Wild West

THE COWARD WHO SHOT WILD BILL

The summer of 1876 found famed gunfighter and lawman James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok in the goldfields of Dakota Territory. Hickok and partner Charlie Utter had arrived in Deadwood (in present-day South Dakota) that July and were working several area claims. By month’s end temperatures had soared, and they usually did their outdoor work in the mornings. Come the hotter afternoons, the partners would enjoy the shade of the saloons, often playing cards. Hickok frequented a poker game at Nuttall and Mann’s No. 10 saloon, where Harry Young—an old friend from Hays City, Kansas—tended bar. Wild Bill often stopped to talk with Harry before assuming his seat at the card table.

On Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 2, 1876, Hickok entered the No. 10, had his usual drink and chat with Young, then joined a poker game already in progress. A wary Wild Bill usually sat with his back to the wall, but no such seat was available. From his chair he could see the front door of the saloon but not the back door. Hickok didn’t appear to notice when Jack McCall, a no-account drifter of medium build, wandered into the saloon. In fact, no one seemed to pay McCall much mind as he made his way along the length of the bar until directly behind Hickok’s chair.

At about 4 o’clock Utter, who had been sitting near Wild Bill though not playing in the game, left the saloon to grab supper. Hickok kept playing, apparently without much luck. The sudden report of a big-caliber revolver jolted the players’ attention from their hands—that is, everyone but Wild Bill, whose head jerked violently forward an instant before his body toppled from the chair. McCall, taking advantage of the stunned silence, strode to the open rear door. Before exiting, he snapped off his .45-caliber Colt Model 1873 revolver twice more, once at Young’s fellow bartender Anson Tipple, but both rounds were misfires.

Once outside McCall jumped on the nearest horse, but its

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