So there is a son John who is known as not being really all that sane.
Then there is Bill Jr. who I thought you were referring to as the father who I think had an awesome life, but is actually another son like John.
So which one lives out in the Nevada desert on a gold claim, and talks about the gates of hell being opened? Seems like that is the one who "has been flopping around like a wounded prairie chicken." Love your description btw. That's really vivid. I can picture the stereotypical crazy old cook. Like in the Brady Bunch season opener where they all go to the Grand Canyon and get locked up in an old jail by a paranoid prospector. You know the name of the Charter of the prospector is Zaccariah T. Brown?
I'll try and read up on William Lear Jr. I think I may know absolutely nothing about him at this point. I always like reading about interesting people who do interesting things.