The epic tale of outlaw Johnny Ringo
The Old West used to be a very dangerous place. You never knew when an outlaw would come to take your valuables. Johnny Ringo was one of those outlaws that wouldn’t even bother saying “Hello” before doing the deed.
There’s a war outside your door
Born in Washington, Indiana, Ringo already had some connections to the outlaw lifestyle. He was related to the James–Younger Gang via his aunt Augusta’s marriage to Coleman P. Younger. At 12, Ringo was a pro with the pistol. After living in Missouri and California, Ringo headed to Texas for a new beginning. Upon his arrival, he became good friends with former Texas Ranger Scott Cooley. Trouble erupted when Cooley’s adopted father was murdered by a rival gang. With Ringo by his side, Cooley ignited the Mason County War against the German mob. Following the death of friend Moses Baird, Ringo decided some payback was necessary. On September 25, 1875, Ringo killed James Cheyney, who led Baird to his demise. After years with the pistol, this was Ringo’s first murder. Unfortunately, he couldn’t savor the moment because he was quickly tossed in jail with Cooley. The remaining gang members, however, broke the two out of jail.
Home for the Holliday
In 1879, Ringo made his way to Cochise County, Arizona to continue the mayhem. He linked up with local outlaw group Cochise County Cowboys. For a few years, he robbed many banks and murdered countless people. On January 17, 1882, Ringo seemed to have met his match with Doc Holliday. The Georgia native was the catalyst for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which happened prior to their meeting. Before either man could pull their guns, they were arrested and fined.
Everyone’s on the run
Ringo’s behavior didn’t just anger Holliday. Wyatt Earp, who was Holliday’s close friend, wanted his head. Ringo was accused of crippling his brother Virgil and murdering his other brother Morgan. After murdering outlaw Frank Stilwell, Earp wanted to find Ringo and bring him to justice. Unfortunately, Earp would be on the run himself after a warrant for his arrest was made. Ringo teamed up with Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan in order to hunt Earp down. Both sides would clash from March 20, 1882, to April 15, 1882. In the end, four people were murdered, including Ringo’s best friend “Curly Bill” Brocius. Earp was able to escape to New Mexico along with Holliday.
A tragic ending
On July 14, 1882, Ringo was found dead at 32 following a bullet to the head. What led to his demise remains a mystery. As expected, many people pointed the finger at Earp. One theory suggested Earp returned to take out Ringo for his actions. Another one stated Holliday did the dirty work for Earp. While he was an outlaw, he was still appreciated for his accomplishments after death. “There are few men in Cochise County, or Southeastern Arizona, better known. He was recognized by friends and foes as a recklessly brave man who would go any distance or undergo any hardship to serve a friend or punish an enemy,” a Tombstone Epitaph article stated.
Ringo’s legacy can still be felt in various Western films, including 1993’s Tombstone. “I always wanted to play Johnny Ringo as a character who was kind of bored with life. Bored with Tombstone. Kind of past his prime. Bored with women, bored with drink. Real smart, but just bored and the only time he really got any pleasure out of life was when he was really drunk or in a kind of life and death situation, you know?” actor Michael Biehn told IGN. Even today, people still consider him an underrated gunslinger. While’s he not as publicly known as Earp or Holliday, Ringo still paved his own way into outlaw history.