Today is the 128th Anniversary of the Shootout at the OK Corral. After 30 seconds of shooting, three men – Billy Clanton, Frank & Tom McLaury were either dead or dying. Ike Clanton had fled, and three others – Virgil & Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were injured. Only Wyatt Earp was uninjured. Thus was born legend and the American character was fully defined.
We are a nation of Wyatt Earps. “It all ends now!” Stand up and fight for what is right no matter what the personal cost. We see it again and again in the history of this country. Fact is, once upon a time a Wyatt Earp clone resided in the Oval Office.
Right is right and wrong is wrong. A President of the United States of America should know the difference and should know how to lead. Actions speak louder than words read from a teleprompter.
We should all have the courage of a Wyatt Earp or a George W. Bush.
Tombstone is America in microcosm. In order to understand the heart and soul of America you need to understand two things baseball and Tombstone. More than a mining town, dirty and small minded, Tombstone is a symbol. It is America’s version of Camelot. Wyatt Earp is our King Arthur. If the characters and storyline of Tombstone had not existed America would have invented it.
Wyatt Earp, age 79, 1928
(Additional photos in this article are copyright SJ Reidhead, 2008.)
The Civil War had ended less than 20 years earlier. The nation was ready to put the trauma of brother against brother behind it. Manifest Destiny demanded the Wild West be tamed, populated, and turned into a money making proposition. Roaming that vast frontier were hundreds of men, disenfranchised by war, loss of home, family, and occupation. They turned to crime, organizing their disorganized bands into lose confederations of outlaws. Those migrating into Tombstone from Texas and New Mexico numbered anywhere from 150 to 300 strong. They were young, heavily armed and had nothing to lose. It was the nation’s first real experience with organized crime. They conducted a reign of terror on the poorly regulated countryside, protected by one of the most corrupt political machines in the nation’s history. Ranchers lost their stock. There were very few horses in the county, most having been stolen. Cowboys stole horses in Tombstone the way cars are stolen in ABQ today. If a rancher opposed them, they risked being tortured and murdered.
The community of Tombstone organized a Citizen’s Safety Committee in an attempt to protect the town against the movement of the outlaws. There were at least two Secret Service agents in town at the time. We only know the identity of one. There were several men under cover for Wells Fargo. We know that Fred Dodge was one of these men. There were at least two deputy US Marshals – Wyatt & Virgil Earp. Virgil Earp was also the town police chief.
On October 26, 1881 around 2:30 in the afternoon on Fremont Street (Highway 80) between 4th and 3rd Streets, the character of America was defined for once and for all, for good or ill. Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp along with Doc Holiday faced Ike & Billy Clanton and Frank & Tom McLaury. Only Ike Clanton remained alive. Of the combatants, only Wyatt Earp escaped unscathed. Within 15 minutes of the gunfight, the President of the United States knew of the event and the outcome.
Due to the deprivations of the Cowboys, Mexico had threatened to invade the US and put an end to their activities. The elected authorities in Arizona and Cochise County were so corrupt and so dependent upon their ‘cut’ of the Cowboy’s activities, that they were willing to risk a war with Mexico rather than put an end to their augmented income.
Two months later Virgil Earp was ambushed, and crippled for life. Three months after that, Morgan Earp was murdered.
In information I uncovered when researching my book TRAVESTY, I discovered that Frank Stilwell, who was part of the pack of animals who assassinated Morgan Earp, fired a bullet that sailed through the open windows of the rail car where the recovering Virgil and his wife, Allie, were sitting. The bullet crossed in front of them and exited the other window. Wyatt Earp, in defense of his injured brother, killed Stilwell there on the rail platform in Tucson. He, Doc, and a handful of men continued back to Tombstone and Cochise County. There, for the next few weeks, they embarked on a remarkable series of adventures that are unique in the annals of American history and further define the American character.
Wyatt Earp proceeded to hunt down and terminate every man responsible for the murder of his brother, Morgan. He did so under the auspices of the US Marshal service. He did so with full knowledge of the President of the United States. The final result was war with Mexico was averted.
This is the very real American character – the person willing to set aside personal safety, future, and all dreams of a normal life in order to see that the distasteful job is done. It is the man or woman who is willing to stand up and spit in the face of Al Qaeda. It is the individual who can say, “It all ends now.”
If you’re not from Texas or not familiar with Texans you don’t understand what that entails. Once again it is the exact opposite of the South Chicago Metrosexual. It’s about swagger, and very expensive boots. It’s the hat. It’s the tacky belt buckle that means a lot to the wearer. It’s the occasional cigar. It’s all about opening the door for a lady, tipping your cowboy hat, but only taking it off at very sacred moments. Those moments include the raising and lowering of the Texas flag, an occasional funeral, the National Anthem, and not much else. No, it isn’t disrespect, it’s about strength, courage, and character. It’s about that little pistol being packed in the pocket of the jeans (and GWB packs). It’s the strength of character that allows a man to say, “It all ends now” and then he proceeds to do what ever it takes to uphold law, order, truth, justice and the American Way.
There’s that Wyatt Earp Moment, when a person is standing on that railroad platform, watching a cowardly cur of an outlaw fires a shot through the open window of a waiting train. Your seriously wounded brother can do nothing but watch it sail through the open windows, right in front the face of he and his wife. (FYI, this is one of the discoveries I made in my Earp research). That same cur, Frank Stillwell had, a day earlier, helped to murder your brother in cold blood.
A Wyatt Earp, a George W. Bush stood up to the face of terror and fires point blank at it, and asked questions later. They were the action sof a man, not some cowardly bowl of jello contemplating his legacy. Those are the actions of courage, of someone not thinking of themselves, but protecting others around them. It is also the action that lesser men of lesser honor and little courage or valor will second guess for a hundred years.
Liberal historians have not been kind to Wyatt Earp. They will not be kind to George W. Bush. They lack the capacity to understand that special kind of Wild West, All American valor that helped tame a rugged and dangerous land. It is a citizen general issuing the order, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes,” in order to save ammunition and lure the Redcoats into an open area. It is the patriot who, moments before being hung, says, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” It is the courage of a young man who throws himself on a live weapon to save the lives of others.
Once upon a time American Presidents were more concerned with protecting the nature, rather than their legacy. George W. Bush is a throwback. He is more concerned with the protection of the nation, with keeping our nation great other than protecting himself and making himself great. Too bad he can’t be treated like the hero and the great man he is.