It’s not out of the question to consider that many of the Old West bandits of the 19th century and early 20th century were almost the equivalent of Al Qaeda in more ways than one. While they all had what was coming to them in the end, their partnerships in crime managed to keep them protected from law enforcement longer than what should have happened. A lot of that can be said to be attributable to these outlaws taking over a multiple cabin hideout in the wilds of Wyoming where they could all hide from the law–as well as bring the law down if any tried to raid the place. The reason for that is because there were long, narrow roads that led up to these cabins up in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. With plain visibility of who was approaching, it was the equivalent of having tiny security cameras placed miles outside an Osama bin Laden hideout in a Pakistani cave. There’s lots of land held in trusts in Wyoming.
As a metaphor for this cabin being way out in the middle of nowhere, these bandits decided to call themselves the Hole in the Wall Gang. Of course, some know about the late Paul Newman-founded summer camp with the same name that he created for children with health issues. The obvious connection with Newman is with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when you consider those two famous bandits were just two of many in the original Hole in the Wall Gang, even though their own group was called The Wild Bunch. Yes, as you know, that’s also the name of another famous movie western which almost ironically competed with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” at the box office in 1969.
The entire group of outlaws that made up the Hole in the Wall Gang was certainly the equivalent to any modern terrorist group–or even the mafia which soon developed in the big cities within a short few decades after the Hole in the Wall hideout faded. But the impenetrable forces of this hideout up in Wyoming is almost mind-boggling and certainly indicative of what law enforcement has had to deal with in later decades when dealing with hideouts containing shady characters who can cause major ripples in what they do. The only difference is that the Hole in the Wall Gang never had to set fire to their compound or sacrifice one of their own once they were there. It was truly an eerily protected lair that really showed a weakness for law enforcement in the days of the Old West.
It’s amazing really that each gang using this working ranch as their hideout didn’t turn on one another and self-destruct before the turn of the century even began. Consider this the era when cooperation between crime figures was better coordinated than it is today compared to modern power struggles constantly going on in the underworld of Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. When a lot of the famous bandits of the day decided to turn to a life of crime, some of them were already normal citizens, with many working as cattle drivers. With this experience, the chores that needed to be done in the hideout were always done along with major organization that rivals any internal structure of terrorist group cells to this day.
In order to settle inevitable disputes among those gang members, there were stipulations that all disagreements would be handled in a way that didn’t involve gunfights and internal chaos. There were also separate cabins in the hideout so…well, it’s obvious. Having some of the nastiest criminals on the west coast of the U.S. shacking up together not only would look strange but also lead to someone getting shot for snoring too loud or some other trifle.
The smartest part of their cooperation was in not designating a specific leader to the hideout so there wouldn’t be a rebellion against what a leader’s plans were. While Al Qaeda seems to follow Osama bin Laden like a god, there’s still obvious disagreements in how to carry out a particular plan. With the Hole in the Wall Gang, there were always group meetings and complete understandings about who was going to do what in the case of an attempted raid on the place.
As I insinuated earlier, there were many attempted raids by the law through a fifty-year period the hideout was used. Even early CIA style infiltration with spies didn’t work if you can believe it. After the alleged deaths of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, though, around 1908 (something never made official), the hideout began to fall into disarray from lack of use. The Old West was about to be superseded by the buildup of major cities, and major crime was starting to post their headquarters in those places. The outlaws of the old west basically were the forefathers of the Mafia that soon started sprouting up mostly in those big cities on the east coast by the 1910’s. In the meantime, the west became somewhat more peaceful for a while, particularly Wyoming.
Now, if we end up finding out today an Al Qaeda terrorist cell is operating in Wyoming, then we’ll have the ultimate irony going full circle in the world of crime and terrorism. History nevertheless seems to consider the significance of that Hole in the Wall hideout. Once it was finally taken over by law enforcement, some of the cabins were preserved as historical landmarks. To this day, Butch Cassidy’s apparent cabin in the hideout has been moved to another location in Wyoming for people to tour.
Would America someday put up an Al Qaeda terrorist cell camp as a place to tour someday after the terrorist group is hopefully removed from the face of the earth? This country isn’t above showing the monuments of crime and terrorism when it ultimately forms a more realistic picture of who we really are. The Hole in the Wall Gang and hideout are certainly some of the earliest examples of how crime can evade the law and become too powerful to control. However, had we been ahead technologically by fifty years and sent the National Guard in to take out the Hole in the Wall hideout via military technology, it would have slowed down the proliferation of American crime exponentially going into the 20th century.
As we’ve seen with Al Qaeda, though, sometimes the best military technology can’t penetrate the politics of weeding out insidious evil terrorist groups living in a major hideout somewhere in the world…