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Buck Williams

Buck Williams stands next to the target that measures his fast-draw. (Photo By Anna Wisman)

WILLIAMS -- The gang waits for the train at the same time every day.

As the train comes to a stop, they ride up, screaming, hollering and shooting, then boarding the train with masks on.

"We're taking folding money, pocket change, jewelry and gold teeth!" yells one of the gang members.

Passengers surrender their bills, but soon the marshal shows up, chasing the cowboys through the train. Soon the marshal has saved the day. All are shot dead except one, who stayed outside with the horses and takes them back into town: Buck Williams.

Williams, 67, is a member of the cowboy gang that robs the Williams-based Grand Canyon Railway and its passengers every day.

"It's a lot of fun," he said. "The kids love it. We even get them scared."

When the train made its first tourist run after years of sitting dormant, the governor of Arizona came to ride it and the gang took her watch. But now they just take what people offer them, usually small bills.

The money they get from robbing the train is used to take care of the horses. But the kids still tend to think the robbery is real, which Williams always enjoys.


Williams, a Marine Corps veteran, moved to Williams about 13 years ago with his wife, Patty. Both are retired Los Angeles police officers. When he moved, people told Williams he should rob the train. He thought they were joking until he found out there really is a train-robbing gang in town -- he joined the gang shortly after.

Williams said people thought he would be a good show cowboy.

"Because I like to laugh and joke and I get along good with people. Plus, I'm a cowboy historian."

He teaches the 11-man unit about cowboy history so they can share it with the tourists.

"The way we rob the train, it never really occurred that way," said Williams as he explained how real robbers would have torn up or blocked the tracks because everyone on the train in those days would have had a gun, too.

They wear period clothing from between 1850 and 1880. They shoot cowboy-era pistols with specially-made blank rounds in them.

"They're produced by the same guy who makes ammunition for Hollywood," Williams said.

They also perform two street shows a day during the summer.

"My favorite part of the shows -- I like being the idiot. All our shows have a couple of idiots in them," Williams said.

He explained how the role of the idiot is to look confused and be funny.

Williams' role in the robbery has changed since he first joined the gang. He used to go aboard and rob the people, but now he's the horse guy.

"My favorite part's the horses," he said. "I take care of the horses. Horses are a lot easier to get along with than people. Horses never pretend to be anything other than just what they are."


Besides being a performing cowboy, Williams owns a shop, Buck's Place, where he sells and cleans guns, cleans saddles, and teaches bull whip and fast draw. He holds a place in the "2008 Guinness Book of World Records" for both.

He said that most people can manage a second and a half in the fast draw. Williams can do it in two and a half-tenths of a second.

Williams grew up on a working ranch in northern Alabama, where he trained and worked with horses. He used to drive a team of horses when he was a boy, but he was too small to get them to turn using the reins. However, horses will turn away from the sound of a bull whip, so he learned to use one and has played with them his whole life.

He also hunted a lot when he was young. He explained how he would carry a .22 rifle to school every day and hunt on his way home.

"So I've carried a gun most of my life," Williams said. "And then in the Marine Corps and police work, I worked really hard to be good with it because it might mean the difference in going home and not going home. So I did a lot of practicing, a lot of playing."

The train runs and is robbed every day of the year except Christmas, so Williams gets to use his unique Wild West skills almost every day.

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