Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Among the many things I've been meditating upon while reading a recently published book about Hannibal has been the legendary Gunfight at the OK Corral. It seems odd even to think about The Gunfight at the OK Corral, let alone to meditate upon it, while reading about what Hannibal and other luminaries from history can each us about our lives.

On a sultry soporific sun-drenched early afternoon in Tombstone Arizona in 1881 a gunfight took place among seven men that lasted thirty seconds. At the end of those few seconds three men lay dead, another three lay wounded, and the remaining one was unharmed. Despite the brevity and innocuousness of the event, it has become a legend. There is arguably no-one living today in the entire world who hasn't at least heard of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

However it wasn't until 1931 - fifty years after the gunfight - that the public began to know of it. Someone had written a biography about one of the dramatis personae in the gunfight, Wyatt Earp. This biography was later determined to be largely fiction, but it was the spark that began the Gunfight at the OK Corral legend that has never stopped growing. Many films - dramatic, fictional and documentary - have been made about it; many books - both novels and non-fiction - have been written about it; songs have been composed and sung about it.

Given this, and that the events leading up to the gunfight, and the details of it itself, are thought uncertain, is it any wonder that accounts of it, and interpretations of it, have differed wildly for reasons emotional, ideological, artistic and commercial? It has turned into myth you might say. Its dramatis personae have turned into myths too.

Come to think of it, is it really so odd that I thought of The Gunfight at the OK Corral while reading about Hannibal..............?


  1. The process of turning people into myth begins long before they're gone, don't you think?

    This might sound silly but I get into all kinds of trouble with my in-laws by questioning the mythology of their emigration from Russia and their early years in America. I don't bring the proper reverence to it. It's really a grand struggle over whose family narrative will be the defining story of my children's lives. You think I give up easily on this?

  2. ".......The process of turning people into myth begins long before they're gone, don't you think?........"

    Absolutely. One has only to sit around large family gatherings and listen to old family stories, to know this.

    If your children are even half as intelligent as I think you are, they'll take the official story of their grandparents' early years with the needed pinches of salt.

    They'll also understand that their grandparents need their stories......