Wild West

GUNS OF THE JOHNSON COUNTY WAR

estern films and TV shows have perhaps overhyped the 19th-century range wars between cattle barons and homesteaders (aka “nesters”). That said, such violence did break out from time to time on the frontier, most notably at the 1892 peak of Wyoming’s Johnson County War. The 1980 Michael Cimino film , which centered on that conflict, flopped and broke United Artists, perhaps because it remained difficult to discern truth from fiction despite the 219-minute running time. Participants in the real event ranged from cattlemen to rustlers, cowboys, homesteaders and hired guns. Malcolm Campbell, the first sheriff of adjacent Converse County in northeast Wyoming, described Johnson County as a place where “ranchmen…rustled on

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