By Scott Dyke
Recently I had a visit from an Australian author and researcher. He makes an annual pilgrimage to Tombstone and other points west. The Old West has many international fans. Previously I have entertained Canadians, Germans and a Welshman.
Aussie Peter Brand proved to be a gifted author who brought something to the table. He writes mostly about secondary characters in the Tombstone story. His best efforts centered around the posse that Wyatt Earp assembled for the revenge ride after his brother Morgan was murdered in 1882.
Peter is an excellent researcher, and his accent makes him that much more entertaining. His five-hour stay caused some later reflections on how the Earp story has influenced my later years. But the original interest was sparked nearly 70 years ago.
Eula Remington Dyke started it all. Grandma Dyke had a hard life. She was an orphan and knew little of anything of her parents. She was born in Oklahoma, maybe Nebraska, sometime in the 1870s. A family named Remington took her in; they moved around.
When she was grown (if you call 4 feet 10 inches grown), she married my grandfather Jesse, a tall, raw-boned, unhappy farmer whose vocabulary contained much in the way of expletives. One of his sons, my Dad, never mentioned his name after Jesse died. No love lost there.
But Dad was devoted to his mother. She saved for years so Dad could avoid the back- and spirit-breaking farm cycle; and saving during the lean farm years of the 1920s was no small feat.
Eula pulled it off. Dad entered Cornell University, the School of Agriculture, where he graduated in 1931, and luckily found employment in the teaching field in the depths of the Great Depression.
Dad never forgot his mother’s efforts. He tended to her welfare for the rest of her days, which were considerable, given that she lasted 96 years.
Eula bounced around between my aunt, my uncle and our place. She was tough on all in-laws. My mother was a pretty tough lady as well. With Dad on the road a lot (he took a job selling caskets), the stretches when Eula was parked in our home were an ongoing battle between two strong-minded women. I mostly tried to stay out of harm’s way.
During the lulls of silence (both had mastered that combat skill), Grandma Dyke, in her squeaky, old voice, would regale me with tales of the West. She claimed that a local bank was robbed when she was a little girl. The James boys were held responsible. Given that any bank or train that was held up after the end of the Civil War was blamed on Jesse and Frank, the crime probably was pulled by someone else. Nonetheless, they were active during her early years. Pity that she did not take heed later and avoid the name Jesse.
I remember well her storytelling. It was the genesis of my journey down the long dusty trail called the Old West.
After college, Alice and I married and we settled in the greater New York City area, which my wife called home. I took a position in Manhattan, a strange otherworldly place, at least to this country boy.
There was a big upside. NYC has great libraries. During time-outs from traversing to the Bowery, Harlem, China Town and Times Square, libraries were in play. Now I had access to a treasure trove of Old West writings.
The pursuit was hardly dogged. The various careers and two children played havoc with serious research. However, I did maintain contact, if sporadic, with Ben Traywick, Tombstone historian of the first order. Ben would answer in long hand, a customary trait that made what he said seem more authentic. Later, I found out that EVERYTHING he published was first written in the same laborious style. No typewriter and, heaven forbid, no computer.
In the 1990s, I tired of golf and fishing (the hunting was abandoned years earlier due to malfunctioning knees). The lure of the West was still strong, strong enough to push me back into the job arena so to capture extra funds. At various intervals, I served government (tax office appraiser), was a substitute teacher (egads!), and tended to the needs of families, employed by a local funeral home.
After five years, the accumulative efforts of work and a friendly stock market paid off. Now there was convincing to do.
Fate intervened. First, I had a hand from the Almighty. Five hurricanes hit us in three years, making North Carolina a little less desirable. Then our daughter finished up her doctorate, found a teaching position, and she and her husband moved to New Mexico. A great day! Now my wife was certainly more amenable to heading West, especially when she saw the golf courses. Thank you, daughter Julie.
What followed has been a 14-year pleasure trip. Research into Earp and Tombstone has been nearly sated. Five cross-country trips have tracked a lot of coming and going of Earp. The only stop he made that I won’t is Alaska. Alice gets seasick and the golf is limited.
Along the way, I have had the very good fortune to meet others who share my interest; Peter Brand is the latest. My interests have expanded way beyond Earp, as the Southwest offers much. So many historical sites that space does not permit their listings. Research in Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, the Dakotas, Kansas, Missouri, Wyoming, Utah, California and Colorado fill my files.
I spent nearly 10 years with cantankerous, iconic, controversial and brilliant Glenn Boyer and his amazing collection. I found that writing was a source of pleasure. I have contributed to several national Western magazines.
Meandering the Mesquite allows me entree to lots of interesting folks: movie people, cowboys, lawmen, writers, poets, and a slew of elders who have great stories to tell. The Green Valley News shares in all this. Karen Walenga is a peach to work with. Crusty Dan Shearer has contributed much, but I will never tell him so. I have been enriched by the entire experience.
My best reward has come from you, the reader. Aside from a few bumps (no doubt well earned) you have been highly supportive. After writing well over 100 Meanderings, I still look forward to the next one, and the next; God willing.
Thanks for reading.
Scott Dyke is a Wyatt Earp Historian, Western lecturer, researcher and writer. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Article appeared at the Green Valley News and is republished here with the permission of the author. He is also a contributor to the Voices of the West internet radio program.
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Southern Arizona News-Examiner