The reason Daisy Mae Farnsworth married Bill Flanagan in 1884 was because he was the only man in Wyoming who dared to ask for her hand.
No other man was brave enough or foolish enough to risk spending the rest of his life with a woman who could shoot better, ride better, drink better, and fight better than he could.
So when Parson Plumber finished presiding over their "I do's" all the men and nearly all the women in the cattle town of Juniper breathed a sigh of relief and went back to minding their own business which, for most of them, had something to do with raising, feeding, selling, or moving cattle from one place to another.
The one holdout was Meg Simpson, a widow-woman who had pinned her hopes on Bill Flanagan for her second marriage. Along with everyone else at Daisy Mae's wedding, she congratulated both the bride and groom, but in her heart, she was asking the Lord Almighty to favor her by letting Daisy Mae fall off a horse and break her neck so Meg could start wooing Bill back into her corner again.
Meg couldn't understand how Bill came to choose Daisy in the first place. After all, Daisy's first marriage to the Honorable Judge Samuel S. Farnsworth had come to an unsatisfactory end when Daisy discovered her esteemed husband in bed with Myrtle Jensen-the wife of the pastor who served the town before Parson Plumber was appointed to replace him.
Daisy shot the Judge through the heart before he could roll out of bed and when Myrtle confessed to the adultery no one could find any fault with what Daisy had done.
"A crime of passion," Sheriff Thompson declared when he refused to arrest her for planting her wayward husband six-feet under.
The grave was left unmarked because—as Daisy said to the folks who came to the funeral—"I refuse to spend any of his money to pay for a memorial with his name on it. I plan on forgetting that he ever lived and I hope that you all do the same."
"Besides," she added. "His money is now my money and I can do with it whatever I want."
Rumor had it that the Judge had gotten into the habit of beating Daisy Mae whenever he came home drunk. But rumor also had it that if Daisy Mae had one black eye to show for it, the Judge usually came out of it with two.
Even though Meg pretended to be mystified over Bill Flanagan's reasons for choosing Daisy Mae instead of her, the reason seemed fairly obvious to everyone else.
After his death and in his will, the late and unlamented Judge Farnsworth left everything he owned to Daisy Mae, including the house, 5000 acres of land, 900 head of cattle, the "Bar-5" ranch and everything that went along with it. Folks figured that getting his hands on all that money was too big a temptation for Bill Flanagan to resist.
To everyone's surprise, and to Meg's disappointment, it turned out that Daisy Mae and Bill Flanagan not only managed to tolerate each other, but to offer every indication that they had honestly and truly fallen in love.
But all of that came to an abrupt end six months after the wedding when two drunken cow-hands got to fighting each other in the town saloon. Bucky, the older of the two, challenged Tipsy to step outside and settle their argument with a gunfight.
Tipsy thought it was such a good idea that he pulled out his pistol and dropped Bucky dead right there and then.
Unfortunately—seeing as how confused Tipsy was and how he couldn't see well enough to shoot straight—the man he dropped dead onto the floor of the saloon turned out to be Bill Flanagan, who had just walked through the door looking to have a beer before riding back to the ranch.
While one of the men quickly rode off to break the news to Daisy Mae, the rest knocked Tipsy over and did their best to beat him back into sobriety while two others went outside looking for Sheriff Thompson.
"The Sheriff's in Cheyenne on business," one of them announced when they returned twenty-minutes later. "So, I guess we're going to have to lock Tipsy up until he gets back."
"No need for that," one of the other men said, in a tone of voice that made it clear he had put himself in charge. "We all saw what Tipsy done to Bill and so we'll have our own trial, find him guilty, and hang him up someplace where it won't frighten the children."
The trial took over two hours, not because the prosecution or the defense had much to say, but because everyone was having too good a time drinking and telling each other stories about what they had seen and what they thought should be done about it.
By the time the two hours were up, the sun had gone down and every man in town had squeezed into the saloon except for the undertaker who only stayed long enough to recruit four men to carry Bill's body outside and put it on a wagon so he wouldn't have to carry it to the mortuary on his back.
Not long after the undertaker left, the men shouted out a unanimous verdict of "Guilty" and proceeded to march Tipsy and his horse down the street until they gathered around a large Cottonwood that stood behind the town jail.
One of the men tied the end of Tipsy's lariat into a noose and threw the rope over one of the lower, stronger branches on the tree.
Other men tied Tipsy's hands behind his back, lifted him onto his horse, and put the noose around his neck.
"Sorry, Tipsy," said the man in charge. "But you're guilty of killin' an innocent man and justice must be served. As you know, that means you've got to hang. So, if you've got some final words, now's the time to say 'em, 'cause time's a-wastin'."
Tipsy was still as drunk as he had been when he pulled the trigger on Bill Flanagan, but even though he was still drunk, he understood enough of what was happening to know that the longer he talked the longer he was going to live.
"When I was ten years old," he began but he didn't finish the thought because Daisy Mae had ridden up behind the crowd, lifted Bill's Winchester, and placed her finger on the trigger to put a well-aimed bullet into Tipsy's brain.
Tipsy's horse bolted at the sound of rifle-fire, leaving Tipsy behind, swinging at the end of a rope that had turned out to be unnecessary.
Everybody turned around to see who had fired the shot and saw Daisy Mae sitting on her horse with her rifle still pointed in Tipsy's direction.
"Daisy Mae!" screamed the man in charge of the mob. "What do you think you're doin'! You can't go around takin' the law into your own hands and makin' yourself judge, jury, and executioner!"
Daisy didn't hear half of what he said, partly because everybody was yelling and making noise, but mostly because she was busy searching the crowd to see who had shot Tipsy before she'd had a chance to pull the trigger herself.
"Why'd you do it?" someone yelled.
"Because I had more right to get even with him than you did!" Daisy yelled without thinking through what she was saying. "And if any of you come to string me up for what I done I'll drop you to the ground faster than Tipsy did to my Bill!"
No one made a move in her direction and it wasn't long before the confusion died down, the crowd broke up, and everybody left for home—everyone except for the undertaker, who cut Tipsy down and hauled him away so the women and children wouldn't see him hanging there in the morning.
As he rode off, Daisy was still trying to figure out who would have wanted to shoot Tipsy as much as she did.
Several of the men in the crowd had carried torches to help them see what was going on but now that everybody had left, the town was as dark as the prairie that surrounded it.
The stars and a quarter-moon provided the only light as Daisy rode the two short blocks to Meg Simpson's cabin.
There were no lights showing inside when Daisy rapped lightly on the front door.
The door opened but it was too dark to see who had opened it.
"Good evening, Meg," Daisy said.
There was no doubt that the voice that answered was Meg's.
"Come in, Daisy," she said. "Good of you to stop by."
Meg didn't bother to light a candle so the two women talked and cried in the dark together until the sun came up in the morning.
"I know you loved Bill as much as I did," Daisy said, "and maybe you even loved him more than I did at first. But I've never loved a man as much as I love him now—until last night . . . "
It turned out that they had more in common than being in love with the same man. Both had come west as children on the Oregon Trail. Daisy had been left to fend for herself as an orphan when her parents died of dysentery at Fort Laramie and was raised by a schoolteacher in Cheyenne
The wagon taking Meg and her parents to California had broken down just short of South Pass where her father died after being kicked in the head by one of their two oxen. Meg's mother returned to Missouri but Meg went off on her own and by the time she was 20 years old she helped start up a food service in Green River when the Union Pacific Railroad came through in 1869.
Both had learned to ride and shoot and both had married and become widows without having any children, and both of them were ready to give up and spend what was left of their lives in some place like Denver, San Francisco or even St. Louis—anywhere but Wyoming.
When the sun came up, Meg went to fixing griddle cakes and coffee for breakfast.
"I'll stay and eat," Daisy said. "But then I've got to get back to the ranch. I've got to settle accounts with the ranch hands and get the cows and goats milked and how I'm going to do all of this without Bill, I just don't know. Since we got married, he's been running the ranch and now . . . "
Daisy started crying again and Meg stood up, walked around the table, and wrapped her arms around her.
"You're a strong woman, Daisy," she said. "You've done it before and you can do it again and if you need anything, let me know and I'll do what I can."
Daisy lifted her head and, as she looked into the eyes of her new friend, she began to consider a new direction for her life.
"Meg?" she asked. "Why don't you come back to the ranch with me? We could be partners and run the spread together. I'm sitting here asking myself why ranching always has to be done by a man when the two of us could do it just as well. Who knows, maybe someday we'll each find a man and maybe we won't, but why wait when we can team up and do it ourselves starting now? What do you say?"
Meg let go of Daisy, walked back around the table, sat down and began poking her fork into her hot cakes until she had broken them up into little pieces.
When she became convinced that she couldn't break up the pieces any smaller than they already were she looked up at Daisy with a smile and said, "Sure, why not? Let's make history!"
And they did.