Yes, I know I haven’t posted here for over two weeks. I have no real excuse and I’m trying to get back on the horse.
Which, I guess, is a suitable metaphor for today’s post, because it’s the birthday of Wyatt Earp.
There are two reasons I’m mentioning this. The first is because Kurt Russell’s portrayal Earp in the movie Tombstone is epic and badass and gave rise to one of the greatest, most hardcore speeches in cinema. It’ll never happen, but I long for the day I’m manly enough to deliver a speech like that whilst wearing a handlebar moustache.
The other reason is more prosaic. See, there’s a theory that Earp, iconic keeper of the Wild West tradition, hero of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, iconic American, had roots not just in the plains and deserts of the United States, but in the Black Country. Yes, it’s possible that Wyatt Earp’s family spoke like me.
I first heard this theory at university, and it’s one of the few things that I can remember from that time at the drop of a stetson. Not because I was a stoned student, you understand, but because my memory isn’t great and I tend to memorise quirky stuff at the expense of things that may actually be useful. Where did Wyatt Earp’s ancestors come from? Walsall. Intricacies of the Highway Code? Err…
And so, in 2008, the great neice of Wyatt Earp passed away. It was a long time since the more famous branch of the Earp family had links to Walsall, but even so, it’s hard to ignore links like that. I love the idea that the Black Country, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution but relatively undersold ever since, has links to Wild West legends and characters that shot their way out of the history books and into legend. It gives me a sense of local pride, I guess. Even if the link is fairly tenuous, and I’m from Dudley rather than Walsall, it’s still kinda awesome…
(During the course of researching this post, I discovered another unexpected link between American culture and Walsall – John Byrne, comic book writer notable for significant work on Superman, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, was born in West Bromwich before moving to Canada. That was, needless to say, an unexpected bit of local trivia which I think someone at the local council should make more of…)