Frontier Justice: Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal
Bass Reeves was an ex-slave who’d spent most of the Civil War hiding in Indian Territory, during which time he learned five Native American languages. After the war, Federal Judge Isaac Parker hired Reeves as a deputy U.S. marshal, one of the first African-American deputy marshals west of the Mississippi. Reeves never learned to read or write English, so he would have someone read arrest warrants, he would remember the contents, and use disguises and trickery often to apprehend fugitives. During a 32-year career, he brought in over 3,000 fugitives, becoming one of the most famous deputy U.S. marshals in American history.
Legend has it that Reeves was the western figure that the TV character ‘The Lone Ranger’ was modeled after, because on occasion he would use Indian acquaintances from Indian Territory to assist him in tracking down wanted men and women.
About the author:
Charles Ray has been writing fiction since his teens. He is the author of the Al Pennyback mystery series and the Buffalo Soldier historical/western series. He is also the author of other works of fiction and non-fiction, including books for children and four books on leadership and management. In addition to writing, he is a photographer and artist, and was editorial cartoonist for a North Carolina weekly during the 1970s. His photographs have been featured in magazines in the U.S. and Asia, and his humorous cartoons have appeared in Ebony, Eagle and Swan, and other national magazines.
That a black man born to slavery, Bass Reeves, could do so well for himself and so soon after the emancipation that stemmed from the American Civil War is nothing less than astounding. Some of his success seems almost unbelievable, which makes it just as well that the real life author is every bit as big a picture as the man he portrays. I am sure that Charles and Bass would have got on very well if a time skipped century or so enabled a meeting.
It is impossible to say much without lacing my review with spoilers, though to be honest it is enough to say that this short-novel, or long novella, finishes far too quickly. Lone Ranger, eat your heart out, this is how ‘The West’ was really won.