How did “being heeled” come to mean “being armed?”
Pleasant View, Utah
“Being heeled” is tied to the term “well-heeled,” which means having plenty of money (wearing quality shoes was a sign of prosperity). In the Old West, at least in theory, a person was better off carrying a firearm—and thus he (or she) was “heeled.” The term was first applied, in 1866, to gamecocks with spurs strapped to the heels, giving them advantage in a cockfight.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org