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The old heroes of the Wild West were really terrorists.
Those heroes of the Wild West as portrayed by John Wayne and others on the big screen over the years, where in reality very far from heroes. If they were around today they would probably be branded as terrorists and then exterminated by the law enforcement agencies they purportedly represented. The home of the true gambling hero was this rough world of cattle herding dominated by the saloon and the gambling den.
Cheap novelists such as Ned Buntline whose dime publications became popular across the land romanticized this world of rough justice and mayhem. Buffalo Bill got together a whole bunch of these people, many of whom had come believe their descriptions in the “penny dreadfuls” and created a “Wild West Show” that he took on tour. His real name was William Frederick Cody and he was nicknamed, Buffalo Bill because of the dubious accolade of having managed to kill 4,3000 buffalo in a mere 18 months.
Wild Bill Hickock, the quirky legendary marksman insisted on wearing 2 pistols even when asleep. Ironically he was killed during a poker game in Deadwood City. When he was shot by a publicity seeker whilst he was holding what has come to be known as the “dead man’s hand” in poker, aces and eights.
Calamity Jane was a far cry from the character Doris Day portrayed. Martha Jane Canary was an ex-Pony Express rider whose shooting was good enough for Buffalo Bill to include her in his show. In reality it was amazing she could hit any target with a pistol, as she was a chronic alcoholic and inveterate gambler. Belle Starr was not really very different either. Her most famous poker line was “a pair of six shooters beats a pair of sixes any day!” I don’t think any of us can argue with the logic behind that! She had a child by Cole Younger, married outlaw Jim Reed and after his death teamed up with an Indian named Sam who aided her in her very successful horse stealing business based out of Dallas.
What about Blly the Kid? Like many of his contemporaries he spent most of his time underage drinking in saloons and gambling parlors and had killed 21 men before he caught a bullet himself at the tender age of 21. Pity how all of this punctures the romanticized balloon on the noble Wild West, the last frontier. But then if people had known the truth Hollywood would have had huge problems of coming up with those ‘westerns” that portrayed a world of honor and opportunity many of which have achieved cult status as movies. In reality, however, this was another “spin job” as nothing could be further from the truth!
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