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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Dead Man's Hand

Today's History Lesson...the American West

Outlaws and gunslingers of the old West share a unique persona. Visions of saloons, dance hall girls, whiskey and gambling immediately come to mind. These were the times when men were men who stood their ground and died with their boots on.

This Day in the Old West: August 2, 1876

James Butler ("Wild Bill") Hickok
He was a legend, the most famous gunfighter in the history of the West, an American frontiersman, army scout, lawman, gambler, and entertainer. Yet, he died with his Smith & Wesson revolver in his holster, never having seen his murderer.

On August 2, 1876, James Butler ("Wild Bill") Hickok was shot in the back of the head as he was playing cards in the saloon of Deadwood, South Dakota. He never knew who or what hit him. The bullet was swift and fatal. He was 39 years old. 

Hickok's legend was already established and only continued to grow after his death. The cards he was holding at the time in a heated poker game-- a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights -- came to be known as "the dead man's hand."

As for the fifth card in what became known as the dead man’s hand, no one knows—
and Wild West buffs have been arguing about it ever since.

The motive for killing Hickok is unknown but his murderer was brought to justice. Having been first acquitted, Jack McCall was subsequently re-arrested after bragging about his deed, and a new trial was held. This time, McCall was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.

McCall was hanged on March 1, 1877, and buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery. The cemetery was moved in 1881, and his body was exhumed and the noose was found still around his neck. The killing of Hickok and the capture of McCall is reenacted every summer evening in Deadwood. Source: en.wikipedia.org
MORE on "Wild Bill" Hickok...

Wild Bill Hickok: Pistoleer, Peace Officer and Folk Hero
James Butler Hickok's reputation as the Old West's premier gunfighter or 'man-killer' made him a legend in his own lifetime–a distinction shared by few of his gunfighting contemporaries. Thanks to an article in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in February 1867 and some other colorful accounts published in the mid-1860s, Hickok, or rather 'Wild Bill,' as he was generally called, was soon elevated from regional to national status. And since his death in 1876, he has achieved worldwide fame
Wild Bill Hickok & The Dead Man's Hand
... Wild Bill had his faults, grievous ones, perhaps ... He would get drunk, gamble, and indulge in the general licentiousness characteristic of the border in the early days, yet even when ful of the vile libel of the name of whiskey which was dealt over the bars at exorbitant prices, he was gentle as a child, unless aroused to anger by intended insults. ... He was loyal in his friendship generous to a fault, and invariable exspoused the case of the weaker against the stronger one in a quarrel.
--Captain Jack Crawford, who scouted with Wild Bill before they both followed the gold rush to Deadwood.
Shoot Out with "Wild Bill" Hickok, 1869
The exploits of Wild Bill Hickok - spread by word-of-mouth and embellished by dime novels - would shape the popular image of America's frontier. Tall, lean, muscular, long blond hair falling to his shoulders, two pistols shoved into his belt, wearing a law man's badge on his chest: he personified the image of the Western hero for both his and later generations.
The motive behind Wild Bill's murder is not clear, yet McCall stated
it was revenge for the lawman killing his brother some years earlier.
This account has not been validated.