Returning to Camp Floyd I resumed my duties as a teamster, until one day a paymaster came out with a lot of specie and gave us all eighteen months' arrears of pay. The sensation of having so much money all at once was too much for me, and I suddenly developed a great distaste for my occupation.
Just outside the camp there had sprung up a small town called Dobie Town, from the dobies or sun-dried bricks of which the houses were built.
A young teamster named Louis and myself decided to try our luck there. We sent in our resignations, and started, bought a shanty, and opened it as a whiskey saloon. I was always very partial to making as much money as I could with a minimum of labour, and with the experience of the Robbers' Roost fresh in my mind, I knew this was an easy way to set about it.
There were plenty of cut-throats, gamblers, and thieves there who supported us, and as the troops also favoured us with their patronage, we saw before long that we were in for a very good thing. I believe we should have made a fortune if we had only stayed, but my unlucky star was always in the ascendant, and something invariably happened which snatched the prize from me just as it was within my grasp. This time it occurred very unexpectedly. One night, as I was taking a stroll down the street for a little fresh air, I passed an opposition gambling hell of very bad reputation.
I just peeped in through the window to see how they were getting on. There I saw two men with their bowie knives drawn, standing over a man who was stretched on the floor. I thought to myself, " Hallo, here's a murder. I am better out of this," and I walked away quickly. I was only a few yards past the door when one of the men came running after me, and inquired what business I had to look in at his window. I apologised, and said I was only looking for a friend.
He then called me all the names he could think of, and said he would teach me better manners, winding up by making straight at me with his knife, and expressing a determination to have my heart's blood.
I didn't want any row with him, and started off running as fast as I could. He, however, was the quicker of the two, and finding him gaining on me rapidly, I drew my six-shooter, and called back to him to stop, or I would shoot him. At the same time I stopped and tried to dodge him.
He would not listen, and made a dart forward, but I slipped out of his way, and fired a shot in the air to let him know that I was capable of defending myself.
This seemed to enrage him the more, for he now came at me with his knife like a bull at a gate.
I thought, " Well, you'll soon make mincemeat of me if I don't stop you." So taking aim I planted him one in the "bread basket," which caused him to pull up very quickly.
He threw up his hands and fell backwards with a groan,
I told him I was not to blame; that he would have killed me if I had not protected myself; and as I saw some people coming who had heard the shots, I bolted off to my place as quickly as I could.
There I told my partner in a few words what had occurred, and cleared out without a moment's delay.
In those days the settlement of these matters was usually decided by the majority. I did not know what friends he had, but a glance told me that the one or two in my place at the time would be no assistance to me. I therefore thought discretion the better part of valour, and the sooner I " got" the better.
Starting out in the dark, I tramped off and made tracks for Provo City, a Mormon town up the Jordan River, and arrived there in a couple of days, footsore and weary.
In a few days I received a message to say that the man was dead, and that his demise was not regretted. I was also informed that I was thoroughly exonerated, and a universal desire expressed that I should return. This invitation, however, I declined, on the ground that if I returned I should probably have to kill some of his friends, who would try to avenge his death, or should get killed myself. The law of six-shooters was the only one then in existence, and revolvers were called into requisition to settle all matters in dispute.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
A pistol vs. bowie knife incident from the Old West, as told in John Young Nelson's Fifty Years on the Trail: a True Story of Western Life: