Who’s your favorite Billy the Kid? Was it
Emilio Estevez? What about Kris
Kristofferson? They’re both great, right? Totally
different, yet both are rogues – renegades and
rebels of similar acts and thought patterns.
Emilio’s Kid is a hyperactive
smartass with a quick mouth and a faster draw.
“Hey … I’ll make ya famous,” was his signature
line. I wonder if the real William Bonney
ever used that one. Who knows? His whole life is
cloaked in myths and legends, like the one about
him and Texas Joe Grant. Just picture Billy
with his ridiculous teeth and his crooked
hat out on some prairie in New Mexico
during January of 1880.
I bet it was cold. Probably in the high
30s on the Fahrenheit scale. Billy and
his pals Charlie Thomas and Barney Mason
were recovering cattle they’d stolen from
John Chisum to sell back to John Chisum for
a hefty fee. It’s like robbing a bank, then
telling the manager you’ll find their money,
if they pay you for your trouble. It’s a con,
of course, ‘cuz that’s what Billy was: a con man.
His mind was sharp as a tack. He saw all the
angles and was always a few steps ahead.
Later in the day, he and his buddies rode
back to Fort Sumner with John Chisum’s cattle
inspectors to bury the hatchet and seal
the deal over a drink. They moseyed down to
Bob Hargrove’s saloon to wet their whistle. There
at the bar was Texas Joe Grant, complaining
about life and how awful it is. Whose fault
was it that he lived like a pig? Not his. Naaa.
It was Billy the Kid’s fault. He was to blame.
“That goddamned Mexican-lover,” Joe Grant spat.
“You know he’s from New York, right? He’s a phony.
I tried to bet him twenty-five dollars I’d
kill a man before he did today. He just
laughed and said he had to see a man about
a horse.” Right then Billy and the dudes walked in
and sat. The Kid bought the first round. While they were
talking, Grant wandered over to Jack Finn (one
of Chisum’s men) and pulled Jack’s pistol out of
his holster. That was a big no-no back then.
Only drunken assholes did things like that. Guys
like Ike Clanton in Tombstone, you know? Assholes.
Cowards. Morons. People of the land and shit.
Anyway, Grant’s standing there trying to twirl
Finn’s ivory-handled six-shooter and he
drops it. “Be careful, asshole.” Billy tells him.
“That’s an expensive gun. Mr. Finn here is
an important man. He works for John Chisum,
ain’t that right, Jack?” Finn nods, sheepishly. Joe Grant
turns red, eyeballs Finn and puts his own pistol
in Jack’s holster, then he turns and walks away.
Now … moral conundrum time for William H.
Bonney, the man behind the mask of The Kid.
On one side you have this pussy, this lackey.
Jack Finn. He’s a sellout. You do not like him.
But … an asshole just stole his gun, and by the
look in Finn’s eyes, it really was expensive.
“My wife gave me that,” he mumbles, and Billy sighs.
“Then go get it, Jack,” he says. “That guy’s an asshole. He’s
not going to … but then Billy stops and thinks
of the bet Joe had suggested that morning.
“Tarnation,” Billy mutters, under his breath,
because it’s 1880 and that’s how they
talked. What did he really mean? “Motherfucker.”
He knew Texas Joe was planning to kill Finn.
Why not? Grant wanted to show everyone
how Bad he was. He wanted to be Billy.
What does Billy do? He takes a drink of beer
and thinks for a minute because fools rush in.
Billy the Kid is no fool. He’s a genius,
in his own way. He notices everything
and he remembers what he sees and hears. For
instance, in that moment he thought back to the
three shots Jack had fired for no apparent
reason earlier in the day and tries to
recall whether or not he had reloaded.
Billy looks at Jack and sees the fear behind
his eyes. He stands up and walks over to Joe
at the bar and asks if he can see the gun.
“I promise I’ll give it back,” Billy says. “You
stole that weapon fair and square.” Texas Joe
nods and hands him the revolver. Billy turns
and aims the iron sight at Jack Finn. As he
stares down the barrel, he sees the three empty
chambers in the six-shooter and tries not to
laugh as he spins the cylinder to the first
slot with no life-ending bullet inside. Now,
this is a gamble, but Joe Grant’s a moron,
so it’s not that big of one. Billy hands the
gun back to the idiot and watches him
put it back in the holster without checking
to make sure it was ready to be fired,
then goes back and sits down. He pats Jack Finn on
the shoulder and says, “Sorry pal, there’s nothing
that can be done. It’s his gun now.” Jack almost
cries. Billy watches him and stifles a laugh,
because he knows what’s about to happen. For
all intents and purposes, he can see the
future. He knows Texas Joe going to
get drunker and angrier. Sure enough,
he does. At some point Grant walks behind the bar
and starts smashing bottles. “Hey Joe!” Billy shouts.
“That’s alcohol abuse! Stop being a dick!”
Grant cackles and struts out from behind the bar.
“Fuck you, Yankee,” he says, then he spits on the
floor. The saloon falls silent. Billy stands up
and turns to face Joe, who smirks and taps the heel
of the ivory-handled pistol in his
holster. Billy just smiles and turns around.
He starts to sit, but the asshole draws his gun.
“Click … click … click.” Billy takes a deep breath as Joe
looks into the barrel like he’s Elmer Fudd
trying to kill Bugs Bunny. Billy whips out
his weapon and fires precisely three shots.
“Bang-bang-bang.” Texas Joe falls to the ground, dead.
“Joe, I’ve been there too often for you!” Billy
says with a snicker. As smoke hangs in the air,
Billy walks over and grabs Jack Finn’s pistol.
“His wife gave him this, asshole,” he says, but Joe
can’t hear him because he’s on the floor with holes
in both cheeks and his chin. That’s how good of a
shot William H. Bonney was, folks. That’s no lie.
The Kid could shoot the wings off a dragonfly
at 500 yards and he could do it with
both hands … from a horse. Some guys have all the luck.
A few days later, in the Sunnyside Springs
post office, a man named Milnor Rudulph asked
The Kid’s friend Charlie Thomas what had happened.
Out of nowhere, Billy turns around and says,
“It was a game of two and I got there first.”
No charges are ever filed, but that month
the newspapers run a three line blurb about
poor Texas Joe Grant. “Killed by Notorious…