BILLY, THE KID: continued
Well, I started this saga out with verses of the ballad of Billy, the Kid. Unfortunatly I ran out of verses before I ran out of story. The last verse was premature:
” ‘TWAS ON A SAD NIGHT WHEN BILLY DIED”
And it’s still premature – we’ve still a bit of a ways to go before Billy’s sad end.
The last installment ended with the burning of McSween’s house and Billy’s escape, and the aftermath resulting the end of the Lincoln County range war.
The President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, had been recieving reports of the goings on and was not pleased with what he had been hearing. He removed the governor of the New Mexico Territory, Samuel Axtell, who had connections to “The House of Murphy”, and replaced him with Civil War General Lew Wallace. Wallace was uncertian who to hold responsible for the lawlessness, so he issued a general amnesty proclamation to all except nonresidents. This left The Kids status very vague.
The opposing fractions in Lincoln County tried to strike an accord. One of the most dangerous gunmen of The House of Murphy “Jessie Evans” and The Kid met. After reaching a workable agreement, they stepped out into the street ready to go celebrate the accord. There they met Huston Chapman, a one armed lawyer in the employ of Mrs McSween, retained to prosecute Colonel Dudley and Sheriff Pippin, on the charges of arson and murder. Harsh words were exchanged and a shot rang out — and Chapman fell dead. Though Billy was present, it was known that he did not do the shooting. Someone then drenched Chapman’s body with Whiskey and set it on fire. The body lay in the street for twenty-four hours.
A few days later The Kid wrote Governor Wallace a letter stating his innocence and offered to testify against those guilty. A midnight meeting was arranged in the office of a Lincoln County Justice of Peace’s office. On March 17, 1879, at midnight there was a knock on the door of the office and when the door was opened there stood Billy The Kid with a rifle in one hand and his pistol in the other. The meeting was conducted and Billy agreed to tell all in open court, and the govoernor agreed to exempt Billy from prosecution and grant him a executive pardon.
Through prearrangement with the goveror, Billy submitted to a false arrest and prepared to spend a short time in jail. As agreed, he gave his evidence against the Lincoln county killers. His testimony helped to indict one of the proprietors of The House of Murphy, John Dolan, for complicity in one Lincoln County murder.
The district attorny defied the governor’s orders. He pointed out there were various indictments outstanding against The Kid, refused to squash them and remanded The Kid to jail. Billy simply slipped his hands out of the handcuffs (something he could do with ease since his hands were small and his wrist big), and took his leave. Billy had asked for reasurance from Wallace and never recieved a reply.
No details are avaliable to me but Billy reportedly killed a Joe Grant in a Fort summner saloon brawl on Janurary 10, 1880.
In the meantime Pat Garret’s fourtunes had began to change for the better. Originally from Alabama, Garret had been in Lincoln county for maybe Three of four years. Taciturn, introspective, sarcastic, (gee sounds a lot like me) he would become probably the wests most well known sheriff. Other than his part in The Kids story he deserves a tale of his own. Now here is a part really unknown – he is often accused of rustling cattle with The Kid, often it is claimed that he and Billy were at one time close friends. For a while Garret worked as a bartender in Beaver Smith’s Saloon, in Fort Sumner, and it is likely that they knew each other, maybe quite well. But the diffrence in their temperment makes it unlikely that they were close friends. It is stated thet Billy referred to Garret as “the old woman” and Garret spoke of Billy as “a brave man”. Each credited the other as having plenty of courage and determination. And eventualy they each knew that one would have to kill the other.
In November of 1880, Pat Garret became sheriff of Lincoln County on the law and Order Platform. The first duty laid on him was the apprehension of The Kid. With a posse in his wake, Garret laid unsuccessfull traps up and down the Pecos Valley.
Now here in the two main accounts I am using I get a little confused about the order of events related, as one will have something the other doesn’t.
In White Oaks (now a gost town), Billy was lounging and reportedly taking potshots an anything that caught his attention. Garret showed up with a posse and chased Billy and his friends to the Great House Ranch where a seige began. After a while it became clear it was to be a stand off. Deputy James Caryle went inside to parley, Bill’s crowd promptly took him prisoner. The posse sent word that if he was not released, a hostage would be shot. (it is not explaned who the hostages were). Suddenly a gunshot was heard outside, Caryle thought the possee was holding true to their word, and fearing for his life jumped out the window. Gunfire roared and the deputy crumpled dead in the snow. The outlaws quickly escaped and it has never been satsfactorily determined who fired the shot that killed Caryle.
A short time later Billy wrote Lew Wallace claiming that the posse thought Carlye was a outlaw trying to escape and killed him. He also denied being the leader of an outlaw gang and claimed that Garret was unjustly harrassing him. The governors response was to post a $500 reward for the capture of Billy, The Kid. This never was posted on a wanted poster nor did it state “Dead or Alive” — it appeared as a one sentence paragraph in a New Mexico paper.
In panic The Kid’s followers fled to what they thought was the safety of Fort Sumner. Pat Garret and his possee were already quietly closing in on the town. They took up station in the abandonded Fort Sumner Hospital. The wife of Charles Bowder, one of The Kids trusted friends and lieutenants, lived near by and Garret knew he would show up sooner or later.
Snow had been following most of the day but began to slow to a stop as dark set in. A bright moon soon appeared making a contrast between the open and shadows. About 8 p.m. Garret heard horses approaching and stepped out into the shadows of the porch. Hidden in the shadows and by hanging harness, he cocked his rifle.
Strung out single file, hunched agaist the cold Billy was in the lead, when his uncanny nature caused him to drop back to the rear supposedly to ask Billie Wilson for a chew of tobbaco. This act saved his life, Tom O’Follirad asumed the lead. He rode his horse up to the hospital building with out looking up. The horse stuck it’s head under the porch right next to the posted sheriff.
Garret yelled for their surrender, the gang started to scatter. O’Folliard reached for his pistol and Garret fired. The rest of the gang escaped, O’Folliard’s horse bucked a few steps and Tom slid from the sadddle, pleading, “Don’t shoot, Garret, I’m killed.”
Garrret had the young gunman carried inside where everyone examined the wound and agreed it was mortal. “Oh God. Is it possible I must die?’ he declared. “Tom your time is short.” said Garret. “The sooner the better.” The gunman muttered, “At least then I will be out of pain.”
About an hour later the gunman died, Garret went outside and told the town’s people to go home. Looking into the New Mexico hills he knew that the Kid was waiting for the end.
I had hoped to end this saga today but I find I am tiring and must once again interrupt the tale at this point and continue at a later date. Though there is not a lot more to relate, there are my own observations i want to chime in on.
So ’till next time, I once again leave the story hanging.
I appoligize but this darn stroke saps my energy to much to continue right now.
Related reading on Billy The Kid from Rambling Bob: