Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Obama invokes the late, great Wild Bill Hickok as an ancestor

Springfield, Missouri--Obama's claim of descent to James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok (where he engaged in a duel, possibly during the Civil War) today is an interesting one.

The Democratic presidential candidate came to this town on the edge of the old West on Wednesday and laid down a challenge for his GOP rival.

"If Sen. McCain wants a debate on taxes in this campaign, I'm ready," Obama said, noting that Hickok is said to have fought a duel here. "I'm ready to duel John McCain on taxes right here, quick draw," Obama said before closing the loop with Hickok.

"The family legend is that he is a distant cousin of mine. I don't know if it's true but I'm going to research it." ("Political Play: Obama claims link to the Wild West," AP, 07.30.2008)

He doesn't need to, a noted genealogist named Chris Child has confirmed it. Never mind that-- 25% of everyone roaming the Wild West was Black (it's true). Obama went to the heart of the matter, to one of the legends, Wild Bill.

And he's correct: he is descended from Wild Bill, a distant cousin. But does he really want to make a comparison? Perhaps. But his challenge of a dueling debate over taxes in Springfield with John McCain doesn't bode well when you look at how Wild Bill ended his days, but people settle their differences in other ways nowadays. Nonetheless, there's an even more intriguing fact about the Hickok family that few will recognize:

Wild Bill Hickok James Butler Hickok in Troy Grove, Illinois on May 27, 1837 to was born William Alonzo Hickok and Polly Butler Hickok. Bill had four brothers and two sisters and his parents were God-fearing Baptists who expected Bill to keep up his chores on the farm and to attend church every Sunday. Bill's parents also operated a station along the Underground Railroad, where they smuggled slaves out of the South. It was during this time that the lean and wiry young man got his first taste of hostile gunfire when he and his father were chased by law officers who suspected them of carrying more than just hay in their wagon. ("Wild Bill Hickok and the dead man's hand,"
And so, James Butler Hickok came from very upstanding Americans, from people who saw Black Americans as human beings when few bothered to care. On top of this, they risked their lives, and so did Bill. He was a real man. But then, we should remember that there's that other side of America, where Republicans and sell-out Democrats dwell. It's the domain of the Coward Jack McCall, the world of the back-stabbing scoundrel and the yellow-belly.

Not much is known about McCall except that he was stupid, cock-eyed, a braggart, and a drunk who had once run with some buffalo hunters, possibly in the Wyoming territory. Kind of sounds like the current president, doesn't it? McCall was from Kentucky while Hickok was from Illinois, but both men wrestled with the beast within. Hickok was a lawman with an itchy trigger-finger. We'll never know how many people Hickok killed, and it's positive we never will with McCall either.

But you know a man by his actions, and we only remember McCall because of one of his last ones when he shot Wild Bill Hickok in the back of the head for beating him at cards.
On August 1, 1876 Wild Bill was playing cards in Nuttall and Mann’s No. 10 Saloon when one of the players dropped out and bystander Jack McCall took his place. McCall kept losing and at the end of the evening was broke. Hickok gave him money with which to buy dinner. The next day, on August 2, Hickok returned to the No. 10 and joined in a game of cards. A few hours later Jack McCall entered the bar and stopped a few paces behind Hickok. He pointed his gun at Hickok’s head, pulled the trigger and shouted, “Damn you, take that!” The gunshot instantly killed Wild Bill. McCall ran out of the saloon and attempted to escape on a horse that was tethered nearby, but the saddle had been loosened, and he fell to the ground. McCall ran down the street and hid in a butcher’s shop where he was captured by a large crowd. ("Deadwood History-JackMcCall,"
How is this different from John McCain dropping bombs on innocent North Vietnamese civilians over forty-years-ago, then being captured? Can someone like Obama--coming from the Chicago political machine--embody the morality of what was good about James Butler Hickok and America, or will he unleash the spirit of Jack McCall, John Rockefeller Sr., the Vanderbilts, Andrew Carneige, and the Pinkertons on the world as Commander in Chief?

Will he be a backstabbing assassin like the man who murdered his distant cousin, or will he side with the robber barons, the mine owners, and railroad men of our times? The signs aren't good, but one can hope, since that's all we're left with voting within the two party system. Will Obama be the man from Illinois (Lincoln/Hickok) or the malcontent, booze-swilling long-knife from Kentucky (McCall)?

When a candidate evokes the memory of the Old West in America, it's an important event that carries the responsibility of getting the history right. Yes, it makes him look and sound "tough," but does it make him a hero (McCain isn't one either), a man who can enter his home justified? If Senator Obama decides to stand on the side of the law, he's going to have a lot of cleaning-up to do from the last president. This is mandatory. It should be a part and parcel of his own agenda, because no nation can survive lawlessness for very long.

Just 100-years-ago, Pat Garrett was murdered along a lonely road in New Mexico.

He'd been shot in the back of the head and in the chest. Long before we were arguing over which angle JFK was shot from in Dealy Plaza, parties were arguing the same over Pat's murder. They say a big time rancher named W.W. Cox wanted him dead, and that he wasn't alone. Rich "coyotes" smuggling Chinese immigrants across the Mexican-American border might have wanted to bring them through his Bear Canyon ranch. Had they murdered him for money and power? What side of history is Obama on? We already know about John McCain.

"Political Play: Obama claims link to the Wild West," AP, 07.30.2008:

"Wild Bill Hickok and the dead man's hand,"

On the Coward Jack McCall:

"Surprising New Information on Pat Garrett's Death: Details from the Fornoff Report," by Chuck Hornung,

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