By Scott Cole
"The man who won a shoot-out was the man who took his time."
Wyatt Earp would finish a meal making a gunfight wait.
A true story of one wild west Marshall.
The lone Marshall waited inside the saloon for the outlaw. The outlaw would come - it was inevitable - drawn to him by his name, his reputation with a gun, the desire to build his own reputation by killing the Marshall. The Marshall had only one advantage: training. And he knew the outlaw also had one advantage: the natural skill acquired from taking risks. He was very a dangerous man. Both had the same to lose - their lives.
Finally the outlaw entered the saloon. The Marshall turned slightly to look at him. For a moment, they studied each other for any weakness. The Marshall appeared at ease, leaning on the bar, warily poised with his gun hand free. He was going to take the outlaw in, but it was up to the outlaw to decide how: dead or alive.
The outlaw offered no greeting, no discussion of surrender terms, no chest-beating, saber-rattling bravado, and most telling of all, he offered no final words - no final confession, no epitaph - he fully expected to walk out of the saloon. Without a single word the outlaw backed into the tables. The Marshall straightened at the bar. The time had come. Both men watched for the slightest movement.
The gunslinger drew first and fanned the revolver's hammer rapidly, throwing a hailstorm of deadly lead.
Unshaken by the blasting inferno, the Marshall stood his ground. Six rounds flew at him - one slammed into his shoulder. Steadily, calculatingly, he took careful aim and fired once. The outlaw fell dead, a bullet through his heart. The professional survived. They usually win.
Consistent winners like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, I.U. Basketball's Bobby Knight, race car drivers A.J. Foyt and Jackie Stewart, and Top Gun Pilots are ordinary human beings just like us. So how do they consistently win?
They practice. They share their skills, learning from others. Both Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson believed in practice. They honed their skill to the point that neither inexperience nor urgency would distract them. Bobby Knight has his team practice the basics over and over again until they can execute under any pressure. He has taken junior teams all the way to the NCAA in one season. Foyt and Stewart drive with practiced precision and care, giving wide birth to less competent drivers, passing only when it is safe.
I often see wild-men on the road, like the gunslingers of the past who
have acquired a level of skill by trial and error. They have learned the
skills to get out of many accidents and survive life by the seat of their
pants. But like the outlaw, their few driving errors can be fatal. The
large amount of time professional drivers spend on the highway gives us
so much exposure to accident situations that every flaw in our skill, every
error in our driving, every unprepared situation, will eventually catch
up with us and we will have an accident. The odds are against us. We need
the professionalism of a Marshall. We need to go on the highway prepared
for the six wild drivers who are shooting for us, and take dead aim on
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