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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: a monologue (part one)

It's Wednesday October 21st, 1881, around 9am. Tombstone police officer A.G. Bronk shakes Virgil Earp awake. "Ike Clanton's making a fuss, Marshal," he says. "There's liable to be hell."

Ike Clanton is the leader of a notorious outlaw gang called the "Cow-Boys" who have been a thorn in the side of the Earps since they took power in Tombstone about a year ago. Ike is a killer, a thief, a master manipulator, and what we would now call a terrorist. But Ike is also a big drinker and a big talker an d this is not the first time that a morning tour of Tombstone's saloons had turned Ike into a blowhard, and Virgil does the only sensible thing under the circumstances: he thanks the officer for the report, and he turns over and goes back to sleep.

However, by the time Virgil finishes sleeping off his card game and he comes downtown to start his rounds, Ike Clanton still hasn't run out of threats. He's still out drinking and threatening to kill the Earps on sight. Virgil meets up with his brothers Morgan and James, and they tell Virgil that Ike is carrying a Winchester rifle and had a six-shooter stuck down his breeches. Now the situation has a new tone, this could be serious, but more importantly, now we have a pretense to put a stop to this nonsense: it's a misdemeanor to carry a firearm inside the city limits.

Virgil, Morgan, and James meet up with Wyatt coming out of the Oriental Saloon where he'd been hearing the same rumors of his own impending demise as the others. Together they find Ike, well-soaked and frothing with drunken rage, down on Fourth Street between Fremont and Allen. Virgil walks up to him and without a word, grabs the Winchester out of his hand. Ike goes for his pistol, but his reflexes are slow from whiskey, and you can't draw very fast out of a 19th century pair of pants. Virgil draws his own gun and hits Ike across the head, like spoiled child. Ike falls to his knees, and Virgil grabs the six-shooter away from him too.

Virgil stands above him and says, "You been hunting for me, Ike?"

"I surely am," says Ike, "and if I'd seen you a second sooner, you'd be a dead man."

Virgil shares a look with his brothers, four mustachioed, well-armed men of the law standing in a half-circle around a bleeding drunk cattle rustler yelling threats from his knees. It's hilarious.

They drag Ike to the courthouse, and rather than throwing him in jail to sleep off his drunkenness, they thought it'd be best to just fine him for the firearms and get on with their day. Virgil leaves Ike and Ike's guns in Morgan's charge and goes to find the judge.

But even being buffaloed by Virgil had not damped Ike's drunken bullshit. He starts screaming at Morgan. "You fellows haven't given me any show at all today," he says. "You've treated me like a dog. Fight is my racket, and all I want is four feet of ground." Ike's on his feet now, strutting back and forth like an actor. Now the courtrooms starting to fill up with townspeople who've heard the racked. Ike says, "If you fellows had been a second later, I would have furnished a coroner's inquest for the town."

Morgan Earp is the youngest brother, only 30. He's sitting and trying to maintain his calm. During the Civil War, he stayed behind to tend the farm with Wyatt, while his brothers James, Newton, and Virgil went off to enlist. The only war he'd ever seen had been in the streets of the West, where patience and nerve went farther than bravery.

But like all the Earps, the only thing he loves more than the law are his brothers, and this drunken idiot is an offense to both, and getting worse every minute.

Ike comes close and says to Morgan, "I will get even with all of you for this. If I had a six-shooter now, I would make a fight with all of you."

Morgan snaps. He turns on Ike and thrusts Ike's revolver at him. "Here," he says, "take this. You can have all the show you want right now."

The crowd scatters. In less than a minute, the courtroom's completely empty except for Ike, Morgan, Wyatt, and a deputy. Because when Morgan speaks, it is an event, and when Morgan threatens, you scatter.

Ike jumps for the gun, but Deputy Sheriff Campbell shovs him back into his chair.

Wyatt's sitting behind Morgan throughout all of this, and he's had enough as well. He starts yelling at Clanton, "You have threatened my life two or three times and I have the best evidence to prove it and I want this thing stopped." He stops for a breath, and then he says, with great care, "You cattle thieving son of a bitch, and you know that I know you are a cattle thieving son of a bitch, you've threatened my life enough and you've got to fight."

But before this goes any farther, Wyatt storms out, half embarrassed at his outburst in the courtroom, and half still fuming about the threat to the law and his brothers that Ike Clanton and his Cow-Boys represent.

As he's leaving the courthouse, he collides with Tom McLaury, one of Ike Clanton's lieutenants in the Cow-Boys. Tom had heard the news around town of Ike's mouthing off and had come to see what kind of trouble he'd gotten himself into. He's surprised to see Wyatt so worked up.

Wyatt says, "You get out of my way too, Tom!"

Tom says right back, "If you want to fight, I will you fight you anywhere!"

"Are you heeled?" saysWyatt. "Right here, right now!," and Wyatt slaps him in the face.

Before Tom can react, Wyatt has drawn his gun and knocked Tom to the ground with it. He storms off, muttering, "I could kill the son of a bitch." He spends the next hour at the cigar counter of Hafford's trying to puff himself back into calmness.

Ike is fined $25 plus court costs for his crime. He's told he can pick up his weapons at the Grand Hotel whenever he's ready to leave town. The Earps go away confident that they had diffused a dangerous situation and had asserted their authority.

But now the Cow-Boys are gathering. Tom McLaury's brother Frank, and Ike Clanton's brother Billy had arrived in town earlier to do a deal on a herd of beef cattle. They hear from a sympathizer what transpired at the courthouse, and they both decline the offer of a drink. On their way to the O.K. Corral to have their horses tended to, they run into another Cow-Boy, Billy Claiborne, a young hot-headed gunman who is awaiting trial for killing a man who refused to call him "Billy the Kid". Claiborne tells Billy Clanton that his brother is at Doc Gillingham's having his head wound treated.

Billy Clanton says that they should go get Ike and then get out of town. But then all five of them are seen inside Spangenberg's Gun Shop filling their gunbelts with ammunition.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: a monologue (part two)

In the future, men will know their place.