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Tales of the Old West

Tales of the Old West
September 03
06:00 2017

Outlaw John Wesley Hardin

The law was a fluid thing in the Wild West. Texas outlaw John Wesley Hardin was said to have killed 44 men. He was tried for only one of those killings – and sentenced to 25 years.

Ironically, it was the one killing Hardin committed that could be seen as justified.

Hardin, in town to celebrate his 21st birthday, met a deputy named Webb. He asked if Webb was looking for him. Webb said no and invited Hardin into the bar to buy him a drink to show there were no hard feelings.

As Hardin walked to the bar, Webb who was behind Hardin, pulled a gun and shot him. Someone yelled a warning, so Hardin spun around and despite receiving a serious wound, was able to kill the deputy.

That’s about as clear a case of self-defense as you can get!

You might be thinking that Webb was a lawman and his killing couldn’t be ignored, well then explain the case of King Fisher.

Fisher had been an outlaw, and a dandy who wore tiger-skin chaps. But he had reformed and at the time of his death was sheriff of Uvalde, Texas.

He had gone to San Antonio on business, where he met an old pal, Ben Thompson. Thompson had been feuding with a couple of businessmen, but had decided to try and reach a truce with them. Fisher went along to the meeting.

Soon after Thompson and Fisher sat down hidden gunmen opened fire, killing the two gunfighters, no investigation was ever held into the shooting and no one was held accountable.

Then there was the case of Wild Bill Hickok.

Perhaps the premier gunfighter in the Old West, Hickok was shot in the back of the he

‘Wild’ Bill Hickok

ad while playing poker.

Wild Bill was at the Number 10 saloon, in Deadwood, S.D., on August 2, 1876. While he generally sat with his back to a wall, this one time he sat facing the front door, and his back to the rear door.

Jack McCall walked in, saw Hickok and drew his pistol.

“Take that, damn you!” McCall shouted as he shot Hickok. As he attempted to flee McCall fired his gun several more times at other patrons, but all were misfires.

The bullet that killed Hickok was the only one that didn’t misfire!

McCall was captured and quickly put on trial. His defense was simple: Hickok had killed his brother and he was getting revenge.

This was a time when people understood and many lived by the feud. But still, even in gaining revenge, a man was expected to face the other person.

However, as one juror noted “the only way to down a man like Hickok was from the back.” The jury agreed that it would have been suicide to give Hickok and even break. McCall was acquitted and hastily left town.

But wait! Maybe you know more than the average person about this case, and you know that McCall was hanged for the murder of Wild Bill Hickok. How did that happen?

McCall couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Once away from Deadwood he began bragging how he killed Hickok and laughed at the jury for believing his revenge defense. McCall had no brother!

Unfortunately for Jack McCall Deadwood was an illegal town. The town sprang up after gold was discovered in the Black Hills, but it was on Sioux reservation land. Since the town was illegal, the trial of McCall was also not valid.

Thus the federal government had jurisdiction over murder on Indian land and tried McCall, who was found guilty and hung.

But sometimes things work out just right.

Two cowboys walked into a saloon in Prescott to have a drink. They noticed a poker game going on and a lot of money on the table. In a spur of the moment decision they robbed the place.

A posse was quickly in pursuit and the robbers were killed in a gunfight and buried.

The posse rode back to town when someone mentioned that the robbers had paid for their drinks but had not been able to finish them.

So the posse went back and dug up the bodies. Returning to Prescott they propped the corpses up against the bar and poured their drinks down the dead men’s throats before reburying them.

It was a win-win.

After all, the two robbers had paid for their drinks and paid for their crime.

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