The legends born of the wild west have done more than lived on, they have shaped who we are and defined our ideals for generations. Heritage Manufacturing has brought these ideals to life in their revolvers, from the iconic Rough Rider wheel gun to the all-new compact Barkeep, capturing the best of the west and keeping a tradition of American excellence alive. But while tales of the revolver’s use are often born of justice, revenge and law and order…there are others that live on in violence. To be a bad man is one thing, but to be a Bad Man from Bodie is something else entirely. What was once just a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California would soon give way to a legend that you can still find thriving today, and it’s all thanks to some dangerous people who knew their way around a six shooter and weren’t afraid to show it. But there’s always more to the story.
Who is the Bad Man?
Today, the historic site of Bodie, California is no more than a ghost town for tourists and enthusiasts who are keen to visit a time long lost and remember it for its heyday. Bodie became a State Historic Park in 1962 and has been preserved ever since, but it wasn’t always like that. When a gold rush hit in 1859, the small town that would be the infamous Bodie, California became a beacon for opportunity that attracted every type of person you could imagine. This lasted as well as could be until a dark cloud formed over the town in 1878 when gunfire rang out between two men. This small moment may be just a footnote in history, but it gave us a myth that continued to grow in significance, attracting the likes of John Wayne and even Mark Twain who described Bodie as “...the breakup of one winter and the beginning of the next.”
Many have written the history of Bodie, California and even more know the lessons learned of the small wild west town. It’s more than just another town to be studied though, it’s a perfect modern example of an urban legend. Once said to be claimed by a gunslinging killer named John Franklin Showers, the title “Bad Man from Bodie” wasn’t one many people wanted. It even showed up in a San Francisco courtroom when a defendant said he had been unfairly labeled as such, impacting his reputation in the community. To be the Bad Man from Bodie meant something far more sinister, and that perception grew from a place of historical fact stemming from the actions of a few gunslingers into an urban legend that lives on in myth through our own devices today.
The Modern Urban Legend
Miriam Webster defines an urban legend as “an often lurid story or anecdote that is based on hearsay and widely circulated as true,” and it didn’t take long for this to take hold for the legend of the Bad Man from Bodie. By 1880, the term had gained widespread recognition across the country thanks in part to media who were looking to deliver on a near fervent obsession with sensationalized stories of the west at the time. Exaggerated tales of misconduct and dangers in the unknown were substantiated by a figurehead to attach such stories to, providing all the right ingredients for an urban legend to take hold. Our love of the wild west, from the dangers it posed to the freedom it presented, is captured in the story of the Bad Man from Bodie.
Gunslingers from all over found their way to this once prosperous town and their exploits became more than just a passage in history. Their violent tendencies mixed with the abilities that only a hard life on the frontier could provide – including being quick on the draw, if not a bit too eager – evoke perils we can’t help but obsess over today. An urban legend like this may not be aspirational, but our culture is one built on both the good and bad of how our freedoms took hold in every corner of the country. For every stoic lawman standing against outlaws like Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral there is a Bad Man from Bodie showing a darker side of what once was.
A Story with a Life of its Own
Whether or not the Bad Man from Bodie truly existed or not doesn't change the very real impact the legend has carried through generations. There were many disagreements in the wild west, and no shortage of those were solved by a firearm, but few gunshots rang out quite like those in Bodie, California. While it gave us a chapter in the story of the wild west, we are adding new ones still today. Heritage Manufacturing is writing a new chapter that continues the legacy of the gun that won the west through authenticity that evokes the legends that still live on today. To be the Bad Man from Bodie may mean a lot of things, but it was undoubtedly a quintessential ideal of the wild west untamed.