February 24, 2012
About a decade ago, right after we first bought the magazine, I motored down to Tubac for a historical weekend and encountered Mary Hartless, who had an authentic 1880s camera. Inspired, and utilizing the people on hand, she helped me art direct a faux tin type of Billy the Kid with his wife Paulita and their two kids.
This was predicated on the idea that what if Billy survived his wanted status and lived out his life in Fort Sumner? Found this while organizing my studio last weekend.
I had intended to run this on the cover of True West with the headline: "What If Billy the Kid Had Received His Pardon?" And I thought it illustrated quite well the what-if he and Paulita had married and had kids and then, later in life, Billy had tried to sell his life story. Well, for one thing, we probably wouldn't still be talking about him today, would we?
Also, as a side note, when I floated this idea with my staff and brain trust at the time, I got a boatload of criticism that this was not what True West was about: the crux of it being, "Why would you run a fake photo on the cover of True West?" Because it illustrates a valid point? I wish I had been braver at the time because I think it was a very legit question and angle into the story.
"History is an argument without end."
—Old Vaquero Saying