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Billy the Kid

He lived in hellhole towns and sagebrush beds from the border up to the Panhandle.

John Chisum’s daughter tells us that Billy was really a very nice boy with a winsome smile and carefree ways. He was a talented musician, and could do a fine fandango. He was very polite, almost like a Mexican, even gracious. But he had a temper, which could flare up suddenly in a roar of gunfire out of an old sloppy boot holster, with no remorse, no regrets.

He polished off three Apaches from Chiracahua in Arizonaland, and then in Camp Bowie he closed the rubbery lips of a blacksmith who called him a pleasant “”mistah Billy Goat”. He teamed up with another youth, and the two of them cut down several men in bars and gambling halls and cut a swath of hell along the border.

John Chisum was the cattle king of the Pecos and his stock were easy pickings for the Murphy-Dolan outfit who owned a small spread and a merchandising company in the little town of Lincoln. This outfit loaned money to certain army officers who were very grateful, and in return gave them beef contracts to fill on the Indian reservations. To do this was simple, although Murphy Dolan’s own ranch only ran 3000 head. They hired gunhand Billy the Kid and others to ride out with a running iron and rustle up 3000 head each year from old John Chisum, who knew it but could not prove it out of his vast cattle empire.

An upstanding gentleman by name of McSween became old John’s lawyer and another Englishman by name of Tunstall bought a store to compete with the Murphy-Dolan outfit up the road apiece. Billy the Kid quit the rustling’ outfit to go to work for Mr. Tunstall out on his small Rio Feliz Ranch.

Colonel Murphy (he’d put in a hitch) had a temper and he didn’t like the way things were stacking up. That damned Tunstall had a nerve opening a store and taking Billy! So he called in Sheriff William Brady and told him to form a posse and ride over to the Rio Feliz, to look for some of his stolen horses and if Tunstall became unwieldy to shoot him down. Among those deputized into the posse were a few of the gun-happy lads who had worked with Billy.

They found Tunstall on horseback on his way into Lincoln. Jesse Evans pulled out a pistol and shot him on sight, and Morton blasted him in the head as he slid to the ground from his horse.

When the Kid heard of this outrage, he swore he would kill every man who had a hand in it. This was carried out when he rode down Morton and Baker, shooting them out of their saddles. Then Frank McNab was next. He was cut down before he could flex a muscle. The famed Lincoln County War was on.

Old John Chisum had to go eat; he wanted no part of it now since the eyes of the nation were on it and the newspapers had picked it up. In the meantime, Billy barricaded himself with several others in the McSween home. The Kid’s killing of Sheriff Brady brought an indictment of murder against him.

Fort Stanton troops arrived on July 1878, and Colonel Dudley ordered a cannon placed in the road and a cease-fire. While negotiations were in progress, some of the Murphy-Dolan outfit stole around back and set the house ablaze. Several were killed, among them McSween, and Billy was turned out to run for his life.

All this news finally reached Washington. President Rutherford Hayes named Lew Wallace the new governor of New Mexico. He was told to go down into the country and tame it. He met Billy the Kid, and told him if he would stand trial and testify in the Chapman slaying – Mrs. McSween’s one-armed lawyer had been tormented and killed and Billy had witnessed it all – he could go scot-free. So Billy gave himself up, and as nothing came from the case, he skipped his flimsy jail and headed for Fort Sumner.

An old friend of the Kid’s, a tall, rangy individual by name of Pat Garrett, was elected the new sheriff, and finally ordered by Governor Wallace to bring the Kid in. This was done, and again the Kid was jailed. In reality, the governor did nothing for him, ignored him completely and worked on his famous novel, “Ben Hur”, at night with shades drawn tight.

The Kid was taken to Lincoln and jailed there, awaiting his hanging, and made his famous escape by killing deputies Bell and Ollinger. He made off to Fort Sumner where Pat Garrett found him in the dark bedroom of Pete Maxwell. Pat never gave him a chance and blasted him in the dark. Billy the Kid died at 21, having killed 21 men during his gunslinging career, a victim of circumstances, and many claim the dupe of the Lincoln County War.

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