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Friday, November 5, 2010

Clay Allison's Rules for a Fair Fight

Clay Allison at 45 years old.

Allison (1840-1887) was a Civil War veteran (CSA) and Old West gunfighter.

The following is from The Red-blooded Heroes of the Frontier (1910), by Edgar Beecher Bronson:
"Some think it fair to give a man warnin' you intend to kill him on sight, an' then get right down to business as soon as you meet. But that ain't no equal chance for both. The man that sees his enemy first has the advantage, for the other is sure to be more or less rattled.

"Others consider it a square deal to stan' back to back with drawn pistols, to walk five paces apart an' then swing and shoot. But even this way is open to objections. While both may be equally brave an' determined, one may be blamed nervous, like, an' excitable, while the other is cool and deliberate; one may be a better shot than the other, or one may have bad eyes.

"I tell you, gentlemen, none o' these deals are fair; they are murderous. If you want to kill a man in a neat an' gentlemanly way that will give both a perfectly equal show for life, let both be put in a narrow hole in the ground that they can't git out of, their left arms securely tied together, their right hands holdin' bowie knives, an' let them cut, an' cut an' cut till one is down."

His heavy brow contracted into a fierce frown; his black eyes narrowed and glittered balefully; his surging blood reddened the bronzed cheeks. "Let them cut, I say, cut to a finish. That's fightin', an' fightin' dead fair. Ah!" and the hard lines of the scarred face softened into a look of infinite longing and regret, "if only I could find another man with nerve enough to fight me that way!"

The speaker was Mr. Clay Allison, formerly of Cimarron, later domiciled at Pope's Crossing. His listeners were cowboys. The scene was a round-up camp on the banks of the Pecos River near the mouth of Rocky Arroyo. Mr. Allison was not dilating upon a theory. On the contrary, he was eminently a man of practice, especially in the matters of which he was speaking. Indeed he was probably the most expert taker of human life that ever heightened the prevailing dull colors of a frontier community. Early in his career the impression became general that his favorite tint was crimson. And yet Mr. Allison was in no sense an assassin. I never knew him to kill a man whom the community could not very well spare. While engaged as a ranchman in raising cattle, he found more agreeable occupation for the greater part of his time in thinning out the social weeds that are apt to grow quite too luxuriantly for the general good in new Western settlements.

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