Badass of the month: Ben Thompson
I always make it a rule to let the other fellow fire first. If a man wants to fight, I argue the question with him and try to show him how foolish it would be. If he can’t be dissuaded, why then the fun begins but I always let him have first crack. Then when I fire, you see, I have the verdict of self-defence on my side. I know that he is pretty certain in his hurry, to miss. I never do. – Ben Thompson
This month’s Badass, Ben Thompson, was born in Knottingley, Yorkshire, England in 1843 and moved to the frontier town of Austin, Texas while he was still just a wee lad. As a teenager he worked as a printer for the local newspaper, but like any good honest slacker he eventually quit his job and became a professional gambler, which is a far more hardcore profession.
When Thompson was 17, he had his first brush of badassery when he was drinking in New Orleans and saw some French guy bothering a fine lass who was having none of this advances. Thompson confronted the guy who instantly whipped out some wussy little knife, Thompson busted out a Crocodile Dundee knife, and Thompson knives the guy to death. He was aquitted of all charges.
In 1860 he returned to Austin with his brother and enlisted in the Texas Rangers Battalion (which was a group of guys who really can’t be any more badass). They spent the next few months cruising around the Wild West fighting criminals and Comanche war parties and Mexican guerillas whenever they popped up and launched attacks. Needless to say, Thompson and his crew won all their battles.
Thompson then joined the Confederate Army during the War of Northern Aggression, and served as a cavalryman. He was wounded in action 3 times, killed a mess Sergeant over something quite stupid, and even shot a teamster who was trying to steal an Army mule. He served honorably, was discharged, took a few months off in 1863 to get married.
After the war, Thompson headed home to Austin, but as is the case with most badasses, trouble followed him. Some afternoon, a guy busted out a shotgun and tried to shoot Thompson, but he quick-drew him and popped him 3 times in the forehead before the guy hit the ground. He was dispatched to prison, sentenced to hard labor. Ouch.
However, because his name was Ben Freakin’ Thompson, he bribed two guards and broke out of jail in the middle of the night. He stopped by his house, said goodbye to his family and split for Mexico where he served as a mercenary in the army of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.
He fought in the Imperial Army down there until Maximilian was caught and executed, so Thompson got the hell out of Mexico fast so that he didn’t see the same fate. He returned to Austin in 1869, but yet again, trouble found him. His no good brother in law beat the hell out of Thompson’s pregnant sister, and well, this did not go well.
Thompson went to his sister’s house, knocked on the door, the dirtbag brother in law answered, and Thompson laid him out with a vicious punch. He then popped him in the ribs with his .45 because he didn’t want to kill the guy so that somebody could take care of his sister. Thompson was arrested and sentenced to 4 more years in prison, but his sister never had to worry about her safety again.
After 2 years in the Pokey, Ulysses Grant pardoned him, and Thompson took his family to Abilene, Kansas and opened a saloon known as the Bull’s Head Saloon. He had some great success, but then some loser killed his business partner. The loser was Wild Bill Hickok.
He moved out to Ellsworth, Kansas where he and his brother got jobs as house gamblers. Things were going ok for the most part until one night, while Thompson’s brother was blind drunk, they got into a gun fight with some goons and while spraying bullets everywhere, he shot the sheriff. He was then arrested by none other than Wyatt Earp, but acquitted as it was found to be in self defense.
Thompson tired of this madness and decided to explore the frontier. He went to Wichita, and then Dodge City, but then headed out to Colorado where he met up with two other legendary badasses, Bat Masterson and Doc Holliday. The 3 of them were then hired by the Santa Fe Railroad to serve as hired guns and protect the trains.
When Ben, Bat, and Doc were finished having crazy adventures and beating the hell out of bad guys, Ben moved back to Austin and opened up the Iron Foot Saloon. He was well-liked and successful, and he even got a part-time gig demonstrating his skill with a six-shooter as part of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, which was pretty much the most badass job you could get back in the day.
One night Thompson and some of his buddies were hitting the sauce at some other guy’s bar, who happened to have a beef with Thompson. That owner came out, pulled a shotgun, and Thompson dropped him like a bad habit. Then the bartender pulled a gun and Thompson dispatched him with anger. After the cops showed up, Thompson was tried for murder (again), but acquitted on grounds of self-defense (again).
Thompson then used his reputation as an ass-kicker to be elected Marshal of Austin in 1880. Of course crime dropped dramatically, and legend has it that he didn’t like to dispatch his deputies, but preferred to kick ass by himself so he handled most issues. He even busted famous gunman Johnny Ringo (Tombstone, anyone?) when Ringo came through town and caused all sorts of problems.
Thompson got into yet another bar fight and somebody ended up dead (again), and he was arrested (again). He was tried for murder (again) and was acquitted (again). His law enforcement career was over, though.
Thompson succumbed to booze pretty bad, and his reputation went south when he took up his new hobby of stumbling around Austin in the middle of the night shooting out streetlights. One night, at a theatre, he was ambushed by a bunch of guys that had a beef with him, and Thompson went out shooting, killing many of the bad guys…though there were just too many and Thompson was killed…with his gun in his hand.
“Thompson wasn’t charismatic, he wasn’t good looking. He had thinning hair and a terrible mustache. And listen: Billy the Kid. Jesse James. Wyatt Earp. Those are great names. Ben Thompson? It just doesn’t have that ring to it.”
– Mark Kilmurry, producer of “John Wayne Never Slept Here”