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The Wild Wolf of the Washita.

From 1840 to 1887 Clay Allison lived a rough and raucous life in the wild West. A successful cattleman with maniacal tendencies, he gained a glittering reputation as a top gunfighter.

ONE OF THE MORE COLORFUL CHARACTERS OF the Old West was Robert A. "Clay" Allison. He is known to have shot up a town when drunk, with revolver blazing the sky as he raced his horse up and down the boardwalks; ridden through town without a stitch of clothing on, shooting at ' anyone who peeked at him; and thundered into court on horseback so as not to be late for the proceedings. He also killed several men, either by shooting them or hanging them. Historian Leon Metz called him a psychotic, deranged gunman. His antics earned him the nickname of "the Wild Wolf of the Washita."

Allison was born in Tennessee in 1840 (some sources say 1841) and served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, where he learned to kill. At first, he was unsuccessful as a soldier and was discharged from the Tennessee Light Artillery after just one year. The Artillery said of Allison: "...emotional or physical excitement produced paroxysmal or a mixed character, partly epileptic and partly maniacal." Allison enlisted in another unit that didn't care if he fought calmly or in a blind rage, and he proved to be adept at guerrilla tactics.

After the war, Allison drifted through Indian Territory to Texas and New Mexico. During that time he reportedly killed at least three marshals. By 1870 he had settled in Colfax County, New Mexico, where he established his own ranch. Along the way, he had worked as a cowboy for famous ranchers Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight, took part in two lynchings, and ripped a tooth out of a dentist who had drilled the wrong tooth in his mouth.

King of the Hill

One escapade I find quite interesting occurred during the summer of 1870. That was when Allison encountered a desperado named Chunk Colbert. Apparently, Colbert had seven notches on his gun and for some unknown reason wanted to make Allison number eight. In an odd twist of events, the two gunmen spent an entire day with each other racing horses (as Metz put it, "like little boys playing King-of-the-Hill") and then went to dinner at a local hotel.

Accounts of what happened during dinner vary, but the version I prefer goes like this. Sometime during the dinner, Colbert eased his revolver out of its holster, raised it from under the table, smiled politely, and squeezed the trigger. Apparently, the gun's barrel wasn't high enough because the bullet struck the edge of the table and was deflected. Allison then calmly and deliberately shot Colbert squarely between the eyes. When asked why he didn't just kill Colbert before dinner, Allison reportedly said he didn't want to send Colbert to hell on an empty stomach.

The Wild Wolf's Last Gunfight

During his wild life, Allison had a widely publicized encounter with Wyatt Earp in Dodge City in September 1878 and also survived at least four shootouts. His first gunfight was in 1862 while on leave during the Civil War, and his last was in 1876, when he and his brother were in Las Animas, Colorado. While attending a local dance, and after imbibing too much of his favorite alcoholic beverage (which he had a habit of doing), Allison and his brother were approached by Charles Faber, a local deputy sheriff. Faber shot Allison's brother with a double-barreled shotgun, and Allison shot Faber with a Colt .45-caliber sixgun, killing him. Thereupon, Allison surrendered. He was later acquitted.

By 1880 Allison had turned over a new leaf. He moved to Texas, married, fathered two children, and became a successful rancher. He died in a wagon accident in 1887.

He may have started out as a wild ruffian, but Clay Allison finished as a peace-loving family man.

Caption: Wide mood swings, excessive drinking, recklessness, and the ability to handle a six-shooter made Clay Allison a dangerous man. His antics during the 1860s and 1870s earned him the nickname "the Wild Wolf of the Washita."
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Title Annotation:SHOOTER'S SHOWCASE: HIPSHOTS; Robert A. "Clay" Allison
Author:Hutchcroft, Joel J.
Publication:Shooting Times
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2017
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