John Henry Holliday steps off the train at Atlanta's Union Station, fresh out of the Pennsylvania Dental College, and into Mattie's arms. But the storybook romance between the young dentist and his cousin is cut short by disease and family strife. Some close relatives are grousing at the couple to break off their relationship, but they are unwilling to bow to family pressures. However his financial reverses and physical health conspire to make that happen. John Henry is diagnosed with tuberculosis and doctors suggest a dryer climate in the West. Mattie pleads to go with him but John Henry says no and travels to Dallas alone. The dry climate stabilizes his condition, but he is unable to make a living from his dental practice. Dispirited and alone he is eventually attracted to saloon life where he takes a new name and calling -- Doc Holliday -- frontier gambler. Kate Elder, a spunky little saloon girl, sets her sights on Doc. And when trouble comes at Ft. Griffin and a noose is about to be tied around Doc's neck Kate executes a daring escape plan and the two ride north, through Indian territory, to Dodge City, Kansas. Doc sets up a dental practice in the cattle town and becomes acquainted with the likes of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Luke Short and Eddie Foy. When a wild bunch of drunken cowboy's corner Wyatt Earp Doc hurries to his rescue with a 38 in one hand and a 44 in the other. That moment was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Wyatt Earp would never forget that day at Dodge City when Doc Holliday using courage and grit saved his life. Doc's tenuous relationship with Kate dragged along simply because he was beholden to her for saving him from the hangman's noose at Ft. Griffin. Their tumultuous relationship continued though as they follow the migration of the Dodge City crowd south to Tombstone, Arizona. A corrupt political ring backs the cowboy-outlaw faction with the complicity of the Cochise County Sheriff. Doc has friends in both camps, but joins Wyatt and his brothers on the side of law and order, where his courage and loyalty are once again tested, when he stands with the Earps, in the shootout, at the Ok Corral. Doc survives the gunfight, but death from tuberculosis is never far away. Mattie, desperate in her loneliness, writes that she had become a nun, and with those vows has taken a new name -- Sister Mary Melanie. Doc is stung by the news, but he is quick to realize that it was his own neglect that had placed Mattie in the nunnery. He is fully aware that his days are numbered, but he never wavers in his love for the girl back home. Following Doc's death Wyatt Earp spoke of his friend and said, 'Doc was the most skillful gambler and the speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever knew.'
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August 28, 2008
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