The Texas Jacks

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There were two famous gunfighters who carried the moniker “Texas Jack”. 
John Wilson Vermillion, also known as “Texas Jack” or later as “Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Vermillion,” was a gunfighter of the Old West known for his participation in the Earp Vendetta Ride and his later association with Soapy Smith. 

Pictured right (L to R) Buffalo Bill Cody, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok and Texas Jack Vermillion.

In the late summer of 1869, Virginian and former Confederate scout John B. Omohundro arrived at Fort Hays, Kansas. He had only recently earned the sobriquet “Texas Jack” driving wild Texas longhorn cattle to the explosive railhead towns in Kansas. Texas Jack Omohundro would serve as a cavalry scout and on occasion as a lawman. 
John B. (Texas Jack) Omohundro
Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, the Texas Jacks and others associated in various capacities and came together on occasion in conjunction with various Wild West shows. Hickok didn’t like ‘play acting’ and separated from the shows. Texas Jack Omohundro, on the other hand, began his own acting troupe and toured until his death from pneumonia at age 34 in Leadville, Colorado.
Wild Bill and a small wagon party started for the gold rush in the Black Hills the same week that Custer and his 7th Cavalry met their end at the Little Big Horn. Out on the rolling plains, just south of the new gold fields that lay within the bounds of the Sioux Indian Reservation, a wild looking vaquero encountered Hickok and the wagon party. It was Buffalo Bill dressed in one of his fancy stage outfits, and he delivered the shocking news of Custer’s death to Wild Bill, a former scout for the ill-fated Lieutenant Colonel. This chance meeting was the last between the two long-time friends. Less than five weeks later on August 2, while gambling and drinking on a warm and lazy afternoon, Hickok was shot in the back of the head and killed by Jack McCall in the No. 10 Saloon in Deadwood, in the South Dakota Black Hills. He was holding eights and aces, still considered by many to be a death hand. After the tumultuous summer of 1876, Buffalo Bill returned to the stage for good.
Texas Jack Vermillion moved to Virginia where he became a methodist preacher, that notwithstanding, he killed a man in a gunfight in 1890 and ended up moving to Washington County where he died of a ripe old age.
As colorful as the Old West is, it didn’t last long. Just one generation. Then it was gone. The Army’s practice of killing off the buffalo ended the Indian wars east of the Rockies. Apache risings in Arizona kept the Army in the field a little longer.

16 thoughts on “The Texas Jacks

  1. Time for nit-picking Fredd to chime in: slight errors in the above narrative. 1) when describing a poker hand, always cite the higher pair first – 'aces and eights,' not eights and aces. 2) This combo is called 'the Dead Man's Hand,' not a 'death hand.'

    Glad to be of service.


  2. Another Jack of the period ws Captain Jack Crawford, sometimes known as the poet scout. He was an active participant in several Indian wars as well as a published poet. One of his poems, Rattlin' Joe's Prayer, is said to be the inspiration of The Deck of Cards, a hit for Tex Ritter. Texas Jack Omohundro may have been short lived but he did have one stroke of luck. His wife, Italian actress and dancer Giuseppina Morlacchi, was a real looker.

  3. Some later history. This ship was the last combat loss for my dad's bomb group on 04/19/45–

    My dad flew this ship his on his 35th mission on 04/16/45–

    My dad loved the game of poker. He was a product of his generation and frugal by nature, so the stakes were never high. Likely he had seen enough "high stakes" by the time I came along.

  4. "…one generation away.."
    My paternal grandfather won a bull riding championship in Texas at age seventeen (I have the newspaper clipping). That led him to him to joining a Wild West show where performed at Madison Square Garden and then England where they they were expelled for cruelty to animals (rodeo behavior shocked their gentile sensibilities).
    As a youngster it was related to me that he had jumped ship when the show passed through the Panama Canal and then he rode north up the isthmus, through Mexico, back to Sanderson, Texas where my dad was eventually born.
    He carried a Winchester model 1895 in .30-40 Kraig.
    One generation away, indeed.

  5. Sanderson you say. Charles Downie was my maternal great grandfather. I still have his Model 1890 Winchester 22.

    Mary Downie was my grandmother.

  6. The only problem that I have with you, Fredd is that you actually do know it all…

  7. As of thirty-odd years ago Wild West shows were still popular in some areas of the world.
    A friend of mine, Bobbi, was a trick rider and roper and her brothers did trick roping and shooting in Indonesia and other far away places for a Wild West show.
    She told me they almost caused a riot at one performance when her brother "shot" one of the indigenous members of the population (who was in on the act) off of the arena fence using a blank cartridge in his six-gun.
    The problem arose when the "dead" guy did not get up and take a bow.
    Bobbi said the crowd was getting ugly by the time their dead guy decided to come to life after her brother pulled him to his feet.
    The Wild West shows were very popular during the first several decades of the twentieth century. I knew an older gentleman, Quayle was his name, who shared his scrapbook with me. He had been a world champion archer back in the day. He and his brother dressed as Native Americans and did trick shooting with their bows for a Wild West show. One skit that he was particularly fond of involved a member of their troup, who was a real Native American, getting into an altercation with him and then running away. Quayle would shoot him in the butt cheek with an arrow as he ran away. The gag was that his arrow (he made his own arrows) had a small finish nail for a point and the runner had a wooden block slipped into his back pocket.
    There are people, our host included, who have lived amazing lives and with whom story-telling (after the statute of limitations have expired and oaths fulfilled) around a campfire would be a beneficial listening experience for the younger generation.

  8. I liked this bit of history …[the names are switched on that photo. It should be : “Wild Bill” Hickok,Then Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack Vermillion.]

  9. Good post, and yes, lots of history. My great grandfather on my mother's side was a ranch foreman in Texas in the 1860 and made drives up the Chisholm trail. I have his pistol and rifle in my safe.

  10. Comments on this thread are as interesting as your post. The history!
    Just finished reading 'We Pointed Them North' recollections of a cowpuncher. by E.C. 'Teddy Blue' Abbott

  11. Brig,
    You probably know Bobbi.
    Her family had a ranch in the Palo Cedro area of Nortern California.
    The last time I saw her was when we participating in a gather at a ranch west of Red Bluff about fifteen years ago.

  12. waepunedmann, I just might, if you want you can email me her name. cowcamp4bj[at]

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