Anthony F. Hughes takes a look at the authentic life of one of the Wild West’s most famous outlaws


The words The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid form the title of a book that was published in the year 1882. The author of the book was the then Sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico. On the book’s first page he, Pat Garrett, is named as the man who finally hunted down and captured Billy the Kid by killing him.

The book’s foreword begins as follows:
‘Yielding to repeated solicitations from various sources, I have addressed myself to the task of compiling for publication, a true history of the life, adventures and tragic death of William H. Bonnet, better known as “Billy the Kid”, whose daring and bloody crimes have, excited for some years past, the wonder of one-half of the world and the admiration or detestation of the other half.’
Garrett goes on to state that he feels compelled to correct the thousand false statements that have appeared in the newspapers and yellow covered cheap novels with regards to the Life and Times of Billy the Kid.

Those publications pretend to know everything about the Kid including a hundred impossible deeds of reckless crime of which he was never guilty of and which took place in localities which he never even visited.
The author then states that he will strive to do justice to the character of Billy the Kid, give him credit for all the virtues that he possessed but would not spare him one bit when it came to detailing his heinous offences against humanity and the laws.

In Garrett’s foreword (which is extensive when compared to the book’s overall content of approx. 42,000 words) he tells the reader that he first got to know Billy on a personal level during the very recent infamous Lincoln County War (1877-’78).

He, Pat, plays coy in the sense that he doesn’t elaborate on how or why he got to know ‘the Kid’.
Did they ride together at some stage during that conflict (between two opposite factions) in which Billy played a leading role?
When it comes to Billy’s death the author states that he was the unfortunate instrument in that death which occurred in his discharging of his official duty.
He further goes on to state that since the time of the Kid’s death the previous year (July, 1881) he interviewed those people who were close, intimate friends of the deceased outlaw and whom had talked freely about his affairs.

He then, in a further bid to add more credibility to his tale tells us that he communicated by letter with various reliable parties in New York, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, etc, etc with a view to tracing the dead outlaw’s career carefully and with indifference.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own