Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Deadwood, South Dakota, Where Legends Lived And Died.

Rosie and Mr. Hawthorne
did the whole touron thingie in Deadwood.
We went to Saloon #10, where Wild Bill Hickok was killed.
Nothing like a two-headed calf.
As usual, slots everywhere.
Wild Bill memorabilia.
Sawdust on the floor. Reminds me of home.
Rosie ran into one of the local gunslingers ...
... who was nice enough to pose with Rosie.
We headed to the back of the saloon
where the action was.
That's Wild Bill above in the red vest. He pulled out audience members to play parts in the re-enactment of his demise.
Wild Bill had a reputation as the Old West's premier gunfighter which made him a legend in his own lifetime. He was a man whose strength of character, single-mindedness, and personality set him apart - a Plainsman in every sense of the word - a man whose skill in the use of the rifle and pistol was unerring. Many regarded Wild Bill as the best pistol shot on the Plains - a man whose quick-witted reaction to danger enabled him to draw and fire his Colt Navy revolvers "before the average man had time to think about it." Credited with the deaths of more than 100 badmen, Hickok emerged as perhaps the most prolific killer of his generation. When some of his critics branded him a "red-handed murderer," Hickok thought that was going a bit too far. He angrily declared, "I have never insulted man or woman in my life, but if you knew what a wholesome regard I have for damn liars and rascals they would be liable to keep out of my way." Hickok admitted his flaws and vices but denied that he was a red-handed murderer, admitting that he had killed men in self-defense or in the line of duty, adding, "I never allowed a man to get the drop on me." Sadly, it is Hickok's pistoliferous prowess and his image as the slayer of innumerable badmen that is best remembered today. Unfortunately, many are unaware of his deserved reputation as a great Civil War scout, detective, and spy, Indian scout and courier, U.S. deputy marshal, county sheriff, and town marshal. An article in the Chicago Tribune of August 25, 1876, wrote: "The secret of Bill's success was his ability to draw and discharge his pistols, with a rapidity that was truly wonderful, and a peculiarity of his was that the two were presented and discharged simultaneously, being 'out and off ' before the average man had time to think about it. He never seemed to take any aim. Yet he never missed. Bill never did things by halves. When he drew his pistols it was always to shoot, and it was a theory of his that every man did the same." Many others were impressed with his quickness and accuracy. Hickok was known to have said one should aim for a man's guts - it might not kill him, but it would put him out of action. Around Wild Bill's waist was a belt that held two ivory-handled Colt Navy revolvers, butts forward, in open-top holsters. Worn in this fashion, his six-shooters could be drawn underhand and spun forward for the Plains or reverse draw, or for a cross-body draw. Either way, the weapons were easily and readily available. Hickok's career as a law officer ended on the evening of October 5, 1871, when a number of carousing and drinking Texans were roaming the streets of Abilene. City Marshal Hickok heard a shot and found himself facing more than 50 armed and drunk Texans led by gambler Phil Coe. Coe explained he had fired at a dog, then he fired twice at Hickok, one shot hitting the floor and the other passing through Wild Bill's coat. Hickok fired two shots into Coe's stomach and he may have hit others in the crowd before he shot at another armed man rushing at him out of the shadows. Hickok later discovered, to his horror, that the man he shot and killed was a former jailer and a friend of his, Mike Williams. Williams was the last known man to be killed by Wild Bill. Hickok's career as a law officer was over and when cattle season ended, city officials decided to get rid of the cattle trade. They had no further use for a highly paid marshal, so Hickok was fired. Wild Bill now relied solely on his reputation to deter most would-be rivals. In 1876, Hickok joined Charlie Utter's wagon train to seek his fortune in the gold fields of South Dakota. The wagon train arrived in Deadwood in July 1876. Hickok had a premonition that Deadwood would be his last camp and expressed this to Colorado Charlie (Utter) and others who were traveling with them. Wild Bill was playing poker at Saloon #10 in Deadwood on August 2, 1876. Wild Bill always sat with his back to the wall, pouring drinks with his left hand, leaving his right hand free for drawing his pistol, if necessary. This particular day, Hickok violated one of his cardinal rules and was sitting with his back to the door. His run of bad luck worsened when an ex-buffalo hunter named John ("Broken Nose Jack") McCall walked in unnoticed. McCall walked to within a few feet of Wild Bill, drew his pistol, shouted, "Take that!" and fired. The bullet hit Wild Bill in the back of the head, killing him instantly. When shot, Wild Bill was hold a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights. Contemporary newspaper eyewitness accounts say the fifth card was a nine of diamonds. Eventually, Hickok's "Aces and Eights" became known as the Dead Man's Hand.
After shooting Hickok, McCall immediately ran from the saloon and attempted to escape on someone else's horse that was tied up nearby. The saddle was loose, McCall fell to the ground, then ran down the street and hid in a butcher's shop. He was found by a large crowd within minutes. The next day, a miner's court was assembled and McCall's trial for murder began. McCall claimed he'd shot Wild Bill in revenge for killing his brother back in Abilene. In two hours, the jury reached a "not guilty" verdict, evoking this comment in the Black Hills Pioneer: "Should it ever be our misfortune to kill a man ... we would simply ask that our trial may take place in some of the mining camps of these hills." McCall lingered around Deadwood for several days, until it was suggested to him that his health might be better elsewhere. McCall got the message and headed to Wyoming, believing he'd escaped punishment for his crime and bragging to anyone who would listen that he had killed the famous Wild Bill Hickok. Within a month, it was determined that the trial held in Deadwood had no legal basis since Deadwood was in Indian Territory. A U.S. Deputy Marshal in Laramie, Wyoming, heard McCall's bragging, and arrested him on August 29. McCall was charged with murder and taken to Yankton, South Dakota to stand trial, which began on December 4, 1876. McCall was found guilty on December 6. On March 1, 1877, McCall was hanged, the first to be legally executed in Dakota Territory. As for McCall's earlier claim that he shot Hickok out of revenge for his brother's killing, it was discovered that McCall never had a brother. McCall was buried in the southwest corner of Yankton's Catholic cemetery. The cemetery was moved in 1881 to make room of the Territorial Insane Hospital and McCall's body was exhumed. It was discovered that he was buried with the noose still around his neck. His remains were reburied in an unmarked grave in the Yankton Cemetery, but the exact location remains unknown today.
Rosie got to have a drink with Wild Bill. That's his killer James McCall in the background.

1 comment:

Mr. P said...

Rosie, I enjoyed the post. I especially liked the picture with the Indianapolis Colts AFC Champions sign in it.