Take the Plunge!

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I love waterfalls. I am terrified of getting into the water above a falls as I’ve read the book about deaths in Yosemite National Park of boneheads who got into the pools above Mist or Vernal or Yosemite or Bridalveil Falls and were swept over the falls to their death on the rocks below. Surprisingly, it sometimes takes weeks (or longer!) for the bodies to be found. So, I’m content to just look at falls an photograph them from various vantage points.

I shot today’s photo at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. This is South Falls and it is the second highest falls in the park at 177 feet…but it is also the longest single drop of any falls in the park. It’s very easy to get to, and you can hike down a trail and pass behind the falls as you can see from the picture. Notice the railing…and if you look closely, you can make out some people standing behind the fence behind the waterfalls.

We were there when the water wasn’t flowing very heavily (in fact, some falls pretty much dry up there during the “dry” season (bet you didn’t know there was such a thing in Oregon, did you?).  Still, I thought it was beautiful.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, in what may be the first true western showdown, Wild Bill Hickok shot Dave Tutt dead in the market square of Springfield, Missouri.

Hollywood movies and dime novels notwithstanding, the classic western showdown–also called a walkdown–happened only rarely in the American West. Rather than coolly confronting each other on a dusty street in a deadly game of quick draw, most men began shooting at each other in drunken brawls or spontaneous arguments. Ambushes and cowardly attacks were far more common than noble showdowns.

Nonetheless, southern emigrants brought to the West a crude form of the “code duello,” a highly formalized means of solving disputes between gentlemen with swords or guns that had its origins in European chivalry. By the second half of the 19th century, few Americans still fought duels to solve their problems. Yet, the concept of the duel surely influenced the informal western code of what constituted a legitimate-and legal-gun battle. Above all, the western code required that a man resort to his six-gun only in defense of his honor or life, and only if his opponent was also armed. Likewise, a western jury was unlikely to convict a man in a shooting provided witnesses testified that his opponent had been the aggressor.

The best-known example of a true western duel occurred on this day in 1865. Wild Bill Hickok, a skilled gunman with a formidable reputation, was eking out a living as a professional gambler in Springfield, Missouri. He quarreled with Dave Tutt, a former Union soldier, but it is unclear what caused the dispute. Some people say it was over a card game while others say they fought over a woman. Whatever the cause, the two men agreed to a duel.

The showdown took place the following day with crowd of onlookers watching as Hickok and Tutt confronted each other from opposite sides of the town square. When Tutt was about 75 yards away, Hickok shouted, “Don’t come any closer, Dave.” Tutt nervously drew his revolver and fired a shot that went wild. Hickok, by contrast, remained cool. He steadied his own revolver in his left hand and shot Tutt dead with a bullet through the chest.

Having adhered to the code of the West, Hickok was acquitted of manslaughter charges. Eleven years later, however, Hickok died in a fashion far more typical of the violence of the day: a young gunslinger shot him in the back of the head while he played cards. Legend says that the hand Hickok was holding at the time of his death was two pair–black aces and black eights. The hand would forever be known as the “dead man’s hand.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In early 2010, amateur astronomers spotted a massive ammonia blizzard raging on Saturn. The monster storm is five times larger than “Snowmageddon,” the snowstorm that shut down Washington D.C. in February 2010.

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2 thoughts on “Take the Plunge!”

  1. Can you imagine if everybody settled their problems by shooting others? (I mean, some people still do but you know what I mean).

    The Wild West is fun in fantasy but I would be afraid of living in such a world. Reason and intelligence were stifled by alcohol and ego.

  2. Yes, I think you are right. I love a good Western, though…don’t see many of them these days, but there is a new release of the Magnificent Seven coming out this year that looks like it could be pretty good!

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