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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pistol vs. Bowie Knife on the Mississippi River

From the Brooklyn Eagle, 1885, a story probably not meant to be taken too seriously.
Soon after the boat left Vicksburg a young man in a swell suit brought out a pearl handled revolver and began shooting at floating objects on the bosom of the mighty Mississippi. His object seemed to be to show off, and as a knot of passengers began to applaud his shots he grew what might be called triumphantly reckless. The steamer presently overtook a flat boat loaded with hoop poles, bound for the New Orleans market. The steersman, wearing a broad brimmed hat and a red shirt, was a very prominent figure.

“I've seen the day,” remarked a passenger, “that I could put a bullet through that chap's hat and not harm a hair of his head.”

“I can do it myself,” replied the shooter.

“I doubt it, sir; doubt it very much. If you make that shot you can call yourself the champion of the world.”

What did that idiot do but haul off and pop away! We saw the man's hand go up to his ear, and it wasn't half a minute before his place was taken by a second man and he was pulling off for us in his small boat. He was soon alongside, and not a man of us moved as he rushed up the stairs with a bowie knife as long as the leg of a chair in his mad right hand. The shooter was whiter than chalk, but his sang froid was the genuine article. Before the man with the bleeding ear had come within ten feet of him he had a $50 bill out of his wallet and, taking a step forward, he held it out and said: “Sorry to have troubled you, my dear sir. Intended to leave it for you at the next landing. I shot to break the pipe in your mouth, but hit your ear. This is my regular price when I make such blunders.”

Red shirt hesitated--took the bill--scanned the figures on the corners--slowly put up his knife and then turned and left the steamer without having said one single word to any of us. The nerve and money of the dude had prevented that wicked knife from tasting life blood.

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