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FAMILY: Tame Bill Hickok

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348999.  Sat May 31, 2008 6:54 am Reply with quote

There is some doubt as to whether “Wild Bill” Hickok (born James Butler Hickok) deserved his nickname. His claim to Henry Stanley (of Dr Livingstone fame) that he had killed over 100 white men “cause Indians and Mexicans don’t count” can probably be reduced by a factor of ten. However his brother Lorenzo certainly deserved the “Tame Bill” moniker.

Lorenzo Butler “Tame Bill” Hickock was born in 1832, a couple of years after the first Lorenzo died in infancy. He appears to have led a particularly uneventful and unremarkable life, only made vaguely interesting due to the occasional scrape with his more illustrious brother. As a child, Tame Bill looked after the regular chores of the family farm while Wild Bill went out into the range honing his shooting skills by hunting for dinner. As teenagers, Wild Bill and Tame Bill left their Illinois home to try and make their fortune in Kansas, Tame Bill became a teamster (one who drives teams of horses and wagons), a position that he seemed to keep for the rest of his working life, while his brother garnered a fearsome reputation.

The civil war broke in 1861, and Wild Bill joined the Union forces while his brother continued his work as a teamster. It seems likely that the nicknames were given to the two brothers after the war, in their 30s, while they lived in the town of Rolla, Missouri. One version claims that the two brothers intervened in the potential lynching of a Union sympathizer: it is unclear exactly what the brothers did, but considering that this is where Lorenzo got his nickname, it seems like he was something of a bit-part in the rescue.

Wild Bill became famous for his exploits with a gun, being involved in probably the first quick-draw shootout (against Davis Tutts Junior, who shot his bolt early and missed, allowing Hickok to take his time and shoot his foe through the heart;) a shootout whose fame meant that it would be aped forever by Hollywood. In the meantime, Tame Bill did very little of note until he visited the trial of Jack McCall who killed his 39 year old brother by shooting him in the back as he played cards, famously holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights – now known as “dead man’s hand”. Tame Bill was allowed to interview the defendant and was pleased with the guilty verdict, unlike his brother he lived into his early 80s.

Both Wild Bill and Tame Bill came from a family originally called “Hitchcock” who were from Stratford-Upon-Avon and were neighbours of Shakespeare.
The Real Wild West - Michael Wallis


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