What History Has Taught Me: Mark Boardman

Mark Boardman Western History True West
True West’s Features Editor Mark Boardman has taken on the reins of Arizona’s oldest continuously published newspaper, The Tombstone Epitaph. He is also the chief purveyor of ScarletMask Enterprises, and the pastor at Poplar Grove United Methodist Church in Wilbur, Indiana, near Avon, where he lives with his wife, Patty. The Northwestern University graduate also appeared in 2015’s Gunslingers that aired on the Discovery Channel.

My favorite Old West character is Jim Miller. We still don’t know everything he did or all the people he killed. We have more to discover about this hired killer (and, for awhile, seemingly devout Methodist).

What most people don’t understand about Tombstone’s history is that the well-known stuff occurred in a brief period of time. The real heyday of Tombstone was only about seven years, and the better known events took place in a three-year span.

When I write my sermons, I always try to find a story that ties into the scripture lesson—and then make it relevant for the congregation.

Balancing Old West history with the ministry is not hard. In fact, the story of the Old West is replete with sinners and angels, heaven and hell, faith and hope.

The kind of history I prefer to read covers outlaws and lawmen and gunfighters, or character-driven stories.

Mark Boardman Western History True West
“I love Doc Holliday’s lines in 1993’s Tombstone,” Mark Boardman says, “ ‘specially the debate in Latin with Johnny Ringo. His most interesting comment came when Doc says that Wyatt Earp is not seeking revenge, but a reckoning. Although I don’t think we’ll start calling the ‘Vendetta Ride’ the ‘Reckoning Ride.’”

Most people don’t know that I love prog music, particularly Yes, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and the Neal Morse Band.

Don’t get me started on people who continue to spread legends and myths (and lies) as fact. Especially those people who should know better.

The problems we face today aren’t that different than the ones faced in the Old West. Humans cause most of them—and have the tools to solve them as well.

Did Wyatt Earp kill “Curly Bill” Brocius? I believe he did, even though the supportive evidence is a bit thin. The fact that Curly Bill disappeared after the Iron Springs affray is a compelling argument that Earp did kill him.

My goal for The Tombstone Epitaph is to dominate the world. Or to continue the long tradition of presenting the great stories of the Old West.

John Clum started this classic newspaper, and I intend to continue the tradition. But I don’t do printing presses.  I’m not an ink-stained wretch. Well, at least not ink-stained.

The first time I visited Tombstone, in 1999, I was in awe seeing such a legendary place. I was a real tourist, with camera (no Hawaiian shirt, though).

Most people don’t know I had a wild past in public radio.  I worked at National Public Radio for awhile and managed several stations. And, yes, I was pretty wild. So wild that I was encouraged to leave the field–which took me to Old West studies.

Wish I had a dollar for every time somebody said, “You were the last person I thought would become a pastor.” My mom says that every time we’re together.  She’s right.

History has taught me that we can learn from the past—but all too often don’t. And it can be fun to study—but all too often isn’t.

If this were 1881, my first interview would be John Clum.  “How the heck do I run this newspaper, John?”

What do you think?

Mark Boardman

Mark Boardman is the features editor for True West Magazine as well as the editor of The Tombstone Epitaph. He also serves as pastor for Poplar Grove United Methodist Church in Indiana.