The Bull Fight at Dodge
by Kirke Mechem
August 1933 (Vol. 2, No. 3), pages 294 to 308
Transcribed by lhn; HTML editing by Tod Roberts
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
THE first and with perhaps one exception the only real bull fight ever held in the United States was staged at Dodge City on the fourth and fifth of July, 1884.1 It was a genuine Spanish importation, via Mexico, featuring expert Mexican bull fighters and actual swording of the bulls. In defiance of the nation-wide protest which arose against this "barbarous celebration of our national holiday" the Cowboy Capital, as was its habit in those days, presented the spectacle as advertised and thumbed its nose at the clamor.
To A. B. Webster, a former mayor of Dodge City, goes credit for the town's unique sporting venture. It was while struggling on the horns of a dilemma presented by the necessity for concocting something new in the way of Fourth of July entertainment, that Webster was prodded by his inspiration. After a moment's consideration of the feasibility of the idea he made a hasty calculation of the expense involved and with characteristic frontier promptitude set out to sell his proposition to the town. Within an hour Dodge's business men had subscribed and paid in over $3,000. By the end of the following day the estimated budget of $10,000 had been raised.2
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Webster and his associates in the project of course had no motive other than a desire to make money. Certainly they would have scouted the imputation that any Spanish innovation was necessary to maintain Dodge City's notoriety as a twogun metropolis. Yet, whether they realized it or not, Dodge in 1884 stood in need of just the sort of lurid publicity it immediately received when the bull fight was announced. The days of its lusty youth were slipping away, and the town was drifting perilously close to the shores of respectability. True, it was still the home of Bat Masterson, then advertised as the killer of thirty-two men, but the outside world was gaining the impression that it had turned pacifistic.3 In spite of its past reputation and the fact that it was still only a fringe on the outskirts of civilization men were hinting openly that Dodge wasn't as bad as it once had been. Mostly this was innuendo, but a few Eastern correspondents were making copy of the gossip. Indeed, in June of that year one of them boldly wrote:
"People in the East have formed the idea that Dodge is still the embodiment of all the wickedness in the Southwest, and that it is dangerous for a stranger to come into the town unless he has a strong bodyguard with him. The impression, however, is a false one. Dodge is a rough frontier town, and it is populated largely by rough people, but they are not at all vicious. They are open-hearted and generous. I would have less fear of molestation in this wild, western town than I would have on the side streets of Kansas City or Chicago late in the evening.
"Dodge is a typical frontier town. Cowboys and cattle dealers constitute the bulk of the population. Incidental to these are hosts of gamblers and saloonists. The yearly `round-up' has not yet been completed. In May the cattlemen begin to drive in their cattle for the round-up, which lasts nearly a month. The drive this year probably numbered 450,000 cattle. Of these doubtless 100,000 will be shipped from here the balance being driven on further. Dodge is a lively business town. The amount of freight received here over the railway is enormous, as this is the base of supplies for the immense country of which this is the centre."4
This was the sort of publicity that had begun to undermine the town's reputation. It was insidious, all this talk of cow hands and round-ups in terms of big business. The glamour of the ranges was fading, to be replaced by statistics. There were Kansas writers, even, who used similar language. The Independent, of a town as far west as McPherson, could say:
"Dodge City is not the town it used to be. A few years ago at early candlelight nearly every saloon was turned into a public gambling or dance house.
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The `girls' came out from almost every nook and corner and solicited custom with as much effrontery as the waiter girls do for their counters at a church festival. It was trying on a man's virtue in those days. The cowboys, with a revolver strapped upon each hip, swung these wicked beauties all night and made the sleeping hours hideous with their profanity and vulgarity. This has been stopped. No cowboy is allowed to carry weapons, few dance halls are allowed to run, and gambling is only carried on in private quarters. The saloons are yet running in defiance of law, but prosecutions are pending against all of them." 5
No doubt this newspaper man believed he was doing the town a service in thus calling attention to its conversion. As a matter of fact he was unduly optimistic about these ordinances which the city had recently acquired. Dodge had not reformed; it was merely becoming conscious, occasionally, of its sins. The conservative Eastern papers, for the most part, were under no illusions as to its sanctity, and when the bull-fight story was released they lost no opportunity to point a righteous finger at its iniquities.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, calling attention to the fact that Dodge was distinguishing itself by introducing the Mexican "sport" to American soil, stated that the town "was previously known to fame. It is only a few weeks," it commented, "since the gamblers held the place in a state of siege for a week. Some two years since the town marshal was threatened with death. He telegraphed his brother at Tombstone, 1,000 miles away, who rushed to his aid by the first train. The two barricaded themselves on the public square, and with Winchester rifles deliberately picked off their enemies whenever they appeared. When the Santa Fe railroad was first built through the place the festive sports used to amuse themselves by putting bullet holes through the tall hats of passengers on the trains; and even yet the depot platforms are decorated with recumbent forms of dozens of frisky cowboys, sleeping off the effects of the last night's debauch, each with his huge revolver and full cartridge belt strapped around him. When the prohibition law went into effect in other parts of the state, Dodge City defied the authorities and the saloon keepers made up a purse and sent it to the mayor with the legend: `To be given to the widow of the first man who informs against a saloon keeper.' That interesting town might have sat for the original of John Phoenix's touching rural picture:
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"All night long in this sweet little village, You can hear the soft note of the pistol, And the pleasant shriek of the victim."
No matter what might be said to the contrary, this, after all, was Dodge of the Boot Hill as it still existed in popular imagination and as it was pictured by most Eastern news writers at the time of the bull fight. With some of the highlights toned down it was a passably good portrait. Nevertheless, the very fact that. Dodge City's business men were willing to employ the spotlight in their effort to capitalize the town's gaudy atmosphere indicates that the "first fine, careless rapture" was passing. The Wild West show and the rodeo, glorifying the American cowboy and commercializing his exploits, were coming into their own.
That they were thus helping to officiate at the death of one era and the birth of another Webster and his fellow promoters, however, were wholly unaware. With matadors to engage, bulls to secure, and an arena to build there was no leisure for historical speculation. In order to handle the business affairs of the venture they organized the Dodge City Driving Park and Fair Association. H. B. (Ham) Bell was elected president; D. M. Cockey, vice president; J. S. Welch, secretary; and A. J. Anthony, treasurer. Webster was made general manager.
The first and most important job of the association was to engage "the genuine Spanish bull-fighters" who were to be the main feature and principal drawing card. This Webster was fortunate enough to do through a Scottish lawyer of Paso del Norte, one W. K. Moore, of the firm of Moore & Sierra. Moore not only engaged the troupe, but he came with them as their manager. Also he served as press agent. In this capacity he apparently came in immediate contact with the antagonism the fight had engendered, and one of his first tasks was to pour oil on the troubled waters.
A perusal of some of the advance publicity Moore prepared indicates how cannily he undertook to discredit charges that the fight would be a cruel and brutal exhibition. An interesting example is found in an interview which he gave to the Dodge City Kansas Cowboy, wherein he compares bull-fighting favorably with prizefighting.
"Mr. Moore," said the Cowboy, "is a native of Scotland and has lived in Paso del Norte ten years. He is a professor in one of the Mexican colleges. He wishes to disabuse the prevailing opinion in the minds of the American people as to the nature of a bull
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fight. He says that fight is not the proper word; that athletic exhibition would be more suitable. There is nothing barbarous in the proceeding. The bulls are not tortured, the only weapons of offense used by the men being small darts. The excitement and interest in the `sport' (as termed by the Mexicans) consist principally in witnessing the skill and dexterity of the men in evading the assaults of the bull. Mr. Moore says it is an error to classify it with pugilistic contests. The governor of Chihuahua is a bullfighter and can handle the lasso with as much skill as the most accomplished cowboy."6
Apparently, however, Moore was not always consulted by the reporters. Contrasted with his assurance that the fight would be a gentlemanly and harmless "athletic exhibition" is another newspaper story stating that it was not unlikely that the fights of the 4th and 5th would result fatally to some of the matadors. This was ballyhoo of the most modern and approved style. The managers had advertised a blood-letting, and they knew what the crowds expected. But they felt credit the storm of disapproval they must make some effort to discredit the storm of disapproval their advertising had aroused elsewhere. Reports were being circulated that Governor Glick intended to stop the fight. This threatened to make serious inroads on the crowds expected from the East. The management knew that Glick proposed nothing of the sort, despite the pressure that was being brought to bear on him. Glick had friends in Dodge, and they reported the governor had said that if the fight could be held at another time he would attend. But they were afraid that promises of too much gore might prove to be a boomerang. There was, of course, in addition the unverified rumor that the mayor had received a telegram from the United States attorney's office saying that bull fighting was against the law in the United States, to which the mayor was said to have made the classic answer, "Hell! Dodge City ain't in the United States!" But this, too, if it occurred at all, was taken no more seriously than the Glick rumors.
While it is doubtless true that there was no danger of Glick's stopping the fight, he was subject to considerable criticism. Among those who protested most volubly was Henry Bergh, Jr., of New York. Bergh was president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and had had experience of bull fights before. In August, 1880, he had succeeded in stopping a
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bull baiting exhibition in New York City promoted by one Angel Fernandez.7
On the Fourth of July Bergh sent Glick the following telegram:
"In the name of humanity I appeal to you to prevent the contemplated bull fight at Dodge City this day. Let not American soil be polluted by such atrocities."8
On July 7 Bergh followed this up with a long letter of protest to the Governor:
"SIR:-While civilization is striving to extend its peaceful and benign influences over our prosperous and happy country, a spot within the boundries of your state suddenly invites notice, where humanity and public decency have been trampled under feet and the blood-red flag of barbarisim substituted in their stead.
"Millions of our countrymen, learning through the Press that the birthday of the nation, for the first time in its history, has been stained and disgraced by a Spanish bullfight at Dodge City in the state of Kansas, will be reluctant to believe the report. While the banner of our nation was being elevated in every state, town and village in the land, amidst the thundering of artillery and the shouts of a prosperous and patriotic people, Dodge City alone stands up and announces to the world that henceforth the tastes and habits of the heathen and the savage shall be inaugurated upon its soil.
"It requires no great stretch of fancy to imagine the solemn protest which the founders of this great nation would offer could their voices, now silent in death, be heard again. Perhaps it would resemble the following, in all respects, except the feebleness of the language I employ:
" `Fellow countrymen, after years of toil and suffering we acheieved national independence for you and yours, along with an almost boundless domain which seems to be the special abode of everything which a bounteous Providence can bestow upon its children. To-day, one hundred and eight years ago, a government was declared whose principles are based on patriotism humanity and progress. Up to the present time no act of that government has, by its own election, tarnished or subverted these heaven-born precepts.
"`In face of all these blessings, and upon a day consecrated to freedom and to progress, a portion of the young state of Kansas, ignoring all these benefits, elects to cast its lot among those few ignorant and effete states remaining in the world where a majority of the people still cling to the cruel and uncivilized pastime which you have to-day transplanted to your own soil.'
"Such, I say, might be the remonstrance of those noble founders of the republic who, dying, constituted yourselves and others the heirs of a nation, whose resources are boundless, whose people are educated, and to whom the ignorant and oppressed of the earth are looking for example and encouragement.
"The same telegram which sends this humiliating announcement into every home and schoolhouse in the land is intensified by the report, which it is sin-
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cerely hoped is false, that your excellency has extended your official sanction to this deed of retrogression, which strives to set back the hands of time to that period of the past when human government was content to stand still or move on only in the direction of cruelty, tyranny and superstition.
"That the rumor is as false as it is humiliating, is shared by every respectable man and woman in the land, I am certain.
"Americans, like all other people, seek diversion and amusement, but they are not willing to give over their country to the bloody and demoralizing scenes of the bull ring, a pastime which has, more than any other cause, corrupted and wasted the minds and energies of the Spanish race, until national stagnation and degeneracy are recognized in their shrunken territory, and loss of political influence in the councils of their sister states.
"In response to the universal sentiment of the people of thirty-eight states of our beloved country, laws have been enacted within them, and Kansas among the number, making cruelty to every living creature, however humble, a crime. As an evidence of the sincerity of this sentiment, your excellency may possibly remember the audacious attempt made a few years ago in this, the greatest city of the republic, to establish the degrading spectacles to which I refer, and how sternly and effectually it was rebuked and its authors sent back to their foreign homes, fully assured that America is not the soil where so foul and unhealthy a plant can flourish.
"The publication of the laws of Kansas, which I venture to here transcribe, along with an expression of your excellency's condemnation to this stupendous insult to your people and to every citizen of our country, would do honor to the high position you occupy and perhaps serve to recall the people of Dodge City back to that career of prosperity and power from which they have thoughtlessly suffered themselves to be diverted.
" `Laws of Kansas, 1879, chapter 81, section 264: Every person who shall maliciously or cruelly maim, beat or torture any horse, ox, or other cattle, whether belonging to himself or another, shall on conviction be adjudged guilty of a misdemeanor, and fined not exceeding fifty dollars.'
"I have the honor to be your excellency's most obedient servant,
"President of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals."9
Governor Glick did not acknowledge this until a week later, and then he put an exceedingly soft pedal on the affair:
"My Dear Sir:
"Your letter of July 7th is at hand. The bull fight to which you refer was rather a tame and insignificant affair, and while advertisements gave it some importance it had little or no importance at Dodge City or any place else. Your telegram in relation to the matter dated July 4th was received but not until after the performance had taken place.
"I am, my dear sir,
"Your obedient servant."10
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While Glick seemingly was unmoved by these and other protests and made no move to interfere, local opposition was not so easy to ignore. In Dodge City itself there were many who did not relish this new accession to the town's already lurid reputation. The minister of one of the churches publicly prayed that Dodge City might be relieved from this "stench in the nostrils of civilization." Nor was criticism confined within the church; some business men, even, while expecting to make money from the crowds, deplored the notoriety which they felt would hinder the future growth of the city.
However, neither Eastern sensibilities nor local delicacy weighed heavily upon the conscience of the Cowboy Capital. For the most part Dodge was enjoying the limelight without qualm or misgiving. It gloried in its sanguine past and was in no hurry to succumb to the soft amenities of civilization. It was getting a lot of fun out of this bull fight. It talked much and loudly about what was going to transpire, even though certain of its remarks were made with tongue in cheek. In the matter of the bulls, especially, Dodge injected a spirit of levity into the proceedings that would have been incomprehensible to any Spanish community on the eve of a serious bull fight.
These bulls the management had decided to secure locally. D. W. (Doc) Barton, said to be the first man to drive a herd of cattle from Texas to Dodge City, was given the contract. The grazing grounds were full of Texas herds containing bulls about whose fighting abilities and proclivities there was no question, and Barton's instructions were to choose them for their ferocity without fear or favor. Accordingly he combed the ranges with but one idea in mind, and that was to round up the most agile and pugnacious bovines the cattle country could produce. In the last week in June he delivered the twelve of his selection at the arena corral.
The public excitement aroused by the arrival of the bulls was exceeded only when the matadors put in their appearance a few days later. The citizens of Dodge were livestock connoisseurs, and after due inspection they were of unanimous opinion that. these bulls were decidedly ugly customers. "By nature," stated one observer, "a Texas bull is all the time as mad as he can get." The mere presence of onlookers "was enough to bring them pawing and plunging against the corral fence till the boards bent like paper and the braces creaked with the strain."
Describing these bulls the Ford County Globe said: "As some
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of them are liable to be numbered with the dead before our next issue, we deem it proper to give a short sketch of these noted animals, together with their pedigrees. These pedigrees are kindly furnished by the famous bull raiser and breeder, Brother Barton, of the great Arkansas river."11
Number 1 on the Globe's list was "Ringtailed Snorter, the oldest and most noted of the twelve. He has been in twenty-seven different fights, and always came off victor. Pedigree: Calved February 29, 1883; sire, Long Horns; dam, All Fire, first of Great Fire, who won big money in a freeze-out at Supply in 1882."
Iron Gall, Number 3, was "a famous catch-as-catch-can fighter, and very bad when stirred up." Pedigree: Calved March 25, 1880; sire, Too-Much Gall; dam, Gall, by Gally.
Of Klu Klux, Number 7, the Globe said, "He is a four year old, and next to Ringtail Snorter is the oldest noted fighter that will come to the front on next Friday. It is this animal that the bull fighters most fear, having laid out his man in Old Mexico, while playing `four you see and one you don't.' Pedigree: Got by Frank, out of Healy-Boy, who was given a commission in 1878 in the Neutral Strip."
Number 8 was "Sheriff, an animal that was never tamed or branded but showed good points in his past go-as-you-please fights on the plains, and since then has captured several prizes in different parts of the country."
Numbers 10, 11. and 12, were Rustler, Loco Jim, and Eat-Em-Up-Richard, all two-year olds. "Boyce has been training Loco Jim for the past month," the Globe reported, "and he will likely get away with his man. These animals are all sired by Ringtail Snorter and are the coming heroes of the day." The other entries were Cowboy Killer, Lone Star, Long Branch, Opera, and Doe. It was said of the latter, owned by and named for Doe Barton, that he was "a splendid formed gentleman, with well-developed muscles, and there is no doubt but that he will do good work."
This published list of the names and pedigrees of the bulls, containing allusions to persons and incidents familiar to everyone in the range country, was typical of the cow town's semihumorous attitude toward its Spanish-Mexican entertainment. The cow hands had respect for their bulls, and it tickled their fancy thus to dignify them with proper names. There was considerable betting as to the havoc the bulls would make among the matadors. Public sympathy
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was not wholly on the side of the bullfighters. While the cattlemen had a certain admiration for anyone with the nerve to engage a maddened bull on foot, they felt that their four-footed entries were about to do battle for the honor of the cattle country and were entitled to proper recognition and support.
On the Sunday preceding the Fourth Manager Moore and the matadors arrived in Dodge. Their appearance raised the town's interest and excitement to a fever pitch. The skeptics were silenced; the promoters redoubled their optimistic preparations.
There were five of these bullfighters, all native Mexicans.12 The chief matador was Capt. Gregorio Gallardo, a merchant tailor of Chihuahua. Gallardo was billed as the most noted of all the noted bullfighters of Old Mexico. Several Dodge City citizens remembered his having killed bulls in a ring at Paso del Norte some years before. He carried two swords, "used for dispatching purposes," with straight two-edged blades three feet in length. These, so Moore said, were made at Toledo, Spain. One of them, he claimed, was 150 years old and had been owned and used by Captain Gallardo's great-grandfather, once a professional matador of high degree in Spain.
The other members of the band were Evaristo A. Rivas, picador, inspector of public works in the state of Chihuahua; his son, Rodrigo Rivas, an artist by profession; Marco Moya, a professional musician from Huejuequillo; and Juan Herrerra, a musician from Aldama.
The newspapers, especially, waxed enthusiastic over the arrival of the matadors. They were described in phrases worthy the ingenuity of the most up-to-date sports propagandist. "They are a fierce lot," exclaimed one writer, "and fear is an unknown sensation to them. They have followed this avocation from boyhood. They have had many narrow escapes from death and have been seriously wounded at times. They understand that the people want an exciting and dangerous fight, and they are ready to satisfy them. Some day, they all feel, they will come to their death in the bull pit, but they like the life and would not be satisfied to leave it. Yet they are as intelligent a party of men as any person would wish to meet. Their all-redeeming trait is that they cannot be forced to drink a drop of strong liquor."
This last touch may have been inspired by Manager Moore. In his efforts to give a tone of respectability to an affair which its critics stigmatized as a return to barbarism, Moore continued to
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lay as much emphasis on the reputations his charges bore as exemplary citizens as he did on their records in the bull ring. Possibly he still questioned the reception Dodge would accord after so much talk of gore.
On the morning of the Fourth, however, any fears Moore may have had were set at rest. Before ten o'clock it was evident that the fight would be a financial success. As the town filled up it made a bizarre and colorful spectacle. Cowboys from every section of the Southwest were on hand, armed and spurred, and tanned by the prairie sun and wind, prepared to crowd enough excitement into the two days to last through the next six months of monotony. They had money to spend, and they had no difficulty in finding places to spend it. Dance halls filled with girls and gaming places sprinkled with gamblers were running full blast. The saloons were doing a capacity business. In the Opera House, the Congress Hall, the Long Branch, the Lone Star, and the Oasis, milling throngs of cowmen rubbed elbows with the hundreds of visitors brought in by the Santa Fe from the East. Correspondents for metropolitan newspapers in search of atmosphere made the rounds and, if one may judge from their stories, found no lack of copy.
By noon Dodge was jammed by eager crowds awaiting the appearance of the grand parade which was to mark the beginning of festivities. Cow ponies lined the hitching racks along the streets and were picketed in every available vacant lot. Shortly before two o'clock Former Mayor and Manager Webster, with Manager Moore of the matadors, led the procession to the fair grounds. Behind them came the town dignitaries, followed by the famous cowboy band. Then, to the delight of the spectators, the bullfighters passed in review. In their red jackets, blue tunics, white stockings and small dainty slippers, they seemed, in the words of a contemporary writer, "the perfection of litheness and quickness, and were heartily applauded as their dark handsome faces looked on the crowd gathered along the streets."
The arena, toward which all faces were turned after the parade, lay on a tract of forty acres between the town and the Arkansas river, which had been purchased and fenced by the association. Facing a half-mile track, an amphitheater with a seating capacity of four thousand had been erected. In front of the grandstand an eight-foot fence enclosed the arena proper, which was one hundred feet in diameter. At intervals along the fence eight light board screens, or escapes, were provided, where the bull-fighters could
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take refuge when too closely pressed. West of the arena was the bull corral, connected with the main enclosure by a chute. Parallel with this chute was a wider passage through which the bodies of the victims would make their exit.
Before two o'clock the spectators began filing into the amphitheater." At least a third of the crowd, estimated at 4,000, were women and children. Since some of the ladies of the town were not remarkable for their sanctity a deputy sheriff had been detailed to draw a dividing line which should separate the demi monde from their more respectable sisters. The name of the frontier St. Peter assigned to this delicate task is lost to posterity, as are the social reverberations which must have accompanied some of his decisions. Immediately over the entrance gate the reporters and the band were seated, and at both sides sections were reserved for Dodge's leading citizens and their families. Opposite sat the cowboys and their ladies. The ambition of every cowpuncher, one writer reported, seemed to be to get a big fat girl and a high seat at the same time. "The wait before the appearance of the first bull," he wrote, "was filled with chaffing and calling of the usual kind, variegated with music by the cowboy band."
At half past two the work of driving the bulls from the corral into the pens opening on the arena was begun by Mr. Chappell, track horseman and tournament rider. He was assisted by bullfighter Juan Herrerra, who wielded a red mantle when the animals proved unusually refractory. When the bulls were safely penned the tips of their horns were sawed off and the ends rasped smooth.
At 3:40 a bugle sounded the signal for the grand entry. Amid the enthusiastic cheers of the multitude the matadors and picadors, four afoot and one mounted, came into the arena. They had changed into their fighting costumes and their parade had all the color of a pageant. Gallardo was magnificent in a scarlet tunic and knee breeches, with a green sash and sable trimmings. Rivas was attired in a yellow tunic trimmed with red, yellow knee breeches, and a white cap surmounted by a pair of horns. The other two matadors were dressed in red and blue. The picador wore ordinary cowboy clothes. They circled the arena, made their obeisance to the officials, and awaited the appearance of the first bull.
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The bugle sounded again and the first bull bounded into view of the crowd. He was a red, fierce-looking brute, and full of fight. As he passed through the door two decorated barbs were thrown into his neck, just below each horn. Infuriated by the darts, he charged madly at his tormentors. Gallardo attracted his attention and began to play him. Again and again, encouraged by the roars of the crowd, he drew the charges of the bull and deftly swerved him from his course with his mantle, escaping the rake of the horns by inches. After several of these preliminary passes Gallardo took refuge behind one of the escapes. The bull made a complete circle of the enclosure, then halted defiantly in the center of the ring and pawed the ground, covering himself with clouds of dust.
The other fighters now approached to display their skill. As they closed in the bull rushed, but the savage thrust of his horns met only thin air, and another festooned dart hung from his shoulders. Time and again he wheeled and charged, until his back and sides were decorated with a floating sea of colored streamers that reached from his horns to the end of his tail. The cow punchers forgot their girls and even the best citizens stood and applauded. The matador were in their glory. Here was an animal worthy of their mettle; one that gave them an opportunity to exhibit all the tricks of their profession.
This bull was played for thirty minutes before he tired. Then Mr. Chappell was called on to lasso the bull and take him out. When the animal had been roped, the cow hands, anxious for a display of their own technique, set up a cry for Chappell to throw the brute. This he attempted to do, but the bull was too strong for him, and it was all he could do to pull the maddened animal into the chute. Here the bull made a desperate rush at Chappell, grazing his horse, and broke loose. Finally he was tied and restored to the pen, furious but unharmed.
When the second bull was released the spectators anticipated another display of brute ferocity and human agility. But they were disappointed; this bull proved to be a coward and ran from his assailants, and was soon driven out. The third was little better, merely providing some exercise for the fighters after they had covered his sides with darts. The fourth also had to be dismissed. The fifth had even fewer fighting qualities than his predecessors. He became entangled in one of the escapes and was whipped out by a cowboy who sat in the first row of seats, to the derisive laughter of the onlookers.
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By this time the crowd wanted more action and began demanding that the first bull be returned. It had been announced that the last bull of the day would be put to the sword by Gallardo, and the cowboys wanted to see this highly advertised maneuver executed on an animal worthy of the swordsman's skill. Accordingly, the fighting red bull was lassoed and pulled back into the arena.
When Gallardo reentered the enclosure and the spectators saw him take the Toledo sword which was passed down by Manager Moore they understood that the most exciting episode of the drama was at hand. They were aware that Gallardo must repeatedly attract the rushes of the bull until the precise opening for the death thrust presented itself. This lightning thrust, as they knew, must be accomplished by one stroke made from directly in front of the animal as it charged, and must result in a clean-cut and instant death.
When the bull caught sight of the matador, therefore, a hush of anticipation fell upon the noisy crowd. As if it appreciated its perilous situation the brute charged at once and with redoubled fury. With a graceful sweep of his cape Gallardo deflected the animal's first rush safely past his side. The bull wheeled and flung himself again at the matador. Once more his horns found nothing more substantial than the elusive cape. Repeatedly he returned to the attack and Gallardo's escapes grew narrower and narrower. Then, suddenly, the crowd gasped in dismay and jumped to its feet. Gallardo was down. For an instant it seemed the fight was about to end in tragedy. But fortunately the accident had occurred at the entrance to one of the established escapes. At the moment when it appeared to the crowd that Gallardo was caught between the bull's horns and the high board fence he threw himself lengthwise on the ground at the animal's feet and crawled to safety behind the guard. The bull charged on the light boarding of the screen and almost tore it down; then, meeting no active resistance, backed angrily away.
Although Gallardo had received a slight bruise on his left thigh he immediately stepped into the open to renew the encounter. Bowing gracefully to acknowledge the plaudits of the spectators he signaled the band to resume the music for the swording. Then, with a pardonable touch of bravado, he slowly began walking directly toward the bull. Through bloodshot eyes and with lowered head the brute watched him approach. When the matador was almost upon him the bull charged. Poised, and with sword balanced
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for the thrust, Gallardo waited, but at the last possible instant, not finding the opening he desired, was forced to deflect the bull's rush with his sweeping cape. Twice more he parried the furious onslaughts. But at the fourth attack came the opportunity he sought. Swiftly the blade struck home, bent, and then penetrated to the vital spot. The bull staggered a pace or two, stumbled to his knees, and then sank to the ground.
"Thus," reported the Ford County Globe, "ended the first day's bull fight in Dodge City, and for all we know the first fight on American soil. The second day's fighting, with the exception of the killing of the last animal in the ring, was more interesting than the first . . . . The matadors showed to the people of America what bull fighting really was. No one could see it and go away saying that it was not a genuine bull fight. It was not that tortuous or inhuman punishment inflicted upon wild animals as the term `bull fighting' would seem to imply, save and except the single animal that was killed. The punishment, tortures or cruelty was even less than that inflicted upon animals in the branding pen."
In the face of strictures by an unsympathetic press, both in Kansas and the East, the Globe's statement expresses the reaction of Dodge City's citizens to their first and only bull fight. What the more inarticulate cowboys thought of this Spanish entertainment can only be a matter of conjecture. That they enjoyed themselves may be surmised from a news item which appeared in the Larned Optic a few days after the fight:
"Quite a number of our boys visited Dodge last week to see the bull fight. Some of them returned looking as though they had had a personal encounter with the animals."14
1. Under Spanish rule there were many bullfights bull-and-bear fights, and similar spectacles in the Southwest. There are vague references to fights along the Texas and Louisiana borders at a later period. Despite the opposition of humane societies there have since been numerous attempts to introduce bull fighting in the United States. On July 31, 1880, a Spaniard held a steer baiting in New York City "when " according to the New York SemiWeekly Tribune, August 3, Texas steers showed their docility and good breeding." Rubber caps were fitted on the horns and the matadors were not permitted to harm the animals. Henry Bergh, Jr., president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, attended and stopped further exhibitions. In 1895 managers of an exposition at Atlanta Ga. sold a Mexican collage concession in the knowledge that bull fighting would be the principal attraction. Protests brought about a cancellation, although, according to the New York Tribune, October 9, 1895, bull fighters, bulls and horses were on their way from Mexico. Cripple Creek, Colo., shares honors with Dodge City for the only fights where bulls were actually sworded, so far as the writer has been able to discover. On August 24 and 25, 1895, three bulls were killed in the ring in a particularly brutal manner, in the presence of excursion crowds from Colorado Springs and Denver. Contrary to the procedure at Dodge City, no attempt, apparently, was made to secure animals that would fight. Docile Hereford bulls were cut to pieces trying to escape. (Denver Republican, August 26, 1895.) The Humane Society, much criticised, later stopped a fight one of the same promoters attempted to hold in Denver. At Omaa, Neb. on July 9, 1901 according to the New York Tribune of July 10, seven thousand attended a bull fight attracted by the goring of a matador the preceding day, which the Mexican fighters said, could have been prevented if they had not been prohibited from harming the bulls. On November 27, 1902, unarmed Mexican matadors gave a "pleasing demonstration in Kansas City, Mo., following many protests. Kansas City Star articles of that week indicate that these same fighters had appeared in Wichita, St. Louis and other cities. There are many references in more recent years to "mild," "modified," "mock," "burlesque" and "bloodless" fights. (See New York Times: February 22, 1922 ; May 26, June 24 29, August 17, 24, 1923 ; August 18 19 and 20 1924 ; February 24, 1925 ; January 4, 1926; and February 5 1927.) In 1930 Sidney Franklin, famous American bull fighter, proposed to stage a fight in Newark. Because of his prominence the proposal drew criticism from all over the country and he was forced to give up the project. (New York Times, November 21 to 25, 1930.)
2. Kansas Cowboy, Dodge City, July 12 1884. In this issue the Cowboy reprinted articles from the New York Herald and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, both papers having sent special correspondents to report the fight.
3. In February, 1933, H. B. Bell, of Dodge City, and D. W. Barton, of Ingalls, who knew Masterson well while he lived in Dodge City, both stated to the writer that Masterson may have killed three men, but neither was certain of more than one.
4. Kansas Cowboy, July 12, 1884.
5. The McPherson Independent, July 9, 1884. The Independent, however, held no brief for Dodge City, for in its issue of July 2 1884, it had reported: "At Dodge City last week an employee of the Santa Fe road entered complaint against the saloon keepers. As a consequence he got badly pounded, had one eye punched out, was arrested and fined $50 for disturbing the peace and while looking for a bondsman he was rotten egged. Dodge City is the banner antiprohibition city of Kansas."
6. Kansas Cowboy, July 12, 1854.
7. See Footnote 1.
8. Telegram from Henry Bergh, Jr., New York City, to Gov. George w. Glick, July. 4 1884.-"Correspondence of Kansas Governors," Archives division, Kansas Historical Society.
9. Letter from Henry Bergh, Jr., New York City, to Gov. George w. Glick, July 7, 1884. Ibid.
10. Letter from Gov. George W Glick, July 14, 1884. Ibid.
11. Ford County Globe, Dodge City, July 1, 1884.
12. Kansas Cowboy, July 12, 1884.
13. The description here given is a composite of contemporaneous newspaper accounts. The reporters did not see the action in the ring with the same eyes, any more than do our modern sports broadcasters. Newspapers used were: Kansas Cowboy, July 12, 1884, in which the New York Herald and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat stories were reprinted; the Dodge City Democrat, July 5, 1884; and the Ford County Globe, July 8, 1884.
14. The Larned Optic, July 11, 1884.