Bodie, July 1881—The early morning hours found deputy constables Richard O’Malley and James Monahan patrolling the streets of the mining town of more than 5,000 residents in mountains immediately east of the Sierra. Bob Watson and George Center happened by. A young miner, Center was “quiet when sober,” said the Daily Free Press, “but when full of liquor he is a sweeping whirlwind on the downhill grade.” After a late night of drinking he was now “comparatively full.” He was also armed with two Colt Lightnings.
While Watson stopped to talk with the two officers, Center continued on. O’Malley watched him go but then decided that he should follow until the inebriated miner reached home. At the intersection of Green and Wood streets, Center pulled out his revolvers and greeted the break of day with a two-gun salute. When O’Malley caught up with him, Center was standing in the intersection with his hands in his overcoat pockets. “You’ve been shooting. Give me your pistols,” demanded O’Malley.
Center pulled his hands out of his pockets. Each hand held a Colt. “No son of a bitch will take my pistols,” he exclaimed.
Looking into the muzzles of the revolvers, O’Malley slowly backed away. When he was some 15...