Sample N26 from Paul Brock, "Toughest Lawman in the Old West," Rage Magazine, 1: 4 (March, 1961), 41-43, 60. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,033 words 356 (17.5%) quotesN26

Used by permission of Rage Magazine.0010-1780

Paul Brock, "Toughest Lawman in the Old West," Rage Magazine, 1: 4 (March, 1961), 41-43, 60.

Typographical Errors: collosal [0430] flng [for fling] [1490]

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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 .