Wild West


Handy firearms, easily bruised egos and readily available whiskey, among other aspects, led to countless confrontations on the Western frontier. Whether the causes were trivial or serious, the results were often deadly. Such generalizations are not new, but from time to time it’s instructive to review the details of shootouts that, on sober reflection, should never have happened.

The July 22, 1880, “blue shirt” shooting in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, is textbook. According to a report in the next day’s headlined A Fatal Garment, Tom Waters and E.L. Bradshaw were miners, friends, even shared a cabin for a time. That morning Waters had purchased a blue-and-black plaid shirt, and as he walked the streets of town, folks teased him about

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