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A cockeyed character: Frank Loving was once a very famous gambler and gunfighter; however, his luck eventually ran out, and he's all but forgotten now.

COMMON KNOWLEDGE TELLS US THAT THE SHOOT outs depicted by Hollywood movies and television shows rarely occurred in the real Old West. However, one cockeyed character actually had two gunfights. He survived the first but died as a result of the second. At the time, the events were pretty well publicized, and Frank Loving was somewhat notorious; however, today he is all but forgotten. Frank Loving (1860-1882) was a gambler.

He was born in Missouri and later moved to Texas. By the time he was a teenager, he had begun making a living as a professional gambler. Eventually, he landed in Dodge City, Kansas, which was the scene of his first gunfight. Once settled in Dodge City, Loving often frequented the Long Branch Saloon, where he became associated with other well-known gamblers, gunmen, and lawmen, including Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Charlie Bassett, and John Allen. He became fast friends with gunman/ gambler Levi Richardson. He also became good friends with Long Branch Saloon owner Chalkley Beeson.

Friendship Gone Wrong

Although they were friends, Loving and Richardson got sideways of each other. According to certain accounts, in early 1879, Loving quarreled with Richardson. Loving, who was married, claimed that Richardson was making unwanted and disrespectful advances toward his wife. The two men taunted each other verbally until March 1879, when the tete et tete devolved into fisticuffs. After exchanging punches, Richardson reportedly shouted, "I'll blow the guts out of you, you cockeyed son of a bitch." Loving, who was not armed at the time, simply turned and walked away.

That little fracus gave Loving his familiar nickname of "Cockeyed Frank Loving." And the taunts continued.

By early April Richardson had had enough, and he strode into the Long Branch Saloon with an eye out for Loving. He wasn't there, so Richardson got into a game of poker. Later that night, Loving arrived, took a seat at a long table, and settled in for a night of gambling. At that point Richardson moved over and sat across from Loving. The two men were heard talking low to one another.

By all accounts, Richardson suddenly shouted, "You wouldn't fight anything, you damned son of a bitch," to which Loving calmly replied, "Try me and see."

Richardson stood and drew his gun, which prompted Loving to do the same. Both men began firing. Reportedly, Richardson fired five rounds, and Loving fired six, emptying his Remington .44-caliber revolver. When the shooting stopped, Richardson had been shot in the chest, the side, and the right arm. Loving was grazed on the hand by one bullet but was otherwise uninjured.

Loving was arrested, but two days later a coroner's inquest ruled the shooting was in self-defense, and Loving was released without charges. A local newspaper reported that the two shooters had been so close to each other during the shootout that their handguns almost touched. The shootout was dubbed the Long Branch Saloon Shootout, and although other gunfights took place in that saloon, this one was the most well known.

Luck Runs Out

Loving later left his wife and their children, traveling as a gambler, and eventually moving to Trinidad, Colorado. There, he quarreled with another old Dodge City acquaintance, one John Allen, who was working at the Imperial Saloon at the time. In April 1882 the inevitable showdown occurred.

As Loving entered the saloon, Allen immediately began firing at Loving while shielding himself behind another patron. Loving drew his revolver and fired one round, but missed. As people scrambled to escape, Loving's gun was knocked from his hand, and Allen continued to fire. Allen fled out the rear door, and after rearming himself, Loving followed, firing at Allen as he ran. Allen gave Loving the slip and went into hiding inside Hammond's Hardware Store. After some searching to no avail, Loving entered the hardware store, fixing to buy more ammunition. Allen shot him from behind, disabling him.

Loving was treated for his wound, but died five days later. Allen was later acquitted, and the incident came to be known as the Trinidad Gunfight.

So there you have it--the story of one Old West gambler who is known to have had two up-close and personal gunfights. He survived one, but his luck eventually ran out.

Dodge City to Trinidad

Sometime after the Long Branch Saloon Shootout, Frank Loving travelled from Dodge City, Kansas, to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and then on to Trinidad, Colorado, where he met his maker at the hands of an old acquaintance. Those wanderings took Loving approximately 485 miles.
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Article Details
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Author:Hutchcroft, Joel J.
Publication:Shooting Times
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2016
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