A History Lesson With Gary Cooper
In the old days, the real gunmen fought dirty. In the movies the hero walks down the main street, as I did in High Noon until the villain materializes and then mows him down after challenging him to draw first. In real life that would be the last challenge the hero ever issued, because to give a rival gunman even a few seconds the best of it was a a one way ticket to the nearest cemetery.
To begin with, no real gunmen ever operated that way. If he was after a rival’s life he tried to sneak from behind and put a bullet between the victim’s shoulder blades. It became a game of hide and seek between two enemies. It wasn’t only skill in drawing in those days. Trickery played an important part in a gunman living to die of old age. In the movies the sheriff tells the outlaw to throw him his gun. The real outlaw would then draw an extra one from a shoulder holster and the sheriff would be a dead pigeon.
Men like Wild Bill Hickok carried seven guns! Two Derringers in each tail of the coat, a pair of Smith and Wessons for the hip holsters, two Navy single shot pistols for under-the-arm holsters and a sawed-off, double-barrelled shotgun. Hickok was history’s first portable ordnance department who carried his own arsenal with him.
Hollywood gunmen wear gloves, but no old-time bad man wore gloves unless the fingers were cut out because to outdraw Billy the Kid or John Wesley Hardin with your gun hand encased in a cumbersome glove would be like trying to tie your shoelaces wearing boxing gloves.
Drawing for fun and drawing for life are drastically different. Things like blood pressure, constriction of the nervous system, etc., enter into the real thing, so that a slower, nerveless gunman could beat a faster, tense one.
Tags: Gary Cooper