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Frank Loving, sometimes called "Cockeyed" Frank Loving (1860 – April 21, 1882) was an Old West gambler and gunman. His two known gunfights were two of the better-known and well-publicized shootouts of the day, although over time they have become obscure.
Loving was born in Jackson County, Missouri, and later moved with his family to Texas, where his father died in the early 1870s. He began making his living as a professional gambler by his late teens, frequenting saloons and eventually landing in Dodge City, Kansas. Once settled in Dodge City, Loving began to frequent the Long Branch Saloon, where he became associated with other well-known gamblers, gunmen, and lawmen, to include Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Charlie Bassett, and John Allen, with a friendship developing between gunman/gambler Levi Richardson and him. He also became good friends with Long Branch Saloon owner Chalkley Beeson.
Long Branch Saloon Gunfight
Levi Richardson had a tough disposition and was disliked by most, but did get along fairly well with Bat Masterson. He had a reputation as a gunman, despite it being mostly hearsay. In early 1879, Loving quarreled with Richardson. Loving, who was married, claimed that Richardson was making unwanted and disrespectful advances toward his wife, Mattie Loving. The two threw taunts back and forth for a time, but with nothing more than verbal confrontations until March, when the two became involved in a fist fight on Front Street. After exchanging punches, Richardson exclaimed "I'll blow the guts out of you, you cockeyed son of a bitch". Loving, not being armed, simply turned and walked away.
On April 5, 1879, Richardson had evidently had enough. He strode into the Long Branch Saloon, specifically looking for Loving, but Loving was not there at that time. Richardson then settled into a game of poker, and around 9:00 pm Loving strode in. Loving took a seat at a long table, at which point Richardson moved over and sat across from him. The two men could be heard talking low to one another, but what was said could not be understood. Suddenly, Richardson said loudly "You wouldn't fight anything you damned son of a bitch", to which Loving said calmly "Try me and see".
Richardson stood and drew his gun, which prompted Loving to do the same. Both men began firing, with Richardson firing five rounds and Loving firing six. When the shooting stopped, Richardson had been shot in the chest, the side, and the arm. Loving was grazed on the hand by one bullet, but otherwise was uninjured. Town Marshal Charlie Bassett quickly responded, having heard the shots, but his Deputy Marshal Duffey arrived first, taking hold of Richardson just before he crumpled to the floor. No one else in the saloon was injured, and Loving was arrested per standard procedure in such a case. On April 7, 1879, a coroner's inquest ruled the shooting self defense, and Loving was released without charges. The newspaper The Globe later reported, "It seemed strange that Loving was not hit, except for a slight scratch on the hand, as the two men were so close together that their pistols almost touched each other". The shootout was dubbed the Long Branch Saloon Gunfight, and although numerous gunfights took place in that saloon, this would be the most well known.
Loving would later leave his wife Mattie, along with their children, son John and daughter Mintie, to travel elsewhere as a gambler. By 1880, Loving had moved on to Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he settled in to gamble for a matter of months before moving on to Trinidad, Colorado. There, he quarreled with John Allen, an acquaintance from Dodge City, who worked at the Imperial Saloon. On April 15, 1880, the two men seemed destined for a gunfight, but it was thwarted when friends intervened.
The next day, April 16, 1880, as Loving entered the saloon, Allen immediately opened fire on Loving while Allen shielded himself behind another patron. Loving drew his revolver and fired one round, missing. As people scrambled to escape, Loving's gun was knocked from his hand. Allen fired a total of three shots at Loving, two while Loving was unarmed and trying to retrieve his dropped pistol. Allen then fled out the rear door. Loving went in pursuit, firing the remainder of his rounds as Allen fled. Loving was unable to find Allen. John Allen feared Loving, and had gone into hiding inside Hammond's Hardware Store. Trinidad Deputy Marshal Jim Masterson responded to the shots, finding Loving still in the vicinity of the saloon. Disarming Loving, Masterson then went to find Allen. Unable to do so, Masterson returned to the saloon, only to find that Loving had rearmed with two more revolvers, and again went looking for Allen. Masterson again found Loving, and again disarmed him, then yet again went seeking Allen.
While Masterson was seeking Allen, Loving entered the hardware to buy more ammunition. Allen shot and killed Loving from behind, shooting from a darkened area where Allen had hidden. Deputy Masterson and Town Marshal Lou Kreeger responded and arrested Allen, finding him hiding in the back of the store. Loving, upon seeing Masterson, stated, "Jim, I'm shot". Loving was treated for his wound, but died five days later. Allen was later acquitted due to jurors believing that had Loving located Allen, he certainly would have killed him. The shootout became known as the Trinidad Gunfight.