Sunday, 8 June 2014

Not Fit To Be a High-Class Train Robber

     As everybody knows, the American west in the nineteenth century was by no means a peaceful place. The Colt .45 was its defining symbol. Many people lived - and all too often died - by it. But they did accept a certain Code. One rule was that you didn't shoot women. Another was that you didn't shoot unarmed men, and for that reason, many men really did go unarmed. And that brings us to a  nasty character called  Red Buck Waightman.
    Red Buck had been a horse thief and a hired killer, who openly boasted that he would kill any man for $500. He was also foul-mouthed and bad-humoured, a low, coarse character who had joined the Bill Doolin gang, and soon gave their leader regrets for ever taking him on.
     On 4 May 1895, the six members of the gang held up the express train just outside of the little town of Dover, and got away with several thousand dollars. What they didn't reckon on was the speed of the telegraph and the speed of the lawmen, who descended on their camp just before sundown the same day. Gunshots rang out. One of the gang fell dead, and so did Red Buck's horse. He was lucky enough to have another member of the gang wheel around and allow him to jump up behind him on his own mount.
     The following day, while passing the cabin of an elderly backwards preacher, Waightman happened to see a horse of his liking. Just as he had finished roping the horse, the inoffensive old preacher, whose very name has been lost to history, came out and remonstrated with him, protesting that the horse and saddle belonged to his son. Without a moment's compunction, Waightman shot him dead. The rest of the gang were horrified.
     I shall now allow the historian to take up the story.
     A short distance on, Doolin stopped the gang and told them to dismount. Squatting on their heels in the cowboy manner, they carefully divided the loot, and Doolin meticulously counted out to each man, including Red Buck, his share and gave it to him.
     Then he stood up and said to Waightman, "Now you get out! You're too damn low to associate with a high-class gang of train robbers!"
Reference: Paul I. Wellman (1961), A Dynasty of Western Outlaws, chapter 8.
P.S. You'll be interested to know that, the following year, both Waightman and Doolin perished in separate gun battles.

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