magine a boy, born in Monmouth, Illinois March 19, 1948. Named after his father’s commanding officer in the Mexican-American War, the boy’s life was anything but placid. Throughout his early years his family moved from place to place. His father was convicted of bootlegging–eventually sued for debt and tax evasion. Their home and various properties were auctioned off to cover expenses. With the start of the American Civil War, the boy ran away to join his brothers in the Union Army. His father tracked him down and hauled him home. The boy kept trying; the father kept bringing him back.
Eventually, the family made it to California. It was there the young man fell in love for the first time. He married, bought a parcel of land, and lost his wife and unborn child to Typhoid fever all in the same year. Within the next two years he was arrested once, sued twice, escaped from jail, and arrested three more times.
So it was, at one time or another he was a farmer, criminal, bouncer, teamster, miner, gambler, bar-keeper, and boxing referee. It’s been suggested, he was even a pimp.
He was also a gunslinger–and a Deputy US Marshall–known most for his exploits in a little place called Tombstone.
Because of that, Wyatt Earp corrals a vast expanse of our imagination. The very mention of his name, brings visions of this. In that, it’s often hard to distinguish fact from fiction. We know, like many others, people loved him or hated him. We know he traveled frequently (including to Eagle City, Idaho–not to be confused with the Eagle we currently know and love, mind you–where he and his brothers opened a tent saloon called the White Elephant, filed on several mining claims, and were accused of claim jumping). We know he was determined; he was loyal, brave, and cool under pressure–even to the point of standing down a lynching mob.
Was he perfect? Most assuredly not. But good or bad, right or wrong, he serves a good reminder: life is rarely what we see on the big screen. Even when Hollywood manages to get it right, it’s but a glimpse of the whole picture. In between those bright sparks–those life changing moments and monumental wins–lies the mundane. It’s housecleaning and laundry, schoolwork and overtime. It’s taking kids here and there and trying to find a job when there are none to be had.
It’s continuing to work and trust for gold, even when the sweat and muscle yield little more than rocks.
You see, it’s what we do in those in between moments–those moments of boredom and tears, disappointment and frustration that nobody sees–that determine whether or not a story is worthy to be told.