Yes I know, another bloomin' author's note. I just can't help myself =]
Billy the Kid died on July 14, 1881 aged 21 at the hands of Pat Garret. I do not dispute that.
There are many websites, books and even films (notably Young Guns) that question the truth of this, but I believe that he died as stated above. What comes before this Author's Note is, of course, a work of fiction, with some historical truth woven into it, an alternate history perhaps.
As far as I've been able to work out amongst all the conjecture, story telling, and general blether, he was born Henry McCarty, but was also known as William H. Bonney, Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, Kid Antrim, and is alleged to have been born on November 23, 1859. Many states claimed to be Billy the Kid's place of birth including New Mexico and New York City.
His father was unknown, but is possibly listed as Patrick Henry McCarty, Michael McCarty, or William Bonney. His stepfather is perhaps more certainly listed as William Antrim.
His mother was Catherine McCarty/Katherine McCarty Bonney and he appears to have killed his first man defending her, although other versions of the story dispute this.
His half-brother was Joseph Antrim.
The name Billy the Kid was coined whilst he worked on John Chisum's ranch in Texas in 1876, and while there he worked with John Evans and many others who rode on the borders of the law. Many of the cattle kings like Chisum employed cowboys to put off poachers, but many of the cowboys poached cattle themselves. The cattle herds were vast and largely unmonitored. Re-branding was rife and many outlaws like Billy would ride with 'running irons' tucked under their saddle. These could be used to change the brand and thus become someone else's property. They were outlawed in the early 1870s, but the practice was still rife in Billy's time and afterwards.
The West was an interesting time in history and I certainly don't purport to be any sort of expert, but never before has the spirit of exploration and conquest been so bastardised by weaponry, killing, theft and general moral blackness. Good men were rare, and often cowboys like Billy were used in a posse to catch other bad men, in the spirit of the old "set a thief to catch a thief" motto.
Many 'bad men' went on to become good upstanding citizens in time, but many more fell foul to utter depravity. Less common were the men from the east who went west in order to become bad, for some reason desperate for the label 'bad man'.
Henry is based loosely on an old character called Buckshot Roberts who Billy is reputed to have tried to kill along with a gang of others but who was such a ferocious old coot that he drove them off, but sadly died of his injuries.
Roberts was an old man who had been injured in the civil war and apparently couldn't actually hold a rifle to his shoulder, but as Billy and his gang rode in to try and kill him he grabbed a rifle and pumped shot after shot at them, shooting from the hip and temporarily driving them away. When they finally managed to re-group, Billy got close enough to him to shoot him at close range but his gun misfired, Roberts then stuck his own gun in Billy's stomach, only for his own gun to misfire. Given more reliable shells, each could easily have been responsible for the demise of the other. Roberts was mortally wounded in the fight but remains an irascible and brave old stubborn bastard and one of the few to best Billy in a fight.
The battle in the bar in my wee story was based on a recounting of a tale that involved Wild Bill Hickock. Wild Bill was a lawman and perhaps one of the few 'good' men around at the time. Apparently, he got caught on his own by a group of ten men but jumped into a cellar to escape them. Most of the gang followed him in.
He was the only one who made it out, shot many times (including through one lung) and bleeding profusely from bullet holes and knife wounds. As he stumbled out leaving a pile of corpses behind him, a colleague turned up killing one of the two men who'd decided not to enter the cellar. The other got on a horse and made to ride away, only to be taken off his horse by Wild Bill's expert marksmanship with a rifle.
Wild Bill was far more of a man than Billy the Kid ever was, although Billy was nowhere near as bad as many bad men of the west. People like the Dalton brothers and Younger brothers killed for the sake of killing. Billy managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time quite often and was apparently well spoken and calm unless angered. This didn't make him some sort of Robin Hood type figure as he wasn't, but neither was he the worst of a bad bunch.
All of this is of course history and we can never know exactly what the man was like and what drove him. He does make a good subject for a story and I have to say he makes interesting reading when researched too.
There is a heck of a lot more I could put in here, but if you're interested please feel free to contact me or good old Google can help out. Thanks for reading.
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