04 October 2007
I've always liked themed albums where music is used to tell a story even if they aren't associated with a particular musical. One of my favorites is The Eagles, "Desperado". Today in history is the event that made the songs and back cover of that album possible. For those familiar with the album, it opens with the line, "They were duelin', Doolin-Dalton" and goes on to tell of the wild life in the outlaw gang and ends with the deaths of Grat and Bob Dalton in Coffeyville. Small aside: If I were a choreographer I've always thought this music and story would make a great story ballet.
On October 5, 1892 the Dalton gang made their last robbery attempt by trying to rob two banks at once in Coffeyville, Kansas. The citizens killed four of the five bandits. It was the classic scene from your favorite western. The good citizens gunning down the outlaw gang. As the gang was about to make their getaway, they were surprised by the town defenders. The five thieves shot their way to the alley where their horses were waiting and tried to defend themselves, but they were greatly outnumbered. In the gunfight that followed, all five men were shot, but not before killing a number of the townfolk.
The previous year in 1891 they had tried to rob a Southern Pacific train heading to Los Angeles, CA. That fact alone tells you that the very short history of what we consider the "wild west" (from the end of the civil war to the turn of the century) was coming to an end. Civilization was catching up with all the characters that became famous in the penny novels. The automobile had been invented and Edison was making movies
Emmett Dalton, who had been shot more than 20 times at Coffeyville, was the only one that managed to survive. He received a life sentence for the murder of the men who tried to stop him but was released a mere 15 years later. He lived a peaceful and law-abiding life until his death in 1937. On April 19, 1894, law enforcement officials shot his younger brother Bill Dalton, who was not at the Coffeyville robbery, Bill Doolin, The Bitter Creek Kid and Jack Boone finally bringing an end to the Doolin-Dalton gang. Emmett Dalton returned to the scene nearly 40 years later with this advice, "The biggest fool on earth is the one who thinks he can beat the law, that crime can be made to pay. It never paid and it never will and that was the one big lesson of the Coffeyville raid."
Better keep on movin', Doolin-Dalton
'Til your shadow sets you free
If you're fast, and if you're lucky
You will never see that hangin' tree