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Day 3 Friday Aug 29th (continued) Goodfellow

Two hours at the Arizona Historical Society library in Tucson, where I was able to have a good look at what there exists of ‘Goodfellow papers’. Not a great deal, it has to be said, but I made notes from some and took photocopies of others. Most useful was an article from The Southern California Practitioner (May 1899) titled “CASES OF GUNSHOT WOUND OF THE ABDOMEN TREATED BY OPERATION” by George E. Goodfellow, M.D., Tombstone, A.T. This, among others, has a description of his successful abdominal operation in July 1881 on an English miner, Jack Smith. The significance of this operation is that it was almost certainly the first successful ‘laparotomy’ (surgical incision into the abdominal wall) on record. Hitherto ‘gut wounds’ were considered inoperable because of the inevitability of sepsis. Goodfellow was an early adopter  of Joseph Lister’s ‘germ theory’ and understood the power of carbolic.

Perhaps the most interesting object in the folders was an 1867 diary, when he was 11, though it offered few insights beyond “Today we had a snowstorm”. Curiously enough, his surgical instruments are in the possession of the American Museum in Bath.

AHS Stagecoach

Unfortunately I had very little time left to have a look at the AHS museum, apart from a quick look at this stagecoach.

I had a pressing appointment with Dan Judkins, about 20 miles out of Tucson in Green Valley – a man self-confessedly ‘fascinated with Goodfellow.

We got straight down to business in the cool of Dan Judkins’ library for a comprehensive two-hour seminar on the good doctor fellow, for which I am truly grateful, covering aspects of his career that won’t find their way into the play because of its closer focus, but which may well find their way into the programme or (very interesting new idea here) an accompanying exhibition. Such episodes would include his mad railroad dash to Tucson to operate on his colleague Dr Handy, taking over the controls and setting them at full throttle; he was alerted by telegraph and DJ thinks this may be the first recorded instance of ‘trauma telemedicine’.

Dan JudkinsThere will also be no room for Goodfellow’s ‘disaster response medicine’ trip to treat victims of the 1887 Mexican earthquake. That may all have to wait till Goodfellow: the Movie. 

Judkins frequently lectures from the above-mentioned account of the operation on miner Jack Smith, seeing it as having set the standard of care for operations on abdominal gunshot wounds. Goodfellow: “It would be criminal not to operate…” Interestingly, the hospital at the U of A is currently beginning to break that very code. In cases where the patient is not in shock, with no significant bleeding and where there is no evidence of perforation of the bowel, “the bullet can be left in their belly floating around somewhere for the rest of the person’s life.” Judkins sees Dr Rhee (see blog 5 above) as a a sort of modern-day Goodfellow, a world leader with his attitude: “All right so here’s what we’ve been told. Is it really true? Let’s push the edge and play with it.” Examples of this attitude are his two current areas of research: reanimation – allowing the heart to stop for the course of an operation and restarting it afterwards; and the use of builders’ cavity foam to stop excessive bleeding.

“I have personally accompanied Dr Rhee to several anti-gun events in Tucson in order to be at his side to nudge him when he’s going too far – not because I disagree with what he’s saying, but because I know what pushes the buttons among Arizonan people.”

Day 4 Saturday Aug 30th  More historyLynn and Ann Bailey

My last interview was with Lynn Bailey (pictured here with his wife Anne), at his home in the Oro Valley just north of Tucson. He is editor of the Westernlore Press and author of a number of excellent books. The interview was most remarkable for Bailey’s debunking not only of Hollywood myths ( “I cannot watch the cowboy films – a lot of hooey!”); but also of certain myths perpetrated by fellow historians. He believes, for example, that the notion of a Tombstone  “cowboy menace”, was fuelled by Epitaph editor John Clum’s desire to enhance his law-and-order campaign for mayoral office.

Hmm…. I’m not entirely persuaded of that one. There is evidence of a significant amount of wrongdoing and disorderly conduct in and around Tombstone that would allow Clum to make that case, even if he hadn’t painted it in purple prose. And the Earps may have been, in Bailey’s words, “pimps, gamblers and thugs”, but I’m minded to believe they were uncompromising to a fault in their sense of legal right and wrong. Certainly his point of view comes as a useful corrective to any romantic notions one might have about the brothers Earp as untarnished paragons. And I can understand Bailey’s sentiments as a historian of the ordinary people of the region: “The Earp saga has cast a giant shadow over the history of Cochise County”. There are so many other stories to be told, and Goodfellow’s is one such.

Of the Earp films, he believes John Sturges’ Hour of the Gun (1967) to be the most accurate – this a decade after the same director’s wildly different and better known Gunfight at the OK Corral.

On guns in contemporary America:

“I’d like to see all the guns gathered up and disposed of.”

Here endeth the R & D report. Thanks for reading. It’s time to draft the play. I feel it should be put on record that this trip, of invaluable use to the play under construction, was sadly not supported by the Arts Council of England. I hope they will respond more favourably to an application for production budget to bring this work before the public.

I leave you with this photograph, taken just before my departure, in Catalina State Park, just outside Tucson. Its title is:
Cactus Gang Surrender.

Cactus Gang surrender



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