Magazine article Sunset

Billy the Kid Country

Magazine article Sunset

Billy the Kid Country

Article excerpt

* A hundred and twenty years after he was shot one dark July night by Sheriff Pat Garrett, Billy the Kid still makes headlines in New Mexico. In February 2001, a New Mexico state representative requested that the governor issue a posthumous pardon for the outlaw, and the ongoing debate over Billy flared. Was he really the bloodthirsty renegade who, according to legend, murdered 21 men before his 21st birthday? Or was he actually El Chivato, the courteous young man beloved by local folk, whose only crime (aside from cattle rustling) was following the code of the West by proving his loyalty and avenging the death of his employer, John Tunstall?

Billy's enigmatic presence is felt most strongly in Lincoln County, about 190 miles southeast of Albuquerque, where his exploits formed the most famous episodes of the Lincoin County War-a bloody rivalry between two competing mercantile interests, the established Murphy-Dolan outfit and the upstart McSween-Tunstall faction.

When Billy's boss, John Tunstall, was murdered by Murphy supporters in February 1878, Billy and other Tunstall men sought revenge. Over the next few months, Lincoln County exploded in open warfare, as a group of men, including Billy, killed Sheriff William Brady, then survived a five-day siege of the Alexander McSween home that ended with McSween dead and Billy fleeing the flaming building. …

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