The world of Bittersweet Surrender, Sweet Medicine, Timeless Wish and Most Wanted contain characters that I can never truly let go. Part of that reason is because Timeless Wish was my first professionally published book. The other part is because none of those books might have come about had it not been for the combination of my inner history nerd and my late father’s love of TV and movie westerns.
Back in the day “Old West” would bring to mind Wyatt Earp, The Texas Rangers and the likes of John Wayne battling stereotypical “bad guy Indians”.
But one day when wandering through a book store I came across a western history magazine with a cover story featuring a group I’d never heard of– the Choctaw Lighthorse (the nation’s tribal police force in the Indian Territory days of Oklahoma).
From their inception in the early 1820s until 1860 Choctaw Lighthorsemen were often judge, jury and executioner of tribal lawbreakers. They also shared the enforcement duties of Indian Territory with the U.S. marshals out of Fort Smith, Arkansas. However, Lighthorsemen had no jurisdiction over white criminals or any natives who might have committed crimes with white cohorts.
In The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic Angie Debo wrote of the Choctaw Tribal Council having to appropriate funds to secure legal counsel for officers who found it necessary to kill law breaking United States citizens and were themselves charged with murder in the Federal court.
This double standard lead many tribal officers to also seek commissions as deputy U.S. marshals themselves. And that is where my Choctaw Lighthorse Captain Jason Hillhouse and his cousin U.S. deputy marshal Jon Sauvage come in.