February 25, 1881
Charley Storms has been playing faro since last night…and losing. As an Arizona morning dawns, a broke and drunk Storms takes out his frustration on the other patrons of Tombstone’s Oriental Saloon. Storms turns to a faro dealer, making a move to slap the “insignificant little fellow, whom,” Bat Masterson says, “[Storms] could slap in the face without expecting a return.”
The insignificant little fellow turns out to be faro dealer Luke Short. While Short may be diminutive and mild mannered, he is also armed and dangerous.
Stepping between the two men, Masterson collars Storms and guides him outside, away from trouble. Masterson accompanies the woozy Storms up Fifth Street to the San Jose House where Storms is staying. While depositing Storms in his room, Masterson urges him to sleep it off.
Walking back to the Oriental, Masterson finds Short and others outside on the boardwalk, taking a break and talking in the midday sun (it is around noon). Masterson is telling Short that Storms is a “very decent sort of man,” when Storms reappears, lurching out of the saloon. (Storms supposedly walked back to the saloon from his room and entered through the north door. Not seeing the target of his wrath, he exited the front and went onto the sidewalk.)
Lunging between the two, Storms grabs Short by the arm, saying, “Come go with me.”
As Storms tries to pull Short into the street, Storms pulls from his coat a cut-down .45 Colt, adding, “Are you as good a man as you were this morning?”
Instantly sensing the import of the situation, Short breaks free and ducks around the Oriental’s corner awning post, while also pulling his own pistol. “Every bit as good,” replies Short, as he sticks the muzzle of his pistol against Storms’s heart and pulls the trigger. As the drunken gambler falls, Short shoots again.
Masterson later writes, “Storms was dead when he hit the ground.”
Aftermath: Odds & Ends
Luke Short was cleared of murder charges, and he left Arizona for good. Several sources said Short was acquitted in Tucson. Cochise County was founded by that time, though, which makes us wonder why he wasn’t tried or held over in Tombstone?
Many editions of the Tombstone newspapers for the first part of 1881 were never archived, which makes it almost impossible to report details on this fight and its aftermath.
George W. Parsons’s diary reports that on March 1, 1881, “Another man shot this a.m. about four o’clock and will probably die. One armed Kelly by McAllister. Oriental a regular slaughter house now. Much bad blood today. Pistols pulled. Games at Oriental closed by [Milt] Joyce. Warm weather.”
The Phoenix Herald reported, three days later: “A slight fracus [sic] occured [sic] in Tombstone, Sunday night last, owing to one misunderstanding between one Lyons, (better known as Dublin) who was a partner with the late C.S. Storm in the gambling business, and Wyatt Earp. Lyons was ordered to leave town, which he did.” This newspaper is a recent find. Some Earp experts doubt its authenticity, yet it is an intriguing find, especially if C.S. Storm refers to Charley Storms.
We recommend: The Notorious Luke Short: Sporting Man of the Wild West by Jack DeMattos and Chuck Parsons, published by University of North Texas Press