“That was exactly how the thing was. I gave neither Maxwell nor the Kid time for anything farther. There flashed over my mind at once one thought, and it was that I had to shoot and shoot at once and that my shot must go to the mark the first time. I knew the Kid would kill me in a flash if I did not kill him.
“Just as he spoke and motioned toward me, I dropped over to the left and rather down, going after my gun with my right hand as I did so. As I fired, the Kid dropped back. I had caught him just about the heart. His pistol, already pointed toward me, went off as he fell, but he fired high. As I sprang up, I fired once more, but did not hit him, and did not need to, for he was dead.
“I don’t know that he ever knew who It was that killed him. He could not see me in the darkness. He may have seen me stoop over and pull. If he had had the least suspicion who it was, he would have shot as soon as he saw me. When he came to the bed, I knew who he was. The rest happened as I have told you. There is no other story about the killing of Billy the Kid which is the truth. It is also untrue that his body was ever removed from Fort Sumner. It lies there today, and I’ll show you where we buried him. I laid him out myself, in this house here, and I ought to know.”
Twenty-five years of time had done their work in all that country, as we learned when we entered the little barbed-wire enclosure of the cemetery where the Kid and his fellows were buried. There are no headstones in this cemetery, and no sacristan holds its records. Again Garrett had to search in the saltgrass and greasewood. “Here is the place,” said he, at length. “We buried them all in a row. The first grave is the Kid’s, and next to him is Bowdre, and then O’Folliard.”
Here was the sole remaining record of the man hunt’s end. So passes the glory of the world! In this desolate resting place, in a wind-swept and forgotten graveyard, rests all the remaining fame of certain bad men who in their time were bandit kings, who ruled by terror over half a Western territory. Even the headboard which once stood at the Kid’s grave—and which was once riddled with bullets by cowards who would not have dared to shoot that close to him had he been alive—was gone. It is not likely that the graves will be visited again by anyone who knows their locality. Garrett looked at them in silence for a time, then, turning, went to the buckboard for a drink at the canteen. “Well,” said he, quietly, “here’s to the boys, anyway. If there is any other life, I hope they’ll make better use of it than they did of the one I put them out of.”
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About the Author: Excerpted from the book The Story of the Outlaw; A Study of the Western Desperado, by Emerson Hough; Outing Publishing Company, New York, 1907. This story is not verbatim as it has been edited for clerical errors and updated for the modern reader. Emerson Hough (1857–1923).was an author and journalist who wrote factional accounts and historical novels of life in the American West. His works helped establish the Western as a popular genre in literature and motion pictures. For years, Hough wrote the feature “Out-of-Doors” for the Saturday Evening Post and contributed to other major magazines.
Billy the Kid – Fatal Shot in the Dark (by Pat Garrett, 1882)
Other Works by Emerson Hough: