Portrait of U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves | Courtesy of the National Park Service at Fort Smith
(Derek’s Note: Bass Reeves, U.S. Deputy Marshal
“Maybe the law ain’t perfect, but it’s the only one we got, and without it we got nuthin” – Bass Reeves
Born to slave parents in 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas, Bass Reeves would become the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi River and one of the greatest frontier heroes in our nation’s history.)
The Saloon door opened out stepped Cole Younger, Jesse James, and Belle Starr. Late Summer Sunday afternoon in Okmulgee Indian Territory cast a drowsy spell over the three after a successful day of gambling and drinking. The sun setting to the west burned through the dust raised by wagons leaving town. The dusty orange light casting long shadows across the doorways of the shops on Moore street. The young messenger boy skipped ahead to the west on Moore street. They shuffled along the sidewalk following the boy, sent to collect the three, towards the stables where their horses were being tended to. Supposedly, one of their horses had come up lame and the livery hand wanted to discuss what could be done for the horse.
Cole turned to Belle…who had his arm, “This is probably just an excuse to sell me a new one Belle. Most likely he had us marked as big spenders and this is just an excuse to make his pitch and sell off one of the nags left behind by someone unable to pay their bill.”
“Just keep this short Cole. I think Belle and I would like to get to dinner sooner rather than later.” Jesse complained.
Belle glanced back at Jesse, who was walking behind the pair and smiled. “I’m hungry too Cole. Just buy the horse so we can go eat.”
Cole looked back at Jesse. “Who says it’s my horse, friend?” Motioning towards the rapidly disappearing messenger boy. “That squirt didn’t say whose horse was lame. And, since you weigh more than I do, it’s probably your’s! And, if that’s the case, Jesse, you can pay for your own dang horse!”
The walk from the saloon to J.W. Griffin’s establishment took only a few minutes. Jesse walked through the doors of the stable and stood for a moment to allow his eyes to adjust to the gloom inside the building. As Cole and Belle followed through the door, the hairs on Jesse’s neck rose. “Somethings not right here…” Jesse thought as a stable hand stepped around the edge of one of the stalls and approached. Jesse glanced at Cole and noticed the look of concern on his friends face. The stable hand was tall and lanky. His shoulders formed a triangular block with the man’s hips, and as he stepped closer Jesse saw that the man was black. And, although his hat obscured the top part of his face Jesse instinctually understood the man he was facing was the legendary lawman Bass Reeves, and he was reaching for his Colt Peacemakers.
Jesse, Cole, and Belle began to draw their own pistols when the big lawman disappeared in a blink.
Bass Reeves, drew his Colt Peacemakers. Finally, months of preparation had come to fruition. The famous outlaws Jesse James and Cole Younger, and accompanying Younger was the cherry on top, Belle Star. Reeves was famous for the speed of his draw. Many times evil-doers had gotten the drop on him, only to find that was their last action on Earth. As the guns left their holsters the gloom of the stables disappeared and Bass found himself standing at the end of a busy city street in the bright sunlight.
Bass slowly took a deep breath. He was standing in the middle of an empty cobbled street bordered on both sides by shops and houses all attached to each other in a neat row. In front of the shops stood tall elm trees that filtered a warm but comfortable sunlight. Turning around Bass could see a large town down the road comfortably nestled by trees and ancient landscaping. Not a speck of dust anywhere to be seen.
Bass turned to look the other direction and came face to face with an automobile carrying two white males in the front and two young women; one perhaps a child, in the back. Their mouths open aghast at the giant black man holding two deadly looking Colt Peacemakers in the middle of the Oxford Street.
“Hells Bell’s good Lord Jesus! Something tells me I ain’t in Okmulgee anymore!” Bass exclaimed as he holstered his pistols.