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Gunfighter/Lawman/Gambler Bat Masterson: Forever Changed the West

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 7, 2023 3:00 am

Gunfighter/Lawman/Gambler Bat Masterson: Forever Changed the West

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 7, 2023 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, to Bat Masterson, gunslingers were hoodlums who killed for fun. He used guns to enforce the law or defend a friend. In the end, he’d achieved a feat almost none of the Old West legends had attained: he lived to see old age. Here to tell the story of Bat Masterson is the best Old West storyteller in the country, Dr. Roger McGrath. 

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To learn more about Nissan's electric vehicle lineup, visit www.NissanUSA.com. It's summer at Starbucks, where the brightest drinks and the funnest flavors are all yours for the sipping. So, whether you need to beat the heat, beat the crowds, or just take a beat, refreshing favorites are a tap away with the Starbucks app. This is Lee Habib with Our American Stories, and for the hour, we're going to tell a great story about our past. Old West lawman Bat Masterson was as well-known in his lifetime as celebrities are today. To Bat, gunslingers were hoodlums who killed for fun. He used guns to enforce the law or defend a friend.

In the end, he'd achieved defeat almost none of the Old West legends had attained he lived to see in old age. Here to tell the story of Bat Masterson is Roger McGrath. McGrath is the author of Gunfighters, Highwaymen, and Vigilantes. A U.S. Marine and former history professor at UCLA, McGrath is a regular contributor for us here at Our American Stories.

Here's McGrath. One of the most widely traveled and greatest characters of the Old West was Bat Masterson. His first taste of the frontier came as a buffalo hunter on the high plains in the early 1870s when he was still a teenager. He took part in the famous Battle of Adobe Walls. He served as a scout for the U.S. Army pursuing Indian war parties.

He was sheriff of Ford County, which included Dodge City during the heyday of the cattle town. He was with the Earps in Tombstone, Arizona for a time. He was a gunfighter and professional gambler and eventually a sports promoter and journalist.

Here's Texas State Historian Bill O'Neill, also Dodge City Historian and narrator of the Wild West podcast, Brad Smalley. There was a U.S. postal stamp series that was aptly named. It was called Legends of the West, 20 of them in fact, and one of them was Bat Masterson on a 29-cent stamp. Bat Masterson was indeed a Legend of the West. When you mention Bat Masterson at least to the average person, by and large the image that comes to mind is really that of Gene Barry from the 1950s TV show.

Puff tied, derby hat, silver tip cane, just sort of walking the West being Bat Masterson without really any specifics. Canadian born, formed in New York, Iowa. He was about 17, 18 years old when the family moved to Kansas. They lived around Wichita or very near to Wichita, Kansas for about a year before the two oldest brothers, Bat and the oldest Masterson, his older brother Ed, headed West really to seek adventure. Bat and Ed are proficient with firearms before they start buffalo hunting, but they now become expert marksmen with the Sharps rifle, dropping buffalo at distances of 500 yards or more. The town they haul the hides to is Dodge City, which will be a buffalo town for a decade before it becomes a cattle town. Dodge City will be called the queen of the cattle towns and have a reputation for gunfights and rough characters, but it is rougher and more violent in its buffalo days. It's in Dodge City that Bat begins making his name well known. At that time in the summer of 1872, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad was in western Kansas and Ed and Bat were hired by subcontractor Raymond Ritter to help grade four miles of railroad track between Fort Dodge and the small settlement, a little boom town that was to be known as Dodge City.

Well, Mr. Ritter skipped out on paying the Masterson brothers and probably the entire crew. The dead is nearly a year old when word reaches Dodge City that Ritter is a passenger on a train that will be stopping at Dodge. Bat heads to the station with a dozen or more men following him who are eager to watch what unfolds.

Those in the crowd say Bat's pale blue eyes are ice cold. When the train grinds to a halt, Bat springs aboard and enters the passenger car. Minutes later, he's holding Ritter at gunpoint on the train's rear platform. Ritter yells out that he's being robbed. Bat tells him to produce the money or he's dead.

Ritter pleads that he doesn't have it on his person, but that it's in his valise back in the car and he'll have to go back to retrieve it. Bat doesn't fall for the trick and has Henry Raymond, who is standing below in the crowd, get the valise. Raymond quickly returns with the valise and Bat has Ritter open it and count out the $300 owed them from several thousand dollars in the bag. With that, Bat allows Ritter to go back into the passenger car. Bat then invites all those in the crowd to follow him to Kelly's saloon so he can treat them to drinks.

Bat is only 19 years old, but his coolness and determination impresses everyone. Here's the owner of Legends of America, Kathy Alexander. Bat Masterson and the other buffalo hunters that were working in the Dodge City area, it didn't take long before they pretty much killed all of the buffalo in the area. But they got wind of the fact that in the Texas Panhandle, they still roamed large and free. The Texas Panhandle was ruled by the Comanches and the Kiowa Indians, so there was a risk.

But he and several others just couldn't resist. They set up a camp about 150 miles southwest of Dodge City near the ruins of an old trading post known as Adobe Walls. The camp grows day by day. A big crowd is built with a storehouse made of sod. Jim Hanran, a big, genial Irish immigrant, builds a saloon out of sod and logs. Tom O'Keefe, another Irishman, fashions a crude blacksmith shop. Charlie Rath builds a general store out of sod and logs.

Bill Olds and his wife, Hannah, the only woman in the camp, open a restaurant in the rear of Rath's store. They're entirely unaware that on the Comanche Reservation in western Oklahoma, Ishatai, a medicine man, is calling for a war of extermination against the whites. He says he talks with the Great Spirit, and the Great Spirit tells him he will restore dead warriors to life and that all warriors will now have magical protection against the bullets of the whites. And you've been listening to Roger McGrath. The story about Mastersons continues here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

Go to hillsdale.edu to learn more. But really it's pushing new ideas forward and being fearless, believing that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Even though it may be uneasy, the journey ahead will produce great results.

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That's Goldco.com slash iHeart. Music And we continue with our American stories and the story of Bat Masterson. Let's return to Roger McGrath. Ishetay's message spreads to Kiowa, Arapaho, and Cheyenne on nearby reservations, and soon Ishetay has a large following. During June, warrior bands of Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, and Cheyenne bolt their reservations and head for the Texas Panhandle.

Ishetay is riding along with them. In Texas, they join forces with Quanah Parker, the chief of the Quahati band of Comanche, which has never been on a reservation. Quanah Parker is the son of a Comanche chief and a kidnapped white girl, Cynthia Ann Parker. Quanah Parker assumes command of the force of Indian warriors about 700 strong. In mid-June, reports begin arriving at Adobe Walls Camp that whites here and there in the Panhandle have been killed and scalped and their bodies mutilated.

Some of the hunters decide it's time to pack up their wagons in Edvardide City, but most decide to stay. Right at sunrise in the morning of June 27th, hundreds of Indian warriors sweep down on the camp. Both the Indians and their horses streaked in war paint. Some are firing their rifles.

Others are leveling their lances. The whites race inside whichever side structure is nearest. Bat Masterson and nine others are in Hanrahan Saloon.

A dozen more are in the storehouse and six in the general store, including the one woman, Hannah Oles. Two teamsters who are sleeping in their wagons are killed in the initial Indian assault. Since they outnumber the whites 25 to 1, the Indians think they will make quick work of the whites at the camp.

However, the Indians have picked on the wrong guys. Sharp's rifles begin to crack and Indians begin to fall from their horses at great distances. In the two hours of fighting, only one more white, Billy Tyler, is killed in addition to the two teamsters caught in their wagons. In the immediate vicinity of the camp are the bodies of 15 Indians.

The medicine man, Ishatai, wearing nothing but body paint, watched the battle from a safe distance. The Indians remain in the area for two more days, but stay out of rifle range. On the third day, a band of them is stationed on a rise about a mile away.

They are gesturing and taunting the whites. Billy Dixon decides to take a shot with a Sharp's rifle. He reckons wind and elevation and squeezes off a round. A brief moment later, an Indian tumbles from his horse.

The other Indians are so unnerved by the long distance shot, they roll their horses about and gallop off. The distance of the shot is later measured at 1538 yards, about nine-tenths of a mile. Here again is Brad Smalley. People still talk about that for years, years to come. Really cemented Billy Dixon's fame on the frontier as if he wasn't already famous enough by that point. Dixon becomes famous for the shot, but he himself is effusive in his praise of the youngest of the buffalo hunters in the fight. Bat Masterton should be remembered for the valor that marked his conduct, says Dixon.

He was a good shot and not afraid. Following the Battle of Adobe Walls, Bat serves as U.S. Army scout with Colonel Nelson Miles tracking down Indian war parties. Here's Tom Clavin, the author of Dodge City, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterton, and the wickedest town in the American West.

His most famous adventure as a scout later became a basis, not the only one, but a basis for the famous film The Searchers, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, and a young Natalie Wood. There was a German family that was crossing Kansas heading for Colorado, and they were attacked by Indians. The parents were killed. There were four daughters who were kidnapped. And soon after the kidnapping, the Indians divided into two separate bands, each taking two daughters, and off they went. Bat was one of the more prominent and eventually was the leader of a contingent of Army scouts who vowed to get these girls back. And they tracked down one of the bands and, without too much trouble, found the girls and returned them to family members.

But the other band was really hard to find. It took months and months and months of Bat searching in all kinds of weather until he finally found the Indians, who by then were rather starving, and the girls themselves had almost starved to death. Bat rode into camp. He rode in unarmed because his goal was to not put the girls in danger, even though he himself was in great danger. But he went in unarmed and worked out a deal with the Indians to provide them food in exchange for the girls, which was what was negotiated and successfully concluded. Bat retrieved the girls, returned them to their family, and it was one of his more well-known adventures. And like I say, it became one basis for the film The Searchers, which is the story of Ethan Edwards and his search for his niece, who had been kidnapped by Indians after her family had been killed.

Let's go home, Debbie. The Army's relentless pursuit of the Indians during the summer and fall of 1874 puts an end to Indian depredations for the time being. Throughout this time, he learned about just about every trail, hideaway in the entire southern plains from the panhandle of Texas all the way up through southwest Kansas. He knew his way around, which would serve him very well in later years as a lawman in which he became very adept at tracking down horse thieves.

He knew all the hidey holes and places that they could gather, mostly because of this time. Bat's first recorded gunfight occurs in the Lady Gay dance hall in Sweetwater, Texas, on a night late in January 1876. Bat is with Molly Brennan when a soldier from a nearby post, Corporal Melvin King, confronts them in a rage. King was not only wounded by his loss to Bat at the poker table, he was severely wounded by his jealousy when he saw the girl that he was after hanging on to his newfound rival.

Jealousy overtook him. He stormed through the door, pulled his gun, and started firing. The bullet goes through Molly and into Bat, lodging in his pelvis. As Bat is falling to the dance hall floor, he draws his six shooter and fires. Bat's bullet drills King in the heart, and he collapses dead. Molly soon dies, but Bat hangs on through the night and then recovers enough to have the bullet removed. His wound was such that it actually punctured his intestine, and the doctor who examined him said that the only thing that saved his life was the fact that he hadn't eaten anything.

Because of that puncture, if any food was in his tract, he actually would have succumbed to an infection and most likely killed. Although he needs a cane to walk, two months later Bat is on the back of a horse riding for Dodge City. In Dodge, Bat joins his younger brother Jim as one of the city's deputies. They're both hired by Wyatt Earp, who is chief deputy under Marshal Larry Deager. Now in all fairness, you can tell the story of Dodge City without Wyatt Earp.

It's not nearly as good of a story, but it can be done. You cannot, however, tell the story of Dodge City without Bat Masterson. And starting in the spring of 1876, when Bat first pinned on a badge in Dodge City, that's where the story really takes off.

The 300-pound Deager, the owner of a saloon, was appointed marshal by the city council principally for political reasons, and most law enforcement is left to Earp, the Mastersons, and other deputies. And you're listening to the story of Bat Masterson, and you're listening to Roger McGrath, who's the author of Gunfighters, High Women, and Vigilantes, and what a storyteller he is. When we come back, more of this remarkable story, Bat Masterson's story, here on Our American Stories.

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Visit Goldco.com slash iHeart. And we continue with our American stories and the story of Bat Masterson. Let's pick up where we last left off with Roger McGrath. They try to avoid shooting and prefer to use their heavy revolvers to club lawbreakers into submission.

For clubbing, Bat uses the cane he is relying on while recovering from his gunshot wound. Here's Bob Bozebell, executive editor of True West magazine, and Tom Clavin. The cowboys coming up from Texas who had been on the trail for three months, they all got paid and they were going to spend it all in one night, which they usually did. And so for Bat Masterson and Weider to be essentially bouncers in a biker bar, it was really intense.

Go bunk up and sleep it off. So Bat's first job was at Dodge City, and it was a really daunting challenge for Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, because Dodge City had gotten a reputation as the wickedest town in the American West. I mean, one example of the reputation it had was there was a story that went around that a very depressed man was sitting on a train and a conductor was concerned about it and went over and said, So buddy, what's the matter?

And morosely, the man said, I'm going to hell. And after a pause, the conductor said, that'll be $2 and get off at Dodge City. That's the kind of reputation it had. So with Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, this is where they really solidified becoming best friends. Their job was to try and clean up Dodge City, but do it in a way that they were peace officers, not outgun the bad guys. Dodge City lawmakers had tried that. They'd hired a man to be marshal who just started shooting everything that everybody didn't like.

And they quickly realized that was not a way to have a civilized town that people could raise their families. So with Wyatt and Bat Masterson leading the way, they started to tame Dodge City. They started to arrest people. And one of the things that they can credit themselves with is taking the most wicked town in the American West and turning it into a place that people felt they could raise their families. What the Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson generation represented was was a peace officer. And they took the word peace very seriously. And what was happening with these peace officers, they were forming police departments.

They were forming ways of administering a law and order system that didn't include shoot first and ask questions later. In July 1877, Masterson is appointed under sheriff of Ford County, Kansas. The county's principal town is Dodge City. Sheriff Charlie Bassett's second term is up in November and the state's constitution prohibits him from running for a third consecutive term. Bat decides to run for sheriff. His opponent is Marshal Larry Deager, who is supported by much of Dodge City's business community. On November 6, Bat ekes out a narrow victory to become sheriff of Ford County.

Bat is only 23 years old. Here again is Bill O'Neill. Goodness, he was elected by three votes, but he got after it. He was arresting train robbers and horse thieves and jail escapees and confidence men as sheriff.

He was responsible for the whole county. In December, Bat's older brother, Ed, is appointed marshal of Dodge City. The one to Masterson Punch is hard on outlaws. The country was just rife with horse thieves at this point and Bat became very well known as the bane of horse thieves across the west. In February 1878, Bat captures two notorious train robbers and in March, Bat and Ed together capture two more. The Mastersons are taming county and city, but in April Ed is shot and mortally wounded by an inebriated cowboy he's trying to subdue. Before Ed goes down, he's able to draw as a revolver and mortally wound the cowboy as well as wounding the cowboy's trail boss.

In October 1878, Bat leads a posse whose members make it legendary. It all starts when Jim Kennedy, the wild son of powerful Texas cattleman Mifflin Kennedy, makes a nuisance of himself again and again in Dodge City. After being roughed up by deputies for the third or fourth time, Kennedy goes to Dodge Mayor Jim Kelly to complain. Kelly tells Kennedy he got only what he deserved. Kennedy explodes and attacks Kelly, but the mayor thoroughly pummels the young cowboy. Battered and bruised, Kennedy leaves town swearing vengeance. Several weeks later, in the middle of the night, Kennedy returns to Dodge City riding a racehorse. He streaks by Mayor Kelly's house, firing a six shooter into Kelly's bedroom, and the cowboy gallops out of Dodge. Unbeknownst to Kennedy, Kelly is out of town and he's allowing two actresses to use his house.

Kennedy's bullets hit Dora Hand, who is sleeping in Kelly's bed. She dies instantly. Word spreads quickly and dozens of men volunteer for posse duties. Bat Masterson, as county sheriff, is responsible for organizing the posse.

He decides the situation calls for quality, not quantity. He picks former Ford County Sheriff Charlie Bassett and Dodge City deputies Wyatt Earp, Bill Duffy, and Bill Tillman. The local newspaper calls it as intrepid a posse as ever pulled the trigger.

Here's Brad Smalley. Legends of the American West, all of them, and all of them tracking down one man. I would not want to be in his shoes with names like that tracking down after me, I can tell you that. By the time the posse leaves Dodge, Kennedy has a nearly 10 hour head start. Bat reckons that Kennedy will be racing home to his father's ranch in Texas, but will be taking a circuitous route to avoid detection. This means the posse can catch up with Kennedy at the Cimarron River crossing that Bat thinks the cowboy will take. The chase unfolds as Bat anticipates and the posse is waiting at the crossing when Kennedy arrives. Bat shouts at him to surrender. Instead, Kennedy takes off at a gallop. A bullet from Bat's sharp trifle shatters Kennedy's arm and bullets from the posse men slam into the horse.

Horse and rider crash to the earth. When Bat and the others reach Kennedy, the first words out of his mouth are, did I get that best killie? When they told him that it was in fact Dora that he had killed, his remorse was so great that he told Bat you should have just killed me. Bat then replied, well, I was doing the best that I could. With the days of the buffalo hunt are over and little need for army scouts, Bat decides to try his luck at gambling for a living. He's successful at his new profession in Dodge City, in Kansas City, and by 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona. And you've been listening to Roger McGrath and a whole posse of storytellers talking about an incredible posse.

Roger McGrath and Greg Hengler, who does such great production work here, always give you the best of all the historians in the time period. And this American Western life, the frontier life. My goodness, you can paint a picture in your head.

It's different than just the movies, right? It's what life looked like without rule of law, folks. And my goodness, to have lived like this and to try and turn a town like this into a place where you can raise a family, that's no small task. And this was the commission. This was the purpose. But Bat Masterson's actual appearance on the scene to make this a place where families could live, as opposed to the stop closest to hell in America.

When we come back, more of this remarkable life story, Bat Masterson's story, here on Our American Stories. It could be the simple win of leaving on time for your morning commute, locking eyes with your crush or scoring the largest deal of your career. But really, it's pushing new ideas forward and being fearless, believing that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Even though it may be uneasy, the journey ahead will produce great results.

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That's goldco.com slash iHeart. To continue with our American stories and Bat Masterson's story, and my goodness, what a story it is, let's return to Roger McGrath with the final portion. Bat's arrival in Tombstone is celebrated by the Earp Brothers, Doc Holliday, and other old friends from Dodge City. Bat immediately goes to work as a ferro dealer at the Oriental Saloon.

Here again are Kathy Alexander, Bill O'Neill, and Brad Smalley. Bat received a telegram from an unsigned person that told him that his brother Jim was in grave danger. At this point, Jim Masterson and AJ Peacock are partners in the Lady Gay Dance Hall and Saloon in Dodge City. And they got crossways, particularly over a bartender that was hired by Peacock named Al Updegraff, and Updegraff, he didn't like Masterson either, and they traded shots. And after that, that's when Jim Masterson telegraphed Bat and said, hey, come join me.

Man, I'm having trouble out here. Bat received that telegram, immediately hopped on a train, and traveled about 1,100 miles back to Dodge City. He had already lost one brother in Dodge City, and despite the fact that he and Jim were not generally on the best of terms, by this point, they were somewhat estranged from each other. That was not about to lose another brother.

He arrived on the noon train, April 16, 1881, at Dodge City. He stepped off the train, and he immediately spied Peacock and Updegraff walking together. And the street was crowded, but Bat, boy, he went battling Bat. He said, I have come over 1,000 miles to settle this.

I know you're healed. Now fight. Well, all three men drew guns and opened fire, and everybody scattered, and in fact, one bystander caught a bullet ricochet in the back. Bat hides out on that rail bed, uses that for a kind of a trench, and the two opponents, they took cover behind the jail. And then, joining in the fight are two guys on Bat's side, Jim Masterson, and then a friend of his, and they opened fire too, and Al Updegraff caught a bullet in the right lung. And he did not die, but nobody knows if Bat shot him or what, but he did survive.

After three or four minutes of this firefight, the mayor of Dodge City and the county sheriff marched onto the scene brandishing shotguns. That stopped the fight. Bat paid a fine of eight dollars for carrying a weapon, and he caught the train and left town, and that was his last gunfight.

Well, Jim, I say it's about time we get the hell out of Dodge. Bat took that very hard. Because of his code of conduct, it was important to him that people respected him, and they respected him for the right reasons.

Not so much because he was a good gunfighter, but because he was an honest man. Bat spends most of the next decade as a professional gambler in Denver. It's in Denver in 1888 that Bat buys the Palace Theater, which features a variety of acts and high-stakes gambling.

One of the performers at the Palace is singer and dancer Emma Walters. After many girlfriends, Bat ties the knot with Emma and remains married to her for the rest of his life. Here's Bill O'Neill. About a decade or so later, he's getting, his reputation has become unsavory in Denver, and he decides in 1902 to move to New York City. He'd already visited there a time or two, long enough to get arrested for canning a concealed weapon.

You know, he was looked on with a sharp eye by law enforcement officials. Bat's almost 50 years old, and the Old West is gone. He goes to work writing a column called Masterson's Views on Timely Topics for the New York Morning Telegraph.

Here again is Tom Clavin. During the rest of Bat Masterson's story, many people wonder how in the world did he end up in New York City as a reporter the last 15 years of his life. What happened was, during the 1880s, while Bat was a federal marshal, he had encountered a young man named Theodore Roosevelt who was trying to be a cowboy in the Dakotas. And during the two years that Roosevelt was there, unsuccessfully being a rancher, he and Bat Masterson became friends. Years later, Bat Masterson was turning 50, and Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House as President of the United States.

And Masterson wrote to Roosevelt, expressing his concerns that somebody might come along who's only half his age and with a gun and decide, I'm going to make my reputation as a gunfighter by killing one of the most legendary figures of the Wild West. So Bat said, basically, I've got to find a new line of work. Roosevelt suggested, why don't you come to New York?

I'll make you the deputy U.S. marshal for Manhattan. Bat packed up his wife and his other belongings, got on a train, and off they went to New York City, where he was a gun-toting federal marshal in New York. While Bat was in New York as a U.S. deputy marshal, he was contributing to some of the local newspapers there, and one publisher of the New York Tribune came to Bat and said, you're so good at this.

Why don't you write for me on a regular basis? So Bat Masterson became a New York City journalist, a newspaper reporter, and columnist. He wrote about the three things he cared about the most in New York, boxing, baseball, and Broadway. He wrote his columns that became very popular. Bat Masterson had a whole second life of fame as a newspaper columnist in New York City. And he was quite the bon vivant man about town, too, because he liked to go to the ball games, New York Giants baseball, see a Broadway play, go to the horse track, cover a boxing match, and then he would bang out his column and then hold court at one of his favorite saloons, which was on 44th Street and Broadway. And by holding court, I mean people enjoyed asking him questions, buying him drinks, he would tell stories. Now, of course, by this point in his life, now we're talking about the period essentially 1906-07 to 1921, and by that point in his life, many of the stories about Bat had been fictionalized, embellished, exaggerated.

For example, the gun he carried supposedly had somewhere between 22 and 26 notches on it, each one representing an outlaw he had dispatched. Inevitably, every so often when Bat was holding court at his favorite saloon, some out-of-town rube would show up. He'd encounter, oh my goodness, it's the famous legendary Bat Masterson from the Wild West. And he would ask, can I see your gun? And Bat would reluctantly produce the gun.

Sure enough, there's a whole bunch of notches in it. And almost without fail, the topic would turn to, can I buy the gun? You know, Mr. Masterson, if I headed back to where I came from in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, wherever, and I had the gun that helped tame the West, I would become the big man in my town.

I would become famous. And Bat would say, no, no, of course not. This gun, you know, obviously it's a very important gun. I can't just give it away even for a few dollars. But negotiations would take place, and eventually the price got to one that Bat would approve of, and he would sell the gun, but he would tell the guy, listen, you have to leave town right away.

Wherever the first train is, out of New York, you take it and go home. Because it would get me in a lot of trouble if you're staying around here telling people you bought my gun. All right, I wouldn't sell it to anybody else. I sold it to you.

Be happy. Leave town. And the guy would leave town. And then Bat the next day would go to his favorite pawn shop, buy a similar gun, cut some notches in it, put it back in his holster, and he's ready for the next fella from out of town to come to his saloon. He became a father figure to some of the young reporters, some of the up-and-coming people. Damon Runyon, he was a young man who was a reporter for the New York Tribune, and he really worshipped Bat Masterson, and years later, he paid homage to Bat when he wrote a series of stories about New York life and characters and show business and Broadway and gamblers and eventually became guys and dolls.

And some people might recall that of the two main characters, one of them was called Sky Masterson, and that was a direct tribute to his mentor, Bat Masterson. Late in October 1921, Bat is at his desk writing his newspaper column when he dies of a heart attack. He's a month shy of his 60th birthday. He died a journalist's death, or maybe a kind of death many journalists would like to have. It was in 1921, and he was sitting at his desk at the New York Tribune building, and he just banged out his last column, and he typed 30 at the bottom, which for those not in the journalism business, 30 means you're done.

That's it. And he was indeed done. Bat had a sudden massive heart attack, slumped over his typewriter, and died at his desk.

More than 500 people attend his funeral. One of those eulogizing Bat is Damon Runyon, who says, He was a 100% 22-carat real man. Bat was a good hater and a wonderful friend. He was always stretching out his hand to some down and outer, and was one of the most entertaining companions we have ever known. There are only too few men in the world like Bat Masterson, and his death is a genuine loss. And a special thanks to Greg Hengler for the production on that piece, and a thanks always to Roger McGrath for the unique and excellent work he does for us. The remarkable story of Bat Masterson, the man who forever changed the American West, here on Our American Stories.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-07 04:14:03 / 2023-08-07 04:31:04 / 17

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