On this day long ago: Y’all ain’t from around here boy…

One of the most famous gun fights in history took place in the afternoon of October 26th 1881, in the appropriately (and rather bizarrely) named town of Tombstone.A pivotal moment in one of cinema’s most significant western film’s John Ford’s My Darling Clementine- Studio Classics [DVD], the gunfight at the OK Corral is one of fiction’s favourite events in history.

The fire insurance map of Tombstone

The west was, as it’s popular name suggests, wild. Not entirely lawless, it was definately every man for himself. And men they were. With big grudges, big guns and big hats.

Frank McLaury and Wyatt Earp

The fight itself was less than a minute, but in that few seconds it took the lives of the McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton, whilst it had left two Earps and Doc Holliday injured. Of the combatants only Wyatt Earp came away unscathed (if you don’t count Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne who ran away early on in the battle) . The fight took place near the horse corral in Tombstone, so it wasn’t strictly speaking a fight at the OK Corral but sort of nearby. Which is admittedly not as catchy.

The County Courthouse

Virgil Earp was the town Mashal and also a Deputy US Marshal (y’know the chaps that wrestle terrorists on aeroplanes these days), in July the year before he had tracked some stolen army mules (actual mules, this is not a euphamism) to the ranch of the McLaury brothers. After some ‘discussion’ the brothers promised they would return the mules. Over the following year the brothers and the Earp family had a number of disagreements in the way only cowboys can. These culminated in the events of the 26th October, after the night before Ike Clanton had come into town to sell beef with Tom McLaury tagging along. On the same day the boys had had a confrontation with Doc Holliday (who was a doctor of dentistry, so not a man I’d mess with).

The losing party

On the morning of the 26th Ike was found by virgil Earp to be carrying an illegal weapon (yes boys and girls there were actual laws in the wild wild west) and thus was pistol whipped. Or as they called it then, buffaloed. Later another Earp gave another McLaury a pistol whipping ( at this point getting to be something of a habit for the family now…). Despite having both ended up on the wrong end of Earp weapons earlier in the day the McLaury boys were spotted by concerned citizens carrying guns again. Sheriff Behan and Virgil Earp, the Marshal, demanded they stop carrying, but the boys declined. An effort by the lawmen to disarm them went awry and so the most famous gun battle in the west came to be.

Eventually all the participants ended up at Boot Hill

Recreating the OK Corral or other western shootouts, such of those of Billy the Kid, is within your grasp (and what better way to while away the afternoon is there than doing bad cowboy impressions, unless you actually are a cowboy)…with western buildings, cowboys of all kinds, lawmen, and even some pre rustled cattle.And some for the smaller cowpokes in your life. Further inspiration can be drawn from the plethora of books and movies here…Y’all let us know how your west was won in the comments…