Monday, January 2, 2012

Outlaw Tales of Wyoming

What better way to celebrate the New Year than to review a book about Wyoming outlaws?  Alas, even though Charles Morgan (played by Peter Breck in The Great Shell Game), who was a member of a gang of horse thieves and not a con man as posited in the ASJ episode, and Frank Canton (played by Ed Nelson in What Happened at the XST?), who went to Texas on behalf of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association to hire gunmen for their war against small ranchers and wasn't the sheriff of Buffalo as the ASJ episode characterized him, are included in Outlaw Tales of Wyoming, Hannibal Heyes and Jedediah "Kid" Curry are not.  It really wouldn't have been too difficult to mention those two notorious outlaws, now would it???

Written by R. Michael Wilson and subtitled True Stories of the Cowboy State's Most Infamous Crooks, Culprits, and Cutthroats, this short, 125 page book contains fourteen chapters, twelve of which are about individual outlaws or outlaw gangs.  Two other chapters describe the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) and the Johnson County War, which played roles in the plots of Bushwhack!, What Happened at the XST? and Witness to a Lynching.  Photos and drawings of all the outlaws chronicled in Outlaw Tales of Wyoming are included, as is an extensive bibliography.

Each chapter begins with a short introduction that explains the location and time period where the crimes occurred.  It then proceeds to describe the upbringing of the outlaws and how, and sometimes why, the men--none of the criminals in Outlaw Tales of Wyoming are women--committed their crimes.  All the chapters end with an accounting of the fate of the outlaws.  Suffice it to say, none except the leaders of the WSGA escaped justice.

Outlaw Tales of Wyoming (ISBN 978-0-7627-4506-7) is a fascinating look at the period of Wyoming history in the second half of the 19th century.  Most of the men presented in this book were pretty bad men, some were very bad.  So I guess it's just as well that those two pretty good bad men, Heyes and Curry, are not included in this collection of outlaws after all.