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Bounty Hunters

November 11, 2013
Posted at 12:13 am

This is a note I posted in the Storiesonline forum. Maybe this is also a place where it should be posted.

I have a thing about stories about bounty hunters in the Wild West. Lately, I have gotten several emails in which the writers say that they will stop reading my stories because I glorify bounty hunters. I know I do, but I find that negative attitude amazing.

Back in the days of the Wild West, there was a paucity of lawmen. With the exception of Texas, no state had an overall law enforcement group. Yes, I know, the Rangers fell on hard times and were accused of all kinds of nefarious deeds, and some of the accusations were true. Nevertheless, all a murderer or thief had to do was to scoot to a new town or, at most, to a new county, and his bad deeds were behind him. Marshals of towns had no authority beyond the town's city limits, and sheriffs were political appointees responsible for only one county. Cross the county line and you were safe.

The Federal Marshals had no general authority to arrest anybody, despite what we saw on Gunsmoke. Marshal Dillon regularly exceeded his authority whenever he shot a bad man. So, who were you going to depend on to keep the peace and track down the bad guys? The bounty hunters were the only ones who could do the job legally, and they did it in most cases.

Not only do people not realize this, they object to the truth being told. After all, Jesse James was a folk hero despite the number of people he and his gang murdered. Oh, well, I will still write about bounty hunters as heroes and to hell with those who want to glorify the bad guys.