James Butler Hickok (May 27, 1837 – August 2, 1876), better known as Wild Bill Hickok, was a figure in the American Old West. His skills as a gunfighter and scout, along with his reputation as a lawman, provided the basis for his fame, although some of his exploits are fictionalized. His nickname of Wild Bill has inspired similar nicknames for men known for their daring in various fields.
According to the accepted account, the dispute came to a head when Tutt was coaching an opponent of Hickok’s during a card game. Hickok was on a winning streak and Tutt, frustrated, requested that he repay a $40 loan, which Hickok did. Tutt then demanded another $35 owed from a previous card game. Hickok refused, as he had “a memorandum” proving it to be for $25. Tutt then took Hickok’s watch, which was lying on the table, as collateral for the $35, at which point Hickok warned him not to wear it or he, Hickok, would shoot him. The next day, Tutt appeared in the square wearing the watch prominently, and Hickok tried to negotiate the watch’s return. Tutt stated that he would now accept no less than $45, but both agreed that they would not fight over it and went for a drink together. Tutt left the saloon but returned to the square at 6 p.m., while Hickok arrived on the other side and warned him not to approach him while wearing the watch. Both men faced each other sideways in the dueling position and both fired almost simultaneously. Tutt’s shot missed, but Hickok’s didn’t, piercing Tutt through the side from about 75 yards away. Tutt called out, “Boys, I’m killed” and ran onto the porch of the local courthouse and then back to the street, where he collapsed and died.
Present-day gravesite Hickok with his star on the Texas Trail of Fame
On August 2, 1876, Hickok was playing poker at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood, in the Black Hills, Dakota Territory. On this fateful day Wild Bill violated one of his own cardinal rules and was sitting with his back to a door. Twice he asked Rich to change seats with him and on both occasions Rich refused.
Wild Bill was having a run of bad luck that day and was forced to borrow a poker stake from the bartender. That run of bad luck worsened when an ex-buffalo hunter called John (“Broken Nose Jack”) McCall walked in unnoticed. Jack McCall walked to within a few feet of Wild Bill and then suddenly drew a pistol and shouted, “Take that!” before firing.
The bullet hit Hickok in the back of the head, killing him instantly. The bullet emerged through Wild Bill’s right cheek striking Captain Massie in the left wrist. Legend has it that Hickok had lost his stake and had just borrowed $50 from the house to continue playing. When shot, he was holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights, all black. The fifth card is debated, or, as some say, had been discarded and its replacement had not yet been dealt.