Few lawmen have lived the charmed and exciting life, which was lived by my friend, Wyatt Earp. I worked with Earp in the 1900s when he was on the way out.
Earp told me he was born in Monmouth, Illinois, in about 1848, and following the Civil War his pa threw their truck into a big wagon and headed west to San Berdu, California, where they settled. Wyatt took a job driving a stage between L. A. and San Berdu, then went on at the same chore in Arizona and later drove stage in the Salt Lake Country, too.
Wyatt always was a good businessman and hired out his own teams to the railroad in Wyoming. This gave him money to marry, and that he did. She was a child bride, so to speak. She died of the terrible typhus epidemic, which event just about tore Wyatt apart. So he went on to Kansas City where he met Wild Bill Hickok and learned to handle guns from this master killer. He also hunted buffalo with Bat Masterson.
Wyatt got into Ellsworth, Kansas, just as the famous gunslinger, Ben Thompson, had the town treed as he waved that double-barreled shotgun at the mayor and deputies who were hiding behind doors and in halls. Wyatt opened his mouth and said that he’d shut the big Texan up if he had the guns and the badge. He got ’em right now. And out he stepped to tell Thompson to throw the gun in the road. Thompson later told Bat Masterson that he had a powerful hunch that Wyatt meant to kill him, and so he did throw down that shotgun. This made Earp a famous man up and down the Chisholm Trail. Ben was fined twenty-five dollars and his brother, Bill, who had killed C. B. Whitney with that shotgun, was acquitted. Earp tendered the badge in disgust, for his pa had taught him a different kind of law.
In the spring, Wyatt told me he went on to Wichita, now a famous man, and was made deputy marshal there. He at once waded into the big shot, Shanghai Pierce, who owned half the cattle in Texas, and told him and his retinue of cowboys to toe the mark or he’d give them hell. Then he went after Mannen Clements, gunfighter that he was, with his cowboys behind him and read the law aloud to ’em all. He got away with that, too. His fame spread.
A couple of Texans wanted to do battle with their dukes. Earp squared off and made both of them look like they had been eating honey while the bees were in the hive.
Wyatt said he pulled out and went on to Dodge and became chief deputy marshal there, with men like deputies Bat Masterson, Neal Brown, Joe Mason, Bill Tilghman and Charlie Bassett to give him a hand â�� some mighty fighting men to give the right kind of confidence.
Well, Earp went after the famed outlaw, Dave Rudabaugh, into Fort Griffin, Texas, and there he came face to face with Doctor John H. Holliday. He was a specialist in teeth who had a hobby of gambling and leaving dead men under tables â�� a real honest-to-god killer man who became Earp’s lifelong friend. Back in Dodge again, Wyatt had a showdown with Clay Allison and made the famous gunslinger from the Washita ride out of town. Then one George Hoydt took a reach for fame and Wyatt stopped him by unsaddling this ambitious man with a bullet.
The fall of ’79, as Wyatt gave it to me, found him in Tombstone, Arizona, a newly appointed deputy under Charlie Shibell of Pima County. He rode shotgun on bullion stages, then acted as Tombstone District Marshal. He cracked Curly Bill Brocius on the head for killing Marshal White, and told the Clantons there would be no monkey business with them. The Clantons, as you perhaps know, ran a rustling empire and hid behind the big desk of Sheriff Johnny Behan.
Wyatt always was a brave man, and he proved it when he stopped a lynch mob with a shotgun. The Clantons didn’t like this, however, and robbed stages night and day so that Wyatt had no rest, and his interest in the Oriental were left almost entirely to Bat Masterson and Luke Short, who ran his monte and blackjack for him.
Finally, the showdown came in the famed shoot-out at the OK Corral, in which Frank and Tom McLowery and Billy Clanton were cut down in 30 seconds of gunfire. Virgil, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded, the latter carrying a sawed-off shotgun no bigger than a horse pistol in length. Ike Clanton and John Ringo skeedaddled off into the cactus of Old Mexico, while Wyatt rode down and gunned to earth several others of the rustling empire. Old Man Clanton got his when Mexicans caught him stealing their cattle.
Wyatt said he was tired and went on to San Diego, California, into the real estate business, and then on to Alaska, where he opened up the Dexter Saloon there. Finally, he came back to do some mining near Needles and to develop oil lands in Kern County.
I got word of Wyatt’s passing in 1929. Although he had some 100 shoot-outs and trouble, he died with his boots off at the ripe old age of 81.