Earl Durand

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Walter Earl Durand (1913–1939) was a mountain man who lived off the land in the mountains of Wyoming during the years following the Depression. From an early age he taught himself to live with ease in the wilderness. He was a crack shot and with a variety of weapons could hit almost any target.

One spring morning in 1939 he was arrested and jailed for poaching elk, resisting arrest, and for killing a rancher's calf. He was sentenced to six months in jail for the poaching and awaited sentencing for the theft of the calf. Two days later he escaped the Cody jail by assaulting a deputy with the milk bottle taken from a dinner tray which the deputy was bringing him. He forced the deputy to drive him to his parents' home in nearby Powell. Durand shot and killed a deputy sheriff and a Town Marshal in the driveway of his parents' home. For ten days Durand eluded arrest by fleeing to the mountains. He killed two members {Orville Linaberry and Arthur Argento} of the sheriff's posse tracking him. Montana mobilized its National Guard armed with a mortar and a howitzer as Durand's escape neared the Wyoming/Montana border. The sheriff's posse attempted to drop teargas from a plane on his last known position but failed to flush him out of hiding. He had already escaped by carjacking the posse's radio operator and forcing him to drive him back to Powell.

Once in Powell he went to the First National Bank to rob it. During the course of the robbery he began to shoot out the windows of the bank which alerted the local residents who took up armed positions outside the bank. Durand tied up the bank president and two other bank employees and forced them to walk out of the bank in front of him. One of the three hostages was shot and killed by the volley of bullets which met them at the door. Durand returned their fire. In the door of a gas station cross the street from the bank, a seventeen-year-old high school student named Tip Cox was skipping his afternoon classes, and was handed a rifle by the gas station manager. The teenager fired on Durand when Durand levelled his rifle at him. The bullet hit Durand in the chest and knocked him off his feet. He crawled back into the lobby of the bank where he managed to shoot himself once in the neck. Within moments the bank president was able to free himself and picked up Durand's own rifle and walked into the bank and shot Durand once in the head.

Durand has enjoyed some benefit of his own legend. A 1974 Hollywood movie showed Durand in a more romantic light, portraying him as a mountain man intent on securing his own freedom from an oppressive and unfair local sheriff {a co-star was Martin Sheen}. When the movie was shown in Powell most of the movie patrons walked out.

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