Re. Billy the Kid’s picture on P. 11 of the December 2015 issue [“The Croquet Kid, Redux,” Roundup]: Is it a mirror image?
The editor responds: Good eye! When we first ran the purported image of the Kid in the April 2015 Westerners department, we noted, “Tintypes are mirror images, so while the image shows the Kid holding the croquet mallet in his left hand (not his dominant hand), it was in fact in his right hand.” In October the National Geographic Channel aired Billy the Kid: New Evidence, which focused on the 4-by-5-inch tintype (the above detail supposedly shows Billy at right and pal Tom O’Folliard). “It’s the holy grail of not just Western photography; it’s the holy grail of photography,” said Jeff Aiello, executive director of the documentary. Kagin’s Inc. has authenticated the “Kid playing croquet” photo and hopes to sell it for $5 million. Collector Randy Guijarro bought it for $2 in 2010. But did the program really prove the photo shows Billy and friends? The quick answer by University of New Mexico history professor Paul Andrew Hutton, who talked about the Kid on the show, is no. Many others agree with Hutton, primarily because the tintype lacks provenance.
In regard to the June 2015 article “Stage Fright: The Wickenburg Massacre,” the story is incomplete. It goes into much detail about those who were killed that day, but William Kruger and Mollie Sheppard escape through an arroyo never to be heard from again.
Boulder City, Nev.
Author R. Michael Wilson responds: The article is condensed from my 2007 book Massacre at Wickenburg: Arizona’s Greatest Mystery, which gives every available detail on the massacre, including the original documentation presented verbatim. This article focuses on events leading up to and during the massacre, and the motives, identification and punishment of the guilty culprits. In condensing the investigation into a five-page article, it was necessary to leave out a great deal, but a look at the book will reveal all the provable information about Kruger and Sheppard, who provided extensive testimony about the massacre, including Sheppard’s misdirection that white men might have been involved. Sheppard was heard of again in San Francisco in January 1872; and years afterward Kruger was still in the news, particularly when he first announced Sheppard had died of her wounds.
It’s very strange how words on a page can jump out at you when you haven’t seen, heard or thought of them in a long time. In the June 2015 Ghost Towns profile of Vroman, Colo., the words “Rocky Ford” mean nothing to most of the population, but I was impacted by those words. My brother was a telegrapher and station agent on the Santa Fe Railroad at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s. I would spend time with him at those tiny stations of eastern Colorado—Rocky Ford, La Junta, Lamar, Fowler. My brother and I would sleep on a mattress on the floor in these stations, and in the middle of the night the approaching trains on the Santa Fe main line would rattle the walls and wake us. I’ll never forget that sound or the sight of the lights in the distance as the engine roared toward us.
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