Chairs scraped back and customers hastily vacated their tables as the tall young buffalo hunter pushed open the swing doors and walked towards the bar .
Only Blue Throat and his gang stayed where they were .
Blue Throat was slumped with his back against the bar , elbows supporting his massive frame .
He leered at the stranger as the distance between them closed .
`` Since when did they allow beardless kids into the saloon bars of this town , boys '' ? ?
He asked .
`` Seems to me I don't remember altering any law about that '' .
He straightened up , alert now as the buffalo hunter came closer .
`` Stay right here where you are , kid '' , he called .
`` I don't aim to have minors breathing down my neck when I'm a-drinking '' :
The stranger ignored him .
He didn't stop till he was within three feet of Blue Throat and by that time the gang leader's right hand was on the butt of his revolver .
`` I'm Billy Tilghman '' , said the stranger , `` and I've come for Pat Conyers' body '' .
`` And what makes you think you're going to get it , pretty boy '' ? ?
`` Because I'm asking .
Most of the time I get what I ask for '' .
Blue Throat winked at his six cronies .
`` The kid has no manners , boys .
Shall we teach him some '' ? ?
His gun was half drawn when he asked the question , but the weapon never left its holster .
Tilghman's clenched fist swept over in a terrific right cross and clipped the big gunfighter on the side of his chin .
His head snapped round and he reeled back , crashing into the table where his buddies were sprawling .
Tilghman leapt on to him , dragged him upright and hit him again , this time sending him careening against the bar .
A bullet gouged into the bar top an inch from Tilghman's stomach as Blue Throat's henchmen started shooting .
Tilghman flung himself aside , dropped on one knee and pulled his own gun .
The Colt roared twice and two men dropped , writhing .
A third shot doused the light .
Somewhere at the far end of the room a voice yelled , `` You all right , Billy '' ? ?
`` Yes , George , but I ain't got poor old Pat's body yet .
And I aim to have it '' .
He fired again , and somewhere in the gloom a man screamed .
Another took off his gun belt and flung his weapons to the floor .
`` OK , Tilghman , I'm quitting '' .
`` And me '' , said another Blue Throat henchman .
Somebody brought a light .
Tilghman and his partner , George Rust , herded the men into a corner .
`` And now '' , said Tilghman with deadly calm , `` I'll repeat what I said .
I've come for Pat Conyers' body '' .
In two minutes the body of Tilghman's former comrade , who had been killed by Blue Throat in a gambling brawl the previous night , was carried into the town's funeral parlor to be prepared for decent burial .
Blue Throat , nursing an aching jaw and a collosal dose of wounded pride , rode out of town with the survivors of the fight .
`` That critter will be back tomorrow '' , predicted George Rust , `` and he'll bring fifty of his kind back with him .
Blue Throat won't stand for this .
He'll shoot up the town '' .
The prediction was correct .
The Reverend James Doran had scarcely completed Pat Conyers' last rites on Boot Hill in the township of Petrie , when shots were heard in the distance .
`` Amen '' , said the Reverend Doran , grabbing his rifle propped up against a tombstone , `` and now my brethren , it would seem that our presence is required elsewhere '' .
Billy Tilghman and his comrades rode off to the battle .
Blue Throat , who had ruled the town with his six-shooter for the last six months , certainly had no intention of relinquishing his profitable dictatorship .
It was essential that he should restore his formidable reputation as a rip-roaring , ruthless gun-slinger , and this was the time-honored Wild West method of doing it .
He rode in at the head of sixty trigger-happy and liquor-crazed desperadoes and took over a livery barn at the entrance to Main Street .
The entire length of the street could be raked with rifle fire from this barn .
Any posse riding down the street to demand Blue Throat's surrender would be wiped out with one deadly burst of fire .
The law-abiding citizens of Petrie had gathered inside Kaster's Store , halfway down the street .
Several were firing into the barn when Billy Tilghman arrived .
He sized up the situation and shook his head .
`` If Blue Throat has his way he'll keep us all cooped up in here for days '' , he said .
`` There's only one thing to move him fast , and we have it right here in this very store '' .
He called the store owner and together they went into the stockroom .
Billy returned with six sticks of dynamite .
`` I'm gonna drop these into Blue Throat's lap '' , he announced , `` and I'd like every gun to be firing into that barn while I get near enough to toss 'em through the window '' .
He slipped outside , hugging the walls of buildings and dodging into doorways .
Blue Throat's men spotted him and a hail of bullets splintered the store fronts and board walk as he passed .
Fifty yards away from the barn he dodged inside a barber's shop and came out at the back .
Here he couldn't be seen by Blue Throat and his gang .
All he had to do was light the fuses of the dynamite sticks , run to within ten yards of an open window in the barn and hurl the sticks through .
Billy Tilghman did just that .
Within seconds the big barn was blasted into smoking splinters , with every outlaw either dead or injured inside .
It was the abrupt end of Blue Throat's dictatorship in Petrie .
Though only slightly injured himself the big hoodlum never returned to those parts .
To Tilghman the incident was just one of a long list of hair-raising , smash-'em-down adventures on the side of the law which started in 1872 when he was only eighteen years old , and did not end till fifty years later when he was shot dead after warning a drunk to be quiet .
Of all the rip-roaring two-fisted tough boys of the Old West , `` Uncle Billy Tilghman '' stands out head and shoulders .
He was the lawman who survived more gunfights than any other famous gun-slinging character in the book .
He saw the most action , beat up more badmen with his bare fists , broke up the most gangs and sent more murderers to the gallows than any other U.S. marshal who lived before or after him .
For fifty years his guns and ham-like fists shot holes through and battered the daylights out of the enemies of law and order in the frontier towns of the West .
The deeds of countless western bandits and outlaws have been glorified almost to the point of hero-worship , but because Billy Tilghman remained strictly on the side of the law throughout his action-packed career , his achievements and the appalling risks he took while taming the West have remained almost unsung .
Citizens took the view that a lawman was expected to risk his life on the odd occasion anyway , but this fighting fury of a man risked it regularly over a period of half a century .
He came within an ace of being riddled with bullets during his long fight with the Doolin gang which terrorized Oklahoma in the 1890's .
Led by Bill Doolin , these mobsters specialized in train robberies but as a sideline they looted stores and robbed banks , making liberal use of their guns .
Bill Doolin's ambition , it appeared , was to carve out his name with bullets alongside those of Jesse James and Billy the Kid , and Bill Tilghman had sworn he would stop him .
Tilghman knew that some ranchers were hand-in-glove with the Doolin gang .
They bought rustled cattle from the outlaw , kept him supplied with guns and ammunition , harbored his men in their houses .
Billy decided to set an example by arresting one of the ranchers , named Ed Dunn , who lived at Rock Fort .
On a bitterly cold day in January , 1895 , accompanied only by Neal Brown as his deputy , Tilghman left the township of Guthrie and headed for Rock Fort and Dunn's ranch .
It was snowing hard when they got there and they saw no horses outside .
The only evidence of occupation came from the chimney , which was belching out thick smoke .
The two lawmen halted their wagon about twenty yards from the door .
`` Wait here , Neal '' , said Tilghman .
`` If I don't come out within half an hour ride back to town and bring out a posse '' .
Leaving his rifle in the wagon , Tilghman walked up to the door and hammered on it .
There was no reply so he shoved it open with his foot and stepped inside .
Directly opposite the door was a roaring log fire , a welcome sight on that bitterly cold day .
Seated near it with his back to the door was the rancher , Ed Dunn .
`` Hello , Ed '' , said Tilghman .
The rancher grunted an acknowledgement but didn't move .
Tilghman closed the door behind him and walked towards the fire .
Suddenly he saw something which made his big heart give a sickening lurch and caused the hairs to bristle on the back of his neck .
Along each side of the room were six tiered bunks , each one screened off with a curtain .
And projecting wickedly through these curtains were the gleaming muzzles of six rifles , all trained on Billy Tilghman .
The fighting marshal had walked right into a trap and at any moment six slugs might slam into his hide .
Thinking fast , Tilghman never hesitated for one instant .
He walked right up to the fire as though blissfully unaware of the guns covering him .
The men behind them were Bill Doolin and five of his gang -- every man a killer .
`` Cold day '' , said Tilghman , placing his hands behind him and casually presenting his backside to the fire .
`` Just dropped in to ask where Jed Hawkins lives .
Can't seem to locate landmarks in this snow '' .
The rancher was trembling .
He wouldn't look Tilghman in the face .
`` Follow the river for five miles '' , he said hoarsely .
`` Jed's homestead is on the south bank '' .
Resisting the overwhelming temptation to flng himself out of that bristling death-trap , Tilghman deliberately engaged the nervous rancher in trivial conversation for a good ten minutes .
All that time rifle barrels were pointing unwaveringly at his head and body .
One false move on his part and he would be a dead man .
`` Well '' , he announced , `` Guess I'll be going now , Ed , and thanks for the warmup '' .
He strolled back to the door , whistling softly , hands still clasped behind him .
He left the house and almost certain death without even increasing his pace and wondered by what remarkable stroke of Providence he had been allowed to come out alive .
But he knew well enough that those guns would still be trained on his back as he walked towards the wagon .
If he showed signs of collecting his rifle and going back with his deputy to the ranch he would be shot down instantly .
Leisurely he climbed on to the wagon next to Neal Brown .
`` Don't say or do anything '' , he said softly .
`` Just get out of here without it looking as though we're in a hurry .
That place is crawling with Bill Doolin and his gang '' .
Even as he spoke those words Billy Tilghman's life hung on a thread .
Back in the house a hoodlum named Red Buck , sore because Billy had been allowed to leave unscathed , jumped from a bunk and swore he was going after him to kill him right then .
`` You'll stay right here '' , commanded Bill Doolin , covering Red with his rifle .
`` Billy Tilghman is too good a man to shoot in the back .
We'll let him go '' .
But the fighting marshal's fifty-year run of immunity from violent death came to a full and final stop one night in a street at Cromwell , Oklahoma , where he had been sent to clean up the gambling and vice rackets .
Wiley Lynn , a self-styled prohibition officer , had hit town the previous day and had been drinking ever since .
That night he reeled out of Ma Murphy's dance hall and proceeded to disturb the peace by shooting off his revolver .