There is more to the “Wild West” than just the “Wild”!

I had hoped to have these completed in December last year but well Christmas got in the way! Only three weeks late.

Contrary to popular perception, the Old West was much more peaceful than American cities are today. The real culture of violence on the frontier during the latter half of the nineteenth century sprang from the U.S. government’s policies toward the Plains Indians.The Independent review.

“I have vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” Butch Cassidy

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is final” Wyatt Earp

Anyone who has ever watched a Western knows all about how “wild” life was back then. Damsels in distress were tied to railroads, cowboys’ cattle were rustled, trains and banks were robbed, and the sheriff was usually a slacker with scant interest in enforcing what little law existed, or was a hero taming the wilder elements in town. In short, you risked getting lassoed into a gunfight every time you went to the saloon or walked down the street. 

Well, that is what Hollywood portrays, and is what attracts us wargamers to the period. The reality was somewhat different. The West was a lot tamer than it’s often portrayed in popular culture, but according to historians certain areas did have dangerous undercurrents of violence.

My not so “Wild” Western “stuff”:

Going to the laundromat

The Wild West encompassed a vast area stretching from the Rocky “Mountain states like Montana all the way down to Texas and then across to the West Coast,” said Terry Anderson, professor emeritus of economics at Montana State University and co-author of “The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier” (Stanford Economics and Finance, 2004). As far as a time period goes, we’re talking about the 1850s, or pre-Civil War, all the way to 1900. “It was when the range was open and cattle could just graze anywhere,”. Live Science. 

Hat waving is a favourite past time

Much of this was before statehood, and so there was little or no rule of law and the Federal government was not that interested. This lack of a centralized government is partly responsible for our collective imagining of the Wild West as a rowdy and fierce place to live.

Only surpassed by a waving hat race

“It’s depicted almost as a state of anarchy where there was fighting amongst the Indian tribes, [and] then along came the Europeans to join in”. While battles worthy of John Wayne’s portrayals did happen (for instance, three people died in the 1881 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Arizona Territory), there were also periods of peace that lasted long enough for the settlers to figure out society’s rules in a makeshift kind of a way.

I’ll have yah!

The Hollywood version shows anyone and everyone fighting over water rights and land, but what we discovered is that, in reality, people understood the negative consequences of fighting and instead found civil ways to resolve their disputes”. For example, cattle owners often divided up extensive plots of land and formed associations to document and assign range rights.” Live Science.

No sir! I will have you! Queensbury rules of course!

This is not to say that all was “fine and dandy” as Mathieu Couttenier’s study in the Journal of the European Economic Association demonstrates. The 2017 study into crime statistics showed that parts of the Wild West were demonstrably more violent than the Eastern states, especially in places where gold and other minerals were discovered. For example, murder and physical assault weren’t uncommon.  

Fine ladies of the town

In other words, when the resource in question was plentiful — such as land for cattle grazing — people were more likely to come to some sort of nonviolent arrangement. But if the resource was rarer and more valuable, such as a precious metal, people were more prone to throw punches or draw a six gun to get their way. 

Not long after I purchased the “Dead Man’s Hand” rules I was looking for some figures and was impressed with the Dixon Miniatures range. At the time the Australian Essex Miniatures site were distributing them and they had a collection of a few hundred figures, mostly civilians, for sale at a give-away price in their specials section. There were many duplicates including a dozen bar men, but after getting a full list of the figures I decided to buy the lot as the purchase was worth it just for the cowboys.

Not so fine “ladies” and their boss

Well, as you can imagine, all of the cowboys were painted up quickly and the rest stayed in a box in the deep dark recesses of “The Cave” ………………………….that is until recently.

In the tavern

The local newspaper team

The photographer must be a time traveller!

Cookie and victim

Townsfolk with rifles

It wasn’t me

Townsfolk with shotguns

Townsfolk with pistols

Wild Bill Dead Man’s Hand special character

Dutchies courage

Strange? Menfolk with NO weapons

“Have a sack”

Rolling out the barrel

Amigo!

Shopkeeper

Assorted workers

Not all is as it seems

I now have more than enough (seventy two) townsfolk to decorate the table with.

12 thoughts on “There is more to the “Wild West” than just the “Wild”!

    1. Too many! My main source material for this is old western movies and unfortunately it looks like when the fighting gets started there are no civvies around! Not sure how much use they will get but because of the bulk sale price they were virtually a “freebie” anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

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