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(Click to enlarge the pic!)

That’s how we watched the TV series back in the day: in black and white. Thing is, we can argue about the color of Jesus all centuries long but The Lone Ranger, the real deal, was a black man named, Bass Reeves.

Reeves is on the left—the real Lone Ranger.

This revelation started when I couldn’t get the theme music of the Lone Ranger TV series, William Tell Overture, out of my head while at work! It took another day of brain churning for me to figure out why. As a kid, I believed in this masked man who sought to right the wrongs in the world. My white hero in his white hat, guns blazing while riding a huge, white horse was sorta like a horse ridin’ Superman. Now, I suspect the music came back to me due to all the troubles we have in our country, and from an internal longing that someone other than Mighty Mouse( come on—he’s not real!) would come save the day!

Anyway, This pestering racket of a theme song lead me to look into the history of the show.

Just wow… I was amazed to find this….

“What Reverend Haskell James Shoeboot, the 98-year-old part-Cherokee Indian, was about to tell Burton(the man researching the Lone Ranger) would persuade Burton he’d stumbled upon one of the greatest stories never told.

Born in 1838, Bass Reeves was a former slave-turned-lawman who served with the US Marshals Service for 32 years at the turn of the 20th century in part of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas known as Indian Territory. Though he was illiterate, Reeves became an expert tracker and detective…”*

Reeves as a slave took his owner’s name. Near the end of the war (he fought for the south) Reeves traveled to Oklahoma doing odd jobs and learned several Native American languages.(I suspect this is when he learned to track.) The government appointed 300 marshal’s to tame the west and—Reeves was one of them…

 

Reeves, you guested it, is in the red circle.

“…Federal law dictated that deputy US marshals had to have at least one posseman with them whenever they went out in the field and often, the men who assisted Reeves were native Americans”.*

Soon, it became evident that this Reeves fella could out shoot, out ride and captured criminals better than any lawman in the west. He wore a white hat unlike most other marshals and beneath him galloped a huge white horse.

He gained a swagger as his arrests piled up. How many arrests? It’s written this one man captured over three thousand men who’d gone bad out west. In one day, as the history goes, he arrested thirteen men at one time!

These three thousand criminals all went to Chicago’s prison and it’s there guards learned about Reeves from the inmates. The first radio show about, The Lone Ranger, was produced in Chicago in 1933.

But how did Reeves become so successful?!?! We all have heard about how, Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s sidekick helped him track criminals.  Well, ‘Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!’

This is the only magnificent picture I could find of the real Lone Ranger and Tonto together. Tonto was said to be a Potawatomi Indian – the same tribe that was forced to move to Oklahoma.

Bass Reeves was famous for wearing disguises to help in his investigations and arrests. He dressed as beggars, hobos, farmers, city slickers and lunatics to get his men and it paid off. One night, he walked 28 miles to a homestead where two wanted men were said to be staying. For authenticity’s sake, Bass dressed as a man who’d been robbed at gun point and lost everything. He put three bullet holes in his hat, wore worn out shoes and scuffed up clothing. The mother of the two wanted men answered her door and Reeves quickly got inside with his story and stayed for dinner. Soon, the women’s two sons returned and they all had a time talking. Reeves was asked to stay the night.  He handcuffed the two criminals while they slept and walked them 28 miles back to his camp with their mom yelling and cussing at Reeves all the time. But, why did Reeves go to so much trouble!!! The reward for these two men was Five-Thousand dollars….a huge sum back then, and Reeves left nothing to chance.

This is Reeves with his wife; he spent his money wisely on her attire, don’t you think?

So there was a Lone Ranger and a Tonto…

But they never looked like this. They may, however, had conversations like this IF the nicknames used on the TV show were fact based.

Loosely translated, Tonto might mean, ‘You don’t know much…’ and Kimosabe,… “In Apache, it means “white shirt.” Who knows — maybe Tonto also had to do the Ranger’s laundry and was actually constantly reminding him to avoid grass stains. In Navajo, on the other hand, “kemosabe” translates as “soggy shrub.”**

Of course, TV producers heard the stories and wanted a show. Thing is, Reeves was the wrong color for a TV hero back then. The solution was to introduce him in black face, which they did. The original black mask worn by the first actor portraying, The Lone Ranger, nearly covered his entire face. It was policy at the time for a white man to wear a ‘black face’ or black mask of some kind when portraying a black man on stage.

The whiter The lone Ranger became by legend, they smaller his black mask.

There it is! Bass Reeves was a truly extraordinary hero for law enforcement in the history of the west.  And, oh, one more thing—about those silver bullets the Lone Ranger was said to leave as calling cards. Actually, Bass Reeves left silver dollars. Really! Bass had that much money.

Hi-Ho Silver… Bass made a killing at law enforcement. He died a peaceful death in 1910. I suspect, as a master of disguise, he never cared that no one knew who he was. He got the criminals, the gal and the money—that had to be enough.

This statue honoring Bass Reeves was recently put up in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The statue is bronze, but our ‘white’ hero, the Lone Ranger, was definitely Black.

Franque23 rides away until another day!

*https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/10131675/Was-the-real-Lone-Ranger-black.html

**http://www.word-detective.com/2011/07/kemosabe/

 

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