Did some cowboys dig up a corpse and pour whiskey down his throat?

atm-logoDid some cowboys dig up a corpse and pour whiskey down his throat?

Marina Bender
Mesa, Arizona

That bizarre event began at the Wigwam Saloon in Winslow, Arizona, on April 8, 1905, when two cowboys, John Shaw and Bill Smythe, bellied up to the bar and ordered drinks. The bartender set a bottle and two glasses on the bar, but the cowboys had diverted their attention to a stack of silver dollars on a table where a dice game was in progress. The boys whipped out their six-guns, filled their pockets with the coins and ran out the door, leaving a trail of silver dollars.

In their haste, Shaw and Smythe had left their full whiskey glasses on the bar, which leads to the rest of the story.

Lawmen quickly picked up the trail by following the string of silver dollars. It led directly to the railroad tracks, so the lawmen figured the boys had hopped a westbound freight train. They wired authorities in Flagstaff to be on the lookout and then caught the next train heading west.

At Canyon Diablo, the lawmen encountered two strangers they heard were in town and cornered the cowboy thieves. A gunfight ensued. When the smoke cleared, Shaw was dead and Smythe was captured. The lawmen arrested Smythe, and Shaw was laid to rest in a pine box.

The following evening, in Winslow, some of the cowboys were sitting in a saloon, lamenting the fact that Shaw had gone to the “long sleep” without enjoying his last drink. As the bar talk droned on, they decided to have a “toast to the dead,” with Shaw as their guest of honor.

Loaded to the gills, they took a train to Canyon Diablo, armed with a Kodak box camera and a bottle of whiskey. They dug up Shaw and raised him out of the pine box, and then a cowboy poured a shot of whiskey down his throat, while
another snapped photos of the occasion.

Incidentally, Shaw was sporting a death grin, which made him look like he was enjoying the occasion.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu


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