Boston, Wyatt Earp and Commonsense

Published on April 21, 2013

by Stephanie Janiczek
Clash Daily Guest Contributor

get-attachmentWhen the USA was young, and just discovering itself, a breed of man appeared on the horizon that had never existed before or since. He was the gunfighter. He was on the very edge of American expansion, living in cow towns full of lusty, rowdy cowboys looking to get drunk, gamble and a have good time with the “hostesses’. He was in the mining camps. He was everywhere on the western edge of civilization.

The gunfighter was unique because in one town he could be the town marshal, meting out justice on a drunken cowboy who started a fight in a saloon or breaking up an argument between professional gamblers. In another town, he might be that drunk screaming about how his poker opponent crawfished a bet. That’s the way the Old West was.

The mythology that grew up around the gunfighter is quite extraordinary. Wyatt Earp has become one of the main icons of that mythology. The fact is Wyatt Earp was no boy scout. He stole a horse in Arkansas, was a pimp in Peoria, Illinois and for a different job a Town Marshall in Dodge City, Kansas. He liked to fill in his legend with tall tales of arresting notorious gun fighters like Ben Johnson or staring down assassins like Clay Allison.

These sounded great but they weren’t the truth. But his story is common among the gunfighters and people who danced on the edge of the law. It depended on what day it was, and what the circumstances were. Such were the days of Wyatt Earp. One day the law man the next day the horse thief.

Everyone knows Earp’s claim to history. It is the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral and the subsequent battle between himself and family and the Clanton, McClaury boys. The colorful characters of Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, Bat Masterson, and the mythologized Doc Holliday fill in the story in much the same way the Iliad is filled with lesser known heroes. The aftermath of the OK Corral and the hunt for the men who murdered Morgan Earp is part of the myth and people who don’t know the facts are sucked into a romantic notion of what the Earp’s were really about.

In those days men like Earp might ask farmers, ranchers, and townsmen to join a posse and go on the hunt for a horse thief, a murderer or cattle rustler. The thing people have to remember is back then in the West, men had to know how to shoot. Most after the Civil War were veterans looking for a new life, and the rifle, shotgun and the Army Colt were the best friend a man could have besides his horse. If a member of the community had run afoul of a criminal, the sheriff or marshal might deputize a group of civilians and head off to hunt the perpetrator down. Because these men were not rookies at shooting and even man hunting, this was not an unsafe thing to do. These men were as professional a law enforcement group as one would likely find west of the Mississippi. In the late 1800’s that was all the civilization a man would find – an elected sheriff, or marshal and civilians who could be deputized in a moment.

Times have definitely changed. Watching what went down in Boston and seeing how residents listened to the police and stayed indoors out of the way while the hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went on was interesting. No civilians were asked to be part of the “posse” to bring Tsarnaev in. They stayed out of the way. We don’t have a need for civilians to be enlisted in a manhunt because our professional law enforcement men and women are capable of getting the job done. In fact a civilian with no knowledge or background in counterterrorism would merely be a hindrance and get people killed.

But there are people out there screaming how Boston being “locked” down was a prelude to “martial law”. Ah, no. This is where commonsense dictates rational people start objecting. First of all, that lockdown was for the good of the people of Boston. The people who go on about how Boston doesn’t have guns and the people were afraid have no clue about how a manhunt is conducted.

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