Sunday, October 25, 2020

Pat Garrett's Cold And Miserable March to Capture The Kid

 October 25, 2020

   It was a year ago tomorrow we celebrated 20 years in Cave Creek with a big party at Black Mountain Library. That seems like a hundred years ago, now. Of course, we never anticipated all the strangeness of 2020, but then who did?!

   This is my last week on the Kid project. Of course, when I get to this stage of the production cycle, I always get inspired to do more paintings than I have time to do. Like this little dittie:

Daily Whip Out: "Billy Border Chase"

   In the fall of 1877 Kid Antrim split from the Jesse Evans gang somewhere around Mesilla and while the Boys went up the west side of the Sacramento Mountains, most historians believe Billy angled off to the east, past El Paso and out across the Cornudas and the Guadalupe Range and then up to Seven Rivers. He had some adventures on that run, and legend says he sprang a compadre out of the jail at San Elizario which is downriver from El Paso on the Rio Grande and on the border with Old Mexico. This scene, above represents that escape.

Daily Whip Out: "Billy In Snowdrift"

A Bonney Inspired Winter Wonderland

      One of the things the movies never quite get right is the massive manhunts in the snow, which is the backbone and centerpiece of the Pat Garrett trackdown of the Kid in the winter of 1880.

   Record snowfall and bitter cold temperatures would have thwarted any sane manhunter, and for the record most all of any who could, stayed in front of the hearth in November and December of 1880. Out of some 300 available cowboys in the Tascosa area, only 13 took the call to hunt the Kid and they had names like "Animal" and "Cat Fish" and "Bigfoot Wallace," you know, people I am related to and can relate to.

   Moving aganst the Kid when no one, including Billy, thought he would, Garrett pushed his manhunt to the brink of endurance with frostbite and bitter cold as snowdrift conditions hampered the posse's every move. Whiteouts, with horses plunging in snowdrifts, was their daytime activities. As night, out on the plains, it was even worse!

Daily Whip Out: "Garrett's Miserable March"

   A sidenote: In the fall of 1990 I met another Kid Krazy guy Steve Randolph in Lincoln and I joined him and his dad at their campsite outside town and we were going to sleep out in the weather to get a feel for what it must have been like in 1880 when Garrett and the Kid played snowdrift cat and mouse games. I was given a thermal sleeping bag and we had a campfire, but in the night it was so cold I had to seek refuge in the cab of a pickup truck. The next day we discovered it was in the low twenties out!

The Randolphs in Camp after a cooooold night.

   Okay, contrast that with two of the Tascosa cowboys who were on the road after the Kid and when it got dark they simply took the saddle and blankets off their horses and pushed the blankets down into the snow and slept like babies! I always think of this crazy contrast.

   Are we softer these days. Boy Howdy. At least this Woosie is!

Daily Whip Out: "Garrett Pushes On"


  Through deep snow, the combined posses pushed on and, of course, they finally captured their prey and, after burying two, they beat it to Las Vegas through the snow. Crazy cold stuff, this is.

Daily Whip Out: "Snowmelt Rider"

   In a fine Jim Earle book in my collection, "The Capture of Billy the Kid" we get the remembrances of a couple of those Texas cowboys. One of them, Cal Polk, very bluntly tells about how rough they were, and he later served as a U.S. Marshal, but damn he and those boys were rough as cobs.

"We was all Dead Broke and had got mean and cared for nothing."

—Cal Polk, remembering his wayward ways in the cold hunt for Billy the Kid in the winter of 1880

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Cowboy Who Rode With Frozen Pants

 October 24, 2020

   I vaguely remember reading about one of the Texas cowboys with Stewart on the hunt for the Kid, telling the story about riding in a snowstorm and coming to a river (the Pecos?) and it is frozen over and he's afraid his horse will fall through the ice and drown him, so he grabs rocks and busts the ice then leads his horse across on foot, and then rides the rest of the way to his destination in frozen pants! Who was that and where do I find it again? Ha. Thanks.

   In his renowned book “Charles Goodnight: Cowman & Plainsman,” historian J. Evetts Haley wrote, “In its tortuous meanderings it is often cursed by the natives as ‘the crookedest river.’ Goodnight used to tell how Pete Narbo, a Palo Pinto ranchman, shot a steer that someone had dropped from a herd. He swam over to get the beef, but had to swim back again, discovering that he and the animal had been on the same bank. And though that was a long time ago, the Pecos has not improved with age.

A wagon stuck in the Pecos a long time ago.

“The devil could not dream such a damnable stream

“As the Pecos River Southwest;

“From bank to bank she reeked and stank

“Like a thousand buzzards’ nests.”

Friday, October 23, 2020

Digging Up Billy the Kid For Fun & Profit

 October 23, 2020

   One week to go. Here's a sneak peek at part of a CG-doubletruck "advertorial" in the next issue:

   Thanks to my neighbor, Tom Augherton, I finally got to see "The Kid" (2019) which features a pretty convincing Billy the Kid.

Dane DeHaan as William H. Bonney
in "The Kid" (2019)

   Unfortunately, they tacked on a coming of age story about another "kid" who gets mixed up with the Billy Bonney inspired character during the Stinking Springs episode of the actual Kid story and then it goes in and out of the fictional kid with the historic Kid glancing off the main story so that by the end, if you came for the real Billy you were disappointed, and if you came for the coming of age Billy, perhaps you got some satisfaction, but I didn't, because, well, you know how cranky I get.

Daily Whip Out:
"The Chica From Anton Chico"

   As we have already seen, Billy had many affairs with beautiful women up and down the Pecos. Legend says one of them, from Anton Chico, haunted his dreams to the day he died.

George Coe and a WPA writer in front of
the crumbling "House" (Lincoln County Courthouse), circa 1940

Digging Up Billy for Fun & Profit

   "I believe the evidence shows Garrett lied about the escape of the Kid," says ex-cop Steve Sederwall, who, in 2003, as the mayor of Capitan, New Mexico, joined forces with then Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan to reopen the case on Billy the Kid. The governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson sanctioned the investigation. Sederwall was convinced that "if Garrett lied about Billy's escape from jail, what else did he lie about?" The two got permission from the state to shoot a pistol off in the stairway of the Lincoln Courthouse and do the first-ever CSI on the crime scene. "We wanted to see if a pistol touched off in the stairwell could be heard at the Wortley," Steve remembered.

    Short answer: it could.

   They fired off a pistol in the stairwell on April 28, 2003. On June 5th the story landed on the front page of the New York Times, with a sensational story about modern day cops who were still chasing Billy the Kid. As Sederwell puts it, "That was the second the investigation jumped the tracks." At first, Governor Richardson was pleased, telling the boys the state couldn't buy this kind of publicity. The governor also wanted to push for a pardon of the Kid and match the DNA of the two digs—Billy in Fort Sumner and Catherine McCarty in Silver City—to prove that Brushy Bill Roberts was a fraud. Someone from the Maxwell family still had the bench Billy the Kid was laid out on after his death and they claimed there was still blood on it. Sederwall and the boys now had a DNA sample and someone in Arizona wanted to exhume John Miller who some claimed was actually the Kid. The governor of Arizona signed off on a dig and the Boys dug up Miller in Prescott, but when the story hit the press, an Arizona attorney, Dave Snell, filed charges against the Boys for "grave robbery." 

   As the story grew more sordid, everyone started to take heat, especially Sederwall and Sullivan, who were sued and then came the death threats. Officials in Fort Sumner got spooked when they heard there was a chance the Kid's body was not in his marked grave because the U.S. Army came in the early 1900s and moved all the graves to Santa Fe. Long story short, so far, no one has dug up the Kid to see if he's actually there. 

  By the way, Steve's new book "Cold West Case Files: The Dirty On Billy the Kid" is recommended, especially if you want to see a behind-the-scenes take on all of above. Here's my favorite quote:

"Everyone has a secret they want to keep hidden: cops call that secret the dirty. Not until you know the dirty, can you find the truth."

—Steve M. Sederwall

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Was Billy the Kid A Bonnie Lass Toolie?

October 22, 2020

   The new Billy book will have plenty of new pictures and plenty of new questions, like this one:

Was Billy the Kid a "Bonnie Lass Toolie"?

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy as a Bonnie Lass Toolie"

   Interviewed in 1936, Jesus Silva of Fort Sumner claimed that he found the Kid walking after his escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse and that he guided the fugitive to the Jesus Anaya home, eight miles south of Fort Sumner. The Kid, though hampered by his leg irons, walked part of the way while Jesus rode. Silva left the Kid at the Anaya home, and claimed he stayed for almost a month.

   “Anaya had three daughters, and when strangers would come, Billy dressed up like a girl and stayed in the kitchen with the Anaya girls. And he made a good one, too — he was small, his hair was long and he talked Mexican just as good as them."

—Jesus Silva, in The Amarillo Daily News, Friday Morning, Nov. 13, 1936

   So, yes, if the Silva account is true, Billy the Kid was in the slang of the day, a "Bonnie Lass Toolie" which is a good looking woman.

   Thanks to Mark Lee Gardner, I got another crack at the visage of Walter Noble Burns. Mark bought most of Burns' papers and in them, is this photo printed on a publicity release for "The Saga of Billy the Kid." It's one of the best photos I have seen of the writer, but it has one problem:

Burns with ripped mouth.

So I took a crack at him in my own style:

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"Walter Noble Burns"

   The older I get, the more I mistrust oldtimers and their stories. I know, I know, it takes one to know one. Still, if you have been doing this as long as I have you have to face the fact that most of the collected remembrances of geezers comes down to an orgy of inconsistencies and that eventually you come up against the unmistakable: it's all built to baffle. Still, we trudge onward, hoping to gleam some truth from the effort. 

"My memory's not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be."

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Plague of the Billy Wannabes

 October 21, 2020

   We in the Old West collector's world live with a phenom we jokingly call The Plague of the Billy Wannabes. Here's how it started. 

Before Koch and After Koch

   I was there when the only known photo of Billy the Kid was auctioned off for $2.3 million. I don't want to overstate this, but it actually felt like the oxygen was being sucked out of the room.

   Several weeks before the auction, my friend, Brian Lebel, brought the tintype out to the True West World Headquarters and I actually got to hold it in my hands. I had gloves on to protect it, of course, but the experience was quite surreal. First off, to think that the Kid held this in his hands was off the chart crazy. And, even though the piece of tin is no larger than a credit card, and is dark and covered with "noise" (the surface is thick with aging marks and debris, including strand marks from the sweater he wears in the photo!), there was a hypnotizing effect just staring at it, as if you could see deeper into the image. I felt the Kid's presence, and I'm not that kind of guy, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

   For years the photo was considered lost, but then in 1986, descendents of one of Billy Bonney's pards, Dan Dedrick, donated their tintype to the Lincoln County Heritage Trust in Lincoln, New Mexico. When the trust ended, the photograph went back to the Dedrick family and they ultimately contacted Brian Lebel, who put it up for aucton at the Brian Lebel's 22nd Annual Old West Show & Auction in Denver. This was in June of 2011. Brian told me he thought it might fetch $400,000 and, so, we asked on a True West cover, "Would you pay $500,000 for this Little Piece of Tin?" Boy Howdy. Turns out we were both wildly off.

   The bidding, at the Denver Merchandise Mart, started with five bidders and within two minutes, the bids shot past the one million mark. The air seemed to be crackling with electricity. At the $1.5 million mark several bidders dropped off, and then with a calm determination, Bill Koch bid $2 million and all the competition dropped away (Koch confided to a friend of mine before the auction, "I'm not leaving this building without that photo.")

   "When the bidding ended, the whole room erupted in clapping and people leapt to their feet," said Melissa McCracken, wife of Brian Lebel. "I've never experienced anything like this before."

   A $300,000 "buyer's premium" was tacked on to the winning bid, bringing the total selling price to $2.3 million.

   Koch is one of the sons of Fred C. Koch, founder of the Wichita based energy conglomerate Koch Industries, one of the largest private companies in the U.S. Bill has a twin, David and another brother, Charles, who are prominent conservative activists.

   Ever since this auction we have been besieged with one new Billy wannabe photo after another. It's not an exaggeration to say a new one pops up every week. Everyone smells that multi-million dollar payday. So far, none of them have passed the provenance test.

"The owner of the photograph believes he is living every collector's wildest fantasy and lots of folks are rooting for him. He believes in the photograph and has enlisted some persuasive allies in his quest to prove its authenticity. I fear, however, that he is simply 'tilting at windmills.' The whole quixotic episode proves yet again the eternal, worldwide fascination with America's favorite bad boy. Billy would love it—but even he might say 'buyer beware.'"

—The Top Secret Writer

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Billy's Bill of Sale

 October 20, 2020

   Need you to help me vet some photos for the book. This is posted on the web as an early photo of Billy the Kid's grave. It certainly looks right and it is forlorn enough, prior to the explosion of interest that Burns' book gave the site. Is it, in fact the Kid's grave?

The Kid's grave prior to
the invention of the Good-Bad Boy?

   And here are Billy's pallbearers.

Billy's Pallbearers in the 1920s
L to R: Charlie Foor, Jose Silva,
Vicente Otero and Paco Anaya

And here is the bill of sale signed by the Kid when he sold Sheriff Brady's horse, Dandy Dick to Henry F. Hoyt in Tascosa, Texas, in 1878.

All legit? Good to go? What do you know? I know, I know, do your own damn research, Kid.

"The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government."
—Barry Goldwater

Monday, October 19, 2020

Billy At The Baile And Working Remotely Is So Tiring

 October 19, 2020

   I am exhausted. Let me tell you how much I hate working remotely, but first let's do a little dance for having actual work that I can still do.

Daily Scratchboard Flashback Whip Out:

"Billy at The Baile:

   Thanks to my curator, Kristi Jacobs, and her masterful filing sytem, I was able to find a packet of old Billy the Kid images I have done over the past 30 years. I found this old scratchboard, above, and saw immediately it had potential. Honestly, it looked so bad in the book (BTKII) I was not even planning on using it in the new book, but when I saw the original in the packet I thought I could salvage it. So I pulled it out and hauled it downstairs and gave it another pass with my scraping tools, and if you compare it with the version in the book, you will be amazed as I was. First of all, it doesn't look like mud, like it does in book #2. When I told this to my production manager Robert Ray he wondered if it isn't a function of gray-scale vs. bit-map scanning, which is how we scanned scratchboards in the old days (mid-1990s!).

   And, speaking of scanning, I spend way too much time trying to find scans, especially now that we're all working remotely. Here's a typical exchange on Slack, which is a cousin to Zoom.

"I need that image of Billy dancing at a baile. It's a scratchboard."

"What did you name it?"

"I don't know, 'Billy the Kid at the Baile.'"

Fifteen minutes later: "Sorry, chief, it's not coming up."

Okay, try "BTK Baile"

"Nope. When did you do it?"

"I don't remember. At least 26 years ago?"

"That won't help us."

And so it goes. I finally made a vow, today, to write down every single name of every single scan and keep it in a ledger on my desk.

The Kids Return

   Billy and the Top Secret Writer are in the House.

   This next issue marks the return of two of my favorite "kids." One is the legendary outlaw, who sparked in me a lifetime of research on his short and violent life, and the other is the legendary scholar who, so far, has had a long and peaceful life, interrupted by eloquent tirades against the machine (Academia with a capital A).

   Our creative designers and editors worked overtime to process and complete my third and final book on Billy the Kid. We are running a few samples of the new artwork that accompanies the book in this issue.

   The Billy book is, in fact, dedicated to The Top Secret Writer. He has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. Here's looking at you Kid! 

Billy Back Issues

   Part of our rationale for the third and final Billy the Kid book is that in the past 21 years our contributing editors and writers have uncovered much new scholarship about the legendary outlaw and we thought it was only fitting that we gather it all up in one final book. It wasn't as easy as it sounds as we had to catalogue and sort through the new stuff, then vet it with the previous book and shoehorn it all in, all the while working remotely! Ouch!

"Live by the gun, die by the gun"

Or, is it better to live like a friend of Billy's?

Daily Whip Out: "Vicente Otero Sketch"

   Vicente Otero was born in Manzano, New Mexico and lived in Lincoln County and Valencia before moving to Fort Sumner. He was a pallbearer at the Kid's funeral. Incredibly, no one interviewed him in depth about his friendship with the Kid (if only my father had made that turn!). Vicente was blind in the last years of his life in Fort Sumner. He died on November 28, 1958. Some in the family dispute the birth date on his headstone (see, below). Although his headstone says he was born on February 12, 1852, census records indicate he was born in the late 1840’s, which would put his age somewhere near 110 when he died.

 "One died at 21, the other at 110. One's a legend and the other one took more naps and ate more homemade enchiladas. Which one do you want to be?"

—A Life Question for Me And My Kid Krazy Friends

Sunday, October 18, 2020

If My Father Had Made The Turn to Fort Sumner

 October 18, 2020

   In my second book on the Kid, I had the last man standing as Francisco Gomez, who not only rode with Billy the Kid and on Susan McSween but he lived to experience the atomic bomb blast just over the mountains at the Trinity Site (which is between Lincoln and Socorro). He died in 1946 and at the time I published the second book I assumed he was the last guy standing who knew Billy the Kid.

   Well, researcher and soon-to-be Kid book author, James B. Mills, of Australia, recently shared with me info on a guy in Fort Sumner who outlived them all.

Daily Whip Out: "Vicente Otero"

   This guy was alive in the summer of 1958 when my family was on the way to Iowa to visit the family farm. I saw the turn at Santa Rosa (Billy the Kid's grave 55 miles) but I couldn't get my dad to make the turn. If I had been able to get that stubborn Norwegian to make the turn, and we got to Fort Sumner and I had the good fortune to ask the right questions and charm the right people, I would have been able to meet and interview a guy who rode with Bill the Kid!

   Of course, there was only one problem.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"The Fanner-Fifty Kid"

   I was only twelve at the time, which of course would have stunted my interview capabilities and I would most certainly have asked all the wrong questions.

"Was the Kid fast on the draw?"

"Did he rob banks and trains?"

"Did his horse come when he whistled?"

"Did he dress all in black?"

"Did he carve notches on his pistols?"

   I think I can pretty much predict what ol' Vicente would have told me:

"He was my friend and he was none of those things."

"The problem with this world is that by the time you make it to greener pastures, you're too old to climb the fence."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, October 17, 2020

An Ode to My Lincoln Compadres

October 17, 2020

   There comes a time when one needs to give thanks to the people and places that have made him or her what they are today. In this case, that "one" would be me and one of the key places in my life would be Lincoln, New Mexico.

BBB Sketching at Garrett Murder Site
September 16, 1991

   And, the photo of me sketching, above, was taken by one of these Kid guys.

Casa de Patron Crew
L to R: Leon Metz, Bob Barron,
Fred Nolan, BBB and Jim Browning

   Yes, I am proud to say I knew all of these giants in the Kid Field and it was the one and only Frederick Nolan who took that photo of me at Garrett's murder site outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

   Then there are these guys, a loose knit group of history nuts. We called ourselves The Renegades:

The Renegades In Lincoln
Photo by Chuck Parsons

   Everybody in this photo loves Lincoln and most of the 55 people who still live there. What's funny about this photo—to me—is that I was broke when it was taken. I had been fired from my radio gig two years earlier, and I had burned through my savings and, in spite of this, I bought all those T-Shirts everyone is wearing and I needed a gig. I am eternally thankful that John Boessenecker paid for my meal that night at the Ellis Store, and that the second guy, from the left, standing, joined me in buying a certain magazine two years later. Funny, what we remember, eh? And speaking of Lincoln compadres. . .

The"Hello, Bob," Crew

L to R: Paul Andrew Hutton, BBB, Buckeye Blake and Drew Gomber

   This photo was taken at the foot of the window where the Kid shot down his guard, Bob Olinger, who died at our feet in this macabre photo, taken by my partner Ken Amorosano.

   One of the dudes in this photo is about to be named the True Westerner of the Year for 2021. I'll give you a few clues.

• He's won four Spurs and he delivered O.J's baby in "Naked Gun 2 1/2".

• We're about to publish his tenth cover story for the magazine, this latest one, on Daniel Boone.

• His last cover story for True West was November 2018—"When the West Was True."

• His next book is The Undiscovered Country: The Epic Story of the Opening of the American West to be published by Dutton/Random House in early 2022. It is a history of the American frontier from the French and Indian War to 1900. The title is not borrowed from a Star Wars movie but rather is from Shakespeare's Hamlet. He first heard those lines as a kid watching John Ford's My Darling Clementine on TV. It's his favorite scene in the movie—when Doc Holliday quotes Hamlet's soliloquy. He always thought it a perfect dark metaphor for the conquest of the West. 

"Some of those good ol' boys are going to have to eat a pickle."
—Buckeye Blake, lambasting almost everyone in the above photos for dissing the "Croquet Photo"

Friday, October 16, 2020

Big Billy And Little Casino

 October 16, 2020

   Ed Reilly of Prescott Valley Bronzesmith delivered two bronzes to my house today. A Big Billy and a Little Casino, I mean, a Little Billy.

Big Billy Bronzesmith & Little Casino

   One goes in the house and the other one guards my studio door. A much taller one is going to land at a certain Billy town-casino in New Mexico. Which will actually make it "Big Billy-Little Casino".

   We created and produced this Kid bronze back in 2014 but our talks with another New Mexico town stalled out and we both went on to other things. But Ed and I knew, at some point, we would come back and land this baby. It's just too cool for school. 

   Besides, sometimes it just takes patience and time. Or, as the Oracle of Omaha puts it:

"No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant."

—Warren Buffet

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

What Happened to Billy And His Pards?

 October 14, 2020

   Looking for all the Kid's friends and when they passed.

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy And His Pards: Death Found Them All"

   According to James B. Mills, one of Billy's friends, Vicente Otero, died on Friday, November 28, 1958. This means that when I wanted my dad to take the turn at Santa Rosa, New Mexico, off of Route 66, and go the 55 miles to Fort Sumner, in the summer of 1958, I could have interviewed him! Wow! Of course I was 12 and knew nothing but still. . .

Homeless On The Range

   Henry took the stage, and landed at Clifton, Arizona. He soon found his step-father but they had a falling out over the Kid's run in with the law back in Silver City. Antrim, Sr. told his stepson, "If that's the kind of boy you are, get out."

   The Kid then went into the old man's room, stole he six-shooter and some clothes "and beat it," according to Whitehill, who added, "He never saw Antrim again."

   Henry had nothing, not even money to get back to Silver City, so he turned to stealing and On March 19, 1876 he stole a horse belonging to a soldier near the San Carlos Apache Reservation and fled on it to the hog ranches on the edge of the Fort Grant military reservation. It was here, at Bonita, he would kill his first man.

Rustlers, Rogues And Killers

   After he fled Arizona, Henry slipped into the ranks of the Jesse Evans gang, better known as "The Boys." Evans rode at the head of the gang, along with Frank Baker, Tom Hill (Alias Tom Chilson) and Nicolas Provencio, George "Buffalo Bill" Spawn, Bob Martin, Jim McDaniels, Bob Nelson, better know as "Nelson from the Gila" and "Bucksin Joe" and Pony Diehl, "Mose" and a new member, who is now going by "Kid Antrim."

   John Kinney, a former cavalry sergeant, had a ranch a mile or two west of Mesilla that was well known as the "headquarters and rendezvous for all the evildoers in the country." He acted as a fence and agent for all the stolen cattle and horseflesh in the area. Like many of his compatriots he played both sides of the law, having once raised a posse of "Silver City Rangers" during the El Paso Salt War and then rode for the Dolan side in the Lincoln County War. As was usual for this time and place, virtually all sides saw themselves as "lawmen" but they acted more like road agents, especially when it came to paying for food and drink.

A Dangerous Path
   John Tunstall meets Alexander McSween in the dining room of the Exchange Hotel in Santa Fe. McSween is on his way to New York to try and collect on Emil Fritz's $10,000 insurance policy for the estate. The Lincoln lawyer talks to the Englishman about investing in the area. The idea sticks and on November 6, 1878, Tunstall arrives in Lincoln to join forces with McSween and to make his fortune. Both men picked the wrong area and the wrong competitors and they will both lose their lives in the venture.

"These gangs were well-oiled up and in good working order." 
—Lily Casey.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A Kid Tramps Across The Country

 October 13, 2020

   When you track Billy the Kid's journey across the country you realize something pretty profound. He either rode in a wagon, or, on a horse, or, he walked, for at least 2,500 miles!

A map of all the main stops
in the Kid's short life

   Whether he was born in New York City, or upstate New York (researchers Susan Stevensen and her father Gary Jones tracked the witnesses to the McCarty-Antrim wedding back to Utica, New York), as the Kid's family traversed the raw, developing country, he saw some pretty amazing changes in scenery. From the upper northeast to the midwest, across the Mississippi and out on the plains. Then after a prolonged stop in Wichita they may have gone to Denver. 
   Then, down the Santa Fe Trail into New Mexico, and from Santa Fe down the Rio Grande and up on the Blue, landing in the high desert mining mecca of Silver City, New Mexico, then on into southern Arizona, into Globe City (what Globe, Arizona was called back in the day), very rough country all of it. Then back across southern New Mexico, past the bootheel into Mesilla and El Paso, then down to San Elizario (if the legend is to be believed) and up the eastern side of the Sacramentos into the Seven Rivers area, then all over the Capitans and out across the Pecos to the Canadian River.
   When we think of Billy the Kid we tend to think of a young man on the owlhoot trail in a narrow and specific part of the Old West. The above map, opens our eyes to the extensive travels of a young man who saw a major part of the country in his day.

The Tool of Sombrero Jack
   After the death of his mother, young Henry fell in with a gang of toughs, led by one "Sombrero Jack." The boys threw rocks at unsuspecting horse riders on the streets of Silver City and then delighted in the impromtu rodeos that ensued. They also stole stuff and that got the Kid in his first trouble with the law.

Catherine And The Kid
   She was known in Kansas as "The Widow McCarty" and from a resident in Silver City, New Mexico, she was described as "a jolly Irish lady, full of life, fun and mischief, [who] could dance the Highland Fling as well as the best of dancers." Ash Upson described her as "about medium height, straight and graceful in form, with regular features, light blue eyes, and luxuriant golden hair. She was not a beauty, but what the world calls a fine-looking woman." And then he adds, "her charity and goodness of heart were proverbial."
   It's safe to say, young Henry, and his younger brother, Josie, lost a much needed influence, at a much needed point of their lives.

   Regarding this alleged "photograph" of Catherine McCarty Antrim, I was looking for a quote when I ran across this little bit of trivia:

"It gained acceptance as a photo of the Kid's mother sometime in the late 1930s when Eugene Cunningham, author of the book Triggernometry, identified it as such to photographic collector Noah H. Rose in order to obtain from Rose an original photograph he wanted badly. The widespread propagation of this 'fact' based on Cunningham's 'authentification' became such a source of embarrassment to Cunningham that he finally confessed he had hoaxed Rose and did not have the slightest idea who the woman was. One thing seems certain: it is not Catherine McCarty."
—Frederick Nolan, "The West of Billy the Kid"

Monday, October 12, 2020

Billy's Mother Part II

 October 12, 2020

   Got up this morning and took another run at two images for the book.

Daily Whip Out:
"Billy On Bill Brady's Horse"

   And then, I did another take on the Kid and his mother.

Daily Whip Out: "Catherine And Her Kid"

"A Mother's Prayer"

  I asked a few friends to weigh in on the two takes and here's what they said: 

  "They are both very strong. The scratchboard is more moving and dramatic to me.  There's tragedy in it."
—Carole Glenn

   "The scrathboard is more visually haunting...but the colored one has a more human, and therefore tragic, touch to it. So I'd say the second one is a little stronger."
—James B. Mills

   "I like the warm colors vs. the starker black-and-white of the scratchboard. I also like that her eye is OPEN in the she is looking BEYOND Billy into a dark future."

—Thom Ross

   "I like the etching best."

—The Top Secret Writer 

   "Usually I like color however in this case the scratchboard makes them more ghostly which I like. I like her eyes closed, her expression seems more loving. This really shows Billy in more of a vulnerable light which we never see. I like it! Thank you for sharing!"
—Shelly Buffalo Calf

   "I think I prefer the one in color.  The other looks stark and hopeless.  The other also is somewhat stark denoting poverty and tough times but also has a more motherly approach to Billy.  Surely he had such moments. "
—Lynda Sanchez

   Okay, now I am really confused. Ha. I think I may use both in the book, the color one in the front and the scrathbord in the back to illustrate different points.

"So you want to draw your cake and eat it too?"
—Old Vaquero Sniping

Sunday, October 11, 2020

A Mother's Prayer to Her Outlaw Son

 October 11, 2020

   Here's a confession most men don't want to admit: Lord knows there were times growing up when I needed my mama. And, let the record show, she was always there for me, especially when I was lost. In this world, heaven help the orphan boy who is left to his own wits and devices at a tender age.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"A Mother's Prayer"

“There has never been, nor will there ever be, anything quite so special as the love between a mother and her outlaw son."

—Old Vaquero Saying

   Where does a young boy go, when he loses his

 mother's love? To hell on a fast horse.

Daily Whip Out:

"Billy the Kid On Dandy Dick"

   Blood on the moon, dust in the grave, where do you go when you need to be brave?

“American folk history was founded on romanticizing the outlaw life. Everyone loves a good book or movie about desperadoes and bank heists and mobsters and prison escapes. We cheer for them, hope they outsmart the cops and escape with the loot. American kids literally dream of becoming outlaws. That's why nobody cares that all our politicians and bankers are a bunch of crooks. We expect them to be. It's the American way.”
― Tom Carter

   Eight years ago I asked my friends to tell me how they got hooked on the Kid. This one still resonates:

My dad took me to see the first Young Guns movie when I was a kid. We watched lots of Westerns together so I assumed this was another made-up Hollywood tale. When my dad told me Billy the Kid was REAL, I wanted to learn more. I first read Pat Garrett's (Ashmun Upson's) book, then Walter Noble Burns. A few years later, Elizabeth Fackler's (someone needs to tell HBO to make that into a miniseries!). I was hooked. Partially because its a fascinating story with how tragic the whole thing is, mostly because Billy is such a phantom figure. We know he was real, but he's just on the edge of reality. All we have of him is one faded picture and a few short notes. We hardly know, apart from descriptions, what he looked like. We don't even know where he REALLY came from. There's that hope that, somewhere, there's more to the story because so much seems to be missing. Absolutely fascinating...

—Josh Horton

Key words: "Billy is such a phantom figure. We know he was real, but he's just on the edge of reality. All we have of him is one faded picture and a few short notes. We hardly know, apart from descriptions, what he looked like. We don't even know where he REALLY came from."

   And THAT is what gives him the power. A "phantom figure on the edge of reality". . .that's it.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

BBB Facing The Music: "Don't Forget the Gallina!"

 October 10, 2020

    Here's a confession: I sometimes get good stuff in my books because people ask me questions while I'm creating the book and it forces me to go find answers. When I was doing Geronimo, my artist compadre, Thom Ross, quipped, "I hope he tells the paratrooper story," and, then, dammit, I had to go find the story and several people have since told me they think it's one of the most interesting vignettes in the book.

   So, here's another good example, this one regarding Billy the Kid:

   "Being a musician I have often wondered about the belief that Billy's favorite song was 'Silver Threads Among The Gold' and possibly 'Turkey In the Straw.'  These of course were standards of the time period, but do you know of the sources that can confirm that Billy liked these songs and any thoughts on why he might have gravitated toward them?"

—Al Baggetta

BBB Facing The Music near Chloride, 1959.

   And here's another confession: because I've been doing this so long (see vague music reference above, which is actually me and Dan The Man Harshberger playing "guns" on a Bell family picnic), I know the right people to ask. In this case, a first-rate musician AND a top-researcher AND author on the Kid!

   "I've always been doubtful of 'Silver Threads Among the Gold,' and I'm not certain when it's first referenced in connection with the Kid.  However, 'Turkey in the Straw' is pretty solid.  In a 1928 interview with J. Evetts Haley, Frank Coe mentioned 'Turkey in the Straw' as the Kid's favorite dance tune.  According to Frank, Billy would tell the fiddlers, 'Don't forget the gallina.'  By gallina, the musicos knew he wanted to hear 'Turkey in the Straw.'  They knew this because even though gallina refers to a 'hen' or 'chicken',  native New Mexicans used gallina for the wild turkey.  By the way, Frank played the fiddle."

—Mark Lee Gardner

A great photo of Heck Bruner
which begs the question:  Is that
a cannon in your pants? Or, are you
just happy to see me?