Pat Garrett Tintype
I was a little shocked to see the cover photo of the February 2021 Wild West. I don’t know anyone who believes that’s a picture of Pat Garrett. Maybe it did belong to Jarvis Garrett at one time or another, but that doesn’t automatically ordain it a portrait of his father. There’s also a bogus Billy the Kid photo out there the owner swears came from Garrett’s family, but without something from Garrett identifying the image as Billy, it’s likely just a goofy-looking Garrett cousin. And I find it interesting Jarvis didn’t include your cover image in the special edition of his father’s The Authentic Life of Billy, The Kid, published by Horn & Wallace in 1964, for which Jarvis provided a biographical foreword and two photos of Pat from his personal collection. Neither is the image in [the Garrett biography by] Leon Metz, who had access to the collections of Jarvis and Pauline Garrett. Now, sure, it’s possible this image could have somehow been missed by Metz, Robert Utley, Frederick Nolan, Robert McCubbin, Jack DeMattos, Herman Weisner, Donald Cline, etc., but there’s still a problem (huge problem, actually) in that it simply doesn’t look like Garrett. I realize this is one of those eye-of-the-beholder situations, but put the image side by side with all the known authentic Garrett photographs we have, and I believe you’ll see what I mean. It’s a shame the photo’s appearance on your cover lends it legitimacy that, in my opinion, it doesn’t deserve.
Mark Lee Gardner,
Author of To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett
‘It’s a shame the photo’s appearance on your cover lends it legitimacy that, in my opinion, it doesn’t deserve’
Karla Steen and Sally Kading, the owners of the tintype, respond: The Pat Garrett tintype was acquired in October 2017 when the contents of the Billy the Kid Museum in Fort Sumner, N.M., were sold at action. Accompanying the tintype was the statement, “Date unknown, the estate representatives believe this was acquired by Joe Bowlin from Jarvis Garrett, Pat Garrett’s son, in 1983, 5 1/16” high x 3 1/16” wide, excellent details; original envelope with Joe Bowlin’s writing.” David Thomas, who wrote the article “He Shot the Sheriff,” in the February 2021 issue, adds: I recognize Mr. Gardner’s concern. However, I accept the provenance provided by the Billy the Kid Museum and believe that the tintype image is of Garrett. I see no reason to believe that Joe Bowlin lied about where he got it (he wrote “Pat Garrett” on the envelope it was in) and no reason to believe Jarvis would be giving out photos of anyone other than his father.
I very much enjoyed reading the article “He Shot the Sheriff” by David G. Thomas, especially the transcript of testimony as [New Mexico] Territorial Attorney General James Hervey questioned Carl Adamson, who was present at the murder of Pat Garrett. Thomas contends that the mystery of who shot Garrett can now be put to rest by Adamson’s own account of an argument between Garrett and Wayne Brazel that ended in the shooting. If Adamson’s version is the final word for Thomas, the author fails to resolve a glaring contradiction in Adamson’s testimony. Adamson, who was relieving himself at the side of the road, said his back was turned to the two men when the first shot was fired. He said the first shot occurred “just about when I turned around” to look at the two men. When asked about the timing of the second shot, Adamson said it happened “as quick as a man can cock a pistol.” When asked how Garrett was standing (relative to Brazel) when the firing erupted, Adamson replied, “He was facing him.” However, the autopsy performed on Garrett’s corpse by Dr. William C. Field states: “I was sure he’d been shot in the back of the head, because when I examined the hole, I noticed it [the hair] was driven inward toward the wound.” This suggests some sinister collaboration and perjury on the part of Adamson and Brazel. This blatant contradiction of empirical data vs. testimony is troublesome, indeed, yet it is not addressed in the article.
David Thomas responds: Because of the space limitations, I was not able to give the entire transcript (you can find it in my book Killing Pat Garrett). Adamson testified he got out of the buggy to urinate and had his back turned to the buggy when he heard Garrett threaten Brazel. He then heard Garrett jump out of the buggy. He was still facing away when Brazel fired the first shot. He turned after hearing that shot and saw Garrett “staggering” from the second shot. He did not see Brazel fire the second shot. Garrett’s position when hit by Brazel’s first shot is unknown. Based on Dr. Field’s remembered autopsy finding that the bullet entered the back of his head, Garrett had to be turned away from Brazel, perhaps holding onto the buggy with one hand, when his feet landed on the ground. I see no contradiction between Adamson’s testimony and that finding. Regarding the issue of whether Adamson would collaborate with Brazel, I remind you that Brazel did not know Adamson until introduced by Garrett in El Paso.
No. 11 on List
[Re. “Top 10 Reasons Billy Was More ‘Outlaw’ Than Jesse,” in the December 2020 Roundup:] And reason No. 11 why Billy the Kid was more “outlaw” than Jesse James: Along with being the aforementioned rock ’n’ roll star, thanks to Bon Jovi, he was also the only outlaw to have his own ballet, thanks to Aaron Copland’s 1938 Billy the Kid. Whether this is a sign of being more “outlaw” or just more famous I will leave up to you. I say this even though my wife’s relative, William Westfall, was the conductor killed on the train Jesse James robbed on July 15, 1881, in Missouri. Westfall had conveyed the Pinkertons as close as the rails could take them to the James farm and then gave them directions as to how to get to the home. The younger James boy [Archie] died and their mother [Zerelda] lost an arm when the Pinkertons threw a “smoke bomb.” Score settled.
Grand Forks, N.D.
Send letters by email or to Wild West, 901 N. Glebe Road, 5th Floor, Arlington, VA 22203. Please include your name and hometown. These letters were published in the June 2021 issue.