Brave, Courageous and Bold


wyatt7The legend of Wyatt Earp is about an eagle-eyed lawman, stoic, unbending, able to set aside personal feelings for doing what is right.  There are some who now claim he was ‘cold’, but this is a concept and another lie perpetrated by the legendary Frank Waters, and his syncopates.  Because of the Waters’ legend, anything he wrote is still taken at face value, regardless of the fact that we have exposed him to be a habitual liar.  The academic mind will not allow for one of their sacred heroic figures to be portrayed in a more accurate manner, so they simply regurgitate his lies.  Professional hacks, who write for contract, simply accept what academia accepts.  Those who don’t simply walk all over those of us who research, stealing our work, refusing to cite, and getting the big bucks for it.

They never get the story right.  Instead, we have a picture of a Wyatt Earp who is more like some nasty little jerk, killing at will, womanizing, and cruelly pushing his second wife into drug addiction to cope with his coldness.

Nothing could be farther from factual accuracy.  Frank Waters wrote “truth”.  The Pink Flamingo chooses to deal with verifiable factual accuracy over “truth” which is anything a person wants it to be.

A lawman, perhaps all his life, Wyatt Earp knew what any good cop knows.  He was well aware that, in doing what was right, what was required of him, he would ruin his life.  He did, and it did.  He may have been the only person to walk away from the gunfight at the OK Corral without being injured, but he did not walk away, unscathed.  His life was effectively, ruined.  His marriage to Mattie Blaylock, effectively ended that night.  His political aspirations were terminated. His legal situation was tenuous.  His personal life was in disarray.  It financially broke him.

The gunfight at the OK Corral was the first modern incident of violence to be popularized.  Violence was so outrageous and out of control in Cochise County, at the time, that every major newspaper in the country had a stringer there.  So did papers from the UK and France. Tombstone became the original version of Camp OJ. Wyatt Earp, already a bit famous as a lawman, became something of a household name.  The fame would follow, almost haunt him, the remainder of his life.

The fame gives us the false portrait of an allegedly harsh man.  It fails to tell the story of the cop in Wichita who went to the ice cream parlor like clock-work every afternoon, buying a round for the kids who would wait for him there.   There is even one story that he met Josie in an ice cream parlor in Tombstone. It ignores the fact that he had a soft spot for small, silly dogs.  He adored cats and kittens, and little kids.  He once drove a horse and wagon fifty miles across the hot, California desert, in the summer, to take a stray dog to a little kid who had recently lost his.  Lost is the tale about a little boy who lived just down the block of a dying old man.  The little kid would go visit with him almost every afternoon, to play with his kitten.  He stopped in to visit the old man, to find him gone, forever.  Would he like to have the kitten?  I gather he did take the cat.  The fame also hides the tale of his gay secretary and business partner, who, with his a partner, would be invited to dinner on a regular basis.

Wyatt Earp died on the morning of January 13, 1929 in a little rented bungalow that was about a block away from the family of a very good friend.  He had been sleeping for some hours, opening his eyes, he said “Suppose, suppose,” and was then gone, very peacefully, the way a person goes when they have Christ in their life.

The last year or so of his life, when young reporters would come to interview him, he would not want to discuss his life.  Instead, he would question them about the state of their souls, and their relationship with Christ.  One young writer, who became a Christian because of Wyatt Earp, found him, one afternoon, making a list of things he was going to ask the Almighty about when he arrived in heaven.  He felt, after all those years, the Almighty should explain things to him.  He was making the list with silent film superstar, Tom Mix.

His funeral is still considered one  of the largest in the history of Hollywood.  The Pink Flamingo had the honor and privilege of being able to interview the woman who choreographed his funeral and witnessed his cremation.  She told me it was the most unnerving thing she ever experienced in her life, and she was nearing the century mark when I interviewed her.

FYI, she said the reason Josie did not attend was the fact that she couldn’t be bothered.  Grace had very little use for Josie.  She felt Josie neglected Wyatt as he grew older, did not properly care for him, and would have let him basically suffer and starve if it weren’t for the Walsh sisters.  Geographically, they lived within a block or so of the little rental.  One reason Wyatt lived where he did was to be near the Walsh family.  In his later years he was far closer to them than his own family, which was rapidly aging and literally dying off.  The Walsh sisters took him his meals, for years.  They made sure his home was clean, that he had clean clothes.  It wasn’t that he was incapable of doing those things for himself, nor couldn’t afford it.  According to Grace, his pride would never allow him to ask anyone for help.

What we do know is that Wyatt Earp was suffering from kidney disease caused by chronic cystitis.  That is what is on his death certificate.  Grace told me it wasn’t cancer, as some have theorized.  He would tire very easily and was in a goodly bit of pain.  She always felt if a different physician had been allowed, one who was more modern, the condition could have been treated.

The irony is that Wyatt Earp’s desire for privacy may have been what ultimately killed him.

Bat Masterson once wrote that Wyatt Earp was the only person who knew the real story about the winning of the West – and he wasn’t talking.

The Legend of Wyatt Earp
Lyrics by Hugh O’Brian

I’ll tell you a story, a real true life story
A tale of the Western frontier
The West, it was lawless, but one man was flawless
And his is the story you’ll hear

Oooh-oooh-oooh, Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp,
Brave, courageous and bold
Long live his fame and long life his glory
And long may his story be told

When he came to Kansas, to settle in Kansas
He planned on a peaceable life
Some goods and some chattel, a few head of cattle
A home and a sweet loving wife

Oooh-oooh-oooh, Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp,
Brave Courageous and bold
Long live his fame and long live his glory
And long may his story be told

Now, he wasn’t partial to bein’ a marshal
But fate went and dealt him his hand
While outlaws were lootin’ and killin’ and shootin’
He knew that he must take a stand
Oooh-oooh-oooh, Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp
Long may his story be told

Well he cleaned up the country, the old wild west country
He made law and order prevail
And none can deny it, the legend of Wyatt
Forever will live on the trail

Oooh-oooh-oooh, Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp,
Brave Courageous and bold
Long live his fame and long live his glory
And long may his story be told
Long may his story be told

The legend is exciting, but the real story of Wyatt Earp is far better than the legend. Every culture and nation has a certain moment defining that land.  It has a specific character that is identified with the country and the culture.  For good or ill, the Gunfight at the OK Corral is our defining moment.  Wyatt Earp is the King Arthur, the Charlemagne, the Odysseus of this country.  We are still in the infancy of the growth of his legend.  As one of his biographers, I take my role in shaping that legend quite seriously. He deserves nothing more and nothing less.