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Wild West Heroes – We Need More Diverse Books

by on May 3, 2014

Federal Marshal Bass Reeves

Please note – the #weneedmorediversebooks is not a condemnation of the books that are out now – it’s simply an observation that we need more of a good thing.

The #weneedmorediversebooks campaign caught my eye this past week.  As a former teacher, a parent and a writer, I try to write diverse, non-typical characters.  When I was in the classroom, I made it a point to collect books that spoke about many different cultures.

One of my son’s first chapter books when he was in third grade was called “Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World.”  It was a story about a boy whose father had passed away and lived in a household of females.  He believed cleaning and cooking was “woman’s work.”  In all, the poor child was suffering from a lack of a male in the house.  His smart mother sent him to live for the summer with her father who owned a ranch.  Not only did Justin become exposed to black cowboys and rodeo games, but he also learned that cooking and cleaning weren’t just for women.

When I finished the book with my son, he said it had to be fiction because….there were no black cowboys.  As a teacher, I was stunned, and as a parent, I knew it was time to get down to the nitty gritty.  Thus began the research.  I knew, of course, that there were black cowboys (loosely translated as people in the “wild west”) , but had neglected to pass this knowledge down to my son.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Buffalo Soldiers, Black Cowboys of Texas, Nat Love, Bill Pickett, George Glenn, Moses Speese and Mary Fields (technically not a cow BOY, but needs to be included on this list.) Run a search on any of those names and you’ll get an eyeful.

And let’s take a look at the Lone Ranger. Where did he come from?

 Bass Reeves was a former slave who became a Federal Marshal.  Throughout his thirty-two year career, he brought over three thousand (3,000) criminals to justice.  Oh, Dahlia, you might say, this has nothing to do with the Lone Ranger!  Hold on a second and hear me out.  Art Burton, the author of “Black Gun, Silver Star:  The life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves” points out Marshall Reeves rode a gray (silver) horse, made use of American Indian trackers, and gave people a silver dollar so that they would remember him.  The Lone Ranger gave out silver bullets.

Sometimes appearing as a cowboy, farmer, gunslinger, or outlaw, himself, he always wore two Colt pistols, butt forward for a fast draw. Ambidextrous, he rarely missed his mark.

An  article from the Fort Smith Elevator from August 11, 1882:

Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves came in on Monday with sixteen prisoners as follows: W. S. Smith, violating revenue law – on bond; Austin Laflore, Jake Gardener, Charles Holmes, larceny; Dick Randolph, Thos. McGiesey, G. W. Brashears, Russell Rowland, introducing liquor in the Territory: Chas. McNally, Boss Kemp, Chas. Carter, N. R. Rozell, W. H. Wynne, assault with intent to kill: W. F. Skeggs, Richard Robinson, arson.

Sixteen prisoners?  If that isn’t bad-ass, then I don’t know what badass is.

As “the greatest lawman of the Wild West Era” Marshal Reeves is a romance hero just waiting to happen!


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