Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shootout gang coming to town again

Longtime member Ivan Swaner will get a new pistol

Express Staff Writer

The Blackjack Ketchum Shootout Gang takes to the streets of Ketchum again this year for three shootout performances as part of the Wagon Days festivities.
Express file photos

    Local historian Ivan Swaner has been shooting it out with the Blackjack Ketchum Shootout Gang for more than 50 years.
    However, several years ago Swaner lost his pistol in a house fire. He’s going to get a new one this year, courtesy of the gang, High Desert Sports and Christopher & Co., which did the free engraving on an 1873 Cattleman’s Special, a single-action .357 caliber handgun that will be presented to Swaner not once, but twice.
    “Last year we got him a nice watch,” said gang Sheriff Kelly Heuett. “This year I thought that the organization should give him something he wants, so we bought him a pistol.
    “We talked to him and he wants to have it presented to him on Friday night and on Saturday night because he’s got something going on with the parade,” Heuett said. “I asked him about it—I really didn’t want to tell him about it—but I had to so I told him to look surprised.”

Local historian Ivan Swaner, an original cast member, has been shooting it out with the Blackjack Ketchum Shootout Gang for more than 50 years.

    Swaner is the sole original cast member from when the shootout gang was officially organized more than 50 years ago.
     “Ivan is one of my deputies and I’m still the sheriff,” Heuett said.
    The shootout gang has its origins in the late 1950s when local gun buffs Bob Black and Gale Dyer faked an impromptu shootout with blanks in downtown Ketchum during Wagon Days festivities of 1958. The prank drew a crowd and the shootout was organized a few years later as an official Wagon Days event.
    Black told his story about the origins of the shootout three years ago to the Idaho Mountain Express and still has a keen interest in the event.
    “He’s not a participant anymore, but he always gives us a piece of his mind,” Heuett said.
    The shootout script varies from year to year, but the typical scenario involves Blackjack Ketchum and his gang of outlaws riding into town after robbing a bank in Bellevue. The outlaws behave for awhile until someone comes up with a wanted poster for Blackjack and gets shot in the back for his efforts. At about the same time, the gang is robbing a bank and is confronted with blazing guns by Heuett, Swaner and other local law enforcement officers.
    Heuett said the cast has lost a few members over the last year so it will be smaller, but the shootouts will take place anyway.
    “We appreciate doing it, so it’s going on,” he said. “It’s pretty much the same script we did before. Of course there are some changes from the members we’ve lost, but we’ve been doing it for 52 years and we can’t let it die.”
    The organization takes its name from Blackjack Ketchum, a real Old West outlaw whose main claim to fame was that he was decapitated when hanged for his illegal deeds.


Shootout times
The Blackjack Ketchum Shootout Gang will shoot it out three times for Wagon Days festivities in Ketchum. Spectators can catch the action at 7 p.m. Friday on Main Street in front of the Casino Club, at 12:15 p.m. Saturday on Main Street in front of the Pioneer Saloon and at 7 p.m. Saturday back at the Casino Club.

Terry Smith:

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