FANTASTIC LECTURE ON OLD WEST GUNFIGHTERS
by JAMES A. MARPLES
Mar 24, 2014 | 1186 views | 0 0 comments | 51 51 recommendations | email to a friend | print


A few days ago, I had the pleasure of attending an outstanding lecture given by Texas State Historian, Bill O'Neal on "Old West gunfighters".   Obviously, Texas had its prominence as a prairie or frontier, much longer than most States in the Union. 

However, I was pleased to hear Mr. O'Neal mention the famous gunfights in my native State of Kansas, with its cow towns of Caldwell, Coffeyville, Medicine Lodge, Abilene, Newton, Dodge City and my birth city: the rough and rugged Wichita, Kansas.  Mr. O'Neal brought along several exhibits, including a Bowie Knife. 

It looked authentic with the "S-Guard" which is as "S" shaped handle guard, but it lacked the distinctive "Spanish notch" cut out at the rear of the blade.  The purpose for that jagged cut-out was so the tip of the blade would pierce and cut flesh going into whatever object: deer or human.  However, the infamous "Spanish Notch" would rip and tear flesh and bone as it was pulled out of the carcass.  It was especially lethal ---and ironically for a while, The State of Texas banned all genuine Bowie-Knifes made with all of these deadly features.  That knife was so spectacular it was considered to be as lethal as a gun.
 
 Mr. O'Neal also showed the lecture audience a replica Colt pistol, and remarked how Texas Ranger Jack Hays made modifications to increase the 'repeat firing' capabilities of Colt revolvers, produced by Samuel Colt.  Interestingly: Bowie, Hays, and Colt were all members of the Masonic Lodge; and I made mention of that to the Texas State Historian, Mr. O'Neal who said that his own father was a Mason, too ---as am I.   
 
It was also interesting how some of the early gunfighters drifted back and forth from being "law men" to "outlaws" and/or "gamblers"...including James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok who was killed at age 39, in a saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota, where I have visited.  Hickok was re-buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood which was initially established to be a Masonic Cemetery.  His gravesite is a tourist attraction as is "Boot Hill" in Dodge City, Kansas.    It is not as glamorous as the old TV-series "Gunsmoke" made it out to be. 
 
It is also surprising that "Doc" Holliday only lived to age 36. He was a gambler and was a 'doctor' in the sense that he graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in 1872.  One humorous note, the purported favorite beverage of Doc Holliday was "Old Overholt" rye whiskey.
 
In any event, the lecture was interesting and concluded with little snippets of a spin-off of The Dalton Gang.  Only a tiny remnant of the Daltons robbed the First National Bank at Longview, Texas.  Bill Dalton was a "wannabee".  He wanted to be more famous than his outlaw brothers. Yet, his effort was botched.  He was tracked down at Ardmore, Oklahoma where a Sheriff's posse shot him deader than a door-nail. 
 


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