Two Guns, Arizona
By Gladwell Richardson

Drink for the Dead

In the year 1905, beginning on the night of April 7, there occurred one of the most bizarre incidents in western history, ending within sight of Two Guns. Two cowboys, John Shaw and Bill Smith, twenty-two and twenty-four years old, entered the Wigwam Saloon on Second Street in Winslow.

Upon ordering a drink, and while the bartender poured, their eyes bugged out at sight of 600 silver dollars stacked on the dice table run by Frank Ketchum. Glancing quickly at Shaw, Smith nodded his head in a signal. Out with their rousers, they moved in on the table. Silver dollars were stuffed into all their pockets and the remnant in hats. Then they backed out and made good temporary escape.

The alarm spread all along the transcontinental railroad line. Navajo County Sheriff C. I. Houck and his deputy, J. C. N. Pemberton, rode the train west to Flagstaff searching for them. On their return that night they were tipped off that the two had been seen near Canyon Diablo station.

Going there in the new night, Houck and Pemberton neared the side of a warehouse belonging to Volz. Abruptly Smith and Shaw appeared moving towards them from the opposite direction.

In the bat of an eye a gunfight erupted. Twenty shots were fired during which Houck's clothing was holed several times and Smith was wounded. Customarily that many cartridges would have been loaded in only four guns, the firing pin resting on the sixth, the empty chamber. Only Pemberton did not observe this safety precaution. He had six bullets loaded and the last one brought Shaw down dead as he wheeled to flee with an empty gun.

Shaw was hurriedly buried that night and Smith removed to the Winslow hospital. Over in the Wigwam Saloon a bunch of liquoring cowboys heard the story of the shoot-out, which had been telephoned from Canyon Diablo.

Out of a long stretch of silence one of them remarked seriously, "Them two boys paid for drinks and didn't down their whiskey. Was Shaw given a snort before they planted him?"

Another replied sarcastically, "Now, you know lawmen don't go around giving a dead man no drink!"

"Shucks, that feller has a drink coming to him and not getting what he paid for ain't right. We should go to Canyon Diablo and give him one!"

The idea caught on quickly and within minutes twenty-odd cowboys had hopped a freight train west. Arriving with assorted bottles of whiskey, they borrowed shovels from trader Volz and disinterred Shaw's body, rigid in rigor mortis. It was held upright out of the grave. He was then given a going-away drink from a brown bottle as the new sun cleared the horizon. There was enough light to snap pictures before Shaw was replanted. The six prints from the film were displayed in a Winslow saloon for many years.

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