Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wild Bill Hickok & Dead Man's Hand

Wild Bill suffered from consumption or TB as it is currently known, and so traveled west hoping the clean air would help his condition. It was not only medical reasons that drew him to Deadwood, South Dakota but also the lure of gold. Unfortunately, it would be the death of him because he died on August 2, 1876 at the hands of a drifter called Jack McCall who supposedly wanted to settle a score . He accused Hickok of killing his brother back in Kansas, and so cowardly crept up behind Hickok as he played cards, shooting him in the back of his head killing him instantly. A jury later acquitted McCall believing his story of revenging his brother’s death. McCall spent the rest of his life boasting of killing the infamous gun slinger.

The whole incident should never have happened because Wild Bill, conscious of those who wanted to kill him for the notoriety it would bring always faced the door in a saloon. Although he was ambidextrous and kept two guns in a sash around his waist, he always used his left hand to drink his whiskey leaving his right hand to draw his gun. On that fateful day, he took the only seat available at the card table, a chair that backed to the door and therefore he never saw his killer’s approach. At his death, Hickok was holding a very strong hand, a pair of aces and a pair of eights since known as the Dead Man’s Hand.

Wild Bill Hickok is buried in St. Moriah’s Cemetery, Deadwood with Calamity Jane’s burial site close by.