The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970 Page: 382
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Edison records, not realizing that they have hundreds of spiritual
brothers poking about in the hinterlands and hoping to publish their
findings. A sense of group involvement would send them scurrying
down their lonely pathways with much more zest and enjoyment.
I know about this because I was slow myself to get my bearings. As
I look back now, however, I can see that at every turn I was digging
deeper into those grassroots-just as if I knew what I was doing. I be-
gan working at ground level soon after I became a Texan when I
heard about the Jaybird-Woodpecker feud at Richmond, Texas, which
ended in a riot around the courthouse in 1889." The Jaybirds and
the Woodpeckers! You have no idea how strange and wonderful that
sounded to me. Minnesota and Massachusetts, where I was most at
home, could offer nothing to compare with it. I had to know more.
So in the summer of 1933, I went to Richmond. When I got back to
El Paso, I was thoroughly infected and started collecting information
about the El Paso Salt War. Then came an old gambler and saloon-
keeper named Billy King who sent me off to the grassroots at Tomb-
stone, Arizona. After that I began finding out about Judge Roy Bean
and simultaneously kept files going on more Texas vendettas. Since
then I have turned out four books on Texas and New Mexico feuds,
one on Brushy Bill Roberts, who said he was Billy the Kid, a study
of the contemporary cattlemen based almost entirely on interviews
(good grassroots material), and a history of the Mescalero Apaches
which cost me many weary hours cornering old Indians who did not
wish to talk to me or anybody else.' It was all grassroots history. The
projects I am working on now are grassroots history. Like all my col-
leagues in the unorganized fraternity of grassroots historians, I am
hooked and it is too late for me to reform.
When I began operations, I found that I was a prophet without
honor in any country. Zane Grey and the romancers were riding high.
The skeptical historians of the fifties and sixties were still in high
school, and Eastern publishers were politely incredulous that anybody
would want to know, for its own sake, the truth about pioneer times.
2For a brief account of the Jaybird-Woodpecker feud and its aftermath see C. L. Son-
nichsen, I'll Die Before I'll Run: The Story of the Great Feuds of Texas (New York,
SI'll Die Before I'll Run; Ten Texas Feuds (Albuquerque, 1957) ; Tularosa: Last of the
Frontier West (New York, 1960); Outlaw: Billy Mitchell alias Baldy Russell, His Life
and Times (Denver, 1965); Alias Billy the Kid, written with William V. Morrison
(Albuquerque, 1955); Cowboys and Cattle Kings (Norman, Okla., 1950); The Mescalero
Apaches (Norman, Okla., 1958).
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970, periodical, 1970; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117147/m1/418/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.