Today, having an undesirable next-door-neighbor can be a real pain. As you’ll see, in the Old West it could be deadly.
Born in Illinois in 1828, Edward T. Beard headed out west to become a terror in California, Oregon and Arizona. In his mid forties, Ed Beard landed in Wichita, Kansas and opened a bawdy house. He was now an overweight, six-foot tall man with red hair and mustache. People called him “Big Red.”
Next door to Big Red’s place was a saloon owned by Rowdy Joe Lowe. Although Rowdy Joe wasn’t necessarily of stellar character, he wasn’t a troublemaker. Big Red, on the other hand, was. In June of 1873, a couple of soldiers were shot in Big Red’s place. When members of the 6th Cavalry came to avenge the shooting, neighbor Rowdy Joe’s place was almost destroyed.
But the coup de grace came the evening of October 27. Big Red, as was his habit, was drunk. Now, it’s not known exactly what the problem was, but during the evening, Big Red shot his pistol through the window of Rowdy Joe’s establishment, grazing Rowdy Joe’s neck.
Within minutes, Rowdy Joe was in Big Red’s place carrying a shotgun. “Who shot me?” demanded Rowdy Joe. “I done it,” responded Big Red. With that both barrels of Rowdy Joes’ shotgun went off. Fortunately, it was pointed toward the ceiling. Big Red responded by snapping off a round with his pistol. But it misfired. Before he could fire again, Rowdy Joe had ducked out the door.
Rowdy Joe headed back to his tavern; reloaded his shotgun; and went back into the street looking for Big Red. Big Red was also in the street. A blast from Rowdy Joe’s shotgun stopped Big Red in his tracks.
Rowdy Joe turned himself in, and was found not guilty. And, with the problem gone, the neighborhood returned to that of a typical frontier cattle town.