I don’t know about flattening this virus curve, but I have been working hard at flattening my own emotional curve, which seems to rise and fall within minutes on some days. A good book helps me, as I’m sure it does you. Having been raised on Westerns, I am very happy to be reading Allen Barra’s Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends. A thoroughly researched biography, this volume also compares the facts to the legends, whether those legends appeared in print or in the movies.
I have enjoyed every page, and was sorry to come to the end of this story. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, because I highly recommend it, but I will share two items that I found most interesting.
First, the real Wyatt Earp was calmer, cooler, tougher, and more fearless than any cinema lawman who has ever been imagined by novelist or script writer. In his testimony regarding the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wyatt stated that he saw Billy Clanton draw his pistol and that they began the fight by firing almost simultaneously. “He was shooting at me, and I shooting at Frank McLaury. I knew that Frank McLaury had the reputation of being a good shot and a dangerous man, and I aimed at Frank McLaury.” Ignoring the man who is shooting at you, because you have calculated that you need to fire at someone else is coolness under fire and then some.
Second—and here’s the answer to the teaser title of this piece—it turns out that Doc Holliday corresponded with a cousin of his, one Mary Melanie Holliday, who lived back in their home state of Georgia. Doc was quite well-educated and the cousins seemed to have a certain affection for one another. Mary eventually entered a convent where she was known as “Sister Melanie” including by one Margaret Mitchell, “who made her the model for Melanie in Gone With the Wind.”
Who would ever imagine that there was a direct connection between the saintly Melanie Wilkes and the . . . less than saintly John “Doc” Holliday?
If you’re a fan of Western history OR you enjoy stories that relate how things came to be, or in this case, how and why the most famous lawman in Western history came to be so famous, then read Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends.