Supporting Cast

Clay Allison

by Wes Allison

Clay Allison

126 1/2 points

Age 42; 5'9''; 150 lbs.

ST 10 [0]; DX 14 [45]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 11 [10].
Speed 6.25; Move 6.
Dodge 7; Parry 9.
Damage: Smith & Wesson Russian cr 2d; Punch: 1d-4; Kick: 1d-2; Thrust 1d-2; Swing 1d.

Advantages: Collected [5] (Fright Check: 20); Combat Reflexes [15] (Fright Check: 20); Charisma +1 [5] (Reaction: +1); Fearlessness +5 [10] (Fright Check: 20); Manual Dexterity 2 [6].

Disadvantages: Reputation -3 [-15] (Reaction: -3); Alcoholism [-15]; Bloodlust [-10]; Bad Temper [-10].

Quirks: Club Foot. [-1]

Skills: Animal Handling-12 [8]; Area Knowledge-13 [6]; Carousing-10 [1]; Gambling-10 [2]; Riding (Horse)-16 [8]; Teamster-8 [1/2]; Fast-Draw-18 [8]; Guns (Pistol)/TL5-19 [16]; Intimidation-12 [6]; Guns (Rifle)/TL5-16 [2]; Gunner (Cannon)/TL5-14 [1]; Knife-18 [16] (Parry: 9); Law-10 [4]; Leadership-10 [1]; Tactics-9 [2].

Equipment: Saddle horse (ST 35, DX 9, IQ 4, HT 14, Move 12; 1200 lbs.; $1,200; Ordinary riding horse); Boots (PD 2, DR 2; 3 lbs.; $80); Smith & Wesson Russian (cr 2d, Skill: 19; 2 1/2 lbs.; $20; SS: 10; Acc: 3; Half DMG: 150; MAX: 1700; RoF: 1; Shots: 6; ST: 10; Rcl: -2; TL: 5; .44R, US, 1871).


Clay Allison, the Wolf of Washita, was without a doubt one of the most colorful characters in the Old West. He saw himself as an honorable man and a cattle rancher. Others saw him as a psychopathic killer.

Robert Clay Allison was born September 2, 1841 in Tennessee. Clay's father John Allison, a Presbyterian minister, died when he was five. Clay worked the family farm, where he may have sustained a head injury, sometimes blamed for his erratic behavior.

When the Civil War broke out, Allison joined the Tennessee Light Artillery of the Confederate Army. He was promoted to corporal, but begin to exhibit signs of violence and unpredictability. During one battle, he threatened to kill his commanding officer when he would not go after retreating Union troops. This, and several other incidents, led to his medical discharge, which noted, "emotional or physical excitement produces paroxysmal of a mixed character, partly epileptic and partly maniacal." When a Union soldier arrived at the Allison farm to confiscate property, Clay Allison calmly walked to the cupboard, took out his gun, and killed the "yellow-belly." Allison later reenlisted as a scout, and some say a spy, for Nathan Bedford Forrest until the end of the war, when he was a prisoner of war for seven days.

After the war, Allison, his two brothers, his sister, and his brother-in-law, moved to Texas. From 1866 to 1870, Clay seemed to settle down, working as a cowboy for several prominent ranchers, at last receiving payment of 300 head to start his own ranch. At least, he was settled down for Clay Allison. One evening, he and several drinking buddies stampeded a herd of Army mules as a prank. During the escapade, Allison accidentally shot himself in the foot. On another occasion, he brutally beat a ferry owner who tried to overcharge him. When he had a property line dispute with a neighbor named Johnson, the two agreed to settle it by having a knife fight to the death in a freshly-dug grave.

In October 1870, Clay Allison led a group of vigilantes in Elizabethtown, New Mexico to arrest Charles Kennedy, who had allegedly killed his own daughter. When the allegations proved correct, Allison led the same group back to the jail. They knocked out the deputies and dragged Kennedy to the slaughterhouse, where he was lynched and beheaded. According to legend, Allison put the head on a pole and rode with it to the local saloon.

A similar event happened five year later, when a suspected murderer named Cruz Vega was lynched. Allison may or may not have been leading the gang, but he did admit to "putting the Mex out of his misery" by shooting him in the back while he dangled in the noose. Two days later, Vega's son and two of his friends, one a notorious gunman named Pancho Griego, confronted Allison at the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, Texas. Griego hid a drawn pistol behind his sombrero, but Allison saw his hand in motion and -- in classic quick draw style -- gunned him down. Reports differ as to whether he stared down the other two adversaries or beat a hasty retreat out the back.

Clay Allison's most famous encounter was his gunfight with "Chunk" Colbert. Colbert was a desperado. Why he sought out Allison is unknown; he may have been the nephew of the ferry owner Allison had beaten, or he may have been out for another notch on his pistol (he had killed seven men prior to the meeting). When Chunk encountered Clay on January 7, 1874, Clay invited him for a drink. The two spent most of the day together, horse-racing, carousing, and drinking. The two men sat down to supper, Clay with his gun on the table, Colbert with his cocked and in his lap. Midway through the meal, Colbert reached for Clay's gun with his left hand while pulling his own with his right. Unfortunately for him, the barrel of Colbert's pistol snagged on the table and fired into the floor. Allison reached his own gun and shot Colbert in the head. When reporters asked Allison why he had dined before a shootout, Allison replied, "I didn't want to send him to hell on an empty stomach."

On December 21, 1876, Clay Allison and his brother John arrived in Las Animas, Colorado after a trail drive. After visiting all the saloons in town, they stopped at the local dancehall to dance with some unwilling partners. When Constable Charles Faber arrived to check out the disturbance, Allison tried to dance with him too. After realizing whom he was dealing with, Faber left and returned with two deputized townsmen. As he reentered the dancehall, he emptied his shotgun into the nearest Allison. Unfortunately for him, it was John. Clay turned and fired his pistol, killing Faber. The two deputies fled. Clay was arrested, but the charges were dropped on the grounds of self-defense. John Allison eventually recovered.

On July 1, 1878, Clay Allison was returning to his ranch with a wagonload of supplies. He had probably been drinking. He fell from the wagon and the back wheel rolled over him, breaking his neck and almost decapitating him.

Clay Allison In History

Though not a pivotal figure in history himself, Clay Allison was present in a number of exciting moments in western history. He rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Civil War. As a cowboy, he helped open up several trails from Texas to Kansas and New Mexico. When he rode into Dodge City, it is said that lawman Bat Masterson rode out the other way. On another occasion in Dodge, he was confronted by Wyatt Earp. This time, it is said, it was Allison's turn to back down. If he did back down, it was the only time. All Earp had to say on the subject was that he had "questioned" Allison about a murder.

Several recent Westerns have portrayed Clay Allison, usually as a bandit or a rather generic villain. This is definitely not the Clay Allison that actually existed. When drunk or excited, he was dangerous, violent, and sadistic. But he never robbed anyone. When a newspaper editorial listed him as a killer of fifteen men, he wrote an editorial response, saying: "I have at all times tried to use my influence toward protecting the property holders and substantial men of the country from thieves, outlaws, and murderers, among whom I do not care to be classed." He did not consider himself a villain at all, but a "shootist", a term that he coined. He also never bragged about his duels. Several men who rode out to gun down Clay Allison were never seen again, but Clay countered, "I never killed a man who didn't need it."


Clay Allison can be a great addition to any Old West campaign. By all accounts a good friend, a loving husband to his wife Dora, and father to two daughters, Allison will turn violent at any provocation. Any offence against him will carry serious consequences. Once when a dentist drilled the wrong tooth, Allison pressed him down into the dentist chair and pulled out one of the dentist's own. Though not particularly considerate himself, especially when drinking, he nevertheless considers himself a gentleman, and he will seek his own vigilante justice, should anyone harm a lady. His greatest violence will be reserved for anyone harming a little girl (perhaps remembering his two daughters).

What If?

Clay Allison would work well in a weird west game. Why was he so maniacal? Was it really a blow to the head that caused his bouts of violence and sadism, or was it something else? Did he see something he wasn't meant to see, or was there something inside of him, forcing him to acts of viciousness? Why was he so hard to kill? In a dozen or more confrontations, the only wound Allison received was from his own gun. Was it simply coincidence that the injury that killed him, left him almost decapitated in the road... perhaps at a crossroads?

On the other hand, it may be that Clay Allison's actions were misunderstood. He never harmed the innocent, did he? Perhaps his violence was necessary against certain unholy minions, and only seemed unpredictable and sadistic to those on the outside, blissfully unaware of those things that hide just beyond the veil of our reality.

For an old west character tossed into some other plane of existence, one just couldn't ask for a better choice. It is unlikely that Clay Allison would be unduly troubled finding himself in another century or plane of existence. One could imagine him shrugging his shoulders and joining the fray against orcs, martians, or twenty-third century Yankees.

"It was a time of great troubles. They needed hope. They needed a hero. What they got was . . . Clay Allison." <dun dun DUN>


Article publication date: September 13, 2002

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