Badass of the Week.

Bass Reeves

"He stepped out into the open, 500 yards away, and commenced shooting with his Winchester rifle… his first bullet cut a button off my coat, and [the] second cut my bridle reign in two. I shifted my six-shooter and grabbed my Winchester and shot twice. He dropped, and when I picked him up I found that my two bullets had hit within a half-inch of each other."

Note: I had to put down my 19-year-old cat last night. I realize this is one of the least-badass reasons to punk out on my weekly update (I didn't even skip weeks when my grandparents passed away!), but, as I sit here working on my update, I find that I am really not feeling particularly interesting, funny, or motivated. So in lieu of trying to crap out something that is going to totally suck, here's one of my favorite chapters from my book, BADASS.

A lone rider came to a leisurely halt along the side of the dusty trail. Standing in his path were three of the deadliest outlaws in the Indian Territory – the notorious Brunter brothers. These infamous murderers and thieves were the sort of cop-killing fugitive bastards who would just as soon have immolated you with a blowtorch as urinated on your burning corpse. The men, all looking like they'd just stepped off the set of the movie Tombstone, pointed a multi-flavored assortment of shotguns and revolvers at the interloper, gesturing for him to dismount from his horse. The rider complied.

Bass Reeves calmly took three steps towards the Brunter brothers, his grim face registering neither fear nor respect for these punk-ass bitches. He was an intimidating, serious-looking man, standing over six feet tall and solidly built. His clothes and equipment were nondescript, covered with the dust from several thousand miles of hard riding, hard fighting, and hard drinking. His beaten-up black hat and long black coat sported a variety of bullet holes and blood stains. The brass star proudly displayed on his lapel was tarnished with age.

"What the hell are you doing out here, lawman?" the elder Brunter brother demanded.

Bass spit. "Well, I've come to arrest you," he said in the sort of nonchalant, matter-of-fact way that an evil mechanic tells you that you need a new transmission. "Got the warrant right here." He reached into his coat pocket, produced a worn, folded up piece of paper, and casually handed it to the elder brother.

The Brunters all looked at each other in disbelief. They couldn't believe the stupidity of the man standing before them to have admitted this fact as plainly as he had. Sure, they respected the fact he possessed what obviously must have been solid brass balls, but they were still definitely going to have to kill his ass.

The eldest brother unfolded the warrant, and jokingly showed his brothers the lengthy list of serious charges leveled against them. The moment their collective eyes looked down towards the page, Reeves' right hand twitched ever so slightly. Then, in a flash, he closed his fingers around the handle of the .45-caliber Colt Peacemaker strapped to his thigh, drew his weapon and fired two shots from the hip in rapid succession. Both bullets hit home, sending two Brunters spinning into a dance of death. The eldest brother pointed his gun at the lawman's head, but before he could fire it Bass Reeves was on him. Reeves grabbed the man's revolver with one hand, redirected the weapon so it was pointing up into the air, and then proceeded to pistol-whip the dude unconscious with his free hand. In the span of about twenty seconds, the toughest U.S. Marshal West of the Mississippi had just taken out three of the Indian Territory's deadliest criminals.

A Colt Peacemaker

Starting his life out as a young, illiterate slave belonging to Confederate Colonel George Reeves, Bass was an unlikely candidate to become one of the most insane, over-the-top, jerky-chomping asskickers in the American West. Sure, he was big, tough, and strong, but for a lot of black slaves living in 1860s Texas there really wasn't a whole lot available in the way of social mobility. Growing up, all Bass really had to look forward to was a lifetime of servitude and bullcrap menial labor.

Well screw that. One day, Bass and Colonel Reeves were playing a nice friendly game of cards, when all of a sudden things became a little less than friendly. The Colonel was being a ten-gallon jackoff, so Bass leaned back and coldcocked the dude in the chops with a lights-out roundhouse punch. Colonel Reeves hit the deck like a sack of lead potatoes, TKOed by a solid George Foreman-esque right hook.

Realizing that he'd basically just signed his own death warrant, Bass decided it was time to get the hell out of Dodge. He fled the plantation and traveled several miles north, crossing the Red River into Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The law of the White Man had no sway there, and Bass was soon taken in by the Seminole Indian tribe of Oklahoma.

While living with the Seminoles, Bass learned how to speak the languages of the Five Civilized Tribes, and trained himself in the arts of sweet badassitude. He enthusiastically took up shooting, becoming a deadly marksman with a rifle and an incredibly fast quick-draw with pistols. He was ambidextrous, could fire equally well with both hands, and could dual-wield pistols Chow Yun Fat-style. He became such a crack shot with a rifle that that he was actually forbidden from participating in all competitive turkey shoots in the Indian Territories.

After the Thirteenth Amendment made the south a little less suck-tastic for black people, Bass Reeves left his adoptive home with the Indians, bought a home in Arkansas, got married, had like ten kids, and lived for a while as a farmer and a horse breeder. That was cool and all, but Bass Reeves was the kind of guy who was always looking to serve up a nice warm knuckle sandwich to anything capable of feeling pain and he wasn't happy living the boring life of successful rancher. So when the infamous hardass "Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker put out a call for U.S. Marshals in 1875, Bass was one of the first volunteers ready and willing to bring lethal hordes of armed-and-dangerous felons to justice. Thanks to his mammoth physical strength, tracking skills, intimate knowledge of the terrain, and language proficiency, he easily earned a spot on the force.

Now back in the 1870s the Indian Territory was a sick nightmare from hell. The vast uncharted expanse – nearly seventy-five thousand miles of lawless terrain – was infested with fugitives, criminals, and escaped convicts, and was a horrible bitch that feasted on the broken dreams of wayward travelers and drank the blood of anyone foolhardy enough to cross her. It was up to guys like Bass Reeves and the U.S. Marshals to go into that dangerous territory, hunt down murderers, rapists, bank robbers, bootleggers, legbooters, and cattle rustlers, and bring some of the West's most dangerous outlaws in for some cowboy-style justice. Bass quickly proved that he was more than up to the task.

Going out on lone-wolf style missions deep into unknown territory, Reeves relied on his toughness and his wits to survive and bring his men to justice. He used tactics he had learned from the Seminoles to traverse vast distances quickly and leave no trace of his trail. He tracked his foes down, never backed away from a job no matter how many bounties or death threats were leveled at him, and never blinked in the face of extreme danger. In thirty years of service, Bass Reeves arrested over three thousand fugitives – including one trip to Comanche country when he single-handedly captured and brought in seventeen prisoners. He was also the man who took out the notorious bank robber and murderer Bob Dozier. Dozier had eluded capture from posses and lawmen for several years, but he wasn't quite as adept at eluding a gunshot wound to the brain from Bass effing Reeves.

Another famous Reeves arrest was Belle Starr, the "Bandit Queen of Dallas," who was a hard-drinkin', hard-ridin', hard-swearin', gunfightin' hardass who wore enjoyed gambling, wearing over-the-top outfits, sleeping around, and raking in cash hand-over-fist through an organized racket of horse thievery and stagecoach robbery. During her sixteen-year career as an outlaw, Bass Reeves was the only lawman to ever successfully apprehend her.

Despite the fact that he spent much of his life drilling folks in the head with bullets, Reeves' service record was utterly stainless. He killed fourteen men in gunfights – more than Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, and Wild Bill Hickok - and wounded dozens more, but was never once convicted of unlawful use of force or murder or police brutality or any of that stupid crap. He couldn't be bribed or paid off, and one time he even hunted down and arrested his own son when the kid murdered Bass' daughter-in-law. Unbelievably, Bass Reeves was also apparently more bulletproof than a Steven Seagal movie, seeing as how he was never wounded once during his time on the force. He had his belt shot in two, his hat brim shot away, a button on his coat shot off, and his bridle reigns cut in half by bullets, but never felt the sting of a gunshot to any part of his body.

Bass Reeves served valiantly for three decades, and when his branch of the Marshals was disbanded in 1907, the seventy year-old lawman took a job as a police officer with the Muskogee Police Department, walking the beat with a cane and a revolver. He retired two years later and died in 1910, one of the most badass and obscure heroes of the American West and a man whose story is so over-the-top awesome that it pretty much generates its own gravitational field.


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