For a small amount, maybe as much as $5 or as low as $2, I purchased an audiobook from Chirp Books called Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin. It’s a biography of several dozen buffalo hunters, lawmen, cowboys, and native americans that serves to place the American west into a proper context. The stories are held together by the detail provided about Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, who, along with Doc Holiday, are probably the lawmen you have heard about because of the long publicized shoot out at the O.K. Coral. Tom Clavin attempts to bring some serious historical research into the mix to ensure readers that his stories are closer to the truth, though he does make sure to mention that no one will really knows the truth, especially when even those involved, had conflicting stories about what happened. For instance, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson had different stories about what happened at the O.K. Coral.
The story begins with the buffalo, of which some say there were 30-60 million bison in the mid-western plains before the movement west of millions of European immigrants and their descendants killed them off by 1890. They were slaughtered for their hides and their tongues, which were a delicacy in the East. Bat Masterson as a teenager broke away from his family responsibilities on the farm to become one of the buffalo hunters who earned money for his eating, housing, gambling, drinking and sexual needs. In the process he learned how to be an expert at the use of a gun and fight with Native Americans who were trying to resist the white man’s efforts to destroy their livelihood. Bat and two of his siblings would eventually become an important part of law enforcement in Ford County and Dodge City, Kansas, as well as Tombstone, Arizona in the 1870’s and 80’s at the peak of the Wild West days filled with rowdy cowboys and Native Americans. Bat and his two brothers, Ed and Jim would either become friends or enemies to some of the most famous people of the Wild West including Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and his siblings, Doc Holiday, Kit Carson, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill, Frank and Jesse James, and Dull Knife among many other Native Americans. The Masterson’s and Earps worked hard to minimize violence, and ensure that killers got a fair trial, but if someone would not come peacefully, these men were not afraid to use force and to kill if necessary, even without a badge to justify the killing. They would claim that they never killed a good man, the men they killed deserved it – in fact, the judicial system would side with them if ever brought to court. In this book, the author uses the connections of the Masterson’s and Earp’s, to expound upon the biographies of those connections.
I remember about a couple of the battles, to which Bat Masterson and Dodge City, Kansas had some connection, are described in great detail by Tom Clavin:
I was enthralled by the stories told, so it wasn’t like some history book of yore, and how the author intertwined these stories absolutely fascinates me. I’ve gone right out and started listening to a book about the Native American perspective of the same period (1860-1890): Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown.
A couple of teasers for you:
- How did Bat Masterson live after he left the mid-west? You can find out by reading the book.
- What relative of mine has a story to tell about being in a gunfight in Texas? Keep reading my blog postings in the Historical Passions project and you’ll find out.