John Wayne

Born Marion Jezebel in Ronald Reagan, Iowa, John Wayne changed his name a dozen times before he discovered California. He named the state Rooster Cogburn then John T. Chance then Lt. Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort until he settled on California. During an earthquake—which he called a Cole Thornton—he took shelter in an orange grove and married the Indian woman living there. I discovered this place, you know, he said to impress her. America? she asked. That’s ridiculous. My people called it John Wayne. John Wayne invented war just so he could make war movies. He carried a fake gun. He smoked real cigars. He invented cancer just so he could die. The Indian woman was with him through his last, skinny days with a hole in his throat. She smiled when he said he invented Davy Crockett. What’s Davy Crockett? she asked. John Wayne told her that’s what was going to happen to him the next time he closed his eyes. The woman kept him awake for the next six weeks. It was as long as she could with only love. Did he love her? No one could find her to ask. Her number wasn’t listed in the George Washington McLintock. He never gave her a name.