Around Kansas – Wyatt Earp

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas, I’m Deb Bisel. Few names loom larger in the Wild West than Wyatt Earp and even young kids hopefully, you’re familiar with the story of Tombstone and the shootout at the OK Corral in 1881. There have been few scenes in American history that have been more written about, more talked about, more interpreted in books and movies. You know before Wyatt Earp went to Tombstone, he spent a lot of time, a decade nearly, in Kansas. The 1870s the Earps were all over the place. Now the Earp family had moved to Lamar, Missouri. This was, you know back in the day when everybody was headed west and Nicholas Earp, Wyatt’s Dad was actually, his roots were in the mountains of North Carolina. But the family had moved from Iowa, down to Lamar Missouri, and then the cattle towns were booming in Kansas. So all these young men, the Earp brothers, all six of ’em saw opportunity in Kansas. Now, Wyatt’s older brothers Virgil, James and Newton had served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Wyatt was too young and he kept running away and trying to join. And every time he’d run away his Dad would have to go after him and bring him back. So, that kid was spoiling for fight, or some action. And he would soon find that in Kansas. The brothers settled for a while in Wichita. They were in Newton for a while. Wyatt worked a variety of things, might have hunted buffalo for a while. He may have worked as a bouncer for his brother who had a saloon and brothel. But eventually he winds up in Dodge City. And in Dodge City, he has a couple of stints as a law man there. And Dodge City in the 1870s everybody’s there. Bat Masterson, Luke Short, Dog Kelley is the mayor. And there’s some of us, of a certain age who actually grew up with the TV series that had Dog Kelley and Bat Masterson and all those characters portrayed in the TV series. While Wyatt of course, was known for that famous shoot out. One of the reasons that he was effective as a lawman, and one of the reasons that they wanted to hire him is because he could settle disputes without a gun. He was actually a pretty good boxer. And so, there were a lot of times that he could defend himself without resorting to drawing a gun. And Wyatt just had a set of eyes. He could look at people and he had a commanding presence. So he could put people in their place, or calm a situation without resorting to the use of a gun. So, ironically that’s what made him effective and desirable as a lawman. When you go to Dodge City of course, Wyatt Earp Boulevard is the main drag and you’ve got that wonderful statue of Wyatt there. But remember it wasn’t just in Dodge City that he made his claim to fame, he’s all over the place in Kansas. And lots more to be written and discovered on the legend of Wyatt Earp. We’ll be right back.