As a wagon train in 1864 stopped by the Platte River for lunch, they noticed a few Indians in the distance riding back and forth, charging, then retreating. Since the train’s horses had wandered into the valley away from the wagons, the Indians’ behavior seemed threatening. When the few Indians first seen became many Indians rising from hiding places, and racing on ponies towards the grazing herd, it was clear they intended to stampede the horses.
Anna Dell Clinkenbeard’s father stood in front of his wagon, at the head of the rest. Seeing the danger he quietly called his two grazing horses to come, and they instantly obeyed. As he led them back towards his wagon, other horses they passed in transit turned and followed until other men in the train rushed forward to secure their mounts.
By the time the onrushing Indians came to the train they found armed men awaiting. Foiled in their desire to steal, they became docile. Had it not been that Anna’s dad coolly and quickly called his horses, then marched them back through the others, disaster may have supervened. We cannot tell when the action of one, or a few, people can change the day. Diary – Anna Del Clinkenbeard – Journey Across Prairies to Oregon. From The Paper, November 28, 2013.
On June 22, 1881, a saloon in Tombstone, Arizona, decided a barrel of whiskey was too bad to drink. They rolled the offending barrel into the street to prepare for its return to the manufacturer. They popped the bunghole to measure the amount still in the barrel. Unfortunately, a man in the group lit a cigar and a spark from it fell into the bunghole. A massive explosion began a fire that turned four downtown city blocks of wooden buildings into ruins.
Unscrupulous owners of the Townsite Company immediately hired loafers and drifters to move on the vacant lots—possession being 9/10 of the law—and it seemed that Tombstone would experience another kind of explosion, with fire erupting from pistols. The dispossessed owners demanded protection. Ben Sippy, then town chief of police had left town on June 6 “for a two-week leave of absence.”
They turned to Virgil Earp as his temporary substitute. He proved more than adequate for the challenge. With a posse of trusted deputies, including brothers Morgan and Wyatt, Virgil visited every lot in dispute to warn each lot-jumper to vacate and let the court decide who owned it. When some refused and retired to their tent, the posse lassoed the tent poles and dragged the tent into the street. The jumpers grumbled, but complied.
For this action, Virgil Earp was hired as permanent chief of police. In addition he kept his part-time position as U.S. deputy marshal. The Last Gunfight, 167-169.
The train carrying Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to winter quarters in 1901 collided with another locomotive. Several persons died in the accident. More than a hundred were injured, among them Annie Oakley, Geronimo’s “Little Miss Sure-Shot.”
Husband Frank Butler pulled her unconscious from the wreckage. In the hospital afterwards he paced the room, always returning to her bedside, watching. She teetered between life and death that night. He saw a remarkable transformation as she did. Her thick chestnut hair began to change color. It continued to change over the next 17 hours. At the end of that time the doctors said she would survive but might not walk or shoot again. At the end of that time, her chestnut hair had turned white. She did walk again. She did shoot again. Two years later she appeared at the traps of a New Jersey gun club. She called, “Pull”, instantly cradled the gun to her shoulder and splintered the target. Annie Oakley smiled and said, “...Good as ever!” But she was never again the chestnut-haired woman. Without her knowledge, under duress she had never before experienced, those 17 hours hovering between life and death aged her body, if not her shooting skill. Crisis can prematurely age us. Great American Folklore, 491-492.