Longform

How the West Was Spun

Page 2 of 11

When Boyer began to gain his reputation as an Earp researcher in the 1960s, he announced that he would wipe away the mythmaking of previous writers to bring the world the unvarnished truth of Wyatt Earp's life.

He said he would uncover what really happened the afternoon of October 26, 1881, when Earp, his brothers Morgan and Virgil and their friend Doc Holliday faced off against four members of the Clanton rustler gang on the streets of Tombstone, Arizona.

Instead, what Boyer delivered was obfuscation at the OK Corral.
He is fiercely unapologetic for whatever turmoil he might have caused in the annals of Western history.

"What the hell business of yours is it why I said anything?" Boyer wants to know. "I'm telling you that I did what I did and have no apologies to make. . . .

"This is an artistic effort. I don't have to adhere to the kind of jacket that these people are putting on me. I am not a historian. I'm a storyteller.

"I don't give a shit about young historians; did you ever stop to think about that? I do not have to give a shit about young historians, middle-aged historians, old historians, dead historians or historians who are not yet born. This is my fucking prerogative. I happen to be a literary artist performing."

Do you think Casey Tefertiller is a homosexual?" asks Boyer's wife, Western novelist Jane Candia Coleman.

Coleman and Boyer have been discussing the despicable group of people responsible for all of the recent trouble. They sit in the family room of their sprawling, mazelike house built out from a double-wide they purchased eight years ago. Boyer and Coleman share their spread with four horses, five dogs and six cats on 200 acres of ranchland in the San Simon Valley.

To the west lie the Chiricahua Mountains, to the east the Peloncillos. Down the middle of the valley runs the New Mexico-Arizona border. Boyer's place is just on the Arizona side, but his mail is delivered to a postal box in the wide spot in the road called Rodeo, New Mexico. Down the same road a ways, a monument marks the spot where Geronimo surrendered to the 4th U.S. Cavalry. The West happened here, and it's easy to imagine that it's never died.

On the wall above Boyer's head is a finely drawn illustration showing Wyatt Earp in old age. Beneath the lawman there's a younger Glenn Boyer. Between the two is a Colt .45. The caption: "Three Straight-Shootin' Western Legends."

The house is filled with books, many of them written by Boyer and Coleman. The two writers--he's 74, she's 59--say they've created the perfect place for their animals and books and research into the West.

But an annoying outside world keeps butting in.
Boyer, who has come to believe that the various cowboys aligned against the Earps in Tombstone were likely homosexuals, thinks it's an interesting parallel that he, as a living link to the Earps, should be fending off attacks from a bunch of people he imagines to be switch-hitters, homos and pedophiles.

"If you don't agree with him, you're either gay or a pedophile," complains collector Lee Simmons, who has been the subject of numerous Boyer salvos.

Boyer saves his most venomous attacks for the journalist Tefertiller, a former San Francisco Examiner baseball writer who last year published a weighty biography, Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend, without listing a single Boyer book in its bibliography, or giving credit to Boyer in footnotes.

In the Boyer mind, this is equivalent to refusing to give one's mother credit for one's birth.

But even more distasteful to Boyer and Coleman was Tefertiller's performance at a Phoenix hotel on January 3. After months of sniping, Western history buffs convinced Tefertiller and Boyer to appear onstage in a debate. At the last minute, a gravely ill Boyer bowed out. Tefertiller gave his presentation, which Coleman eagerly played back on videotape for a visitor.

Coleman asks if Tefertiller's mannerisms visible in the videotape--the way he moves, his hand gestures, the sound of his voice--suggest a swishy personality.

"People see that videotape and they think he seems, you know," Coleman trails off.

Boyer complains that some people miss the tongue-in-cheek nature of the needling he gives his critics. Doesn't his guest understand the humor of his attacks?

Then why call his detractors homosexuals? he's asked.
"Because they are," he says.
"Hey, are you a homosexual?" Coleman interjects. "I just wanted to know."
"We certainly wouldn't treat you any different if you were," Boyer says.

(Tefertiller, by the way, says he's not gay. In fact, he encouraged New Times to print Boyer's comments because he wants people to know Boyer makes these kinds of wild accusations against his critics. "Apparently, Boyer considers it highly demeaning to call people homosexuals. I think that is wrong on moral grounds and it is certainly wrong in this instance," he says.)

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Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega