Will you tell me more about Will Carver from the Wild Bunch? He’s in that famous photo of the five amigos.

Will you tell me more about Will Carver from the Wild Bunch? He’s in that famous photo of the five amigos.

Bill Calloway

Wilmington, Delaware

One of my favorite stories about Will Carver—it may or may not be true—took place while he and the Wild Bunch were on their way to Winnemucca, Nevada, to rob a bank. On the morning of the ride, Carver was cutting through a barbed wire fence when a skunk appeared. He drew his pistol, fired and missed. The skunk fired back and hit. While the rest of the gang whooped and hollered, Carver attacked the skunk. When he later tried to remount his horse, the animal shied away, wanting no part of him. Neither did the Wild Bunch. Carver had to ride into town at the rear of the gang. Inside the bank, even the tellers held their noses when he approached. The clerks kept sniffing. Carver finally snapped, “Damnit, I can’t help it. He got me first.”

At various points, Carver rode with another gang led by Sam and Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum. In July 1899, he helped Sam Ketchum and Elzy (or Elza) Lay rob a train near Folsom, New Mexico. When a posse later tracked them to Turkey Creek Canyon, a huge shoot-out took place. Carver’s use of smokeless cartridges kept the lawmen from figuring out his shooting position. He fatally shot two officers and wounded another before helping Lay and Ketchum—both badly hurt—escape. Carver drifted back to Texas and rode with George Kilpatrick, the younger brother of Wild Bunch rider Ben “The Tall Texan” Kilpatrick. On April 2, 1901, they were in a feed store in Sonora, Texas, buying grain for their horses when Sheriff Lige Bryant and four deputies entered. The officers called on the outlaws to surrender, but a gunfight ensued. Both men were hit several times, Carver fatally. Kilpatrick was wounded 14 times but survived. Their horses were sold to pay for Carver’s funeral. The outlaw was buried in the local cemetery.

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