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When Judge Isaac Parker first arrived in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the town had thirty saloons and one bank. Inheriting a corrupt court and a lawless territory roughly the size of Great Britain, he immediately put the residents on notice by publicly hanging six convicted felons at one time. For the next two decades, his stern and implacable justice brought law and order to the West . . . and made him plenty of enemies.

As the sole law on the untamed frontier, Parker tried civil and criminal cases throughout the Western District of Arkansas and the Indian Nations. Only God and the president had the power to challenge Parker. His severe judgments scandalized Washington and the Eastern press, and took an onerous toll on his private life, but the "Hanging Judge of the Border" never flinched from his duty. Over the years, he and his marshals, dubbed "Parker's Men," ran up against some of the most colorful and dangerous outlaws the West had to offer, including the notorious Dalton Gang; Belle Star, the Bandit Queen; the murderous Cherokee Bill; and Ned Christie, a vengeful Indian who carried on a private war against the U.S. government for seven years.

The Branch and the Scaffold is a fascinating depiction of Judge Parker's life and times, as told by a five-time winner of the Spur Award.

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