Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral - October 26, 1881

Like many red-blooded American kids, Bud and I grew up going to Saturday afternoon matinees at the local theatre - ours was the American Theatre in Corning. One of our favorite genres was the western.
Bud was eleven and I was thirteen when Gunfight at the O.K. Corral came out in May, 1957. Burt Lancaster played Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas was Doc Holliday. A young Dennis Hopper played Billy Clanton. The setting was Tombstone, Arizona Territory. The Wyatt Brothers and Doc Holliday were portrayed as the "good guys". The Clantons, McLaury brothers and Billy Clairborne were the "bad guys".
There is much controversy over what really happened in Tombstone 129 years ago - who fired the first shot; whether the Clantons were really outlaws or just ranchers bullied into a fight by the Earps - but the outcome was clear; Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton were killed. Morgan and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday were all wounded. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran away, unharmed.

In 1997, forty years after the movie made its impression upon us, Bud and I were enjoying an Arizona vacation. Our friends had given us a week at their condo in Tucson. Using that as our base, we made day trips throughout the area.
Top on the list to see was Tombstone.
After touring the museums, gift stores and historical buildings, we made our way to the O.K. Corral where Bud posed next to Doc Holliday - on the side of the "good guys".

While I crouched into fighting position on the opposite side with the Clantons and McLaurys.

Our trip concluded at Boot Hill, the resting place of Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton.

Another memory of mine from that day was the weather. It was sunny and in the low 70's - perfect for Iowans. In one of the gift shops a fire was burning in the fireplace. The owner was wearing a sweatshirt and said she was going to also put her coat on because she was freezing.

I guess it is all a matter of perception. We were comfortable. She was cold. The Earps and Doc Holliday were in the right; the Clantons, McLaurys, and Claiborne were in the wrong.

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