Friday, January 26, 2018

As For Sources and Why I Don't List Them

On an Old West group that I still belong to on Facebook, I was asked about my sources for my Doc Holliday article, Was Doc Holliday A Bad Shot? 

I was asked what sources do I use besides period newspapers? Since I've been asked this before, let's talk about why I don't list sources. 

While most of you know that I research a lot of old newspapers, journals, diaries, and such, I hope you know that I'm a reader of just about anything dealing with history. I simply love the stories about what took place back when. I'm constantly amazed when learning things for the first time.

I've looked into historical records, arrest records, and even court records and testimonies such as his after the OK Corral shooting. As for the books that I've read on Doc Holliday and others, there's been a few here and there. 

I'm not going to lie and say that I don't have trust issues when it comes to reading the books of some writers out there. I simply don't trust what writers put out. Fact is, I've spent a lot of time trying to verify what some writers have had to say. That's even more true if I read something that simply doesn't sound right. 

As for my article "Was Doc Holliday A Bad Shot?"and about my sources pertaining to that article, I've read books by Ben T. Traywick, Karen Holliday Tanner, Gary Roberts, Jay Nash, Bob Boze Bell, and a few others, including a book that was supposedly written by Bat Masterson. Besides these newer books, I've read others back in the 1970s and '80s. But frankly, I simply can't remember the titles or authors. 

As for people sending me things, I've received email from people claiming they were his relatives. Some have told me, "To go to Hell." Others have wanted to send me things. Yes, I've gotten things from people claiming to be the ancestors of this bandit or that lawman, this gambler and that con artist, ranchers, and others. 

As for listing my sources, I don't do that because of a few reasons. First, during my life, I've read a lot about American history in general. Mostly, my interest has been about the Old West, the Great Depression, World War II, and the 1950s. 

Since around 1975 when I returned to the states from my overseas deployment in the Marine Corps, yes well over 40 years ago, I started reading and looking into a lot of Old West history. Part of that came from being stationed in Camp Pendleton starting in 1976. Every off duty day that I had was spent at the base stables, or helping a couple of retired Marines on their ranches, and of course learning more and more about the history of the Old West. Especially in the Southern California area. 

OK, so there was some drinking, and fishing, and carrying on during those off days as well. Yes, that included being so liquored up that I ended up on a saddle bronc more than once a few days before the Camp Pendleton Rodeo that year. 

But the point is, I started finding out that a great deal of the Old West that I learned about as a kid watching westerns on television in the 1950s and '60s was just not right. Worse yet, I was finding out that many of the so-called "historians" out there were full of shit. It seemed as though they didn't investigate things for themselves and simply relied on what others wrote in their books. It became real apparent that most writers were simply passing on the same information. At least, that's what I was seeing.  

I remember reading a book back in the 1970s that came out in the 1950s regarding Old West "gunfighters". It was supposedly written by an "eye-witness" and "former deputy" if I remember right. I found out later that it was just a book of fairy tales. 

As for becoming suspect of writers, there is something that I had learned in an Evidence Class while studying for my degree in Criminal Justice/ Administration of Justice. Yes, back in the early 1980s when I also took writing classes. 

My class took a long look at a book that came out at the time. If I recall correctly, it was in 1982. Our class debated it to no end. And for me, I walked away thinking that writers should never be fully trusted. And frankly, I still feel the same way and still don't trust them. 

The man who wrote that book was supposedly a "highly regarded researcher". He was praised by all sorts of supposed "experts" and he was treated as a go to know-it-all on his subject. No, I'm not talking about Glenn Boyer who many called a "Guru" and "Earpist" because he was seen as the leading authority on everything Wyatt Earp.

No, the writer that I'm talking about did not write about the Old West but instead about Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was a British author and lawyer by the name of Michael Eddowes. The premise of his book was that Oswald was not in his grave. In fact, the author stated that the man in Oswald's grave was actually a Soviet Union assassin. Yes, his assertion was that a Soviet killer assassinated President John F. Kennedy.    

Bet you think I'm making this up? Well, I'm not. 

Eddowes had published a book titled "Khrushchev Killed Kennedy" in 1975. That was his first in a series of three books that he put out over a five or six year span. All of his books were about the same thing in that he was making the case that the Soviet Union was responsible for killing President Kennedy.

No surprise really. Back in those days, there was a lot of that sort of thing with all sorts of people claiming that President Kennedy was killed by the CIA, the FBI, President Johnson, the Mafia, the Cubans, the Soviet Union. Some claims were so wild that the only ones weren't said to have done it was the Moron Tabernacle Choir. 

So no, what he came up with wasn't new. What was new is that the author's plot sounded convincing to a lot of people who wanted to believe it. If that sounds like the typical con artist ploy? It is.  

To make a long story short, according to the British author, Oswald was not killed. Instead there was a KGB trained look-alike that assumed his identity sometime while Oswald was visiting the Soviet Union. 

Even though all of the evidence that Eddowes put out in his third book of the three in 1977 titled "The Oswald File" was really circumstantial at best, the notion that the dead Oswald was actually a body-double took off like wildfire. A large number of people swallowed it in the same way that a large number of people have swallowed Al Gore's Global Warming scam. 

Eddowes used everything he could to back up his claim that Oswald was not killed or buried in Texas. He noted supposedly faked documents, faked records, and all sorts of other supposed facts to support his claim. And while Eddowes wasn’t the first to suggest there was more than one Lee Harvey Oswald in on the assassination of President Kennedy, I really believe he was just more persuasive than others before him. Yes, that included hawking his book on the talk-show circuit.

Believe it or not, his third book "The Oswald File" launched a federal investigation by the House Select Committee. The feds looked into it and found no evidence to support Eddowes' claims. No new evidence was looked at from his books, and the federal investigators put it down as just another conspiracy theory.  

Of course that didn't stop anyone from believing that nothing of the sort happened. Then even though no evidence existed, soon enough there were calls for Oswald to be exhumed. Yes, just to prove that the body in the coffin was a Soviet assassin.  

Soon more calls went out that the public "had a right to know" what was going on. Then it happened. Lee Harvey Oswald was exhumed. As crazy as it sounds, the state of Texas gave in to political pressure and on the morning of October 4th, 1981, they exhumed Lee Harvey Oswald at the Rose Hill Cemetery. 

Once at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, Assistant Dallas County Medical Examiner Linda E. Norton conducted an examination. She found what remained of his body still in the clothing that he had been buried in. While his corpse was close to being completely decomposed, the forensic team was said to have only needed Oswald's head for tests.  

Hours after the exhumation, a press conference was held. Dr. Norton then announced, "We, both individually and as a team, have concluded beyond any doubt, and I mean beyond any doubt, that the individual buried under the name Lee Harvey Oswald in Rose Hill Cemetery is, in fact, Lee Harvey Oswald."

To my recollection, that British author supposedly issued a statement saying that he was "surprised." If I remember right, it was also said at the time that when asked if he felt bad about costing the American taxpayer so much money on an investigation, and costing the state of Texas a lot of money while looking into the matter as well as the cost of the exhumation, he supposedly replied, "I was trying to sell books." 

We studied this case when it all first happened. It was a lesson to me that I've never forgotten. It's been a constant reminder that writers say what they want to sell books. That's the bottom line. Writers can pump out their chest and tell you how many papers that have put out or how many books they've had published, but that has nothing to do with whether or not their material is accurate, factual, or simply borrowed from someone else who may have fabricated it.

Lately, a book on President Trump has come out and that author has had to admit that he fabricated what was supposed to be facts. Yes, no different than what the supposed "Earp authority" Glenn Boyer is said to have done in his work. 

So now, since I haven't found a single book that completely agrees with what I've found out about the Old West, I don't list sources. Frankly, it doesn't mater to me if I've found what I can determine as some credible information or not. I don't like listing books because people see that as recommended reading.    

My reason is simple, I don't want people to read something that they see that I may have sourced and take the whole book as gospel. I don't want someone to say, "Parts of this sounds like bullshit! How could Tom use this as research material when it's only partly true?" And being frank, I don't want someone to ask the question, "How could he recommend it when it's only so-so true?"

I look at recommending a book as no different than recommending a bar.  If I recommend a bar, I'd say, "It's clean. Well lit. The drinks are good at a good price. You won't be ripped off. It's fun and the people are friendly! You'd enjoy the place. No buts about it." I wouldn't recommend a bar by saying, "Well, it's sort of OK in some ways but in some ways it's not and you decide!"  

I see sources the same as when I was trained to do a criminal investigations. I use the evidence that I can verify as a true or not as I sift through what I've found. I've learned that some things hold water while others don't even from the most celebrated writers. Whether I like it or not, I've found that some evidence is just hearsay, just conjecture, someone's biases, or may simply be false. 

To give you a quick example of how research can change things. I remember writing an article once that I had almost completed. That is until I found one piece of evidence that blew my whole article out of the water. The guy that I was writing about with such flattering terms, actually turned out to be a bum. I obviously shit-canned that article. 

As for my article on Doc Holliday? It's just my opinion based on what I've found. As I've said before, I'm a blogger and I'm not writing for a Historical Society. I'm not writing to extend my Criminal Justice credentials. I certainly don't write to be confused with some expert on television who knows it all. I write because I found a great number of things that I'd like to share. Things that changed my mind about many aspects of American history, especially Old West history. 

I've found out that some of those who we've learned were heroes, actually were not. Some who we have never heard of before, actually were. Because I'm satisfied with what I've learned on my own without being too influenced by other writers, I'd say Holliday was probably a lousy shot.  

Just the way I see it.

Tom Correa



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