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Interview With Author Mark Smokov

By Johnny D. Boggs 
Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: March 30, 2013 
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Smokov convincingly argues that Harvey Logan was no cold-blooded killer, nor was he a minor member of the Wild Bunch.
Smokov convincingly argues that Harvey Logan was no cold-blooded killer, nor was he a minor member of the Wild Bunch.
For years Harvey Logan has been overshadowed by his Hole-in-the-Wall Gang (aka Wild Bunch) colleagues Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, not to mention ignored and/or misunderstood by many historians. Mark T. Smokov, a Seattle resident and University of Washington graduate, corrects that oversight in He Rode With Butch and Sundance: The Story of Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan (see review). In it Smokov chronicles Logan's criminal career, from his killing of Pike Landusky in 1894, to an ill-conceived 1897 bank robbery in Belle Fourche, S.D., to Logan's forays with the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, to his capture in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1902, and escape the following year. And, of course, his death after a train robbery in Parachute, Colo.—sorry, conspiracy theorists—in 1904. Smokov recently spoke with Wild West about Logan and the book.

'Separating fact from fiction concerning Curry's life became a passion with me, which led to writing his biography'

How did you get interested in Harvey Logan, and what made you tackle the biography?
My interest in Harvey Logan/Kid Curry goes back many years, so my remembrance of the circumstances is a bit fuzzy. I was certainly aware of some aspects of Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch sometime before the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released in 1969. I remember my interest really peaked concerning Kid Curry after reading an article about the gang in a June 1971 Real West magazine by Carl W. Breihan. The thing that left a great impression on me, and hopefully this doesn't sound morbid, was the inclusion of the St. Paul Pioneer Press death photos of Curry. The four photos are very striking and show how Curry appeared when actually committing his last train robbery. Not glamorous, but real and authentic. I realized later that the article contained many errors in fact, and after checking out other writings concerning Kid Curry's life and personality, it became evident he was getting a raw deal when compared with more factual sources. Separating fact from fiction concerning Curry's life became a passion with me, which led to writing his biography.

You titled the book He Rode With Butch and Sundance. Why not Butch and Sundance Rode With Him?
That is the point I try to make throughout the book. Kid Curry's leadership abilities were soon recognized by the Wild Bunch fraternity when he switched to robbing trains after the Belle Fourche bank fiasco. Contemporary sources often relegate Cassidy to the background by referring to this bunch as "Kid Curry's gang." Curry and Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) were virtually inseparable from about 1897 to 1900, pulling off several holdups together. It would have been more accurate if the movie had been titled Kid Curry and the Sundance Kid, especially since the train robberies were pulled off by these two and not Butch Cassidy. Cassidy's early exploits in bank and payroll robberies were done mainly in company with Elzy Lay. Curry was also very close to "Flatnose" George Currie (no relation), Walt Punteney and Tom O'Day. He had met these outlaws when he first came to Hole-in-the-Wall in about mid-1895 and started his rustling career with them.

What is the biggest misconception about Logan/Curry?
There are actually two. The first is that he has often been portrayed as a cold-blooded killer without conscience. The Pinkertons, writers and historians are responsible for overindulging in this idea. The only killing that can for certain be attributed to Curry is the killing of Pike Landusky. The Pinkertons were frustrated at not being able to catch Kid Curry and attempted to portray him as desperate as Jesse James, another bandit they had much trouble trying to apprehend. Many writers and historians seemed to have a need to portray at least one Wild Bunch member as a psychopathic killer. Curry cannot be compared to a Harry Tracy or John Wesley Hardin, the latter supposedly shooting a man for snoring.

The second misconception, on which I have already touched, is the belief that Curry had limited intelligence and was capable of being only a minor member of the Wild Bunch. However, he showed great skill and cunning in the planning of several train robberies. The same could be said of his ability to break out of jails.

How did he pick up the name Kid Curry?
Unfortunately, it is not known where this cognomen originated. It was definitely not to honor rustling pal "Flatnose" George Currie. When Harvey Logan and his older brother Hank arrived in Montana in 1884, they were already using this alias. There is no evidence they had met George Currie at this time, not to mention that Currie would have only been 13 years old.

Talk about what happened in Montana and how Logan became an outlaw.
I don't think Curry set out to kill Pike Landusky. I believe he just wanted to give him a good beating in return for the ill treatment he and his brother received from Pike when they were in his custody. Curry had stopped the beating and let Pike get up off of the floor when Pike drew his gun and tried to shoot Curry. The gun did not fire for whatever reason, and Curry shot him in self defense before Pike was able to get his gun working. Curry did not think he would get a fair trial when all of Pike's miner friends were against him, so he hid out in the Missouri Breaks and eventually traveled to the Hole-in-the-Wall area of Wyoming. The fact that he fell in with rustlers in a short time makes me wonder if he was predisposed to outlaw activities, eventually graduating to bank and train robberies. But in running from the law, he had sacrificed a successful horse ranching operation with his brothers, as well as a herd of fine cattle.

How dangerous was Kid Curry?
Curry indeed had a violent temper, and could be cruel and vicious at times, especially when drinking. When he felt taken advantage of or was threatened with losing his freedom, he didn't hesitate to use force to defend himself. He would ambush posses and shoot policeman who were attempting to capture him. However, he didn't go around shooting people at the drop of a hat or whenever an urge came upon him.

How did the "Train Robbers Syndicate" come about, and what was Logan's role in it?
It is uncertain whether the outlaws referred to themselves as such, or that it was the invention of writers. It has been stated the group was infiltrated by Pinkerton detective Charles A. Siringo, who exposed the plans of at least their first anticipated train robbery of the Union Pacific Railroad, a setback that supposedly delayed the syndicate's operations for a year. However, as it turned out, the subsequent train robberies were planned and executed by only a few of the gang members, led mainly by Kid Curry.

How important was the famous Fort Worth photograph in bringing down the outlaws?
Most writers/researchers believe it was very important, however Wild Bunch historian Dan Buck for one does not agree. I think it at least helped to put pressure on the outlaws, since the law now had good likenesses of five of the major members of the Wild Bunch that could be used in the circulation of wanted posters. Before this, the only photo available, at least of any quality, was Cassidy's prison mug shot. Curry actually shaved off his thick mustache to change his appearance for the gang's next train robbery, the Great Northern in Montana.

Who should get the blame for the photo?
It is very difficult to lay the blame on any one or more of the Wild Bunch group. The only mention of blame I have come across, which is undocumented, was written by Frank Lamb in The Wild Bunch. He stated it was Kid Curry who strongly cautioned against the group portrait. At any event, Cassidy showed uncharacteristic carelessness in going along with what was probably a lark.

And who should get credit for discovering it?
Fred Dodge, a Wells, Fargo & Co. detective, is usually credited with discovering the portrait. Recently, however, a new candidate has been put forward. He is Fort Worth police detective Charles R. Scott. It has been pointed out that Dodge could not have seen the photo in the photographer Swartz's front window, because the studio was located on the second floor. Scott is now credited in spying in the photo in the second-floor waiting room while there to pick up some finished mug shots. However this premise is not accepted by every Wild Bunch writer/researcher. I reserve judgment.

Events in Knoxville—from Logan's capture to his escape—seem things a screenwriter would have thought up, but it's all true. Talk about this comedy of errors.
It has been mentioned to me more than once that this episode should be included in a Hollywood movie, it is so fantastic. This was another example of his criminal genius. There was never any proof he had outside help or bribed the guards to facilitate his escape. It definitely required meticulous planning. One of his defense attorneys stated that Curry had the nerve while those in charge of him did not have it, and he obtained freedom as a result of his cunning and daredevil determination to die or escape. He certainly captured the hearts of many of the citizens of Knoxville while he spent a year and a half in their county jail, even to the fact that plays were written and performed of his life after escaping from his confinement so spectacularly.

What happened in Parachute?
The running down of the Parachute train robbers and subsequent death of Curry can be blamed by and large by his uncharacteristic poor planning. Some people point to this as proof that it couldn't have been Curry who held up the train. However, it must be pointed out that he was never the same after sustaining severe head injuries from his terrific and horrific billy club beating from two Knoxville policemen. Another factor was his forced inactivity during his year-and-a-half jail confinement. He became indecisive, which showed in his indefinite holdup plans, of which the absence of relay horses was foremost. Another puzzling mistake that contributed to the gang's downfall was their choice of escape route, which placed them within the more populated areas near Parachute. This allowed ranchers along the way to telephone the outlaws' whereabouts to law officials, since the robbers were too hard pressed to cut every line they came across.

You convincingly dismiss the sightings of Curry in South America and prove Logan's fate. But can you convince the conspiracy theorists?
There is absolutely no evidence of his going to South America, alone or otherwise. The Pinkertons even stated that Curry was never identified by his photograph as being in the Argentine republic or anywhere else in South America.

I believe and show there is virtually insurmountable evidence of his death following the Parachute robbery, and that he was the "Unknown Bandit." The most reliable evidence that supports this was overlooked at the time and even up to this day. This was the deep, 3-inch scar found on the head of the dead bandit that matched the billy club wound Curry had received from the Knoxville policemen. What are the odds among an admittedly small pool of Western train robbers, that two would have the same deep scar at the exact same location on their heads? This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that the vast majority of Knoxville officials identified the corpse in the photographs as the man Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry, who had spent a good deal of time in their county jail.

Even though my fascination with this outlaw would incline me to want to believe he survived, I looked at all the available evidence objectively. Conspiracy theorists, by their very nature, are often blind to any evidence that doesn't support their ideas…[and] no evidence contrary to their theories will convince them otherwise.

What do you admire most in Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan?
What immediately comes to mind is his loyalty to his friends, even though he refrained from going to South America with Butch and Sundance. Butch regretted that Curry did not accompany him, and while there he readily acknowledged his respect for Curry's bravery. Curry was very close to Sundance and George Currie, spending many years together getting out of tight scrapes. Curry could have jeopardized his own case in Knoxville when he agreed to aid Annie Rogers by giving a deposition. He absolved her of any knowledge of where the unsigned money had come from that was in her possession when arrested. Also, when trapped by a posse after the Parachute robbery, Curry held them off to give his companions time to escape from Gibson Gulch after he had been mortally wounded.

And the least?
His tendency to overindulge in liquor at times and resultant ungovernable temper. This was most likely the cause of his brawling and capture by the law in Knoxville.

 


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One Response to “Interview With Author Mark Smokov”


  1. 1
    mike michaels says:

    Greetings; I am in possession of a 1895mfg. Colt Frontier Six Shooter that has the inscription on the back strap \ This pistol was given to me C.H.Smith G. N. Exp. Mess. by Harvey Logan during train robbery July 1, 1901\ I have read in an article \Double Trouble from Notorious Kids: Sundance and Curry\ that was written. I am wondering if you have any more information on this souvenir from Kid Curry to C.H.Smith and if in fact this pistol was actually given in this manner. Thank you in advance for any help you could give me. Mike Michaels



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