I am STILL fired up about the GUNS WEST display that I saw at the NRA Museum a few weeks back. As I said in a earlier blog, I was raised on westerns both on TV and at the movies. I have a fairly large collection of my favorites on DVD and watch them when I have the time. I have been trying to figure out why I get so much pleasure from watching them. I guess because they are to a degree, simplistic. Good guy vs. Bad guy, Right vs. Wrong. There is very little gray in the typical "cowboy movie" Plus it is one of the few things that is truly American, unlike anything else in the world. (The same can be said about blues and jazz music) Western and America go together so much that when the rest of the world thinks Cowboy it also thinks America. Not a bad thing, in my opinion.
As normal, whenever I get interested in something I started delving into other resources and information sources. I have started digging into the history of the U.S. Marshal's service working in the Indian territory from the mid to late 1800's. Now there were MEN in that service. You no doubt have seen movies that describe some of what went on, True Grit, Rooster Cogburn, Hang 'em High. But the real story is even more amazing than the movies could ever be. The marshals who rode for Judge Issac Parker out of Ft. Smith, were sometimes the only law within hundreds of miles. They rode alone most of the time, depending on their skills with a gun, their abilities to deal with the various types of people whom they came in contact with and just plain luck to survive. They worked without salary, but only on fees and the mileage they made. For each arrest, they were paid $2.00. If they were forced to kill the man they were after, unless they could find kinfolk to bury the bad guy, deputies were required to pay for the burial out of their own pocket and maybe be paid $1.00 by the court on their return to Ft. Smith depending on the situation. Mileage would vary, 6 cent a mile on the way to make an arrest, 10 cent a mile on the return with the prisoner. They also would be paid 6 cent a mile to go out to serve papers or find witnesses. If they were able to do this they were paid 50 cent per paper served. They were not paid mileage for the trip back. If they were unable to locate the subject or serve papers or make an arrest, they were not paid anything. They were offered expenses of $2.00 a day, but they had to provide receipts for goods received (which were almost impossible to get in the Indian Territory) So these men were doing a dirty, dangerous and deadly job for very little if any pay.
Oh yeah, one more thing, The deputies had to give 25% of the fees and mileage they earned to the U.S. Marshal.
With all of that, It makes me appreciate even more the job that men like Heck Thomas, Chris Madsen, Bill Tilghman and others did to bring law and order to the Indian Nation which later became the state of Oklahoma.