November 21, 2011Working on the aftermath of the O.K. Corral fight for our centennial coverage. Plenty of heartache all around. it certainly spelled tragedy for both sides, with ambushes and counter strikes (it's no wonder early scribes referred to it as the "Earp-Clanton Feud.") And, of course, it plays out entirely different than the movies where the Earps have saved the town from outlawry and are greeted as conquering heroes. This did happen, but for only about two hours. From Doc Holliday sitting on his bed in Fly's weeping (Kate's remembrance) to the Earps and all of their supporters being trounced at the next election, the real history plays out at a 180 degree tilt AWAY from the legend.
After the Spicer Hearing exonerated them, it's interesting to note the Tombstone town council did not reappoint Virgil as chief of police, and the business community withdrew their support, at least privately, based on all the negative national publicity that the fight had generated. The Earps became pariahs to the business interests and their friends suffered as well. John Clum was depressed at the money hole the Tombstone Epitaph had become (not hard for me to imagine) and being so closely associated with the Earps he knew his days as mayor were numbered as well.
We're doing a Size Matters: The Tombstone Edition, and in addition to Texas John Slaughter at the short end (5'3"?) we have Sheriff Bob Paul at 6'4". When it comes to the cowboys in the O.K Corral fight, I just got this from a historian who has researched the McLaurys at length:
"When I first met the grand-nieces of Tom and Frank, they told me ALL the McLaurys were short. That opinion has since been confirmed by other relatives that I've met (all of whom were under 5'6). Billy Clanton was over 6' tall. He may have been 6'1" or even 6'2" If you look at the coffin photo, note that Billy's coffin is longer both at the top and bottom than the one next to him (Tom). Tom was probably about 5'5" or 5'6". Frank (coffin on the left) was shorter than his brother by about two inches (5'3" or 5'4"). This is borne out by the photo in Jack Ganzhorn's book "I've Killed Men" of the two McLaurys (standing) and Ed Finerty (seated). Although that photo is disputed (it's provenance is cloudy and the original has never been located that I know of), I believe it is the McLaurys in the photo. Frank (on the right) is clearly the shorter brother. Finerty, a tall man himself, was seated between them.
"Now picture 5'11" Wyatt Earp towering over 5'5 or 6" Tom and walloping him over the head. Earp had a physical advantage as well as the element of surprise. Does that make Frank's reluctance to give up his gun more understandable?"—Paul Johnson
I seem to remember Bat Masterson describing Wyatt as being six foot, but perhaps 5'11" is more accurate to the times.
Of course, everyone was shorter in those days, so someone like Bob Paul at six foot four must have been quite imposing.
"An officer must rely almost entirely upon his own conscience for encouragement. The sympathy of the respectable portion of the community may be with him, but it is not openly expressed."
—Virgil Earp, being interviewed after leaving Tombstone