Law, Order, and the Old West: Scott Dyke '65, Wyatt Earp Expert
Scott Dyke '65 has spent the past 20 years researching Wyatt Earp and the history of the American frontier.
For most people, retirement means golf courses and more time with grandchildren. For Scott Dyke ’65, it means even more. Since retiring in the early 1990s, the political science major, psychology and business double minor is pursuing a life-long passion of researching the Old West.
Dyke is considered an expert on Wyatt Earp and the Shootout at O.K. Corral, and has lectured on the Old West across the country and appeared in numerous media outlets to discuss his passions. Dyke also writes a column, Meandering the Mesquite, which is published by the Green Valley News and the Sahuarita Sun in Southern Arizona.
Dyke gives the credit for his interest in the Old West to his grandmother. “She grew up in Oklahoma, and she remembered, or claimed she remembered, Jesse James robbing a bank not too far from where she lived. Who cares if it’s true, she was actually alive when something like this could have happened. She really spurred my interest in the subject.”
His time at Gettysburg also played a role in his retirement pursuits. The historical significance of the town honed his appreciation for history, while also motivating him to take full advantage of historical spaces.
To this end, Dyke and his wife Alice ’65, moved from North Carolina to Arizona in 2002 in an effort to better pursue his passion.
“I had this yearning to understand what it was like to live 150 years ago in the West. The topography out here hasn’t changed a whit. The deserts are the same, the mountains are the same,” Dyke said. “If you can get out in these areas where there is no one else around, you can really get a sense and a feel for it. Very few places are the same as they were back then, and to me, it’s just really invigorating to grasp all of that.”
Gettysburg plays an integral role in his area of study in more ways than one. The battle as a subset of the Civil War provided the formative experiences that really shaped the character of the Old West and the people it attracted.
“I’ve lectured on this repeatedly,” Dyke said. “The West is full of good guys and bad guys who had their essence and development in the Civil War. Southerners were displaced and went out West. Northerners had wanderlust and went out West. Both knew how to kill and got over any problems they had with doing it. Mix that with a lack of law and order, whiskey, and a few women to fight over, and you have the Old West.”
Gettysburg has influenced more than just his academic pursuits, though. It’s where he met his wife while they were both students at the College.
According to Alice, they had two classes together during their junior year. “It wouldn’t have been unusual except that we didn’t have the same major at all,” she said. “We were both taking a psych course, and then another course that I was taking for education certification.”
Dyke recalled noticing her during classes, but wanted to meet her more formally. “I was the social director of my fraternity, so I just arranged a mixer.”
Alice continued, “I recognized him from class once he came over to talk to me at the dance. Later, we got pinned and his brothers serenaded us. And then we got engaged.” And they have been together ever since.
According to Alice, they lived for a while in Pennsylvania and moved to North Carolina for an “early retirement.” After about ten years in North Carolina, Alice remembered how a hurricane chased them out of the state, giving them the perfect opportunity to relocate to Arizona so Dyke could better advance his interest in the Old West.
While pursuing his passion, Dyke has been a guest on radio shows like Voices of the West, published in various national magazines, including Wild West Magazine, and holds an annual lecture series. Outside of his more formal historical research, Dyke also maintains a personal column, Meandering the Mesquite, which focuses on oral histories and has received praise from the Arizona Newspapers Association.
His wife recalled how, at its height, neither she nor her husband realized quite how popular his research and ensuing lectures were. “I was amazed that they had to keep sending out people for more chairs in this huge auditorium [during one of his lectures]. There were 300 to 400 people there and I was just amazed.”
Another one of her favorite aspects of her husband’s work are the oral histories she accompanies him on. The oral histories are then featured in his personal column as a local microhistory “He’s interviewed movie stars, athletes, politicians and military personnel, all of whom have done some really interesting things,” she said. “And he always hits the highlights. The people he interviews are portrayed in a manner which will make others think highly of them. There’s a special way to do that that remains true to your integrity. It’s really interesting how he does that.”
After discussing her husband’s work at length, she sums it up quite simply: “I guess you could say that I’m a fan.”
Like his wife, oral histories are one of Dyke’s favorite aspects of his work as well. “It’s really fun to sit down with all of these people. It’s great because they always have a story to tell and it’s fun to hear it.”
“I’ve felt like a kid in a candy store over the past 20 years,” Dyke continued. “My appreciation of history that’s been honed by Gettysburg has really been satisfied out here. It’s been a hell of a trip so far and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. And I’m not even close to being done yet.”
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Nikki Rhoads, senior assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803
Article by: Kasey Varner '14, communications & marketing intern
Posted: Mon, 24 Feb 2014
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