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The following are from The Humor of the American Cowboy, by Stan Hoig.

Fly-Speck Bill, horse thief and murderer, was introduced to a vigilante’s rope one bitterly cold winter night. The committee, fearing trouble with the law, was at the coroner’s the next morning and asked if he would be so kind as to square things when he made his report.

“Well, I don’t know, boys,” the coroner replied. “Did you leave Bill hangin’ there in that tree all night?”


“That being the case,” said the coroner, “Old Bill sure would have frozen to death if he hadn’t got his neck busted. I reckon I’ll jes’ have to report he died from ‘overexposure.’”

Another coroner performed “assessment work” on the remains of a badly shot-up gentleman and found that the body was “rich in lead but too badly punctured to hold whisky.”

Other outstanding verdicts by coroners are:
“…came to his death from emphysema of the lungs, which might have been, and probably was, caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise.”

“…Came to his death by suicide. He tried to shoot to death at the distance of a hundred and fifty yards a man armed with a Winchester rifle.”

And upon finding the bones of a dead man, Judge Bean noted the bullet hole in the center of the forehead and declared that this gent met his death at the hands of a doggoned good pistol shot.”

One braggart cowboy loved to flash his gun by twirling it by the trigger guard, a practice which resulted in the accidental death of two people. One night the man disappeared and was next seen hanging from a cottonwood limb with a note from the vigilantes: “This is no accident!”

A cowboy once made the mistake of arguing with a trapper over whether wildcats had long tails or not. The trapper settled the argument by furnishing as his proof a Colt .45 revolver. The coroner’s decision was that any hombre who was crazy enough to call a long-haired, whiskey-drinking trapper a liar had, in a strong sense, died of ignorance.
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