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Wyatt Earp And The Civil War

Wyatt Earp has been the subject of and model for a large number of films and tv shows, biographies and works of fiction that have increased his mystique. Earp’s modern-day reputation is that of the Old West’s “toughest and deadliest gunman of his day”. An extremely flattering, largely fictionalized, best-selling biography published after his death created his reputation as a fearless lawman.  Until the book was published, Earp had a dubious reputation as a minor figure in Western history.

1861-62-Brothers NewtonJames, and Virgil joined the Union Army on November 11, 1861. While his father was busy recruiting and drilling local companies, Wyatt, along with his two younger brothers, Morgan and Warren, were left in charge of tending 80-acre (32 ha) corn crop. Only thirteen years old, Wyatt was too young to enlist, but he tried on several occasions to run away and join the army. Each time his father found him and brought him home. James was severely wounded in FredericktownMissouri, and returned home in summer 1863. Newton and Virgil fought several battles in the east and later followed the family to California. Photo Credit: John Rose, Wyatt Earp with his mother, Virginia Ann

Portrait of Wyatt Earp taken sometime between 1869 and1871 Credit: Craig A. Fouts Collection. Info: American Experience, WIKI

Lawmen of the Plains

Jim Swisher and Ed Armstrong were the law in Crook County, which at the time included Gillette and northern Campbell County (Campbell county was formed in 1911 and organized in 1913). Armstrong, a cowboy and charter member of Sundance, Wyoming’s Masonic Lodge, was Crook County’s third sheriff.  He also served as Gillette’s mayor from 1903 - 1906. Swisher served as the sheriff’s deputy. The two men are pictured above, looking tough in a photographer’s portrait studio.


*found undated, photographer unknown. 

Even though whites are now called cowboys the original word was a means of subordination to the blacks who worked with cattle.

“Contrary to the images created by Hollywood black slaves were America’s first authentic cowboys. The word cowboy, in fact originally had nothing to do with roping cattle and hell-raising in the high plains. The word ‘cowboy’ grew out of social customs that did not allow black males to be addressed as 'mister’ or 'men,’ especially “gentlemen’ or any other title that conveyed status. 'Boy,’ was a constant derogatory term for a black male that included not only “cowboy,” but "house boy,” “field boy,” “stable boy,” and “under boy,” (personal body servants during the Civil War).

Not all black cowboys lived the kind of dangerous, short lives in the old West, that is the Hollywood stereotype.

Thousands of black cowboys were lawmen, popular heroes, Buffalo soldiers, or just plain ranchers and farmers. Yet only a few black cowboys – good or bad – can be found in the history books.”

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One night, while Doc was dealing Faro in the Long Branch saloon a number of Texas cowboys arrived with a herd of cattle. After many weeks on the trail, the rowdy cowboys were ready to “let loose.”

Leading the cowboy mob was a man named Ed Morrison, whom Wyatt had humiliated in Wichita, Kansas, and a man named Tobe Driskill. The cowboys rushed the town, galloping down Front Street with guns blazing, and blowing out shop windows. Entering the Long Branch Saloon, they began harassing the customers.

When Wyatt came through the front door, he came face to face with several awaiting gun barrels. Stepping forward, Morrison sneered "Pray and jerk your gun! Your time has come, Earp!”

Suddenly, a voice sounded behind Morrison. "No, friend, you draw – or throw your hands up!” It was Doc, his revolver to Morrison’s temple. Doc had been in the back room, his card game interrupted by the havoc out front.

Obit of the Day: Oldest Living FBI Agent, Olympian, and Marine

Walter R. Walsh was a legend. He served as an FBI agent during the 1930s, when the gangsters were more famous than the lawmen. He re-established and trained the Marine Scout Snipers during World War II. He even participated in the 1948 Olympic Games. And he lived for 106 years.

Mr. Walsh joined the FBI in 1934, a 27-year-old Rutgers law school grad. His class was the first to be armed, and among that group he stood out. Since his teens Mr. Walsh had earned dozens of awards and prizes for his skill with a pistol and rifle. It was that skill that put him in the field handling some of the FBI’s most dangerous cases.

During his ten years with the Bureau, Mr. Walsh shot and killed 11 known criminals. The most breathtaking story involved “Public Enemy Number One” Al Brady who, along with associates James Dalhover and Clarence Lee Shaffer, was wanted for four murders and 200 robberies.

On October 12, 1937, Mr. Walsh was working undercover at a sporting goods store in Bangor, Maine waiting for the trio to return to pick up Thompson sub-machine guns they had purchased. Mr. Dalhover walked into the store first and Walsh immediately arrested him. Informed that the other two were right outside, Mr. Walsh went to open the door and realized he was staring directly at Mr. Shaffer.

Both men opened fire simultaneously shattering the door’s plate glass. Mr. Walsh was hit three times including in the chest and his right hand, which also destroyed one of two guns he was carrying. Mr. Shaffer was wounded as well.

Al Brady, seeing what was happening, began opening fire and even though severely wounded Mr. Walsh shot at Brady although with dozens of other FBI agents who had surrounded the store. Witnesses later testified that they saw Mr. Walsh put the final bullet into Mr. Brady who was writhing on the ground.

Mr. Walsh had other, less violent run-ins with some of the more notorious criminals of the era. He and a his partner discovered the body of “Baby Face” Nelson in Skokie, Illinois in November 1934. Mr. Nelson was mortally wounded while firing on and killing two FBI agents earlier in the day.

Just two months later, Mr. Walsh arrested “Doc” Barker, one of Ma Barker’s sons. Mr. Walsh asked Mr. Barker if he had a gun and the kidnapper and murdered admitted that he left it in his apartment saying “Ain’t that a hell of a place for it?” Mr. Walsh replied, “No, you were lucky.”

In 1942, Mr. Walsh left the FBI and joined the Marines. Although the Bureau needed agents during World War II, Mr. Walsh felt his skills as a marksman were more valuable to the military. Having served in the Marine Corps Reserves - in order to compete in shooting competitions - Mr. Walsh was commissioned as a lieutenant and ordered to re-form and train the Marine Scout Snipers. For two years, Mr. Walsh helped transform young non-commissioned officers into some of the greatest shooters in the world. But it wasn’t enough for Mr. Walsh who wanted to be at the front lines.

In 1944 he was shipped to the Pacific theater and participated in the invasion of Okinawa. His legendary shooting prowess showed itself throughout the battle especially when he killed a Japanese sniper with his .45 automatic pistol from 80 yards. 

He left the Marines at the end of the war having attained the rank of colonel. Returning to the FBI he received a cool welcome for having left to serve in the war and resigned after two additional years of service. He re-enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Throughout all of this Mr. Walsh continued to pile up awards and citations for his sharpshooting. He won FBI and Marine Corps shooting competitions and made the U.S. Olympic team. He made the 1948 U.S. Olympic team and traveled to London the 1948 Games, the first in 12 years. He finished in 12th place in the 50m free pistol competition. 

Mr. Walsh fully retired from the Marines in 1970 having commanded the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines and the Weapons Training Battalion in Quantico, Virginia.

Even into his 80s, Mr. Walsh continued to participate in shooting competitions, serving as captain for the U.S. team at the 1994 World Muzzleloading Championships. He kept his shooting eye as he aged hitting 10 of 15 clay pigeons in a skeet shooting session with a reporter…a few weeks after he turned 100. 

In 2008, Mr. Walsh was honored at the FBI’s 100th anniversary as the Bureau’s oldest living agent - who was also older than the agency itself. During an NPR interview that same year he was asked the secret to his longevity: “To start with, you have to be lucky. Then, if you listen to your parents and follow the path of the straight and narrow, then I think God has mercy on you — permits you to live. That’s about it. It has worked very well for me for a long time.”

Walter R. Walsh, who honed his shooting skills by knocking clothespins off his grandmother’s wash line with a BB gun, died on April 29, 2014 at the age of 106. He was 5 days shy of his 107th birthday.

Sources: NY Times, NPR, American Rifleman, and Wikipedia

(Image of Walter R. Walsh, undated but circa World War II, is courtesy of USA Shooting.)

“Aladdin” is Problematic

The Disney movie “Aladdin” is probably my favorite, however you can’t love it without being critical and realizing that it’s a racist portrayal of the Middle East and Middle Easterns from a white male point of view.
Here are a few of the problems I found in “Aladdin”.

1. Jasmine is one of the four Disney POC (Princesses of Color) and is the only Disney princess who’s not the lead in her movie. Women of color barely get representation in Disney movies, but when they finally do it’s as supporting characters.

2. During the “One Jump Ahead” song, Aladdin runs from the lawmen and stops at a room with three women who are dressed in revealing clothes who move around him seductively, and there’s an older woman who’s dressed more conservatively and seemed to be the boss.
This “room” is usually assumed to be a brothel by Disney fans, but could also be a harem (a part of the palace that’s used for residence of the king’s wives and concubines).
This is not the first time Disney mentions concubines on a POC (Princess of Color) movie; in “Mulan”, the soldiers dress up as women to break into the palace in order to save the Emperor, the Huns see them and assume that they’re the Emperor’s concubines. 

3. Besides Aladdin, Jasmine and maybe even the Sultan, all characters in Aladdin look almost non human (for example, the salesman has a giant, unrealistic head), usually have non American accents (unlike the leading characters) and are portrayed as crooks.

4.  The first scene on which we see Aladdin is when he’s being chased after by lawmen for stealing a loaf of bread. A lawman threatens Aladdin as he is waving his sword; “I will have your hands for a trophy, streetrat!”.
When Jasmine first arrives at the marketplace in disguise, she sees a little boy next to an apple stand. She assumes he’s hungry, grabs an apple and hands it to the boy. The salesman calls Jasmine a thief, tells her “You know what the penalty is for stealing?”, grabs her hand and raises his sword, though Aladdin stops him from cutting Jasmine’s hand.
The movie “Aladdin” takes place in Agrabah, a fictional place that’s supposed to generalize the entire Middle East. It should be noted that the only place in the Middle East where the hand cutting punishment is carried out is Saudi Arabia, and it happens very rarely, usually after the person has committed several robberies and not when the person steals due to hunger and poverty.

5. Princess Jasmine is the only female character who says more than one sentence in “Aladdin”, she’s probably the most oversexualised Disney princess, and uses her sexuality several times. Throughout the movie, Jasmine’s dressed in revealing clothes unfitting of the pre Islamic world and seduces the villain, Jafar (he responds by calling her “pussycat”) and even has to kiss him to distract from Aladdin coming to stop him.

6. The Disney merchandise of “Aladdin” isn’t as common as the white princesses’ at Disney stores, Princess Jasmine doesn’t have as much merchandise and when she does, it’s often very whitewashed; Jasmine and Aladdin usually just look white, like in the “Art of Jasmine” collection.