Posts Tagged ‘Gun Slingers’

A FEW THOUGHTS ON BILLY, THE KID

May 26, 2008

MY THOUGHTS ON THE KID

     Well I’ve finally finished the saga of Billy, The Kid.  Now I would like to ramble on a little bit about this adventure.  This is the last verse of the ballad:

“THERE’S MANY A MAN WITH A FACE FINE AND FAIR,

WHO STARTS OUT IN LIFE WITH A CHANCE TO BE SQUARE.

BUT JUST LIKE POOR BILLY, HE WANDERS ASTRAY,

AND LOSES HIS LIFE IN THE VERY SAME WAY.”

     Alas, I recon this is true, a single mistake can lead to a chain of events that leads to doom.

     Lets look at some of Billys legend.

“WAY OUT IN THE WEST WITH A GUN IN HIS HAND,

AT THE AGE OF TWELVE YEARS HE KILLED HIS FIRST MAN.”

      We have seen in the previous chapters that Billy’s first brush with the law was about the age of sixteen.  He was jailed for the theft of the Chinamen’s cloths.  After that we have him in New York city, where it is claimed he killed the Irish youth with a cheese knife.  This is not generally recounted in the wild west tale, but this is number one.

     Next we find him in Camp Grant, where he tangled with the Blacksmith, Frank “Windy” Cahill, and shot and killed him in the fight.  I kinda feel this was a act of self defense myself.  This is number two.

      Then comes the Lincoln County conflict, where he becomes known as The Kid.  After his employer John Tunstal was killed The Kid, still a minor gunhand, was part of a posse that captured Frank Baker and Willim “Buck” Morton, two men that were part of the group that killed Tunstall.  Billy and another posse member killed them, claiming they were trying to escape.  Do we give Billy both of them ?  If so this makes numbers three and four.

     Next on April 1, Sheriff Brady and  George Hindman were ambushed and killed by a group of which Billy was a particapant.  Billy later was tried and found guilty of Brady;s murder.  Let’s be generous and give Billy both of these also – numbers five and six.

  Then there was the shoot out with “Buckshot Roberts”.  This one probably was not Billy’s to claim, but heck, make it number seven. 

      Now comes the shoot out at McSween’s house.  Billy is said to have killed a deputy at McSween’s door. number eight.

     After the truce Billy killed a man in a saloon brawl. number nine.

      Then Deputy Carlyle, at White Oaks – Billy denied this killing, so lets let it pass.

       Finally comes the murders of Deputies  J. W. Bell and Bob Olinger in the Linclon jail break.  This makes the total questionably at eleven.

“THERE’S TWENTY-ONE MEN I’VE PUT BULLETS THROUGH.

SHERIFF PAT GARRET MUST MAKE TWENTY-TWO.’

     Well the song, like most of Billy exploits, has been greatly twisted out of shape and fact.  Most of the “experts” credit Billy with seven to eight killings.  Pat Garret wrote with a ghost writers “A true Account of Billy, the Kid’s Life”.  In it he claimed that Billy saved a wagon train from attacting Indian’s with an axe.  Hollywood has done no better.  In the late sixties Paul Newman potrayed Billy in “The Left Handed Gun” , based on the reversed negetiave photo, mentioned in the first chapter. (more…)

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BILLY, THE KID: another try

May 26, 2008

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.  (more…)

BILLY, THE KID: conclusion

May 22, 2008

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. (more…)

BILLY THE KID: part 2

April 29, 2008

BILLY THE KID: part 2

“T’WAS ON THAT SAME NIGHT WHEN POOR BILLY DIED.

 HE SAID TO HIS FRIENDS “I’M NOT SATISFIED;

THERE  ARE TWENTY-ONE MEN I HAVE PUT BULLETS THROUGH,

AND SHERIFF PAT GARRET WILL MAKE TWENTY-TWO.”

      Well we need to hold our horses here, this verse is getting kinda ahead of the tale — plus it is filled with misconceptions.

     After fleeing the jail at Camp Grant where he was awaiting his fate for the killing of “Windy”  Cahill, Billy next appears at the Jones Ranch.  The Ranch of Heiskell Jones was located in the Pecos Valley, of New Mexico.  Apaches had stolen his horse and supplies, while Billy had stopped for water, leaving The Kid stranded with out supplies and miles from anywhere.  When Billy (by now he was going by the name of William Bonney, or simply “The Kid”)  arrived at the Jones Ranch, he was in sad shape.  Bootless, his feet were bloody and swollen, near a state of exaustion, The Jones family took him in and cared for him.  Mrs. Jones treated his ailment and wounds, and nursed the youth back to good health.  The Kid helped around the ranch forming a strong, lasting attachment to the family – and they to him.  Eventually they lent him a horse, and he left to look for work a few weeks later. 

Billy, The Kid rode into the Linclon County War.

And here the ledgend of Billy “The Kid” began

     Billy soon found work on the ranch of John Tunstall, a wealthy English emigrant twenty-four years of age.  (Now here I leave the story to enter into one of my rambles.)  John tunstall has always been potrayed as an older gentelman dressed in English Tweed Who employs young  youths who are wandering astray, whom he takes under his wing and tries to rehabilate and educate them.  He often is shown trying to teach young Billy how to read.  As we have already seen Bill, was already literate from earlier schooling.  In truth John Tunstall was a scheming, coniving individual who over matched himself.

     Also involved was John Chisim (who did not resembel John Wayne, as in the movie “Chisim”) , who had more cattle than he could count, and a range so vast it took days to ride across.  When the war started he had the good sense to stay on his ranch and out of the conflict. 

   Then there was the lawyer Alexander McSween, a seemingly pious and God fearing man, who was in reality in search of riches and fame.  There was his redheaded wife who dominated her pious husband, and would have won the war by herself if she had been a man.. (more…)

Henry McCarty aka William H. Bonney aka “Billy the Kid”

April 6, 2008

BILLY THE KID:

“I’LL SING YOU A TRUE SONG OF BILLY THE KID,

I’LL SING OF THE DESPRATE DEEDS THAT HE DID.

WAY OUT IN THE WEST LONG, LONG AGO,

WHEN A MAN’S ONLY CHANCE WAS HIS OWN FORTY-FOUR.”

       As I sit here prepared to start this new chapter of the old west, I’m surounded by at least six books.  All have business cards, post-it notes and grocery reciepts stuck throughout them marking pages.  While the main story remains basically the same through them, the details vary greatly.  These books are serious works of individuals who researched their stories as best they could, none are the dime and penny stories of his day. 

     Even “The Kids” origin differs from book to book.  Some say without doubt that Henry Antrim and his older brother Joe were both born in New York to Catherine McCarty, Billy around 1860.  Some claim his father was named either Patrick McCarty, or William Bonney.  In another book it is stated that historians have largley dismissed this theroy and feel he was born in Illiniois, Indiana or Kansas.  And one it is stated that Billy told an 1880 census taker that he was born in Missouri.

     What is known is that by 1870 Mrs. McCarty was in Wichita, Kansas where she became acquanted with a William H. Antrim.  Antrim was a discharged private with the Indiana Volunteer Infantry.  Antrim was a part time carpenter, farmer and bartender.  Catherine filed on a quarter section of land and purchased a lot in town where she operated a hand laundry.

      After a lengthly courtship the couple marrried in Santa Fe.  Antrim is often potrayed as a shiftless scoundrel, but he seems to have done his best to provide for his family.  Catherine suffered terribly from tuberculosis and soon after the marriage the family moved to Silver City, New Mexico.  Probably in the hopes that The dry climate would prove benificial for her health. 

     While life in a mining camp could hardly be described as a wonderful experience, Henry’s could not be called unpleasant either.  He seemed to have done well in school, and was described as an eager learner and very helpful in the classroom.  He acquired the ability to express himself, as later revealed in letters he wrote to the governor.

“WHEN BILLY THE KID WAS A VERY YOUNG LAD,

IN OLD SILVER CITY HE WENT TO THE BAD.

WAY OUT IN THE WEST WITH A GUN IN HIS HAND.

AT THE AGE OF TWELVE YEARS HE KILLED HIS FIRST MAN.” 

      Not true!  Catherine McCarty died on Sepetember 16,1874, and the family began to disolve.  Antrim could not exert much influnce over the boys.  Joe would roam the west and die in Denver, Colorado at the age of seventy-six on November 25, 1930.  His body went unclaimed and was donated to the Colorado Medical School.  He has never been quoted as saying anything about his infamous brother to my knowledge.

     It did not take Henry long to have his first brush with the law.  According to the Grant County Herald  of September 26,1875 “Henry McCarty was arrested and commited to jail to await the action of the grand jury on charges of stealing clothes from Charlie Sun and Sam Chung.  It is believed that Henry was simply the tool of Sombrero Jack who did the actual stealing while Henry did the hiding.  Jack has skipped out.” (more…)