"Calling the Turn"
Original photograph of the 'Dodge City Peace Commission' in June 1883. Front, l-r; Chas. E. Basset, Wyatt S. Earp, Frank McLain, and Neil Brown. Back, l-r; W. H. Harris, Luke Short, W. B. Bat Masterson, and W. F. Petillon. This is the version with Petillon beside Masterson. All rights reserved. FCHS.
Front Street in Dodge City was always the busiest thoroughfare in town, within reasonable allowances of course. Never anything like a rush occurred before the hour of ten A. M. It was ten o'clock before the housewives completed the household chores: it was ten o'clock before the cow-men of the trail herds got around from the night before: it was ten o'clock with the banks and it was ten o'clock with the stores: and it was ten o'clock before the city marshal got around although his hour was not supposed to start until one in the afternoon. And it is very likely that he would not have changed his schedule but this morning he had buckled on his guns and started out at nine o'clock: some one had reported that Clay Allison was in town. If he were in town, Earp wanted to give him every opportunity to complete his business and then get out.
Several days before, he had been discovered in the little town of Los Animas, in Colorado...and ended a search that had extended...across the plains. He certainly had been hard to find....[After Allison walks into Wyatt Earp on Front St.] Earp could feel the warmth of the conspirator's body as he leaned against him; the pulsations beat against his own and then there was a throb; something that felt like nerves, and the tenseness of muscles at the drawing of a gun. Earp was watching Allison and the movement of his forty-five; gradually, it was slipping forward from its holster while the marshal stood silently and looked on.
Now the assassin's thumb reached towards the hammer - quietly - then he felt a thrill, something that made his side turn cold, the side against that of the city marshal. Then he raised his eyes to another pair of eyes, and flinched, and dropped his gaze to the ground; he saw a movement at his side and he thought his end had come. Earp was two seconds ahead of him on the draw, and Allison knew that he had lost his play, and he edged out onto the walk.
..."I'm going around the corner for a moment," he [Allison] said.
"Well you'd better go or I'll make you!" and Earp watched him closely as he backed down the street.
But he didn't return, and several moments later, when the marshal looked for him around the corner, he had disappeared.
Now Earp had not come unprepared. He was willing to make the fight alone but he wasn't taking any chances against an ambush - reinforcements on the other side - reinforcements on his side. If the enemy could make a plot, he could form a counter plot.
Some one waived his hand just as Earp turned the corner. It came from across the street, behind a barricade of chairs piled half way up the entrance of a lawyer's office. The barrel of a shotgun protruded part way through, while the broad, round face of Bat Masterson peered out from behind the uneven pile of furniture.
Masterson waived again and pointed to an entrance at the side of the building on the corner. No one was in sight. Allison had gone inside, and the marshal nodded that he understood.
Up to the moment, Allison had made the first move and had been checked by the marshal who now stepped back into the entrance of the Long Branch Palace (sic), one door nearer the corner, and waited for him to make the second. The door behind him now opened, quietly, and Earp felt the draft and turned around.
"Here Wyatt, take this and give him both barrels when he comes out again," and his two friends, Harris and Chalk Beeson, handed him a double barrel shotgun.
Here were more reinforcements that he hadn't counted on, and his spirits rose a notch with the knowledge that he was backed up by his friends. But he wasn't playing the enemy's game and he shook his head.
"No, he only has a six-shooter and I'll meet him on even terms."...