Like pirates, cowboy outlaws in the Old West have been romanticized over the last 170 years and have gained a reputation of being almost Robin Hood-type sympathetic figures.

But the truth is much harsher.

Most of these cowboy outlaws were dishonest, cold-blooded killers.

Take the case of Joe Walker, a troublemaker who lived in Southern Utah in the 1880s and 1890s.

Born in Texas in the 1850s, Walker would have been heir to a fairly well off rancher, but his father died when he was a young child and his mother, having no interest in staying on the ranch with no husband, gave the land and all its animals to her uncle and his family.

This uncle passed away, but his wife and sons ran the ranch well and eventually sold it off to some investors and moved to Southern Utah to start another ranch.

Meanwhile, Walker had grown into manhood and started to believe (rightfully or not) he had claim on this new ranch in Utah.

So Joe, now in his 30s and having worked a myriad of ranch hand jobs in Texas, decided he needed to go to Utah and claim what he felt was rightfully his.

The aunt and sons flourished in our part of the state and the Whitmore Ranch was widely known for its quality beef, honest deals and friendly manner.

Walker showed up in the late 1880s and all that was about to change.

Joe Walker went to the Whitmore Ranch, claiming he "deserved what was rightfully his."

His claims of part ownership of the ranch were denied. His aunt offered to let him stay on and work the land, but without part ownership, Walker was not interested.

Besides, he was tired of being a ranch hand.

Over the five years, Walker embarked on a plan to make the Whitmore Ranch fail. He stole horses, killed cattle, harassed cowhands and even sabotaged wagons and burned down outbuildings.

In 1895, he even shot up a town and gunned down several posse members when they came after him.

Walker ended up joining Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch gang and ran with them for a couple of years, robbing trains and banks along the way.

He returned to harassing the Whitmore Ranch in 1898, ultimately leading to his demise.

One night, Whitmore came across a cowboy on the trail and the two decided to make camp together. While they slept, a posse had surrounded the camp and deputized cowboys from the Whitmore Ranch gunned down Walker and his anonymous companion (who most historians believe was innocent and just "in the wrong place at the wrong time").

These stories always end the same. You may get away with being a cold-blooded outlaw for a time.

But ultimately you end up in an unmarked grave after being on the wrong end of a gun.

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