“You mean Miss Kitty was a what?” exclaimed a gym-rat halting his squat mid-exercise then dropping to the floor continuing with, “No, but she was so sweet.” His fellow exercisers chuckled and his closest buddy shook his head in derision saying, “Grow up. You’re not a naïve kid anymore.” As the laughter died away, a feeling of nostalgia could be sensed working its way through the listeners all thinking what ever happened to our childhood western heroes? Octo knew this was a gem and rushing home that morning immediately opened his laptop and wrote his next piece.
As usual, Matt Dillon was nursing his one daily beer at the bar of the Long Branch saloon. It was amazing to him that he made it into the 20th century after all those many desperados he faced back when he was the marshal in Dodge City. Matt, a laconic, self-effacing man, had many exciting stories to tell, but he was too modest to share them with others. On the other hand, that conceited dandy Wyatt Earp held court at the saloon every night, regaling the enthralled crowd with tales of his exploits.
This night, Dillon could take no more. He rose and shouted, “That’s enough, Earp.”
Earp turned slowly to Dillon, adjusting his gun belt with the two silver six-guns nestled in shiny leather holsters, and said, “I was wondering how long it would take for you to come out of your shell. What do you want to do about this?”
“You know full well, Earp. Let’s settle this tomorrow on Main Street.”
“Sure, what time?” asked Earp.
“You’re on. Err, wait, I have to see the sawbones at that time tomorrow—about my bum knee, you know. How about 1:30?” answered Dillon.
Earp fumbled for his spectacles, put them on, and referred to a small notepad, responding, “Sorry, I have a Wampum/Dollar Exchange Rate seminar then. How about 3:00?”
“Done. All your admirers will see how fast and accurate you are with a gun—and how much courage you really have,” Dillon replied.
‘They won’t be disappointed, you old coot,” growled Earp.
Both codgers lived in Dodgestone, the brainchild of land speculator Cal Webb. After many years of living in the West, mostly in Arizona, Webb noticed that all the aging men of the Old West—cowboys, lawmen, and gunslingers—were shunted aside by their younger family members and expected to merely rock in the corner, quietly awaiting the Grim Reaper. Furthermore, no one was interested in hearing their tales of the wild old days. Webb’s idea was to build a community that would cater to the needs of old Westerners. They could live modestly and have activities designed to keep the special population happy and fully engaged in life. He figured he could also make a buck.
About eight years ago, he bought a large tract of land out in the boondocks about midpoint between Tombstone, Arizona, and Dodge City, Kansas. He would build the residential community in two phases and anchor them with a replica of an Old West town (saloon, livery stable, barber, apothecary, etc.). He figured aging Westerners, marginalized in their traditional communities, would flock to the development once a notable trendsetter made the first move.
He approached Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, explained the concept, and reeled him in with an offer of a 50 percent discount on the first home. An avalanche of old-agers from Tombstone followed rapidly, and phase one, rechristened the Tombstone Section, was soon sold out. Webb tried the same pitch on Matt Dillon in Dodge City. Dillon liked the lifestyle concept and the deep discount and bought the first dwelling in phase two, the Dodge City Section. As before, a deluge of Kansas retirees followed.
The eve of the big showdown, the men got liquored up in the saloon, and taunts went back and forth between the Tombstoners and the Dodge City boys. Testosterone was pumping through hardened arteries, and every man was looking for blood to flow the following day. Each group wanted their hero to humiliate his opponent and send him to Boot Hill (an extra supplied by Webb).
The women, on the other hand, were not as enthusiastic. Kitty Dillon (yes, Matt finally made her an honest woman) went to see Earp’s latest wife, Sarah.
“Sarah, you know how childish men can be, especially old men,” Kitty said.
“‘You’re telling me? Just when you think they can’t be any stupider, they try something like this.”
Kitty nodded knowingly saying, “They think they are back in their 20s or 30s. Maybe they think a shootout will make them feel younger?”
Sarah huffed, “Maybe it will make them feel dead.”
“Look, Sarah, we have to do something.”
“For sure, but what?”
“Well, you and I have access to their guns.”
Sarah responded, “Yes, and?”
“Simple, while they sleep tonight we replace their bullets with blanks. They’ll never know.”
“How simple. We’ll do it.”
The following day, both men were up and raring to go. Of course, Wyatt had to change his burlap diaper (the forerunner of Depends), and Kitty had to massage Matt’s legs so he could get out of bed on his own. Both had a full day before the 3 p.m. showdown. Wyatt went to the weekly men’s steak and hash-browns breakfast in the town café, followed by his seminar. Matt went to see the doc, as scheduled.
As with any unusual event at Dodgestone, the crowd of onlookers, each with a folding chair, began to amass on both sides of Main Street. By 2:50, everyone was in place as the adversaries entered the street from opposite ends. Slowly, they began the tension-inducing walk towards each other. A few shouts could be heard, “Get’im, Wyatt!” “Bring the dandy down a notch, Matt.”
Earp fumbled in his breast pocket for something as he walked. Finally he located his quarry: spectacles. As he attempted to put them on, they slipped to the ground, and he inadvertently crushed them with his boot. He cussed aloud and then looked up seeing a blurry 6’- 4” frame coming his way. Earp thought, “I’ll just have to aim the best I can. At least Dillon is a big target.”
Aware of the spectacle mishap, the crowd started to get edgy. With his vision handicapped, he might very well shoot into the audience.
In the meantime, Dillon kept slowly closing the gap between him and Earp. He stopped abruptly and grimaced, grabbed his right leg, and fell onto his right side. As he hit the ground, the impact made the gun go off. The flash from the blank cartridge burnt his thigh, and he began to writhe in pain.
Hearing Dillon’s gunfire, Earp drew his pistol and started shooting in Dillon’s general direction. Already primed for flight by the knowledge of Earp’s impaired vision, the spectators stampeded off Main Street (stampeded might be a little exaggeration for these seniors, who always moved slowly).
When the dust settled, all that remained on Main Street were two pitiful old men and their concerned women (and a tangled mass of abandoned walkers and canes).
Kitty looked at Sarah and said sarcastically, “Well this incident will probably not historically overshadow the gunfight at OK Corral.”
Sarah smiled and responded, “What can you expect from men, or should I say boys?”
Both laughed and helped their men hobble to their homes.
One reply on “Three O’Clock p.m., Not so High Noon”
I always wondered how the first retirement community got started. Thanks for the back story. Wonder what poker nights at the clubhouse were like. Did members of the HOA board wear white hats or black hats? So many questions.