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I went to Abilene about four weeks before Bill and
remember distinctly the day he arrived there. It was
about four o'clock in the afternoon. He received a
warm welcome from the law-abiding citizens. The
news of his coming had preceded him, and was treated
by the lawless element as a huge joke. They had had
things their own way for so long without opposition,
that the idea of a single man subduing them was, from
their point of view, simply ridiculous. Bill commenced
business immediately upon his arrival. His first order
was that all men should disarm. Entering one of
the largest saloons, called "The Bullshead," Bill en-
countered a number of cow-punchers and ordered them
to disarm. < This order was met with jeers and deris-
ion ; some reaching defiantly for their guns. Bill, ever
on the alert, whipped out his guns and his rapid fire
quickly snuffed out the lives of eight men. This
action had a magic effect, and the manager of the
saloon (Ed Norton) was for a time kept busy receiv-
ing the guns handed him by those who 'had suddenly
decided that discretion was the better part of valor.
This was Bill's first official act in Abilene ; temporarily,
it had a depressing effect. For a short time they
seemed to feel that they had more than met their
master. As this feeling gradually wore off, a number
of them collected in a dance-hall where they concocted
a plan to assassinate him. This was, fortunately,
overheard by a man named Billy Mullen, who had
known Bill in Hayes City. Mullen quickly made his
way to * The Bullshead saloon and appraised Bill of



HARD KNOCKS Page 50

the plot. Bill went immediately to the dance-hall and
ordered all who were in there to back up against the
wall and put their six-shooters on the floor at their
feet. Meeting, as he has expected, with some oppo-
sition, and being a man who took no chances, Bill
immediately began shooting, killing five before it was
fully realized that he was indeed their master.

I will narrate one more episode that occurred in
this town. There was a certain character who went
by the name of "Shang," so named from his great
height. Shang was a wealthy Texas cattle man. He
employed about two hundred cow-punchers or cow-
boys, as they are called now-a-days, and large droves
of his cattle were constantly being driven in to Abil-
ene. Shang's power among this certain class, owing
to his immense wealth, was supreme. It was not
unusual for him to have an enemy killed for a money
consideration. Shang and Bill had fallen out, as the
result of a fancied grievance, and Shang decided that
Bill's life should pay the forfeit.

For this purpose he sent to Texas for a man
named Phil Cole, a noted Texas gun-fighter with a
reputation in that state, equal to Bill's in Kansas.
The agreement was that Cole was to come to Abilene
and kill Bill, for which Shang was to pay him one
thousand dollars. On Cole's arrival Shang met him
on the outskirts of the town, taking him down to the
corral and taking the precaution to have Cole remove
his six-shooters and spurs, so as not to arouse any
suspicion. I do not believe at that particular time
that Bill thought for a moment that Shang had sent
for Cole. Bill and Cole had never seen each other,
and they knew each other by reputation only. Shang's
desire was to point out Bill to Cole without arousing
Bill's ^suspicions. Shang and Cole left the corral
together, going to The Bullshead saloon, where he
pointed out Bill to Cole. Cole, when he looked this



Page 51 HARDKNOCKS

great man over, and having heard so much of him
through Shang, completely lost his nerve. But know-
ing what he was brought there for and also knowing
that he must make good to Shang, Cole asked Shang
to walk back down to the corral with him; where
together they talked the matter over. Shang finally
went home. Cole, after Shang had left him, conceived
the idea of taking a dog that was in the corral, tying a
rope around its neck, arming himself, and later taking
the dog to The Bullshead. This decided upon, he started
off with the dog at about half past one o'clock in the
morning. On reaching the saloon, he tied the dog
to the door latch, and stood behind an awning post
in front of the door. Knowing that Bill was on the
inside, he shot the dog, expecting Bill to run out in the
dark to see what the shooting was about. Bill was not
to be caught in this trap. Instead of running out,
with gun in hand he opened the door, keeping behind
it until the light shone from the saloon into the street,
when he saw Cole peeking from behind the awning
post. They both shot at the same time ; Bill a fraction
of a second quicker than Cole and his bullet entering
Cole's heart, killed him instantly. Thus ended the
career of the greatest gun-fighter Texas ever
produced.

While Marshal of Abilene, Bill was compelled to
kill twenty-five men, but he had been successful in his
mission and had transformed Abilene into a peaceful,
law-abiding towr

In the following year, 1870, the cattle business be-
gan to spread out and new towns were springing up,
and vieing with Abilene as a cattle center. Among
these was the town of Ellsworth, which was sorely in
need of a fearless marshal. Bill transferred his base
of operations to that town, but did not meet with the
opposition he h^d met with, in Abilene. By this time,
his reputation had spread far and wide and the ma-



HARD KNOCKS Page 52

jority of the evil-doers of Ellsworth looked upon him
with wholesome respect, and the killing of nine men
was all that was necessary to show them that Bill was
master of the situation. After acting as marshal of
Ellsworth for a year, Bill decided to make a change,
and leaving the town went to Kansas City, Missouri.
Here he met and married Mrs. Lake, the widow of a
prominent circus-man.

Texans brought many race ponies with them to
Abeline and raced them for large sums of money. In
those days the distance was one-fourth mile. They
started them with their rear to the outcome, and at
the crack of a six-shooter fired by the starter, they
whirled on their hind legs and ran for dear life to
the outcome. I have seen fifty head of Texas steers
driven to the race and bet against money on the re-
sult. Everyone joined in these poney races. Gamblers,
saloonkeepers, cattlemen, cow punchers, dance hall
keepers and dance hall girls all bet their money on the
results.

In the Summer of 1870 I left Abilene, going to
Ellsworth, where I remained until Fall; finally joining
the Toole Brothers, who had purchased out of the va-
rious herds, eight hundred head of young stock cattle,
our destination being Montana.

They intended to winter the cattle on the Arkansas
River, about one hundred and twenty-five miles west
of Fort Dodge. We arrived there in due time without
any trouble, except from the buffalo, which stampeded
the cattle two or three times. There were hundreds
of thousands of buffalo in the country at this time.
After locating ourselves on our winter's range, we
built two dug-outs in which to live. These were con-
structed by cutting into a bank or hillside to the size
desired, then roofing it over with ridge and roof poles,
and covering all over with dirt. The front end was
built up with sod, an opening being left for the door.



Page 53 HARDKNOCKS

One night during the first week we lived in the
dug-out, we were awakened by one of the cattle walk-
ing over the roof. Before many minutes had elapsed,
she fell through up to her body and we experienced
a great difficulty in getting her out. Had she fallen
all the way down, or through, she would have landed
on my bunk, with probably fatal results to both of us.

Our down river dug-out was located nine miles be-
low. Two of the boys and a cook took care of that
end of the range. They rode up river every morning
and we rode down, meeting them each day and com-
paring notes. It was necessary to keep the cattle on
the range; we also kept two additional men whose
duty it was to keep the buffalo off the range; they
were called "buffalo whoopers." These buffalo were
very destructive to the "buffalo grass." It was very
short and curly; always green near the ground and
very fattening for stock. The buffalo usually re-
mained in the hills back from the river, where they
found numerous large holes, known as "buffalo wal-
lows." These wallows were filled with water from the
rains and melting snow, where they procured their
drinking water. During the severe winters these holes
would freeze over, compelling the buffalo to go to the
river for water.

I have heard many controversies regarding the
formation of these holes or wallows, and will here ex-
plain to you from personal knowledge how they were
made and why called buffalo wallows:

During the summer months the buffalo would
travel this country in immense herds and were contin-
ually attacked by an insect called the buffalo gnat.
These gnats would work their way down through the
hair into the hide of the buffalo and cause constant
itching. In desperation, the buffalo would tear up the
earth with his horns and with his front foot throw
the loose earth over his body, and then lie down, roll-



HARD KNOCKS Page 54

ing over and over until his body was completely cov-
ered with the earth. This made a depression in the
ground. The buffalo would then rise to his feet, shak-
ing his body, causing great clouds of dust which ex-
terminated the gnat. This same performance would
be gone through by others until a large, deep hole was
the result ; thus the name of "buffalo wallow." Thou-
sands of these holes were to be found on the prairie,
and were all formed in this manner.

It is wonderful the uses that were made of these
buffalo wallows after the buffalo were exterminated,
as many a tired emigrant wending his way westward
found water for himself and stock ; many of them also
using these holes as breast works, when attacked by
Indians. In the vicinity of these holes was also found
a vast amount of offal from the buffalo, called buffalo
chips, which was used for fuel for cooking purposes.
I, myself, have eaten many a good meal cooked by this
kind of fuel.

It was very remarkable, however, that one never
found the great buffalo herds moving any direction
but south, unless when they were scared, when they
would run north for a short distance, but would
eventually resume their journey south. It is no ex-
aggeration to say that at times I have stood on
heights and have seen hundreds of thousands of these
animals in one great herd. The extermination of
these vast herds was completed in a few years.

One bright, cold winter morning we were in the
dug-out and saw an immense herd of buffalo coming
to the river for water.

"Young has never killed a buffalo," said Mr. Toole,
when we sighted the herd, "and here is his chance.
Let him take the first shot." I took an old Spencer
carbine and secreted myself in a clump of willows near
the river,, in sight of the dug-out. In a few minutes
on came the herd and in a short time hundreds of



Page 55 HARDKNOCKS

these magnificent animals were on all sides of -me.
For some reason, however, they did not see or scent
me. I became nervous and yelled at them. In a
moment everything was in confusion never shall I
forget that grand sight. Every buffalo in the herd
seemed to be aware of his danger and immediately
stampeded toward the hills. One old bull came with-
in two feet of my hiding place. Although I was very
much frightened, I pointed the gun at him and pulled
the trigger. I then made a run for the dug-out with-
out waiting to see the result of my shot, completely
forgetting that there were other loads in the magazine
of the weapon. The buffalo did not immediately fall,
although I was sure that my shot had struck him.
When near the dug-out I saw the boys looking at a
point back of me, and following the direction of their
gaze I saw the buffalo in the throes of death. "Why
didn't you take another shot at them?" asked Mr.
Toole.

"Because," I replied, straightening up as proud as
a peacock, "one shot is enough for a green hand."
Later on I became quite a buffalo hunter. The four
months that I remained with the Toole Brothers, I
killed forty-six of these animals. Each herder carried
a gun and ammunition, and we were supposed to kill
all the buffalo possible ; some we used for food, but our
principal revenue was from their hides. The prices
were three dollars and ten cents for bull hides, and
two dollars and ten cents for cow hides. Mr. Toole
told me afterward that during their winter stay there,
they had killed and sold enough hides to pay the
wages and expenses of the men for the entire winter.
The almost complete extermination of the buffalo
was caused by professional hunters, who were con-
tinually killing them for their hides. These hides
were hauled to the nearest railroad station, where
they were sold and later on shipped to England, where
they were made into belting for machinery. Few



HARD KNOCKS Page 56

were made into buffalo robes, as the hunters did not
have the time to tan them.

To give the reader some idea of the money made
by some of these profession hunters, I will select
one man whom I knew well. His name was Kirt
Jordan. Kirt had three four-horse teams and twenty
men in his employ and was one of the most successful
hunters at this time. He held the record, having
killed a hundred buffalo in one stand. In getting a
stand of buffalo, the hunter must crawl up unawares
without being seen or scented. Should the hunter be
fortunate enough not to be seen or scented, he could
kill numbers of them before they would get out of
gun-shot, as they are not easily frightened. After
quitting the Toole Brothers, I went skinning buffalo
for Kirk Jordan and was the first to suggest and put
into practical operation the skinning of buffalo by
mule power. This was done by cutting the hide
around the neck, down the belly and up the legs,
after which the skin was started a little. A large
sharp steel pin was then driven through the buffalo's
nose and into the ground; then a hole was cut in
the back part of the hide at the neck, a chain hooked
in the cut and by means of a collar, hames, traces and
single-tree, with which the mule was equipped, the
hide was pulled off the buffalo with the greatest of
ease. Of course, by this operation much of the flesh
adhered to the hide, but the market value of the latter
was not affected in the least. After the hides had
been staked out until partly dry, they were loaded on
wagons, which were equipped with a rack similar
to a hay-rack, also using a binding pole. In this
way a great many hides could be hauled in one load.
These wagons were drawn by four animals to the
nearest town on the line of the Atchison, Topeka &
Santa Fe railroad, and sold at the prices previously
mentioned. Anyone who was a good hunter and who
had an outfit, could make a great deal of money in



Page 57 HARD KNOCKS

this business as long as it lasted. Kirk Jordan made
thousands of dollars.

Kirt Jordan, the great buffalo hunter, finally went
wrong, and became a horse and mule thief. The U. S.
marshal arrested him for stealing government mules,
tried and sentenced him to Leavenworth Government
Prison for ten years. An officer and two men, with
Kirt handcuffed, started for Leavenworth, Kirt sit-
ting in the seat with the officer, and the soldiers sit-
ting in the seat at his back. Kirt requested the offi-
cer to unhandcuff him as he wished to wash himself
in the toilet. The officer did so, when, as quick as
lightning, he grabbed the officer's six-shooter from
his scabard and shot him dead. He then shot one of
the soldiers, and jumped through the open window to
the ground, lighting on his head and breaking his
neck. Poor Kirt was a good fellow, but, like many
others, after his occupation as a buffalo hunter ended,
he could not resume his occupation as a teamster, and
accordingly went bad.

Billie Brooks, the gun man of Dodge City in the
early seventies, was one day riding on the construc-
tion train from Dodge City to Sergeant. The conduc-
tor, coming through the coach, asked him for his
fare. Brooks replied by drawing his six-shooter, say-
ing, "I travel on this." The conductor passed on.
After he was through with his fare collecting, he went
forward to the locomotive and instructed the engineer
to slow down at a certain point. Getting his shotgun,
he dropped off the engine and caught the last car, in
which Brooks was seated. Approaching from the
back, he called out, "Brooks, the fare to Sergeant is
$2.75." Brooks looked over his shoulder, and seeing
the shotgun pointed at him, replied:

"To whom do I pay the money?"

Just then the brakeman stepped in. The conduc-
tor said, "Pay the brakeman, and also hand him your



HARD KNOCKS Page 58

six-shooters, and when you arrive at Sergeant the
agent there will return them to you."

Brooks did so. Meeting the conductor the same
night in the dance hall, Brooks said, "Old man, you
are a good fellow and a good collector, and I want to
be your friend." Thus the matter ended.

Brooks in future days became a horse and mule
thief, and was chased by a posse to a dugout near
Wichita, where he stood the posse off for two days.
He was finally induced to surrender with the promise
that he would be tried by law in Wichita. He was
told to leave his guns in the dugout and walk out un-
armed. He did so, and was mounted on a horse and
taken to a nearby tree and hanged. Thus ended
Brooks' career as a gun man.

One year after the Santa Fe railroad had been
constructed along the Arkansas river, there came
into that country an old man with a two-horse team,
who quietly began the gathering of buffalo bones,
hauling them to the railroad and piling them in great
heaps. The boys all laughed at him and dubbed him
"Old Buffalo Bones." The old fellow enjoyed their
joking him and kept on with his gathering. Later he
procured another team and sent east for his son to
drive it. The following year this man had many great
piles of bones ready for shipment east. The Santa
Fe railroad being anxious to load their empty cars
eastward, gave him a very low rate and laid side-
tracks to the piles. The records at Dodge City show
that this "Old Bones" shipped three thousand carloads
to Philadalphia, where they were used in sugar re-
fineries and for fertilizing purposes. This old man,
at whom we had laughed, made a great fortune in
two years.

To give the reader an idea of the number of buffalo
killed in that country, the railroad records at Dodge



Page 59 HARD KNOCKS

City show that two million buffalo hides were shipped
from that station alone, and it is estimated that there
were twenty-million buffalo killed between the bound-
aries of Montana and Texas.



HARD KNOCKS Page 60



CHAPTER VII.

STRENUOUS PIONEER LIFE AT FORT DODGE UNSUNG
AND UNHUNG HEROES BOOT HILL CEMETERY-
PORTABLE DANCE HALLS CARNIVAL OF MURDER
WORK OF THE VIGILANTES THE FAITHFUL
BULLDOG HORRIBLE PRACTICAL JOKE ON THE
BUFFALO SKIN ROBBER "RUN, DARCY! RUN FOR
LIFE" TRIBUTE TO THE DANCE HALL GIRL.

IN the early spring of 1871, having tired of the
buffalo skinning business, I returned to the
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe extension, that I
might experience frontier life, then to be found in
all its glory. I went over to Dodge City, then the
terminus. The town was two miles west of Fort Dodge
and all the elements of frontier life were there, includ-
ing many saloons and three large dance halls. That the
town was rough, goes without question. Buffalo
hunters made their headquarters here, and disposed
of their hides and spent their money lavishly.

. There are few who know, and it is difficult to con-
ceive, how hardened men can become when in such
surroundings as existed there. My experiences in
that town were many and varied, and the characters
were a study for one of a contemplative turn of mind.
Among those whom I now recall were Billy Brooks,
of Newton fame ; "Dog" Kelly, who kept a large saloon
there and who derived his nicname "Dog"- from being
a large owner of greyhounds, which the sporting
element used for hunting jack rabbits. They bet a
great deal of money on these hounds and made very
fine sport of it. I understand that this character,
Kelly, is still alive in Dodge City. Other characters,
Pete Hicks, who was day marshal; his brother Bill,
night marshal, and both of whom were killed there
later on, and Bat Masterson, who is now living in



Page 61 HARD KNOCKS

New York. Others were, Lushy Bill, Ed. Hurley,
Fancy Pat, Tom Sherman, Mose Walters, Jim Han-
nafan, Joe Hunt, George Peacock, and many whose
names I have forgotten. At this particular time in
the west, a great many men had nicknames and one
never did know their proper names and cared less.

As an illustration of the lawlessness in that town :
One night Ed. Hurley and three others were crossing
from the main town to the dance-hall. They saw a
buffalo hunter standing in the middle of the street,
yelling at the top of his voice : "I am a wolf, it is my

night to howl, and I would like to have some

stop me."

"What is the matter with you?" asked Hurley,
walking up to the fellow.

"I am a wolf," was the reply; "it is my night to
howl and the whole bunch of you can't stop me."

Whereupon, Hurley, without a word of warning,
shot him dead. Hurley then kicked him, saying as
he did so: "Now, why don't you howl?" Hurley then
went on to the dance-hall, singing as he did so. As
he entered the door, he saw a man named McClelland
talking, to a dance-hall girl named Nellie Rivers. This
aroused Hurley's jealousy, and he began shooting at
McClelland; the latter returning the fire, killed Hurley.
McClelland at this time was a brakesman on the
railroad, but after this episode, he left the job and
became a gun-fighter. His career was short, how-
ever, for he was killed by a desperado named "Scotty"
in Peacock's saloon just one week after he killed
Hurley. After the killing, McClelland lay on the bar
room floor when Nellie Rivers, who had heard of his
death, came in to look at him. Sitting astride of his
body, folding his hands over his breast, she cried
"you killed my Eddie! You killed my Eddie!" meaning
Hurley; emphasizing the statement each time by



HARD KNOCKS Page 62

slapping the face of the dead man. She continued
slapping him and finally had to be pulled away.

McClelland was buried the next morning in Boot
Hill cemetery, the name "Boot Hill' being acquired
from the fact that all who were buried there had died
with their boots on. The one exception was a drunken
painter who had died of delerium tremens. This
cemetery is still a landmark of early days, and during
the six months that I lived in Dodge, sixty-five men
were buried there, all having died "with their boots
on."

At this time I was night watchman at the Govern-
ment freight shed, situated at the east, limit of the
town. Although, I will confess, instead of remaining
on duty at night as I should have done, I spent a
great portion of my time in the dance-halls. One
beautiful moonlight night, I, together with about one
hundred others, was in one of these places, when a
drunken buffalo hunter stepped in at the door and
exclaiming, "Oh, what a field," began shooting over
our heads. He did not cease shooting until he had
emptied both guns. When the dance-hall was built,
it was made up in sections, fastened together with
hooks and staples, so that when the towns moved
on "farther west, the hall could be loaded on flat cars
and set up again at the next terminus. When the
drunken hunter began shooting, the crowd made its
escape by rushing head-long against the sides of the
hall, practically knocking the structure to pieces. We
all made our escape and as no one was hit, it is my
belief that he shot only to frighten us. The citizens,
however, could not see the situation in that light and
advocated hanging, as the best remedy.

They probably thought that one might as well be
killed as almost scared to death, and for this reason
they failed to see the point of the joke and insisted on
hanging him. He ran up into one of the canyons



Page 63 HARDKNOCKS

near the town, but was caught later and brought back.
He was tried in "Dog Kelly's saloon, convicted and
taken out to be hanged. He broke away and ran for
his wagon, which was on the edge of the town, and as
he crawled under it, he was shot by Pete Hicks, the
marshal. His faithful bulldog was tied under the
wagon and when one of the men reached to pull the
dead body put, the dog seized him by the arm and
had to be killed before he would let go.


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Online LibraryHarry YoungHard knocks : a life story of the vanishing West → online text (page 4 of 17)