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Saturday, 23 June 2018

Wild West Campaign Update: Election Time



In our last session, the town of Tombstone is gearing up for the 1880 election.  On the federal level, it's Garfield (R) verus Hancock(D). If you don't know how that turns out, you can always get spoilers on wikipedia.




But what was far more pressing in Tombstone were the local elections for Pima County.  The Democrats had very significant power in the region and were rigging the game in their favor. By this year Tombstone had become (almost overnight) a very significant location, and the Democrats sent over opportunistic fast-talker Johnny Behan to make certain that Tombstone went to the Democratic party.
He had made an alliance with the Cowboy gang and with local town magnate Crazy Miller (who had until then been a life-long Republican). Curly Bill Brocius, one of the commanders of the Cowboys, was given the title of electoral official, and the plan was to use local cowboy-controlled saloons as polling stations, with Miller's Argent Saloon being one of them. Pre-marked ballots would be given to everyone who came in with the agreement that if they used this ballot they would be given a free beer. Of course, this was illegal but it was also very common practice at the time.

Meanwhile, taciturn Republican newspaper editor John Clum was leading the charge for the Republicans; but he lacked any real style at campaigning, so on the advice of Kid Taylor (who had himself been a lifelong Democrat until now) he recruited Morgan Earp to take charge of managing the campaign. Morgan could make a pretty good show of publicity to nearly match Behan's showmanship.



Meanwhile, Kid Taylor took to trying to cause dissention in the Cowboy ranks by playing Ike Clanton against Curly Bill. The only problem was that Ike was a coward, and when Curly Bill intimidated him he squealed like a pig. Infuriated, Curly Bill planned to have Taylor shot by Johnny Ringo, but when Crazy Miller heard about this he intervened, and managed to prevent Taylor's assassination.

Unfortunately, things were about to get more complicated. Curly Bill had been steadily developing a serious opium problem, and ignoring pleas from his more coherent comrades to moderate himself.  One night only two weeks from the election, he'd gotten himself drunk and stoned and started firing his pistol in the street. When Fred White, the town marshall who had been trying so hard to keep the peace in town by turning a blind eye to some of the cowboy's bad-behavior, tried to get him to disarm, there was a slight tussle and Curly Bill shot him at point-blank range in the gut.




Jackson and Wyatt Earp were close-by; Earp pistol-whipped Curly Bill while Jackson disarmed him. A mob quickly formed demanding that Curly Bill hang, revealing how many of the regular townsfolk resented the Cowboys. But Wyatt drew his gun and held off the angry crowd.  Doctor Goodfellow and Kid Taylor were close-by and rushed to attend to Fred White, though they both immediately realized that he'd be almost impossible to save.

Morgan Earp showed up then, and with Wyatt and Jackson they dragged the unconscious Curly Bill through the street toward the jailhouse, while Goodfellow and Taylor had Fred White carried to their medical office.
As the lawmen were carrying Curly Bill, a half-dozen Cowboys came along, including Indian Charlie Cruz, Sherman McMaster, and Johnny Ringo. They fired some warning shots, demanding that the Earps hand over Curly Bill so they could get him out of town. The Earps were unwilling to hand him over.

Sherman McMaster warned them "there's six of us and only three of you."

"Four", they heard, as Doc Holliday appeared almost as if out of nowhere.

Johnny Ringo stared him down. "He's drunk. He's probably seeing double."

Doc drew a second pistol. "I have two guns, one for each of you."



Just then Crazy Miller and Other Miller showed up, evening up the odds even more. The Cowboys decided they'd need to make a retreat. "This ain't finished, lunger" said Johnny Ringo.

"Just say when", Doc replied.



While the Earps got Curly Bill behind bars, the Cowboys had holed up in the pool hall; Wyatt sent Crazy Miller over to talk them down. He arrived at the same time as Johnny Behan, who had a vested interest in avoiding bloodshed this close to the election. They convinced the cowboys to do it Behan's way. He promised them Curly Bill would be a free man well before election day.

Doctor Goodfellow and Kid Taylor did all they could, but there was no saving Fred White. Other Miller and Goodfellow spoke out to the mob, convincing them that Fred would have wanted Curly Bill to go to trial and everything being done the legal way.

Within two days, a Judge in the Democrat's pockets came to town to hold a speedy trial. The Earps and the PCs had comisserated over the possibility of sinking Curly Bill with Wyatt and Jackson's eyewitness testimony, but Wyatt would have none of it. He wasn't going to lie under oath, and anyways, he reckoned, the Cowboys without Curly Bill to keep them in line would just go wild. And Wyatt more than anything wanted to avoid that; he repeated his oft-spoken mantra that he was only in Tombstone to get rich and live easy.

In the end, the high-priced lawyer that Behan got for Curly Bill (on Crazy Miller's recommendation) made sure there was no chance of failure, they got a third witness who not only confirmed the testimony of Wyatt's and Jackson's, but stated that from their line of sight, it was clear that Curly Bill's gun discharged accidentally when Fred White grabbed his arm.

Bill was a free man, and by then (only three days after White's death) the people of Tombstone had lost their nerve. They'd remembered how dangerous the Cowboys were, and for now any thought of driving them out had been suppressed.



But the PCs hadn't forgotten. Even though for the last several months it seemed some of them were going back and forth about the Cowboys, Fred White's death seemed to bring them together. They knew something had changed in Tombstone, and that now (sooner or later) a conflict would be inevitable and the Cowboys would have to be stopped eventually.  It was only a question of time.


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