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Enthusiasm



Do you view yourself as a person who is enthusiastic? Even if you are not always enthusiastic, as long as you are enthusiastic sometimes or have been enthusiastic in the past, it means that you are a person who has experienced enthusiasm. And since you know you have already been enthusiastic, it means that you can view yourself as someone who will be enthusiastic more often in the future. Having that said, I am enthusiastic about a lot of things. One is researching and writing about historical characters.


Wyatt Earp

By Robert Hilliard

One of the greatest legends of the American West, Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was born on March 19, 1848, in Monmouth, Illinois, the third of five sons born to Nicholas and Virginia Ann Earp.

The Civil War broke out when Wyatt was 13 years old. Desperate to leave the family farm in Illinois and find adventure, Earp tried several times to join his two older brothers, Virgil and James, in the Union army. But each time, Wyatt was caught before he ever reached the battlefield, and was returned home.

At the age of 17 he finally left his family, now living in California, for a new life along the frontier. He worked hauling freight, and then later was hired to grade track for the Union Pacific Railroad. In his downtime he learned to box and became a respectable gambler.

In 1869, Earp returned to the fold of his family, who had made a home in Lamar, Missouri. A new, more settled life seemed to await Earp. After his father resigned as constable of the township, Earp replaced him.

By 1870 Wyatt married Urilla Sutherland, the daughter of the local hotel owner, built a house in town and was an expecting father. Suddenly, everything changed. Within a year of their marriage Urilla contracted typhus and died, along with her unborn child.

Broken and devastated by his wife's death, Wyatt left Lamar, Missouri and set off on a new life devoid of any kind of discipline. In Arkansas, he was arrested for stealing a horse, but managed to avoid punishment by escaping from his jail cell. For the next several years, Earp roamed the frontier, making his home in saloons and brothels, working as a bouncer and befriending many prostitutes.

In 1876 he moved to Wichita, Kansas, where his brother Virgil had opened a new brothel that catered to the cowboys coming off their long cattle drives. There, he also began working with a part-time police officer on rounding up criminals. The adventure and the little bit of press Earp received from the job appealed to him, and eventually he was made city marshal of Dodge City, Kansas.

In December 1879, Earp joined his brothers Virgil and Morgan in Tombstone, Arizona, a booming frontier town that had only recently been erected when a speculator discovered the land there contained vast amounts of silver. His good friend Doc Holliday, whom he'd met in Kansas, joined him.

But the silver riches the Earp brothers hoped to find never came, forcing Earp to begrudgingly to return to law work. In a town and a region desperate to tame the lawlessness of the cowboy culture that pervaded the frontier, Earp was a welcome sight.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

In March 1881 Wyatt set out to find a posse of cowboys that had robbed a Tombstone stagecoach and its driver. In an effort to close in on the outlaws, he struck a deal with a rancher named Ike Clanton, who regularly dealt with the cowboys working around Tombstone. In return for his help, Earp promised Clanton he could collect a $6,000 reward.

But the partnership quickly dissolved. Clanton, paranoid that Earp would leak the details of their bargain, turned against him. By October Clanton was out of his mind, drunk and parading around Tombstone's saloons, bragging that he was going to kill one of the Earp men.

Everything came to a head on October 26, 1881, when Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan and Doc Holliday, met Clanton, his brother Billy, and two others, Frank McLaury and his brother, Tom, on a small lot on the edge of town near an enclosure called the O.K. Corral.

There, the greatest gunfight in the West's history took place. Over the course of just 30 seconds, a barrage of shots was fired, ultimately killing Billy Clanton and both of the McLaury brothers. Virgil and Morgan Earp, as well as Holliday, all were injured. The only one unscathed was Wyatt.

Vendetta Ride

The battle ratcheted up tensions between the cowboy community and those who were looking for a more settled West to emerge. Ike Clanton went on a rampage, orchestrating the shooting of Virgil Earp, severely wounding his left arm. Morgan Earp was shot to death sometime later.

As a result of Morgan's death, Wyatt Earp set off in search of vengeance. With Holliday and a small posse of others, Earp roamed the frontier on a killing spree that made headlines around the nation, earning the group both praise and condemnation for taking on the West's wild cowboy culture. It is believed that Wyatt and his posse are responsible for the deaths of several cowboys including Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Ringo.

Final Years

As the American West grew to be more settled, Earp's place in it became less certain. With his companion, Josephine Marcus, he continued to seek out the success that had eluded him most of his life. He ran saloons in parts of California and in Nome, Alaska, before settling down in Los Angeles.

During his last years, he became infatuated with Hollywood's portrayal of the West and his legacy. He longed for a film that told his story and set the record straight on his accomplishments. But the kind of recognition he craved came only after his passing on January 13, 1929, at his Los Angeles home.

Many books have been written about Wyatt Earp by various authors as well as numerous movies. I've researched and followed numerous western lawmen and cowboys during my lifetime but the Wyatt Earp saga continues to intrigue me. There's more to this man than just the fact he was a lawman in a time of lawlessness. In all of his exploits as a lawman, he never killed anyone and was never seriously hurt other than a bad bruise here and there.

Wyatt Earp was a strong-willed man and believed heavily in family. His vendetta ride proves that. Since researching Wyatt and his life, I've come to respect him highly. He lived to be 81 years old. Fitting for a man that put his life in peril more than a few times.


Additional articles written by Robert Hilliard




John Wayne

By Robert Hilliard

As a child, I grew up with such heroes as Sky King, Roy and Dale Evans, the original Batman TV series and the Three Stooges. But when it came to real life heroes, for me nothing came close to John Wayne. I recently watched several of The Duke's movies. The Sons of Katie Elder, True Grit and The Shootist. After watching these, I became inspired to write this article about a man that had conviction and a sense of pride.

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907. When he was a boy, his family moved West settling in Lancaster, California and later Glendale, California where he would come to be known as Duke. Marion’s dog, an Airedale, was named Duke, and soon the local Glendale firefighters started calling Marion Duke, too. Duke’s academic and athletic success at Glendale High led to a football scholarship at the University of Southern California (USC).

A body surfing accident at Newport Beach cut short his promising athletic career, so the former tackle looked to studio work to help pay his tuition. In a film called The Big Trail, Marion Morrison became John Wayne, and from that time on, the movie business would never be the same.

John Wayne’s monumental film career spanned five decades. He appeared in more than 175 films, more than a dozen directed by John Ford alone. For an entire generation, he was Hollywood’s biggest and most durable box-office star. Incredibly versatile, Wayne starred in just about every genre Hollywood offered: war movies, romantic comedies, police dramas, histories. But it was the Western – the American cinema – where Wayne made his most lasting mark. He was nominated three times for the Academy Award, winning the Oscar for Best Actor in 1969 for True Grit. And his powerful performance in The Searchers has been singled out by filmmakers and actors alike as the greatest performance by an actor on film, ever.

In 1964, John Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer and beat it, after a lung and several ribs were removed. Fifteen years later he was again diagnosed with cancer, this time of the stomach eventually succumbing to the disease at age 72. Posthumously, Wayne was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. A year later, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. Wayne is among only a handful of individuals who have received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

To this day, Wayne appears in the Harris Poll’s annual listings of America’s favorite movie stars, ranking third in the most recent Poll. He has never been out of the top ten since the Poll’s inception.


Additional articles written by Robert Hilliard




Doc Holliday

By Robert Hilliard

Be honest with yourself. When you think about the outlaws and gunfighters of the old west, which one comes to mind first? Well, for me, it has always been Doc Holliday. Here is a man that came into this world with the best intentions, but ended up contracting a disease that not only hit him early in his life, but shaped the type of person he would be until his dying day.

John Henry “Doc” Holliday was born on August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia, to Henry Burroughs Holliday and Alice Jane Holliday. He grew up a Southern gentleman and at the age of 21 obtained his Dental degree and moved to St. Louis, Missouri to work with a classmate and setup his practice.

Shortly after, Doc was diagnosed with tuberculosis and carried the disease throughout the remainder of his life. Holliday moved around frequently setting up practices in Atlanta, Dallas and points in between. Everywhere he went, his disease would eventually end his practice. Finally, while trying to practice as a dentist in Dallas, Texas, Doc found he had another skill that would aid him in making a living. He became skilled as a gambler. Over the years, Doc found himself engaged in fights and gunfights that would land him in jail for a short period of time.

However, Doc managed to gain a reputation, not only as a skilled gambler and gunfighter, but as a person who lived as if today where his last day on earth. Knowing that tuberculosis would eventually do him in, Doc Holliday lived the rest of his days as if he had no fear. As some historians have put it, Doc seemed to live as if he had a “code” in life. A line, if crossed over would mean a person would catch the wrath of a diseased, but temperamental gunfighter willing to take any chance to prove his point. It was this attitude that helped Doc gain his reputation.

Doc’s claim-to-fame would probably start with his meeting with Wyatt Earp in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1877. Earp was a US Deputy Marshall and was given the task of finding and arresting a train robber named Dave Rudabaugh. Doc knew Rudabaugh and helped Earp find and arrest him. So the story goes that Wyatt and Doc became friends and when Earp and his family moved to Tombstone, Arizona to start a new life, Doc and his girlfriend Big Nose Kate, went with them.

Gunfight at OK Corral

In March 1881 Wyatt Earp set out to find a posse of cowboys that had robbed a Tombstone stagecoach and its driver. In an effort to close in on the outlaws, he struck a deal with a rancher named Ike Clanton, who regularly dealt with the cowboys working around Tombstone. In return for his help, Earp promised Clanton he could collect a $6,000 reward.

But the partnership quickly dissolved. Clanton, paranoid that Earp would leak the details of their bargain, turned against him. By October Clanton was out of his mind, drunk and parading around Tombstone's saloons, bragging that he was going to kill one of the Earp men.

Everything came to a head on October 26, 1881, when Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan and Doc Holliday, met Clanton, his brother Billy, and two others, Frank McLaury and his brother, Tom, on a small lot on the edge of town near an enclosure called the O.K. Corral.

There, the greatest gunfight in the West's history took place. Over the course of just 30 seconds, a barrage of shots was fired, ultimately killing Billy Clanton and both of the McLaury brothers. Virgil and Morgan Earp, as well as Holliday, all were injured.

Vendetta Ride

The battle ratcheted up tensions between the cowboy community and those who were looking for a more settled West to emerge. Ike Clanton went on a rampage, orchestrating the shooting of Virgil Earp, severely wounding his left arm. Morgan Earp was shot to death sometime later.

As a result of Morgan's death, Wyatt Earp set off in search of vengeance. With Doc Holliday and a small posse of others, Earp roamed the frontier on a killing spree that made headlines around the nation, earning the group both praise and condemnation for taking on the West's wild cowboy culture.

Final Years

The friendship with Wyatt Earp continued for Doc for a number of years. In 1887, prematurely gray and badly ailing from tuberculosis, Holliday made his way to the Hotel Glenwood, in Glenwood Spring, Colorado. At the time it was believed that the hot springs of the area might give him some relief. Eventually, Doc’s health declined to the point to where he was on his deathbed. As he lay dying, Holliday is reported to have asked the nurse attending him at the Hotel Glenwood for a shot of whiskey. When she told him no, he looked at his bootless feet, amused. The nurses said that his last words were, "This is funny." He had always figured he would be killed someday with his boots on in a gunfight. Doc Holliday died at 10 am on November 8, 1887. He was 36 years of age. Wyatt Earp didn’t learn of Holliday's death until two months afterward. Big Nose Kate later said that she attended to him in his final days, but it is also doubtful that she was even present.

The photograph below was published in the October, 2015 issue of True West magazine. The article asked the question, “Is this Doc Holliday?” There have been only two verified photographs of Doc Holliday as an adult. Could this photo found in an elegant home near St. Louis, Missouri be that of an ailing Doc Holliday in his last days?




Additional articles written by Robert Hilliard