trueCOWBOYmagazine Sept/Oct 2014 - Page 59

Both were flamboyant, hot-tempered, intelligent and resourceful. He has been described as a convivial and congenial man of Southern breeding, a tough citizen and a bad egg, a dangerous adversary and a dependable ally. He was also a dish. A photograph of him taken in Tombstone shows a man with regular features, full lips partly obscured by a luxuriant moustache, a level gaze and piercing, dark blue eyes. His story and Kate’s are intertwined with the Earp brothers’, like wild roses and honeysuckle, and stretched from Dodge City to Texas to Arizona to the New Mexico territories. Wyatt Earp told this story about Holliday; Doc was dealing cards to a local bully, Ed Bailey. Bailey, perhaps to show he was not impressed by Doc’s reputation, “began monkeying with the deadwood, or what people who live in cities call discards. Doc Holliday admonished him once or twice to “play poker”, which is your seasoned gambler’s method of telling a friend to stop cheating. But the misguided Bailey persisted in his furtive attentions to the deadwood.” Finally, Doc simply raked in the pot without showing his hand, as was his right under the rules of Western poker. Bailey brought up the pistol he had concealed beneath the table. Before he could fire, Doc slashed him across the belly with a knife. Bailey fell forward onto the table, dead. Doc had struck in self-defense. Even so, he was locked in a hotel room under guard while a vigilante mob howled for his head on a platter. Kate heard what was going on and simply took care of business. She set fire to a shed behind the hotel. When she shouted “Fire!” the townspeople ran to fight the blaze leaving only a marshal and a constable to guard the prisoner. Kate waltzed into the room brandishing a pistol, threw a second weapon to her lover, laughing, “Come on, Doc!” They hid in the willows near the river until a confederate brought them two stolen horses. Then they made tracks to Dodge City, four hundred mile away. When Wyatt Earp arrived, he found them “installed in great style,” and living as Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Holliday. Doc was so moved by Kate’s courage and devotion that he vowed to live a more respectable life. Once again he hung out his dentist’s shingle. Kate tried, too, but she grew bored with domestic life and went back to plying her trade. Doc went back to the tables.