Silver Tailings: Rattlesnake Dick

She calmly propped the now-empty shotgun against the door frame and walked out to her waiting horse. Once in the saddle, she rode south-west, towards Gold Hill, Nevada, name-unknown and directly out of the historical archives of the state.

Rattlesnake Dick’s big claim to fame was that he was a two-bit hustler and a thief. In fact, John Richard Darling had even stolen the nickname “Rattlesnake Dick,” from another contemporary and more successful outlaw of the time.

His name appears constantly in the local newspapers all throughout 1863. On May 16, while riding the Austin Stage, Dick managed to ‘soak’ a lady out of her watch and money.

With the proceeds in hand he set out on a drunken bender. By the end of that evening he was not only charged with being ‘drunk and disorderly,’ but he was also charged in the bilking of the female stage passenger.

Once he sobered up,  they released him, the ‘D & D’ charges having been dismissed and the petty larceny tossed because there was lack of evidence in the case. But this didn’t stop Dick from finding trouble of his own doing once again.

Shortly afterwards, he got word that a well-known town drunk from the Carson River area had been temporarily left in charge of a saloon. Not one to miss an opportunity. Dick sneaked in the establishment and way-laid the intoxicated man.

This time law enforcement didn’t have to go very far to find their man. After nearly killing the man and robbing his till, Dick went upstairs to his room and passed out.

And even though they found the drunk man’s wallet in Dick’s room, there wasn’t enough evidence to levy charges against the criminal. So, once again, they dismissed Dick’s case.

In August, Dick found himself ‘shanghaied’ into the First Battalion, Nevada Territorial Volunteers stationed at Fort Churchill, as the War Department was actively recruiting men for battle in the eastern U.S. When he told his wife, she grew enraged and a fight broke out between the pair and she ended up badly beaten.

Once recovered from her beating, she moved to a ranch along the Carson River near the fort. Having heard of her arrival, Dick rode out to see her.

As he walked up the steps, she lowered a double-barrel shotgun at his chest and pulled both triggers. And though gravely wounded, Dick managed to stagger back to the roadway, where he found a ride waiting, who took him back to the fort for treatment.

While Dick survived that day, he wouldn’t survive threatening the life of ex-convict James Warren, better known as Jimmy Fresh, who in August 1883, shot Dick in the face and twice more as he lay on the ground dead. Thus began the job of chroniclers as many would spend a life-time trying to unwind the real crimes committed by John Richard Darling and those he purposely confused with his so-called namesake, the other “Rattlesnake Dick.”

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