Tag Archives: Gunfights

Book Review: Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West

DrawIf you enjoy a good western, you’ll most likely enjoy Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West. It is a book that was written by James Reasoner back in 2003. My son picked up for me for Father’s Day last year. In this book, you’ll find true historical short-stories about various bad guys and lawmen shooting it out. There are train-robberies, bank-robberies, and an occasional stage-coach robbery. Reasoner writes each account with whit and imagination, and by that I mean, he paints the picture with enough detail to get the scene into the mind’s eye of the reader, but not so much detail that one would get bogged down. Reasoner is known for his historical fiction writing, but in this case it is true-to-life-history. If he is adding a bit of detail, he’ll let you know by saying something like “he was probably squinting.” But little speculations like that do not occur that often.

The book is divided into six parts: 1) Man to Man, 2) Gangs, 3) Posses, 4) Holdups, 5) Backshooters, and 6) Gunfighting Mishaps and Misfortunes. Each story in each part is a stand-alone story. Though some are inter-related in that they involve some of the same characters, you don’t need to read one before understanding another. This is one of those books that you can pick up, read a chapter in 15 minutes (if you’re as slow a reader as I), and put down for a while if need be. It took me just under a year to finish this book, not because of its size or a lack of interest. It is neither large nor boring. But only because it is such a “when I have no pressing matters” kind of book. There’s no long story-line to remember. That’s just one of the many reasons I enjoyed this book.

Read stories about Doc Holliday, the forgotten Earp brother, the Dalton Gang, Wild Bill Hickok and more without all the hype and unbelievable legend stuff. That being said. . . The last chapter is rather unbelievable, but apparently true. It was my favorite story of the book.

The book has 294 pages but a whopping 31 chapters! Published by Berkley Books, Draw is definitely a book I would recommend to novice or western enthusiast. I told some of the stories to my children of various ages and they loved them; I am sure you will too. Amazon.com has it on sale for $12.49. But you can buy a good used copy from Half Priced Books for about $3.00

The Lesson We Can Learn from Doc Holliday’s Last Gun Fight

Doc(tor) John Henry Holliday is one of the most famous gunfighters in the world.  He is legendary.  A southern gentleman with tuberculosis went west where he met another man who would be a lawman turned gunfighter: Wyatt Earp.  Together, with Earps two brothers, Doc Holliday fought against the Cowboys at the OK Corral.  He helped Wyatt hunt down those who killed Morgan and wounded Virgil.  In all, by the time Doc Holliday died at the age of 36, he had killed at least 30 men.

I find his last gunfight interesting though.  A man by the name of Billy Allen loaned this gunfighting gambler $5 because he was short on cash.  Holliday never returned the $5, and Allen was more than a bit upset.  He demanded time and again that Doc repay him.  He finally threatened him.  “Calmly Holliday advised Allen not to start anything unless he had a gun in each hand,” (Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West, James Reasoner; Berkley Books).  Allen took his advice and armed himself.  He entered the saloon where Doc was playing, calling him out.

Even in Doc’s condition: dying, in pain, and slow, this legendary gunslinger shot twice (the first missing) before Allen could get one shot out.  Allen was hit in the right arm, causing him to drop his weapon.  Doc was finished.  He didn’t kill the foolish man before him.  Holliday was arrested, tried, and found not guilty due to self-defense.  He later died due to his illness.

What can we learn from this story?  Never underestimate your enemy just because it looks sick and dying.  We all too often underestimate our sin.  We think it is behind us, sick and dying.  We think we can challenge it, play around with it, or even fight it on our own.  The moment we underestimate the enemy is the moment we get shot.  Sometimes its a wound but other times it can be deadly (remember Doc killed 30 men before wounding Billy Allen).  The fight is deadly business and so Paul told us to put on the full armor of God.  Even though the fight is not against flesh and blood but is a spiritual fight, we must be ready to defend and protect ourselves in it.

There will be many sins with which we seem to have no issue.  They hardly seem to tempt us at all.  So we befriend them (loan the $5).  What’s the harm?  Yes, they have killed many before, but surely they won’t hurt us.  Then we become obsessed with them (foolishly getting in their faces).  They’re all we can think about, even if they could cost us our lives.  Finally we call ’em out.  Maybe we’ve had enough, maybe we want to show how “good” we are.  But we are no match.  The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is week.  Before we can give them a final blow to kill it, they kill us (maybe physically, but definitely spiritually, reputationally, emotionally).

We are to do battle, but we are to do battle in the Lord’s strength, not our own.  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, (Ephesians 6:10, ESV).  That’s the putting on the armor of God completely.  That’s bathing the situation in prayer.  That’s calling on others to give you a hand.  Don’t be a Billy Allen going up against a Doc Holliday (and they’re all Doc Hollidays).