al gunmen, miners, teamsters, or cowboys—killing one anotherrnin something resembling a fair fight was one thing, and suchrnoccurred nearly 20 times during Aurora’s first few years, butrnJohnson’s killing was another. The Code of the West, thernmores of the tribe, had been broken. Immediately, a vigilancerncommittee was organized and an investigation launched. Arrestsrnwere made, witnesses interrogated, depositions taken, andrnevidence was gathered. All roads were guarded and patrols sentrninto the hinterland. The vigilantes operated with military disciplinernand precision. By the end of the week, John Daly andrnthe three gang members who had been with him at the time ofrnJohnson’s killing were in custody. At the same time, the officialrncoroner’s jury rendered its verdict: John Daly, William Buckley,rnJack McDowell, and James Masterson were responsible forrnthe death of William Johnson. Official institutions of law enforcementrnand justice would be allowed to do no more, however.rnThe vigilance committee announced that Daly and thernothers would now hang.rnIf Hollywood were to make this story into a movie, the fourrnmen would turn craven on the scaffold. Few in Hollywood todayrnunderstand, let alone appreciate, the character of the menrnor the spirit of the times that produced the Old West. So whatrnactually happened? Hundreds of vigilantes with fixed bayonetsrnformed a hollow square around the scaffold while a crowd ofrn5,000 watched. Daly, Buckley, McDowell, and Masterson, accordingrnto the Aurora Times, mounted the platform “with arnfirm step, and surveyed the immense crowd with apparent coolrnindifference.” Daly pointed at a member of the vigilance committeernwho was brandishing a revolver and said, “You son of arnbitch. If I had a six-shooter I would make you get.” He thenrntook several silver dollars out of his pocket, threw them to therncrowd, and declared:rnThere are two innocent men on this scaffold. You arerngoing to hang two innocent men. Do you understandrnthat? I am guilty. I killed Johnson. Buckley and I killedrnJohnson. . . . He was the means of killing my friend, andrnI lived to die for him. Had I lived I would have wipedrnout Johnson’s whole generation.rnBuckley then made a similar speech, stating that he andrnDaly were guilty, and concluded by saying, “Adieu, boys. Irnwish you all well. All of you boys must come up to my wake inrnJohn Daly’s cabin tonight. Be sure of this. Good-bye. Godrnbless you all.” McDowell, following Buckley, declared that hernwas innocent. Then, with a “Good-bye, boys,” he suddenlyrnpulled a derringer from his pocket, put the gun to his heart, andrnpulled the trigger. It failed to fire. He hurled the gun to thernground with an oath, stepped back, and said, “I’ll die like arntiger.” Masterson then stepped forward, cool and possessed,rnand declared, “Gentlemen, I am innocent.” “Yes, Buckley andrnI did the deed,” added Daly. With that the four men had theirrnhands tied and nooses adjusted around their necks. A ministerrnsaid a final prayer, a small cannon was fired, and the trapdoorrnsprung.rnFacing the hangman’s noose, these badmen were brave,rncool, and unwilling to dishonor themselves. They were membersrnof the tribe and understood that they had gone beyond thernpale by killing Johnson. The only protest came over whetherrnMcDowell and Masterson should hang also. But even thoserntwo accepted their fate without a whine. Death was preferablernto dishonor.rnIcannot count the number of times I have heard professors,rnlawyers, radio talk-show hosts, and politicians try to temperrnthe anger of the general citizenry at the outrages committed byrninner-city gangs by comparing those gangs with the outlaws ofrnthe Old West. Beyond being young, armed, and male, is therernanything at all that they have in common? Do Daly and hisrnboys resemble the Grips? Gould the James boys, the Youngers,rnthe Daltons, Bill Doolin’s gang, or the Wild Bunch be mistakenrnfor the Bloods? In Aurora, men were fined and jailed for usingrnfoul language in the presence of women. There were no reportedrncases of rape and absolutely nothing to indicate thatrnrape occurred but went unreported. There was almost norncrime of any kind committed against women. Nellie Gashman,rnwho spent 60 years on the frontier and roamed from Arizonarnto Alaska, was asked shortly before she died if she had everrnfeared for her virtue while trekking from one strike tornanother and living in nearly all-male mining camps. “Blessrnyour soul, no!” she replied. “I never have had a word said to mernout of the way. The boys would sure see to it that anyone whornever offered to insult me could never be able to repeat the offense.”rnOn the other hand, gang-bangers today impulsively rape.rnNo matter what other crimes they commit—murder, robbery,rnburglary, carjacking—they also rape. When robbing, they targetrnthe young, the old, the weak, the innocent, and the female.rnDoes this sound like the work of Jesse James, Gole Younger,rnBlack Bart, Billy the Kid, Bob Dalton, or Butch Gassidy?rnKevin Rogers is a detective with the LAPD who specializesrnin investigation of gang-related homicides. He has been withrnthe department for 24 years and is a Marine veteran who servedrnas an FO in Vietnam. I asked him how he would describe therngang members he deals with. “Gowardly,” was his immediaternreply. While I can cite hundreds of cases of frontiersmen—rnoutlaw or not—facing each other and fighting to the death,rnRogers could not recall a single instance of that occurring inrnLos Angeles. “The last time I saw anything at all like that,” saidrnRogers, “the gangs were the Sharks and Jets.”rnGang homicides in Los Angeles are almost always the resultrnof the members of one gang catching a member of anotherrngang off guard and alone. The lone gang member is simply executed.rnThis does not remind me of the hundreds of charactersrnI have studied in the Old West, men who stood firmly and resolutelyrnin the face of deadly fire and coolly shot their adversaryrnto death. “Get yourself heeled,” yelled S.B. Vance to TomrnCarberry, who was unarmed at the moment. Both were formerrnmembers of the Daly gang. Vance had arrived in Austin, Nevada’srnlatest boomtown, only to find Garberry there and to learnrnthat Garberry was reigning as the town’s premier shootist. Notrnwilling to suffer an inferior status, Vance issued the challenge.rnGarberry armed himself and met Vance on Austin’s mainrnstieet. Vance drew his gun and opened fire. With bulletsrnwhistiing by his head, Garberry coolly walked toward Vancernand then, from a closer range, rested his revolver across his leftrnarm, took careful aim, and killed Vance with a single bullet.rnThere really is no comparison between what occurred in thernOld West and what happens in American cities today. No, if arncomparison is to be made with the frontier, try looking at 20thcentiiryrnfigures such as George Patton, Alvin York, Audie Murphy,rnButch O’Hare, or Bull Halsey. Nor is there any comparisonrnwhen it comes to presidents. Andrew Jackson would havernchosen death before dishonor. He was the symbol of his age.rnAnd the symbol of our age — Bill Glinton? 6rn16/CHRONICLESrnrnrn