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Old August 20, 2005, 01:16 PM   #111
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Join Date: August 20, 2005
Posts: 552
The West's Least Famous Gunfighter

Hope this is on-topic.

My great-grandfather, Fred Welsh by name, gives me some hope for myself. After all, he proves that not all my ancestors were calm, respectable, middle-class people. The incident where he saddled the bull should alone be proof enough of that.

Running the livery stable in Elba, Nebraska, didn't take all his time. He was good in a fight, and a hard worker who had earned respect of the big men of that small town, so they decided to give him a little extra money by hiring him as town constable. As such, his job was to come running if anyone told him there was trouble in town-- not much more than that, officially at least.

The way the story has come down to us, one day he saw a couple of young men wandering around town. They appeared to be farm hands, but they were acting nervous. Fearing trouble, Fred pocketed his revolver (a nickel-finished .38 Smith and Wesson 3d model double action-- a hinge-framed pocket gun) and kept an eye on things.

Sure enough, he heard there was trouble at the bank. He headed that way. As he was approaching, he saw the farm hands running out the door with a sack.

He pulled his revolver and opened fire. They opened fire. Lead flew in myriad directions.

As Fred told it, he shot the man with the bag. He hit him in the leg. There is no witness to confirm that anybody hit anybody else; in any case, whatever damage he did was not enough to prevent the robber from getting on his horse and getting away. But he did succeed, one way or another, in startling the robbers so badly that they dropped the money.

My cousin claims to have seen the newspaper article about it. It says that Fred saved the assets of the bank-- about $435. or so-- and that in gratitude the townspeople took up a collection and got him a fine overcoat.

The way Fred told it was a bit different.

"See that quilt on my bed?" he'd say. "Well, that was what I got for saving the town's money. They got that quilt for me. But they didn't give it to me as a quilt, oh no. They gave me the patches. Ma had to stitch them together for me."

I don't know which story is true. Maybe they both are. But then, from what I understand, Great Grandpa wasn't a man to let the facts get in the way of the truth, especially when there was a good story on the line. Some of his descendants maintain that trait to this very day.
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