The following article was first published in the Pioneer in March 2017.
By Trent Rosser
Driving through town the last few weeks have really got me thinking. Why do we have so much construction going on? I understand that we have to maintain and have updates to our streets, but can we finish a couple of jobs before we start another job? I was going from one end of town to the other using the major Highway and they have been doing construction for quite a while now, So, I decided to go downtown and head that way. I hit construction, so I go back to hit a different road, and guess what. That is right, construction. So I end up going south of town, I turn back east to go that way and guess what I run into? That is right, construction. When I got on Facebook later that night, I had seen where someone else said that if you need to get around in this town, it would be a good idea to have a horse! It got me thinking how much things would be different if we had horses and not vehicles. How it would be if we were still in the Wild Wild West. Then I started to think about the gunfight.
Ed King and Sally Emory had just started dating. Ed was not a nice man constantly taunted Sally’s ex boyfriend a bartender by the name of Lemar (Lem) Woodruff. On March 21, 1886 just four and a half years after the gunfight at the OK Corral, Ed King, his friend Jonny Lang and 2 other ranch hands rode into town to participate in a local dance. As they rode up to the saloon, the 2 ranch hands went inside, Lang was tying up the horses and Ed walked down the street to meet Sally. As he approached, someone in the shadows of the saloon called his name. When he stepped upon the boardwalk the person in the shadows of the saloon shot Ed King in the face, as soon as the gunshot went off, Woodruff ran out and shot him in the neck. Ed King was dead before he fell.
Lang, seeing his friend shot dead, ran into the bar to get the ranch hands. He demanded more weapons from the bartender and the 3 of them rushed out and went around back of the saloon. That is when more gunfire erupted. They arrived around back as Lem Woodruff, his friend John Gough (AKA the Catfish Kid), and 4 others (possibly more) ran out of the back of the saloon. Woodruff and one of his friends (Charley Emory) were shot first. One of the ranch hands was shot in the head as he tried to take cover. The other ranch hand shot a local restaurant owner before he was shot in the chest. As he lay dying he gave his gun to Lang.
Lang was in a cross fire but was able to make his way back down the street. As he turned a corner, he was greeted by more of his friends and the sheriff Jim East. Lang was deputized and they went back down the street. The Catfish Kid came out of a wood pile and was shot at. He fell to the ground chocking and groaning, but it was all an act. As soon as he was clear, he jumped up and ran away.
Jonny Lang friends were dead, and all he had was a bullet hole in his coat. Jonny Lang went on to become Sheriff of a small town called Amarillo, TX. He eventually went to join his family in Oregon before joining the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. Jonny Lang died in 1942. This is a true story. All this happened right outside of Amarillo in a booming town called Tascosa. At the time, this gunfight was more famous than the gunfight at the O.K. Corral due to having similar circumstances, but caused but more fatalities.
Fast forward to 1994. Right outside of the entrance to Palo Duro Canyon, I am minding my own business when the sheriff of grabs me and tell me to shoot a guy if he misses. Two men square off and they turn to shoot. The sound of gunfire is my cue and I am knocked off my feet and now laying on the ground staring at the sky. I hear the sheriff yell at the men telling them that they shot the wrong person. A little time and more gunfire. Then laughter and clapping and that is my cue to get back up. I stand up and the crowd is laughing and having a good time. I was a part of the Amarillo Gunfighters and we dressed in the old west style and shot each other with blanks. We put on funny skits for crowds that were heading into the canyon. So every Saturday I was shot and killed. It was fun, entertaining and educational. Unfortunately this area does not do anything like that any longer.
So, now that I think about it, maybe it is not such a good idea to be living back in the old west. With the temperament of people today, there would be many more gunfights, all over construction of the new city street! Can you imagine a red light with a line of horses instead of cars?