What we can learn from Doc Holliday by David C. Stolinsky, MD

Journal/Website: 
Stolinsky.com
Article Type: 
Commentary
Published Date: 
Thursday, March 16, 2017

Doc HollidayDoc Holliday received a classical education in his native Georgia. He then graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, class of 1872. But his frequent cough from tuberculosis, from which his mother and brother had died, caused patients to go elsewhere. Holliday abandoned his dental practice and went west to the Arizona Territory, hoping that the dry air would help his condition. He settled in Tombstone, a boisterous mining town.

The character of the town is exemplified by this grave marker in Tombstone’s Boot Hill Cemetery. Whether it is real or a grim joke remains unknown. There is no Les Moore in the town’s death register, but an old man recalled a Wells Fargo stagecoach driver by that name who was killed in a robbery.

Tombstone grave markerDoc became a gambler and gunfighter. He remained unscathed by these dangerous activities, while the disease continued to take its toll. Perhaps he hoped to die by gunfire rather than by tuberculosis. This brings us to the First Doc Holliday Rule:

Sometimes we can alter our fate, sometimes we can’t, but at least we can try.

In the 1993 film “Tombstone,” lawman Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and his friend Doc Holliday confront a violent outlaw gang. Doc has tuberculosis − of which he will die at age 36 − and should be resting. A member of the posse asks Holliday why he is exerting himself. Doc explains, “Wyatt’s my friend.” The man objects, “Hell, I’ve got lots of friends.” Doc replies, “I don’t.” Here we have the Second Doc Holliday Rule:

When trouble comes, it’s not how many friends we have that counts − it’s what kind of friends they are.

This is relevant to what we call “coalitions.” Some members of the coalition in Afghanistan send only a few hundred troops. Even worse, some of these troops do not patrol at night, do not go into “hot” zones, and fire only when fired upon. That is, even if they spot a Taliban leader, they do nothing if they aren’t fired upon first.

This concept of a “coalition” accords more with the posse member’s idea of friendship than with Doc’s. The concept is so broad that it includes all acquaintances except actual enemies. It bears no relation to loyalty. On the other hand, we have the Brits. They accord more with Doc’s concept of friendship − those who are there when we really need them, even if the situation is dangerous, and even if they are in a weakened condition.

Then we have so-called “friends” who get us into trouble, not out of it. Take the situation in Libya. The Europeans, especially the French, urged military action against Qaddafi’s brutal regime. But because of decades of military decline, they were too weak to take on even a third-rate power, so again they depended on America to do the heavy lifting. As a result, Qaddafi is dead, but Libya is now in chaos and a base for Al Qaeda.

As Mark Steyn observed, “You can have massive welfare or a credible military, but not both.” Europeans found this out years ago. It worked for them – they enjoyed the welfare while America provided the defense. We have yet to discover this sad fact. But if we continue cutting our military, we will be forced to confront it. Then who will provide defense for us?

But back to “Tombstone.” Wyatt Earp is challenged by Johnny Ringo, an unstable killer. Earp knows that Ringo is faster on the draw, yet feels honor-bound to meet him. But as Ringo is waiting at the appointed place, who should show up but Doc Holliday.

Ringo insists that he has no quarrel with Holliday. Doc reminds him that they challenged each other. Ringo protests, “I was only fooling about.” Doc replies, “I wasn’t.” They proceed with the gunfight, and Ringo comes out second best. Here we come to the Third Doc Holliday Rule:

In matters of life and death, the first thing to decide is whether the person is serious or just pretending. And if he is serious, it is best to be careful.

It is essential to decide whether the other party is serious, but it is equally essential to decide whether we are serious. Sending our young people into a life-and-death struggle without being serious about it is a sin − and even worse for a nation, it is a mistake. Half a war is an oxymoron, and those who try to engage in one are real morons.

It is impossible to have half a gunfight. Johnny Ringo wasn’t serious about the challenge, but Doc was. It takes only one side to make a fight. If the other party isn’t serious, he can lose just as badly. The runner-up doesn’t get a silver medal – he gets six feet of dirt.

President Obama declared that he didn’t want “perpetual war,” but the choice wasn’t his to make. If extremist Muslim terrorists continued attacking us, Obama’s desires were irrelevant. Narcissists imagine that the world revolves around them. Realists know better.

President Obama talked about ending the war “responsibly,” hardly an inspiring expression. Can you imagine Churchill or Roosevelt declaring that they intended to end World War II “responsibly,” or that they wanted to “contain” the Nazis? Can you imagine President Trump abandoning his favorite word ‒ “win” ‒ and talking about ending the war on terrorists “responsibly”? You can’t picture it? My point exactly.

If people claim, “It’s not our grandfathers’ war,” I reply, “No, we’re not our grandfathers.” They knew what they were fighting for − to preserve Western civilization. We’re not sure what Western civilization is, much less that we want to fight to preserve it. Yes, it is our grandfathers’ war. It’s just slower paced and requires more patience. Patience was never an American strongpoint, but now we need it.

Movies, like all art, are not meant to provide a precise picture of reality, but to reflect and clarify some aspects of reality. “Tombstone” did not show us exactly what happened during the gunfight at the OK Corral. It did something far more important. It showed us the value of true friends, and it emphasized the difference between being deadly serious and merely fooling about.

The world has changed remarkably since the days of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. But some things haven’t changed at all. The value of true friends hasn’t changed, nor has the importance of recognizing them and treating them accordingly. This lesson we seem to have forgotten. Our best friends through two World Wars, Korea, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq are the Brits.

But how did President Obama treat the Brits? On entering the Oval Office, he removed the bust of Churchill the Brits sent us after 9/11. He ostentatiously snubbed Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He gifted Queen Elizabeth with an iPod, and Brown with a set of DVDs of movies − DVDs which could not be viewed on European players. But Obama bowed before the Saudi king. On entering the Oval Office, President Trump did the opposite ‒ restored Churchill’s bust, and had a cordial meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

How long would Wyatt Earp have lasted in Tombstone, if he had insulted Doc Holliday, but shown weakness before Johnny Ringo and his outlaw gang? How long would he have lasted, if he had been unable to distinguish between people who were serious and people who were just fooling about?

Like it or not, we have been cast in the role of Wyatt Earp. Like him, we too have reluctantly put on the badge of lawman in a lawless and dangerous world. We too have many faults, as do our friends. But despite these faults, we alone have the capability to stand up to the outlaws.

The question is this: Like Wyatt Earp, do we also have the courage and steadfastness to stand up to outlaws? Or, unlike Earp, are we so busy apologizing for our faults, and so occupied with distancing ourselves from our friends and being submissive to our enemies, that we have no time or energy left for fighting evil?

Finally, we have the Fourth Doc Holliday Rule:

Loyal friends are hard to find. Some, like Doc, are taken from us far too soon. Others we are blessed to have for many years. But there is no way to know this in advance, so we need to cherish them while we can.

 

Hills of Eternity Cemetery, Colma, California

Note motto

Author’s Note: Bill Paxton’s untimely death impelled me to watch “Tombstone” on DVD and post this column. Paxton was the actor who played the youngest Earp brother, Morgan. Morgan Earp was killed in Tombstone by the outlaw gang at age 30. Tombstone was a rough place. So is today’s world. Like the Earps, we need good friends – and we should do the best we can to keep them.

Written by David C. Stolinsky, MD

Dr. Stolinsky is a retired medical oncologist, scholar, and co-author of Firearms: A Handbook for Health Professionals, published by The Claremont Institute. For other articles written by Dr. Stolinsky, check out our search feature on this website.

This article was originally published on www.Stolinsky.com, on March 13, 2017.

Copyright ©2017 Stolinsky.com.

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Doc Holliday and Gone with the Wind!

...One more thing. I just came across this on Doc Holliday. I was born and raised in Jonesboro so I naturally take special interest in all things related to Gone with the Wind. --- Greg William, Macon

A few months ago I shared some of the true stories that fill the pages of Gone with the Wind (and I believe continue to breathe life into the book and movie) and the response was good, so today I thought you might like another 'morsel of truth.' To refresh your memories, Margaret Mitchell stated in July of 1936 that, 'practically all of the incidences in GWTW were true' (Letters from Margaret Mitchell 1936-1949) and that, 'Prissy was a real person.' Based on that statement and a number of others like it I created the only GWTW Tour that documented the true stories and that tour is being presented daily in partnership with the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro(visitscarlett.com)... Simply contact the museum and ask for a seat on the Gone with the Wind Tour (and please tell them I sent you).

I have admitted it before and my wife is O.K. with it... I have always had a crush on Olivia De Havilland (because something about her reminds me of my wife) and so to connect her character to the real source in Jonesboro has always been a treat for me. Melanie’s character is based on Margaret’s cousin Mattie Holliday of Jonesboro. Mattie was in love with her first cousin and although she chose not to marry him (not an accepted choice for a Catholic), they corresponded until his death and her witness precipitated his conversion to her beloved Catholic faith prior to the end of his shortened life. Many know the story of the star crossed cousins Mattie and John Henry, and how Mattie Holliday became a Nun and took the name, “sister Mellie” and John Henry left Georgia because of his poor health and found fame as John Henry (Doc) Holliday of Tombstone, Arizona. But the story has more, “meat on the bone” than that...

After Mattie became a Sister of Mercy she continued to correspond with John Henry Holliday and according to the Obituaries in both Glenwood Springs, Colorado and Tombstone (yes I have copies of both),... when Doc died in Colorado his personal items were sent back to Tombstone due to a trunk there that was filled with letters between he and his cousin, 'a Sister Mary Melanie.' When Sister Mellie died inSister Mellie Atlanta as a retired nun all of those letters were destroyed... but years ago I met a close family member who remembered her and told me stories of visits with the good sister (known among family to be, “the kindest woman they ever knew”... a statement close to that of Rhett Butler). On one visit Margaret (Mitchell) was there and asked, Sister Mellie, “can I use you in my book,” and her response was, “if you use me make me somebody nice.”

The breath of life still flows through the pieces of the Tara façade and its sister, Fitzgerald House because their stories were filled with the truth of real people. I have just created a 501c3 (sharethehistory.org) which I hope will allow you to donate the funds needed to build a proper building, and to help tell the full story of this time of passion when all peoples in the story were forced to dig deep for the “gumption” (Margaret’s word) to go on with life... a reminder of the past that we can all use from time to time.

Peter Bonner.
Saving Tara: The heart beat of it all

Life Principles of Doc Holliday

Dr. Stolinsky’s article on Doc Holliday was entertaining and held some very important lessons. Miguel’s comment added greatly to the article and as always added important historical clarity. I always enjoyed reading about the gunslingers of old, most of whom were Confederate soldiers still angry about the war. Both of the Earp movies were extremely well done—I am partial to the Kirk Russell one.

The idea of “no-win wars” was a creation of the new progressive military of the McNamara era and prior to that, of the Korean and Vietnam wars. While not a disciple of “unconditional surrender” except with the totalitarian monsters of this century, real soldiers adhere to some tried and true principles.

One, this nation should never enter a war unless it meets the criteria of protecting the United States itself. Two, one plans carefully how the war is to be fought and most importantly—how it will be won. Exit strategies are for losers—that is, “progressive” non-win wars. It’s much like I was taught by my father— “never pull a gun on a man unless you intend to use it” and “never get into a fight unless you intend to win.” One of the most important things he taught me was that “a winner never quits and a quitter never wins.” Obama comes from a long line of quitters when it comes to defending this country. Yet, we must keep in mind that he is a communist and intends to destroy the United States as it exist—both as president and out of office.

What we have witnessed over the past 70 years is a deliberate sabotage of our national interest. At present, we are being threatened by North Korea with nuclear tipped missiles. Yet, few want to deal with the fact that North Korea would not have had nuclear fuel had not Bill Clinton provided North Korea with modern nuclear reactors. We are also being threatened by communist China, which would have been a joke before the presidency of Bill Clinton. Why? Because before that traitor took office, communist China did not have a missile that could reach more than a nearby Chinese neighborhood several miles downrange from its launch point. You might recall they tried launching a missile and it exploded in a nearby town killing a large number of its own citizens. That all changed when the traitor-in-chief was offered a deal from the owner of Loral to not only provide the Chinese military with the latest missile guidance technology, but also to add MERV capability. The president of Loral was Bill Clinton’s biggest donor.

Thanks to Bill Clinton and his most generous donor, the communist Chinese now have the capability to reach the United States with MERVed nuclear warheads. So, not only have we elected a series of traitors for president, but we have allowed the Soviets to infiltrate all levels of our government for many years and allowed these traitors to endanger our country and involve us in costly, prolonged, no-win wars. If history should teach us anything— prolonged wars results in the collapse of great empires and nations. The Left Islamic coalition wants to tie us up in a never-ending war that will cripple our young people, drain our economy, demoralize our military and produce chaos at home. Unfortunately, it is working.

I think Miguel’s friend, Dr. Lindsay was right. It is more like the Br’er Rabbit story and the tar baby. Great comments about Doc Holliday.

Conversing with our own Doc Holliday!

I received a note from my dentist, Dr. Lindsay Holliday, of Macon, Georgia, also known locally as “Doc Holliday,” that the “pic of Doc is wrong” and sent me a link to an article from True West magazine, March 2004, with the title, “The Most Famous Photo of Doc Holliday — Too Bad It’s Not Him.” The article goes on to say that Bat Masterson who actually knew Doc Holliday somehow got the picture wrong in his 1907 Human Life magazine, and to make matters worse, the picture has been retouched over the years.

Subsequently, “Author Stuart Lake used it in Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, with this caption: ‘This photograph, made by C.S. Fly in Tombstone, 1881, was the only one Doc Holliday ever had taken.’ ” But according to this same article, this assertion is wrong because in 1973 the Holliday family (thatDoc Holliday originally came from Georgia as did Doc Holliday) released a portrait photo of the famous gunfighter dentist at age 20. The two photos do not appear to match. (Photo, right)

To complicate matters, Val Kilmer and Dennis Quaid (both actors, incidentally, playing Doc Holliday magnificently) in the films Tombstone and Wyatt Earp used yet another photo for Doc’s image, that of a “lady-killer” identified as John Escapule.

My response to Doc Lindsay is that why would the famous Bat Masterson, who knew Doc Holliday personally, use the wrong or a fake photo? For one thing, many people would have remembered Doc Holliday and would have contradicted the veracity of the photo. Moroever, Doc Holliday was 12 to 17 years older, when the later picture was taken; he had had tuberculosis for many years and had led a rough life as a gunfighter and gambler. He also wore a mustache in the later photo. Whether or not the photo is wrong, Doc’s philosophy of friendship and loyalty is historic and admirable.

As to the allegory of Doc Holliday’s philosophy and the Middle East conflict, Doc Lindsay further wrote:

“Although I feel some of our Middle East interventions are necessary, many of our misadventures there are less like Doc's Old West and more like the fight between Br'er Rabbitt and the Tar Baby by Uncle Remus: ‘The more Br'er Rabbit punches and kicks the tar "baby" out of rage, the worse he gets stuck.’ I think this parable illustrates the meme that decries getting mired in ‘forever wars’… ”

As for me, as I said, Doc’s philosophy of friendship and loyalty is admirable and could be applied for friends and foe in any setting of the human sphere, good for men and good for nations. As for "forever" or perpetual wars , they are a threat to freedom; on the other hand, it is better to be prepared for war to deter enemies than be unprepared and inviting aggression. And as Doc Holliday acted, one must be prepared to help those few but true friend, as most of us have few of them! — MAF

Don't ask a forensic dentist about the dead!

Dr. King has given me so much information to write on the Doc Holliday photo dilemma. He didn't stop talking! He thinks he was Doc Holliday in a previous life.

Too much, because now I know many possible places where he may have been photographed. I will have to write a longer comment later, but here is the biggest treat.

The Pennsylvania College of Dentistry (now Temple University in Philadelphia) was already publishing yearbooks with photographs of its graduates by 1872, so there is where you are going to find a real photograph of Holliday that cannot be disputed. If we can manage to get that archived yearbook, we have our gold standard.

He advised me to perform some simple anthropological measurements on the images (which I have the software to do), but he already noticed that the "young" Holliday photograph does not have the same type of ears as the classic one with the mustache. He does not feel they are the same person. --ARB

More Doc Holliday Photo Trivia

“John Henry "Doc" Holliday passed away on November 8, 1887 at around 10 that morning. It has been said that he was laid to rest at around 4 pm that same afternoon. Now one story I have uncovered is that his body was taken from The Glenwood Hotel (please note not the Glenwood Sanitarium as is stated in Hollywood movies) and taken up the hill to where his headstone resides today. (Also note that this headstone has since been replaced with a more accurate one.)”

This is something else I learned the other day. The words are not mine. It is plausible, but if so, I am not sure why he would be there, unless he could not take the restrictions placed upon him in the sanatorium. Or is it that there never was a sanatorium that he was in? The last picture we have seen is the one supposedly taken close to his death. Yes, that is why it looks like a hotel. It is a hotel.

Of course, you here all know that Scrofula is not a surgical condition, so even though in 1887 they could have removed the afflicted lymph nodes, they didn't because they knew it would just reappear. I suppose since the germ theory was already pretty much in vogue, they might have felt the least they could do was keep the neck clean and bandaged.

However, Dr. King reminded me that in those days, young photographers would compete with one another to photograph famous or infamous people of that era, and they would go so far as to stage a scene with an actor and claim it was the famous/infamous person. A dying Doc Holliday photograph would make a young photographer an instant sensation, and it did, because we still know the name of the person who took it. I can't read my chicken scratch notes here, so I will leave that be for now and supply the name later. But it is still not settled if he was using an actor at the Glenwood, or Holliday actually let him take the photo. If it was staged, maybe the bandage was to hide that the actor didn't have Scrofula? I mean, who the hell can know it now?

Also, it has been claimed that a portrait of Doc Holliday was found in a barn in either May or Nov of 1887, and that the Glenwood Historical Society in Colorado is now in possession of it. Then there is the claim that a man by the name of Gary Dunlap found a picture of Doc Holliday on a postcard.

There is more, but these are all well reasoned speculations. In other words, they have a good chance of being true. But since it is not a vital matter, none who reads this is likely to research it further. I probably won't. Nonetheless, it would be helpful to see the photo in the dental school yearbook, since that we are 100% sure is real and exists.

As concerns Bat Masterson, Dr. King has no idea whether he would touch up or fake a photo. But while the FAX machine was already being employed in the 1800's (see some of the newspapers back then with photos taken overseas) it is unlikely the majority of the US population did know what he looked like, unless it was through a photo, and who among the average US citizen back them would have access to one? The majority of the country did not have any personal contact with him, and only major newspapers like the New York Times could afford to print daily photographs. But even for them it was expensive, so it could likely be he never was photographed for a newspaper, because his appearance would not affect the story.

In those days, scanning a document or photo by revolving it on a drum as a photocell took readings was the technique employed, and it is crudely similar to how we still do it. However, the image would be in binary (black or white "pixels") because telegraph lines could not transmit a continuously changing DC current for very long, but they could transmit the binary signal of the telegraph switch. This did not turn out to be much of a problem in practice, because if you have enough binary information, you will see the image as greyscale. We still FAX in binary, but while I have faxed pictures, they are not terribly great.

I am trying to remember all of this without referencing anything, so if you feel I have misstated something, please advise. --ARB
----
Adam, fascinating information both about facts and plausible explanations about Doc Holliday, as well as imagery and its transmission ("Photo trivia.")---MAF

Holliday as Dentist, and note on JFK and Hitler

I did want to say that Dr. King informed me that Holliday was actually a pretty good dentist. If not for the tuberculosis, he probably would have made a pretty good living. He was actually very proud of his education and professional status in a day when few had it, so he was the one who encouraged people to refer to him as "Doc."

It was still a very unpleasant experience to see even a good dentist in those days, if you think it is unpleasant now. The dental drill was foot powered and could reach about 1,000 revolutions per minute, which is perhaps 100 times slower than the motorized ones used today. If you needed a root canal, the dental pulp would be devitalized by application of arsenic. Most people would rather have it pulled then let the dentist do that.

X-rays in dentistry were introduced before 1900, but were not around when Holliday died. I think of the funniest little device they used to use - A dental mirror (just like we have today) but the other side was coated with Barium Platino-cyanide, which fluoresces under x-ray, so the dentist could turn the mirror around and see through the teeth he just examined by the mirror.

Concerning the BBC article on JFK and Hitler, what did you expect when the best thing sleazy old fascist Joe could say in the early 1940's was,

"It is true that I have a low opinion of some Jews in public office and in private life. That does not mean that I..... believe they should be wiped off the face of the Earth..... Jews who take an unfair advantage of the fact that theirs is a persecuted race do not help much..... Publicizing unjust attacks upon the Jews may help to cure the injustice, but continually publicizing the whole problem only serves to keep it alive in the public mind."

He usually said much worse, such as "[some] individual Jews are all right, but as a race they stink. They spoil everything they touch." and in response to Nazi terror, "Well, they brought it on themselves."

This man was a joke, and I never respected a single Kennedy, but not just because of him. However, how could anyone being raised by someone like this not have it rub off on them? You'll never know exactly to what extent, because they were/are considered liberals, so even back when JFK was in power, the biased media was already covering up for him.

Yet, the convulsions the leftist press has daily over our new president being the first elected American fascist!
--ARB

Forensics and Doc Holliday

A friend of mine, Dr. Douglas King, is the former chief odontologist of New York City. He is obsessed with Doc Holliday, and I will show him these pictures to see what he has as an opinion.

He is a very interesting man. When he was a young dentist practicing in 1975, he received a visit from the police to come help them identify a floater, which we see all too commonly in New York (my home city). He went down to the Medical Examiner's office (this was a much cruder procedure in 1975) with all of his dental x-rays taken of patients who fit the general description of the corpse, which was otherwise unrecognizable. He took one look and told them who it was. They were astounded, as he did not even pull out his x-rays. When they asked him how he knew, he said because the cadaver was wearing the same sports jacket it always did during life when a patient of his at his office. Later, his x-rays would confirm it. They were so pleased with his powers of observation, that they offered him a job at the M.E.s on the spot.

No politics today, just (hopefully) an interesting short story. But I will let you know his opinion on Holliday.

I always did wonder if he was autopsied to see the extent of the tuberculosis outside of the lungs, but I have been informed that he was buried fairly shortly after he died, so I really doubt it. --ARB

Continuing war in Korea and Another photo of Doc Holliday?

Don Horacio: Doc Miguel, very interesting snapshots of that Western legend Doc Holliday. As to our Nation’s involvement in continuing war, let me point out that now, with the nuclear threat from North Korea, I have not read or heard anyone point out the fact that the U.S. has been in a state of war with North Korea since July of 1953, when only a cease-fire was agreed on.

That’s 64 years at war — twice as long as the Thirty Years War and nobody seems to be aware of it! — Don Horacio, a guy who remembers it well as he led Marine rifle, machine gun, and recoilless rifle platoons against North Korean and Chinese enemy forces there all of 1951.
—————
Doc Lindsay: I understand that BatDoc Holliday sanatorium
Masterson and Doc developed mutual animosity, so Masterson had no reason to accurately depict Doc. Much of my understanding has come from Dr. Mary Doria Russell (Anthropologist) who wrote 2 historically based novels about Doc. Highly entertaining too. 

Attached is what might well be a photograph of Doc Holliday taken shortly before his death from tuberculosis, explaining why "dying Doc" had a wrapped neck. (Photo, right)

Doc Miguel: That last one and obviously of a sick man with scrofula could very well be a last photo of Doc Holliday. Still it does not disprove Bat Masterson's “retouched” conventional photo. Masterson would not have used the wrong photo because of personal “animosity," and if, he would have done so, he would have added grotesque or malevolent features in spite; but in fact, the photo depicts the opposite, an urbane and calm Westerner. — MAF



Diary of Dreams performs at the 2016 M’era Luna festival in Hildesheim, Germany. M’era Luna, “one of the biggest dark music events in Germany,” is held each year on the second weekend in August. Close to 25,000 people attend the festival annually to hear gothic, metal and industrial music performed on two large festival-style stages.