Luke Short was grabbed from behind and pulled off the boardwalk in front of the Oriental Saloon. He whirled and saw Charlie Storms beginning to draw. Luke pulled his short barreled Colt and fired. The .45 caliber bullet slammed into Storms’ heart, blew him backwards, and set his shirt afire. Luke shot him again as he went down.
He stood there a moment looking down at Storms, then turned to Masterson. You sure as hell pick some of the damnedest people for friends, Bat!
Luke Short, Tombstone, Arizona Territory Feb. 25, 1881
Almost all historians have depicted Luke Short as a citified dandy gambler, probably because so little was known about his early years, but Wayne Short, Luke’s great-nephew has changed that view with his new biography.
Luke, who left home at thirteen after cutting up the school bully, indeed, was fastidious in his dress, but for six years he was a thirty dollar-a-month cowhand on the dangerous longhorn drives from Texas to the Kansas rail towns. He hunted buffalo for their hides during the heydays of 1874-75, scouted and rode dispatch for General Crook and Major Thornburgh during the Sioux and Cheyenne uprising of 1876-78, traded with the Sioux and Cheyenne around Camp Robinson in northwestern Nebraska and finally was arrested for trading whiskey to the Indians for buffalo robes.
He escaped from the army escort which was taking him to Omaha on the train and made his way to Denver and never worked again except as a high rolling professional gambler in the cowtowns and mining camps all over the west. He was no slouch with a six-shooter, either. This enigmatic man was close friends with Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp and shot it out with some of the deadliest gunmen of that era.
“They called him ‘The Undertaker’s Friend,’ because he shot ’em where it didn’t show.”—Stewart H. Holbrook
Luke Short: A Biography
This is the first full biography of the famous gambler, and his story is told by his great-nephew, Wayne Short.
Here is what two reviews said about “Luke Short: A Biography”:
“Luke Short: A Biography” is an immensely readable account not just of the adventure-packed life of its subject — one that was brief even for its times; he was 39 when he died in 1893 — but of the period in which he lived. A friend of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, and a veteran of the Dodge City Saloon War, Luke Short roamed the West working a variety of jobs. He killed a man in Tombstone in 1881.
Wayne Short has worked with family records and recollections as well as published documents to chronicle his colorful relative. In an earlier biography for which Wayne Short supplied data, the author wrote, “Luke Short’s personal tragedy was that in less than 40 years he outlived his times.”
The Arizona Daily Star
“Wayne Short, the author who gave us those great Alaskan books: “The Cheechakoes,” “This Raw Land,” and “Albie, and Billy the Sky-Pilot” is back with a biography of his great-uncle, the famous Old West gambler and gunfighter, Luke Short. I rate the book a masterful job. It not only is the adventurous story of one man’s life, but also a social and economic comment of the period in which Luke Short lived, 1854-1893. Well done!”
Robert N. DeArmond
Historian, author, former editor of
Alaska Magazine and the Alaskan Journal
Wayne Short comes from a long line of pioneering people. In 1859, his great grandfather crowded his large family into ox-drawn wagons and headed West. They finally settled on the Red River in Texas where they farmed and fought Comanches and Kiowas. Most of this indomitable little man’s sons grew to be cattlemen, but one, Luke Short, sought out the boomtowns of the West and became one of the most well-known gamblers and gunfighters of that era.
The next two generations of Shorts turned west and north seeking new country and Wayne Short was born in Nadaburg, Arizona seventy years ago. He served in the Navy’s amphibious forces during World War II and made the invasions of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Philippines. He and his parents and two brothers moved to an isolated island in Southeastern Alaska in 1946 where Wayne learned to fish commercially and live off the land. Mr. Short has worked as a trapper, bounty hunter, cannery tender skipper, carpenter, shipwright, steam engineer, and commercial fisherman.
In 1954, Wayne brought his bride, Barbara, north to share their isolated life. They now have five sons and five grandchildren. Wayne has been writing and selling short stories, articles, and books for thirty-five years. Many of his stories tell of the remarkable but true stories of the adventures he and his family shared in Alaska. His latest dream was to research and write about his great uncle, Luke Short, the notorious Arizona Territory gambler and gunfighter who was a friend of men like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. In order to do the proper research, Wayne and Barbara moved to Tombstone, and in 1996, Luke Short: a Biography, became a reality.
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