she was 89, however, she wrote a letter revealing that she was with
Doc in his room in Fly's Boarding house, next to the O.K. Corral,
and that she actually witnessed the shootout. Many details were
included in her writings that strongly suggest she was telling the
In Kate's story, on the day of the gunfight, a man entered Fly's
boarding house with a bandaged head and a rifle. He was looking
for Holliday, who was still in bed after a night of gambling during
which he'd had one argument with Ike Clanton that had been stopped
by onlookers. The man was turned away by Mrs. Fly. He was probably
Ike Clanton, although how Clanton's head had come to be bandaged
is unknown. Clanton was known to have headaches, and perhaps he
had been treated for that even before Virgil Earp hit him over the
head and removed his weapons a short time later. In any case, Clanton's
actually entering Holliday's rooming-house with a rifle would have
given Holliday and the Earps all the reason they needed to believe
that a gunfight between Holliday and the cowboys was inevitable.
While Clanton was being disarmed, arrested, and taken before a judge,
Kate claims that Holliday put on his clothes and went up to see
the Earps. They had gathered at the corner of 5th Street and Allen,
where they could keep an eye on the courtroom to the South, the
O.K. Corral a block west, and the various cowboys who were believed
to be coming and going from out of town. Eventually, the Earps and
Holliday walked down Fremont Street to confront the cowboys in the
vacant lot West of Fly's (and Holliday's) boarding house. Kate would
have been able to see the fight, just feet away, from her window
overlooking the vacant lot. In Kate's version of the gunfight, Holliday
had a problem with this "rifle" after the shooting started. He threw
it to the ground and drew his pistol. This report fits with what
is known of the events, although what Holliday actually threw down
would have been his double-barrelled short shotgun (the gun he had
emptied when killing Tom McLaury).
It is only from Kate that we know what happened after the fight.
Doc Holliday went back to his room and examined a minor flesh wound
on his hip, which he had gotten from a bullet fired by Frank McLaury.
He sat on the edge of the bed and wept from the shock of what had
just happened. "That was awful," Kate claims he said. "Just awful."
stayed at the Arizona Pioneers' Home until her death on November
2, 1940, five days before her 90th birthday.
Kate was a larger-than-life character who lived to see stories of
her own life and death (in that alleged gunfight in Bisbee) told
as a legend of the Old West. In real life, she died in bed, having
survived a world that was hard on both women and horses.
Kate said of life: "Part is funny and part is sad, but such is life
any way you take it."
Katie Elder: Her True
Story - Page 1
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"A Balloon In Cactus"
May 26, 2006 column