How wild was the Wild West?

Anyone who has ever watched a Western knows all about how “wild” life was back then. Damsels in distress were tied to railroads, cowboys’ cattle were rustled and the sheriff was usually a slacker with scant interest in enforcing what little law existed. In short, you risked getting lassoed into a gunfight every time you went to the saloon. 

Well, at least that’s moviemakers’ take on it. But what do the historians have to say? 

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