BEN THOMPSON WALKED INTO A BAR

He stood about five feet nine inches tall and weighed about 180 pounds.  He was often seen around Austin, Texas dressed neatly wearing a silk hat and dressed in a Prince Albert suit of the finest material.  But, don’t let the dandy look deceive you.  Ben Thompson was as quick with a six-shooter as anyone in the west.

            He had a slight disagreement with the owner of a local vaudeville theatre, so one night, just as the business was about to close, Ben went over to the theater and fired a shot from his revolver into one of the chandeliers that graced the ceiling.  Shards of glass scattered in all directions over the audience – which stampeded for the exits.  Ben quietly left the place without speaking a word.

The onl;y known picture of Ben Thompson as a police officer

            It got spoken around town that the vaudeville man was slightly upset and intended to kill Ben the next time he stepped into the place.  Ben only laughed when he got word.  Still, the threats kept coming. 

            So, one night while the show was in full blast, he took a good friend, Zeno Hemphill, to the establishment in question. 

            “Zeno,” said Ben, “just fall in a few feet behind me and holler if you see anything that doesn’t look right to you, but remember, I only want you as a witness, no shooting.”

            Ben entered a door that led to the barroom attached to the theater.  He noticed Mark Wilson, the bartender, and Sam Mathews, a patron, standing casually behind, and at the curve end, of the bar. Ben didn’t know that these two had been hired by the honky-tonk owner to kill Ben if he showed up. 

Thompson slowly walked along the length of the bar, then toward a pair of swinging doors that led to the theater about ten feet beyond.  Just as he reached the doors he heard Zeno behind him call out, “Look out, Ben …”

            The bartender was pointing a double-barreled 12-guage loaded with buckshot at Ben.  He fired, but miraculously missed with both barrels.  Before he could pump new shells, Ben shot him down. 

            Mathews had secreted a Winchester at his side next to the bar.  Ben saw Sam reach for the rifle and then, when he saw Ben watching him, Sam squatted down behind the bar.  Ben, rather than moving around the bar, took a rough guess at Sam’s location and fired through the wood in the back of the bar.  The bullet struck Mathews squarely in the head and Ben heard him flop to the floor. 

            Ben then walked back out the bar door with Zeno Hemphill behind him walking backward to protect Ben’s rear. (Source: Bat Masterson, “Famous Gunfighters of the Western Frontier”)

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