NewMexiKen has definitely become of fan of the newest HBO series, Deadwood, which showed its fourth episode Sunday (and which I viewed Monday via Comcast On Demand).
True to history, “Wild Bill” Hickok died at the end of this episode, shot by a small-time gambler. While accurate—Hickok was killed on August 2, 1876, at the age of 39—it’s too bad. As played by Keith Carradine, Wild Bill was the most charismatic and positive character in the show. The hell with historical fact, bring back Wild Bill.
Deadwood Magazine has an informative 1999 article on Hickok in Deadwood, Gambler to the End. The following is excerpted from that article:
British author Joseph Rosa has been researching the Hickok legend for more than 40 years. His books (They Called Him Wild Bill, The West of Wild Bill Hickok and Wild Bill Hickok: The Man and His Myth) meticulously sift fact from fiction.
The number of notches on Wild Bill’s guns were part of the myth, according to Rosa. The true total of men he killed in gunfights is closer to 10, rather than the 21 to more than 100 he has been credited with, Rosa writes.
Like all other serious historians, Rosa debunks stories of a romance with Calamity Jane. Known to be a notorious liar, Martha Jane Cannary claimed the relationship only after Wild Bill couldn’t defend himself. Almost 27 years to the day after Wild Bill’s death, Calamity Jane died and, by her request, was buried in an adjoining lot.
The fifth card in the “Deadman’s Hand” (two pair—black aces and eights) has been the subject of speculation for years, variously identified as the queen of diamonds, nine of diamonds, a jack, or (in another version of the story) the fifth card hadn’t been dealt. Newspaper accounts written immediately after the shooting make no mention of specific cards held by Wild Bill. It wasn’t until many years later Ellis Peirce wrote: “Bill’s hand read aces and eights—two pair, and since that day aces and eights have been known as ‘the deadman’s hand’ in the Western country.”
Wild Bill’s real name was James Butler Hickok.