Life in the Old West

True stories, tall tales, memorabilia of the American West

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Why does Billy the Kid generate such fascination, passionate feeling?

Of all the outlaws and lawmen, villains and heroes, few generate such passionate feelings and fascination as Billy the Kid. Why do you suppose that’s the case?

Was it because the Kid was a rowdy young gunslinger with a chip on his shoulder and fire in his eyes?

From what (little) I’ve read, he was nothing like that. He gained any reputation as a “desperado” mostly after his 1881 death. And, indeed, his death is one part of the fascination and passion that continues to surround the young man. Some have insisted that he wasn’t killed by Pat Garrett in 1881, but lived on. At one point in the 1940s and ’50s, a character from Texas who became somewhat famous as “Brushy Bill Roberts” claimed to be the Kid, with some pretty faulty memories of verifiable events in the Kid’s life thrown in for good measure.

I would point you back to the website I mentioned before, “About Billy the Kid,” for some great information and discussion about the facts and myths that continue to cloud our understanding of the Kid.

I ran onto another really fascinating account of modern-day “lunacy” surrounding Billy the Kid at the “True West” Magazine website, a column entitled “The Lunacy of Billy the Kid,” by Mark Boardman, a regular “True West” contributor who happens to be a heck of a writer on things related to the Old West. Boardman’s “lunacy” in this case involves a mad-cap sort of tangle surrounding efforts in the early- to mid-2000s to exhume the Kid’s body, as well as his mother’s, and establish by DNA evidence that Billy the Kid really was “THE” Billy the Kid.

Or something like that. Forgive my brief summary and over-simplification of the issues involved. I’ve provided links to “True West,” to Boardman’s profile at the magazine’s website, and to the specific article. I hope you’ll take advantage of all that fascinating material and enjoy a good read of your own.

We’ll never truly understand why Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, Wyatt Earp, “Wild Bill” Hickok, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Sitting Bull, and the myriad of other good guys and bad guys (or good gals and bad gals, for that matter) continue to fascinate us. We’ll never really grasp what it is that generates passion for people and places of those long ago years when our Old West and modern-day West were taking shape.

But we can sure all be very glad that the passion and fascination continue, can’t we? Many a tale and tall tale, too, await the telling. I thank you for stopping by to read a tale or two here!

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