(Actually, she shot his house.)
There’s not too much to say about $4.97 Wal-Mart special Rand McNally road atlases, except they’re cheap — so you can draw colored lines on them without remorse, and they pack a lot of maps into a book you can throw in the back seat.
But I like the little red squares showing points of interest as you drive along. Like the location of the world’s largest ball of twine, the National Rollerskating Museum, or the…TA-DUH!…the birthplace of Wyatt Earp!
Yes, you’ve just read a sneaky entry into a post on the subject you’ve all been waiting for, the post that answers the question, once and for all, just exactly where was that fast drawing, sharpshooting terror of the underworld born? What little burg in this fair nation can point with pride to the humble cottage bowered in roses that sired the toughest lawman of all time?
For our European, and possibly even our Canadian contingent, I must explain that Wyatt Earp is one of those figures of American folklore famous for killing people, lots of people, faster than they could kill him. Earp was sheriff of Dodge City, the toughest saddletramp cowtown in Kansas and he kept the peace with a smoking Colt six-shooter. He was so tough only John Wayne could play him. Or Henry Fonda. Or Burt Lancaster. Or Kevin Costner. So tough he had to have his own television series in the 1950s and people round these parts still talk about his exploits as if they actually happened. Even though he’s been dead since the Year of the Great Crash..
After Earp cleaned up Dodge City and all those other badass rustler cowtowns, he headed down to Tombstone, Arizona, home of the Arizona contingent, where the snakes walked on two legs (present readers excepted, of course), where the dance hall floozies charged up to 15 cents a dance and where red whisky flowed from the Bucket of Blood Saloon all the way to Boot Hill.
You wouldn’t want to find yourself in Tombstone, Arizona after dark — unless you had Clint Eastwood on one side of you and Lee Van Cleef on the other. And they better be wearing their long black dusters too.
Well, Wyatt Earp walked right in to that pile of Gila monsters in human form and shot ’em all in a trice. Maybe a thrice. Why, once he and John Wayne and Ricky Nelson got into a little tussle with the Clancy Brothers down at the OK Corral and, before you could say T-Bone Walker, they was all lying in the dust bleeding their evil guts out.
I hate to be gross but there it is. That was Wyatt Earp. And he was my neighbor.
Your neighbor, Pondering Pig? How can a tough hombre like that, especially one who died in 1929, have been a neighbor of a peaceful porker such as yourself?
Well, it seems that as an elderly gentleman, Earp retired to San Francisco, to live a peaceful life in a rooming house on the Barbary Coast surrounded by dance hall floozies and bumpkins who came to Frisco to dance the Grizzly Bear but ended up shanghaied on a slow boat to China. There were vamps in black mantequilla eye makeup and fat bankers in silk toppers, turkey trotters and drunken sailors in the foggy foggy night.
When Wyatt got tired of dancing with those floozies and saving the tin horns from a watery grave and tired of watching George Raft give Clark Gable a sneaky smooth laugh in his gambler costume, why Earp would just catch the streetcar out to Golden Gate Park and sniff the begonias in the Conservatory of Flowers. That was the life for the toughest lawman of all time. Doff his bowler hat for the ladies. Chuck little Buster Browns on their cheeks. Tell Clara Bow he really liked her “It”. Listen to The Shadow on his lonely boarding house radio until Mrs. Hudson announced a mysterious woman in green come to see him about a case nobody else, not even Sam Spade, could solve.
When Earp finally gave in to the Reaper back in 1929, the whole stock market crashed. No one had any confidence any more. The Beagle Boys broke out of jail and there was no one to stop them from robbing Scrooge McDuck blind.
All the big Hollywood stars like Tom Mix and Lash Larue held a benefit rodeo to raise money to put his tough lawman bones in a cemetery in Colma, a suburb mainly composed of cemeteries right on the outskirts of the City By The Bay and just about ten miles from where I living my life as a teenage punk hooligan. Except I wasn’t born yet, of course.
(Is that sentence long enough, or should I add more?)
No, a new generation of heroes had to come to set the world aright. Guys in capes and wearing tights. But that’s a story for another day. I always planned to hitchike up to Colma and put a cigar and a bottle of redeye on his grave. But I never did. And I wasn’t sure what it was.
Any more questions? OK, you, the little punk troublemaker in the back row. What? Oh yeah. His birthplace was in Monmouth, Illinois. Look it up yourself, punk. It’s on page 32.
For more about the legendary lawman see The Strange Case of Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone.