Everyone knows the story of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the OK Corral. It’s possibly the most iconic story out of the “wild west.” But there are many more stories yet untold. I’ve been following the trail of this one for a while. Doc Holliday. Wyatt Earp. Bat Masterson.
Where did they meet? How did Doc Holliday — legitimately a D.D.S.(doctor of dental surgery) and apparently a good one — wind up best friends with Wyatt Earp and his brothers? How did this polite, educated gentleman become a gunfighter and a gambler? When did Bat Masterson get into the mix?
John Henry “Doc” Holliday (August 14, 1851 – November 8, 1887) became a gambler and gunman out of necessity.
Not quite the killer his reputation made him out to be, Doc’s reputation was part truth, mixed with a lot rumor and publicity. Often credited with killing people he never met, the rumors were fueled by Holliday’s own publicity.
He wasn’t fond of killing people. Being a notorious gunman made it less likely he’d be challenged. He was famous for shooting opponents in the hand or foot, thus ending a duel without killing anyone.
Doc Holliday was otherwise known as a mild-mannered, well-bred southerner who would have rather been a dentist. Except for being tubercular. Tuberculosis is a career ender for a dentist.
Exactly how he met the Earp brothers and with which of the many Earps did he connect first? Lots of speculation, but no evidence that can stand up to scrutiny. When and where did Bat Masterson come into the mix?
Bat Masterson is a great character. He pops in and out of the story, shows up in the nick of time to pull someone’s iron out of the fire, then disappears back to his own story. Sounds like a supporting actor Oscar to me.
The OK Corral has been done to death. Can I convince someone to write this story? No zombies, no werewolves, no vampires. Let’s keep it all human, in the just-before-the-turn-of-the-century west.
Interesting Factoid: Doc Holliday was a cousin by marriage to Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With the Wind.”
There is history for which the facts are known. We don’t know who said what, but we know the players, dates, locations. Documentation exists.
Much — maybe most — history is not straightforward. There is no evidence. No indisputable documentation or trustworthy testimony. You might as well print the legend because that’s all you’ve got.
Sometimes, you can pick your favorite version of the tale. Or write your own. One is as true as another.