On October 26, 1881 the most famous gunfight in all of American history occurred. 47 years, 2 months, 18 days later Wyatt Earp put his six guns down forever, cinched up Old Paint and rode off to join brothers Virgil, Morgan, and James at that big cat-house in the sky. I’m watching My Darling Clementine for the umpteenth time when I realize that I had forgotten to post by three days the 80th anniversary of the death of Wyatt himself.
Why would I remember that Wyatt Earp died here in Los Angeles on January 13, 1929? Beats me but any more questions as to why and I go for my pig irons! The knowledge of this fact haunts me; yet, is it worth any more sessions of hypnotic regression to discover the reason? I’m still trying to resolve why everyone in high school gave me the wrong date for our prom.
My Darling Clementine is not my favorite John Ford western. I much prefer The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Darling is chock full of historical nonsense and downright idiocy about the Earp boys. Brother James did not die at the hands of the Clantons as portrayed early in the film; he died an old man several years before Wyatt. Linda Darnell, singing up tempo pop ditties to Victor Mature's, coughing and wheezing Doc Holiday irks me even more. When I lecture today's students, I warn them never to confuse what they see on the big screen with what real library scholarship will uncover. Never, for instance use rustler dialogue as primary source material for college term papers. Professors will horsewhip your grade point average and friends and acquaintances will hide their prize cattle from you.
The calendar calculations took longer than I thought. I was comforted during this arduous process by the same sort of medicinal tonic that the Earp Brothers and Doc Holiday fortified themselves with before heading down those streets of Tombstone. It wasn’t sasparilla.
For a truer history of the Earps, Doc Holiday, the Clantons, and the rest of the varmints of Tombstone , check out Casey Tefertiller's book, "Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend."
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