Luke Short in Sidney

By Dawn Graves


Luke Short, the infamous cowboy, gambler, gunfighter and army scout made news in many old West towns, including Tombstone, Arizona and Dodge City, Kansas; and was acquainted with such legends as Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. He was small in stature, liked to wear nice clothes, and was one of the fastest gunfighters around.

Short was also enlisted in the army at Fort Sidney, though he only served for 12 days. He'd be back to Sidney later, however, for less noble reasons.

Bat Masterson himself related that Luke Short had started what he called a “trading ranch” at the northern border of Nebraska near the Sioux Indian reservation, trading cheap whiskey for the Indians' valuable handmade robes.

The elders of the tribe became fed up with the drunkenness that resulted from the Indians' visits to Short's ranch, and called upon the government to put a stop to it, unless they wanted to deal with an Indian uprising.

In the fall of 1878, a company of cavalry from Omaha was sent in and apprehended Short, and rode back to Sidney to put him on the Overland train to Omaha.

The citizens of Sidney at the time turned out to see the sight of the cavalry escorting Short onto the train. Within that crowd was Short's whiskey partner, to whom he signaled to be prepared, as Short intended to escape and leave the country.

That very night found Short back in Sidney, having escaped, and he and his partner took off to Colorado driving a canvas-covered wagon pulled by a large number of mules.