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Wild West Discussion - August 2011

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: June 03, 2011 
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Most people agree that Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett shot down Billy the Kid in Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory, in July 1881, but did the sheriff give the Kid a square deal and/or just what he deserved? And has history treated Garrett fairly?
 


11 Responses to “Wild West Discussion - August 2011”


  1. 1
    Francile Manuel Cook says:

    Really no he didn't. A night attack at the home of Maxwell's was a coward's way of taking him in. He could have on several occasions faced off with the kid.

  2. 2
    Virginia Lamkin says:

    Many people feel that Garrett shot Billy in the back.

  3. 3
    James Creeden says:

    Well,I do not suggest that I know about this subject,I do not. In the Movie,Pat Garret and Billy the Kid,Garrett ambushes the Kid in his own kitchen in the dark thru a doorway or window,I can't remember clearly even though it was only2 weeks since i saw it!(Early stage C.R.S.)no cure.

  4. 4
    Steve McCarty says:

    Garrett shot Billy square in the heart, and from the front. Billy was probably in the doorway and back lite. Garrett said the Kid approached the bed that Pedro Maxwell was in. He also said that the Kid leaned with his hands on the foot of the bed. The barrell of his Colt must have nearly touched the kid's chest. No matter how close the kid was to Garrett it was not a difficult shot.

    At the shot, Garrett and Maxwell panic'd and rolled onto the floor. Garrett shot again the bullet hitting a night stand. The kid fell flat on his face. He was later turned over. Garrett wrote that the bullet penitrated his "ventricle". He would have suffered immediate loss of blood pressure and consciousness. Billy probably never knew what hit him.

    Garrett wasn't all that sure whom he had just shot. He said that he recognized the Kid's voice. Could be, but it is also likely that Garrett was scared spitless of the Kid and would not give him a chance to shoot, knowning that if the kid did shoot that he shot to kill. Just thinking it was the kid was reason enough, in Garrett's mind, to shoot. Nor do I think that the Kid had a gun. He was all about cutting a steak that evening. He had a knife.

  5. 5
    Steve McCarty says:

    No matter how much people are drawn to the Kid, he was a criminal and a killer. However, as we analyze the events that lead up to each killing people often think that the people the kid drilled needed "drilling".

    Did he do the right thing when he killed Bell and Olinger? If he wanted to live, he did. He was living under a death sentence after all. We tend to excuse him because many think he was unfairly convicted. He was not the only person putting bullets into Brady and Hindman. Many believe the Kid when he testified that he wasn't even shooting at Brady. He said he was shooting at Billy Mathews.

    However, the killing of Brady and Hindman was indeed cold blooded murder, and even if the kid was just reloading his buddie's rifles he was guilty of the crime, but so where they. Why weren't they tried too? If those other guys, and some were still alive during the time of Billy's trial, were shooting, and they were, then why weren't they tried too? It gives students' of the Kid pause. It doesn't sound fair does it.

  6. 6
    Fran Cook says:

    Question??? After reading every book that I can lay hands on and plus several newspaper articles on the Lincoln County mess. Why was Billy being held in the upstairs courthouse room where he escaped when it was known that he had helped Evans escape Lincoln County's "cellar jail" which was a dug out pit with heavy lid of logs and a ladder to bring the prisoners out? I have not straightened that out in my mind. And why were they so slack in Billy's imprisonment if he was so dangerous, when they knew he would jokingly slip his hand irons off and on because of his small hands. He was, in my opinion a sly little fox, and Pat knew it. Pat takes off collecting (taxes) with a hardened criminal in his care. He did'nt do so well in identifying Billy at Stinking Springs when he shot
    Bowdre. A large hat was all he based his ID on then.

  7. 7
    Steve McCarty says:

    That pit jail was no longer in use when the kid was held in the Lincoln County Court House. There were other rooms in there that held another five prisoners.Garrett thought that putting two full time heavily armed guards on the kid was enough. Olinger drew a chalk line on the floor as a dead line, telling the kid if he crossed it he would blow him away with his new shotgun. Then he goaded the kid to try it. Billy spent most of his time sitting in a chair peering out the NE window.

    That pit jail, which was across the street from the LCCH and east of Tunstall store, would fill with water if it rained. No guard wanted to sit down there to watch anyone. Many people escaped from that pit jail.

    Billy was chained hand and foot. I believe the story that he slipped a hand from his cuff and clouted Bell while they were playing cards. He then jumped him and grabbed for his pistol. Bell and the kid struggled, Billy finally won the pistol and Bell ran down the hallway. The kid, who had fallen down, shot Bell as he turned to run down the stairs. Least that's my take on it.

    The kid just had time to hobble to the sheriff's office and grab Olinger's shotgun and make it to the window as Olinger was jogging across the street below. He poked the gunbarrels throught the window and said, "Hey old boy, look up here and see what you are going to get." Olinger who was running to Gauss who was bending over Bell, or he was standing near the corner of the building after leaving Bell's body. He called out to Olinger saying "The kid has killed Bell!" Olinger heard the kid's call and looked up. Gauss heard him say, "I'm killed." Or maybe, "He's killed me too."

    The kid said he had never felt so good in his life when the shot Olinger. He must have had a smile on his face. One must remember that not long before this encounter Olinger killed the kid's one time pal, John Jones, in a particularily cold blooded manner. The Kid hated Olinger and visa versa.

  8. 8
    Fran Cook says:

    I'm sure Olinger just about asked for what he got as he had the upper hand for awhile. Foolish thing to do is tease a pit bull dog when you think you got him. Billy also I'm sure was always on watch for just the perfect moment too.

    • 8.1
      Steve McCarty says:

      The Kid was disarmingly charming and full of "jollarity" as Sallie Chisum described him. So while he may have been laughing with Bell as they played cards (if slipping his cuff and hitting Bell is indeed how he escaped), Bell having fun with the kid, naturally let his guard down. The kid, always watchfull, took note and then took action. He said later that he hated to have to kill Bell. He also said it was necessary.

      Billy was a "take charge when the chips are down" kind of guy. He made instant decisions. He did not second guess himself when he believed it was time to shoot, however; I do not think he was a cruel or wanton killer. I also believe, that if given the chance, he would have gone straight. Frank and George Coe said that Billy had admirable traits that if put to use could have made him into a productive and successful citizen. Billy said as much so, himself. Frank also said, "He could be the meanest SOB you ever saw."

      This character shift makes Henry McCarty an interesting individual.

  9. 9
    Fran Cook says:

    Steve, you are a good jousting buddy. Thanks for taking time to discuss history with us.



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