A diary entry from Wyatt Earp, the famed lawman from the Old West, was just discovered, and it's a hoot to read.

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A diary entry from Wyatt Earp, the famed lawman from the Old West, was just discovered and it’s a hoot to read. It says …

Tombstone, Arizona, Fall, 1881, Monday

Dear Diary,

Those McLaurys are as dumb as a waterlogged one-legged hitching post. I don’t give two centavos if they re-branded forty-six cows from the federal herd. That ain’t my beef. But I’ll be slipped into a coffin made of china tallow leaves before I let them get away with theivin’ the cashbox, ’cause some of my money was in that box, bound for the Thinwall Bank & Trust in Dodge City.

McLaurys ain’t got enough muscle to make me see it their way. Still, I don’t want no shootin’. I don’t got the dead aim that Bat Masteren and Doc Holiday do.

My dry eyes once witnessed Mastersen shoot at and hit a bullet that Holiday shot at the moon. I mean that’s how good that guy is. As for Holiday, he’s always doin’ stuff like that: shootin’ at the moon. He claims, in that colorful southern drawl of his, that the moon’s visible pock marks are all his doin’. I trust his information on the general hygiene of the mouth, inasmuch as he purports to be a doctor of dentistry, but I don’t go so far as to credit his astronomical declarations. For instance, I don’t believe in things called the moons of Jupiter.

Holiday is a genuine Southern eccentric, and he’s good with a gun and at three-card poker, and I never laugh so hard as when he relates stories of those dirt-stupid Mississippi rebel soldiers. And never have a I heard a better argument against an intelligent Creator as from the lips of Doc.

I put down my pistol some years ago after it discharged in my holster at Becky’ saloon in Dodge. I had tipped my chair back on its hind toes at one of those round tables of hers and, I’ll be cursed to everlasting flames, the chair slipped and the gun went off, piercing my new calico pants and my cherry-blossom long undies just above the knee.

The bullet went through the pants, the underwear, and the ceiling, where it caught hold of a naked cowboy on the cusp of concluding a pecuniary arrangement with one of Becky’s muscular bar girls. The cowboy was okay, but the brush with death put the girl back in the mood, and so the cowboy ended up spending two dollars more that day than he intended, albeit laying on his un-injured side.

I myself blushed so much that Becky thought the bullet penetrated my temple. (For a time in Illinois in my late teens I wore a green three-cornered musketeer chapeau with a foot-long pink feather on it, and since then, as anyone might guess, I could never endure public shame with the poise of a philosopher.)  And so, in mid-blush, I let slip the buckle of my holster and allowed the gun to fall to the floor. I left town on the 2:13 stage goin’ to Tombstone. I had a heart as heavy as solid-oak buckboard the whole ride over. I never picked up a firearm since then, even in my marshaling days and up to this moment.

I find, by the way, that most of good marshaling is soft talkin’. I swear, I could convince a pistol-wavin’ desperado that slippin’ his leathery neck into a loose noose will afford him the best of all possible futures. I got a way with words. My vocal delivery has caused many a rustler to weep.

Anyway, those dense donkeys, the McLaurys, sent me a note today saying they’ll be tying up horses at the O. K. Corral tomorrow morning and they expect to talk with me there. The note itself is a monument to their idiocy. There are as many errors in it as words.

Bat and Doc say I should dust off the Winchester, just in case.  But I cut that thing up a while back. Last I looked, a bit ago, my little girl Aubrey was outside in the slight shade of a large cactus tree smoothin’ mud pies with the gun’s sawed-off barrel. As I peek out my window right now, I see her scorin’ those pies (for equitable distribution) with the pointy remains of the rifle’s rusted firing mechanism.

I’ll just borrow a firearm from Doc, the one with the ivory cut into big and little stars on the handle. We’ll have to see how it goes. I hope I don’t have to use a pistol at all.

[From a work in progress called ‘Almost True Diary Entries From the World’s Famed‘]

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J. H. McKenna (Ph.D.) has taught the history of religius ideas since 1992 at various colleges and since 1999 at the University of California, where he has won teaching awards. He has published in academic...