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Wild West - April 2013 - Letters From Readers

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: January 31, 2013 
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Glenn Reynolds in Globe
I enjoyed "Where Legends Rest in the West" [photography and research by Bob Stinson] in the October 2012 issue. I often visit relatives in Globe, Ariz. At the Globe Cemetery is a plot where Glenn Reynolds, sheriff of Gila County, is buried. In 1889 he was transporting the Apache Kid and several other Apache prisoners to Casa Grande, Arizona Territory, to catch a train to Yuma Territorial Prison. In an escape attempt the sheriff and another lawman were killed. Close to Reynolds' grave site is the grave of Robert S. Knowles, a scout who knew the Apache Kid and Al Seiber.

Jay L. Warner
Mountainair, N.M.

Editor responds: Thanks very much. I certainly hope you've also read the December 2012 Wild West, which includes "The Sheriff Who Took on the Apache Kid," R.K. DeArment's article about Glenn Reynolds.

Wyatt Earp's Readiness
In your excellent October 2012 issue I found Roger Jay's article "Fatal Mix-up on Fremont Street" very interesting. The author brought out some significant questions in regard to the O.K. Corral (or Fremont Street) shootout, mainly an examination of Wyatt Earp's readiness at the clash. From studying the Earp brothers and the events of October 26, 1881, for some time now, I would like to point out a few facts not included in the article.

On October 28, 1880, Wyatt witnessed a group of armed cowboys, particularly "Curly Bill" Brocius Graham with none other than Frank McLaury close behind, shoot the town marshal, Fred White. White was trying to uphold City Ordinance No. 9, the same one Virgil Earp was attempting to enforce on October 26, 1881, almost a year to the day later. Wyatt Earp arrested Brocius and implicated others right then and there, but all were released shortly after. One also recalls August 18, 1873, when Wyatt saw his friend Ellsworth County (Kan.) Sheriff Chauncey Whitney shotgunned to death by a drunken Bill Thompson as Whitney tried to talk him out of a fight. Wyatt arrested Bill's more dangerous brother Ben (Bill escaped before Earp could arm himself). Instead of being held as an accessory after the fact, Thompson paid the court $25 for disturbing the peace.

Taking these events and countless others in Wyatt's life into consideration, I think it is no mystery that Wyatt's actions at the Fremont Street fight were out of determination not to let the same thing happen to himself and his brothers. Besides, it's not so hard to believe that Earp got to his weapon in the time he did, as his hand was probably on it already. Plus, it was a Smith & Wesson. These revolvers were double-action by that time, allowing his shot shortly before Frank McLaury's single-action Colt, but just after Bill Clanton's own Smith & Wesson bullet.

A measurement of the "readiness potential" in Wyatt Earp's muscle cortex and that of his adversaries is certainly a new and intelligent idea for determining the motives of that moment of history, but I don't think it can be entirely accurate. We don't really know what those men were thinking and can only go by what others saw.

Michael Tynio
West Charleston, Vt.

Roger Jay responds: Michael Tynio and I agree on Wyatt's readiness to act, which requires a neurophysiological process commencing prior to action. I also agree Wyatt's history of dealing with rough customers was crucial to his mind-set. However, Frank McLaury was not present when Marshal Fred White was killed. The October 29, 1880, Tombstone Epitaph named those arrested with Brocius—McLaury was not among them. As to the affair in Ellsworth, the evidence that Wyatt Earp arrested Ben Thompson is inconclusive.

Not a Smith & Wesson
In all respect to Roger Jay's research, the myth that Wyatt Earp used a Smith & Wesson during the 1881 shootout was perpetuated by the late Earp historian John Gilcrease, who owned an engraved Smith & Wesson American Model revolver with homemade wood grips that he claimed was the gun Wyatt used in the shootout. But two other early Wyatt Earp historians saw this Smith & Wesson when Gilcrease first bought it from descendants of the John Clum family, when the gun had original pearl grips presentation-inscribed to John Clum. This evidence establishes the gun belonged to Clum not Earp. By 1881 the American Model and its ammunition were obsolete, and it is doubtful Wyatt Earp would have trusted his life to such a gun. Based on the description by butcher Apollinar Bauer of the gun Earp used to buffalo (hit over the head) Tom McLaury on the morning of the shootout, the gun was probably a 10-inch-barrel Colt Single Action (see Appendix C, P. 753, of my Wyatt Earp: A Biography of the Legend, Volume I).

Lee Silva
Sunset Beach, Calif.

Roger Jay responds: Thanks, Lee, for the correction and the well-founded supposition that Wyatt used a Colt in the fight.

Faster Than a High Horse
Did Jeopardy or your Roundup section (see "The Kid in Jeopardy" on P. 11 of the February 2013 issue of Wild West) err in calling Mark Lee Gardner's book To Hell on a High Horse?

D.J. Thomas
Bisbee, Ariz.

Editor responds: Gardner's book is titled To Hell on a Fast Horse. My mistake. I usually blow it in Double Jeopardy, too.

Send letters to Wild West, 19300 Promenade Dr., Leesburg, VA 20176 or by e-mail.


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