Maybe the law ain’t perfect, but it’s the only one we got, and without it, we got nuthin.”
— Bass Reeves.
If you cannot answer this question, you are not alone. When it comes to the wild wild west, and all those legendary figures, it is easy to see why a single man can fall through the cracks. After all, who could compete with the bravery of Wyatt Earp, cunning of Jesse James, or patience of Geronimo amongst many other notable figures and traits.
However, while looking into the life of Bass Reeves, it is hard to find someone more remarkable during a time of uncertainty and lawlessness. In 1838, Bass was born a slave before escaping to the north. Eventually, he built relationships with several different Native American tribes he came across.
Following the civil war, which he may or may not have fought in, he returned to Arkansas and became a simple farmer. Because of his positive relationship with Native Americans, Bass was employed as a guide and scout for United States Deputy Marshals. Little did he know that this job would spring-board him to a legendary career as a lawman.
After showing what he was capable of as both a guide and scout, it is natural to see why Bass was appointed as a United States Deputy Marshal. However, what stands out is the fact that his career as a lawman spanned 3 decades, eliminated 14 bloodthirsty outlaws, and arrested more than 3,000 individuals in an area that spanned more than 800 miles round trip. Statistically, the man’s body of work stands alone. But, the numbers do not paint a full picture of the man himself and his steadfast devotion to the task at hand.
When it came to his job, Bass feared no man, outlaw, or situation. For example, he even had to serve a warrant for his own son who committed murder. While most people would have trembled at the sight of conflict, Bass always remained committed to his badge and more importantly what that symbol meant to others.