One of the problems Bat Masterson has in terms of his Old West legend is he is typecast as a city slicker, always wearing a derby. But the real Bat was a scout and buffalo hunter before he donned his derby. The problem lies with the fact that there are no known photos of him with a broad-brimmed hat, which he must surely have worn on the Staked Plains of Texas in the early ’70s. You know, like this.
He may not have been wearing buckskins at the Battle of Adobe Walls, but I think it’s safe to say he had on a broad-brimmed hat. Instead, we are left with a whole bunch of photographs of him wearing derbies.
So Bat was very dapper in his town dress, and his ubiquitous derby pigeonholes him in the “Dandy Zone,” rather than as a gunfighter, lawman and scout, all of which he actually was. Once again, the irony is that Bat had a more stellar career as a scout and buffalo hunter than Wyatt Earp, who was working in a cathouse in Peoria when Bat was at the second Battle of Adobe Walls. It’s also interesting to me that another brother, Jim Masterson (a Logan County deputy sheriff), played a prominent role in the Ingalls, Oklahoma, gunfight, when deputy U.S. marshals went up against the Doolin-Dalton Gang. Those Masterson Boys were in the thick of things, to say the least.
Bat has been trapped in a derby long enough!
The moral is: Be careful what you wear in your photos because it just might pigeonhole you for the rest of your life.