Writins of Weakeyes Cody
Talented and witty writings
Billy The Kid @ 2011
Numerous screen actors of Hollywood fame have been chosen to play the part of one of the southwest’s worst killers. But each and every one portrayed but a reflection of himself and never the true replica of William Antrim, William Bonny, or Billy the Kid. For Billy the Kid exceeded in cruelty and a total lack of accountability, any desperado who ever walked the American Plaines. He was a nasty mouthed squeaky voiced hoodlum with bad teeth and bad disposition just like the only picture of him captures. A friend of mine whose great grandmother lived in Blue Water New Mexico, once fed a group of young men riding through as was the custom back then and one insisted on his profanity despite her asking him to stop it. So she slammed him over the head with a frying pan. She found out later it was Billy Bonny. Right about here a good number of my readers are jokingly saying, “Why don’t you say what you really mean?” But truth is, I have absolutely no words of praise for this man who lived long before my time. He was just simply a merciless killer.
Still, when considered among bad men of the old American west, his name must stand up there as incomparable, for some of the outlaws of the frontier killed in argued self defense, others when they were liquored-up, or inflamed with anger – but Billy The Kid was the only one who slew out of pure immorality. Three of his victims, Mexicans they were, he blasted just to ‘watch them kick,’ he laughingly boasted later. And if he had a grudge against a man he never carried it long for he simply confronted his adversary and shot him without hesitation or explanation.
I don’t know what psycho-dynamics mold our minds in our formative years, but in his early boyhood they say he was a New York street waif. I suppose that would maybe explain why he was spring-loaded in the pissed off position? Anyway, he was supposedly sent out to Silver City, New Mexico, where a step-father tried to make him a worthy member of society. But then at the mature age of fifteen he disagreed with his step-dad, one of the few arguments he had that he didn’t settle with a Colt, and he left home, becoming a waiter in a hotel nearby.
Well pretty soon he was accused of stealing supplies from the hotel storage and clothing from a Chinese laundryman. They threw him in jail but the jailer never reckoned with this budding desperado and Billy shinnied his skinny form up a chimney and broke for freedom. And it wasn’t to be his last jailbreak. Few outlaws showed the Kid’s talent for turning the devices of the locksmith and the ability to charm his guards into complacency.
After his escape from Silver City Jail he began anew as an apprentice blacksmith at Camp Apache. But one day he quarreled with the blacksmith and shot the forge master dead and made his escape once again. Thereafter Billy’s ways were the ways of a desperado, for at last he had reached the distinction of having a price on his head.
At about the time Billy was making his first foray into crime, the Lincoln county cattle war was making New Mexico a favored gathering place for drifters with questionable reputations and who cultivated the use of the six-gun. This war was cast between Horse thieves and cattle rustlers on one side and cattle barons on the other. The cattle barons, mostly from Texas, were seeking free range for their large herds and the other side was determined to despoil them of their herds and drive them maybe back to Texas or elsewhere. John Chisholm, whose brand was seared on thousands of range cattle was chief among the barons.
Billy worked for Chisholm a short time but with his gift for resenting his supervisor soon saw his inevitable disagreement. It was over a dispute in wages. Billy claiming that Chisholm hadn’t squared his account. And probably the only reason Billy didn’t shoot Chisholm, was the fact that Chisholm had a bunch of hard fighting old boys working for him.
The name of Billy The Kid became such a menace in the southwest that the people of Lincoln county looked around for someone to put a stop to his mindless antics. Pat Garrett, was approached. Seemingly a cool head at all times, good with firearms, and knowing the patterns of the ruffians in the territory. He proved his merit by invading the haunts of Billy and succeeded in trapping the desperado in an old cabin at Stinking Springs. The outlaws tied their horses near the cabin and fortified the place. Garret stationed his men about fifty yards from the cabin behind some rocks and at 3:30 in the afternoon the shooting began. A constant volley was kept up from both sides. The posse kept well under cover and suffered no hits but one of the outlaws was killed when a bullet penetrated the cabin door. A little after sundown with their ammunition running low the outlaws made a break for the horses. The kid was the first to steal out to where the horses were tied intending to lead them back to the cabin and succeeded in getting them as far as the cabin door but one of the animals was shot and fell partially blocking the door. Billy jumped back again into the cabin and began to shoot once again. But as night wore on the group opted to surrender. Dave Rudebaugh, Billy Wilson, Pickett, and the Kid were shackled and taken to Las Vegas, New Mexico.
In Las Vegas, when it became known that the ever popular and beloved Billy the Kid was made captive, a mob soon formed. Garret had anticipated a lynching and had put his prisoners in a box car, over which he, and his deputies stood guard. Three hundred citizens gathered outside the rail car demanding they hand over the trendy Billy The Kid, who shook his manacled hands at the crowd and begged Garret to “Turn me loose with my guns!” Inflaming the mob even more. The train couldn’t leave for an hour but Garret and his deputies, with drawn weapons held the mob at bay.
The outlaws were duly tried and the judge in pronouncing sentence on Billy, emphasized it by declaring severely, “And you are hereby sentenced to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead!” Billy laughed in the judges face and replied, “And you can go to hell, hell, hell!” You have to agree that not for a moment did the kid’s confidence desert him. Shackled hand and foot and guarded day and night he was constantly watching for a way to escape.
Well sir, with the day of his hanging but two weeks away our buck-toothed terror saw his chance. The redoubtable Ollinger, one of the guards was eating supper across the street, the other deputy, J.W. Bell, was left guarding the desperado while he ate. In order to allow Billy to eat, both cuffs had been fastened to one wrist. It seems Bell relaxed his vigilance for an instant when within striking distance of his prisoner and quick as a cat Billy’s hand came down on the deputy’s head, stretching him out half stunned. Snatching the lawman’s pistol, Billy shot him, the man staggered backward and fell down the stairs falling dead just outside the door in the yard. Ollinger, hearing the shot, ran across the street only to look up into the barrel of his own 12 gauge shotgun held by our idol who with delight squeezed the trigger sending Ollinger to the promised land, yelling, “There! You won’t corral me anymore with that!” And broke the weapon across the window sill. Billy took with him four revolvers and a Winchester rendering the rest of the Sheriff’s weapons useless and rode away forcing the first person he met to break his shackles. At the time of the Kid’s escape Garrett was at White Oaks. On his return to Lincoln he at once took the trail in search for Billy the Kid.
Meanwhile the kid continued his killing spree’s along the borders of Lincoln county. He killed William Matthews and a friend whom he encountered in the desert. Such was the fear generated by Billy that it was easy for him to secure food and shelter from anyone or anywhere he stopped. To report him to the law was a death sentence for anyone. One day the Kid rode into a Chisholm cow-camp where three riders were cooking their supper. One was hobbling his pony and the three others were at the fire. “Do you work for John Chisholm?” Billy asked of Barrett Howell who kneeled at the feet of his horse. Barrett replied that he did and Billy immediately shot him in the head, at the same time yelling “There’s your pay!” The others sprang to their feet seeing their companion fall, but Billy's Colt spoke twice more dropping two. Then covering the remaining cowboy with his revolver he delivered this message, “You tell Chisholm he owes me money. I’ll credit him five dollars each of his hands I kill. If I kill him the account is closed!”
In July of 1881, after Billy had been at large some two months, Sheriff Garrett got word he was in the vicinity of Fort Sumner. Word of Billy was hard to come by so he immediately with two deputies departed for that area. Arriving at Ft. Sumner, they watched a suspected house until midnight. Then Garret announced that a call should be made on Pete Maxwell, who lived in one of the old buildings at the Fort, and was brave enough to tell what he knew about the Kid’s whereabouts. Garrett stepped into Maxwell’s room to speak with him while his two deputies relaxed on the porch in the moonlight. Soon a man clad in shirt and trousers, and carrying a knife in one hand and a revolver in the other, hurried toward the porch and as he stepped upon the porch shouted: “Quien es? Quien es? (Who is it?) One of the deputies, having no idea that this was Billy The Kid, asked him to put away his gun and not be alarmed. Then he arose and stepped toward Billy, but Billy quick as a cat lunged through the door of Maxwell’s room. Something, most likely the sixth sense given to all the hunted outlaws, told Billy that all was not right. Coming into the darkened room from out in the bright moonlit night Billy couldn’t see exactly what or who was in the room. Coming to the edge of the bed and even putting his hand on a coverlet within a few inches of Garrett sitting at the head of the bed, Billy asked Maxwell, “Say Pete, who are them guys out there?” Recognizing Billy's unique voice Garret eased his holster around under his hand, at the same time Billy saw the movement at the head of the bed and cocked the hammer of his gun. “Quien es?”
The Spanish words were scarcely spoken when Garrett’s Colt spoke dropping Billy with a shot through the heart. Billy’s gun fired by his convulsive movement as he fell.
So ended the life and times of Billy The Kid. Still, it’s not the name of the good guy who put him down that is remembered. It’s not Patrick Garrett who is portrayed in Hollywood’s films of yesteryear. But that of a cold blooded snaggled toothed thoughtless gunslinger with a caved in hat and idiotic grin who is remembered. Go figure.
~ Weakeyes Cody 2011