Our newest anthology “Give Me a Texas Ranger” came out last month, but along with promoting and celebrating a new release, I was knee deep in writing the next of the “Give Me …” series “Give Me a Texas Outlaw”. Of course I’ve had Texas Rangers and outlaws on my mind for months, so what better to write about than a Ranger named Bass Outlaw?
One of my favorite ways to create a character is to tailor them after a real person (preferably none of your family). While visiting East Texas, I found a book about Bass Outlaw, an ex-Texas Ranger short on stature and long on attitude. Bass Outlaw a/k/a Ranger Little Wolf was a moody, strange, and little known Ranger. I mirrored one of my characters in “Texas Ranger”, Muley Mullinex, after him. It was a simple plan for him to be the town’s darlin’ during the day but when he went on a binge he would be my antagonist. However, from the get go Muley proved to be as obstinate on paper as Bass Outlaw was in real life.
Not to be confused with a much better known Ranger, Sam Bass, Bass Outlaw, whose name was thought to be Sebastian Lamar Outlaw was the black sheep of a genteel Georgia family. He had an inferiority complex we might call the “little man syndrome” today, since he was around 5’4” and weighed maybe 150 lbs. His eyes, cold and unfriendly, were pale blue. He sported a mustache best described as bushy, not the heavy, flowing types worn by the likes of Doc Holliday or Wyatt Earp which were the fashion of that era. If it wasn’t for his prowess with a rifle and a pistol he would not like have commanded any attention at all.
Beginning in E Company, Outlaw soon earned a solid reputation for himself as a quick draw with a deadly accurate shot. He could ride with the best, learned readily how to track even the faintest signs and was earmarked as a Ranger with a future. He climbed the ranks and historians have noted that he could have easily become a legendary Ranger such as William J. McDonald and James Gillette, but Bass Outlaw’s hair-trigger temper changed the course of his life … and history.
The personification of a prairie wolf, earned him his nickname, Lone Wolf. He was a loner, never volunteering anything about his past, never asking anyone about theirs. A moody, sullen, often cantankerous individual, he still possessed the qualities the Rangers required in those days on a wild and unsettled frontier. He was brave, wily and determined in battle. Outlaw was unpredictable in that he was either withdrawn or dangerously aggressive depending on his mood … and the amount of alcohol he’d consumed.
His head was on the chopping board more times than not, but generally after a good dressing down, his Captain would decide not to fire the arrogant lawman because of some heroic deed he’d done.
Bass Outlaw, Top Row, Second from Left
Like all lone wolves, his luck ran out. In 1893, after his Company had moved to a remote part of Texas southeast of El Paso, Bass was placed in charge of the unit while Captain Jones was away on business.
One day, after chugging rotgut once too often, Bass left the compound with no one in command and joined a poker game with a former Ranger which lead to his undoing. Bass lost the game and his temper, but had enough sense to know not to shoot up the place. Another former Ranger, Sheriff Jim Gillett, grabbed Bass and pulled him outside, managing to settle the dispute before there was any gunfire.
Needless to say when Captain Jones returned and got wind of the going ons he was furious and fired Bass Outlaw on the spot, ordering him out of camp pronto.
Although it was a mess of his own makings, until Bass Outlaw drew his last breath, he held a grudge against the Rangers. His bone of contention was at first with Gillett, because he thought the sheriff had ratted him out. Later, Bass learned that the lawman had not reported his behavior.
Gillett was spared, as he was not the Ranger that Bass was destined to kill.
Bass Outlaw stayed out of trouble for a while and took on other jobs, including prospecting for gold and hidden treasures. Failing at all, he eventually caught the attention of the El Paso U.S. Marshall, another ex-Ranger, who hired him as a deputy.
Famed Ranger John Hughes predicted, rightfully so, that Little Wolf would someday kill another Ranger. This proved true when Outlaw entered into a squabble with a constable in El Paso by the name of John Selman, after going into a rant over a soiled dove. Outlaw shot him three times. Leaving the saloon, still sullen and dangerous, Outlaw was confronted by a young Ranger, Joe McKidrict, where Outlaw shot him dead. It is reported that was the only incident where a Texas Ranger has ever been killed by an active or former member of the fabled organization.
Ironically, John Selman recovered. Although the gunpowder damaged his vision and he walked with a cane, he killed the infamous John Wesley Hardin in a saloon in El Paso. Two years later, Selman was killed by Deputy U.S. Marshal George Scarborough in another El Paso saloon.
A witness to Bass Outlaw’s demise stated his last sound was a whimper, the kind a wolf tends to make when he knows his time is finished. For Bass Outlaw there were no flowers, no eulogy and no mourners … not even the soiled dove who proclaimed to love him. He was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso, and his tombstone reads: “B.L. Outlaw, 1854-1894, 1st Sgt. Co. D. F. B., State Forces, Deputy U.S. Marshall.”
Now you can see why writing Muley Mullinex fought me tooth and toenail all along the way. In “Give Me a Texas Ranger,” I referred to Captain Arrington, Hayden McGraw’s superior. Other than Mullinex, Arrington, and McGraw, do any of you remember the name of a fourth Texas Ranger I used in my story?
I’m givin’ away an autographed copy of “Give Me a Texas Ranger” to the first person posting the correct answer.