Stories My Granddad Told Me Pt Two of Four.
My grandfather's farm was about ten miles from the town of Okeene Oklahoma. This is a town of about eighteen-hundred people. It started as a frontier village and never quite died out. In the 1880's there was no town law enforcement. Rules were enforced by committees. These committees were called vigilantes.
When there was an actual gunfight, as sometimes happened, it was never a stand and draw type. It was a shoot-on-sight situation. Two men would have an argument that led to bad blood between them and one would tell the other that the next time they met, one of the two was going to die. Quite often, the next time one saw the other, he might be a block away. So the guy would pull his gun and start shooting without warning. Very often, due to the distances involved, the bystanders were in more danger than the combatants were. Usually, if no one was killed, that satisfied the quarrel and ended the problem. If a bystander was killed or seriously injured, the committee would handle the punishment; usually a hanging resolved things nicely.
Sometimes young men who fancied themselves as good with hand guns would come into town. Often they were general troublemakers who would try and bully people around them. But there is one thing you must remember about these frontier towns. There were a few people from the civilized Eastern part of the country. But for the most part, these towns were made up of Civil War veterans, ex-buffalo hunters, Indian fighters, and sometimes even an old mountain man who could no longer live in the mountains for some reason. These men did not bully easily, nor did they scare easily. When these young men made too much of a nuisance of themselves, stepped over the line, so to speak; the vigilantes would take the youngster out of town, dead if he put up a fight, and hang him. He was left there to rot as a warning to the next young man who thought he was good with a hand gun.
My grandfather said that the people had an interesting take on gamblers also, but that is a story for another time.