days of working in Corrections when every inmate that I met all claimed to be innocent as they saw it, and all had "good excuses" for breaking the law? Maybe it's my seeing people doing horrible things, behaving in evil ways, and then making excuses for their actions? Maybe it's from my being brought up to understand that people have to answer for the things they do? That actions have consequences.

Frankly, I hate political spin. In many of my articles that I've done regarding the news of today, I find that I've had to fight the political spin. Gun related incidents in the news very commonly contain anti-gun spin by the media. The same goes if a news outlet leans more to the left than being in the center politically, and makes implausible excuses for the criminal actions of someone they support when in fact that person should be going to prison. In politics, spin is a form of making excuses by way of a biased interpretation of an action and/or an event. Spin in itself is essentially campaigning to persuade public opinion.

I don't think history should be spun to make excuses for people or some of the horrible things in our past. And yes, I see that in history articles all the time. Words are used to sway a reader to be in favor or be against some historical figures all the time. And that's true, especially these days when a number of writers are busy re-writing history. I'm not into re-writing history. I'm really into the facts of what took place or who people were.

If, after reading about some historical figure one walks away saying, "Wow, that so and so really was a great person," than that's great. If after after reading about some historical figure one walks away saying, "Wow, that so and so really was a bum," than that's great as well.

The point is that you are the jury when it comes to me presenting the evidence. I present the evidence of what I've found and verified as true. As neither the prosecutor or a defense attorney, but as someone who is impartial, I simply hand you my findings. Then it's up to you to ask yourself what sort of person someone is or isn't?

Friends, I believe that that's the way history should be presented to us. It should not be dressed up as one side or the other want us to see it. It shouldn't be glossed over or amplified as something that it's not. History should be seen for all of its facts, its quirks, its good, its bad, its mysteries, its glory, or whether or not it's deserving of disdain.

Whether it's the stories of Stagecoach Mary -- An Extraordinary Woman and
Harry Nicholson Morse -- A Better Lawman Than Most Legends who exemplified the greatness of the human spirit, or whether it's the stories of Soapy Smith & The Shootout on Juneau Wharf and Killer Jim Miller - Outlaw & Assassin who exemplified evil in people, we should be able to see why for ourselves.

Yes, that's what I try to do when I take on an examination of Old West legends and events. I really just try to give you the facts and let you see who these people are for yourselves. I'm frank, direct, and on the level with my readers while presenting straightforward factual information. 

I've gotten hate mail and ridicule from people who don't like reading some of the things that I've put out. But also, I've gotten thanks. And being frank with you, I see all of it as simply being part of the territory of being a writer. I know real well that I'm not going to please everyone, especially someone who tells me that I'm "purposely disparaging their great-great-great-great-grandfather" even though he was a known psychopathic murderer like say Killer Jim Miller. 

So yes, sadly it's true. My articles aren't going to please everyone. Of course even though that's the case, as always I appreciate you reading my work and supporting my little blog. Thank you.

Tom Correa





2 comments:

  1. Ever writer puts something of himself into what he writes...and that's a good thing. I keep reading what you write not because I can't track down the information myself if I choose, but because I enjoy reading your take on that information.

    I'm currently finishing work on a biography of Texas Jack Omohundro, trail and stage partner of Buffalo Bill Cody. The only previous book about Texas Jack is Hershel Logan's 1954 work, Buckskin and Satin. It's a decent little book, but its obvious that Mr. Logan was a big fan of Jack. Logan happened to own one of Jack's old guns (a beautiful Smith & Wesson Model 3 American now in the collection of Cimmaron Arms founder Mike Harvey), so maybe he had a vested interest in making Jack appear as heroic as the dime novel writers made him. So Logan shied away from Jack's failures, including his fondness for whisky. I think that when we view these men as human rather than superhuman we can better appreciate who they were...men of their time. Not knights in shining armor, just real people going about the business of being alive.

    Keep up the writing, and I'll keep reading.

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  2. Totally agree! And Killin ' Jim was my cousin and you're right, he was a psychopathic murderer. Love your writings, and love the no political spin. Thank you.

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