I had a vision today. For a moment the veil of the future was swept aside, and I received an impression of things to come.
Bear in mind when I say that that my predictions are pretty much always wrong. If there’s such a thing as Second Sight, I was third in line.
But I had a vision of a possible scenario. Imagine (it isn’t hard to do) that Hillary Clinton doesn’t win the Democratic nomination this year.
I can see her turning on her party. I can see her becoming a Republican, writing nasty books about her years with Bill (whom she will have also dumped by then), and showing up regularly on Rush Limbaugh to comment on Democratic politics from the perspective of a former insider. Kind of the same thing Dick Morris is doing now.
Remember, you read it here first.
Not long ago I made a reference to my interest in Wild Bill Hickok. This led me to glance at my bookshelf, and I noticed that I had a book on Wild Bill there that I hadn’t read yet. More surprisingly, it was a book by Joseph G. Rosa, the foremost Hickok authority today (oddly enough, an Englishman), and a man with whom I once exchanged a couple letters.
So I read Wild Bill Hickok: Gunfighter. It was a good book, as I expected, and Rosa has done his usual yeoman work uncovering obscure sources previously unseen. The copy editing could have been better, but that’s pretty much a universal problem in publishing nowadays.
What particularly interested me was his comments on one of Hickok’s most famous photographs. You can see a small version here. It’s the picture at the top, where he’s standing in a buckskin shirt.
Somewhere, and I think it must have been in his magnum opus, They Called Him Wild Bill (the second edition came out in 1974), Rosa had identified that picture as probably coming from late in Hickok’s life, when he was traveling with the original stage production that Buffalo Bill Cody produced before he went whole hog with his “Wild West” show.
When I wrote a letter of appreciation to Rosa, I said that I thought the picture must be earlier, probably from Hickok’s time as an army scout. I noted, first of all, that Hickok looks quite thin in this picture. Anybody who’s studied the photographs (and Hickok liked getting photographed) knows that he put on weight as he got older.
Secondly, I noted that his mustache looks pretty modest, compared to the flowing affair he sported later on.
And I mentioned that his hair was parted in the middle. In his later pictures, his hair (when he’s bareheaded) is combed straight back.
Rosa replied (I have the letter somewhere, though I can’t put my hand on it right now) that the head-brace Hickok would have worn to hold him still for such a photograph would have stretched out his head and neck, making him look thinner; that the mustache length would probably have varied frequently; and the same would be true with the hair part.
In his comments on this photograph on page 35 of this new book, Rosa now identifies the picture as an early one, and says, “…a close examination of the photograph reveals that he wears his hair parted in the middle, an affectation he had discarded by 1870.”
I don’t claim that it was my argument alone that changed the biographer’s mind. He also notes that identification of the original photographer helps to date the picture. And doubtless I wasn’t the first person to study the picture closely and come to the same conclusion.
But I feel vindicated!
Another comment I made (and Rosa obviously hasn’t yet come around on this) is that I think the pair of Colt pistols Hickok is wearing here are not Navies (.36 caliber) but Armies (.44 caliber). I say that just because I’ve done a lot of shooting with a Navy replica, and they have rather small handles, about right for my hands, which are also pretty small. Hickok was a fairly tall man, and in proportion to his size, those pistol grips just look too large for Navies, to my eyes. The grips on an Army are a little bigger.
The flaw in this theory is that it’s known that Hickok owned at least one matched pair of nickel-plated, ivory-handled Navies. But there’s no record of a similar pair of Armies belonging to him.
But this is my night for bold theories. So make a note that you read this here first, too.