Trouble seemed to follow Doc Holliday. And in the case of Charlie Wright, that was literally true.
That’s according to Dr. Gary Roberts’ new book Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend (published this May by John Wiley & Sons).
Doc spent much of 1878 in Dodge City, Kansas. And it was a happenin’ time, as the cowtown enjoyed its heyday.
Doc and his lady love Kate Elder arrived in May, shaking off the dust of west Texas (and probably looking for a clean start after some difficulties there). He plied his twin trades of dentistry and gambling, to varying degrees of success. But Doc attracted bad stuff. And he got plenty in Dodge.
Trouble hit in December, when somebody burglarized the Wright and Beverly store, owned by pioneer and man of influence Bob Wright. His relative Charles Wright was thought to be involved—but Charlie said that Doc Holliday had pulled the job. Bob believed him. No evidence was brought against Doc, but he was smart enough to know that it was time to pull up stakes again. Still, he didn’t forget the guy who accused him of being a common thief.
Doc and Kate headed southwest to Las Vegas, New Mexico. The climate was better for Holliday’s tuberculosis, and that was a factor in the move. But Las Vegas was a bustling burg with plenty of business opportunities, and Doc saw a chance to make money.
Peaceful, it wasn’t. Doc was in a shooting scrape that left one man dead, although he was never charged. He was arrested on more than one occasion for running illegal gambling setups. He was even sued by a builder for failing to pay the guy for work on a Holliday saloon.
Doc was restless throughout his life—a transient who came and went as he pleased. He was in and out of East Las Vegas over the next couple of years. And he wasn’t alone. Billy the Kid visited. So did Jesse James. The Earps came through on their way to Tombstone. And noted crook—and justice of the peace—Hoodoo Brown was a pillar of the community, at least for awhile.
Then Charlie Wright showed up.
It was early 1880, and Charlie was tending bar at a saloon on the Plaza in Old Town when Doc heard that his old acquaintance was in town. Doc decided to greet him—with a cocked pistol in his hand as he went through the bar door.
Witnesses said Charlie dove behind the bar and reappeared with his own pistol, and the fight commenced. But the duelists were not on their games. Each fired several shots and missed, miserably. Doc finally drew blood first, grazing Charlie with a bullet near the spine that knocked the barkeep out. Doc left the building. Charlie quickly recovered.
Neither combatant was arrested for the brouhaha. Doc was soon gone for good, headed to Prescott, Arizona, en route to destiny in Tombstone.
Charlie stuck around in Las Vegas, at least until summer, when he began moving around the West. Apparently his shooting touch never improved. He was in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1890 and managed to get sideways with gunman Luke Short. Charlie, showing initiative if not courage, shot-gunned Short from ambush but succeeded in only wounding his target. Charlie quickly left town to avoid the consequences of
Doc, of course, was already three years in the grave, finally removed from the troubles that trailed him throughout life.