Thank you very much for adding this information into the discussion. I agree with you that this could well explain what Laura Willis observed on Dalton's chest, if she in fact observed it ( I am not certain yet whether or not she really did ). On the other hand, if Howk was involved in a "J. Frank Dalton body-switching conspiracy," his comments in the letter about old bullet wounds breaking open may have been just a "cover story" needed to hide "cosmetic" work then being done on the body of one of the "alternate" or "surrogate" "J. Frank Daltons." In other words, Howk could claim that the marks on the "surrogate" J. Frank Dalton were old bullet wounds that had ruptured due to the heat, when in reality the marks or lesions were the result of cosmetic work which had just been completed on the body of the surrogate "J. Frank Dalton," the object of which cosmetic work was to give the "appearance" of old bullet wounds. As Jesse James' chest wound was well-known to the public, obviously some sort of very noticeable mark, bruise, or lesion would have to be made by a cosmetician or plastic surgeon in that bodily area.
The following is an excerpt from "Jesse James Was One of His Names" ( 1975 ), by Del Schrader ( with Jesse James III = Orvus Lee Howk ), pages 277-279:
" . . . The strongest piece of documentation the James Clan has is the Coroner's Report and post mortem examination made Aug. 17, 1951, two days after the death of Jesse Woodson James, alias Col. Jesse Frank Dalton and 71 other identities. The examination was held at the Estes Funeral Home, Hood County, Texas. It follows:
POST MORTEM EXAMINATION held upon the body of Jesse Woodson James, alias Jesse Frank Dalton and other identities during his lifetime, said examination being held at the Estes Funeral Home, Granbury, Tex., on Aug. 17, 1951, AD.
1. Height: 5' 8 1/2" as nearly as could be determined, lying flat on his back.
2. Eyes were blue, long hair was white, fair skinned.
3. Bullet wound through left shoulder.
4. Bullet wound on the lower left side of the belly.
5. Evidence of rope burns on his neck. Wore shirt size 17 1/2.
6. Bullet wound on right side of neck.
7. Bullet wound between shoulders at base of neck.
8. Bullet wound along the hairline above both eyes.
9. Bullet wound under right eye causing eye to droop due to removal of mole.
10. Small scar along under right eyelid may have been due to removal of mole.
11. Scar of some undetermined kind on lower lip.
12. Powder burns across the chin hidden by Buffalo Bill type of goatee.
13. Two bullet wounds on right shoulder.
14. Three or four bullet wounds along left arm from wrist to elbow.
15. Three or four bullet wounds indicated above elbow on left arm.
16. Tip end sort of "chewed" off on end of left index finger.
17. Two bullet wounds in the right chest near nipple.
18. Bullet wound along right side near second lower rib.
19. Evidence of several bullet wounds up and down right arm, probably 8 or 10 wounds.
20. Both feet show evidence of having been severely burned, scars on both knees.
21. Bad wound on back between both of his hips.
22. Cataracts, both eyes.
Present at the above examination were sheriff Oran C. Baker of Hood County, Tex., Joe L. Deering, Harley Cheery and Mack L. Likers. Attested to by E. B. Price, Justice of the Peace of Granbury Tex."
It should be noted, that in the above examination report there is no mention of any bullet wounds having broken open, which surely would have been commented upon if it had been observed. There is also no mention of a tattoo of any kind, which surely would have been mentioned if it had been observed. Neither Orvus Lee Howk, nor Ben Estes ( director of Estes Funeral Home ), were present at this examination. Ben Estes is on record as having said, regarding the supposed body of J. Frank Dalton which he personally prepared for burial, that there was only one mark on Dalton's body which could possibly be interpreted as being a bullet wound, and also that the "J. Frank Dalton" he prepared for burial was not the same "J. Frank Dalton" he helped from the train when "Dalton" arrived in Granbury about 12 days before his death on Aug. 15, 1951. Orvus Howk, in his letter, mentioned bullet wounds ( plural ) opening from the heat, whereas Ben Estes said there was one [possible] bullet wound ( singular ), at most, and he didn't say that this one [possible] bullet wound had ruptured and/or that it had ruptured but was in the process of healing.
Therefore, someone had to be lying. It is up to researchers to determine exactly who was lying, and WHY. Is the POST MORTEM EXAMINATION REPORT posted above a legitimate, bona fide report, or is it a fabrication containing false or fabricated evidence, including within its scope precisely the information the fabricators knew most Jesse James aficionados were familiar with ( and would be looking for ) from previously published stories/accounts of the exploits of Jesse James?
Sincerely, and Lots of Love - -
Philip K. Kromer