Angus lived in the 1880s. He’s been six-feet under for more ‘n a century now, but he still has something to say, once in a while.

2014 would have flabbergasted him. We call ourselves civilized? Take all the 2014 shootings—well, not all of them, just the ones where one man kills another by blowing one or more holes in him. Could be a lawman doing the killing or getting killed. That sort of thing happened in his time too, but most lawman shootings were different from the ones that dominate today’s news cycle. They didn’t have bicycles back then, much less news cycles.

But I’m straying from his point. If he heard of a lawman shooting an unarmed man face on, he’d have been sorely surprised. The lawmen he knew followed a simple code. Don’t shoot first. You see, the law was supposed to be damn sure before slapping leather. If a rustler, outlaw, train robber, or whatever ‘n hell kind of suspect is facing you down, he still had a right to keep on breathing unless he drew first. Then all hell would break loose. The bullets would fly and somebody might die. But only if the rascal actually had a gun. You couldn’t say you reckoned he did or you were afraid he did. Purtin’ near wasn’t near enough. Angus lived by the US Marshal’s code—be damn sure, before you shoot. You ought not to be guessing about lead headed your way.

That’s why Angus never shot first. And he never shot a man with his hands up.