Milking a Legend
I’m 73 years old, and I’m watching 60-year-old episodes of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, with Hugh O’Brian, who died at 91 in 2016. The show’s adviser was Stuart Lake, who tended to glorify Earp’s life in his book [Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal]. In the series Earp didn’t touch alcohol but drank nothing but milk while in Dodge City. Is that one of Lake’s falsehoods?
Wyatt Earp biographer Casey Tefertiller responds: In those times most men were drinkers, often heavy drinkers. What we know with some certainty is that Earp did not drink hard liquor during his time in Kansas and then Tombstone. Whether he had an occasional beer or glass of wine is not certain, so I have avoided calling him a teetotaler. He actually often visited the ice cream parlors and was a big ice cream eater. According to one story, at the end of the Vendetta he stopped at Hooker’s Ranch shortly before his posse left Arizona Territory. The men were all having a drink, and Earp joined in with his first drink of hard liquor in many years. It would not be his last. By the time he was in San Francisco in the 1890s, he had become a heavy drinker. After he moved to L.A. in the early 1900s, he drank regularly. I suspect that Prohibition was very good for him, because he seemed to sober up and sharpen up during the last decade of his life. So, if you toast him, feel free to do so with a glass of milk.
Wild West subscribers may recall when you featured actor/artist Buck Taylor, “Newly O’Brien” on TV’s Gunsmoke, in the February 2012 Art of the West [by Johnny D. Boggs, available online at WildWestMag.com]. Well, a few years ago my wife and I vacationed in Branson, Mo., and visited Silver Dollar City, where one of the attractions was a traditional art show. As we wandered about looking at the exhibits, I spotted Taylor displaying a selection of his spectacular Western art. I immediately strolled over and introduced myself. To my delight Buck and I (see photo) engaged in cordial conversation. I enthused about my love of Gunsmoke, how much I enjoyed his Newly character and his roles in various movies, in particular the megahit Tombstone and my own personal cowboy favorite, Conagher, which is based on a Louis L’Amour novel and stars Sam Elliot as Conn Conagher. Taylor plays vile outlaw Tile Coker.
Buck asked me if I had a favorite scene. I told him it was when Conagher tracks down five of the livestock-stealing band of miscreants, who have holed up in a line shack overnight after driving some stolen Longhorns north. Conagher stuffs some weeds down the chimney and smokes out Coker and the other rustlers. Conagher has to gun down two of them and tells the other three he won’t shoot them or turn them over to the law but orders them to leave the territory and to leave their gear behind. Coker wonders where they are supposed to go. When Buck asked me if I remembered Conagher’s reply, I said, “I think it was ‘East.’” Once he got me into the scene, Buck’s demeanor changed from friendly to belligerent, and he went into his Coker persona from the 1991 film. Growling through his teeth, he looked me in the eye and said: “East! There ain’t a town or place for 50 miles!” That indeed was the original line from the movie, and I was blown away. Buck gave me a taste of how professional actors can effortlessly transform themselves into the characters they play. Taylor became my instant Hollywood hero!
Jim Van Eldik
Mud Springs Man
I read with great interest John Koster’s article “The Other 7th Cavalry” in your April 2020 issue. He gives a brief description of the attack at Mud Springs Station on April 4 and mentions that the station sheltered nine soldiers and five civilians when the attack began. A telegraph operator sent messages of the attack to Fort Mitchell and Fort Laramie. My great-grandfather Reason McCollister was stationed at Fort Laramie with the 11th Ohio Cavalry and during the attack was at Mud Springs on detached service, as shown in the image at left. Therefore, it appears he was one of the soldiers at Mud Springs. About a year later he is found on detached service as a telegraph operator at Horseshoe Station, northwest of Fort Laramie. He might also have been the telegraph operator at Mud Springs. All this information comes from his records at the National Archives. I wish I could find more information about the soldiers at Mud Springs.
Jon Guttman makes two errors in his review of the book Arizona’s Deadliest Gunfight, by Heidi J. Osselaer, in the August 2019 issue. He states that Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon was never filmed as an American Western. That is not true. In 1964 Martin Ritt directed The Outrage, starring Paul Newman, Claire Bloom, Laurence Harvey, Edward G. Robinson and a young, pre—Star Trek William Shatner. Guttman also states the gunfight took place on the eve of America’s entry into World War I. The gunfight in question took place on Feb. 10, 1918. We had declared war on April 6, 1917, and were deeply involved in combat by the time of the gunfight in Arizona.
Phillipp Phelan Muth
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