Wild Bill's Wild West

 

Wild Bill's Wild West is a regular column written by Bill Markley in Western Writers of America's Roundup Magazine. The column covers all things dealing with the America West.

After writing forty "Techno-Savvy" columns for Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine, I decided to ride away and turned it over to Kellen Cutsforth. Roundup Editor Johnny Boggs gave me the chance to start a new column which became known as “Wild Bill’s Wild West.” Below is a partial listing of the column entries.

 

 

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 1

October 2018

 

Westward Ho!

 

By Bill Markley

 

I ended Techno-Savvy declaring, “I’ll just mosey along now and ride off into the sunset.”

I didn’t get far from Roundup Town before it was twilight. Too late to travel farther, I made camp in a grove of cottonwoods. After caring for my horse, I built a fire and cooked a pot of beans using Cowboy Mike’s recipe. Coyotes on a far ridge yipped as a rider approached. “Permission to enter the camp!” The voice sounded a lot like Johnny Boggs.

“Come on,” I answered. Sure enough, it was Johnny. After caring for his horse, he squatted by the campfire.

Beans?” I asked.

“Don’t mind if I do.” Chewing a mouthful, he asked, “Got any whiskey to wash down these beans?” I produced a bottle of Old Crow, wiped the grit from a tin cup and poured him two fingers. After a long, grimace-creating sip, he stared at me across the fire and drawled, “You don’t think you’re getting away from Roundup that easy do you, Markley?”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t you want to continue writing a column?”

“Sure, but I’m tired of technology. How many ways can I explain Facebook, Twitter, or the Cloud?”

“I gathered that when you started writing about Morse Code, railroads and such.”

An owl hooted.

“What do you want to write about?” he asked.

I perked up, poured myself some Old Crow and sloshed more into Johnny’s cup. “Well, I could write about everything Western—a Western potpourri! Steamboats, railroads, Indians, flora and fauna, saloons, games of chance, soiled doves!”

“All right! All right! But you’re still restricted to 400 words.”

“Okay, let’s do it!” I declared.

“What are you going to call it?”

“How about Western Wanderings?”

“Naw, sounds like a travel column.”

“I know! The Possibles Bag!”

“Not many know what that is.”

I threw out more titles: Notes from The Bunkhouse, Bits and Pieces, The Corral, Dispatch Rider, The Saddlebag, Western Dispatches, Tromping through History, Old West Ramblings. Johnny rejected them all.

“How about Wild Bill’s Wild West?”

He appeared to be cogitating. “That has possibilities.”

This isn’t exactly how the column came to be, but it’s based on a true story. In future Wild Bill’s Wild West columns, we’ll explore a variety of Western topics. One bit of advice, if you’re riding out of town, start early in the morning. You’ll get farther than riding off into the sunset.

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 2

December 2018

 

Reflections on the Little Bighorn

 

By Bill Markley

 

Crazy Horse led Lakota warriors as they overran the last of Custer’s battalion on top of a ridge overlooking the Little Bighorn River the afternoon of June 25, 1876.

 

A small contingent of WWA members visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Sunday morning, June 24, 2018. They arrived on the top of Last Stand Hill as a wreath-laying ceremony concluded at the 7th Cavalry Memorial where 220 soldiers lie buried.  A cool breeze blew as Jim Thorn, volunteer ranger, explained to his captive WWA audience how the battle unfolded.

 

Earlier, a column of 7th Cavalry soldiers rode through Medicine Tail Coulee toward the Little Bighorn River and the immense Indian village.

 

My wife Liz and I drove from Last Stand Hill to Reno Hill, both US government land, through Medicine Tail Coulee, Crow land. Three mounted cavalry reenactors rode down the coulee. Seemingly out of nowhere ran an Indian in warpaint and headdress. Braking the car, I shouted “Hey! Can I take your picture?” He stopped and said, “You bet!” I clicked away. “Going to the battle reenactment?” he asked. “Yes!” He grinned and said, “See you there!”

 

The Cheyenne encampment lay along the Little Bighorn River with Medicine Tail Coulee on the far side as soldiers approached.

 

Whites and Indians sat together on bleachers under a broiling sun to watch the reenactment. A volunteer led the crowd singing the national anthem with gusto as a painted warrior rode with the American flag snapping in the breeze. The pageant depicted Indian interpretation of history from the beginning of time to Custer’s demise. Barebacked riders drove a herd of horses moving like a coordinated flock of birds. The Indian from Medicine Tail Coulee, an excellent bareback rider, portrayed Crazy Horse. Pounding drums mimicked the flow of blood coursing through my veins as the drummers’ chants hypnotized. The aroma of Indian fry bread triggered mouths to water. Children’s’ laughter as they played under the stands competed with the announcer’s speeches. A drone buzzed overhead recording the event. After the Indians wiped out Custer’s men, Johnny Boggs photographed WWA members standing with victorious Indian warriors and vanquished 7th Cavalry troopers.

 

Nancy Plain summed up the day, “I'll never forget my visit to Last Stand Hill--the peaceful sweep of the Little Bighorn Valley, haunted by the memory of that fateful day. I kept thinking, if only Custer had left the Lakota alone.”

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 3

February 2019

 

Tucson’s Flora and Fauna – Don’t Touch

 

By Bill Markley

 

When I visit someplace new, I enjoy taking walks to view the vegetation and wildlife. With WWA’s Tucson convention, there will be multiple opportunities for like-minded members to enter the desert environment. Bracketing Tucson is over 91,000 acres of Saguaro National Park. Besides the obvious—tell someone where you’re headed, stay on trails, chug water, and slather on sunscreen, DON’T TOUCH THE PLANTS AND CRITTERS. Everything in the desert wants to stick, sting, or bite. I sat down with Tucson resident Guy Brunt, we’ve been friends since 1st grade, but don’t hold that against him, and we developed a list of items to share.

 

The desert has all types of cacti and they all have sharp spines. Some of the more predominant are barrel cactus, prickly pear, jam-packed-with-spines cholla, and the saguaro which can reach up to forty feet and after fifty years start growing distinctive arms. There is a shrub called ocotillo which grows in bunches of long tall sticks with sharp spines and can be used as fence keeping animals from passing through.

 

There’re familiar and unfamiliar insects, spiders, and their ilk. Tarantulas reaching three inches in length, rarely venture from their holes during the day. If threatened, they bite, injecting irritating hairs into the wound. Scorpions don’t like to be touched. You can find them at night by shining a black-light. Guy had first-hand experience with a scorpion. As he shined his black-light on the little critter, he poked it with a stick. The stick broke, and the scorpion stung him on the hand. It was painful, and his arm went numb up to the shoulder. Guy’s wife rushed him to the emergency room, fortunately he’s okay today.

 

There are many snakes. Twelve species are poisonous—eleven are rattlesnakes and the twelfth is the coral snake. Don’t try to pet a gila monster. When this lizard chomps down, its lower jaw releases venom around its teeth as it chews the flesh. Birds range from tiny humming birds to hawks, vultures, and eagles. Keep your eye peeled for roadrunners racing after lizards and other small critters. Besides humans, there are a few dangerous mammals—coyotes, bobcats, occasional mountain lions, and javelinas.  Javelinas resemble pigs, but they’re not. They travel in packs and have been known to come after humans if threatened.

 

So, there you have it. Enjoy the desert but know who’s in the neighborhood and DON’T TOUCH!

Wild Bill's Wild West

Number 4

April 2019

 

High Noon—It’s About Time

 

In the 1952 film classic High Noon, Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) waits for the train to arrive bringing outlaw Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) seeking revenge for Kane sending him to prison, and when the train leaves town it will take away Kane’s bride Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly) who demands he not fight Miller. The townsfolk refuse to help Kane and wait for the train’s arrival as Kane sits at his desk writing his will. The wall clock ticks. Tension builds. If you want to see this scene go to YouTube and type in “High Noon: Waiting for Frank Miller Sequence.”

The entire film revolves around time and the train’s arrival. The measurement of time was a localized concept in America before railroads. Each community set its own time based on sunrise, the sun’s position at noon, and sunset. Many localities had a town clock by which residents set their timepieces.

Railroads began setting schedules using their own timekeeping that usually was different from the cities and towns they were servicing causing confusion with passengers, shippers, and receivers. If someone was going to meet you at the station, you better let them know if it was railroad time or the local time. In High Noon, the town of Hadleyville in New Mexico Territory, must have agreed to run on railroad time down to the very second.

Of equal importance were railroad timetables to ensure the efficient movement of trains and the whereabouts of those trains on the track to eliminate collisions. Telegraph lines became essential coordinating train locations and times. Engineers and conductors were required to synchronize their timepieces to official railroad clocks. The Seth Thomas Regulator No 3 was the most used standard clock in railroad stations.

The railroads first developed 100 different time zones and then reduced them to 49. In 1872, they met to try to standardize their schedules forming the General Time Convention. The General Time Convention established a Standard Time System using five time zones for North America. Each time zone was one hour ahead of the next zone to the west. On October 11, 1883, the railroads began using the Standard Time System. Most cities adopted it, but there were some that refused. In March 1918, the federal government established it in law.

So, the next time you’re running late for a meeting and glance at your watch increasing your anxiety, thank the railroads.

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 5

 

Tucson’s Monument to Murder

 

By Bill Markley

 

While attending the WWA convention, visit Tucson’s train station. As you stroll along the tracks behind the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, you’ll notice two bronze statues—Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday wielding shotguns. These statues commemorate their actions on March 20, 1882.

After the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday killed Billy Clanton along with Tom and Frank McLaury behind Tombstone’s O. K. Corral on October 26, 1881, Ike Clanton and his Cowboy friends wanted revenge. Virgil Earp was ambushed leaving the Oriental Saloon on the night of December 28. Three shotgun blasts hit him maiming his left arm, nearly killing him. Ike and friends all had alibis. While Wyatt looked on, brother Morgan Earp was playing billiards in the Campbell & Hatch Billiard Parlor the night of March 18, 1882, when a bullet smacked the wall above Wyatt’s head and another plowed into Morgan’s back, killing him. A coroner’s jury concluded five men including Frank Stilwell, were involved in Morgan’s murder.

Wyatt convinced Virgil and his wife Allie to leave on a westbound train to California. On March 20, Wyatt and five trusted men including brother Warren and Doc Holliday escorted Virgil and Allie aboard the train at Benson riding with them as far as Tucson.

They learned Clanton, Stilwell and other Cowboys were in Tucson searching each train for Virgil. The Earp train stopped there for an hour. Detraining, they ate supper then Wyatt’s posse escorted the couple onto the train.

Wyatt saw shotgun-toting Stilwell and Clanton waiting to shoot into Virgil and Allie’s passenger car. He and his posse raced toward the ambushers. Clanton and Stilwell ran. In Stuart Lake’s Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, Wyatt said, “I ran straight for Stilwell…What a coward he was. He couldn’t shoot when I came near him. He stood there helpless and trembling for his life. As I rushed upon him, he put out his hands and clutched at my shotgun. I let go both barrels, and he tumbled down dead and mangled at my feet. I started for Clanton then, but he escaped...”

Other posse members shot into Stilwell’s body. A coroner’s inquest was held, and arrest warrants for Frank Stilwell’s murder were issued for Wyatt Earp, Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMasters, and Jack Johnson. Frank Stilwell’s killing was the opening salvo of Wyatt’s Vendetta Ride. Today, you can take your photo with Wyatt and Doc where it all began.

 

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 6

August 2019 issue of Roundup

 

A Boy Named Sioux

By Bill Markley

 

Do you like your name? Most of us like our names or at least have grown to accept them. I like mine. I was born on Saint Patrick’s Day and my parents almost named me Patrick, but I don’t think Wild Patrick’s Wild West sounds as good as Wild Bill’s Wild West.

This Roundup issue’s title of my column “A Boy Named Sioux” is a play on words from Johnny Cash’s hit single “A Boy Named Sue.” If you were listening to the radio in 1969, you likely heard it all the time. The comic lyrics tell the sad tale of how the only thing a father left his son was the name Sue. Sue hated his name and had to grow up tough. Most of the Native Americans who have been saddled with the name “Sioux” dislike it.

Since the 2020 WWA convention will be held in South Dakota [The convention was cancelled due to Covid] where many people misnamed Sioux live, here is a brief overview of their names. The oyate, people, misnamed Sioux are made up of three groups: Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota which all mean “alliance of friends.” These three groups share similar customs and lore. They speak the same language using different dialects but can understand each other. Each of the three groups are further divided into subgroups:

  • The Dakota are divided into Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, Wahpeton, and Sisseton.

  • The Nakota are divided into Yankton and Yanktonai.

  • The Lakota are divided into Sicangu (Brule), Oglala, Hunkpapa, Minneconjou, Sihasapa (Blackfeet), Oohenumpa (Two Kettle), and Itazipo (Sans Arc). The Lakota are also known by the name or “to live where they can see” which became in English, Teton. The Lakota are further known as or Seven Fires.

So how did they become known as the Sioux? The Chippewa who were their enemies, called them Naduwessi meaning “snakes” or “enemies.” When French explorers and fur traders met them in the1600’s, they used a plural variation of Naduwessi creating the word Naduwessioux. The word was shortened over the years to Sioux and picked up by the English and Americans. So, the people who know themselves as Lakota, Dakota, or Nakota i.e. friends, are known as Sioux or snakes. Please don’t call them that.

It’s never too late to start getting things right by calling people by the names they use for themselves. Doing things right can be complicated, just don’t call them Sioux.

 

 

 

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 7

October 2019 issue of Roundup

 

Paha Sapa

 

By Bill Markley

 

After you cross the Cheyenne River in western South Dakota driving westward across the prairie, you will spy low dark mountains rising in the distance appearing as a landlocked island. The Lakota call them Paha Sapa, Hills Black.

WWA will hold its 2020 convention in Rapid City, South Dakota, situated on the Black Hills eastern edge. [The convention was cancelled due to Covid] The Hills form a rough oval stretching north to south approximately 110 miles and east to west approximately 70 miles. The rugged mountains highest summit Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) rises 7,244 feet and is considered one of the highest points east of the Rocky Mountains.

The geology of the Hills is complex. The central granitic core is over 2 billion years old. Eighty million years ago an uplift began in the region now the Black Hills. Imagine it as a massive boil that did not burst through the surface. Over millions of years the outer sedimentary layers eroded away leaving the exposed inner granitic core, alongside twisted, compressed metamorphic layers, and more recent sedimentary rocks on the outer edges of the Hills. Superhot subterranean fluids entered rock fissures depositing gold, silver, and other metals as they cooled. Fossils are found in the sedimentary rocks as well as Wind Cave, one of the world’s longest complex cave systems with 150 miles of explored cave. The Black Hills is a rockhound’s paradise. It’s one of the few places in the world where Rose Quartz, South Dakota’s state mineral, can be found.

The Black Hills, home to over 1,500 plant species, are forest-covered with spruce and ponderosa pine interspersed with aspen and birch groves and grassy meadows studded with wildflowers.

If you enjoy fly-fishing, there are plenty of clear cool streams that support a healthy trout population. Are you a birder? Songbirds to raptors make the Hills their home. Buffalo and antelope roam free in the 71,000-acre Custer State Park, the USA’s second largest state park, where a large prairie dog town thrives. If you’re lucky you might see elk. Mountain lions are becoming more prevalent as well as bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Although bears had been shot out of the Hills, there are now occasional black bear sightings.

When you attend WWA’s 2020 convention, set aside time to explore the Black Hills by foot, horseback, bicycle or car. Find a secluded spot and let the natural world of Paha Sapa inspire you.

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 8

December 2019 issue of Roundup

 

Dances with Wolves

 

By Bill Markley

 

Some people have never seen Dances with Wolves. Most of them are under thirty—the film is older than they are. That’s right, Dances with Wolves was filmed over thirty years ago in 1989 and released November 21, 1990.

It won seven Academy Awards—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Mixing. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture in Drama.

South Dakotans like to think of Dances (just say Dances in South Dakota and people know what you mean) as one big tourism advertisement for the state. All scenes in the three-hour version were shot on location within South Dakota.

When you attend WWA’s 2020 convention in Rapid City [the convention was cancelled due to Covid], there are a few Dances-related places you can visit. Most of the film locations were on remote private land with no access. For instance, scenes for Fort Sedgewick, the killing of Timmons, and the buffalo hunt were filmed on the Triple U Buffalo Ranch which Ted Turner now owns, and the tatanka got their revenge on Fort Sedgewick by rubbing on the buildings until they collapsed.

Some scenes showing Dunbar and Timmons traveling to Fort Sedgwick were filmed in Badlands National Park so if you travel through the park you will see similar scenery. You can find prairie vistas driving174 miles on Highway 34 from Pierre to Sturgis.

One-hundred-and-fifteen miles east of Rapid City on Interstate 90 is the 1880 Town, a collection of original western buildings brought together and preserved as a town. In a unique circular barn is a large Dances props display including a teepee and photos. Timmons’ wagons are parked outside, and you can visit the grave of Buck, one of the horses cast as Cisco.

Outside Rapid City on Mount Rushmore Road is Fort Hays Old West Town which has the headquarters and supply depot from the Fort Hays set. The buildings were moved to their current location after the filming. The headquarters is furnished to look the way it did when Dunbar received his orders. It’s free and while you’re there try the all-you-can-eat cowboy pancakes for 99 cents.

The final scenes were filmed in Spearfish Canyon. Drive to Savoy, take Roughlock Falls Road for a couple of miles, and on the right is a Dances location marker. If you’re real still and listen very closely—que the howling wolf!

 

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 9

February 2020 issue of Roundup

 

Sow the Wind and Reap the Whirlwind

 

By Bill Markley

 

The Lakotas and other tribes regard Paha Sapa, the Black Hills, as sacred. The 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty recognized the Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation prohibiting white access; but General William T. Sherman whose official position was that the establishment of forts in and around the Black Hills might be a good idea, authorized Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer to lead an expedition to reconnoiter potential fort locations. The Black Hills were relatively unexplored, shrouded in mystery. Many hoped the expedition would confirm rumors of gold.

On July 2, 1874, as the band played “The Girl I Left Behind me,” Custer, dressed in buckskin and riding his horse Dandy, led 995 troops and civilians including a geologist, two miners, and newspaper reporters out from Fort Abraham Lincoln along the Missouri River westward toward the Black Hills.

The expedition entered the Hills on July 25, and on August 2, while the troops camped along French Creek, Custer’s miners discovered gold flakes, enough to consider profitable. Custer sent scout Lonesome Charley Reynolds with his report along with the reporters’ dispatches to Fort Laramie. Newspaper headlines were soon blaring the discovery of gold. The rush to the Hills burst into full swing.

The army had its hands full intercepting prospectors, but by the Fall of 1875, President Ulysses Grant quietly gave the directive that the army no longer evict whites from the Hills. This was followed by the announcement all Indians on the Great Sioux Reservation must report to their agencies by January 31 or be considered hostile. This led to the army sending three columns of troops against Sitting Bull’s village of buffalo hunters and their families which Custer and his Seventh Cavalry found along Montana’s Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. In his attack on the village, Custer and 267 of his men lost their lives.

The federal government attempted to buy the Hills from the Lakotas but could not get the treaty-stipulated “three-fourths of all adult males” to agree to the sale, so the government just took them. In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled the Hills were taken illegally from the tribes and set aside 102 million dollars in compensation. The tribes have refused to accept the money which was placed in a trust fund and has grown to over 1.5 billion dollars. The Lakotas don’t want the money, they want Paha Sapa returned.

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 10

April 2020 issue of Roundup

 

Down to the River to Pray

 

By Bill Markley

 

Two-hundred-thirty-eight men, women, and children died in South Dakota’s Rapid City Flood, the night of June 9, 1972. The flood not only hit Rapid City, but large portions of the Black Hills. My wife, Liz, and our friends, Bruce and Kay Huxford endured and survived the flood. Here are their stories.

Liz was working a summer job at a souvenir shop, The Indians, in Keystone, a small Black Hills town on the way to Mount Rushmore. She and other college students were renting rooms in an old couple’s house. Sitting on the front porch watching the storm and swollen creek, they heard a loud rumble as the swiftly rising flow took out the upstream bridge. “Grab what you need!” the old man said, “We have to get out of here!” As they scrambled up steep slopes to escape the fast-rising water, Liz turned to see a car with people in it swept away. Liz and the others spent the night huddled in an old mine shaft entrance. The next day, The Indians souvenir shop was the only building standing large enough to serve as a morgue.

Bruce and Kay Huxford were living in Rapid City on high ground. Bruce, a member of Rapid City’s Reserve Police Squad, was called to help evacuate people from the rising Rapid Creek. In one instance, he knocked on the door of a home to tell the people to leave. They asked him to check the house next door as an older woman lived there alone. He didn’t reach her house; the raging water had already swept it away. Bruce had reoccurring nightmares remembering people hanging onto tree limbs and rooftops out in the flood pleading for help. There was no way to reach them that night.

After Bruce had left their house, Kay and a friend took a drive to see what the strange orange glow was on the western horizon. They drove down a steep incline, stopping at the bottom at a stop sign. Hearing a loud continuous roar, Kay turned on the car’s high beams revealing the swollen stream had risen to just the other side of the sign. If they had proceeded on, they would have driven into the torrent. They backed the car, turned around, and went straight home. Kay later learned the glow was burning propane tanks being swept downstream.

Two-hundred-thirty-eight men, women, and children died in the Rapid City Flood.

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 11

 

My Top Ten List of Things to Do in the Black Hills

August 2020 issue of Roundup

 

By Bill Markley

 

Do you have a little extra time while at the Rapid City WWA convention? [The convention was cancelled due to Covid.] Here are ten things to do.

 

10. Life-size statues of the Presidents stand on downtown Rapid City’s street corners. Find your favorite President and take your picture with him.

9. Drive to Mount Rushmore, the Shrine to Democracy, and view the massive faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. The original plans were to sculpt the four men descending a staircase.

8. In 1948, Korczak Ziolkowski began carving the Crazy Horse Memorial, literally a mountain in the round, a tribute to the Oglala leader. The memorial won’t be completed in our lifetimes, but it’s impressive to see. The Native American Museum and art displays are top notch.

7. Deadwood—like to gamble? There’s plenty of action. Visit one of Deadwood’s many museums or tour Mount Moriah Cemetery where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried.  

6. View the granitic needle formations along the fourteen-mile Needles Highway in Custer State Park. Don’t take your RV or you might scrape off a mirror in the narrow tunnels or worse.

5. Are you a railroader? Sit back and relax for two hours riding the rails through the Black Hills on the 1880 Train from Hill City to Keystone and back.

4. Thirsty? Like taking backroads? Then drive to Rochford and visit one of my favorite watering holes Moonshine Gulch Saloon. Nothing fancy, but if you like a continuous fire in a woodburning stove, an old dog moseying through the door, aren’t afraid of a little dust, and a wood floor settled into a slant, you might stay a while.

3. Looking for a buffalo herd traffic jam, ghostlike antelope, elusive elk, marauding burros, and squeaky prairie dogs? Drive the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop.

2. Drive through Spearfish Canyon cut by Spearfish Creek through a thousand feet of limestone and shale. Visit the canyon’s two major waterfalls, Spearfish Falls and Roughlock Falls. Kevin Costner selected Spearfish Canyon for Dances With Wolves’s final scenes.

1. Visit Sylvan Lake, one of the gems of the Black Hills. From there take the three-and-a-half mile hiking trail to Black Elk (Harney) Peak. It takes between four and five-hours roundtrip and is one of the most beautiful hikes in the country.

 

I’ve left out—biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, spelunking, gold panning, and tourist traps. There’s lots to do in the Black Hills.

Wild Bill’s Wild West

Number 12

June 2020

 

So This Guy Walks into A Bar…

 

By Bill Markley

 

Bummer Dan walks into Deadwood’s Saloon Number 10, the night of August 22, 1876. The bartender Harry Young pulls out a pistol and shoots Bummer Dan twice—killing him. Two days later, a jury acquits Young of Bummer Dan’s murder. “What!” you say. “What’s going on here!”

Harry Young also known as Sam Young was a bartender in Saloon Number 10. He was one of two bartenders in that saloon when Jack McCall shot and killed Wild Bill Hickok on August 2, 1876. Two weeks later, Young was feuding with the gambler Laughing Sam Hartman. Laughing Sam ran a faro game with his partner Bummer Dan aka Myer Baum. Please try to keep these characters straight.

Two weeks after Wild Bill was assassinated, Laughing Sam and Harry Young were feuding—over a woman. Laughing Sam told people he was going to kill Harry Young. By August 19, Harry had learned of Laughing Sam’s threats and asked his boss Carl Mann for a gun to protect himself from Laughing Sam. Mann said no and twice went to Laughing Sam telling him to cut it out, but Laughing Sam was relentless informing Mann he was going to kill Young.

On the night of August 22, Mann instructed Young to work behind the bar toward the back of the building where the lighting was poor, so he was not a sitting duck if Laughing Sam came in shooting.

About 10 pm, Harry Young peered through the dim light to see Laughing Sam walking toward him. He pulled out a pistol and shot Laughing Sam twice. “I am murdered!” the man shouted before dying. Only it wasn’t Laughing Sam. It was his partner Bummer Dan. For some unknown reason, Bummer Dan was wearing Laughing Sam’s coat and hat.

The crowd grabbed Harry Young and locked him in a storeroom. There was no jail at the time. They picked a judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney. There was no civil government at the time.  A jury was selected. The evidence was presented. It was learned Laughing Sam was in Saloon Number 10 at the time of Bummer Dan’s death, but he had disappeared after his partner was killed.

Young admitted he did the shooting, but said it was in self-defense. After three hours of deliberation the jury made its decision. According to The Black Hills Pioneer, “The jury … returned the usual verdict of not guilty.”