But, sometimes they do come up
and when that happens someone is bound to start comparing
one with another and tell you which one was "best" (whatever that signifies).
How would you go about rating a gunfighter? There
are a lot of variables such as: How fast was he? How
often did he hit what he shot at? How many recorded
shoot-outs did he survive? How many people did he
kill? What kind of gun did he use? and so forth, and
so forth. The one thing that you really shouldn't pay
much attention to was what they said about themselves.
They seemed to have a slight tendency to exaggerate.
Take Wyatt Earp, for instance. We've all heard of
what a great gunfighter he was. But, the records just
don't bear that out , When you get right down to it,
there is no record that he ever, singlehandedly, killed
anyone. He's credited with five assists but, being "brave, courageous, and bold", he seemed to like lots
But, what we're trying to work around to is that
if you use individual results as a yardstick, then the
one that tops the list is a fellow you probably never
heard of -- a fellow named James Miller.
Jim Miller, who was known variously as "Killin Jim", "Killer Miller", or, simply, "Deacon' was born in Van
Buren, Arkansas in 1866 but moved out to Franklin, Texas
when he was a year old. When his folks died, he was
sent to live with his grandparents up in Evant and, when
he was eight he was arrested for their murder. They
never brought him to trial for that but when he killed
his brother-in-law he was tried and acquitted on a technicality.
Somehow, he wasn't too popular in the community
and soon went to work for Mannen Clements on his big
McCulloch County ranch. That's when his education really
started. You see, all of the Clements brothers were
involved in the Sutton-Taylor feud along with their
nephew John Wesley Hardin and from time to time the
ranch was home for such friendly folks as John Ringo,
Bill Taylor, and most of the Sam Bass Gang.
Jim learned his lessons well. When Clements was
killed in a fracus with a political rival, Jim shot the
perpetrator and then went for a tour of the Mexican
border until things cooled down. Down in San Saba he ran a saloon for awhile and then got himself
hired as a Deputy Sheriff in Reeves County. That didn't
last too long because he never brought in prisoners.
They were always killed while trying to escape.
After marrying Clements-daughter Sallie, Jim talked
his way into the Texas Rangers and became so active in
the Methodist Church that he took the name of "Deacon".
A few killings later Jim and Sallie found themselves
in Fort Worth where Sallie ran a boarding house and
Jim became a hired killer at the bargain rate of $150
a head. In between jobs he reportedly held prayer meetings
and attended to the other business of the church.
Jim ranged far and wide. His favorite weapon
was a shotgun and his usual tactic was to shoot from
ambush. In face-to-face confrontations his life was
saved more than once by a steel plate that he wore
under his shirt on a strap hung around his neck. If
you're keeping score, he was credited with a round
dozen killings (one more than either Wes Hardin or
Bill Longly) and he claimed that, "I have Lost my
notch stick on Mexicans that I killed out on the border."
In 1909 Jim killed his last man, a rancher up in
Ada, Oklahoma. He was tracked to Fort Worth, extradited
back to Ada and, along with the three men who hired him,
lynched in a livery stable. Killer Jim, the Deacon, didn't "die by t h e sword" but the rope served just as