Introduction etc

Parables of the Beautiful Country

by Jack E’Dalgo


“There were giants in the earth in those days.” Genesis 6:4 KJV

Although the places and most of the people in this tale are real, this is a work of fiction and not intended as either biography or a history textbook. I have endeavored to research for historical accuracy on all fronts. Any errors are my own and I’m just arrogant enough to print them anyway.

While I stand behind all of that and have striven to maintain historical accuracy, I am not, as I have said, attempting to write a biography. I like to keep John Henry Holliday in his world, and hopefully in the general vicinity in which he found himself on any day, or month which we have a record for. Newspaper accounts (not always overly accurate, the news being then much the same pack of lies it is now), hotel ledgers, diaries of his contemporaries, and, yes, court records, provide us with the realization that John Henry was a traveling man. He rarely stayed in one town for more than a few months. Several times he is noted as being in court in one town in the morning and signing in at a hotel register a hundred miles distant that night. He kept the train rails rolling and the stage coaches mules panting. He is a biographer’s nightmare, and a fiction writer’s dream.

I do not intend anything written here to denigrate Dr. John Holliday as a man. He has my utmost respect. I myself have poor health and often cannot convince myself to cross the room to my desk, let alone dress in Victorian refinement and present myself to a critical world with little time for someone who must walk a beat slower than everyone else. Doc Holliday arose most mornings coughing blood and bits of lung, with no pain killers, no fan to blow cooling air to help him breathe. He donned the heavy, confining fashions of his day even under the unforgiving Arizona sun, and faced the world where whining about the state of one’s health was severely frowned upon. A pleasant demeanor was to never be allowed to slip in polite society even if you couldn’t catch your breath or find a comfortable chair. Doc Holliday not only participated in such a world, he held court there, swayed opinion there, mattered there, was even respected and, yes, feared there. I could not have done it, and my illness is far less than half what he endured.

I say all that to admit that I find myself intimidated by the reality of what it took for John Henry Holliday to live the life he lived. He was a private man who, after Tombstone, certainly, was thrown into the unenviable world of a celebrity that he never sought and did not apparently enjoy. I myself will not attempt to portray the reality of his being, which none of us can truly know. God portrayed Holliday in the life He gave him the sand to live and there can be no other presentation half so well written. Instead, I am intrigued by the legend, itself a moving target, and will be using the excuse of an historic event to pursue my fascination for the myth he generated. Parables like that have always appealed to me. I like speculating on what the legend said about what people perceived about the person it enshrined. I like speculating on what the legend says about those who long to believe it. Perhaps I’ll figure out some day what it says about me, if I ever admit to being so self-involved.

Meanwhile, I have tried to keep incidents, books, songs, medicine, modes of transportation, laws, etc, true to the world of the American West of 1879. As an FYI to those who may not have thought on it, this is a world lit, when it is lit, by moonlight, candle light or gaslight. There is very little exposure to electricity, there are no telephone wires and, of course, no internet. Everything is made by hand. Even the industrialized world needed human intervention for its machinery. Goods had to be brought by train and by wagon to your location. If weather, robbery, plague, or hostile attack intervened along the way, you did without.

There were few courts, and lawsuits against what were perceived as facts of life and/or acts of God were not open for legal challenge; you bore your own loss, preferably without whining. There were no Miranda Rights, either, incidentally. In America, there was freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to bear arms– all demanded and fiercely defended.

Survival for yourself and your family was more than being able to fire a weapon. It meant finding ways to put food on the table while understanding that your nearest neighbor a mile up the road was probably also doing without. Water to us is plenteous and readily available. In the West of 1879, potable water was a necessary luxury, a matter of life and death. Merely the right to water for a man’s family or his livestock was a matter defensible by outright war between the haves and have-nots.

There are no fans or air conditioners, yet our forebears fought tooth and nail to live in places hotterin’ hell like Arizona or hell frozen over like Alaska.

Aside from so-called patent medicines, which were usually merely mixtures of whiskey and morphine and/or cocaine, there are no painkillers. Tylenol isn’t so much as a twinkle in anyone’s eye, and even aspirin will not be invented for another 18 years, a full decade after Doc Holliday is dead. Pain and cough are “remedied” by whiskey, laudanum (a mixture of whiskey and morphine) or cocaine. All of these are, at the time, perfectly legal. Of course, individually any of these are addictive, in combination they can even be lethal, but they are all you have. Imagine being beset by “consumption,” an agonizing, wasting illness of no known origin that left its sufferer in nearly constant, crippling pain, and ask yourself what kind of person you’d be driven to be. Better yet, ask your significant other what they think you’d be. Be gracious if they actually answer honestly.

I mention several folk remedies for various ailments throughout this book. I include them to help emphasize how people attempted to treat their own ailments due to the pathetic state of medical knowledge at the time. Granted, despite the massive amount of money poured into the medical industrial complex, it’s not improved by much, as anyone suffering from cancer or cystic fibrosis can tell you. I’m sure I’m writing this for intelligent people who understand that I am not a medical professional, nor am I recommending these things as cures. I’m certainly not diagnosing or treating anyone, nor am I giving a full and complete description of preparation or dosing of these remedies. You want more information, go talk to grandma. I’m writing historical fiction, not a medical treatise. If you’re crazy enough to try these remedies, then I can’t help you. And I don’t own anything of value so you’ll get more out of suing a turnip. True story.

Alcohol is everywhere and unlike the Spanish Inquisition, is expected everywhere. If the water isn’t fit to drink, or is non-existent, there is alcohol in some form. If the water is plentiful and free for all, alcohol is still readily available. Water was expensive to haul. Alcohol, however, came by the case, packed in straw, in myriads of styles of glass bottles (plastics were not even a distant dream). Even the most distant saloons carried several hundred types of spirits, liquors and beers, and could mix a cocktail that would make a post-post-modern Manhattan bartender drool with envy. There is no Alcoholics Anonymous. A woman publicly drunk was a slut, irredeemably and not to be forgiven such a sin no matter her situation. A man was not an alcoholic no matter how often he could be found “how came you so?” – one of the many euphemisms for drunkenness at that time. A man who could not hold his liquor was either a lazy lout of a drunk or just a good ol’ boy out for some fun, depending on who he’d managed to shoot while under the influence.

Meanwhile, while it is true that not everyone in the era could read, it is also true that most could. Education in that era was not a blind effort to expose children to literacy or math for the sake of obtaining tax monies for the superintendent of schools and his/her staff. It was to educate the next generation of Americans well enough that they could function in business, hold a job, produce businesses that would in turn produce more jobs and, above all else, to allow a literacy rate high enough for the simplest individual, male or female, to read and actually understand the King James Bible. Yes, that was the deliberate goal of education at the time. I kid you not. America’s Founding Fathers believed that a society of liberty was a gift of God worth fighting for. They also believed such a gift was impossible to maintain without a literate and educated society. The average college graduate today cannot comprehend books read by the average fifth grader of a hundred years ago when we, like a bunch of idiots, surrendered the education of our children to the State. The State crippled our minds and now we are easily manipulated by our televisions. Don’t insult me by saying it wasn’t planned to make us compliant and more easily governed.

That being said, most third graders of the era could read and comprehend the King James Bible and a good bit of Shakespeare. The American English language was greatly influenced by the King James Bible and there was often the rhythm of that translation in the language of the common man, even amid the slang and profanity, of which, critics of Deadwood be damned, there was plenty of. Profanity can be found in court transcripts of the era which, given people’s reticence to see such things in print, merely emphasizes its prevalence in the spoken language of the time. In terms of education, these days you don’t get Shakespeare until high school and God forbid the Bible in any translation is even mentioned in a public school. No pun intended. It’s not amusing how we are being robbed of our heritage by lesser, intellectually lazy individuals with no intestinal fortitude. The Bill of Rights says Freedom OF Religion, not Freedom FROM Religion.

While I’m on that soap box, speaking of the Bill of Rights. We’re in a sorry state if the only use we can see for a gun is killing someone. Most of us are taught to view our forebears as blood thirsty while we also laugh at gunmen, such as Doc Holliday, that often chose to merely wound their opponent instead of outright killing him. To wound rather than kill is a sign of self-control in a man who is a practiced and practical shootist trying to defend himself or someone else. It is also a sign of respect for human life which we, in the ivory tower we think we hold, no longer possess. To us, killing is entertainment, a blood sport from which only one should walk away, otherwise we laugh at the ineptitude of the man who strives to not be a man-slayer. It was not so in the West. They also didn’t have all the terms for gunsmen that we use today before the turn of the twentieth century, so I’ve tried to avoid all those here. And yes, I know a Colt is a revolver. But revolvers weren’t called revolvers in the day, they were revolving pistols or just pistols.

Okay. I’m off the soap box. If you’re still hanging around:

There are two deliberate anachronisms in my story: One is Russian Roulette. It may be anachronistic as a term, although I maintain the evil has been around and called something or other since the Chinese invented gunpowder. I admit I do not know Chinese. But, sure, let’s blame it on the Russians. Why not? They’re just as inventive as the rest of us. Calling this “game” of suicide by the term of “a game of chicken” got a few objections in that that game was invented as late as the 1950’s but no earlier than 1925. However, cowards have been called chicken since the 1600’s, so there’s that. I just call all that poetic license which is writer-speak for “deal with it.”

The second anachronism is the use of the term adrenaline. Of course, adrenaline has been with us from the dawn of mankind. It is a “fight or flight” hormone produced by our bodies as a reaction to danger, giving us extra energy and heightened senses to deal with an immediate threat. My grandma used to call it “nervous energy.” The Japanese didn’t “discover” and name it until 1900. But people have experienced it for millennia, so I’m just going to call it adrenaline and be done with it. I’ll deal kindly with anyone commenting about it, realizing that there are people in this world that never read introductions. That’s fine, too. Depending on the book and why I’m reading it, I sometimes don’t bother with them myself.

It is historic fact that John Holliday’s health took a downturn in the winter of 1878. Kansas was no longer good for him. The weather was too harsh, the area too dusty and, like many workaholics, he spent far too much time in his dental office or at the gaming tables, possibly avoiding the weather. He seemed to recoup a bit after his trip to the Royal Gorge. Then he followed the Earps to Arizona, another harsh, dusty area where he wound up thriving, even enduring riding posse several times, once for several weeks– but that’s some of the most documented history of the Old West and is a few years down the road from my tale.

I mention that the steam locomotive that takes Masterson and his men to Pueblo for the closing days of the Royal Gorge war is the Denver Southpark and Pacific RR engine 51. For those aware of Doc Holliday’s history, this may have actually been the engine pulling trains he would ride on a number of occasions. The year following his participation in the Royal Gorge War, the locomotive was rebranded as the Denver Leadville and Gunnison No. 191. The locomotive now is in the excellent care of the Colorado Railroad Museum, and is the oldest locomotive in Colorado. I hope to see it some day. Perhaps you already have, you lucky dog.

For the sake of inflation, here is a brief rundown of some of the amounts mentioned in the story: All equivalencies are related to the estimates for mid 2023 when “our” so-called-“federal” reserve note started it’s plunge into the nether regions of hell:

In terms of buying power in 1879,

  • the US $20 is roughly equivalent to $600.
  • $30 is roughly equivalent to $900;
  • $335 is about $10,220.
  • $500 is roughly equivalent to $15,255,
  • $10,000 is about $305,000.
  • $20,000 is about $610,000, etc.

You get the gist. May God damn all central banks throughout eternity. I’m not even gonna dignify that with the soap box. I have said what I have said.

With all due respect, if any is due,

–the author



All biblical quotations are from the King James 1611 version of the Holy Bible

“HMS Pinafore” is by W.S.Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, 1878, public domain


Where trademarked names appear throughout this book, names are used in an editorial fashion with no intention of infringement of the respective owner’s trademark.

Although based on historical persons and events, this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales in entirely coincidental.



To CJ, because I missed my stories too.



Wyatt Earp: What’s wrong with you?

Doc Holliday: What is wrong with me? What have you got? I am dying of tuberculosis. I sleep with the nastiest whore in Kansas. Everyone who knows me hates me, and every morning I wake up surprised that I have to spend another day in this piss-hole world.

Wyatt Earp (Screenplay) by Lawrence Kasdan and Dan Gordon.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *