On October 26, 1881 tensions brewing for months between the newly urbanized citizens of Tombstone, AZ and the ranchers and cowboys from surrounding areas, boil over into a shootout at the O.K. Corral.
It was a dusty and hot afternoon in Arizona territory, when three brothers and their friend approached an alley a few doors down from one of the town’s corrals. At times lawmen, and at times businessmen, the brothers went by the last name Earp and their friend Holliday. Tombstone was now rich with money from nearby discovered silver and the local cowboys felt many of the laws enforced around the town now favored merchants and bankers at the expense of the country folk. They saw men like the Wyatt Earp as self-serving, favoring the city dwellers in their desire for law and order. So they formed a 19th century version of “Occupy Tombstone” and thumbed their noses at laws prohibiting firearms in town. In the effort to disarm them in the alleyway, someone drew and fired. The ensuing thirty-second-gun battle, over thirty shots exchanged often at ranges of less than ten feet killed three of the “cowboys” and wounded two of the Earp brothers.
The fight was little noticed at the time, only gaining mythical status after the death of Wyatt Earp and publication of a sensationalized (some say fictionalized) biography in 1931. Earp’s biographer helped to propel him and a minor skirmish into the national conscience and keep them there for over a century. Of the fifteen or so movies based on Earp, the last was made as recently as 1994, and I still watch it if it comes on TV. But I know a secret. Biographers and modern reporters share the same biases. They prefer action over inaction and the simple explanation over the nuanced one. Both are traps for investors, especially in our hypersensitive times. Action may sell western novels, but it doesn’t always result in a “win.” And the easy, clear narrative is almost always the stuff of legend.
Don't wait for history to happen...