Big Nose Kate, Independent Woman of the Wild West

Phillips Collection via Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

Most people who know Mary Katherine Horony (sometimes Haroney) know her as Big Nose Kate, the on-again, off-again lover of Wild West legend Doc Holliday. She usually appears, when she appears at all, as a footnote in movies and stories about Holliday and his good friend Wyatt Earp, the famed lawman and gunfighter. But that famous duo may never have even met if it wasn't for Kate, who was a force to be reckoned with in her own right.

Not much is known about Mary Katherine’s early life. Born in Pest, Hungary in 1850, she was the eldest of Dr. Michael Horony and Katharina Baldizar's seven (or possibly eight) children, and apparently came to the United States on the steamship Bremen in 1860, before her family found their way to Davenport, Iowa. Recently, a legend has emerged that Kate’s father was the physician for Mexican Emperor Maximilian and that the family had moved to Mexico City before fleeing in the wake of Maximilian’s execution, but this is most likely a myth [PDF]. The Horony family appears to have been well-established in America before Maximilian even set foot in Mexico.

Kate was 15 when her parents died and she and her siblings were split up among foster homes. Kate went to live with a less-than-ideal guardian, who reportedly tried to rape her. That’s when the first flash of Big Nose Kate, the independent woman who made her own way in life, appeared. Rather than stay with her guardian, Kate fled, stowing away aboard a riverboat on the Mississippi and arriving to a new life in St. Louis as Kate Fisher. (By some accounts, she gave her guardian a good whack with an ax handle first.)

Kate later told Dr. Albert William Bork, a Southern Illinois University historian, that she married a dentist named Silas Melvin and had a child in St. Louis not long after her escape. But she said that both husband and child died of a fever soon after in Atlanta, and efforts to identify Silas Melvin’s identity have consistently come up flat.

Kate around age 17 alongside her sister. Image credit: Wikimedia // Public Domain

Kate Elder, the name she was using by then, eventually found work as a prostitute in a Wichita, Kansas dance hall and "sporting house” owned by Bessie Earp, Wyatt Earp's sister-in-law. It was here that she probably met Wyatt Earp. According to researcher Glenn Boyer, Kate was a favorite lover of Earp’s for a while, but he cast her off before she met Holliday.

She then moved on to other dance halls and saloons, including one in Fort Griffin, Texas, where in 1876 she met John Henry “Doc” Holliday, the man who would become the love of her life. "Big Nose" Kate charmed him with her dark good looks, intelligence, and fiery temper, and she, in turn, was smitten with him. Kate told Bork, the historian, that the two were married that year at Holliday’s home in Georgia, though Bork and Boyer believe the marriage was a common-law one, and never made official.

Kate also introduced Holliday to Earp, a move she regretted in her later life, according to Boyer and historian Jan MacKell. "The Earps had such a power I could not get Doc away from them," Kate said. And despite her relationship with Holliday—and his disapproval—Kate continued to work as a prostitute, sometimes for Bessie Earp (the wife of Wyatt’s brother James).

Kate's association with the famed sometimes-lawmen, sometimes-outlaws gave her a number of colorful stories. For example, in Texas, Holliday apparently got into a fight after a card game and a little too much to drink one night. The fight turned deadly, and Holliday ended up being arrested and held in a nearby hotel. That's when Kate set the hotel on fire and helped Holliday make his escape. Kate also admitted to Boyer that when she and Doc were in Las Vegas, New Mexico, she held up the local lawmen with a six-shooter—in her nightgown.

When Holliday and the Earp brothers moved to Tombstone, Arizona, Kate and Doc temporarily split and she moved to Globe, a little over 180 miles away, where she eventually bought a hotel.

However, Kate and Holliday continued to write, and in 1881, he convinced her to move to Tombstone. She had a front-row seat for the Gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881. The 30-second gun battle, which actually took place down the street from the paddock it was named after, was the culmination of months of tension between a group of cowboys known for murder and cattle rustling and the Earps, who served as the town’s lawmen. The brothers made Holliday a temporary policeman for the fight, which ended with three of the cowboys dead (the Earps and Holliday were wounded).

Kate and Doc's relationship was stormy and often violent. According to witnesses, she once tried to shoot him in his sleep, firing bullets into the mattress, only for him to wake, grab the gun from her hands and hit her over the head with it. Yet the two were said to be "like newlyweds" the next day. In another incident, she got him briefly arrested on false murder charges. But she always came back, eventually.

However, after the Gunfight at the OK Corral, Holliday, worried for her safety, told Kate to return to Globe. (The Earp wives were sent away for a time as well.) They didn’t see each other for several years, during which time Kate ran her hotel and traveled around Arizona.

Things changed in 1887, when she heard that Holliday was in the final stages of tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Kate reportedly went to stay at the nearby ranch of her brother Alexander Haroney, so she could visit Holliday during his final days.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Throughout their relationship, Kate was her own woman, refusing to give up her work or her independence. But Doc's death left her a changed woman. She gave up life as Big Nose Kate and became Mary, a mine cook.

She married a man named George Cummings in 1888. Her biographers believe it was a "meal ticket marriage" and by 1898, Kate had left him. "Cummings was a drinker," she later told Gov. George Hunt.

She spent the next three decades as the housekeeper of miner John J. Howard, who named her as his heir. When he passed away, however, she was 80 years old, and he wasn’t able to leave her much. She applied to Hunt to give her space in the Arizona Pioneers Home in Prescott, which had just begun to admit women.

While her application gave only sparse details of her background, other residents of the home recognized Mary K. Cummings as Big Nose Kate, the wild Hungarian beauty who had reigned over the dance halls and saloons of the Wild West.

It was at the Pioneers Home where she finally had the chance to share her side of the story with Dr. Bork, who described her as "a trim, well-spoken little old lady and, like a lot of them, seeking respectability in old age." Bork and Boyer note that as she recounted her tales, she added or changed details for propriety’s sake—such as recalling her common-law marriage to Holliday as an official one, and listing her birthplace as Iowa because she never actually became a U.S. citizen.

She died November 2, 1940, days before her 90th birthday.

"Kate didn’t have it easy," Boyer wrote in 1979. "Perhaps someone will drop a posy on the spot [where she’s buried] occasionally. I hope so."

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Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed
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Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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