The Outlaw Trail: A History of Butch Cassidy and His Wild Bunch

The Outlaw Trail: A History of Butch Cassidy and His Wild Bunch

The Outlaw Trail: A History of Butch Cassidy and His Wild Bunch

The Outlaw Trail: A History of Butch Cassidy and His Wild Bunch

Synopsis

The Wild Bunch, the confederation of western outlaws headed by Butch Cassidy, found sanctuary on the rugged Outlaw Trail. Stretching across Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, this trail offered desert and mountain hideouts to bandits and cowboys. The almost inaccessible Hole-in-the-Wall in Wyoming was a station on the Outlaw Trail well known to Butch Cassidy. To the south, in Utah, was the inhospitable Robber's Roost, where Butch and his friends camped in 1897 after a robbery at Castle Gate. Charles Kelly recreates the mean and magnificent places frequented by the Wild Bunch and a slew of lesser outlaws. At the same time, he brings Butch Cassidy to life, traces his criminal apprenticeship and meeting with the Sundance Kid, and masterfully describes the exploits of the Wild Bunch.

Excerpt

Daniel Buck and Anne Meadows

Charles Kelly was as colorful as the Old West characters whose lives he chronicled in several books and more than a hundred articles. Described by his friend A. R. Mortensen as "a man with a barbed wire personality," Kelly was crusty and abrasive. He held his fellow homo sapiens in minimum regard, reserving his highest dudgeon for shams, fakes, and charlatans. At the same time, according to Mortensen, Kelly "had a generosity of spirit, an underlining of kindness and loyalty to those who earned his high respect and admiration." Beneath the prickly exterior, he was a romanticist pulsing with talent and energy. Although he had little formal education, he was a born scholar with interests as broad as the Utah deserts he roved: While tracking outlaws and pioneers, he soaked up geology, geography, anti archaeology; he was also a professional musician (who played the violin and cornet) and an amateur painter (who palled around with Charlie Russell in Montana).

The eldest of six sons, Charles Kelly was born in 1889 to an itinerant Baptist preacher and his wife in Cedar Springs, Michigan. the hot-tempered Reverend Kelly, a fanatical self-styled prophet, moved his family from place to place on a moment's notice and mistreated them to such an extent that upon learning of his death in 1936, Kelly wrote, "The old man is dead. I've waited for a good many years to write that good news, and at last it has come." Kelly's strict upbringing led him to become, in his words, "an infidel," but he made the most of the typesetting skills he learned in the small print shop where his father cranked out religious tracts, Kelly did not attend high school (his father said it would corrupt him) but worked for a newspaper and saved enough money to enter Valparaiso University in 1910. His funds depleted, he left school after three years, then bounced from one linotype job to another in Kansas, Montana, and Oregon before enlisting in the army during World War I.

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