Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Doc Holliday

1.  Today is Baby J's due date.
2.  Funny jokes (sometimes they're all that gets me through).
3.  John "Doc" Holiday's last words as he looked down at his naked feet: "This is funny."

When I was in high school, my friends and I found the movie Tombstone.  We all fell in love with Val Kilmer's character John "Doc" Holiday.  In the movie he always seemed to know what to say, he spoke Latin, he never stopped drinking, and he was an amazing gun fighter, all while fighting tuberculosis.  To say the least, we loved his lines, and his character.

So, when my high school English teacher asked us to pick a real person to do a report on, my immediate thoughts were of Doc Holiday, shortly followed by thoughts that I didn't want the truth to disappoint me.  I was afraid that, as in so many movies, Doc had been blown up to super human proportions and wasn't really as cool as the movie lead me to believe he was.

So, I bought Doc Holliday, by John Myers Myers, to my knowledge, one of very few books written on the man.  I read it carefully, because the report was some incredible amount of my grade.  I was amazed to find that Doc was all the movie said he was and more.  He was a dentist before becoming a gambler, but because of his tuberculosis, he would often cough while working on patients, and as you can imagine, people weren't big fans of their dentist coughing up a storm when he told them to open their mouths.  So, when his doctor said he should move to a drier climate, he started wandering and gambling.  When he was younger he had learned to shoot a gun, and found that gun play was important in gambling as well, so he really was the gunslinger the movie made him out to be.  He was so good that he one time shot a man in the chest and was mad at himself for not hitting the head.  He was also a drinker.  The book said that his nerves were never really calm, even when he was a dentist, and so he'd drink to steady them, and that never stopped until he died, though it wasn't what killed him.  He was, as the movie shows, very good friends with Wyatt Earp, though he wavered between the side of the law and the side of the outlaw much more than Wyatt.  He was at Tombstone, and he was given a shotgun during the fight at the corral, though what the movie doesn't show is that he hated the shotgun because it wasn't as accurate as his pistols, and Wyatt gave him one in hopes he wouldn't jump in to a fight as quickly with it as he would with pistols.

He spent his life a gunslinger, a gambler, a drinker, and a southern gentleman, which is why his last words are so awesome.  Just as the movie shows, he was in a hospital at the end of his life, because the tuberculosis had gotten the better of him.  His last words really were "This is funny."  It makes sense that the movie has him looking at his feet, because it shows why he'd say it.  All his life he'd been in situations where he should have died with his boots on, and yet, his actual dieing place was in a hospital, from a disease he'd tried to ignore for years.

I watched Tombstone last night and thought of what an amazing man he was.  How I'd read a book to find out the truth and found the truth to be just as amazing, if not better than the film.  I thought about the choices he made and why he was remembered.  I won't say that I want a life like his.  He had very few friends, and many enemies.  But he was always in the middle of the action.  He was willing to fight for things he thought were important, and he was willing to help a friend, both worthy of remembering.  Just something I've been thinking about lately.  I hope both can be said of me when I die.  Have a nice day.


  1. I sounds like becoming a father is making you think about how you will be remembered. That makes sense.

  2. I honestly didn't look at it that way, but now that I read it, it makes sense.