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Posts Tagged ‘BUFFALO BILL’

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 25, 2022 at 12:12 am

After being fired as town marshal of Abilene, Kansas, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok lived another five years. But they weren’t good ones.

Unlike William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Hickok couldn’t adjust to the changing West.

It was becoming less wild. His scouting days were over—the Indian wars were rapidly coming to an end.

(On June 25, 1876, barely two months before his own death, the Sioux and Cheyenne would wipe out the other famous “Long Hair” of the plains—George Armstrong Custer—at the battle of Little Bighorn.)

And most towns, like Abilene, increasingly had little use for lead-slinging lawmen like Hickok.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worst of all, he was going blind—either from a venereal disease he had contracted or from the glare of too many prairie sunrises.

In 1873, Hickok tried his hand as an actor in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But he was a terrible performer—and knew it.

The fault, however, did not lie entirely with him. Even Laurence Oliver would have rebelled at spouting lines like: “Fear not, fair maiden, for you are ever safe with Will Bill, who has sworn to defend to the death your maidenly virtue.”

Not that the audiences cared. They had come to see legendary plainsmen—such as Hickok and Cody—in the flesh, not great theater.

Hickok asked Cody to release him from his contract. Cody refused. So Hickok once again turned to his guns for a solution.

In this case, it meant shooting blanks into the legs and buttocks of “dead” Indians who suddenly sprang to life and rushed off the stage. And one night, Hickok put a real bullet through a stage light that was hurting his already sensitive eyes.

That, finally, convinced Cody that Hickok’s acting days were over.

In March, 1876, he married Agnes Lake Thatcher, a circus acrobat several years his senior.

In April, he told Agnes he was heading for the gold rush country of Deadwood, South Dakota. After he made his fortune, he would send for her.

But she never saw him again.

Deadwood was the sort of town the National Rifle Association wants to see replicated across modern-day America. Everyone wore a gun, and there was no town ordinance against doing so. Nor were there any law-enforcers like Hickok to protect the public from the kill-crazy antics of liquored-up gunmen.

Image result for Images of grave of Wild Bill Hickok

Grave of “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worse for Hickok, he had two strikes against him: His reputation as a matchless gunfighter had preceded him—and his failing vision put him at a disadvantage in backing it up.

Arriving in Deadwood, he quickly decided that the strenuous life of a gold-miner was not for him. Instead, he would seek his fortune as he often had—in saloons as a gambler.

And, as he had so often, he spent more of his time losing money than making it.

On August 2, 1876, his long trail of bad luck finally ran out.

He had always sat with his back to a wall, as a precaution against ambush. On this afternoon, he found his preferred seat taken by another gambler named Charles Rich. Hickok asked Rich to trade places with him, but when the latter refused, Hickok didn’t press the matter. 

Hickok paid no attention as a whiskey bum named Jack McCall walked around to the corner of the saloon to where the ex-lawman was playing.

Jack McCall

The previous night, Hickok had won considerable money from McCall in a poker game—and had generously given him back enough to buy something to eat.

Suddenly, McCall  pulled a double-action .45 from under his coat, shouted “Take that!” and shot Hickok in the back of the head.

Hickok died instantly.  He was 39.

As he slid from the table, he dropped the cards he had been holding—a pair of eights and another pair of Aces, which has ever since been known as “the dead man’s hand.”

McCall was “tried” by a mining court. He claimed that Hickok had murdered his brother and he had sought revenge. He was acquitted.

He headed for Wyoming, where he incessantly bragged that he had killed the famous “Wild Bill” Hickok.

McCall was arrested in Laramie and charged with murder. The trial in Deadwood was found to have been invalid—owing to the town’s being in Indian territory and outside the reach of United States law.

Once again forced to stand trial, McCall found himself convicted. On March 1, 1877, he was hanged. Later, it was discovered that McCall had never had a brother.

In its zeal to return to the “glory days” of the Wild West, the National Rifle Association deliberately overlooks an uncomfortable truth: It was men like Hickok who brought order and safety to countless towns—by forbidding the wearing of firearms.

If worn into town, they were to be surrendered at the marshal’s office—and returned when the visitors left. Those who resisted could leave town in a hearse.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2022 at 12:10 am

Almost everyone has heard of “Wild Bill” Hickok—the legendary Western scout, Indian fighter, two-gun lawman and crack shot.

And the legend, not the man, is often invoked—inaccurately—by “gun rights” advocates who seek to reduce the entire Constitution to a single amendment: The Second Amendment.

But there is a vast difference between Hickok the legend—and Hickok the actual man.

For one thing, his real name wasn’t “Bill”—or even “William.” It was James Butler Hickok.

He supposedly got the name “Wild Bill” after thwarting an attempted lynching—and a woman applauded his bravery with: “Good for you, Wild Bill!”

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

For another, Hickok didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal. His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years—1869 to 1871.

And they ended badly. His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas. As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men.

According to legend, one of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

The two-gun lawman

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out. On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon. Knocked to the floor and repeatedly kicked, Hickok had reason to fear death.

Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another. Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced even greater danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.

He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas. This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.

And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys—most of them in their teens or early 20s—reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate. Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid. And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble. One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night. Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists. And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

Hickok Colt Pistol on Display in Deadwood :: Guns.com

Hickok’s 1860 .44 caliber Colt Army revolver

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the National Rifle Association. And most of its members—if transported to the Old West—would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be—as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay.

Coe and Hickok had clashed before.

As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs. A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.

The city fathers agreed. Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, 1971, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time. Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog—and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok—which missed.

Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind. Hickok whirled and fired twice more—into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table. Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision: First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point. From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there.

And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.

For James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, it was time to find a new career.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 7, 2017 at 12:16 am

After being fired as town marshal of Abilene, Kansas, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok lived another five years. But they weren’t good ones.

Unlike William F. Cody, Hickok couldn’t adjust to the changing West.

It was becoming less wild. His scouting days were over—the Indian wars were rapidly coming to an end.

(In June, 1876, barely two months before his own death, the Sioux and Cheyenne would wipe out the other famous “Long Hair” of the plains–George Armstrong Custer—at the battle of Little Bighorn.)

And most towns, like Abilene, increasingly had little use for lead-slinging lawmen like Hickok.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worst of all, he was going blind—either from a venereal disease he had contracted or from the glare of too many prairie sunrises.

In 1873, Hickok tried his hand as an actor in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But he was a terrible performer—and knew it.

The fault, however, did not lie entirely with him. Even Laurence Oliver would have rebelled at spouting lines like: “Fear not, fair maiden, for you are ever safe with Will Bill, who has sworn to defend to the death your maidenly virtue.”

Not that the audiences cared. They had come to see legendary plainsmen—such as Hickok and Cody—in the flesh, not great theater.

Hickok asked Cody to release him from his contract. Cody refused. So Hickok once again turned to his guns for a solution.

In this case, it meant shooting blanks into the legs and buttocks of “dead” Indians who suddenly sprang to life and rushed off the stage. And one night, Hickok put a real bullet through a stage light that was hurting his already sensitive eyes.

That, finally, convinced Cody that Hickok’s acting days were over.

In March, 1876, he married Agnes Lake Thatcher, a circus acrobat several years his senior.

In April, he told Agnes he was heading for the gold rush country of Deadwood, South Dakota. After he made his fortune, he would send for her.

But she never saw him again.

Deadwood was the sort of town the National Rifle Association wants to see replicated across modern-day America. Everyone wore a gun, and there was no town ordinance against doing so. Nor were there any law-enforcers like Hickok to protect the public from the kill-crazy antics of liquored-up gunmen.

Image result for Images of grave of Wild Bill Hickok

Grave of “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worse for Hickok, he had two strikes against him: His reputation as a matchless gunfighter had preceded him—and his failing vision put him at a disadvantage in backing it up.

Arriving in Deadwood, he quickly decided that the strenuous life of a gold-miner was not for him. Instead, he would seek his fortune as he often had—in saloons as a gambler.

And, as he had so often, he spent more of his time losing money than making it.

On August 2, 1876, his long trail of bad luck finally ran out.

He had always sat with his back to a wall, as a precaution against ambush. On this afternoon, he found his preferred seat taken by another gambler named Charles Rich. Hickok asked Rich to trade places with him, but when the latter refused, Hickok didn’t press the matter. 

It was a sign that Hickok’s reputation had sharply fallen. Ten years earlier, had he made such a request, the other gambler would have rushed to swap chairs.

Hickok paid no attention as a whiskey bum named Jack McCall walked around to the corner of the saloon to where the ex-lawman was playing.

Jack McCall

The previous night, Hickok had won considerable money from McCall in a poker game—and had generously given him back enough to buy something to eat.

(The 1995 movie, Wild Bill, depicted McCall as Hickok’s illegitimate son seeking vengeance on the father who had abandoned him. But this was completely false, as the two were completely unrelated. The one saving grace to this otherwise absurd film was Jeff Bridges’ gritty performance as Hickok.)

Suddenly, McCall  pulled a double-action .45 from under his coat, shouted “Take that!” and shot Hickok in the back of the head.

Hickok died instantly.  He was 39.

As he slid from the table, he dropped the cards he had been holding—a pair of eights and another pair of Aces, which has ever since been known as “the dead man’s hand.”

McCall was “tried” by a mining court.  He claimed that Hickok had murdered his brother and he had sought revenge.  He was acquitted.

He headed for Wyoming, where he incessantly bragged that he had killed the famous “Wild Bill” Hickok.

McCall was arrested in Laramie and charged with murder. The trial in Deadwood was found to have been invalid—owing to the town’s being in Indian territory and outside the reach of United States law.

Once again forced to stand trial, McCall found himself convicted. On March 1, 1877, he was hanged. Later, it was discovered that McCall had never had a brother.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 6, 2017 at 12:33 am

Almost everyone has heard of “Wild Bill” Hickok—the legendary Western scout, Indian fighter, two-gun lawman and crack shot.

And the legend, not the man, is often invoked–inaccurately—by “gun rights” advocates who seek to reduce the entire Constitution to a single amendment: The Second Amendment.

But there is a vast difference between Hickok the legend–and Hickok the actual man.

For one thing, his real name wasn’t “Bill”—or even “William.” It was James Butler Hickok.

He supposedly got the name “Wild Bill” after thwarting an attempted lynching—and a woman applauded his bravery with: “Good for you, Wild Bill!”

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

For another, Hickok didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal. His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years—1869 to 1871.

And they ended badly. His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas. As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men.

According to legend, one of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out. On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon. Knocked to the floor and repeatedly kicked, Hickok had reason to fear death.

Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another. Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced even greater danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.

He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas. This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.

And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys—most of them in their teens or early 20s—reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate. Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid. And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble. One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night. Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists. And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

Image result for Images of Wild Bill Hickok's pistols

Replica of Hickok’s 1851 Navy Colt

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the National Rifle Association. And most of its members—if transported to the Old West—would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be—as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay. Coe and Hickok had clashed before.

As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs. A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.

The city fathers agreed. Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time. Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog—and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok—which missed.

Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind. Hickok whirled and fired twice more—into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table. Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision: First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point. From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there.

And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.

GUNS + ALCOHOL = DEAD BODIES

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2013 at 11:58 am

On July 23, North Carolina lawmakers approved a bill that allows those with concealed-carry weapons permits:

  • To bring firearms into bars and restaurants serving alcohol–so long as the owner doesn’t object.
  • To store weapons in locked cars on the campus of any public school or university.
  • To bring guns onto greenways, playgrounds and other public recreation areas.

The Republican-supported bill was approved by both the House and Senate.  It now heads to Republican Governor Pat McCrory, who is expected to sign it into law.

Now think:

  • You’re mixing high-octane alcohol with high-powered firearms.
  • You’re allowing weapons to be legally stored in parked cars–which can easily be broken into.
  • You’re allowing firearms to be brought onto playgrounds filled with children.

What could possibly go wrong?

The National Rifle Association (NRA)–which backed the measure–will celebrate a return to an era “when men were men” and every argument threatened to become a shootout.

But not everyone in the Old West welcomed the indiscriminate right to carry and use firearms within town.  One of those was the legendary lawman, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok.

Contrary to popular belief, Hickok actualy didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal.  His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years–1869 to 1871.

His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas.  As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men. One of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out.  On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon. Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another.

Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.  He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas.  This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.  And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys–most of them in their teens or early 20s–reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate.  Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid.  And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble.  One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night.  Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists.  And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the NRA.  And most of its members–if transported to the Old West–would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be–as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay.

Coe and Hickok had clashed before.  As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs.   A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.  The city fathers agreed.

Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, 1871, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time.  Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog–and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok, which missed.

Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind.

Hickok whirled and fired twice more–into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table.  Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision:

First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point.  From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there.

And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE N.R.A. – PART TWO (END)

In History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on January 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm

After being fired as town marshal of Abilene, Kansas, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok lived another five years. But they weren’t good ones.

Unlike William F. Cody, Hickok couldn’t adjust to the changing West.

It was becoming less wild. His scouting days were over—the Indian wars were rapidly coming to an end.

(In June, 1876, barely two months before his own death, the Sioux and Cheyanne would wipe out the other famous “Long Hair” of the plains–George Armstrong Custer–at the battle of Little Bighorn.)

And most towns, like Abilene, increasingly had little use for lead-slinging lawmen like Hickok.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worst of all, he was going blind—either from a venereal disease he had contracted or from the glare of too many prairie sunrises.

In 1873, Hickok tried his hand as an actor in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But he was a terrible performer—and knew it.

The fault, however, did not lie entirely with him.  Even Laurence Oliver would have rebelled at spouting lines like: “Fear not, fair maiden, for you are ever safe with Will Bill, who has sworn to defend to the death your maidenly virtue.”

Not that the audiences cared. They had come to see legendary plainsmen–such as Hickok and Cody–in the flesh, not great theater.

Hickok asked Cody to release him from his contract. Cody refused. So Hickok once again turned to his guns for a solution.

In this case, it meant shooting blanks into the legs and buttocks of “dead” Indians who suddenly sprang to life and rushed off the stage. And one night, Hickok put a real bullet through a stage light that was hurting his already sensitive eyes.

That, finally, convinced Cody that Hickok’s acting days were over.

In March, 1876, he married Agnes Lake Thatcher, a circus acrobat several years his senior.

In April, he told Agnes he was heading for the gold rush country of Deadwood, South Dakota. After he made his fortune, he would send for her.

But she never saw him again.

Deadwood was the sort of town the National Rifle Association wants to see replicated across modern-day America.  Everyone wore a gun, and there was no town ordinance against doing so.  Nor were there any law-enforcers like Hickok to protect the public from the kill-crazy antics of liquored-up gunmen.

Grave of “Wild Bill Hickok”

Worse for Hickok, he had two strikes against him: His reputation as a matchless gunfighter had preceeded him–and his failing vision put him at a disadvantage in backing it up.

Arriving in Deadwood, he quickly decided that the strenuous life of a gold-miner was not for him.  Instead, he would seek his fortune as he often had—in saloons as a gambler.

And, as he had so often, he spent more of his time losing money than making it.

On August 2, 1876, his long trail of bad luck finally ran out.

He had always sat with his back to a wall, as a precaution against ambush.  On this afternoon, he found his preferred seat taken by another gambler named Charles Rich.  Hickok asked Rich to trade places with him, but when the latter refused, Hickok didn’t press the matter.

Hickok paid no attention as a whiskey bum named Jack McCall walked around to the corner of the saloon to where the ex-lawman was playing.

Jack McCall

The previous night, Hickok had won considerable money from McCall in a poker game–and had generously given him back enough to buy something to eat.

(The 1995 movie, Wild Bill, depicted McCall as Hickok’s illegitimate son seeking vengeance on the father who had abandoned him.  But this was completely false.  The one saving grace to this otherwise absurd film was Jeff Bridges’ gritty performance as Hickok.)

Suddenly, McCall  pulled a double-action .45 from under his coat, shouted “Take that!” and shot Hickok in the back of the head.

Hickok died instantly.  He was 39.

As he slid from the table, he dropped the cards he had been holding—a pair of eights and another pair of Aces, which has ever since been known as “the dead man’s hand.”

McCall was “tried” by a mining court.  He claimed that Hickok had murdered his brother and he had sought revenge.  He was acquitted.

He headed for Wyoming, where he incessantly bragged that he had killed the famous “Wild Bill” Hickok.

McCall was arrested in Laramie and charged with murder.  The trial in Deadwood was found to have been invalid—owing to the town’s being in Indian territory and outside the reach of United States law.

Once again forced to stand trial, McCall found himself convicted.  On March 1, 1877, he was hanged.  Later, it was discovered that McCall had never had a brother.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE N.R.A. – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on January 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Almost everyone has heard of “Wild Bill” Hickok–the legendary Western scout, Indian fighter, two-gun lawman and crack shot.

And the legend, not the man, is often invoked–inaccurately–by “gun rights” advocates who seek to reduce the entire Constitution to a single amendment: The Second Amendment.

But there is a vast difference between Hickok the legend–and Hickok the actual man.

For one thing, his real name wasn’t “Bill”–or even “William.”  It was James Butler Hickok.   He supposedly got the name “Wild Bill” after thrwarting an attempted lynching–and a woman applauded his bravery with: “Good for you, Wild Bill!”

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

For another, Hickok didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal.  His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years–1869 to 1871.  And they ended badly.

His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas.  As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men.  According to legend, one of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out.  On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon.  Knocked to the floor and repeatedly kicked, Hickok had reason to fear death.  Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another.

Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced even greater danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.  He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas.  This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.  And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys–most of them in their teens or early 20s–reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate.  Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid.  And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble.  One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night.  Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists.  And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the National Rifle Association.  And most of its members–if transported to the Old West–would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be–as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay.

Coe and Hickok had clashed before.  As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs.   A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.  The city fathers agreed.

Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time.  Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog–and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok, which missed.  Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind.

Hickok whirled and fired twice more–into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table.  Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision:

First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point.  From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there.

And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE N.R.A. – PART TWO (END)

In History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 2, 2012 at 12:15 am

After being fired as town marshal of Abilene, Kansas, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok lived another five years. But they weren’t good ones.

Unlike William F. Cody, Hickok couldn’t adjust to the changing West.

It was becoming less wild. His scouting days were over—the Indian wars were rapidly coming to an end.

(In June, 1876, barely two months before his own death, the Sioux and Cheyanne would wipe out the other famous “Long Hair” of the plains–George Armstrong Custer–at the battle of Little Bighorn.)

And most towns, like Abilene, increasingly had little use for lead-slinging lawmen like Hickok.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worst of all, he was going blind—either from a venereal disease he had contracted or from the glare of too many prairie sunrises.

In 1873, Hickok tried his hand as an actor in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But he was a terrible performer—and knew it.

The fault, however, did not lie entirely with him.  Even Laurence Oliver would have rebelled at spouting lines like: “Fear not, fair maiden, for you are ever safe with Will Bill, who has sworn to defend to the death your maidenly virtue.”

Not that the audiences cared. They had come to see legendary plainsmen–such as Hickok and Cody–in the flesh, not great theater.

Hickok asked Cody to release him from his contract. Cody refused. So Hickok once again turned to his guns for a solution.

In this case, it meant shooting blanks into the legs and buttocks of “dead” Indians who suddenly sprang to life and rushed off the stage. And one night, Hickok put a real bullet through a stage light that was hurting his already sensitive eyes.

That, finally, convinced Cody that Hickok’s acting days were over.

In March, 1876, he married Agnes Lake Thatcher, a circus acrobat several years his senior.

In April, he told Agnes he was heading for the gold rush country of Deadwood, South Dakota. After he made his fortune, he would send for her.

But she never saw him again.

Deadwood was the sort of town the National Rifle Association wants to see replicated across modern-day America.  Everyone wore a gun, and there was no town ordinance against doing so.  Nor were there any law-enforcers like Hickok to protect the public from the kill-crazy antics of liquored-up gunmen.

Grave of “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worse for Hickok, he had two strikes against him: His reputation as a matchless gunfighter had preceeded him–and his failing vision put him at a disadvantage in backing it up.

Arriving in Deadwood, he quickly decided that the strenuous life of a gold-miner was not for him.  Instead, he would seek his fortune as he often had—in saloons as a gambler.

And, as he had so often, he spent more of his time losing money than making it.

On August 2, 1876, his long trail of bad luck finally ran out.

He had always sat with his back to a wall, as a precaution against ambush.  On this afternoon, he found his preferred seat taken by another gambler named Charles Rich.  Hickok asked Rich to trade places with him, but when the latter refused, Hickok didn’t press the matter.

Hickok paid no attention as a whiskey bum named Jack McCall walked around to the corner of the saloon to where the ex-lawman was playing.

Jack McCall

The previous night, Hickok had won considerable money from McCall in a poker game–and had generously given him back enough to buy something to eat.

(The 1995 movie, Wild Bill, depicted McCall as Hickok’s illegitimate son seeking vengeance on the father who had abandoned him.  But this was completely false.  The one saving grace to this otherwise absurd film was Jeff Bridges’ gritty performance as Hickok.)

Suddenly, McCall  pulled a double-action .45 from under his coat, shouted “Take that!” and shot Hickok in the back of the head.

Hickok died instantly.  He was 39.

As he slid from the table, he dropped the cards he had been holding—a pair of eights and another pair of Aces, which has ever since been known as “the dead man’s hand.”

McCall was “tried” by a mining court.  He claimed that Hickok had murdered his brother and he had sought revenge.  He was acquitted.

He headed for Wyoming, where he incessantly bragged that he had killed the famous “Wild Bill” Hickok.

McCall was arrested in Laramie and charged with murder.  The trial in Deadwood was found to have been invalid—owing to the town’s being in Indian territory and outside the reach of United States law.

Once again forced to stand trial, McCall found himself convicted.  On March 1, 1877, he was hanged.  Later, it was discovered that McCall had never had a brother.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE N.R.A. – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 1, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Almost everyone has heard of “Wild Bill” Hickok–the legendary Western scout, Indian fighter, two-gun lawman and crack shot.

And the legend, not the man, is often invoked–inaccurately–by “gun rights” advocates who seek to reduce the entire Constitution to a single amendment: The Second Amendment.

But there is a vast difference between Hickok the legend–and Hickok the actual man.

For one thing, his real name wasn’t “Bill”–or even “William.” It was James Butler Hickok.

He supposedly got the name “Wild Bill” after thrwarting an attempted lynching–and a woman applauded his bravery with: “Good for you, Wild Bill!”

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

For another, Hickok didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal.  His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years–1869 to 1871.

And they ended badly. His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas.  As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men.

According to legend, one of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out. On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon.  Knocked to the floor and repeatedly kicked, Hickok had reason to fear death.

Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another. Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced even greater danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.

He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas.  This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.

And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys–most of them in their teens or early 20s–reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate. Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid.  And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble. One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night.  Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists. And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the National Rifle Association.  And most of its members–if transported to the Old West–would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be–as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay. Coe and Hickok had clashed before.

As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs. A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.

The city fathers agreed. Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time.  Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog–and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok, which missed.

Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind. Hickok whirled and fired twice more–into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table.  Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision: First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point.

From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there. And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.

PATTON WOULD HAVE UNDERSTOOD – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law on April 19, 2012 at 12:02 am

Paratroopers for the 82nd Airborne Division arrived at a police station in Afghanistan’s Zabol province in February, 2010.  Afghan police had recovered the mangled remains of a suicide bomber.

The soldiers’ mission: If possible, take his fingerprints for identification.

The soldiers inspected the body parts–and then posed for photos next to Afghan police.  Some troopers held the corpse’s severed legs, while others squatted beside the limbs.  Still other soldiers grinned into the camera.

Several months later, the same platoon was ordered to investigate the remains of three Afghans who police said had accidentally blown themselves up.

After obtaining fingerprints, the soldiers posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs.

Two troopers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man’s hand.

Two years later, all hell has broken loose.

A soldier from the division gave the Los Angeles Times 18 photos of soldiers posing with corpses.  He said the photos depicted a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops.

The Army immediately launched a criminal investigation of the soldiers shown in the photos.

“It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes,” said George Wright, an Army spokesman. “Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas.”

A contest soon erupted between military officials and politicians–to determine who could prove the most holier-than-thou.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the soldiers’ behavior “reprehensible,” and said President Obama wanted a full investigation.

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said the behavior depicted in the photos “absolutely violates both our regulations and, more importantly, our core values. This is not who we are…. If rules and regulations were found to have been violated, then those individuals will be held accountable.”

U.S. General John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, and American Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who were alerted that the photos were coming, condemned the actions even before the photos were published online.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who served in Vietnam and was a prisoner of war, said the photos do not represent the behavior of the majority of American troops.

Americans weren’t the only ones to express outrage at the photos.  So did Afghans.

“We condemn Americans posing with dead bodies or body parts,” said Najla Dehqan Nezhad, a member of parliament from the western province of Herat.

Suicide bombers cause hundreds of Afghan civilian deaths every year–and are thus widely despised. But in this religiously backwards country, the taboo against desecration of the dead remains strong.

Such holier-than-thou rhetoric ignores five important truths about war:

First, soldiering is by its nature a brutal business–starting in boot camp.

  • The purpose of boot camp is to “break down” the restraints of pacifism and individuality and turn “boys” into “fighting men.” This must be done in weeks, so the process is shockingly brutal.

  • Recruits are repeatedly taught such maxims as “Ambushes are murder–and murder is fun.”
  • Denigrating the enemy is a time-honored habit in all armies–including those of the United States.
  • During the Indian wars, soldiers called Indians “Red niggers.” In World War II–the “Good War”–America’s servicemen fought “Japs” and “Krauts.”  During the Vietnam war, Vietnamese became “dinks” and “gooks.”  Today our servicemen and women refer (unofficially) to their Islamic enemies as “ragheads” or “sand niggers.”
  • Soldiers who aren’t toughened by boot camp are by the battlefield. As General George S. Patton famously warned: “When you put your hand into a bunch of goo, that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll  know what to do.”

General George S. Patton

Second, atrocities in wartime are nothing new–including for U.S. forces.

  • During the Mexican War, Texas Rangers accompanying the U.S. Army acted as commandos–and exacted brutal reprisals against Mexicans engaging in terrorist acts.  Mexicans referred to them as “devil Texans.”
  • Throughout the army’s wars against the Indians, soldiers and scouts–such as William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody and James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok–routinely took scalps as trophies.

William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody

  • During World War II, Marines posted in the Pacific rarely took prisoners. The reason: Japanese soldiers often pretended to surrender–and thus lured American troops into ambushes.
  • During World War II, GIs fighting in the European theater generally shot fanatical Waffen-SS soldiers–including those who tried to surrender.  This was especially true during the Battle of the Bulge, when English-speaking Germans wearing American uniforms created panic among Allied forces.
  • During Vietnam, some “grunts” made necklaces of ears taken from dead Vietcong. Vietnam Correspondent Michael Herr, in his book Dispatches, relates the story of a grunt who was “building his own gook” from actual body parts.
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