(The following is copyright 2009 by SJ Reidhead and may not be copied or duplicated in any way. To use excerpts, please contact the author.)
TRAVESTY: Frank Waters Earp Agenda Explained is available by contacting SJ Reidhead.
NOTE: Blogging is basically a ‘hobby’ and an obsession for me. In real life I specialize in the life of Wyatt Earp, Tombstone, and the role of women in the “wild west”. Two of my novels have been published, along with two non-fiction, the first being TRAVESTY, which has about 525 pages and nearly 2500 footnotes. The 2nd, A Church for Helldorado, is a transcription of what it to date, only the 2nd Earp era, Tombstone diary yet discovered. I am currently attempting to put a collection of my articles and essays about Wyatt Earp together for publication while I work on this blasted blog and enter the 2nd phase of a book on fashion in the Wild West.
TRAVESTY was the most difficult thing I’ve done in my entire life. It was at times an effort in futility and absolute frustration. The very real problem was dealing with a “literary icon” who based his entire life on lies about himself, his family, and his background. That whole sick pathology of Frank Waters seeped into “Tombstone Travesty” and later into “The Earp Brothers of Tombstone”.
After spending a good 5 years tracking him and trying to substantiate his sources, many of which turned out to be abject fabrication and lies, I gave up giving him the benefit of the doubt. He deserves none. I’ve subsequently come to learn that there are some interesting stories about the veracity of “The Book of the Hopi”.
The problem there is we will never know. Don’t hold me to the time frame here because it has been a good decade since I have been through the Waters’ material at UNM. I seem to remember the “Hopi” is embargoed on a permanent basis. That alone raises red flags for me.
I went through all of Waters’ correspondence at UNM dealing with “Tombstone Travesty”. It became obvious that Waters did not keep anything that was negative or a criticism of his work, only hanging onto letters that were glowing in their praise of him and damning in their criticism of Wyatt Earp.
This in turn brings up the problem of the paper trail dealing with “TT”. There is none. There’s nothing but a manuscript and a few letters. Allegedly, Waters left his “notes” on the subject with Gilchriese, but I’ve never been able to verify this. I suspect the entire tale is nothing but smoke and mirrors – par for the course when dealing with the pathological narcissism of Frank Waters.
I came to truly dislike Waters after I “got to know him”. I have a problem with someone who, because of their “celebrity” is allowed to be abusive (at least emotionally, and there indications of physical) to a spouse. He was a “great” man and one must make allowances for his behavior. After I discovered how he treated his widow, then his wife, I realized I was dealing with an abusive, manipulative (for want of a better word) jerk, who would do just about anything to make himself look good.
Frank Waters perpetrated this “abuse” against Allie Earp and her story. There is not other way to describe what he did to her, and to her dreams and wishes. If Allie’s story had not been so tragic, and her lover for Virgil so obvious, one could give Waters something of a pass on what he did to her. He manipulated her story, then trashed her memories. There is no other way to describe it.
To make excuses for Waters, in my opinion, is enabling his pathological and psychopathic narcissism. One of the things I did while trying to understand him was to consult a Freudian psychologist, providing him with a good six inches of notes. The above pathological and psychopathic narcissism was his diagnosis, based on the caveat that the diagnosis was post mortem.
My favorite reason for Waters’ having done what he did to Allie was his jealously of Stuart Lake. The real problem with that theory is the fact that there is a letter on file in at UNM from his sister, detailing her dislike of the Earps, and the pity she felt for Josie for not knowing what a bad man Wyatt was. Because the dating of the letter is tenuous at best, I was able to come up with a time frame of 1933 – 1935. Waters’ hatred of all things Earp could not simply be based on his jealousy of Stuart Lake. There had to be another reason. The problem, I have yet to find it.
Evidently people are willing to take Waters at his prevaricating face value and not delve into his back-ground. When I would contact historians, archivists, genealogists, and local experts from Colorado Springs all the way to Indiana, I would get the same comment, “I’m sure glad someone is finally checking into his background.”
The “Colorado” is semi-autobiographical and is part of a series of books Waters wrote, fabricating a biography, and denigrating his mother’s family. For some strange reason he wanted a background based on poverty, depravation, and discrimination. Since that was not the case in his life, he simply lied about it. He fabricated the story that his father was part Native American. I did the family genealogy and discovered there was no real possibility that Waters’ father had any Native American “blood”. I did, however, discover that his father grew up not too far from Pella, Iowa, about the same time the Earps were living there.
Was there a connection? I’ve yet to find one.
I went on to discover a few more absolutely fascinating things about Frank Waters, that I do not feel free to reveal. One of the interesting aspects of his “character” is the fact that he would spend about three or four months with a “friend” then move on to sponge off someone else. Also, when he made the presentation and query for what would become EBOT, he was such an unknown author that he had to “prove” himself in order to see the manuscript.
Frank Waters lied about the Earps. He manipulated and mis-represented sources. There is one glaring example where he simply fabricated both words and the resume of a decent and honorable man, just to make Wyatt Earp look bad. When I finally managed to locate the man’s daughter, I was told that her father could never understand why Frank Waters lied about him.
One of the problems in dealing with Frank Waters is the fact that we do not like to discover that “Icons” we admire based their entire career on lies and misrepresentations of the truth. I think if we do admit this, we somehow seem to admit there is a character flaw within us for having admired this person. The real problem is the vast majority of us are decent, honorable people, researchers, and writers who would never think of fabricating a major piece for self-promotion and malicious mendacity. We automatically assume people are as decent and honorable as are we, and not given to what basically amounts to fraud. Frank Waters betrayal of Allie Earp and the subsequent publication of “The Earp Brothers of Tombstone”, is outright fraud.
The other aspect of both the original manuscript (I believe there was a previous version of TT, but have never been able to prove it) and the final EBOT that bothers me is the fact that Waters’ hatred of the Earps was so irrational he even “trashed” his beloved New Mexico. He detested the Earps so much he even played fast and loose with New Mexico and the people of New Mexico. I detail this in TRAVESTY, as well as the abject lies Waters told about Allie’s background. He took a lonely, broken, frail old woman who was noted for her love and kindness and turned her into someone almost unrecognizable. Allie loved Virgil so much she did not even complain about how Waters lied about her, but what he did to her beloved Virgil.