Old West History Trivia


15 Minutes of Fame

One hundred twenty eight years ago, this fellow was a 28 year old out of work buffalo hunter with nothing to his name but his horse, saddle, and rifle. Three years later, 125 years ago tomorrow (July 14th), he became famous. Can you name this Old West figure and comment on, or tell a little of his story?


20 Responses to “Old West History Trivia”

  1. Terry Austin Says:

    He bought a tub of Dapper Dan Moustache Wax, spun his facial hair into a handsome handlebar version, and caught on with the Seattle Pilots baseball team.

    Later, when the team moved to Milwaukee, he established himself as one of the great closers in the history of the game.

    Today, schoolchildren everywhere know the Ballad of Rollie Fingers.

  2. Capt MidKnight Says:


    Close – but no cigar.
    It is nice to know, however, that there is another fan of O Brother, Where Art Thou? on the Blog.

  3. DeJon Redd Says:

    Okay, I admit it, Cap’n. I cheated. So I won’t give away the secret.

    But I will suggest he’s most famous for kililng Henry McCarty.

    Thx for the challenge…

  4. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Um, the original Brawny paper towel guy?

  5. Capt MidKnight Says:

    dejon redd said
    Okay, I admit it, Cap’n. I cheated. So I won’t give away the secret.

    What the heck. Nobody’s perfect. You think I didn’t have to look it up too? Let’s see if anybody else knows who Henry McCarty turned out to be.

  6. Capt MidKnight Says:

    Um, the original Brawny paper towel guy?

    Afraid not – nor The Marlboro Man either.

  7. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I cheated, too, sort of by accident… but I won’t give my cheating-technique away for others just yet…

    So I know both answers, but unfairly.

  8. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Was he bigger than a breadbox?

  9. Capt MidKnight Says:

    Was he bigger than a breadbox?

    Actually, he was said to be 6’4 1/2″ – in his stocking feet.
    He has been played by several well known actors including James Coburn and, most recently, William Peterson, of CSI Las Vegas fame.

    Unfortunately, he died a somewhat ignominous death. Anyone know the circumstances?

  10. Terry Austin Says:

    Was he shot to death just for snoring?

  11. Capt MidKnight Says:

    Was he shot to death just for snoring?

    He was shot to death all right, but what he was doing wouldn’t pass for snoring.

  12. DeJon Redd Says:

    according to wikipedia, he was arguing about goats just before his untimely demise.

  13. Terry Austin Says:

    Had he called one of the goats a slut?

  14. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Bat Masterson?

  15. Capt MidKnight Says:

    OK. Here’s the short history of our Man of the Hour.

    His name, as most of you have guessed by now, was Patrick Floyd Garrett.

    Pat was born June 5, 1850 in Alabama. When he was six, his parents moved to Louisiana where his father owned two plantations (3,000 acres). His parents died shortly after the war and in January 1869, 18 year old Pat left home and joined the thousands of young dispossessed Southerners who were drifting west. For the next few years, Pat knocked around Texas, punching cows and hunting buffalo until the herds ran out. In early 1878, he drifted into Ft. Sumner, New Mexico Territory and got a job with a local rancher named Pete Maxwell. Later on, he left Maxwell’s employ and opened a restaurant and went into partnership in a saloon.

    During this time, Pat managed, for the most part, to stay out of the local fracas that came to be known as The Lincoln County War, but he became friends with many of the young cowpunchers and assorted saddle tramps who made up the “soldiers” for both sides, especially a young, easy going, buck toothed cowboy turned “Regulator” (hired gunman) for the Tunstall/McSween faction known to almost everyone as simply “The Kid.”

    After the “War” wound down, with considerable casualties on both sides, including some of the principals – Tunstall and McSween were both gunned down, and Murphy, the leader of the opposing group, drank himself to death – The Kid and some of his friends went into the cattle rustling business. They soon made themselves enough of a nuisance to the large operators in the region, primarily John Chisum, that something had to be done. The Kid had already been arrested and tried for a couple of murders, including gunning down the Sheriff of Lincoln County on the main street of the county seat, but had escaped. Clearly, new blood was needed in the law enforcement area.

    Mostly because he knew the Kid and most of his gang, how they thought, and where they hid out, Pat Garrett was approached by the power brokers of the area to run for Sheriff of Lincoln County in the election of November 7, 1880. He was promised their political support, and the new Territorial Governor, Lew Wallace, took time out from working on the first draft of his novel, Ben Hur to promise Pat the full support of his office as well. As a sort of down payment, even before the election, Pat was also “assisted in acquiring” an nice little 1,250 acre spread outside of Roswell. All he had to do was bring in or kill The Kid and break up the cattle rustling ring. With such backing, no one was surprised when Pat won the election by a fair margin. All the electoral tinkering aside, Pat Garrett was probably one of the few men in New Mexico who had a chance of catching The Kid.

    Six weeks after his election, Pat and a posse surprised The Kid and his group as the rode into Ft. Sumner in a snow storm. The Kid escaped, but one of his friends, Tom O’Follard, was killed. Three days later, Garrett and his men surrounded The Kid and four others at a place called Stinking Springs. Charlie Bowdre was killed and the rest surrendered, including a colorful character named “Dirty Dave” Rudebaugh. Folks who knew him said his nickname referred to his personal hygiene as well as his personality.

    The Kid spent the next four months being moved from jail to court in central New Mexico until he was sentenced to death by a court in Mesilla. On April 21st, was sent back to Sheriff Garrett in Lincoln to be hung on May 13, 1881. A week later, while Garrett was out of town, the Kid escaped, killing his two guards, J.W. Bell and Bob Olinger. When told of the escape, Garrett’s only comment was “Now I’ll have to do it all over again.”

    The Kid ran free for another two and a half months. On July 10th, acting on a tip from a town drunk, Garrett and two deputies, Kip McKinney and John Poe rode out of Roswell toward Ft. Sumner. They were supposed to meet an informant on July 13th, but he failed to show, so, the next evening, they decided to slip into Ft. Sumner, the Kid’s favorite hang out, to see what they could find. Just before midnight, Pat slipped into his old friend Pete Maxwell’s bedroom and was asking him if The Kid was in the area when a figure walked up to Maxwell’s porch. Passing Garrett’s two deputies, neither of who knew The Kid by sight, the figure came into Maxwell’s room asking “Who were those two guys out front, Pete?” Seeing the second figure sitting on Maxwell’s bed in the dark, he switched to Spanish, asking “Quien es? Quien es? (Who is it?). By this time, Garrett, who had recognized The Kid’s voice immediately, had gotten to his pistol out (he had actually been sitting on his holster when the Kid entered). He fired two shots as fast as he could while diving to the floor. The first round hit The Kid in the heart and the second ricocheted around the room and wound up in Maxwell’s head board. The Kid was dead by the time he hit the floor. He had a knife in his left hand and a Colt .41 caliber double action revolver in the other.

    Garrett’s life after killing Billy the Kid had its ups and downs. He prospered for a while and then fell on hard times.

    On the morning of February 29, 1908, four months short of his 58th birthday, Pat Garrett and another man left his ranch in a wagon heading to a meeting in Las Cruces concerning leasing some property to a couple of cattle men. Garrett was on the brink of bankruptcy, and was counting on this deal to bail him out. The only problem was that he already had it leased to another fellow who was running over a thousand goats on it. All his attempts to break the lease and free up the property had failed.

    Somewhere along the road, the goat rancher joined the wagon, riding beside it on his horse, and a heated discussion began. About four miles out of Las Cruces, Garrett stopped the wagon, left his shotgun on the seat, and walked to rear to relieve himself – all bad decisions. Sometime before he finished his activities, he was shot in the back of the head with a .45 and then, presumably as he fell, he was shot again in the stomach. The goat rancher immediately rode into Las Cruces and surrendered to the sheriff. He claimed that Garrett had picked up his shotgun and threatened to put him off the land right then, at which point he shot Garrett in fear of his own life. The bullet hole in the back of Garrett’s head notwithstanding, the goat rancher went to trial, pled self defense, and was acquitted.

    Pat Garrett was buried in Odd Fellow’s Cemetery in Las Cruces, New Mexico on March 5, 1908. Among the pall bearers was the governor of the Territory.

  16. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Wow, you’re good! You might think about doing some history writing or something like that, ya know?

    Okay, I’ll reveal my own little secret (may be DeJon’s, too). I didn’t really get to play along because, when I first saw the picture, I put my cursor on the picture for some reason, and the web address showed up at the bottom of my browser and had the name, Pat Garrett, there.

    Oh well. Cheating aside, I enjoyed the whole ballgame!

  17. Capt MidKnight Says:

    I didn’t really get to play along because, when I first saw the picture, I put my cursor on the picture for some reason, and the web address showed up at the bottom of my browser and had the name, Pat Garrett, there.

    As my youngest daughter would say:
    My Bad!!!

    I’ll be sneaker next time.

  18. juvenal_urbino Says:

    But I will suggest he’s most famous for kililng Henry McCarty.

    Who in the wide, wide world of sports is Henry McCarty?

  19. Capt MidKnight Says:

    The man that history knows as Billy the Kid was born Henry McCarty in either September or November 1859 in New York City. The various Old West researcher geeks have not been able to find almost nothing about Henry’s father, Michael, but he and Henry’s mother were almost certainly Irish immigrants. We know that Henry had a brother named Joe, who was either older or younger, depending on which record you believe. By 1868, Henry’s mother, Catherine, had moved the family to Indianapolis and listed herself as a widow. The next year, the McCartys are in Wichita, along with a man she met in Indianapolis, Bill Antrim. Cathrine owned property and ran a business for a year, but then suddenly left for points west.

    We know that Henry was in Santa Fe, New Mexico on March 1, 1873, because he and his brother Joe are listed as witnesses at the wedding of their mother and Bill Antrim, most likely making legal the long relationship between their mother and “Uncle Bill.” The new family continued to move south to Silver City where Catherine died of tuberculosis on September 16 1874. A year later, 15 year old Henry Antrim, as he now called himself, was arrested for petty theft, escaped from the local jail, and was on his own. By late 1877, he was in eastern New Mexico, running with a gang of horse thieves, and calling himself William H Bonney. During the Loncoln County War, he was a soldier for the John Tunstall/ Alexander McSween/John Chisum faction, and thought very highly of Mr. Tunstall in particular. When Tunstall was murdered by rival Murphy faction members, The Kid, as he was now know, swore revenge, and the rest, as I’ve laid out in my brief history of Pat Garrett, is history.

    Above information mainly from Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life Robert M Utley 1989.

    Was that more than you wanted to know?

  20. Capt MidKnight Says:

    The various Old West researcher geeks have not been able to find almost nothing about Henry’s father, Michael, but he and Henry’s mother were almost certainly Irish immigrants.

    A thousand pardons for my haste which produced the obnoxious double negative in the above passage. It’s almost like I was un-intelligent or something.

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