Archive for Bass Reeves

He wasn’t the Lone Ranger — but you should still know about Bass Reeves

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2021 by macmystery
Bass Reeves was the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi.
Bass Reeves was the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi.

It’s been a rough weekend and a rough day.

After a week that saw the world lose some musical heroes of mine — Don Everly, Charlie Watts and the Storyteller, Tom T. Hall — things got worse at week’s end.

A high school coach who left a big footprint locally died of COVID. He was 57 and a better man than a coach. and that’s saying something because he was a helluva coach.

Circumstances prevented us from being close. But I liked and respected him, and he liked and respected me, I believe.

I think the COVID surge is starting to wear me down. The mess in Afghanistan and Hurricane Ida in New Orleans is taking a toll, as well. I just don’t have an effective escape in place when the events of the day start to pile up. Mental health is a thing. I’d like to say I was managing it better.

As a result, I’ve spent a lot of the day reading. And I’ve come across a couple of real gems today (I say today … it’s now almost 2 a.m. on Monday).

Late tonight, I happened on this jewel: The Resurrection of Bass Reeves. It’s from the June 2021 issue of Texas Monthly, referred to by itself as “The National Magazine of Texas.”

The Facebook link to the story sucks you in by intimating that Bass Reeves, the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi, may have been the real-life inspiration for The Lone Ranger.

I don’t want to disclose too much of the story. My hope is that you’ll read it. Suffice it to say, however, that I had never heard of Reeves before tonight (or this morning). And that was my loss.

Like too many Black Americans and Black towns and Black communities, their stories have been lost, for reasons both sinister and innocent. But it appears Reeves’ story may have escaped the fate of many others and might reach the mainstream. In recent years, there have been multiple books and a handful of movies produced, or on their way to production.

For the record, Reeves’ resume holds up next to the Old West lawmen we’ve read about or seen in movies for the past 100 years — Earp, Masterson, Hickok, etc. He is said to have arrested more than 3,000 criminals — white, Black and Native American — in his time as a U.S. Marshal in Oklahoma.

And another thing that makes the story great. As you watch the story’s main protagonist dig up the history surrounding Reeves, you learn about that man’s story, as well.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead take my advice, and read it for yourself.

np: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals; The Soul & The Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck; Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl; and 52nd Street by Billy Joel