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Gunslinger. Gambler. Lawman. Dentist.

Such are the words often used to describe John Henry “Doc” Holliday. A few days before Christmas in 1878, Doc Holliday and his companion “Big Nose Kate” Horony arrived in Las Vegas, N.M. He had come for the 22 hot springs near the town, hoping they would help with his tuberculosis. He was also outrunning the law. A noted dentist and an infamous gunfighter, Holliday had decided not to join his friend Wyatt Earp in the Arizona Territory. Instead, he and Kate took up residence and opened Doc Holliday’s Saloon on what is now East Lincoln Avenue. It’s rumored that this is where he killed his first man, Mike Gordon.

Known for his quick temper and caustic wit, Holliday shot another man in Las Vegas, Charlie White, over some bad business in Dodge City. With pistol drawn and cocked, Holliday entered the Plaza Saloon where White tended bar. According to the eyewitness account of Miguel Antonio Otero, Jr. (who later became governor of New Mexico), White ducked behind the bar, got his pistol and came up shooting. But even though many rounds were exchanged, only one made its mark and White dropped to the floor. Thinking White was dead Holliday left the saloon, but the bullet had only grazed White, and he was soon up and around.

Holliday and Horony didn’t stay long in Las Vegas. Wyatt Earp arrived in October of 1879 with the news of the boom going on in Tonbstone, Arizona Territory. The next day, Holliday and Horony left for Tombstone and soon they, along with the Earps, the Clantons and the McLaurys, would enter Western lore forever.

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