According to contemporary reports, William Barclay “Bat” Masterson was a likable fellow, a steadfast friend, and an incorrigible practical joker. The Canadian-born gambler, buffalo hunter, Indian fighter, sportsman, and lawman was also a decent writer. Sensing a strong popular market for stories of the pistoleers (most of whom he had known personally), he penned Famous Gunfighters of the Western Frontier

. One of the more glowing portraits was that of his close friend and fellow lawman, Wyatt Earp.

Masterson served as sheriff of Ford County, Kan., and marshal of Trinidad, Colo., during the wild days of the early 1880s, and later, as deputy U.S. marshal for the Southern District of New York, by presidential appointment. There is an Old West maxim that states, “Any story that can’t be improved on ain’t worth telling”—a sentiment Masterson enthusiastically embraced. 

Although he later admitted under oath to having slain only two or three men in his entire career, period newspapers credited him with some 38 kills, “not counting Indians.” Masterson cultivated these wild tales, reasoning that they would discourage people from challenging him. Apparently, his reasoning was sound, since he lived well into the 20th century. 

Masterson became a sports writer for a New York newspaper, dying at his typewriter in 1921; his tombstone reads, “Loved by Everyone.”

Bat Masterson is just one of the bandits and badges profiled in Legends Collector’s Issue: Outlaws & Lawmen.Purchase your copy here. 

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