Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life

Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life

Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life

Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life

Excerpt

"Quien es? Quien es?"

With those words—"Who is it? Who is it?"—the youth threw away a critical moment of time. In the darkened bedroom, he could not make out the figure crouched at the head of Pete Maxwell's bed. He thought he was among friends, and his hesitation cost him his life.

The crouching form belonged to Pat Garrett, sheriff of Lincoln County, and those fateful words told Garrett exactly who faced him. He did not hesitate, but grabbed his six-shooter from its holster and fired two shots point-blank. One slammed into the boy's chest, the other rebounded from the adobe wall and splintered the headboard of Maxwell's bed. Billy the Kid crumpled to the floor, dead. He was but twenty-one years old.

All that was mortal died on the floor of Pete Maxwell's bedroom at old Fort Sumner, New Mexico, on that night of July 14, 1881; but almost at once an immortal Billy the Kid rose from the dead, ultimately to expand into a mighty legend of global impact. Few figures from the past have so profoundly stirred the human imagination. Among peoples everywhere, the name prompts instant recognition and evokes vivid images.

Stripping off the veneers of legendry accumulated over a century exposes neither hero nor villain, but a complex personality. Of the Kid as person and the Kid as outlaw, the reality both sustains and contradicts the legend.

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