Do you ever think about inanimate things being able to speak? I have wandered through groves of mighty, ancient redwoods and have thought about what they have witnessed during their hundreds of years of life. Don’t you wish that they could talk to us and describe the lives of those people and animals and weather that passed beneath their lofty boughs? Or what of a mountain? They’ve been there for not just hundreds of years, but much, much longer! How would they describe how it feels to have the wind and rain carving away part of their “skin”, or of the fire that ravaged their flanks?
There are stories in almost everything if we only knew what they were. Take the car in today’s photo for instance. Was it bought by some young couple who were in love? Or was it bought by someone as a gift to a son or daughter or wife or husband? Were the hours that were spent in this car happy and care-free, or were they burdened with heartache and sadness?
What was the cheapest price for a gallon of gas that this vehicle ever drank? What was the strangest place it ever traveled? Where would it go again if it could find the energy? Was it happy with its owners? Did someone famous every ride in it? (Or infamous?!)
You have a story. I have a story. For those of us who are getting farther along in years, we need to record those stories for those who follow after us. There is heritage in story. There is wonder and emotion in your experiences. It is important that stories are told and shared. It is part of the fabric of family!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1881, on the streets of Dodge City, famous western lawman and gunfighter Bat Masterson fought the last gun battle of his life.
Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson had made a living with his gun from a young age. In his early 20’s, Masterson worked as a buffalo hunter, operating out of the Kansas town of Dodge City. For several years, he also found employment as an army scout in the Plains Indian Wars. His first shootout in took place in 1876 in Sweetwater (later Mobeetie), Texas. When an argument with a soldier over the affections of a dance hall girl named Molly Brennan heated up, Masterson and his opponent resorted to their pistols. When the shooting stopped, both Brennan and the soldier were dead, and Masterson was badly wounded.
Found to have been acting in self-defense, Masterson avoided prison. Once he had recovered from his wounds, he apparently decided to abandon his ways and become an officer of the law. For five years, Masterson alternated between work as Dodge City sheriff and running saloons and gambling houses, gaining a reputation as a tough and reliable lawman. However, Masterson’s critics claimed that he spent too much as sheriff, and he lost a bid for reelection in 1879.
For several years, Masterson drifted around the West. Early in 1881, news that his younger brother, Jim, was in trouble back in Dodge City reached Masterson in Tombstone, Arizona. Jim’s dispute with a business partner and an employee, A.J. Peacock and Al Updegraff respectively, had led to an exchange of gunfire. Though no one had yet been hurt, Jim feared for his life. Masterson immediately took a train to Dodge City.
When his train pulled into Dodge City on this morning in 1881, Masterson wasted no time. He quickly spotted Peacock and Updegraff and aggressively made his way through the crowded street to confront them. “I have come over a thousand miles to settle this,” Masterson reportedly shouted. “I know you are heeled [armed]-now fight!” All three men immediately drew their guns. Masterson took cover behind the railway bed, while Peacock and Updegraff darted around the corner of the city jail. Several other men joined in the gunplay. One bullet meant for Masterson ricocheted and wounded a bystander. Updegraff took a bullet in his right lung.
The mayor and sheriff arrived with shotguns to stop the battle when a brief lull settled over the scene. Updegraff and the wounded bystander were taken to the doctor and both recovered. In fact, no one was mortally injured in the melee, and since the shootout had been fought fairly by the Dodge City standards of the day, no serious charges were imposed against Masterson. He paid an $8 fine and took the train out of Dodge City that evening.
Masterson never again fought a gun battle in his life, but the Dodge City shootout and his other exploits ensured Masterson’s lasting fame as an icon of the Old West. He spent the next four decades of his life working as sheriff, operating saloons, and eventually trying his hand as a newspaperman in New York City. The old gunfighter finally died of a heart attack in October 1921 at his desk in New York City.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Modesty laws were very strict in the early 1900s. In 1919, a woman was detained at Coney Island for wearing a bathing suit in public—under her street clothes.