Friendship means more to me than anything. It is the virtue I hold highest. Loyalty.
Ill and so eventually discouraging to patients, I opened the Holliday Saloon, and due to disputes I eventually left Las Vegas. I despised the people I found around me. They despised me, and I was hot-headed enough to give them reason. I drank to excess then, thought to make a reputation, and sought to throw away my life. I had lost Mattie, my childhood love, I had lost my home and family, my profession – everything, and every chance. I thought. And Billy Leonard was my friend. We were of one mind. But it was I who was forced to leave.
I found my way to Fort Griffin and fell in with Wyatt. I saw something better, some chance to live though I was dying, some chance to live for others and for a better world. Right is Might
we said, and I resurrected my lost intentions. Wyatt saved me, from myself and from Hell.
Wyatt was a good man. He was brave; he was diligent, inventive, thoughtful. He always wanted the best and strived to be the best. He ignored fear. Nulli Virtute Secundus
- In Virtue Second to None. I revived my family motto under his influence. I worked hard for his friendship. I talked to him – my words flowed like water. I stood by him; stood for him; protected him with my guns. He went unarmed through Dodge City. And eventually, he saw that I was serious, that my intent was pure, that my loss of myself had been replaced by service rather than nihilism. I saved his life, and then again, I had family, closeness, conversation, home. I saved his life and he had saved mine.
If I could not live for something, I could be prepared to die for something. Wyatt was trying to cleanse the West, trying to make peace of the last battlefield of the Civil War. ‘Cowboys’ were never about high spirits and exuberance. They were about premeditated vengeance. And I suppose, until Wyatt, I was as well. We had lost the war, lost everything, and if we could not touch the carpetbaggers, we could destroy the rich Northerners in the lawless west. But Wyatt wanted peace and the future, for families. He was like me. It was not for us. Such as we had no place in his new world, but we could help to build it – schools and churches, policemen on the corner, water for the towns, volunteer fire departments. And where would we be, he and I? They hated me - my cards, my whiskey, my cough, my love, my guns, even my soft accent. And Wyatt was restless, with dreams of independence.
I could make Wyatt laugh, like few others, and he grew slowly to prize me. Even me. He did not drink, was calm, reasonable, thoughtful, compassionate and yet adventurous. And his brothers became like my brothers. I was in many ways more like Morgan. It was with him that I could drink and risk and run. He was older than I too. In some ways he was the older brother I had wanted. Wyatt was closer than a brother, but Morgan was exactly like one. If I had a wicked air of pride and wildness when I killed, if I was glad I was free and wielded a sword of judgement and laughed at my power and intent, it was Morgan who fed that. Morgan who, unlike Wyatt, drank with me. If I had not been so fragile I am sure we would have wrestled and vied with one another. It was with him that I would sing the modern songs in those days, my voice true and tenor and his deeper, breaking with amusement. And he was thoughtful too, religious. In the morning we could talk of the possibilities of mind and spirit. He was always reading. Wyatt gave me a brother. And I had company at Christmas. Newton I was not permitted to meet. James was kind but distant. Virgil was deep and rich. He laughed, but had an air always of a favourite uncle, perhaps. I admired him, but we were not close. And Warren was younger than I, wild and resentful. Perhaps he was too young, but thought himself too old to have much regard for me. They were the Earps.
And I fell in with them to save myself from pure outlawry, to civilise the vista of the West, and because Wyatt was a great man and had method and schemes. It was exciting too, to be included, to plan, to dream sky castles. Wyatt’s dreams were always grand, and he always pursued them so wholeheartedly it seemed impossible that they should fail.
And Wyatt was true to me, as I was true to him. All his life he defended me against all comers, and there were many. If I held my life before him, he held his word and reputation before me.
We met, and we rode the storms together, back to back, shoulder to shoulder. And I was an outlaw and
Eventually, he left Dodge for Arizona. Riding behind him on the trail on a fast horse to his leisurely wagons, I came upon him alone, far from any town. And he brought me in his covered wagon to Prescott. We were going home. A geographic home. He would have a stage line, and I could work with him, hold his back and we could gamble too. Sporting men, and maybe settled, quiet, I could be a dentist again if I were well enough. That long quiet trip was one of the best experiences of my life. The air was dry, simple and warm. I was relaxed. The company was easy and close. The stars were clear at night, growing to such numbers one could feel their infinity. And we had fires in the evening. There were biscuits for breakfast, and small things gave us pleasure. And I talked and talked and talked, freely with no censor. I puzzled and wondered, told stories, told the truth, described the things I had loved, explained dentistry and the way my mother had taught me to speak. Unending. That trip was beautiful, the faster horses nodding slow, tied to the back of the buckboard, the others with their necks rising and falling, the rhythm relentless and friendly. Time stretched till it scarcely existed, and I grew healthier. And we were going home. Wyatt was bringing me home.
Then it was Prescott, where the other boys joined us, and then I followed them all to Tombstone. Yes, Tombstone.