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A Note From Dakota

about "Gunfights of the Old West"

Dakota Livesay with Jake the "Wonder Dog"
Dakota Livesay and Jake

Hi, I'm Dakota Livesay, publisher of the 1800’s newspaper, Chronicle of the Old West, and host of the syndicated radio show of the same name.

According to western novels and movies, gunfights were a common occurrence. They portray two steely eyed men…one wearing a white hat, and the other black…walking toward each other at high noon, or sunrise, on an empty street. Their holsters are slung low on their hip, and tied to their leg. As they get to within forty yards of each other, the man in the white hat indicates that, in the name of justice and fairness, he will not draw first. Then, in a flash, pistols are drawn. Each man fires a single shot, virtually at the same time. The man in the black hat falls to the ground…dead. And we cheer the hero…the victor.

Unfortunately, in the real Old West, this picture is as far from the truth as a person can get. Seldom, if ever, was a gunfight planned for a certain time of the day or location. It was usually something that took place in the heat of the moment by liquored up men who felt they were cheated at cards or love or they were looking for revenge. The low hanging holsters tied to the leg is an invention of Hollywood. The best-healed man could have a simple leather holster slipped on a belt. More often than not, the gun was stuck in the waste band or carried in a pocket.

Shootouts seldom took place at a distance. Since it usually was the climax of an argument, the men were often face-to-face. One shot? No way. Guns were emptied, sometimes resulting in more bystanders being shot than the participants.

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Black powder was in use during this time. “Waiting until the smoke settled” was often what had to happen before the outcome of the shootout could be determined. If the shootout took place at close range, the powder, still burning as it left the gun barrel, could catch a man’s clothes on fire.

And the fastest man to draw and shoot his pistol the winner? Not according to Wyatt Earp. Wyatt maintained, “The most important lesson I learned was the winner of gunplay usually was the one who took his time. The second was that, if I hoped to live on the frontier, I would shun flashy trick-shooting as I would poison. I did not know a really proficient gunfighter who had anything but contempt for the gun-fanner, or the man who literally shot from the hip.”

There are those who lived up to their reputation. For instance, John Wesley Hardin, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok and Ben Thompson were among the deadliest. Among those whose reputation exceeded their performance? – Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

This CD contains the stories of sixteen shootouts, told as history says they took place. They’re not necessarily the top sixteen shootouts of the Old west. Some are well known, like the shootout at the O. K. Corral. Others are about shootouts that have faded into history. But even though they might not be well known, I can assure you they are interesting and exciting.

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