Category: television shows

An Oft-Depicted Legend

John Henry “Doc” Holliday at at 20, when he graduated from dentistry school.

There are some figures in history who, while they were real people, have achieved legendary status. And sometimes that legendary status has a kernel of truth behind it but has grown well beyond the reality of the person. One such figure from the Old West is Doc Holliday.

John Henry Holliday was born in Georgia in 1851 and by age 20 had earned a degree in dentistry, thus the famous “Doc” moniker. Unfortunately for him, he soon thereafter was diagnosed with tuberculosis due to the fact he’d helped care for his mother when she had the disease. Hoping the drier climate of the American Southwest would help alleviate some of his symptoms, he moved there and became a gambler. During a stay in Texas, he saved Wyatt Earp’s life and a legendary friendship was born–a friendship that would lead to the O.K. Corral and the events that made both men famous.

Melanie Scrofano as Wynonna Earp and Tim Rozon as Doc Holliday.

Despite Holliday’s reputation as an accomplished gunslinger, researchers have since determined that it’s likely he only killed one or two men during his short life of 36 years. But that hasn’t stopped the myth of the man from being repeated and embellished since his lifetime. He’s been immortalized in numerous pieces of fiction, in song and in a seemingly endless array of movies and TV programs. Famous names such as Cesar Romero, Kirk Douglas, Willie Nelson, Dennis Quaid and Val Kilmer have portrayed Holliday, and just this past week news broke that Jeremy Renner will be the latest in that list to play the man, this time in a biopic based on Mary Doria Russell’s books.

Me with the cast of Wynonna Earp at DragonCon 2017.

Holliday has even made appearances in sci-fi/fantasy stories such as a 1966 episode of Doctor Who, a 1968 episode of Star Trek and my personal favorite, the current SyFy show Wynonna Earp, in which actor Tim Rozon plays Holliday to perfection. In this reimagining of the Earp/Holliday story, based on the comic book series of the same name, Wynonna Earp is the great-great-granddaughter of Wyatt. On her 27th birthday, Wynonna officially becomes the “Earp heir” and inherits the ability to return revenants, or the reincarnated outlaws that Wyatt killed, back to hell using Peacemaker, the revolver with a 16-inch barrel that once belonged to her famous ancestor. In this telling, Holliday has been cursed with immortality, thus his lack of aging between the time he ran with Wyatt Earp and now when he’s helping Wyatt’s great-great-granddaughter with her duties.

Are you a fan of Earp/Holliday tales? If you’re a Doc fan, what has been your favorite incarnation?

Updated: August 26, 2018 — 2:23 pm

Laura Ingalls Wilder at Rocky Ridge

 

Back in April, I attended a writing retreat in Branson, MO. It was a wonderful time of rest and fun and great writerly conversations. But thanks to a reader’s recommendation, one of my favorite parts of the trip was a little side journey to Mansfield, MO. When I discovered that the home where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote the Little House books was only an hour away, I knew I couldn’t miss the chance to visit.

I grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie books and watching the television series. It is because of Laura’s books and others like them that I became so enamored with historical fiction. Getting to actually walk through the house that Almanzo built for Laura, to see the room where their daughter Rose slept as a girl, to see the small desk where Laura sat to write her novels . . . it gave me chills.

The tour guide took us through the house in the order that it was built. It started as two rooms and expanded over the years to contain three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, music room, small library, and front parlor. Laura and Almanzo both lived into their 90’s, and the caretakers have kept their house almost exactly as they left it upon their deaths. There were several lamps that Almanzo made by hand along with chairs and other furnishings. They wouldn’t let us take any pictures inside the house, but I bought a few postcards to help me remember.

This the back of the house where the tour began. There is a screened off porch leading to the kitchen, a narrow ladder staircase that led to Rose’s childhood bedroom upstairs, and the dining room just past the kitchen.

Front of the house. This is the section built on in later years . If you walk up the steps, you will enter the front parlor. The library will be in a little walled alcove behind the fireplace on the left and the music room will be down the hall to the right. There is also a doorway to the right before the music room that led to Laura’s writing desk, her and Almanzo’s bedroom, and a staircase to a guest room on the second floor where Rose would often invite her New York friends to stay when they needed a break from city life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Wilder Lane was a successful writer well before her mother decided to pen the stories of her life. Rose published several novels and wrote for many popular magazines. She traveled extensively in Europe and made quite a nice living for herself. So in 1928 before the stock market crash that would send the country into an economic crisis, Rose decided to build her parents a new house. She purchased it from the Sears & Roebuck catalog and hired an architect to make a few structural changes. They called it The Rock House because Rose had it fashioned like an English stone cottage. It was less than a mile from their farm at Rocky Ridge. Laura and Almanzo moved to the Rock House and stayed there for eight years. But in 1936 when Rose decided to move back to New York, the Wilders moved back to their beloved farm house. As much as they appreciate their daughter’s gift, the Rock House just wasn’t home.

Back at Rocky Ridge, we had the opportunity to visit a wonderful museum filled with artifacts from Laura’s life including her Pa’s fiddle and original manuscripts. There were notes in the margins where Rose had obviously given her mother editorial advice, and no doubt Rose’s connections with the publishing world in New York opened doors for her mother that Laura would never had been able to open for herself, but seeing those manuscripts in Laura’s own handwriting made it abundantly clear in my mind that those who claim Rose was the true author of the Little House stories are mistaken.

The final place we visited was the small community cemetery where the Wilders are laid to rest. Having seen their lives portrayed on television and in novels made them seem larger than life. Yet seeing their graves made it truly sink in that they were real people, living real lives. What an amazing adventure they shared.

So, if you ever happen to travel through Missouri, do yourself a favor and spend a couple hours in Mansfield with this amazing family.

  • Did you grow up reading the Little House books?
  • Did you watch the TV show?
  • Besides Laura, who was your favorite Little House character?

Out of the Blue of the Western Sky Comes…Sky King!

When I was a little girl, we got only one television channel. Fortunately, it was the channel with Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and Sky King. As a kid, I ranked these shows in the same order I just listed them. Roy was, without a doubt, the king of my Saturday television lineup. The Lone Ranger second, and Sky King third. The reason? Why Sky didn’t ride a horse. He flew an airplane. His niece, Penny, rode a horse, however, so that made the show worthy of my attention.

Looking back, however, I think Sky had the most interesting premise–to someone who hasn’t put on her cowgirl shirt in preparation for a Saturday spent with her heroes. The show may have been based on Jack Cones, The Flying Constable of Twenty Nine Palms, California, although that has not been verified.  The hero of the show, was Schuyler “Sky” King, a former military pilot. He lived on the Flying Crown Ranch in Arizona with his niece, Penny,  played by Gloria Winters, and nephew, Clipper, played by Ron Hagerthy. Like many ranchers living in remote areas, he had a small Cessna airplane, Songbird, but in addition to checking the herds, the condition of the range, and traveling to town for supplies, Sky also used his plan to capture criminals and spies, solve crimes and  find people who lost their way in the desert. He had help in the form of the local sheriff, Mitch, played by Ewing Mitchell.

During the half hour show, people would get themselves into trouble, and with the help of the Songbird, Sky would rescue them. I particularly remember Penny getting into a boatload of trouble. She was forever getting captured, and that kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering how Sky was going to get her out of this mess.

The radio show ran from 1946 to 1954 and the television version, starring Grant Kirby as Sky, started in 1951. For a time the radio and television versions ran simultaneously. The television version lasted until 1962. According to Wikipedia, “the plot lines were often simplistic, but Grant was able to bring a casual, natural treatment of technical details, leading to a level of believability not found in other TV series involving aviation or life in the American West. Likewise, villains and other characters were usually depicted as intelligent and believable, rather than as two-dimensional. The writing was generally above the standard for contemporary half-hour programs, although sometimes critics suggested that the acting was not.”

Hmm–I remember the acting as being superlative. And if Sky had ridden a horse as often as he flew the plane, Sky King might have bumped The Lone Ranger out of second place in my personal favorites standings. Interestingly, the show was popular in the aviation community, even though it was written for kids, and several astronauts noted it as a show that influenced them as they grew up.

If you remember Sky King, or want to know more, there is an official Sky King website you might want to check out, and all the episodes are also available on DVD. There is also a Sky King Fan Club page.

Quick question–do you remember Sky King? If not, did you have a favorite TV cowboy? Or pilot?

Have a great day!

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