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Billy The Kid

byTodd Underwood

Billy the Kid is one of the American Old Westís most notorious outlaws. His short 21 year life was full of action as according to legend, he killed at least one man for every year of his life. In a period of 4 years, he fought in at least 16 shootouts, assisted in killing 5 men and killed 4 single handedly.

Born as Henry McCarty in New York on November 23, 1859, his father died at an early age. Shortly after his fathers death, his mother and he moved west to Indiana where she met and married Bill Antrim. Henry then became known as William Antrim or Kid Antrim. By 1873, the family had moved to Silver City, New Mexico where his mother died of Tuberculosis. William moved in with the Truesdall family who owned a hotel and it was there he took up poker.

Kid Antrim, as he was then called, was arrested in Silver City for theft of clothes from two Chinese men but soon escaped jail and began a gypsy lifestyle in the southwest. He changed his name yet again to William H. Bonney. William killed his first man, a blacksmith named Windy, on August 17, 1877 at a saloon near Camp Grant, Arizona. Windy had been picking on William and William had finally had enough. He shot Windy and fled town continuing his gypsy lifestyle.

Next, William ended up in Lincoln County, New Mexico and started going by the name of Billy. He was taken in by a man named John Tunstall who was owned a ranch and was involved in the Lincoln County Range War. Tunstall was murdered on February 18,1878, and Billy joined a gang called the "regulators" to avenge his death. He went after the "Dolan" gang but was not quite as prepared as they were and Billy wound up in jail. A few days later when he got out, he and some friends went after Billy Morton and Frank Baker, members of the opposing clan, and captured them. Soon after that, Billy was involved in a shootout with Sheriff William Brady and his deputy George Hindman. Billy and his gang won but it is unclear who did the actual killing.

Billy continued to be involved in the Lincoln County War until the new governor, Lew Wallace, put out a $500 reward to bring Billy in to be a witness to the MsCween murder. Wallace arranged a secret meeting with Billy as he was afraid to come in where he knew they might find out about his past charges. The governor offered to give Billy a pardon if he would testify and Billy agreed. A fake arrest was set up and Billy was taken in and given full protection as he testified before the grand jury. But, it was all for not as corruption in the law officials led to no convictions and Billy wound up about to be tried for the murder of Sheriff Brady.

He had no choice but to escape from jail once again. For nearly a year, Billy worked on ranches near Fort Sumner. Then, on December 19,1880, Billy and friends were jumped by Pat Garrett and friends and narrowly escaped only to be cornered hours later at Stinking Springs. At first light, one of Billyís friends, Charlie Bowdre, tried to make a run for it but was killed instantly. Billy didnít want to give up but his friends did so they were all taken into custody and transported to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Billy was tried and convicted and sentenced to hang by Judge Warren Bristol who was suspected to be corrupt. Before they could hang him, Billy once again escaped jail. He killed the two jailers and headed for his hideout near Fort Sumner. He was encouraged to flee to Mexico but decided against it. Meanwhile, Garrett and deputy John Poe got word Billy was hiding out near Fort Sumner and set out to find him. While at Fort Sumner, they visited a local rancher named Pete Maxwell. Ironically, Billy walked in at that same time and was shot dead by Garrett. "Quien es?" or "who is it" were Billys last words. He is buried at the Fort Sumner Cemetery next to two of his fellow outlaws.

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