Wild West

TWO OTHER MANLY WESTERN PLEASURES

When we think of manly Western pleasures, we tend to think of dance halls, barrooms and gambling joints. Oftentimes these all resided under the same roof. Then, of course, there were the “ladies of the line,” good-time girls providing another type of pleasure—for a price. There were also church socials, though few trail hands headed for the nearest chapel when they hit town.

For sporting types the most familiar games of chance were faro, keno and poker, played atop beer-stained tables in smoky saloons. All involved a modicum of skill, from high (poker) to practically nil (keno). Virtually absent from mention in the history books are two other popular pastimes indulged in by Western gents—billiards and bowling.

Billiards has somewhat more historical resonance out West, mainly due to its tragic connection to the Earp brothers (see related story, P. 38). On March 18, 1882, Morgan Earp was shot and killed from ambush while “addressing the ball” at the Campbell & Hatch saloon and billiard parlor on Allen Street in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. Brother Wyatt narrowly missed being hit by the same fusillade. The assassination came in the aftermath of the infamous Oct. 26, 1881, shootout near the O.K. Corral, and it prompted Wyatt’s legendary “Vendetta Ride” targeting the killers and their pals.

Billiards was a British import dating from the colonial era. The American version used four balls, including the cue ball, on a large four-pocket table. Players scored points by pocketing balls or caroming the cue ball off two or more balls. The first known significant stake match was held in Detroit’s Fireman’s Hall in 1859—hardly a front-page event. Equipment evolved over the years. The balls were made of rare ivory through 1869, the year

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