July 29, 2022

#08-227: Billy the Kid

The only surviving authenticated portrait of Billy the Kid

Note: In just over two decades of life, young Henry McCarty made himself a name as "Billy the Kid." the legend lives on.

Get Ready: Do you find characters like Billy the Kid to be "romantic heroes," or see them as mere outlaws?

Shortly before the American Civil War, in 1859, a boy was born to Irish-American Catholics (perhaps immigrants) in New York City. He was baptized Patrick Henry McCarty, possibly reflecting his parents' admiration for the American patriot Patrick Henry.

He later became known not only as Henry McCarty, but also as Henry Antrim, Kid Antrim, William H. Bonney, Billy Bonney, and--after being made famous in "dime novels"--as Billy the Kid.

His father, Patrick McCarty, died when Henry was young, and his widowed mother, Catherine, moved with him and his younger brother Joseph to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she met William Henry Harrison Antrim.

The family and Antrim moved on to Kansas, and then Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Catherine married Antrim. They moved again to Silver City, New Mexico, where Catherine died of tuberculosis. There Antrim abandoned the boys, leaving them orphans.

In such dire straits, Billy drifted into a life of petty crime.

At age 15 he was caught stealing food at a boarding house where he worked in exchange for room and board for him and his brother Joe. Ten days later he and an accomplice robbed a Chinese laundry. McCarty was jailed, but escaped two days later and became a fugitive. He found his step-father and stayed with him until he was caught stealing clothing and guns and was thrown out.

McCarty worked as a ranch hand in Arizona Territory and made money gambling, then fell in with a veteran horse thief and started stealing horses from the local U.S. Army. At this time, he became known as "Kid Antrim." At 18 he killed a blacksmith in a fight; witnesses claimed it was self-defense, but he was again arrested--and again escaped.

He stole a horse and fled back to New Mexico, but on the way Native Americans stole his horse and he had to walk many miles. He then met up with a band of cattle rustlers, and began to call himself William H. Bonney.

Next he found work as a "soldier" (actually a gunslinger) in a dispute between two businessmen that came to be known as the "Lincoln County War." Surviving that, he and other were (perhaps wrongly) accused of the murder of a bookkeeper, and he was thenceforth an outlaw in New Mexico.

Although he arranged an amnesty with the territorial governor (Lew Wallace, author of the novel "Ben Hur"), it fell through, and after more arrests, escapes, and murders--totaling eight in his lifetime--he was shot and killed in a darkened room by his sometime-friend, Pat Garrett.

"The Kid" was just 21 years old.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. accomplice
  2. alias
  3. amnesty
  4. cattle rustlers
  5. dire straits
  6. fugitive
  7. sometime
  8. tuberculosis
  9. veteran
  10. widowed

  1. having had one's husband die
  2. experienced
  3. once; formerly
  4. a difficult situation
  5. a partner in a criminal act
  6. people who steal others' cows
  7. a person running from the law
  8. legal forgiveness
  9. a disease that affects the lungs
  10. an assumed name

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for July 29, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. j; 3. h; 4. f; 5. d; 6. g; 7. c; 8. i; 9. b; 10. a