How wild was the wild west in 1965?

In Dodge City, there hadn’t been a fatal shootout in 10 years

While most people are more used to getting the hell out of Dodge, Patrick O’Donovan went the other way for the Observer Magazine, looking to explore the wild west (‘In Search of Dodge City’, 3 October 1965).

The wild west was a ‘beautiful, false and most potent legend’ impossible to define geographically, said O’Donovan, but ‘if one has to be arbitrary about it, the wild west is the Central Plain of the United States’. Not all of it was cattle – ‘It farms and mines and sprouts industries’ – but Dodge City, ‘now almost suburban, is still a great cattle centre and it cherishes the memory of its lawless and outrageous past’. Gun fights were a rarity, he said – the last fatal fighting was 10 years ago. Now the guns were used for target practice, as a yellow ‘Slow’ road sign riddled with bullet-holes attested.

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