Did Gunmen really make Tenderfeet “Dance” by Shooting at their Feet?

Marshall Trimble True West Magazine Tenderfeet Dance Did gunmen really make tenderfeet “dance” by shooting at their feet?

Jim Spell
Sonora, California

Making a tenderfoot “dance” by shooting at his feet was common.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote about cowboys in Medora, Dakota Territory, making greenhorns dance. The cowboys were careful not to shoot too close, lest they accidentally caused injury, reported Roger L. Di Silvestro, in Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands.

Clay Allison and Mason T. Bowman participated in a drunken fast draw contest; Bowman consistently won, according to a newspaper account discovered by author Leon Metz.

The men stripped to their underwear and danced with each other. They shot at each other’s feet to see who would jump or flinch.

Neither did. The contest ended without anyone getting hurt.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu.

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