Stories at Eleven [10 CDT/8 PDT] 28 October 2001, Vol 5, #42

Good Evening EagleLarks, "Good Lifers", and all Ships at Sea,

      James Butler Hickok, like George Armstrong Custer, was a dandy.  He stood 6 foot 3 and wore custom made boots.  He sported a drooping moustache, two Navy Colts, and his riveting gaze seemed to penetrate to the soul.

      He was known by the Custers and Libbie wrote the following description of him in 1890 in her book "Following the Guidon":  "Physically, he was a delight to look upon.  Tall, lithe, and free in every motion, he rode and walked as if every muscle was perfection, and the careless swing of his body as he moved seemed perfectly in keeping with the man, the country, the time in which he lived.  I do not recall anything finer in the way of physical perfection than Wild Bill when he swung himself lightly from his saddle, and with graceful, swaying step, squarely set shoulders and well poised head, approached our tent for orders.  He was rather fantastically clad, of course, but all seemed perfectly in keeping with the time and place.  He wore top-boots, riding breeches, and dark blue flannel shirt, with scarlet set in front.  A loose neck handkerchief left his fine firm throat free.  I do not all remember his features, but the frank, manly expression of his fearless eyes and his courteous manner gave one a feeling of confidence in his word and in his undaunted courage."

      Written by a woman. :)

      Hickok love to tell the stories of his own exploits which amused family and friends.  To his reckoning there were "hundreds" of men he had gunned down.  This did feed his reputation and that in turn, I'm sure, swerved him in some of the real life "adventures" of the man.  But, Wild Bill didn't glamorize the stories near to what Colonel Ward Nicholls' account of the Rock Creek incident, which appeared in the February 1867 issue of Harpers Magazine.  This account titled, "The M'Kandlas's Gang", gave Hickok credit for "single-handedly" fought and killed 10 men with a gun and Bowie knife.  This gang was comprised of "reckless, blood-thirsty devils who would fight as long as they had strength to pull a trigger."  Here Wild Bill emerged the victor, despite carrying 11 buckshot and 13 knife wounds.  The Harpers article was seven years after the incident -- long enough for many facts to have faded.

      Speaking of a Bowie knife, Wild Bill, as a cross-country stage driver slept under the stars at times.  Once he was dressed in his one and single suit of clothes which carried many odors from constant wearing, including bacon grease from daily meals.  A bear picking up the scent tried to make a meal of the stage driver.  Being without his guns, he used his six-inch knife.  So it was bear, with claws and wonderfully sharp teeth versus man and his knife.  According to the witnesses, the ruckus was tremendous, and though nigh to being fatally wounded, the bear was fatally wounded.

      There are many authors of Hickok stories.  It would be very hard to write the true character of the man.  Jerome C Krause tells some "wild" accounts, while a 2nd great nephew admits some of these stories are a bit stretched.  I know I certainly would enjoy "just the facts". :)


-- Bill

Stories at Eleven 1999 - 2005, William N. Oliver, all rights reserved