Billy's Kid

CHAPTER 1-3 | BILLY'S KID

Chapter 1

Bad Seeds

The whole place had gone to hell, that was easy enough to see: weeds everywhere, a scrawny pack of half starved ducks, rummaging through the stubble, an anorexic scarecrow looking like he was about to throw up on the rotten tomatoes, a ravenous pack of field mice digging in the dirt, chewing up what there was left of the Indian corn in the pasture south of the weather-beaten barn. There used to be a herd of half-starved Mexican cattle wandering around lost out there somewhere, but until he fixed the broken wagon and got some hay out to them, they could have eaten dirt for all he cared. "And if I was one of those dumb shit beeves," he mumbled to nobody in particular, "I wouldn't hold my breath."

Pulling a sulfur match from behind his ear, he slashed it across his belt buckle and torched the stump of a stogie he had clamped between his yellowing teeth. It had been all he could do to feed himself lately. He hadn't done any respectable farming or ranching since he'd left New Mexico, and it made him wonder why he'd even bothered working the place anymore -not that it would have improved things any if he had. The land had already been put to waste by fools who'd tried to run goats, of all things, on it, and it wouldn't be coming back to life any time soon. That particular part of Texas had always been horse and cow country, and always would be. Everybody with half a brain knew that. But the land was ruined now and he had no intention of doing one damned thing about it. He was done trying to raise horses and hogs on a dirt ranch: done with geese and sheep and Goddamned goats, and done with Texas. He had a pretty wife he hadn't seen in a year waiting for him back in New Mexico and it was time to go home.

He hadn't blamed her for staying behind. A dried up ghost ranch was no place for a lady. No man in his right man could resist a good looking chica like Apolinaria Gutierrez, and it had chilled him in the heart leaving her behind while he'd wandered off to seek his fantasy fortune. It tore his guts out even thinking about it. It took something out of a woman, living in the wild country, and loneliness does strange things to gregarious people who like being around their own kind. Sucks the wind right out of them after awhile. A drought or a dust storm, is what it gets to feeling like.

As long-winded as Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett could be, the one thing he never talked about was his family. Few people even knew he had seven brothers and sisters, or that they'd all stayed put even after they were grown.. Even fewer knew that they'd been brought up near the family homestead in Cusseta, Alabama, or that Pat's old man, John Lumpkin Garrett, had been a farmer and former slave owner, or that shortly after they'd all moved to a plantation in Claiborne Parish in Louisiana in 1856, Pat's mother Elizabeth Ann had died, just like his father would a short time later, leaving the kids behind to run through most of their inheritance. Not that Garrett cared; he was done with the lot of them and struck off on his own, leaving the ungrateful brats in Louisiana to fend for their own damned lazy selves.

Spurring on a glue factory reject of a strawberry roan horse that was even more temperamental than he was, Garrett eventually kissed his career as a goat farmer goodbye and headed north for Eagle Pass, Texas, where he'd lined up a job as a cattle drover on ranch near Lancaster in Dallas County.

A predictably short time later, the clinically impatient dreamer gave up that idea and formed a buffalo hunting business with one of his few friends, W.. Skelton Glenn. But before the ink on the contracts was dry, he'd already begun to spend most of his time, and what was left of his money, gambling in the barely civilized wild west town of Fort Griffin, Texas, once known as Camp Wilson, or "Hide Town", which had been either a reference to the thousands of cow hides bought and sold there or the tough hides of the whores that plied their trade in The Flats just outside of town.

Although literacy-challenged and possessing only passable Spanish, Garrett's Texas twang-tinged southern accent gave him an edge with the local ladies, and some of them, when he was in his cups, would whisper coquettishly in the vain lawman's ear; if Randolph Scott hadn't taken all the good cowboy roles, he would have had a good shot at making it in Hollywood.

Three-card Monte, rot gut hootch, and ego-stroking ladies of the night, Pat had finally found his perfect home away from home. Six-feet tall, movie star-handsome, sporting gunpowder grey-streaked hair and a mud-thick, coffee-colored moustache trimmed just right, he looked slicker than snake skin, and the ladies fell in line. But the bitterness and shame that he felt was easy enough to see on his face; he glared out at the world through the mask he'd made of it, and over time, it had changed the way he looked at everything. Venturing too close to the shifty chameleon had never been all that rewarding of an experience, and one November day in 1876, his red hot temper finally got the best of him when Joseph Briscoe, one of his supposedly "best friends", had made the fatal mistake of getting on the irascible lawman's frayed nerves one too many times.

It had been a petty argument over next to nothing, but then, it had never taken much of a disagreement to piss Garrett spitless. In a white hot fit of rage, after noticing a hatchet in Briscoe's hand, without one word of warning, Garrett laid him out with one shot from his '73 Winchester, and then, as casual as a preacher on his way to church, he turned himself in to the local sheriff and confessed to the shooting. But based most likely on Pat's sullied, but still intimidating, reputation as a vengeful manhunter, the sheriff refused to charge him. "Accidents happen", was all Garrett had to say about it, and that was the end of that.

Joseph Briscoe would not be the last "friend" to find out just how lethal being Pat's pal could be, and from that tragic moment on, his hard ride down the road to infamy began taking some very twisted detours, as it would for a one time unrequited amour of his, Elena Maria Cruz

***

Unlike Pat Garrett, Elena Maria Cruz loved talking about her family and her past, which, over time, became so tangled up in scandal, fiction, and intrigue that it remained mired in that mythic fog for the rest of her short and tragic life. Still a teenager when her parents died, undaunted, she left Tularosa and moved west to Fort Sumner where she got a job doing various domestic chores for the wealthy Pecos Valley sheep rancher Pedro “Pete” Maxwell, and his mother Maria de la Luz Beaubien. It was here near the Bosque Redondo on the salty Pecos River, where she began to carve out a new life for herself and her young daughter. Living among half starved Navajos, renegade Mescalero Apaches, and Comanches, and the US soldiers who watched over them was exhilarating fodder for the imagination for a young Mexican girl with a new born baby to care for, but Elena Maria thrived here. A spirited black-haired, brown-eyed favorite of all the local Tularosa boys in her youth, Elena Maria began to mellow a bit over the years, but there was still a indelible trace of genuine beauty and intelligence etched into her darkly tanned face. As perceptive as she was, she had no idea how significant a part she and her only daughter, Angelina Marlita, would eventually play in the violent and controversial lives of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Nor would Billy's mother Catherine, know how great a part her son would play in the lives of the Cruz family.

"The winds of change are cruel," Elena Maria would often say, "but change we must." Although raising Angelina kept her grounded and hopeful, the scent of treachery had already begun to rise up from the muddy depths of the Pecos River and spread itself out across that barren brown New Mexico landscape like a divination of impending doom. She'd always been good at reading the signs and predicting the vagaries of fate; she had the gift, but what was about to happen to her and her daughter Angelina Marlita, no one could possibly have seen coming.

It wasn't until Pat Garrett murdered Billy the Kid, one of the only friends she had in Fort Sumner, one warm summer night that Elena Maria began to realize that Fort Sumner was no longer a place to bring up a child, particularly one as strong-willed and impressionable as Angelina Marlita. Moving southwest to the county seat of Lincoln, she found a small adobe just across from the McSween store and settled in for the long winter, believing she'd finally found the peace she'd been longing for so long. Had she seen the black rain rising up over the nearby Sacramento Mountains, or the distant stampede of greed, treachery, and violent Lincoln County war about to descend on the seemingly peaceful village, she would surely have packed up and raced south for Mexico. But Elena Maria had about had enough of running and hiding and keeping secrets. This was her home now, and she wasn't going anywhere. Damned the impending war, and damned Pat Garrett to hell. Driving a shovel in the hard packed sandy earth, she dug deep for the life she'd fought so long for, and in time, her little house on Main Street became her first real home.

***

Rubbing her aching blue indigo eyes, nine-year-old Angelina Marlita stumbled reluctantly out her mother's casita door into the dusty face of a raging red sun, and braced herself against the encroaching heat. Across the tin roof of the nearby Montaño Store, the blazing morning light had broken hard and fast and stretched out across the scraggly row of mesquite-rimmed sand hills that lay parched and cracked above the tiny town of Lincoln. Nothing stirred except for the sound of a screeching raven and a fat milk cow that crunched its way through the dead stalks of wilted corn, and she nearly doubled over laughing as a goat’s bell signaled the start of a comical parade of ducks and geese that marched in single file past her bare feet. While her other friends played hop scotch, jacks, Red Rover, and Hide-and-Go-Seek, Marlita began her early morning chores. Two Indian paint ponies move lazily along the rusty barbed wire fence, scattering several squawking hens that she'd uncooped earlier, and, after feeding them, she gathered their eggs, milked the braying goat, chopped a bundle of wood that she'd gathered the day before from the Capitan Mountains for the adobe horno oven, and churned just enough butter for the salty bollito and sweet biscochitos that her mother would prepare later. Elena Maria would later sell the butter and cheese Angelina made to Jose Montaño and would then go to Fort Stockton to and spend the profit on seeds for her garden; then, in the late spring, she would trade the vegetables she grew for bolts of cotton cloth, calico, and alpaca, merino, and delaine wool which she'd use to make clothes for herself and Angelina.

After priming the pump and drawing her first bucket of well water from a slender creek that wandered through a pair of piñon trees just west of the sun-baked adobe house, Angelina used a mato, or small stone, to begin softening the corn she'd gathered into a fine paste called metate. Then as the blue corn tortillas and gorditas sizzled in the bacon grease that popped and sputtered in the cast iron skillet, a sopping wet blanket of dew began to evaporate in the intensifying blast of merciless heat, and Fort Sumner came slowly alive in the golden morning light.

Those were the slow easy days of summer that Angelina Marlita would later remember as the happiest she had even known. It would be a long time before she’d see days like those again, but on that languid last day of August, her brand new world was perfect. Not in her wildest dreams could she even imagine that, before she turned twenty-one-years old, she'd be riding down that same sleepy cottonwood-lined street that ran beside her mother’s casita,, searching for Pat Garrett, hungering for justice. And vengeance.

***

Like Pat Garrett and Elena Maria Cruz, trying to get any reliable information out of William Henry McCarty about his family history was an obvious, and often treacherous, waste of valuable time. Nobody had ever produced any definitive proof of his exact birthplace, but it didn't stop tongue-wagging gossip mongers and self-anointed "historians" from hypothesizing about it for the next hundred years or so.

The majority of them hypothesized that Henry had been born somewhere between 1852 and 1860 in Manhatten in either the slums of Five Points near the corner of Park, Worth, and Baxter Streets; Hell's Kitchen; or more likely, Brooklyn. Even his actual birth date and his name had always been a cause for cantankerous debate, and it would be years before young Henry would be known as Billy the Kid. An Arizona wanted poster once referred to him as William Wright, and in Mesilla court records collected during his trial there for the murder of Sheriff Brady in Lincoln, he was referred to as Henry Antrim, but his local Mexican friends and admirers knew him as el Cabrito or Billito. His various Lincoln County War Regulator pals and other friends at different times knew him as William Antrim, Kid Antrim, Billy Kid, Henry, and The Kid. But Billy preferred the name William H. Bonney, which he used on several of his various bills of sale and on the letters he wrote to Lee Wallace, the Governor of New Mexico. Not until an article appeared in the Las Vegas Gazette on December 3, 1880, about the time Billy had been held there pending a trip to the jail in Santa Fe, referring to Henry as "Billy the Kid”, did anyone have the guts to call him that to his face.

It was a generally accepted, that Billy was about five-foot eight, slightly built with bluish-gray eyes, dark blond brown hair, two slightly prominent front teeth, and a wisp of fuzz that struggled for survival on his upper lip and chin. He spoke fluent Spanish, was an expert with a pistol, loved good horses, had a gift for gambling, and spent a good part of his time dancing at bailes in and around Fort Sumner, La Placita (Lincoln), Anton Chico, San Hilario, Puerto de Luna, and other small, mostly Mexican, towns in Chavez, Lincoln, and Dona Ana Counties. Waltzes, "squares", fandangos, quadrilles, Mexican rancheros, it didn't matter to Billy; he just loved to dance. And the young Mexican ladies loved Billy.

Billy's high-spirited blue-eyed mother Catherine Devine McCarty, an Irish immigrant (and very possibly, unwed mother), had fled the great Irish potato famine in the mid 1800's, and after arriving in most likely lower Manhatten, eventually married Patrick McCarty with whom she had two boys, Henry (Billy) and Joseph, who most historians believe to be Billy's older brother. Although there was no written record of Billy's birth, or proof that Patrick McCarty was his real father, it was still believed by most that Billy seemed to like and respect the man, and until the day he died, Patrick appeared to treat Billy as if he was his own son. Catherine and Patrick also had another son Patrick Jr., who died shortly after birth, and perhaps a daughter Bridgett, whose birth was never documented. The only thing that was clear from that moment on, was that the verifiable facts concerning Billy the Kid and his family would forever be shrouded in a romantic veil of mystery, myth, and romantically sanguine hyperbole.

It's generally believed, that after moving her homeless brood to Marion County, Indiana, and eventually settling in Indianapolis, Catherine met William Henry Harrison Antrim, a colorless Union Army veteran, day laborer, carpenter, bartender, mediocre gambler, and indolent dreamer from Huntsville, Indiana, who Billy basically despised from the moment they met.

William, Catherine, and their newly formed entourage, soon hitched up their horse drawn wagon and moved on. After a short detour through Colorado, they ended up in the wild west cow town of Wichita, Kansas, where Catherine operated a very successful hand laundry service. Alarmed by the unrepentant violence and lawlessness in Wichita, true to form, Catherine packed up her, by now, roving band of itinerant gypsies and drifted south to New Mexico where, on March 1, 1873 at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe, Antrim and the widowed Catherine were married.

True to form, Catherine didn't stay in Santa Fe long and less than a year later, she moved her nomadic clan to Silver City, New Mexico, where Antrim had deluded himself into believing he would soon strike it rich prospecting for silver. Like so many other of his delusional pipedreams, that one too died young. Undaunted. Catherine was determined to put down roots, and immediately rented a small log and frame cabin near the corner of Broadway and east Main and settled in for the hard times ahead.

Although Catherine Antrim knew intuitively that the fire in her young son Henry’s heart would someday burn anything he touched, she had no idea what to do about it, and in spite of her remarkably creative mothering skills, capturing greased lightening was something she was never able to master. The boy seemed born to run wild, always looking off into the inscrutable distance, as if he'd rather be running with the cats in the alley or soaring with the red tail hawks that sailed above Eagle Point Summit and the low lying hills beyond. But at least Catherine knew she'd never lose him, because, after all, she often said, you can't lose what you've never had.

Early on, she'd sensed in Billy's heart a serene watchfulness and confidence born of desperate longing and misguided desire, a convoluted emptiness so great that nothing she nor anyone else could do would ever quite fill it. Henry seemed intuitively committed to a vague mission that had already begun to ferment in the dark and primeval recesses of his dangerously restless mind, and if he missed his dead father Patrick, he never talked about it. But like some vagabond Jesus looking for a manger, there he was, every afternoon after school, standing at his mother's door, the prodigal son come home to roost. Even while keeping one foot planted firmly on the floor, he kept a finger in the wind, trying to predict the direction of his impending getaway: One that his mother knew would come only too soon.

As small as he was, Henry seemed older than fourteen, yet to Catherine, the vulnerable little boy in him seemed destined to stay locked inside his skin, even as he fought for maturity and respect. She also knew that although his insatiable inquisitiveness and reckless playfulness may well be his salvation for awhile, sooner or later, it could just as easily be his undoing. She knew a rowdy, nearly ungovernable mining town like Silver City was no place to raise an impressionable boy like Billy, but with her husband gone more often than not, she feared that it may well be too late to do anything about it. She tore at the fabric of this premonition, ripping at it even in her sleep, but all she seemed able to do about it was to flail helplessly, never quite succeeding in freeing her mercurial son from the hold all madness seemed to have on him. After her health began to fail, and she could sense her own impending death, she began slowly to envision the inevitability of Billy's precarious fate. But she wasn't about to give in quite so easily.

While she was still healthy enough to, she did her best to keep some semblance of normalcy in her son's life by taking him to La Pastorelas, or plays, and musicals, and by teaching him to dance. The one thing Billy loved most to do though, was to go to the bailes and fandangos up on Chihuahua Hill where they danced the Highland Fling, rancheras, and vals with the locals. And sometimes, when Catherine was too weak to go out, they'd just stay home and teach Billy to read, play the piano, sing, cook, bake pies, and about everything else she could think of, exhausting herself trying to make him happy and sane and normal. But after discovering poker at the Orleans Club where his older brother Joseph worked, and then learning how to buck the tiger and deal three card monte at the Red Onion and the Blue Goose, everything seemed to change. Henry was already lost to her, drifting off across the space between them like a mustang smelling a fresh wind, desperate to flee that safe country and to disappear into the seductive undertow of his own oblivion.

As pulmonary tuberculosis, or "galloping consumption" as it was called at the time, rampaged through her frail body, Catherine knew time was running out for her. She had done everything a mother could possibly do for her recklessly impetuous son, but she also knew it was time to let him go. Henry had been born on his own right from the start and all she had the strength to do was to love him as hard as she could and pray he'd survive until adulthood. Only thirty-four years old, she had never felt so alone as she did watching him blow out the candles on his fourteenth birthday cake, and on an icy September 16th morning in 1874, as she lay dying, Catherine felt, somewhere deep inside her broken heart, secretly grateful that she would never have to see what was about to happen to Henry, or that he would be forever remembered by the outside world as Billy the Kid.

 

Chapter 2

The Belle of South Spring

On Christmas Eve, 1975, Sallie Lucy Chisum, her father James, and her two brothers Willie and Walter, arrived at their Uncle John Simpson Chisum's South Spring ranch a few miles southeast of Roswell, New Mexico and settled in for the Holidays. Sallie's uncle, John, due as much to his primordial ruthlessness as to his questionable skill as an astute businessman, would soon became known as “The Cattle King of the Pecos Valley”, and his wild and spirited teenaged niece Sallie, would become known as the "Queen of the Jingle Bob", the nickname of John's ranch.

Born in Madison County, Tennessee, in 1824, John Chisum had brought his first herd of cattle across the plains of Texas through the buffalo hunting territory of the Comanche Indian Nation to the Pecos River Valley in New Mexico sometime in 1867, and had established his first ranch at Bosque Grande, a somewhat unpretentious spread that lay in the long shadows of El Capitan peak in the Sierra Blancas about thirty miles north of Roswell. In 1875 he moved to his South Spring ranch where he would live most of the rest of his life. After Sallie and her family moved into the brand new, nine-roomed adobe "Long House", as it was called, the Chisum clan began to raise not only cattle, alfalfa, and roses, but plums, apples, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and pears, and from that time on the ranch would be known by locals as "The Oasis In The Desert".

Sallie was adored by every cowboy within a hundred or so miles of the ranch, not only because she was pretty and high-spirited, but because she could rough string stock, rope, brand, and wrangle, hold a cut, and dally with the best of the boys. She showed no fear and had little use for those who did. The fact that the honey-haired, pony-tailed heartbreaker sang beautifully, played the piano and violin, could "cut a rug" like a diva on her uncle's beloved Axminster carpet, and waltz at the drop of a hat with any waddy who took a bath first, certainly didn’t hurt her reputation with the local, love-starved cowboys. It may not of helped, but it didn’t hurt..

Sallie's impressive talents and refined beauty soon attracted another local cow hand and well-known celebrity, William H. Bonney, or "Billy the Kid" as dime store novelists by then had branded him, a name Billy hated. But under the watchful eye of “Big John” Chisum, John’s brothers Pitzer and Jeff, Sallie’s father James, Chisum’s head ranch hand, Felix McKittrick, and his long-term foreman “Beaver” Smith, Sallie and Billy spent precious little time alone together. "Beaver" Smith, for one, although supposedly a friend of Billy's, called Billy and his "iron clad" pals, "Doc" Scurlock, Henry Newton Brown, "Big Jim" French, John Middleton, "Big Foot" Wallace, George and Frank Coe, Jesus Rodriguez, Josefito Chaves, and others in his semi-civilized, soon-to-be "Regulator" riff raff, "cold-blooded, uncouth, dirt poor, white trash, juvenile delinquents", and once John detected Sallie’s obviously amorous reaction to Billy’s inexplicably baffling charms, and Billy’s infatuation with her, he came to share that same feeling.

The men took turns keeping an eye out as the two teenagers walked together in the failing sunlight through the Bermuda grass and down the lane between two rows of cottonwood trees that lead up to John's square, one-story adobe ranch house, and then sit in the moonlight on the portico beneath a weeping willow tree near the acequia that ran through the property, often talking late into the evening. Although at first, admittedly “scared to death” of Billy, as she'd later write in her diary she soon became quite fond of the rough cut pistalero. And once her uncle rolled up the rug at night in the a large building adjacent to the Long House, and began sawing away on his fiddle, she and Billy would sail around the room and dance till John would turn the fiddle over to his brother Pitzer, and take his turn on the dance floor. Dancing with the gals from the local Pumpkin Row settlement was the favorite sport of the Chisum cowboys that summer, but until Sallie took her turn on the fiddle, Billy seldom danced with anyone but her.

Finding Billy to be a dead sober, boyishly handsome, and wickedly funny, if not somewhat jumpy, little charmer, Sallie found herself laughing for hours on end, thoroughly enjoying the company of her enchanting, but notoriously dangerous, new friend. A quote from her diary, years later, best summed up her actual feelings:

"As far as dress was concerned he always looked as if he had just stepped out of a bandbox... I suppose it sounds absurd to speak of such a character as a gentleman, but from beginning to end of our long relationship, in all his personal relations with me, he was the pink of politeness and as courteous a little gentleman as I ever met."

 

Chapter 3

Lost Summer

Seething with animosity over Billy’s shameless pursuit of his niece, which he saw as an insult to his own good Christian name, not to mention his over inflated reputation for civilized propriety and hypocritical aversion to moral turpitude, John Chisum soon contrived an acrimonious falling out with Billy, after which, the two ex-friends parted company, a decision they'd both regret for the rest of their lives.

Still conflicted about he and Sallie's no-chance-romance, as he'd put it, but still missing her terribly, Billy soon grew bitterly angry, and from that point on, both before and after the Lincoln County War, when he wasn’t stealing cattle from ranchers in the Texas Panhandle and the Pecos River Valley, or from his old friend Alexander Grzelachowski in Puerto de Luna, he began to steal large numbers of them from John Chisum, after changing the famous Chisum long rail brand into an arrow by simply adding a tip and feathers. He'd then either incorporate them into his own herd on the not-so-well-kept-secret “ranch” he, Charlie Bowdre, and his red-headed pal Tom O’Folliard kept near Portales, New Mexico, or at his other "ranch" at Canaditas, just south of Fort Sumner. After an appropriate time, he'd sell most of his cattle to George Nesmith and Tom Cooper who in turn sold them to Billy's Irish grocer pal Pat Coghlan, the infamous cattle "procurer" and Three Rivers rancher known as “The King of Tularosa.” Shorthorns, Longhorns, Santa Gertrudis, Simmentals, Brahmans, Black Baldies, Red Durhams: It made no difference to Billy. He'd steal anything with horns and hooves that chewed a cud.

Sallie kept it a secret for years that Billy had given her a gift of two candy hearts, an Indian tobacco pouch, and a letter that he'd written to her while he'd been holed up in the Alex A. McSween house during the Lincoln Country War. As stubborn to the core as Sallie was, in spite of all that familial watchfulness, she saw Billy briefly in the summer of 1878 down along the New Mexico/Texas border at Fort Bascom where he'd stopped for a rest after stealing a herd of, most likely, her Uncle John's horses. Even after spending the afternoon together along a cottonwood grove near Red River Springs, Sallie, although thrilled to see Billy, had no idea what to say to him. He was still clear-eyed and handsome in a sensuous, but oddly unsettling, way, but he seemed older somehow, and more distant: a cardboard cutout of his former self.

They didn't stay together long, just long enough to test what was left of the magical summer they'd spent together. Billy knew there was something Sallie wasn't telling him, but for the life of him he couldn't get it out of her.. He had no idea that she had finally come to realize that, as wildly erotic as their summer long infatuation at South Spring had been, the chances of her and Billy ever getting together were gone.

It nearly broke her heart, knowing what she wanted so desperately to tell him, but it wasn't possible. He wasn't ready, and it was best to just let him go. She could see it in the blazing fire that had once burned in his eyes, but now hissed and sizzled there in two black pools of doubt and conflicted indecision. Destiny was tugging at Billy, and the reckless streak that had burrowed a hole in his restless heart was deep, and in the days to come, Sallie could see that there would be no room for her in there. She also understood that no matter how much he loved her, Billy loved his freedom more. She couldn't blame him for that, it was who he was, but still it tortured her, having to watch him saddle up and then roll off across the Great Plains like a swirling dust devil: but regardless of her genuine affection for him, she was either unable or unwilling to share her secret with him. Billy was an indelible part of history now, and it was clear that sooner or later, something would inevitably tear them apart.

When the Lincoln County War erupted and all hell broke loose in southern New Mexico, Billy gleefully joined his new employer and friend John Tunstall in the fight against the Catron-backed Catron/Dolan/Murphy mob in Lincoln, just like Sallie knew he would. Knowing Billy was still in the area, Sallie's father James couldn't stop worrying about the continuing obsession she seemed to have with the Kid, and decided it best to send his obstinate daughter away to school in Anton Chico, New Mexico for awhile.

James Abercrombie, grandson of the man who founded the first general store there, later recalled seeing Billy Bonney in town with Sallie on several occasions during that time. But by then, Sallie had already begun to mature into a refined, socially conscious young lady with plans of a stable, traditional future and a family, and she'd began studying music while trying urgently to look past the flirtatious dalliance she and Billy had once shared at South Spring. And Billy could see that practiced reserve in her eyes. And he understood. And when he left, he never looked back. Several months later, after an unexplained trip to Santa Fe, Sallie was soon back in Anton Chico, but Billy had evaporated into a vague, but sweet, memory.

***

Still reeling with resentment over his very unpleasant parting with the Chisum's back at South Spring, Billy had finally resigned himself to the sad fact that Sallie had no realistic intention of running off with him. There had been one brief reconciliation between him and John, but after the old man promised to pay him for his role in supporting John's friend John Tunstall during the Lincoln County War, and then stiffed him, Billy’s fierce pride kicked in and he left the entire Chisum clan behind, apparently souring on everything Anglo, including women. With the exception of his off-and-on infatuation with the half gringa Pablita, or Paulita, Maxwell in Fort Sumner in the years to come, the fluently bilingual Billy was known from that point on to fall for almost exclusively young Mexican ladies.

As for Sallie, the proudly independent young woman charmingly, but rather unconvincingly, dismissed the much rumored likelihood of her ever having been anything more than Billy’s close friend and confidante. As far as she was concerned, loving Billy had been innocent fun. After all, whatever they'd shared was simply nobody’s business. It was in her gutsy, head strong, and rebellious nature, not to feel sorry for herself, and she felt no need to deny or defend her and Billy’s youthful and defiant error in judgment: but no one else needed to know about it. The closest she'd ever come to dissuading the local gossip mongers was, after a trip to Santa Fe with her gal pal Lillian Kalsner -ostensibly to resolve land issues and other Catron-related legal matters pertaining to her Uncle John business affairs- when she considered collaborating with her friend in writing a history of their lives in Lincoln County. But knowing there was no way to keep her and Billy's past out of it, Sallie later changed her mind, and from that point on, her recollections remained under lock and key. After all, her romantic dalliances weren't really something a lady discussed with anyone and from then on, no one ever seriously disputed her decision to keep her past private, although it was thought, that in the years to come, as sweet and beloved as she was by nearly everyone she'd even known or met, her enchanting evasions on the subject of Billy obscured a much more confounding truth.

....to be continued