Joseph Roper was interviewed several times in 1938 as a contribution to the American Legends Collection‚ a part of the Federal Writers Project. Speaking into an Edison Dictaphone‚ it took many cylinders for him to narrate the events of his life connected with the Ian McCandles gang that had made him‚ at the age of seventeen‚ a legend not only in Idaho Territory but in the American West.
He recalled: “A lot of people go to those moving-picture shows and think they’re seeing the real McCoy‚ but that&rsquos not the way it was. You take a guy like William S. Hart‚ or that kid‚ John Wayne. They try to come off rough-barked‚ but they’re nothing but a bunch of lilies compared to men like Ian McCandles.
I’ll tell you something else about those cowboy pictures. They’re clean‚ barely a smudge of dirt anywhere‚ but what happened out there in City of Rocks wasn&rsquot clean. It was grimy and smelly and gut-numbingly cold. Men died‚ and when they did they didn’t just grab their chests and fall over. They got knocked down hard and the life spilled out of them like blood from a butchered hog. I guess I ought to know since I was there. Since it was me who did most of the killing that day.”
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