Classic Gunfights

Shoot-Out at Cottonwood Springs?

Wyatt Earp vs. Curly Bill Brocius.


Click image above for larger view

March 24, 1882

Wyatt Earp and his men take breakfast north of Contention, Arizona, on the San Pedro, then ride south toward the Babocomari River to scout out possible hiding places of various criminals.

Leaving his brother Warren on the trail to meet a courier, Wyatt, Doc Holliday, Sherm McMasters, Texas Jack Vermillion and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson ride up a rocky canyon into the Whetstones. Seeing no sign of recent riders, Earp loosens the gunbelt around his waist. Horses and men are weary and hot.

The trail they are on is about 100 yards from the waterhole, and it cuts across a deep, sandy shelf. They can only see the tops of the cottonwood trees, as the 15-foot-high bank hides the springs from their view. Across this sandy stretch, Wyatt rides, coat unbuttoned, six-guns sagging low, Winchester in the saddle boot, Wells Fargo shotgun and ammunition belt looped to the saddle horn.

At the scent of water, Wyatt’s horse quickens and Wyatt lets him make his gait. Fifty feet from the spring, intuition brings Wyatt up short. He swings out of the saddle, loops the reins in his left hand with his shotgun in his right hand and walks forward. Texas Jack and Sherm ride behind Wyatt, with Doc and Turkey Creek Jack much farther to the rear. Another step gives Wyatt a full view of the hollow. Two cow-boys jump to their feet, one yanking a sawed-off shotgun to his shoulder, while the other breaks for the cottonwoods.

“Curly Bill!” Sherm yells in astonishment, before wheeling his horse and retreating.

Wyatt later remembers shooting at nine cow-boys who each “had a rifle at his shoulder, and every rifle...

The full text of this article is available to True West Magazine subscribers only.

Get instant access to subscriber content on!

When it comes to keeping the lore of the West alive, nobody does it better. True West readers get the no-holds-barred, straight shootin' facts about the West from our staff of experts and historians.

Save up to 67% off the newsstand cover price!

1 year (12 issues) - only $29.95
(Newsstand cover price--$71.88)

For even greater savings:

2 years (24 issues) - only $49.95
(Newsstand cover price--$143.76)

3 years (36 issues) - only $69.95
(Newsstand cover price--$215.64) BEST OFFER!

After subscribing, just come back here and register with us by clicking on the register link below.


True West Magazine Issue November 2014
Buy This Back Issue: Nov 2014


True West Magazine Issue December 2014
Buy This Back Issue: Dec 2014


True West Magazine Issue January 2015
Buy This Back Issue: Jan 2015


True West Magazine Issue February 2015
Buy This Back Issue: Feb 2015

MARCH 2015

True West Magazine Issue March 2015
Buy This Back Issue: March 2015

True West Site Guide


True West captures the spirit of the American West with authenticity, personality and humor by linking our history to our present. Whether you call it the Wild West, the Old West or the Far West, America's frontier history comes to life in True West, the world's oldest, continuously published Western Americana magazine.

Western movie fans, re-enactors, history buffs and road warriors, we got your history covered: outlaw, cowboy, Indian, lawman, gunfighter, fur trapper, miner, prospector, gambler, soldier, entertainer and pioneer. Check out these True Westerners now!

Product of the Month

The Illustrated Life and Times of Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp

"Your book is fascinating, coupling your powerful illustrations [and] tracking...from birth to Tombstone to the legend [Wyatt] had become;...even Wyatt would approve." --By Hugh O'Brian, of the TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp

"Hands down the definitive books on Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday." --By Allen Barra, New York Newsday