Billy the Kid washing dishes? Really? That certainly provides a different image of the Kid from that of the famous desperado of popular Western history, film, and TV lore.
In fact, I ran onto at least two sources that spoke of the Kid doing such routine, common labor to make his way as a teenager-young man in a tough world.
My most recent issue of True West magazine came yesterday and there's a fascinating story in it about the fascinating little New Mexico ghost town of Shakespeare. According to that account, the Kid was one of the many infamous gunfighters who spent time in Shakespeare or at least passed through on their way to more historic locations of the Old West. In a brief endnote to that article, there's a passing comment that the Kid reportedly washed dishes at the Stratford Hotel in Shakespeare for a living briefly in late 1875 or early 1876.
The other source commenting on Billy's dishwashing duty is on an excellent website I would recommend for any of you interested in finding out a lot about Billy the Kid. The site -- unfortunately not being currently maintained -- is "About Billy the Kid," a website with a wealth of information about Billy, with a ton of great resources and links related to all sorts of information about New Mexico and Arizona during the mid- to late-1800s.
On that excellent website, in a summary of the Kid's life, the webmaster (webmistress, in this case) tells of a time when he was about 14 years old and had been tossed out of his stepfather's home to make it on his own in Silver City, New Mexico. He immediately headed out to Arizona, the account says, and:
"The Kid now had to earn his own keep, so he was put to work washing dishes and waiting on tables at a restaurant. After a year of no parental guidance and looking out for himself, the Kid quickly fell in with the wrong crowd."
Having spent several years of my life during high school and early college days as a dishwasher at several restaurants -- at a time when I wasn't too much older than the Kid when he did his dishwashing stint -- I can testify that those who say no labor well done is truly "menial." I can also say, as I suspect the Kid would have, that restaurant dishwashing isn't much fun and is a dirty, hot way to earn a living.
Of course, we cannot speculate that his brief career(s) as a dishwasher led Billy the Kid into a life of crime. That would be ridiculous.
However, as someone who's suffered the wrath of ungrateful customers and harsh restaurant owners, it probably didn't help the Kid develop a sunny disposition.
I encourage you to visit the "About Billy the Kid" website. You'll find hours of interesting reading and excellent resources. I highly recommend it.