This story has all the drama of a good western but none of the charade as usually seen in a gunfight. My great grandfather, who was an attorney in Dodge City before the turn of the century and a close acquaintance and lodge brother to Wyatt Earp, witnessed the last gunfight held on the illustrious Front Street in broad daylight.
His office was down town and so he was present when the feuding began on that day. We believe it to be somewhere around 1889 and it included two gentlemen who got in an argument at one of the local saloons. That in and of itself was not unusual but gunplay was. In fact, he told that most of the violence done there in Dodge was done by the local law enforcement and that included Wyatt Earp. The television and movie depictions are far from the truth of the actions of the sheriffs of that day. He related to his son and my dad that Wyatt was just a close shave ahead of the law himself and ran a lot of the corruption in town. The usual method of dealing with unruly people was to sneak up behind them and use a blackjack or pistol over their head. This caused many serious injuries and deaths to those arrested. He said that Wyatt was not dumb enough to get in gun fight when there were other methods to deal with criminals or drunks.
But back to the last gunfight. It seems that two men got into an argument and it escalated to the point that there were threats made. Both men went home and returned with their guns and proceeded to square off about 25 feet apart. Blazing away at one another, neither one could hit the other and so they soon ran out of ammunition. At that point, all the men poured out of the saloons and beat the men up severely and told them that if they ever returned they would be beat up again. So ended the last gunfight on Front Street.
Some of the problem that day was most likely the drunken state of the men involved. And yet another reason their aim was so poor was most ppl of that day and age didn't really attend to proper cleaning of their guns and often times when needed for killing a snake or varmit, the guns had rusted shut. Some of that was due to the lack of good solvents and gun oils like we have today and some of it was just plain lack of a need for a gun.
The famous story bout the cowboy who saw a rattlesnake and drawing his gun from his pack, it refused to shoot. So he threw the gun at the snake and rode off. Anyone who has carried a pistol can tell you that riding a horse with a gun is not comfortable at all. And the rains and snows and dirt storms the average cowboy endured would have ruined any gun.
This is not to say there was not gunplay at times because we know there was. But most of that was back shooting as no smart man would let his enemy have any advantage. Shoot first and ask questions later was the motto of most of the lawmen of the day.
There was much violence in those days and it took a firm hand to calm that down and keep it from getting out of control.