Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

At 2:30 pm, 129 years ago today, Wyatt Earp and his brothers and gunman/dentist Doc Holliday confronted the Clanton and McLaury brothers at O.K. Corral in Tombstone, AZ. The shooting only lasted about 30 seconds but after a century of romanticizing the conflict has become the best known shootout in Western History.

Some experts believe that the Clantons and McLaurys threw up their hands when the Earps and Holliday demanded their guns. Billy Clanton and Frank and Thomas McLaury died. Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded.

After a 30-day trial the presiding judge dismissed the charges stating that the Earps and Holliday had acted in self-defense.

Surrounded by a mix of facts and myths the event is a great example of how stories change over time, depending on who’s doing the telling. Who shot first? Did the Clantons and McLaurys try to surrender? Did Billy, the youngest Clanton, die in the corral or did Wyatt hunt him down as he ran from the shootout, as the movie portrays?

Depends on who you ask or who’s doing the telling.

The phenomenon is called “framing,” how we create a story that explains the situation to our satisfaction.

What events in your life might have been framed differently depending on whose perspective is taken?

What might be happening right now that, when framed by someone other than you, would cause you to ask, "Were you even at the same event?"

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