Paul Cool was just that: cool. The coolest. And that went beyond the Old West field.
Oh, he was the coolest there, for sure. Cool was an incredible researcher and writer, investigating law and order in the Southwest. His book Salt Warriors: Insurgency on the Southwest Border is the analysis of the El Paso Salt War, a lesser known but historically important episode from 1877. His many articles for the Wild West History Association (WWHA) prove his interest in and knowledge of so many topics—especially Tombstone, the Earps, the Cowboys. He even did a couple of recent pieces for True West, one of which—“Did Remington Capture Clanton’s Last Breath?” (May 2016)—I was privileged to work on. He was a popular speaker at WWHA and other gatherings because he told stories, interesting stories. And Paul was so damn funny, never taking anything—certainly not himself—too seriously.
“Paul and I were in Tombstone for the 125th Anniversary of the Gunfight Near the OK Corral,” remembers researcher/writer Peter Brand, “and discussing Ike Clanton fleeing the gunfight. Paul decided to do an impression of Ike running away from Wyatt, but he did it as Grouch Marx, complete with stooped walk and cigar and wisecrack—‘too many Earps for my liking.’”
Paul Cool was the most interesting man in the world before the guy in the beer commercials came along. I know that personally. We spoke about religion, rock ‘n’ roll, literature, movies, food, wine, travel, world and American history, social issues, politics, and more—things that had nothing to do with the Old West. He knew his stuff in all of them. Paul loved to learn, and he loved to share that knowledge.
And in a field where folks don’t always get along, Paul was beloved. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him. He was too generous—with his time and his talents and his research materials. He was too self-deprecating. Paul Cool was a giver, not a taker.
Paul fought cancer for the last three years of his life (with wife Karen Cool and stepson Mitchell Dillard walking the path with him). It was a tough battle, physically debilitating, mentally and spiritually exhausting, a real challenge. Yet Paul continued to work, researching and writing throughout. The disease finally got his body on July 28, 2016, but his spirit remained untouched.
And he lived long enough to know that his final book will be published; yes, there’s a story there. Paul was researching Tombstone’s Cowboy faction when he found something else—the tale of a young Arizona girl who was kidnapped in 1934. Paul put the Cowboys on the back burner, hoping to get back to them (he was unable to do it). The Girl in the Iron Box (Arizona Historical Society) should come out in the next few months.
It wasn’t the Old West, but Paul didn’t care. It was a great story that needed to be told. He’s just the guy to tell it.
Because Paul Cool was cool. The coolest guy around.
Vaya con Dios, my friend. Stay cool.