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A Black Cowboy is the Inspiration for the Lone Ranger?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 9, 2023 3:01 am

A Black Cowboy is the Inspiration for the Lone Ranger?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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June 9, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, the Lone Ranger, with his cry of “Hi-Ho Silver!” has become an American institution ranking with Paul Bunyan in the realms of folklore and legend. The History Guy remembers Bass Reeves, John Reynolds Hughes, and forgotten history of the Wild West.

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But hurry, this deal is hot. So head on over to today. This is Our American Stories, and our next story comes to us from a man who is simply known as the History Guy. His videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages on YouTube. The History Guy is also a regular contributor here on Our American Stories. The Lone Ranger, with his cry of high-o silver, has become an American institution ranking up there with Paul Bunyan in the realm of folklore and legend. Here's the History Guy with the fascinating story behind The Lone Ranger. The world, it seems, enjoys a good Western. Movies about the American Wild West were the most popular genre in Hollywood from the early beginning of film through the 1960s. And the genre of Western was being used to describe films as early as 1912. Stories in the American West have been popular across a number of genres, from books and comic books to film and radio. Wild West adventures, usually featuring cowboys and gunslingers, have gained worldwide popularity as popular in Europe and Asia, it seems, as they are in the nation where they supposedly happened. But the Western as an entertainment genre only rarely depicts the reality of life on the American frontier. And the intersection of fiction and reality offers an interesting glimpse into both the world of the entertainment viewer and the real Western pioneer.

And there is a great example of that in one of the most popular of the fictional Western heroes and the little-known real Western lawmen, who were the closest thing to the Hollywood legend. So return to us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse, Silver. Hi-yo, Silver, away!

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again. The Lone Ranger first rode into the hearts and minds of listeners, courtesy Detroit area radio station WXYZ, with the title role voiced by actor George Seaton, who later won two Academy Awards for screenwriting, and said that he invented the famous catch phrase, hi-yo, Silver, because he couldn't whistle. WXYZ aired over 3,000 radio episodes of the show, featuring a Texas Ranger who fought outlaws accompanied by his faithful Indian companion, Tonto. According to the story, the Lone Ranger was one of six Texas Rangers who were caught in an ambush by the despicable Butch Cavendish gang. Later, a friendly Indian appears upon the scene and finds that one of the Rangers has survived. Tonto buries the dead Rangers, but makes six grave markers to hide the fact that one survived.

He then nurses the injured Ranger back to health. The Ranger is forced to wear a mask to conceal his identity, since he was supposed to have died, as he fights for justice against Butch Cavendish and his gang. The show was a classic Western and was popular partly because of the Rangers' strict moral code, which represented American values at the time, and included phrases like, to have a friend, a man must be one, and all things change but truth.

And that truth alone lives on forever. He only used silver bullets because it reminded him that life is precious, and like the bullets, shouldn't be wasted. Along with the radio show, the Lone Ranger spurred two film serials in the 1930s, a popular television show that ran over 220 episodes between 1949 and 1957, two different cartoon series, a newspaper comic strip that ran for more than 30 years, dozens of adventure novels and comic books, a video game, and hundreds of various toys, and seven feature films. And in one of the lesser-known connections, the Lone Ranger spawned a popular spin-off property wherein, according to the original radio program, Dan, the Lone Ranger's nephew, who appeared in both the radio show and on television, had a son who again took on the role of bass crime fighter as the Green Hornet. But the popular fictional character raises a question. Was there a real Lone Ranger?

The answer is possibly. In 1915, novelist Zane Grey wrote a novel called The Lone Star Ranger, which itself was adapted for four different feature films. The character in the novel is fictional, but the novel was dedicated to a real Texas Ranger named John Reynolds Hughes. Hughes was known as one of the most effective of the Texas Rangers, and notably, when another Texas Ranger captain was killed in an ambush, Hughes, one of the Rangers' best trackers, relentlessly pursued the gang that had committed the ambush. Somewhat like the story told in The Lone Ranger.

While he was a rancher in Travis County, Texas, Hughes had tracked down a group that had stolen horses from his and other ranches. That drew the attention of the Texas Rangers who recruited him. He served as a ranger for 28 years, the Texas Rangers' longest-serving member. While Hughes certainly inspired Zane Grey, who had traveled with him, it is less clear that he inspired the Lone Ranger. But his was certainly a story of a dedicated Texas Ranger. But when talking about the Lone Ranger, there's another story as well.

That of lawman Bass Reeves, who was, according to one biographer, the closest real person to resemble the Lone Ranger. Bass Reeves was born a slave in 1838, and as was common at the time, took the last name of his owner. Sometime in the early 1860s, he parted ways with that owner. Some say because he had a fight with his owner after a card game, and others could talk of freeing the slaves during the Civil War. But for whatever reason, Reeves escaped slavery and went to live in Indian Territory, modern-day Oklahoma, living among Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians, and learning both the territory and many of the people's languages.

He became a crack shot with both a pistol and a rifle. After the war, when the 13th Amendment passed and he no longer had a fear of being returned to slavery, he moved to Arkansas, where he became a successful rancher and had 10 children. Indian Territory was notoriously lawless, and many outlaws fled there to escape justice. In 1875, President Grant appointed a new judge of the US Court for the Western District of Arkansas, with the goal of addressing lawlessness in the Indian Territory. The judge then appointed a former Confederate general as the new US Marshal, who then hired 200 deputy US Marshals, some of whom are among the most famous lawmen of the West. Having heard of Reeves' knowledge of the Indian Territory and familiarity with its people, the new Marshal hired him as one of those deputies.

Bass Reeves became the first black deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi. He served for more than 30 years, and in that time arrested more than 3,000 outlaws. He survived numerous gunfights, even having his belt and hat shot off, but never once took a bullet. He was one of the most feared and respected lawmen of the territory. He was known for dressing fastidiously and for wearing two Colt pistols with the butts face forward for a quick draw, as was common for many Americans of the time and certainly former slaves.

He never received a formal education and so never learned to read and write. Before he went on patrols, which could take months at a time, he would have someone read the outstanding warrants to him, which he could recite from memory. At first, Reeves might seem nothing like the Lone Ranger. He wasn't even a Texas Ranger and was never shot, more or less nursed back to health by a faithful Indian companion.

But deputies in the Indian Territory would often travel only accompanied by a posse member who would be a Native American. Although he was most known for riding a red stallion with a white blaze that highly resembled Tonto's horse Scout from the Lone Ranger television series, he was also known to ride a white horse. And while he did not wear a mask, he was known to use disguises when capturing outlaws. It is not hard to see how this dedicated lawman traveling alone with his Indian companion catching the bad guys could be seen as, as one biography described him, the closest real person to resemble the Lone Ranger.

In the end, there's no compelling evidence that either John Reynolds Hughes or Bass Reeves directly inspired the creation of the radio character. The creators of the Lone Ranger, in fact, indicated that the character was inspired not by real lawmen, but by Robin Hood and the Western actor Tom Mix. But both Hughes and Reeves certainly bore some resemblance to the legendary masked hero and remind us that the lone lawman dispensing justice on a wild frontier is not completely a fabrication of the entertainment industry. There were, in fact, some actual good guys in the wild west, even if they did not always wear a white hat. It is telling that Hughes and Reeves were somewhat similar stories, both had spent time and largely on the skill that served them in the Indian territory. Both had been successful ranchers where they developed a vested interest in protecting the people settling the frontier from lawlessness. Both served long and distinguished careers in law enforcement, part of the special breed that bridged the gap between the wild west and the modern era. And both were true heroes, even though neither is nearly as well known as the fictional Lone Ranger. Bass Reeves died of kidney disease in 1910 at the age of 71. John Hughes, in ill health and depressed as all of his old friends had passed away, tragically took his own life in 1947.

He was 92. And what a great job by the history guy. And as is so often the case in fiction, it's often a merger of fact and fiction. And it's hard for anybody to remember. A great story by the history guy. Go and Google his name and check out his work on YouTube.

The story of the man behind the mask, the real Lone Ranger exposed, here on Our American Stories. With backyard barbecues and summer get togethers coming in hot, it's the perfect time to upgrade your entertainment setup. Whether it's outdoor movies on the big screen or cheering on your favorite soccer team with friends, you can get a 65 inch Vizio V Series 4K Smart TV for just $398 at Walmart.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-09 04:25:56 / 2023-06-09 04:31:35 / 6

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