Yesterday, on the True West magazine web site where I also blog, there was a shootout. Not with bullets, but with words. The perpetrator was a known stalker of mine, who came gunning for me. The stalker made his violence palpable.
The topic of the blog was titled, “Related to a Historical Person?” (The posting has since been taken down by True West) I don’t think Walker, the poster of the blog, had any idea what was in store. I humorously chimed in about being a cousin to Sam Walton, but always I’m denied the family discount at Walmart. Randomly, out of nowhere, the stalker appeared under the cover of an anonymous alias to execute the dirty work.
Repeatedly, the stalker badgered me to reveal if I was or was not related to Jesse James. By custom, I do not claim to be related. I know full well the danger it produces and the harm it generates. The stalker furthered badgered me about The James Preservation Trust, founded by myself & the great grandson of Jesse James to address the historical interests of the Jesse James family. The stalker charged me with creating a phantom organization. In fact, the Trust is well documented in the public record & its officers publically identified on Stray Leaves for years. As for me, for the last 55 years I’ve lead a very public life, the information of which anyone can find if they just go looking for it.
My first warning about stalkers came from my mother-in-law in my second marriage. Miss Nancy was the daughter of famed tobacco scion R. J. Reynolds. At first, probing to learn if I myself was a stalker of her daughter, Miss Nancy soon turned in a motherly way to advise me of what I myself may expect. Though she spoke of paranoia, as I could expect to experience it, she also made clear that personal and even physical violence would be an ever constant threat. With that said, she then took me for a ride in her highly polished, black Chrysler that was almost twenty years old. She drove off, leaving her chauffeur standing in the garage.
Miss Nancy was right. My Hollywood marriage to her daughter was littered with a constant litany of worthless sycophants, predatory investment schemers, mongering Scientologists, and the occasional crazed drugee who appeared out of nowhere but required removal from the grounds by police. Living behind closed gates was not sufficient. Nor was it enough to employ three Great Danes, two Bloodhounds, and a St. Bernard in a chronic riot of barking for protection. Every moment you knew that someone was out there, trying to get at you for something, usually having nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.
Even before Jesse James was assassinated, the James family had formed its own defenses. Their common defense was to decompose the family into isolated cells of protective anonymity. Personal identity was surrendered. Surrendered, too, was any sense of common family. For more than 125 years, the James family has endured under its shroud since. One line of the family can’t even recognize the other, and occasionally won’t. My book Soul Liberty, to begin publication next year in four successive volumes, will address the James family condition and their identity lost to a constant state of seeming redemptive purgatory.
Personally, I do not open the door to someone unexpected. Too many come to the door unannounced. I do not pick up the phone of an unidentified caller, or a caller I don’t know. One stalker called me five times a day, every day for three years. I’ve learned to change my unlisted phone numbers often. Like Frank James, who circumnavigated the exterior residence before sitting down to a meal with his back to the wall, I too have event rituals I will not mention. I’ve notified certain individuals, that should I encounter a violent or unexpected or unexplained demise, there is a list of those who authorities should investigate.
I don’t consider myself a hunted man. But I do consider myself haunted. The last time R. J. Reynolds peered down at me was from a tin advertisement for his tobacco, nailed to the rafter of a log cabin gift shop at the Calico Mine in Barstow, California, as I and his granddaughter blithely shopped for souvenirs. The last time Jesse James peered at me was from the grave of his twin children, when I exhumed them in Waverly, Tennessee, to re-inter them with Jesse and their mother Zee James in Kearney, Missouri, per Zee’s lifelong wish, and per the promise she extracted from Jesse Jr., a promise left unfulfilled for too long.
In some way, I both regret and am happy that Brad Pitt’s movie, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, was not as successful as it deserved to be. I got its message in a big way! All it takes is one worthless individual, who is so devoid of self that their own identity must be found by inflicting harm on someone who is better known or recognized.
So, I live more in the virtual world today than in public. More in media, and on the internet, where cyber-stalkers are as real as any true-life physical stalker. Actually, cyber-stalkers are easier to deal with than physical stalkers. When cyber-stalkers appear, I record them, produce the record of their actions against me, and place the record with authorities for any future reference that may be required. It’s far better than living behind electric gates with five barking dogs. And, like Miss Nancy, I’d still get to drive my big, black, 1979 Lincoln Town Car, if I hadn’t sold it when petro-dollars went to four bucks a gallon.
The page for the blog link “Related to Historical People” has since been removed from the True West web site.