Wild Bill Hickock (1837-1876) was born James Butler Hickock in Illinois and fought in the Civil War when he became so famous for his courage and marksmanship that he was hired by the army to act as a scout in the Indian wars that followed. In 1869, Wild Bill, as he was by this date known, was hired as a sheriff in Kansas. He solved a local crime wave by the simple expedient of shooting dead the gang leader. He then moved on to the cattle town of Abilene, the mining town of Deadwood and other troublespots. How many men he killed is unknown, but he curbed crime and disorder wherever he went. On 2 August 1876 he was playing poker in Deadwood when a cowboy named Jack McCall got up form his chair and shot Hickock in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Hickock was holding a pair of eights and a pair of aces, ever afterwards called the “dead man’s hand” in poker circles.
This is an extract from Heroes, Rascals and Rogues by Rupert Matthews