(The following newspaper article appeared in the March 1998 edition of Roper Sports News)
There are always two or more sides to every story. This is very true in the controversial autobiography of Monty Roberts, The Man Who Listens To Horses. I am Monty Roberts’ cousin. Monty’s mother, Marguerite Martins Roberts was my Dad, Jim Martins’, sister.
I was so excited to watch Monty on Dateline and very schocked at what he said about his father, Marvin Roberts. He claimed that he had been beaten by his father, (Later in his book he claims his mother Marguerite Roberts sat by and did nothing about this.) He also accused his father of being cruel and abusive to the horses he trained. I could not believe my ears because my memories of Uncle Marvin were so loving and happy. If there was punishment to be given I remember it was Monty’s mother, my Aunt Marguerite who did it. Uncle Martin unselfishly and without payment helped me a great deal when I ran for Hostesss at the California Rodeo in Salinas. He also hired my boyfriend Clifford Happy, to ride colts for him.
He taught Cliff a lot about breaking colts and during the time Cliff worked for him there was never any cruelty served to the colts. After Cliff and I were married, we bought Johnny Twist. He was quite stern with his advice. He told me that a lot of barrel racers run their horses over and over, but that was not wise. He said I should score him a lot in front of the barrel pattern and make sure my horse stayed calm before I ran.
I must admit however that after hearing the accusations on Dateline, a seed of doubt was planted in my head. Could the Marvin I knew and loved (years after he had his family) have changed that much? When Monty’s book, The Man Who Listens to Horses (The British release) was given to me as a gift, I began reading. I was thinking WOW, what an interesting life! Why hadn’t Aunt Marguerite, Uncle Marvin, or anyone else in the family shared all these fascinating stories about Monty?
As a young girl I distinctly remember every visit or phone call my proud Aunt and Uncle had with their son and his family. They would tell everyone how exciting their life was and how wonderful he and Pat were doing with their horse business at Flag Is Up Farms. When I discussed the content of the book with my parents and many other old friends of the family, they told me much of the book was fiction. There was no trip to Nevada to gather wild horses for the Rodeo when Monty was 13. There was no private tutor that went with Monty on his private boxcar to horseshows, because there was no boxcar.
Our family remembered some of the movies, but they didn’t remember Monty working as a stunt double. As far as Uncle Marvin Roberts killing a man, there are no records of it and Monty’s brother Larry claims that he was at the incident and no black man was beaten to death by Uncle Marvin. Montysays that, “In all of the football that I played my father came to only one game.” Funny, but I viewed a tape last month that my parents have of Monty growing up. One of Monty’s football games is recorded and it show both his parents at that game. Freinds and family remember his parents attending many games.
When I spoke to enough people about claims in the book, the seed of doubt disappeared. A man that can tell so many false stories about his life can surely lie about his father. Uncle Marvin and Aunt Marguerite are deceased and cannot stick up for themselves, so I believe out of respect and admiration we must speak up for them. We have received so many calls and letters from old friends that it is unbelieveable. We have not found one person that remembers things as Monty does. People have in fact called in dispute of this so called autobiography. Who’s to say what’s fact and what’s fiction?
When the United States release of The Man Who Listens to Horses hit the bookstores. I again was given a copy. I also read this release and there are changes that seem interesting. In the British release Monty remembered Tony Vargas driving him to Nevada to gather the wild horses for The California Wild Horse Race, when Monty was 13-years-old. Tony is still alive and well and told me he indeed never drove Monty to Nevada for wild horses. The names changed curiously enough in the United States release. The couple he now remembers driving him to Nevada are deceased. In my opinion Monty’s memory is obviously not what it should be to be writing his life story.
I am writing this after receiving a family letter from Monty in December of 1996. His letter to many members of our family was in answer to many criticizing articles the family had written in attempt to let the public beware that a number people have different recollections of Monty’s life. In Monty’s family letter he stated that “It hurts that certain members of the family would choose to do this without investigating the full story first.” I decided to be fair and investigate as best that I could. What I have uncovered is that so much of what Monty says happened in his life are untrue, how then am I to believe the nasty things he says about his father? When you pick an autobiography to read you expect it to be fact, not fiction. In this case, however, I do not believe most of what is written in The Man Who Listens To Horses to be true. There is not one person in our family, that I know of who believes much of this book. If there is I would sure like to hear from them.
I have seen Monty’s talent and it is exceptional. He is nationally renowned and has worked hard to get where he is today. Neverless it breaks my heart that he has allowed so many untrue happenings to be released in his “autobiography”. Where he is headed for tomorrow is another story. Only Monty lives with his conscience. I definitely agree with Monty on one point, “I will accept criticisms where criticisms are due and even for differences of opinion but outright untruths are not acceptable.” This is exactly why I felt it so important to write this letter.
Marguerite Martins Happy