tv Legends Lies The Real West FOX News May 15, 2016 5:00pm-6:01pm PDT
lay hold of their destiny, and birth a new mythology. but with the passing of time, every myth has its reckoning. william h. bonney, orphan turned outlaw, low-life scoundrel and escape artist... a legendary gunfighter credited with multiple murders, one for each year of his short life. but behind every man stands a myth, and behind every legend lies the truth. >> billy the kid. quite possibly the most legendary outlaw in the history of the american west, a symbolic figure of the untamed frontier. he's a charismatic kid, but he's a killer all the same -- far from the sadistic villain he's often made out to be, though. william h. bonney is just a boy, a teenager, trying to survive in a man's world where, more often than not, it is kill or be killed.
>> narrator: in the late 19th century, thousands journey west lured by the dream of quick riches in the silver mines and gambling halls. joining the rush is 17-year-old william bonney. >> see your bet and raise you some more. >> see your bet and raise you? >> [ sighs ] it's getting hot in here. can you stand the heat? >> i'll raise you again. >> i can manage that, grandpa. >> i'll raise you once more, you little pimp. >> you owe me. >> all i owe you is a beatin'. >> you're nothing but a son of a bitch.
oh! you're hurting me! >> i want to hurt you! [ gunshot ] ugh! >> aah! >> narrator: toughened by years of fending for himself, billy adapts to life on the run. >> bam! bam! >> narrator: but not so long ago, he's just a boy named henry. >> bam! >> to understand billy the kid, you got to know about his mom, catherine mccarty, an irish immigrant who comes over in the wake of the irish potato famine, and billy winds up acquiring a lot of her kind of charm and survival mechanism.
>> much has been fabricated about billy the kid's life, but the fact is, little can actually be proven. while legend claims he's born in new york city, the truth is, a birth record has never been found, but two things are certain. billy is born into one of the most violent times in american history, and the first verified record of him shows up in silver city, new mexico, in 1868 when he's 9 years old. >> new mexico is an extremely violent place. you have a mix of... ex-confederates, hispanics. you had a lot of graft and corruption. law and order was few and far between. >> narrator: within a year, catherine dies of tuberculosis. henry and his brother bury her in a simple grave and head out into the world, abandoned by their stepdad and split between
distant relatives. separated from his brother and with few resources and fewer options, billy resorts to crime, adopting the alias william "billy" bonney. >> what you got for me, sheriff? >> a ruffian, high-spirited little stallion he thinks he is. get on in there, youngster. >> glad to have you. [ chuckles ] all right, what we got? >> a young man stealing from guests over to the hotel. got jewelry, cash money. >> billy the kid's greatest weapon was his personality, and he did have that aura of innocence that i think made people trust him.
>> billy's chimney escape tells us a lot about the boy and the young man he will become. unwilling to serve his time, he'd rather take his chances on the run, avoiding confinement at all cost. but ironically, the sheriff is only planning to hold him for one day, hoping to scare him straight, and in this moment of impulse, young billy starts
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>> narrator: billy the kid bonney has progressed from orphan to petty thief. now on the run and in need of transportation, billy takes another step in his evolution as a criminal. >> billy's got no basis of support, no direction whatsoever. so he does what a lot of desperate kids do. he engages in petty crime, and the lowest of the low in terms of crimes is horse-thieving, and he did a little bit of that. >> narrator: but out west, men depend on their mounts for their very surviva the penalties for horse theft are the same as for murder. both can get you lynched without a trial. >> [ humming ] >> [ snoring ]
[ snoring continues ] [ snoring stops ] [ horse neighs lightly ] >> oh. stop right there! [ guns cock ] >> i'd keep still if i was you. >> narrator: billy's desperate decision to take a u.s. army horse lands him in military prison. >> a privy stop, please? [ speaking indistinctly ] yahoo! ugh! >> take him back to the cell! >> get up! >> ooh, come on, smithy. why you got to put 'em on so tight for? >> that oughta hold ya.
>> come on, smarty-pants! >> [ speaking indistinctly ] come on! >> [ sighs ] [ chains rattle ] >> narrator: undeterred by the firm grip of authority, billy uses another tool to gain his freedom... enlisting the help of locals to break him out. >> we'll get the iron off in no time, billy. come on. >> as to my character, i refer to any of the citizens, for the majority of them are my friends and have been helping me all they could. >> come on! come on! let's go! let's go! let's go! >> yahoo! >> the legend that billy is anything more than a petty thief at this time in his life is a myth. he's clearly making errors in judgment, but he still
has the opportunity to turn things around. local law enforcement has bigger things to worry about, and as bold and cocky as he seems, billy is still far removed from the murderous outlaw that legend makes him out to be. >> narrator: billy's wit and ingenuity give him the confidence to try his hand at professional gambling. >> i'll raise you again. >> narrator: but men like "windy" cahill have a hard time losing to a fresh-faced kid with a smart mouth. >> you owe me. ughh! ugh! [ gunshot ] >> ugh! >> aah! >> [ grunts ] >> somebody get him to the doctor at fort grant! [ horse neighs ] >> hey, where you going?! stop! >> [ shouts indistinctly ] >> in the old west, when people were armed, sometimes arguments resulted in gunfire. but this is an escalation of
what billy the kid's been involved in thus far. this is where he goes genuinely on the run. >> [ groans ] >> "i, cahill, being convinced i'm about to die, do make the following my final statements." >> damn kid...shot me. >> he's gone. >> narrator: a coroner's jury is convened and a warrant for murder is issued. at just 17, the orphan boy is now a wanted killer. billy flees to the familiar surroundings of fort sumner, new mexico. [ horse whinnying ] here he has many friends and feels at home in the hispanic community. >> billy looks for a new family, and he finds a kind of surrogate one in the latin culture. he loves the music, he loves
the dancing, he's popular with the latin girls. ♪ >> narrator: billy has a confident charm that is irresistible to the señoritas, but his arrogance sparks a not-so-friendly rivalry with saloonkeeper and future sheriff of lincoln county, pat garrett. >> [ singing in spanish ] >> [ speaking spanish ] >> [ singing in spanish continues ] >> i said, [speaking spanish] >> patrick floyd garrett was a former buffalo hunter, and a part ownership in a bar called beaver smith's, and billy was a regular in beaver's, so they knew each other. it's a small place.
>> narrator: but even on his home turf, billy still has to watch his back. since law enforcement is so lax, a growing number of vigilante groups have risen to power, and criminality is rampant. >> billy is ripe for becoming a member of a gang. he needs other people around him because he is young. he doesn't have resources. he needs to have protectors. >> billy, save me some grub. >> narrator: the kid falls in with a gang of stock rustlers known as "the boys." he's naive to their violent ways. >> these were outlaws and bad guys, and for billy to ride with them, it would have informed the rest of his career as a criminal, learning to be a better criminal by palling around with people who were really good at it. >> narrator: their leader, jesse evans, is a ruthless killer. >> so i hear tell you're pretty
good with a pistol. is that how you gut-shot that fella in fort grant? >> [ laughs ] >> don't worry, boy. you're gonna grow into them boots one day. >> ohh. [ chuckling ] ohh. >> oh, put that thing down. >> got a dangerous weapon there. that's a can, son. [ laughter ] careful. >> whoa. >> narrator: the boys are a cutthroat clan, reviled throughout the region. and now billy's decided to run with them. >> anybody want any more stew? you? [phone buzzing]
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[alarm beeps] ♪ ♪ the intelligent, all-new audi a4 is here. ♪ ♪ ain't got time to make no apologies...♪ >> ugh! >> aah! >> narrator: after killing a man in self-defense, 17-year-old billy the kid is wanted for murder. to survive life on the open range, he's taken up with a gang of rustlers who call themselves the boys. >> billy the kid is an example of the economics of his time and place. when you push people into desperate situations, they take
desperate actions. >> we had to make a living. rustling cattle was about all that was left for us wanted men. >> narrator: the boys are guns for hire, working for a network of ranchers who have taken control of new mexico's lincoln county. >> lincoln county is huge. it's the size of south carolina. it's a place that's attractive for what we now call cattle barons. billy finds himself in the midst of one of the most famous feuds in the history of the american west. >> narrator: the county, worth millions in ranching profits, is under the thumb of james dolan and lawrence murphy. the men hold the largest beef contracts and run the leading general store. >> dolan and murphy are the kinds of men who went west when it was still raw, who staked their claim. these are the types of men who had a vested interest in maintaining their control -- control of everything.
>> narrator: safeguarding that control is corrupt county sheriff william brady. all three men are irish immigrants. they deeply resent englishman john tunstall, an upstart cattle baron, and the first to cut into their action. >> john tunstall is an english gentleman who comes from wealth. he's a shrewd businessman who's confident he can drive the murphy-dolan cattle cartel out of business, but tunstall is naive to think he can beat them at their own dirty game. dolan, murphy, and their hired gun, sheriff brady, have no intention of giving up their lucrative control of the cattle business, and they will do whatever they can to hold on to it. >> narrator: determined to crush their competitor, dolan and murphy dispatch the boys to repeatedly raid tunstall's ranch. the violence escalates as the boys target anyone who opposes murphy and dolan, or dares to speak out against the boys and their legal activities.
>> whoo-hoo! >> just take whatever you want. leave my family alone. they didn't do nothing. leave my family alone! >> aah! >> [ groans ] >> calm down. this is a man we should be thanking for revealing to our good citizens our doings. >> being part of the gang means you're gonna be engaged in some crime, some violent crime. you don't do it because that's who you are. you do it because, well, that's what the gang requires, and this is what happens to billy the kid. >> i'm gonna take real good care of your young, pretty wife. >> narrator: when the boys start torturing innocents, billy makes a decision to bow out. >> yah! >> hey, where you going? >> jesse, the kid's taking your horse! >> when billy left the boys, he became a cook, and if you're trying not to be a hardened criminal, you've got to find something that you can do, even if it is just putting
beans in a pot and warming them up. >> i don't want you to eat it too fast, now. you got to savor the flavor, all right? >> narrator: for a while, billy lays low on a cowboy ranch, content to trade his pistol for a stew pot. >> hey, you old bastard. you want some more food? you're wolfing it down over there. >> narrator: but he can't escape his past. >> hey, billy, where did you get that horse? >> oh, i got it from a friend. >> narrator: when billy flees the boys, he unwittingly takes a horse that is stolen from john tunstall. he's caught red-handed and thrown into the lincoln county jail... a squalid hellhole. >> hey, kid. you got a visitor.
>> my name is john tunstall. >> i know who you are. >> i understand you stole some property of mine? >> i didn't know them was your horses, sir. >> i take it you're familiar with guns and the ways of cattle rustling? work for me, and i drop the charges. or you can choose prison. >> oh, i'd like that fine -- to work for you, mr. tunstall. >> john tunstall decides to offer the kid a job -- gives him this really -- you know, arguably, his first big break in life, right? and billy the kid never forgets it. he loves tunstall. >> narrator: tunstall is building his own gang to contend with the dangers of new mexico territory. lincoln county is home to the nation's highest murder rate and some of the richest and most corrupt cattle ranchers. billy is grateful for an opportunity to turn his life
around. he looks up to tunstall. >> tunstall sees something he can use in billy. there's a war brewing, and the kid is unafraid, even among grown men. so tunstall takes him in, and not so much a father figure, but a pretty savvy employer. >> narrator: to intimidate tunstall, murphy and dolan use their influence over sheriff brady and the local judge to issue a writ seizing tunstall's livestock. and they use the boys to do the dirty work. [ hoofbeats ] >> mr. tunstall! we ought to get out of here. >> billy, you go ahead and get out of here. i'll take care of this. >> these men ain't in the mood for talking. >> they know who these horses belong to. now, go. >> come on! get! >> tunstall didn't think that there's any danger or anything.
the whole thing could have been straightened out had the judge not been on the take from murphy. >> gentlemen, what can i help you with today? we can work this out just fine. these horses are exempt from confiscation. it's in the writ. i'm unarmed. listen. we could talk this through. >> narrator: woefully outgunned, the kid is powerless to intervene. [ horse neighing ] just weeks after billy walks out of jail legally and into the greatest opportunity of his life, the only man who gives hi >> i'll get some of them before i die.
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billy the kid gets a job as a cattle guard, the man who gives him a fresh start on life, john tunstall, is murdered before his eyes by the rival dolan-murphy cartel. >> i'll get every son of a bitch that helped kill john if it's the last thing i do. >> billy wasn't the only one who was determined to avenge tunstall's murder. a number of his former employees formed their own gang and called themselves the regulators. >> while billy is a regulator deputized by a justice of the peace, he's still a kid in this fight. the rest of the regulators and all of the boys are seasoned outlaws. biy is simply a loyal follower who is willing to put his life on the line to avenge the murder of the only man who gave him a break in life. >> narrator: unable to get near dolan and murphy, the new deputies ambush sheriff brady, who orchestrates the hit on tunstall.
>> aah! >> narrator: then all hell breaks loose. >> it turns into an insurrection. no one can get control of this. you got judges that are deputizing men right and left. everyone's legal. it's legal murder. >> narrator: billy and the regulators are ambushed at the home of alexander mcsween, tunstall's lawyer and business partner. pinned down for four days, the standoff ups the death count to nearly two dozen. >> mcsween was killed. the kid and a few others who were holed up in the house managed to escape. >> from that point on, the kid was on the run. >> narrator: when the controlling interests from
both sides are either dead or bankrupt, the war is over. governor lew wallace issues warrants for the survivors. one of the last men standing, billy now leads the regulators and seeks a private audience with the governor. >> they made outlaws of us, so i was edgy about my meeting with the governor with all those fresh warrants out on us. >> i want to help you, but you need to help me, right? >> yes, sir. >> one good deed deserves another. true? you testify against everyone involved in this damn war, and i'll pardon you. >> i will. i swear it. ♪ >> the kid and lew wallace come to a deal.
they're gonna bring dolan up on charges, and then billy's gonna get a pardon. well, dolan does get brought up on charges, but so does billy. >> billy's meeting with the governor reveals his immaturity. he's firmly entrenched in a criminal life, but fails to see his role for what it really is. once again he's looking to worm his way out of the consequences. when the shooting stops, a murder warrant is issued by the governor, and billy the kid is the only one indicted for his actions in the lincoln county war. >> come on. >> narrator: when billy learns of the double-cross, he flees to his old haunt -- fort sumner, and hides out with his girlfriend, paulita maxwell, and her older brother, pete. >> you better look at this, billy. "i will pay any person or persons $500 to capture william bonney, alias the kid." >> look at that.
there i am in black and white. look at this, paulita. i'm famous. >> narrator: an ambitious man familiar with billy the kid is tapped for the territory's most dangerous task. >> i won't let you down. >> narrator: lincoln county elects pat garrett as sheriff with one purpose -- bring in billy the kid dead or alive. >> pat garrett was, in fact, more of a politician than he was a lawman. he had dreams of the senate, perhaps even governor. to capture billy the kid would be a feather in pat garrett's cap. >> narrator: with a few top deputies, garrett heads out, knowing just where to find the kid. >> just four days later at a place called stinking springs, garrett catches up with billy. >> come on out, kid! we got you surrounded! >> go to hell, pat!
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>> just try me one time, billy. you'll see... how that feels. >> narrator: aware of billy's prior jailbreaks, sheriff garrett appoints deputies bob olinger and james bell to guard him day and night upstairs in the lincoln county courthouse. >> james bell was an easygoing man, but bob olinger was a bully who kept threatening the kid much in the manner that windy cahill did years and years earlier. >> hell, bob. i'm tired of being up here. i haven't had a meal in two days. >> i'm gonna go downstairs to get some grub. >> you got it, bob. >> at this point, i think billy recognizes there's no other option. he's not going to get amnesty. he's not going to get justice. what else but resort back to the way of the gun?
>> hey. hey, jim? jim, would you just let me please go to the privy? >> [ sighs ] >> don't you know i got to go? jim? just let me take one little break. i'm not gonna go anywhere. i promise. i got to be back here anyway to play poker with you tomorrow. come on. >> okay, hold your horses. >> narrator: in classic kid style, billy convinces bell to escort him outside. then on the way back makes his break. but billy pauses just long enough to settle an old score.
>> howdy, bob! [ women scream ] >> billy has the reputation not only as a violent outlaw, but an escape artist who has the love and respect of the people around him. no one is going to raise a hand against him as he wanders out of town. >> narrator: billy's escape amazes everyone... except pat garrett, who's publicly humiliated. >> the pressure is on pat garrett now to get the kid once and for all. he can see future elections slipping away from him if he doesn't deliver. >> gentlemen. bonney is armed and dangerous. he already killed two of my men. he ain't getting away again. >> narrator: he learns that billy is back with pete and paulita maxwell, who may now be pregnant with billy's child. >> p. maxwell is a very powerful land-grant holder in new mexico.
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♪ >> narrator: six decades after billy's alleged death, amateur historian william morrison is following up on a tip that billy is still alive and living under the alias william henry roberts. >> ♪ i'm not foolin' around ♪ i'm going all the way >> howdy. >> so, mr. roberts... there's a lot of talk about you being billy the kid. >> well, i don't know about that. i'm william henry roberts. i've been here a long time, son. >> narrator: morrison questions the 90-year-old at length, and eventually roberts reveals that, indeed, he is the notorious kid. >> when i come up, you had to kind of look out for yourself.
it wasn't always easy, and so you had to do some things sometimes to get along. >> he certainly knew a great deal about some of the actual places where billy the kid was, some of the people that billy the kid knew, and some historical facts, which were pretty obscure. >> according to william henry roberts, this is what happened at maxwell's house. roberts and his girlfriend, along with a friend named billy barlow, had just returned from a dance. barlow expressed an interest in having some dinner and was sent to cut a strip of meat hanging from maxwell's porch. as he approached maxwell's room, he spotted the two deputies. >> no one's here to hurt you. >> billy barlow walked into maxwell's room and said to maxwell... >> at that point, garrett pulled
his revolver and shot and killed the man known as billy barlow. billy the kid heard the gunshots and went on the run. >> i don't think that's him, pat. [ gunshots in distance ] >> stay right here. >> [ shouting indistinctly ] >> the next day, a friend of his, who brought his horse over to him, helped him mount up, and billy the kid rode away. >> narrator: roberts tells a convincing story, but morrison needs more proof. he asks roberts to demonstrate his dexterity with shackles. >> without hesitating, william henry roberts held
his hands out and folded his thumbs inward, making it thus easier to slip out of a pair of handcuffs. he said he'd been living in hiding because he feared he was going to be hung for a killing that he said he didn't do. >> narrator: moved by roberts' tale, morrison launches a campaign to get him a pardon. two years later, new mexico governor thomas mabry agrees to a meeting. >> gentlemen, here he is, billy the kid! [ camera shutters clicking ] >> back off. >> billy! >> billy! come here! >> narrator: for the governor, it's just a publicity stunt. for roberts, it's another betrayal. >> years ago! >> billy! >> did you really kill 21 men? [ indistinct talking ] >> narrator: just days later, william h. roberts dies from a massive heart attack. >> the roberts' version of events that night is certainly intriguing. evidence to support pat garrett's claim is hard to come by.
the truth is, we may never know for certain how billy the kid died. [ gunshot ] >> ugh! >> aah! >> but what we do know is that he became a killer. >> howdy, bob! [ women scream ] >> though he didn't murder the 21 men legend claims, he did kill at least 5 men in his lifetime. far from innocent, billy is a wayward youth living among the brutal violence of the western frontier. hiding beneath the surface of his charismatic charm is a desperate young man who survives long enough to become a legend of the real west. .
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