Dodge City, to me, was also a great follow on in my reading experience to David McCullough’s The American Spirit. Dodge City is a story of how law and order came to the western half of the country, and how law and order depended on a few men’s sense of the essential right and wrong, the essential tolerable or intolerable behaviors of the members in a community. At times, Wyatt and Bat had to stand against leaders of the community they served. Community leaders, at times, worried too much law and order would be bad for business and cattle drives from Texas would pick a new town to take their cattle to and raise hell in. And as often as Wyatt and Bat were lawmen, almost as often, they found themselves arrested for the crime of gambling or associating with prostitution. Gambling, and associating with businesses offering the services of “soiled doves,” apparently did not violate their personal ethics although it obviously did for some local citizens in the various places they abided for a time. This story of the development of Law and Order is a bit too seamy to sit on the altar of history, but it is also a snippet of what it means to be an American.
I consider myself halfway close to a sort of moral person. To see myself thusly, I think I need to work at maintaining a balanced awareness of where history comes from and who writes it, and who is out there defining morality for all the rest of us. In our society, many deplore capital punishment but at the same time fight with gritted teeth and steely eyed determination for the right to an abortion covered by a health care plan; many deplore what drugs are doing to our society but vote to legalize marijuana and defend the use of drugs for recreation; and many consider the political correctness police the only respected police force in the country. Maybe it’s self-delusional to think this, but I hope I inherited some of my moral backbone from Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.
I am writing this whilst wearing pants that come down to my knees. I point out that my pants are short because Duck Dynasty Bermudas are made that way, not because my pants caught fire and the legs burned off.