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The Legend of Bass Reeves by Gary Paulsen
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The Legend of Bass Reeves

by Gary Paulsen

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Characters: Bass Reeves; Mammy, his mother; Flowers, an old enslaved man who never spoke, until the night Bass had to run away; Mister Murphy, the slave owner; Peter, Native American man whose family became his family; Judge Parker, who hired Bass Reeves to clean up the Indian Territory

Setting: 1800s, Texas; Indian Territory

Theme: No one has the right to own or terrorize other human beings.

Genre: historical fiction; western, adventure

Golden quote: “’You, me, Betty, uncle, Mary, Martha. All one.’…Bass stared at him, understanding, truly understanding, and knew then that it was what he wanted. A place, a place to be safe, to be with people he could know and care for, a place to be free.”

Audience: boys (and girls) grades 4-7
Curriculum ties: U. S. History; Civil Rights

Personal response: I am surprised that the story of Bass Reeves is little known, and gratified that Gary Paulsen wrote about it. The story is filled with adventure, danger, and near-misses. Paulsen intersperses historical details into his fictional narrative, creating a powerful story, and a chance for readers to know the heroism of this man’s life. This is a story about a boy who dreamed of escaping slavery and being his own man. It’s also about how he learned to manage a ranch, ride a horse, feed his family, and outsmart his master. As a Marshal in the Indian Territory, he uses his wit and skill to outsmart every criminal he went up against. That he found a family with the Creek people is especially moving and well told. ( )
  salps | Mar 9, 2013 |
This book is about a black man named Bass that became a very famous marshall, or sheriff. When he was a boy, he and his mother were slaves for a man who loved to drink. He actually liked it because he wasn't too mean and they got lots of good food. His mother told him that he had a power, but he didn't believe her. One day, while he was fetching water, he saw a wolf, and it said to him, "Things will change." Later, things did change. They changed a lot.

I liked this book, because it tells of what hardships Bass had to over come as a kid. because it was a Western, too. When he was only twelve, his owner gave him a gun to protect the farm from Native Americans that attacked the farm. They came, but they survived. Bass liked to play poker with his owner, and one day he bet him that he could beat him, because he usually didn't. If Bass won, he would be free, and his owner agreed. Bass won, so he was free for life, but he didn't free his mom. He grew up to be a famous sheriff, and he caught lots of criminals. People have heard that he outlived his mother, growing up to be 81. He never got he recongnition he deserved, but he'll always be remembered. ( )
  Andre.cbec6671 | Apr 18, 2012 |
Bass Reeves was born in 1838 and is thought to be one of the first African-Americans to be comissioned as a Deputy US Marshal. For the first 17 years of his life, he was a slave "owned" by his master George Reeves (as far as I know, no relation to the George Reeves of Superman fame), a farmer. Just before the Civil War, Bass parted ways with his master and ran to Indian Territory, where he lived among the Creek and Seminole Indians for about 20 years. Later he moved to Arkansas, where he married twice and had 10+ children. There he was approached by the well-known Judge Isaac Parker (aka the Hanging Judge), who heard about his life living in Indian Territory. Bass Reeves spoke many Indian dialects and knew the land intimately. During his time as a lawman, he pursued and caught many a criminal using unique methods for the time. He would go undercover and disguise himself to catch his man. He even had to dress up as a woman at one point. He had to track down and arrest his own son for murder. During his 30+ years of service, he was shot at many times, but never hit. He became a constable at the ripe old age of 81. Bass Reeves was a well-respected and feared lawman of his time. A lot of his history still remains a mystery, but what is know about him is this...he was honorable, steadfast, feared, and respected. Bass was truly worthy of legendary status. In the words of US Marshal Leo Bennet, "He never shirked his duty."

This somewhat fictionalized account of Bass Reeves from age 10 toward the end of his career is a great first-person narrative. Paulsen gives you some historical background throughout, but for the most part you get to see the world through Reeves' eyes. From the 10-year-old boy who still relies on his Mammy to the great man he would eventually become, Bass Reeves is a man to remember. If you are a younger reader interested in Reeves, I highly recommend Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy US Marshal, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (Ages 5+).

Ages 12+

Publisher: Laurel Leaf (January 2008)

ISBN: 9780553494297

Available as an eBook. ( )
  okeanotiszois | Feb 22, 2011 |
An amazing story of a boy raised in slavery who escaped and lived with Indians in Indian territory eventually becoming one of the finest Texas Rangers. He was strong, honest, true, and a real American hero.

Gary Paulsen works his magic depicting the horrors of slavery and the brutality of life for all in the Indian territory. A real adventure and lesson in history. A great read. ( )
  oapostrophe | Sep 25, 2010 |
What makes a hero in the Old West? Hollywood and dime story novels made legends of many of the wrong people and have overlooked one of the bravest men this country has known. That man was a former slave named Bass Reeves. Reeves was born into slavery but became one of the greatest lawmen in the Old West. ( )
  mscoopsyalist | Mar 14, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553494295, Mass Market Paperback)

Born into slavery, Bass Reeves became the most successful US Marshal of the Wild West.
Many "heroic lawmen" of the Wild West, familiar to us through television and film, were actually violent scoundrels and outlaws themselves. But of all the sheriffs of the frontier, one man stands out as a true hero: Bass Reeves.

He was the most successful Federal Marshal in the US in his day. True to the mythical code of the West, he never drew his gun first. He brought hundreds of fugitives to justice, was shot at countless times, and never hit.

Bass Reeves was a black man, born into slavery. And though the laws of his country enslaved him and his mother, when he became a free man he served the law, with such courage and honor that he became a legend.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:31 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Recreates the mythology of U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves, a black man born into slavery who became the most successful lawman of the Wild West, bringing hundreds of fugitives to justice with such courage and honor that he became a legend.

» see all 2 descriptions

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