Pat Garrett and the Man Hunt

Garrett now sent over to the ranch house for food for his men, and the cooking was too much for the hungry outlaws, who had had nothing to eat. They put up a dirty white rag on a gun barrel and offered to give up. One by one, they came out and were disarmed. That night was spent at the Brazel ranch, the prisoners under guard and the body of Charlie Bowdre, rolled in its blankets, outside in the wagon. The next morning, Bowdre was buried in the little cemetery next to Tom O’Folliard. The Kid did not know that he was to make the next in the row.

These men surrendered on condition that they should all be taken through to Santa Fe, and Garrett, at the risk of his life, took them through Las Vegas, where Rudabaugh was wanted. Half the town surrounded the train in the depot yards. Garrett told the Kid that if the mob rushed in the door of the car he would toss back a six-shooter to him and ask him to help fight.

“All right, Pat,” said the Kid, cheerfully. “You and I can whip the whole gang of them, and after we’ve done it I’ll go back to my seat and you can put the irons on again. You’ve kept your word.” There is little doubt that he would have done this, but, as it chanced there was no need, since at the last moment Deputy Malloy, of Las Vegas, jumped on the engine and pulled the train out of the yard.

Billy the Kid was tried and condemned to be executed. He had been promised a pardon by Governor Lew Wallace, but the pardon did not come. A few days before the day set for his execution, the Kid, as elsewhere described, killed the two deputies who were guarding him, and got back once more to his old stomping grounds around Fort Sumner.

“I knew now that I would have to kill the Kid,” said Garrett to the writer, speaking reminiscently of the bloody scenes as we lately visited that country together. “We both knew that it must be one or the other of us if we ever met. I followed him up here to Sumner, as you know, with two deputies, John Poe and ‘Tip’ McKinney, and I killed him in a room up there at the edge of the old Cottonwood Avenue.”

He spoke of events now long gone by. It had been only with difficulty that we located the site of the building where the Kid’s gang had been taken prisoners. The structure itself had been torn down and removed. As to the old military post, once a famous one, it offered now nothing better than a scene of desolation. There was no longer a single human inhabitant there. The old avenue of cottonwoods, once four miles long, was now ragged and unwatered, and the great parade ground had gone back to sand and sagebrush. We were obliged to search for some time before we could find the site of the old Maxwell house, in which was ended a long and dangerous manhunt of the frontier. Garrett finally located the place, now only a rough quadrangle of crumbled earthen walls.

“This is the place,” said he, pointing to one corner of the grass-grown oblong. “Pete Maxwell’s bed was right in this corner of the room, and I was sitting in the dark and talking to Pete, who was in bed. The Kid passed Poe and McKinney right over there, on what was then the gallery, and came through the door right here.”

Peter Maxwell's house at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Peter Maxwell’s house at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

We paused for a time and looked with a certain gravity at this wind-swept, desolate spot, around which lay the wide, unwinking desert. About us were the ruins of what had been a notable settlement in its day, but which now had passed with the old frontier.

“I got word of the Kid up here in much the way I had once before,” resumed Garrett at length, “and I followed him, resolved to get him or to have him get me. We rode over into the edge of the town and learned that the Kid was there, but of course, we did not know which house he was in. Poe went in to inquire around, as he was not known there like myself. He did not know the Kid when he saw him, nor did the Kid know him.

“It was a glorious moonlight night; I can remember it perfectly well. Poe and McKinney and I all met a little way out from the edge of the place. We decided that the Kid was not far away. We went down to the houses, and I put Poe and McKinney outside of Pete Maxwell’s house and I went inside. Right here was the door. We did not know it at that time, but just about then the Kid was lying with his boots off in the house of an old Mexican just across there, not very far away from Maxwell’s door. He told the Mexican, when he came in, to cook something for him to eat. Maxwell had killed a beef not long before, and there was a quarter hanging up under the porch out in front. After a while, the Kid got up, got a butcher knife from the old Mexican, and concluded to go over and cut himself off a piece of meat from the quarter at Maxwell’s house. This is how the story arose that he came into the house with his boots in his hand to keep an appointment with a Mexican girl.

Peter Maxwell

Peter Maxwell

“The usual story is that I was down close to the wall behind Maxwell’s bed. This was not the case, for the bed was close against the wall. Pete Maxwell was lying in bed, right here in this corner, as I said. I was sitting in a chair and leaning over toward him, as I talked in a low tone. My right side was toward him, and my revolver was on that side. I did not know that the Kid was so close at hand, or, indeed, know for sure that he was there in the settlement at all.

“Maxwell did not want to talk very much. He knew the Kid was there and knew his own danger. I was talking to him in Spanish, in a low tone of voice, as I say, when the Kid came over here, just as I have told you. He saw Poe and McKinney sitting right out there in the moonlight, but did not suspect anything. ‘¿Quien es?’—’Who is it?’—he asked, as he passed them. I heard him speak and saw him come backing into the room, facing toward Poe and McKinney. He could not see me, as it was dark in the room, but he came up to the bed where Maxwell was lying and where I was sitting. He seemed to think something might not be quite right. He had in his hand his revolver, a self-cocking .41. He could not see my face, and he had not heard my voice, or he would have known me.

“The Kid stepped up to the bedside and laid his left hand on the bed and bent over Maxwell. He saw me sitting there in the half-darkness, but did not recognize me, as I was sitting down. My height would have betrayed me had I been standing. ‘Pete, ¿Quien es?’ he asked in a low tone of voice; and he half motioned toward me with his six-shooter. That was when I looked across into eternity. It wasn’t far to go.

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