Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Planning for The First Payson Film Festival & Bass Reeves Is Just Getting Started

 April 30, 2024

   Met these fine folks at Tonto Bar & Grill yesterday for lunch. We are planning big things for August.

The Payson Film Festival Crew

(L-R): Craig Swartwood (former mayor of Payson), Elizabeth Fowler (Rim Country Artists, director of programs), Sherah LaBonte (pronounced Share-ah), BBB, and Miranda Meyer of the Chamber.

   We just shot a new YouTube video today. Here is what I talked about.

Bass Reeves Finally Gets His Due

   Yes, the lawman who went from being a slave to a stalwart U.S. Deputy Marshal has been having a moment recently with the release of the eight-part series Lawman: Bass Reeves, produced by Taylor Sheridan for Paramount + in 2023.

   While we pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge of history at True West magazine we were late to this party ourselves. Our magazine is 70 plus years old and yet, Reeves, did not appear in our pages until 1979, and we have one man to thank for him finally getting his due, and he is a member of my tribe: Art T. Burton. Art and I are both percussionists: he plays congas and I am an above average rock drummer. It was in 1991 that Art first brought the Bass Reeves story to the pages of True West with the cover headline "Bass Reeves: Deputy U.S. Marshal."

   As I said in the 2021 issue, we think it's high time we celebrated this amazing lawman who logged over 3,000 arrests in a three-decade career and shot it out with 14 to 20 bad guys.

   Bottom line is he makes Wyatt Earp look like a part-time mall cop!

Lawmen: Bass Reeves television series.

   So, if you've seen the Lawman: Bass Reeves TV series, here are some observations by Art T. Burton about the difference between the real lawman and the TV portrayal.

•  Bass Reeves never fought for the Confederate Army. Bass was a slave of a Confederate officer and served as his personal valet.

• Bass Reeves did not live with a Seminole woman and son for three years during the Civil War. Bass fought with the Union Army Native Americans during the Civil War and learned their languages, culture, and lay of the land of the Indian Territory.

• Bass Reeves was not a farmer. After the Civil War, Bass was a scout and interpreter for railroad surveyors in the Indian Territory. Later, he served as a guard for the railroad workers. After that, Bass worked as a scout and guide for federal lawmen in western Arkansas who worked in the Indian Territory. Bass did own a horse farm in Arkansas.

• There were no wagons with steel bars to transport prisoners in the Indian Territory. Prisoners were shackled ankle to ankle and had to walk.

• There were no legal saloons or brothels in the Indian Territory. Alcohol was illegal.

• If the deputy U.S. marshals in the Indian Territory didn’t have a supply wagon, they had pack horses or pack mules to carry supplies.

• Before Oklahoma statehood in 1907. There were very few racial murders in the Oklahoma/Indian Territories. Bass Reeves investigated several of these cases. There was also no Jim Crow laws until after statehood.

•  As an individual, Bass Reeves was not stoic and quiet. He liked to laugh, tell jokes and stories, and brag about what he could do. He was a Texas gentleman and he treated everyone with dignity and respect. Reeves was 6' 2' and weighed 190 pounds and it was claimed he could whip whip any two men with his bare hands.

• Reeves loved dogs and horses and always kept a large dog to guard his camp and watch the prisoners. Bass rode large horses, favoring sorrels and grays.

• Deputy U.S. Marshals didn’t wear badges while in the field of operation. A badge would tip off outlaws and possibly cause the death of the lawman.

• Bass Reeves when charged with murder of his cook was tried by a jury, it was not a bench trial. A jury found him innocent of murder in 1887.
   Other than that, the series was dead on. Ha.
   Okay, here is my prediction: there have been close to 40 movies about the lawman Wyatt Earp, but keep in mind he wasn't "discovered" until the late 1920s—almost 50 years after the events he is now famous for—and the first movie on Wyatt Earp came out in the thirties! By the same token, Bass Reeves is just getting started and I predict you are going to see a lot more films about him as a lawman. And, I look forward to one where he is a tad more badass.

"Always remember that the crowd  that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show."
—Terry Pratchett

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