• Sage Webb

The Ghost of Wyatt Earp . . . Again (and Ants and Victorian Women . . . Again)

To stretch Traveler’s legs a bit, we decided to leave the ol’ Caliber in her slip and head to Galveston for a weekend of local camping . . . and who did we find? again? as we’ve been finding him for so much of the summer and fall? Wyatt Earp.

On Galveston Island, we ran into Mr. Earp, a “soiled dove” named Tea Cup Sally, and the red-light heritage of Dodge City. Fancy that.

We also learned about the Green Book.

It all came as part of a Galveston historic-red-light-district tour. I love night-time tours, especially ghost tours. Through the years, I’ve enjoyed a number of ghost- and storm-oriented history tours on Galveston. This red-light tour last night ranks as a top one. Our tour guide had a lot of facts to share, really knew his way around the island’s lore, and had a great upbeat vibe. We strolled past buildings that have survived the big storms and morphed from boarding houses to brothels to trendy eateries over the years. We took in spooky carriage houses and colorful homes with colorful (or just plain dark) backstories. And in front of a place once known as the Oleander Hotel, we learned that African-Americans in the early to mid-twentieth century could use the Green Book to help them find safe restaurants and lodging on roadtrips. This guide listed establishments offering services to them during Jim Crow.

We also heard about a madam who moved south from Dodge City to transact business on the island and whose license for prostitution allegedly still hangs in one of the buildings, bearing the signature of none other than Marshal Wyatt Earp. Apparently, this Tea Cup Sally had “tea cups” large enough to set a tea cup on.

After the tour, we headed back to Traveler in her spot at the Sandpiper RV resort, which sits just off the beach. We read, and in continuing on in this biography of Libbie Custer (she’s now creating the myth of her late husband George Armstrong by writing and speaking about his life), I was seeing certain parallels between her life (she was born in 1842) and the life of Constance Fenimore Woolson (born 1840), whose short stories I so enjoyed while writing as an artist in residence on Michigan’s Mackinac Island this past summer. Both ladies ended up alone in life (no immediate family) and struggled to support themselves. Both wrote to do so. Both traveled to Europe and made their life experiences a part of their writing. Both subtly worked within and even reframed Victorian womanhood (even if they may not have thought about it that way exactly).

The evening drew to a close on a very high note.

But then disaster struck.

Well, not disaster.

The ants from our Fort Worth weekend seem to have survived the bug bombing, and reappeared in search of revenge. In bed with me. Biting me. What I fancied was a terrible dream of being eaten by ants turned out to be . . . not a dream.

The Bosun with bug spray, the comfort of Boat Dog, and the option of moving to another berth (Traveler has a twin-berth setup in the main stateroom) saved the evening (the Bosun self-sacrificed, taking the ant berth). I’m chalking it up to another adventure, but at 2:00 a.m., it felt more like a misadventure.

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