When we think of gunslingers from the old west, a number of names come to mind…among them, Doc Holliday. John Henry “Doc” Holliday was born August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia, to Henry Burroughs Holliday and Alice Jane (McKey) Holliday. When John was just 15 years old, his mother died of Tuberculosis on September 16, 1866. His adopted brother also died of Tuberculosis. In 1870, at the age of 19, Holliday left home for Philadelphia, and on March 1, 1872, he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. Holliday graduated five months before his 21st birthday, so the school held his degree until he turned 21, which was the minimum age required to practice dentistry.
Many people remember Doc Holliday from the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, but prior to that time, he was in Saint Louis, Missouri and Atlanta, Georgia. He started has practice in Saint Louis, but switched to Atlanta less than four months later to join a dental practice there. While in Atlanta, Holliday and some friends got into an altercation, and in the end, Holliday went and got a shotgun. He came back and started shooting, either at or over the heads of the other men. Whether or not anyone was killed is up for debate, but Holliday gained a reputation as a gunslinger.
Soon after moving to Atlanta, Holliday developed a bad cough. The doctors told him that he had Tuberculosis. I can’t even begin to imagine how Holliday felt about that diagnosis. He had watched his mother die of that very disease, as well as his adopted brother. Holliday was told he needed to move to a dryer climate, if he wanted to extend his life. He moved to Dallas, Texas. His dental practice could have suffered because of his ill health, or it could have been caused by the fact that he would rather play poker than work on teeth. Holliday was a decent poker player, so he found that it was a pretty good way to make a living. In 1875, Holliday was arrested in Dallas for participating in a shootout.
Holliday left Dallas and began drifting between booming Wild West towns like Denver, Cheyenne, Deadwood, and Dodge City. He made his living at card tables, with heavy drinking and late night. All of these things were quite aggravating to his Tuberculosis. By 1887, Holliday’s hard life had caught up with him, forcing him to seek treatment in a sanitarium in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Finally, on this day, November 8, 1887, Doc Holliday, gunslinger, gambler, and occasional dentist, lost his battle with Tuberculosis, just like his mother and adoptive brother before him.
My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens has been in the oilfield business for many years. He is a hard working man, who is often quiet, and so people sometimes wonder if he is mad or just doesn’t like them. His kids boyfriends and girlfriends can attest to that, but nothing could be further from the truth, when it comes to Mike. Mike is a man who firmly believes that life should not be taken too seriously. He likes to laugh, and he likes to have those around him be happy too. One of his favorite things growing up and probably still today was to prank his sisters. I’m sure their house was one filled with laughter, as Mike scared, teased, and joked with his sisters. And of course, I’m equally sure that there was as much payback as the sisters to muster up, because as we all know, if you don’t pay it back, then they get to have all the fun.
When it comes to games, sports, and playing, Mike has never, and will never grow up. In the years that he and my sister Alena have been married, there has always been Family Game Night. Every week the family would play board games and eat fun food, as a way to connect with each other and build a great family bond. Sometimes, instead of board games, they would go play miniature golf or go to the video arcades. Mike just loves games. He loves the competition, but in a healthy way…never making it something to get mad about, win or lose. It was the perfect way to teach sportsmanship to the family. My niece, Michelle tells me that she and her brother, Garrett are both quite competitive, but because of game night, they have been able to learn sportsmanship too. They love winning, but it’s not the end of the world to lose either, because someone else got to win. Lacey, on the other hand, reminds me a lot of her dad, in her quiet mannerisms, and I think she is probably the least competitive of the bunch, or maybe as the youngest, she just figured she didn’t stand much of a chance, with all that competition going on at their house.
Mike played basketball in school, and several other sports, including baseball at different times, and he loves to watch sports. Mike is what you would have to call a sports fanatic, and if Alena didn’t like sports, she would be the proverbial sports widow, but she doesn’t seem to mind it either. Mike loves games…I guess you got that…and he doesn’t care if it is golf with the family, basketball of television, going to the video arcade, or playing his favorite phone game, which for now anyway is Poker. He doesn’t want to spend his whole like slaving away at his job, or feeling all depressed about the tougher parts of life. He likes to laugh, and he thinks everyone should find something in life to laugh about…every day. And, I for one, have to agree. I’m going to do that…find something to laugh about. Today is Mike’s birthday. Have a silly, laughing, happy birthday Mike!! We love you!!
Monday nights during the school year, basically September to late April or early May, Bob and I bowl on a league at Sunrise Lanes in Casper. There are a few fun things we do there, like bowling poker, pushing nickels, and the high game pot. I don’t often win the poker hand for some reason, but I continue to play anyway. I suppose that the winners vary pretty well, but it does sometimes seem that the same people win a lot. It really doesn’t matter, since it’s only a dollar a game to get in. Obviously, the more cards you get the better your chances of winning, and I’m not a bad bowler, so I usually get enough cards to have a fair shot…since two cards are taken for every strike and converted split, and one for every spare.
I don’t play poker any other time, but in years past, I played Cribbage with my Uncle Bill when he would visit or we would visit there, and Spades with Bob’s grandfather whenever we would go to visit in Forsyth, Montana. Those are always fond memories for me, because these men were two people that I very much enjoyed spending time with. They were also pretty much the only people who I played cards with…not because I refused to play cards with anyone else, but simply because they were the only ones I knew who really played cards much.
As I was gathering my cards to turn them in at the end of the game at bowling on Monday night, I looked at them, and decided that they were really a particularly bad hand. Almost nothing matched, and nothing lined up for a straight or flush either. Without thinking, I made the comment that I had a hand like a foot. That was something I hadn’t thought of in years. I thought that it was Bob’s grandfather who used to call it that, but then I thought maybe it was my Uncle Bill. I honestly am not sure, but I know that I always thought that was quite funny. Nevertheless, it described the hand that I had quite well.
I haven’t played regular cards in a number of years now, but in many ways, I think I miss that. I know it really isn’t about the card game, but about the time spent with those two dear men. We always related so well to each other, and I miss the fun times we had. Bob’s grandfather is gone now, having passed away ten years ago on October 22, 2004. While my Uncle Bill is still living, Alzheimer’s Disease has taken many of his memories away from him now, and I am simply thankful that he knew who we were after we told him that we were his brother’s family, when we visited him recently. Cribbage came up, but I’m not sure he would remember how to play anymore. Whichever of these two dear men used to say, a hand like a foot, no longer really matters, because I don’t think I will ever hear that again, except in my own memory.
In years gone by, the choices for recreational activities were pretty limited. There weren’t any radio stations to play music for dances all the time, things like television and computers were still in the future. So, what did people do to entertain themselves. Of course, there were things like the occasional barn dance, and the county fair, but in reality, there were not a lot of choices. The saloons wee an option for the men, but not for the nice women…in fact they were embarrassed if anyone knew that their men were in the saloon at all. Not that the men were very influenced by how the women felt about it. If they wanted to go in there, they did, and that was it.
The saloon was where the men could get a drink and socialize with friends, or they could play poker. The other things that happened in the saloon, such as the womanizing and fighting, were not talked about in good moral company. That didn’t mean that all men engaged in such immoral activities, but I’m sure some did. Of course, just having those dance hall girls in the place, is enough to make most women suspect.
Poker was pretty much the card game of choice in the saloons, but maybe some of the men played it elsewhere. Back then, I doubt if the women would be caught dead playing poker, because it was probably considered a sin. These days, playing poker is considered simply a fun activity, and it is played in homes, casinos, and even bowling alleys. Lots of people play, and have a great time doing it. Times were just different back then, and sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t a better thing. There seemed to be an innocence then that we don’t even have in our grade school years in school now.
Nevertheless, I don’t think there is anything wrong with playing cards, or even poker for that matter. I play a little poker at the bowling, alley, which is much different than regular poker, in that you just draw the cards when you get a strike or spare. Personally I’d rather play, Cribbage or Spades, over poker in most situations, but in all reality, I’m not much on playing cards anymore. I suppose that is because there is too many other activities to occupy the mind these days. I have to think I like that better than I would have the days when cards were the main entertainment.