Ask anyone about the most famous shootout from the annals of the Old West, and invariably they will point to the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.” The brief thirty second confrontation between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday on one side and the Clantons and the McLaurys on the other is arguably the most famous exchange of gunfire and gunsmoke ever recorded, and continued public awareness of the event that took place in Tombstone, Arizona Territory on October 26, 1881 has been assured by numerous literary interpretations and movie depictions of the simmering feud that led to this moment in history.
One of the more original and outlandish accounts of the gunfight and the circumstances that led to it comes by way of author Preston Lewis in book #3 of the H.H. (Henry Harrison) Lomax memoirs. If you love western literature and especially western humor, you’re probably already acquainted with the series, but if not, I refer you to my earlier blog posts: The Demise of Billy the Kid, Jun 7, 2018; The Redemption of Jessie James, Feb 1, 2019; Bluster’s Last Stand, Aug 9, 2019; and First Herd to Abilene, Apr 29, 2020.
Invariably you’ll note that I previously bypassed this third entry into the account of Lomax’s adventures (the above titles should highlight the fact that he claims to have known many of the icons of the Old West and been involved in just about every pivotal event that ever occurred during the period.) At the time I wanted to jump ahead and read his take on Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and then I just naturally followed up that book with his telling of the first great cattle drive from Texas to Kansas. However, I knew that I would eventually return to the famous Tombstone shootout, and I was determined to have read all five books before the release of book #6, North to Alaska, due out August 5th.
Lomax’s braggadocio has always tempered historical accuracy with outrageous assertions of bravado, but he really lays it on thick in Mix-Up At The O.K. Corral. He claims to have spit into Doc Holliday’s drink and lived to tell the tale, to have fired the first shot in the faceoff at the corral, and to have killed the notorious gunman Johnny Ringo in the ongoing vendetta that occurred in the aftermath of the gunfight. In fact Lomax spreads so many rumors and tells so many lies in this entry into the series that you can fully understand why almost everyone in Tombstone is anticipating that not only will he be shot, but also openly betting on where the bullet will strike him… in the back, in the gut, in the head, etc. Even his own cat wants to scratch his eyes out, but somehow Lomax makes it out of Tombstone alive and hits the trail towards another misadventure, this time in Skagway, Alaska.
I’m obviously a big fan of Preston Lewis, and I’m always looking forward to the next chapter in the H.H. Lomax saga. His many exploits are told with humor, pathos, and a lot of historical detail (albeit stretched a good bit in keeping with Lewis’ ability to spin a good yarn.) So, catch up if you haven’t yet read any of Henry Harrison’s memoirs and get ready for more action in the frozen North. You’ll be glad you did!