BILLY, THE KID
Well here I go again in a attempt to finish up The Kid.
After the ambush attempt at Fort Sumner The Kid and his gang galloped east toward a small abandoned stone house at Stinking Springs, some twenty-five miles away.
Both books are now refering to The Kid’s followers as his “gang”. Neither narative tells just how many of them there were. Nor is there any great detail on how they subsisted. No where have I ever seen any evidence that The Kid and his gang participated in any robberies of any kind – train, stage nor bank. So I have to suppose they were engaged in the trade of rustling. Both books hint that Billy stole cattle from anyone, be they White, Mexican or the Apaches of the Mescalero Tribe. Just who his customers were has never been made clear either, though I doubt it was to the Army – the biggest buyer in the area.
A few days later Garret trailed Billy to the hideout at Stinking Springs. Surrounding the cabin in the dark, Garret thought that the gang would surrender if Billy was shot first. So orders were given for everyone to hold their fire untill Garret gave the word, as he was the only one who knew The Kid by sight. Billy was still wearing the tall black sombrero with the green band. In the early morning light a heavly bundeled figure stepped out the door with a bag of feed for the horses. “That’s him” Garret whispered, Seven rifles fired at once, knocking the individual back through the door. Billy grabbed his close friend, Charles Bowdre and pulled back in. Billy took a close look at Charlie’s wound and said “They have killed you Charlie, but you can get a few of them before you die.” Placing a pistol in his hand he shoved Charlie back out side.
Charlie staggered across the frozen show and collapsed in Pat Garrets arms, “I wish, I wish, i wish.” Charlie gasped and died. Garret then realized he had killed the 47 year old cattleman turned rustler.
A hand reached out the door grabbing the briddle of the horse outside and pulled it to the door. Garret promptly shot the anamial dead blocking the door. Shots were exchanged in a delusatory fashion for a while. Some light banter was then exchanged beween the parties. In the afternoon the posse built a fire and proceeded to make a meal. Garret invited The Kid out for a bite, Billy replied he didn’t have the time. Billy’s horse was inside the house, but he later said he did not try to make a break because he feared his horse would balk at the doorway because of the dead horse there.
Late in the afternoon the gang decided to surrender after smelling the food the posse was cooking outside. Billy later said it was because they had no wood inside to cook their own.
Garret took his bound prisoners and bone weary posse back to Fort Sumner, where he sent the body of Charles Bowdre to his wife and instructed her to purchase a suit of burying clothes and send the bill to him.
Garret and his prisoners arrived in Las Vegas, New Mexico on the 26th, preparing to travel to Santa Fe. They were met by a large mob demanding the person of Dave Rudabaugh, for the murder of a Las Vegas jailer during a jail excape. Rudabaugh was a recent newcomer to the Kid’s gang, who was reported to be so grungy that it was suspected he had never had a bath. He had a reputation of viciousness unsurpassed in the southwest.
Garret managed to get his prisoners on board but the mob surrounded the train and vowed that it would not leave until their demands were met. Garret advised the other passegners to leave the train as there might be a hell of a fight. He then threatned to arm his prisoners if they did not get out of his way. The Kid then began to shout at the mob telling them what he was going to do if he got a gun. The crowd seemed to be awed by Garret but would not unblock the tracks. Finally a U. S. Marshal jumped into the cab and pushed people out and began to pull levers until the train began to move. (Rudeabagh soon escaped from jail again and allegedly went to Parral, Mexico, where acting his obnoxiou self, the peons shot him and cut off his head and put it on a stake.) Shortly after being put in jail in Santa Fe, The Kid tried to tunnel out and was caught and placed in solitary confinement.
Now that escape was impossiable he turned to writting to Governor Wallace on Jan.1, 1881. “I would like to see you if you can spare the time.” Governor Wallace was busy writting his novel “Ben Hur”, and evidently did not have the time, as he never replied. Two month’s later The Kid wrote again alluding to letters dating some two years back that Wallace would be interested in ( if these letters really existed they have never surfaced and their contents remain a seceret.) “I shall not dispose of them until I see you, if you will come immeadetly.” Once again the governor ignored him.
On March 4 The Kid wrote again: “I expect that you have forgotten what you promised me two years ago this month, but I have not. I have done everything that I promised I would and you have done nothing that you promised me. I am not entirely without friends. I expect to see you sometime today!”
In desperation he wrote on the 27th: “For the last time I ask . Will you keep your promise? For I start down below tomorrow.”
Of course he refered to the promise of a pardon, for his testimony in the Chapman murder inquest. And the down below refers to being transfered to Mesilla, New Mexico, forty miles north of El Paso where would be placed on trial for the murder of Sheriff Brady. This is strange that he would face this charge as it was committed by a body of men all of whom had been pardoned by the governor’s amnesty. The Kid had been only a minor figure at the time of this action.
The Kid’s counsel for defense was Collonel Albert J. Fountain, a controversial Old West politican of the day and who in a few years would himself meet a mysterious end in the White Sands of n New Mexico. On April 8 he announced himself and client ready for trial.
A short trial that would not be allowed today, lasted two days. There is no record of the testimony in existence and no newspaper records are available. “A House of Murphy ” advacoate Judge Warren Bristol presided, Billy’s jury of peers were all Mexican and Bristol gave them choice of two verdicts; aquittal or murder in the first degree. Bristol warned them that “there is no evidence before you showing that the kiling of Brady is murder other that that of first degree.” The jury came back with the verdict the judge wanted.
Bristol granted no appeal and the judge ordered Sheriff Garret to take the prisoner to Lincoln and on Friday, May 13, 1881, to “Hang him by his neck until his body is dead.” So the stage was set for one of the most celeberated escapes in western history.
With a heavy guard Billy was moved from Mesilla to Lincoln and his impending death on the gallows. Mesilla had no proper jail with cells and bars. A room upstairs in the court house served the purpose, Billy and any others were schakled with cuffs on the wrist and feet, the leg irons were secured to a large ring screwed to the floor by a heavy chain.
assigned to guard Billy were J. W. Bell and Bob Olinger, often called “Pecos Bob”. Bell was a quiet mannered individual who was well liked. Ollinger has been acused of baiting the Kid about his impending doom.
On April 28, Garret was preforming his other duties as sheriff, namely collecting taxes while the gallows were being built. Ollinger placed his shotgun in the rack and escorted the other prisoners across the street to eat. The Kid persuaded Bell to take him to the privy out back. This required the chair linking him to the ring to be unfasted. Some say The Kid found a gun hidden by a friend in the privy, maybe so, maybe not. Returning back inside Billy slipped the cuffs of his wrist as he was capable of and some how mannaged to produce a gun. Ordering Bell to put up his hands on the stairs, Bell turned around and started to run, two shots rang out. Both missed but one ricocheted off the wall and passed through Bell’s body. He staggered outside and died in the yard.
Ollinger hears the shots and thought Bell had killed The kid and ran across the street. Billy reached the shotgun upstairs as Ollinger ran below the window – “Hello Bob!” The Kid called as he pulled the trigger. The Kid then walked out on to the upper porch and pulled the other trigger. Ollinger died instantly. Bill then broke the stock of the shotgun and flung it onto the body.
Next he decended and called for a tool to remove his chains, some one threw him a pickax. He could only manage to remove one and in digust he “borrowed” a horse and rode away.
The Kid disappeared for the next two and half months and most thought he had fled to Mexico. Garret was depressed and hardly looked for the Kid. Then his deputy John Poe told him a incredible tale. He had been approached by Pete Maxwell of Fort Sumner, complaining that Billy was having an affair with local girls.
Garret gathered another deputy from Roswell, Thomas “Kip” McKinney, and along with Poe headed for Fort Sumner, ariving ther on the evening of July 14.
The Kid was in town enjoying a dance. About eleven o’clock he returned and removed his shoes and vest. Deciding he was hungry he took his pistol and a butcher knife and decided to cut a slab of meat off a fresh quarter of beef hung up to air.
Near mid-night he spotted the two deputys, neither of whom reconized him, figuring the stooped figure to be a friend of Maxwell’s.
Not reconizing the deputies, the Kid pulled his pistol and called “Quien es?”. Startled when the pistol was poked at him McKenny, who had been squatting, staggered up and his spur caught on a loose board and toppled off the porch. Billy noticed he was carrying a pistol – something few Mexicans did.
Inside Maxwell’s bedroom Garret, who had been sitting on the foot of the bed questioning Maxwell, froze in mid-speech. They had reconized The Kid’s startled voice. Garret quickly drew his pistol which hung up in the bed cloths.
The Kid backed into the bedroom asking “Pete who are those people out there?” Suddenly he noticed Garret sitting on the foot of the bed. Backing away he asked twice more “Quien es?” raising his cocked pistol, but hesitating to fire for fear of shooting a friend. Garrets pistol fully free now fired twice. The first shot hit Billy almost squarely in the heart, the second missed and hit the wall. Pat jumped up and ran out side yelling ” That was The Kid in there, and I think I got him!” almost knocking Poe down in his haste. Maxwell ran out dragging his Bed cloths behind him. Garret knocked McKenny’s pistol aside shouting “That’s Maxwell don’t shoot.”
No one would enter the room to check on The Kid. Finally a local resident crept to the window with a lantern to discover The Kid laying on his back, arms spread wide, a knife in one hand and his pistol in the other.
‘NOW THIS IS HOW BILLY THE KID MET HIS FATE.
THE BRIGHT MOON WAS SHINNING, THE HOUR WAS LATE.
SHOT DOWN BY PAT GARRET WHO ONCE WAS HIS FRIEND.
THE YOUNG OUTLAWS LIFE HAD COME TO AN END.”
So end’s the saga of Billy, The Kid.
There’s one more verse, but not about Billy,
so I’ll recite it later.
I want to have a last say next time about some of the things floating around in my head.
Related reading on Billy The Kid from Rambling Bob: