Wild West: hidden awesome people

Bass Reeves

I was just watching the latest episode of NBC’s Timeless, which features Bass Reeves, a historical figure I had never heard of before.  I was intrigued and upon a little internet digging, this man, and Grant Johnson, were pretty amazing.  They have to make a movie about Bass Reeves.

Bass Reeves’ wikipedia

Bass Reeves (catalystdc.com)

A slave, he allegedly punched out the son of his …do I say master (ugh)… at a card game, then ran away to live with Native Americans, where he then became a freedman post-Civil War.  Reeves married, had kids, farmed and then, because he knew Native American languages, became a deputy for the Indian Territory, in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Harold Holden's Bass Reeves Monument

Harold Holden’s Bass Reeves Monument “Into the Territory,” Pendercraft Park, Fort Smith, Arkansas

As a Deputy Marshall, Bass Reeves apprehended 3,000 felons, killed 14 outlaws in self defense, and was never wounded, except for having his belt and hat shot off.  Reeves even arrested his own son for murder.  He was also a detective and would often use disguises and trickery, over violence, to catch bad guys.  Being illiterate, Reeves memorized all the names and writs for his arrests and never got the wrong guy.  (taken from the above sources)  How is this guy not in a movie?  And it is suggested that he could be the closest thing to a real-life Lone Ranger.

Grant Johnson

Grant Johnson

And “Tonto” might have been Grant Johnson, a Chicksaw/Cherokee/African-American multi-racial person.

By the way, thanks to Timeless, and my ignorance, I just learned that “tonto” means “fool” in Spanish.  Stupid racism.  worse than stupid.  no words.  I just…I don’t know…it doesn’t surprise me, but I am saddened.

(also, given the historic and amazing Cubs’ game, why is this still a thing??!)

Grant Johnson (historynet.com)

Black Lawmen and Outlaws in the Age of Steam (chroniclesofharriet.com)

pinterest pictures: American West

Unlike Reeves, Johnson was literate (as well as knowing Native American languages).  He was also a skilled lawman in the same territory.  According to Prof. Art Burton, Johnson owned one black horse and one white horse (symbolic much?), and performed some interesting trickery to keep law and order for town festivities:

“The same quick thinking Johnson needed to get his man and stay alive in Indian Territory was on display at one of Eufaula’s Emancipation Day celebrations. The Indian freedmen always held two picnics, one at each end of town, and Johnson could not possibly be in both places at the same time to keep the peace. But he did own two horses, a black one and a white one. Early on the holiday he tied one horse to a tree in full view of the crowd at one end of town. When the festivities began later in the day, Johnson rode to the other end of town and mingled with the crowd. The people who saw his horse back at the opposite end assumed he was somewhere in the crowd and decided they best stay out of trouble. It turned out to be one of the quietest Emancipation Day celebrations Eufaula ever witnessed.” – Professor Art Burton, South Suburban College, “The ‘Tonto’ of Indian Territory,” (historynet.com)

Charley Parkhurst.  I’m not sure if cross-dressing, transvestism, or transgender apply and/or would-be anachronistic.  It is possible that Charley thought of herself as female and dressed and lived as a man because, obviously the times.  It’s also possible that Charley thought of himself as male.  In any case, this biological woman dressed and lived as a man, driving six-horse stagecoaches in the Wild West, and is rumored to have defeated the Sugarfoot bandit, living a rough and tough life of hard drinking, hard smoking, and hard living, riding and shooting with the best of them.  (and technically had a pussy)  go powerful women, gendernonconforming people, and transgender people.

Charley Parkhurst Facts and Legends (fernjhill.com)

Charley Parkhurst wikipedia

12 Renowned Women of the West: Charley Parkhurst (history.howstuffworks.com)

Women of the Wild West (pbs.org)

Top 10 Men Who Were Really Women (listverse.com)


Albert Cashier

Albert Cashier

The Women Who Fought in the Civil War (Smithsonian.com)

Women in the Civil War (history.com)

I didn’t start this post consciously thinking about the past couple days and the Women’s March.  I watched Timeless, which I am really getting into, learned about Bass Reeves and Grant Johnson and was intrigued.  which led me down a little internet rabbit hole tangent thing.  I also had heard of Charley Parkhurst before.  And I remember, from going to certain museums, learning about women, in various wars throughout history, dressing as men to fight, even living lives as men.  Which has always been of big interest to me, being gender non conforming myself and trying to be a vigorous advocate for the LGBT community, especially the transgender community.  and especially now.  But anyways… now reading about Bass Reeves, Grant Johnson, Charley Parkhurst, Albert Cashier and what they went through, in the times they did…

…well, for starters, I think I start to get a deep ache in my gut and taking things for granted, even while thinking I wasn’t taking it for granted, I guess, too, especially as a white person, not exactly having the connections, community, family, personal understanding of – beyond intellectually – just how severe things were.  and always having to start with checking my privilege first and seeing what I can do to acknowledge my biases and stereotypes and moving from there…there are systemic and personal things that work for me and work against me… everyone has something…whether being bullied for being short or bald or…some more insidious, institutionalized, historical and so on than others…  but anyways, so reading about those people above, it does also make me think – and I am not an optimistic person – that if they did it, so can we.

Related Links/Sources:

Ayubu, K. (6/24/16). The Bass Reeves Legacy Monument, The Black Art Depot, (blackartblog.blackartdepot.com)

Hannaford, A. (8/6/13). Was Bass Reeves – a Former Slave Turned Deputy U.S. Marshal – the Real Lone Ranger?, The Telegraph, National Post, (news.nationalpost.com)

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