LEGENDS OF THE OLD WEST

Pat Garrett

Billy the Kid                                                                           Pat Garrett

The story goes that he killed one man for every one of his twenty-one years.  The truth is probably closer to nine or ten.

Not much is known about the early years of William Henry Bonney, a.k.a. Henry McCarty, a.k.a. Henry Antrim, a.k.a. Billy the Kid.  His father’s name is not known, though his mother’s is.  She was Catherine McCarty.  It’s thought that The Kid and his mother hailed from New York City, though that is cannot be proven.  What is known, however, is that Billy’s mother met his stepfather, William Antrim in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1868.  In 1873, the family moved to Silver City, New Mexico.

William Antrim was frequently absent, often away gambling and prospecting.  Billy’s mother took to washing clothes, baking pies, and taking in boarders to support her family.  Already in the final stages of Tuberculosis, she passed away on 16 September 1874, when Billy was just 14.  He was taken in by a neighbor who ran a Hotel, who remarked that he was the only employee who didn’t steal from him.  Not long after, however, he was forced to find new accommodations when the family he was living with began to have “domestic issues.”

On 24 September 1875, Billy was arrested when he was found in possession of a gun and clothing that fellow lodger stolen from a laundry owner.  Two days later, he escaped.

In 1877, Billy was hired by Doc Scurlock and Charlie Bowdre to work in their Cheese Factory.  It was later that year that the three of them, along with the Coe brothers, Ab Saunders, and Dick Brewer went to work for John Tunstall.  If you’ve seen the movie Young Guns, then you know the basic gist of the story.  However, Hollywood is not history.  What is true, however, is that Billy and the Regulators were deputized to track down the people responsible for killing Tunstall.  Also true is the fact that Governor Lew Wallace promised amnesty for any man involved in the Lincoln County War who was not already under indictment.

In 1878, Billy and Governor Wallace met.  According to the story, Wallace would pardon The Kid if he would testify against John Dolan.  Billy agreed, and fulfilled his end of the bargain.  Whether it was an intentional snub, or Wallace was he was powerless, The Kid was not released from jail, and he was forced to escape again.

We all know how the story ends.  On 14 July 1881, Pat Garrett shot Billy in the back, killing him.  Except that’s not the end.  Today, 119 years later, Governor Bill Richardson is contemplating making good on Lew Wallace’s word.  He’s had historian’s look into it, and none of them, not surprisingly, have come up with any evidence of Wallace agreeing to the Pardon.  However, why would a wanted outlaw agree to turn himself in without a card up his sleeve?  Coming out in opposition of the pardon are the descendents of Garrett.

The Garrett family argument is simple:  it dishonors the memory of their ancestor.  They say that by giving a pardon to a murderer, it is an “inexcusable defamation.”  Garrett defamed himself when he ambushed The Kid, killing him in cold blood.  Garrett is every bit as guilty of murder as Billy was, except that history doesn’t see him that way because he was deputized, and Billy was a criminal.  So should Billy the Kid receive a pardon?  I don’t know. I’m not the Governor of New Mexico.  However, I don’t think he should let the family of a man who is just as guilty decide for him.

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About MacJew

I am Husband to a beautiful woman, Father to two dogs and two cats. I am dovoutly Jewish. I love to read and write. I am trying to expand my horizons on film beyond the typical Hollywood garbage, so I have been watching foreign films lately. My plans for this blog are to talk about various things that are of interest to me, including Judaism, history, movies, books, et cetera. Anything that comes to mind, really.
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