Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bill

Today is Wild Bill Hickok's birthday. Hickok, born in 1837 in Troy Grove, Illinois, was at various times throughout his 39 years a gunfighter, stagecoach driver, scout for General Custer, lawman, and professional gambler.

The Action-Packed Story of Wild Bill Hickok,
Cowboy Western Comics #31 (1951)

A few other random facts, while we're at it:

1. While Hickok was growing up, his father's farm was one of the stops on the Underground Railroad. Hickok learned his skills as a marksman defending the farm against slave catchers.

2. Five months before his death, Hickok married Agnes Thatcher Lake, a circus proprietor in Cheyenne, who was 11 years his senior. (Meow.)

3. Hickok was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979.

On August 2, 1876, Hickok was shot in the back of the head by "Broken Nose Jack" McCall, while playing poker at a saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota (then the Dakota Territory). He died instantly. At the time he was shot, Hickok was holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights, all black (a combination now known as the "Dead Man's Hand").

Keith Carradine as Wild Bill in Deadwood.

Happy Birthday, Wild Bill. You were a true American badass.

Wild Bill's headstone in the Deadwood cemetary
(photo by Strath)

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