Saturday, August 4, 2012

The deep end: Was Maiwand really OK?

Day six of Sherlock Holmes Week, and I’m going to let you in on a secret.
When you play in the deep end of the Sherlock Holmes pool long enough, you start developing some rather impossible ideas. And even though Holmes was insistent that we “eliminate the impossible” en route to the truth, you start to find that sometimes you like the impossible. And you just don’t want to let it go.
October 26, 1881 was the day of the most famous gun battle of the American West, the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. And this afternoon, in honor of Sherlock Holmes Week, I attended a re-enactment of that battle in a town called Monmouth, Illinois, the birthplace of Wyatt Earp, the most noted participant in said gun battle.
July 27, 1880 was the day of a larger, yet less well-known skirmish, the battle of Maiwand. I have not, to date, attended any re-enactments of that battle.
The latter, of course, was a significant battle in the life of Dr. John H. Watson.
The former, equally of course, was a significant battle in the life of Dr. John H. Holliday.
Now, the coincidence of a similar title, first name, and middle initial is a fairly minor thing. Otherwise, they’re very different, of course . . . an American dentist, an English doctor. One has a specific birthdate in 1851, the other a rather uncertain birthday in 1852. And one who died in 1887 in Colorado at a time when the other was very, very active in London, England.
Except that nobody is quite sure what happened to the body of the dead one, and there’s this whole “literary agent taking writing credit” thing with the live one, and a whole lot of fuzzy details about both men. And when you get too many fuzzy details and squint your eyes a little bit, two very different things can look quite the same-ish.
As with all madmen, I have, on occasion, gone into much more detail about this, but you get the gist: I am harboring a pet delusion that Dr. Watson and Doc Holliday might have been the same guy.
So let this be a cautionary tale to ye, all ye young Sherlockifans who have yet to cross the seventeenth step. This way lies . . . well, the occasional thought that might make you a colorful eccentric in your later years. Be ye forewarned.

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