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What makes a legend... [page 4]

Billy the KidBilly the Kid - young, daring and ruthless
He had many aliases. Henry McCarty. William H. Bonney. But he's best remembered as "Billy the Kid". Kid he certainly was, for he first shot dead a man at the young age of 17 and when he died at the age of 22, it is said he was charged for 21 murders, though he had actually killed only 4 people. So young, so ruthless and so darn fast that few dared to draw guns against Billy the Kid.

Billy was born in New York City on November 23, 1859 and even in his early years; he hung around vagabonds and ruffians, often straying away from school. He disliked rules and always ended up having skirmishes with the law for petty crime. He left home when he was in his early teens and went to work for a rich Englishman and rancher, John Tunstall in Lincoln County, New Mexico. He hired Billy as his bodyguard and cattle hand working on the sprawling ranch, the Flying H. Around this time there was an ongoing rivalry between Tunstall and another businessman named Lawrence Murphy, who was an influential and powerful citizen in Lincoln County and had the law on his side. In one such argument with Murphy's men, Tunstall was shot dead at point blank range. Billy witnessed this incident and went into a rage swearing to take revenge for his master's murder.

That was the beginning of the "Lincoln County War" as it was called. Gunfights, bloodshed, lynching were the order of the day and the "war" between the two factions continued for months. And one day, Billy gunned down the Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady and his deputy in broad daylight, the two being the chief architects for the murder of Tunstall. From then on, Billy The Kid was forever on the run and with a reward on his head. However, the gunfights with the Murphy faction continued but try as much as they did, the lawmen couldn't lay their hands on Billy the Kid. Till one day in 1879, when Billy walked into the Governor's chambers and surrendered.

Governor Lee Wallace just couldn't believe it was happening. And yet there he was, Billy the Kid, the most wanted man standing before him, in flesh and blood. Billy's offer to turn himself in was a sort of compromise. He'd stop the gunfights if the state gave him amnesty without a trial. After long deliberations this was agreed to, but later, Billy was to find out much to his discomfort and surprise that there were plans to lock him up in jail and send him to trial. Stunned at the betrayal, he escaped. Billy the Kid was back in action and so were the posses who began to chase him all over again.

By 1880, Lincoln County was desperately looking for ways and means to end this menace of Billy the Kid and his gun-toting ability. They found their man in Pat Garrett who had known Billy in the past and being familiar with him, could well turn out to be the only man to capture Billy the Kid. Appointed as Sheriff of Lincoln County, Pat Garrett made it clear to all that Lincoln County would not tolerate gunslingers anymore and that included Billy the Kid. And after months on his trail, Billy was captured in a 3-day shoot out. He was found guilty for the murder of Sheriff Brady and was condemned to be hanged. When Judge Bristol delivered the verdict he said, "You will hang by the neck, Billy, until you are dead, dead, dead!" To this Billy responded by saying, "You can go Judge, to hell, hell, hell!"

But Billy the Kid couldn't be contained. Even as a kid, he despised rules or restrictions of any sort. True to his reputation, Billy escaped but nine months later his luck would run out him. In the still of a night in July 1881, Pat Garrett caught up with him and this time shot Billy the Kid dead.

Billy the Kid will go down the annals of history as one of the great legends and in all of the 22 years that he lived, Billy's reputation as the fastest gun alive was smeared across America. No doubt he lived a life of crime, but Billy's trait was his willingness to work hard and settle down in life. Opportunities did come his way but circumstances made him do otherwise. He always felt that he was made a scapegoat for crimes he did not commit.

Next page... Wyatt Earp

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