Ever since he was a little boy, Nick Cataldo has been intrigued with the legend of Wyatt Earp.
Earp, the larger-than-life character associated with the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, Ariz., the "town too tough to die," was tough as nails.
Through books and a 1950s television series, the frontier lawman was depicted as a knight on a white horse, Cataldo says.
"A lot of books were written about him - some said he was a good guy, others said he was bad. The truth is, he wasn't perfect - he had human foibles," says Cataldo, whose own book, "The Earp Clan: The Southern California Years," focuses on the family's years in and around San Bernardino County after the brothers' time in Tombstone.
Cataldo, a local historian and author/teacher, notes that the story of the Earps and their "lawman" escapades in Tombstone lasted only a couple of years.
"What is not well known is that the entire family spent most of their time in Southern California's San Bernardino County," he says.
Nicholas Earp, father of the brothers, was one of the founders of the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers - which later merged with the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society.
Several of the Earps are buried in local cemeteries.
"I have actually been researching the Earps for more than 20 years," Cataldo says. "It took just a year to write the book."
"The Earp Clan: The Southern California Years" is Cataldo's second book. His first, "Images of America: San Bernardino," was published in 2002 by Arcadia Publishing.
He has co-authored several history books and over the years has written numerous articles on local history.
His work has appeared in Inland Empire magazine and the California Historian, in addition to regular columns in The San Bernardino Sun.
I was surprised last year while in Tombstone to see his bylined article in an edition of the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper. Just recently, he returned to the scene of the "crime."
"I was in Tombstone three weeks ago for the 125th anniversary of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral," he told me.
"There's still controversy to this day about who fired that first shot on Oct. 26, 1881."
The observance included re-enactments and a history symposium. Cataldo's book is available at local museums in addition to retail stores in historic Tombstone.
There is still a mystique about the incident that lasted 30 seconds, according to witnesses.
"There was probably no shootout intended," Cataldo says. "The face-off was in an alley - at point-blank range. The Earps had probably gone to tell the cowboys to get out of town."
The infamous incident was triggered by a clash between Tombstone marshal Virgil Earp, who had deputized his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and their friend, Doc Holliday, against a cowboy "gang" composed of Ike and Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury. When the smoke cleared, the McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton lay dead in the dust. A legend was born.
BS Ranch Perspective:
It is hard to wonder and feel that we want to know that the "Earp Clan" was in this area, working their hand at cattle, and maybe they were doing some mining, but you have to know that there is a large part of truth to the story that Wyatt Earp was in the Inland Empire, because it has been long documented that the Earp Family Settled in Colton, and lived on a Ranch there. Not to mention that Wyatt's Father is buried alongside Wyatt's Mother in the Colton Cemetery where they were laid to rest after their passing, in the 20's or earlier. But it was after the Gun Battle at the OK Corral had taken Place.
If the Earps Came into contact with the other side of the Battle of the OK Corral many years before, maybe there was a bit of a feud that has been brewing that only the locals knew, and the feud stories had died down, with the stories of him being on both sides of the law, and being a hero, when he was actually working on both sides of the law, and not just one side. Wyatt was working what ever was working for him at the time. I know if it was me I might have done the same to save my next of Kin!