|Luke Short: Gambler and Gunfighter
|Luke Short was born in Mississippi in 1854, but his family later moved to Grayson County,
Texas and it was in the wild, wild west where Luke fought his gun battles and made his
Luke left home at the age of 13, after an altercation that left the school bully much the
worse for having met him. From that point forward, he involved himself in most of the
occupations the west had to offer. He was a cowhand on the cattle drives from Texas to
Kansas; he hunted buffalo; scouted and rode dispatch for the
U. S. Cavalry during the Sioux uprisings of 1876; traded with the Sioux and Cheyenne and,
in fact, was eventually arrested for trading whiskey to them for buffalo robes.
He escaped from the army guards who were taking him to Omaha, ended up in Denver and
for the rest of his days made a living as a high-rolling gambler in towns all over the west.
He was a close friend of both Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp and engaged in gunfights
with some of the most dangerous gunmen of the time.
Once, in Tombstone, Arizona, Luke had a gambling dispute with fellow gambler, Charlie
Storms, who'd been introduced to Luke by his friend, Bat Masterson. Later, as Luke and
Bat walked out of the Oriental Saloon, Luke was grabbed from behind and pulled off the
boardwalk. He looked up to see Storms drawing on him. Luke pulled his short barreled
Colt and fired. The bullet slammed into Storms' heart, blew him backwards and set his
shirt afire. Luke shot him again as he went down. He stood there a minute, looking at
Storms, then turned to Masterson, "You sure pick some of the d----dest people for
One of his most colorful and well publicized fights, however, was the one of words he
fought with the town reformers in Dodge City. He and friend, W. H. Harris, had
purchased the infamous Long Branch Saloon in 1883. Shortly thereafter, Luke got into a
power struggle with the editor of the Dodge City Times and some political reformers who
wanted to shut down gambling in Dodge City. A gunfight was one of the results and Short
was forced to leave town. But the battle wasn't over, because Luke had some powerful
friends and they set about solving his dilemma and seeing him returned to Dodge and the
Long Branch. For a time it looked as if an all-out war would ensue, but cooler heads
The Ford County Globe describes the peaceful end of the squabble:
"Our city trouble is about over and things in general will be conducted as of old. All
parties that were run out of town have returned and no further effort will be made to
drive them away. Gambling houses, we understand, are again to be opened, but with screen
doors in front of their place of business. All the warriors met Saturday night and settled
their past differences and everything was made lovely and serene."
Luke Short died of natural causes in Kansas and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in
Fort Worth, Texas.
|"They called him 'the undertaker's friend,' because he
shot'em where it didn't show." -- Stewart Holbrook