The Class of 2021 has turned in their research and—boy, howdy—there are some eyebrow-raisers here.
When I was first diving deep into all the Billy the Kid scholarship back in the last century—doesn’t that sound ridiculous?—much heavy lifting had already been done by my go-to researchers, Philip J. Rasch, Nora True Henn, William A. Kelleher and Frederick Nolan. Even then folks thought there was little more to find out.
Now, here we are, more than a half-century beyond that scholarship, and intriguing new finds are still being dug up, sometimes by scholars half a world away. James B. Mills, 37, of Australia, found a long lost interview with the Kid in the Santa Fe jail (see TW, April 2020). Well, turns out he wasn’t finished. In this issue Mills gives us a new look at the bandit boy and the Mescaleros (p. 26). Thanks to Lincoln area historians, Lynda A. Sánchez, Janice Dunnahoo, and others, my favorite “Little Aussie Bastard” has much new scholarship on the subject and tells a great story. His forthcoming book, Billy the Kid: El Bandido Simpático is highly anticipated.
He is not alone. Chuck Usmar has uncovered not only a possible New York connection to Billy and his mother but also of Jimmy Dolan being from the same Irish slum (p. 19). Roy Young and Kurt House are hot on the trail of the only photos of Catherine McCarty Antrim (p. 22) and it will all be in their book about Frank Stewart and his efforts to capture Billy the Kid, which is at the printer as you read this. And from Tennessee, James A. Townsend has dug up buried news reports that give us a clearer view of “Windy” Cahill, the first man the Kid killed (p. 23).
In 1994 Gary Jones was on a research trip to New Mexico, looking for information about his Great Aunt Maria who was married to J.J. Dolan and later to Emil Fritz. Stopping across from the mill at Ruidoso he encountered a Kid author, sitting at a table (what are the odds?). Gary started chatting with the pushy author and ended up buying a signed copy of The Illustrated Life & Times of Billy the Kid for his daughter Susan Stevenson. After reading it, they decided they were going to find BTK’s father and thus set out on a quest that continues to this day. Susan and her father have also uncovered a census bombshell with one Henry McCarty showing up in Prescott at the same time as Johnny Behan was there (p. 23).
Every one of these researchers has something in common: each wants to get to the truth, once and for all.
So strap yourself in; this is going to be a rocket sled ride of new research on the history we love!
This just in: We received word that Tom Blyth, above,
is going to star as Billy the Kid in a new eight-part Epix-MGM series that begins filming in Calgary, Canada, this June and is set to air in 2022. For more on the series and the development of Young Guns III, turn to page 55.
Photo of Tom Blyth taken by Tiffanie Owen in the Tunstall Store in Lincoln, New Mexico,
on May 27, 2021/All author images courtesy the authors