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Review - The Real Story - True Grit

I really like the series "The Real Story" from the smithsonian Channel which features facts behind fictional stories or movies. Shows have included Braveheart, Apollo 13, Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, Pirates of the Caribbean and True Grit.

Charles Portis wrote "True Grit" in 1968 and it was made into a movie twice - the 1969 John Wayne version and the 2010 Jeff Bridges version. It tells the story of a fourteen year old girl, Mattie Ross, who tracks down her father's murdered by hiring the toughest marshal (a man with "true grit") that she can find. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who is also after the murderer (Chaney).

The drunken, one-eyed U.S. Marshal was Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, a Civil War veteran who killed 23 men, supposedly out of self defense, during his career as marshal.

1851 colt Navy cap and ball revolver - took forever to reload, plow-handle shaped handle, accurate up to 50 ft.

Winchester 1873 Rifle was accurate up to 400 yards, lever-action, 14 rounds per load.

During this time, deputies worked on commissions and not on salary, so they had to cover their own expenses. Oftne they performed side gigs and pursued warrants. They could get 6 cents a mile to go out to get someone and 10 cents a mile to bring someone back under arrest. Deputies walked a thin line between good and bad (abuse of power).

Fort Smith, Arkansas had a jail known as "hell on the border". It was dirty, smelly, and had a bucket for a bathroom. By the 1870's, the jail was overcrowded. On Fort Smith's hanging day, over 5000 people came to watch, including consession salesmen (hawkers). About 100 people hung in their gallows.

Judge Isaac Parker, known as "Hanging Judge Parker", 36, was from a small town in Ohio and had a wife named Mary. He sentenced 79 men to die from the gallows.

Indian Territory was desolate, wide open, and made it a haven for dangerous criminals. 17,000 of the 22,000 white people were criminals. It consisted of over 64,000 square miles so it was difficult to police. There were 5 native tribes, the Creeks being the most violent.

Deputy Marshal's job was a lot like a private investigator - had to go interview people, tracked criminals down, went undercover. But it was a dangerous job and 1/5 of Fort smith's deputy marshals were killed.

Resources: The Real Story series

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