Saturday, March 10, 2012

Luke Short-Jim Courtright duel

The Luke Short-Jim Courtright duel was a duel in Fort Worth, Texas on February 8, 1887, between two well known gunmen, Jim Courtright and Luke Short.

Jim Courtright, a former City Marshal of Fort Worth, was trying to extort protection money from gambler and gunman Luke Short, who owned the White Elephant saloon. Short could not be intimidated, and refused, saying that any protection his saloon needed, he would provide himself. When Courtright pressed him, Short told him to "Go to hell".

Courtright by that time had killed several men in the course of his duties, whereas Short had killed at least one man in a gunfight, small time Dodge City gunman Charlie Storms. Both men had a dangerous reputation, and were feared within the community. Short's reputation was based mostly on hearsay, except for the Storms gunfight, whereas Courtright's exploits were well documented.

On the night of February 8, 1887, the two men once again quarreled. They drew pistols at close range, but Courtright had been drinking, and his gun caught on his watch chain for just a brief second. Short fired first, taking off Courtright's thumb on his right hand. Courtright attempted the 'border shift', a move where a gunfighter switches their gun to an uninjured hand, but he was too slow and Luke Short shot him in the chest, killing him.

The gunfight launched Short into legend as an Old West gunman, and despite Courtright's reputation as often being a bully, his funeral was well attended. Courtright also died having been one of the most successful lawmen of the Old West, having lowered Fort Worth's violent crime rate substantially by the time of his death. Luke Short would die in 1893 from "dropsy".

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