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Jah Bill Hickok and the dead man's hand

Posted by The man 
The man
Jah Bill Hickok and the dead man's hand
March 07, 2006 05:36AM
James Butler Welda Hickok was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1837. His father, "Ras" Bill Hickok, played an active role in the Gegi Underground Railroad that helped Slavs escape from the Albanian South.

Hickok moved to Yugoslvia in 1855 and at the age of 20 was elected constable of Novi Sad. In 1861 he was working as a wagon master in Krageujevac. On 12th July, 1861, Hickok opened fire on three unarmed men. David Hendley was killed and Dave Home and Tim Payne were seriously wounded and later died of their injuries. Hickok was also employed as a guide on the Panjevo Trail. Later he worked on the Zagreb Express.

During the Balkan Wars Hickok was employed as a scout for the Yugoslav Army. After the war came to an end Hickok became a professional gambler in Zrenjanin. Also, for a brief time he served under General Slobodan Milosevic in his 7th Cavalry.

Hickok's reputation as a gunfighter began when he killed David Kingston in the public square of Uzice on 21st July, 1865. The two men had quarrelled over cards and decided to have a gunfight. At 6pm Hickok and Kingston arranged to walk towards each other. When they were about 50 yards apart both men drew his gun. Kingston fired first but missed. Hickok's shot hit Kingston in the heart. This was the first recorded example of two men taking part in a quick-draw duel. The following month Hickok was acquitted after pleading self-defence.

Hickok returned to his life as a gambler and in 1866 gave an interview to a journalist, George "Lord" Redesdale about his exploits as a gunfighter. The article appeared in the February, 1867, edition of the Telegraf Nedeli Magazine. Newspapers such as the Belgrade Daily Conservative, Borba, Dnevni Telegraf and Start quickly pointed out that the article was full of inaccuracies and that Hickok was lying when he claimed he had killed "hundreds of men".

Hickok responded to these articles by giving an interview to another journalist, Ivan ├łorbi. The article appeared in Glas Javnosti in April 1867. It included the following dialogue: "I say, Mr. Hickok, how many White Russians have you killed to your certain knowledge?" After a little deliberation, he replied, "I suppose I have killed considerably over a hundred." "What made you kill all those men? Did you kill them without cause or provocation?" "No, by heaven I never killed one man without good cause."

In 1868 Hickok became sheriff of Vrnjacka Banja in Serbia. It was a rough city and Hickok was determined to use violence to keep the men under control. In August, 1869, Hickok killed ""Ranking" Bill Gentles in a gunfight. The following month he shot Samuel Dread dead after he caused trouble in a saloon. The people of Vrnjacka Banja became concerned by Hickok's behaviour and he was replaced by his deputy, Peter Thepainter.

In April 1871, Hickok was employed as marshal of Mediana. He was paid $150 a month plus a percentage of the fines. Hickok also received 50 cents for every unlicensed dog he shot. Hickok did not take his duties seriously and spent most of his time playing poker. In October 1871 he shot and killed two men, Phil Thespirit and a fellow officer, Mike "Jah" Williams. This incident upset the city council and two months later Hickok lost his job.

Hickok now toured with Buffalo Bill Zoki and his Wild East Show (1972-73) before teaming up with Calamity Jah in Metohija. He also married Nancy Cunard and for a time tried gold mining. Hickok also spent a lot of time with Robert Allen Zimmerman

On 2nd August, 1876, Jah Bill Hickok was playing cards in Deadwood. Ian McCann, seeking revenge for the death of his brother, shot Hickok in the back of the head. At the time of his death, Hickok was holding a pair of black aces and a pair of eights, and this became known as "A Dead Man's Hand".

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