Wider Herd

Hugh Krampe (aka Hugh O’Brian) reads a bunch of gingerbread to a couple of gullible boomers.
Photo of Hugh O’Brian courtesy of Paul Andrew Hutton, who apparently has great book-signings that invariably run over the allotted time, and he never suffers the ignominy of an upstart like me/Artwork by Bob Boze Bell

 

Long may our stories be told.

When my Illustrated Life and Times of Wyatt Earp book was first published (1993), I did a book-signing at the Phoenix Public Library. 

Someone there came up with the groovy idea to put me outside on the front steps during a rodeo parade to cash in on all the potential book-buyers watching the parade. 

Short version: not one person watching the parade ever turned around or came to my table. However, an aging hippie on inline skates did glide up to my table and looked curiously at my wares. He had earbuds on with Lynyrd Skynyrd blasting so loud I could hear the lyrics to “They Call Me the Breeze.” Flipping through the pages, he looked up and said, “What’s this?” I said loudly, “A book on Wyatt Earp!” to which he said, “Wider herd?” Before I could tell him again, he skated away, uninterested. Marrying a therapist has saved me so much money.

 

As the 1981 centennial of the fight approached, I made a goal to publish an illustrated book capturing every aspect of the street fight in Tombstone. That is a goal I am still pursuing. Above is one of the first paintings, Okay Billy, I did of the fight in 1981.

 

Is He Still the Hero? 

For this year’s 140th anniversary of the O.K. Corral fight, I decided to ask all my friends the question we are asking on the cover: Is Wyatt Earp still the hero? Frankly, I was shocked at how many responded, both pro and con, and as Mary Doria Russell dryly notes, we all know the lyrics to the Wyatt Earp theme song. 

I agree with Dr. Gary L. Roberts, who said about our common search for the truth about Wyatt Earp, “I can say honestly that the best part about the whole journey has been the dialogue I have enjoyed with those who have shared my interests, if not my approach.” Perhaps we all need a brand name for our tribe? My nomination is Wider Herd.

And, finally, when it comes to hero status, perhaps we should go back to a 1907 quote from Bat Masterson, someone who actually knew Wyatt Earp, to get the full measure of who he was: 

Wyatt Earp…has excited by his display of great courage and nerve under trying conditions, the envy and hatred of those small-minded creatures with which the world seems to be abundantly peopled, and whose sole delight in life seems to be in fly-specking the reputations of real men.”

 

My latest, When the Dust Cleared, done this year for a possible cover. In between I have illustrated hundreds of “shots” on every aspect of Tombstone in the tumultuous but legendary year, 1881.

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