MY WEST: Billy The Kid Part I
Howdy. *grin* my first blog in so long I have forgotten when the last one was. I HOPE for this to be the first in a series of blogs about “My West” – West as in The Great American Cowboy.
Sometimes I get a tiny bit frustrated that so few people – and I’m talking about Friends with a capital F – people I Like a whole bunch, Love, Admire – people with whom I wish to share things that mean a great deal to me – how very few share my love and interest in the American West of the post Civil War to early 20th Century era of United States History.
A Person is the result of the combination of “Where You Were When.” This is more than just where we were born/raised . . . our “formative years.” “When” also includes “Now.”
I was born in a small town in the Texas Panhandle, named after a breed of cattle. “Hereford” to be exact. My Mother’s Family always had a serious case of wanderlust and by the time I was 4 we had lived in Hereford, Amarillo, and Roswell. Yes THAT Roswell.
I say by the time I was age 4 because I am blessed AND cursed with a ridiculous memory. I clearly remember my 4th birthday; I sort of had a birthday party. It was at my maternal grandmother’s house in Roswell, New Mexico and was attended by my Mom’s little brother plus her three sisters and their husbands and some cousins. My cousins on my Mom’s side all referred to our grandparents as “MawMaw and PawPaw.”
I have a ton of memories before my 4th birthday but I can’t put them in order. My earliest memory is of teaching myself to whistle – – – listening to the wind whistling in and out of the old house we lived in at that time – and also sound effects on the soap operas my Mom listened to on the radio. In the 1990’s I learned that event took place when I was 8 months old.
I’m wrestling with myself over how much to say about “When” and I guess that I may as well admit that “I” – the author of this blog and the person who operates Path and his brothers in Second Life – is considerably older than the “late thirties” I portray Path to be. Late thirties is a good average of my RL chronological age and my “internal age” which is 5.
The thing is – my parents grew up in the Depression. The got married when my Dad was 15 and my Mom 13 and the dark family secret was that they slipped off to Oklahoma in order to be married that young and then had to get remarried in Texas – by which time my Dad was 16 and my Mom was 14. So my parents got married 10 days after my Mom’s 14th birthday. I was born 2 years and 2 weeks after my Mom’s 14th birthday.
So about my memories – I have vivid memories of – people, places, doing things that happened before my 4th birthday/beer bust. Like being at the Railroad Depot in Amarillo when my Dad came home after the end of World War II.
By the time I was 16 my “Where I was When” was the American Southwest in the 1940’s and 50’s. The When and Where are two important legs of a person’s Environment; obviously the people who have an effect upon people make up the third leg of that Environment.
Within this past year (2016) I completed reading a book about the life of Frank Hamer – the Texas Ranger / Police Officer who was most responsible for putting an end to the career of the outlaw couple Bonnie and Clyde (Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow). I actually hope to write on this series of blogs long enough to address Bonnie and Clyde this remark is actually about Mr. Hamer during a time leading up to the “Barrow Gang’s crime spree. The book is a very complete biography of Mr. Hamer’s Life the event to which I refer was a huge, destructive Race Riot which took place in 1930, in Sherman, Texas. This article gives an overview of that event. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/jcs06
The biography of Mr. Hamer includes much more detail than the article referenced; the point is – reading about that event which I had never heard of before in my life – helped me to better understand the racism of my parents. I will probably touch upon this again but the seemingly inborn hatred of my parents toward Black People was – – it’s difficult to describe. Especially when discussing one’s parents. They inherited their racism from there time – and place, and during my formative years there was nothing to mitigate that racism. It included Hispanic people also but – I’ll get back to this subject later in this series of blogs. Just please know that with me – it didn’t take. By my early teens I KNEW that my parents were wrong.
My Dad was a cowboy – for a short time in his life. He always said that he worked on a “Farm” but he had a horse, (no car) and did the work of a wrangler plus a farm hand. During the immediate period following my Dad’s death in 1991, my Mom’s sisters – my Aunt Imogene and Geraldine (Genie and Jerry) – told me about my Dad courting my Mom. They said he would ride up on his horse, his dog following, and their “dates” consisted of going for a walk – the two of them in front, the horse following – his reins hanging down to the dirt road, and of course the dog bounding along with them, exploring and sniffing.
He was raised by a very staunch Assembly of God family; his mother (who was called “Grandmother” by me and all my cousins) was a founding member of the First Assembly of God Church in Hereford and last I heard, her name is on a plaque inside the current building housing that entity. During the time that he was affiliated with the AOG (his birth in 1924 until about 1951) in his very strict family, movies were considered to be inventions of the devil; by the time my Dad had gotten out on his own he was totally infused with a Love of Movies; in fact a week before his death he and I watched a John Wayne movie together.
He loved movies in general but most of all he loved westerns. That dual love was definitely passed to me; when I finally got around to getting a degree after retiring from the U.S. Navy I studied Television and Motion Picture Production (as Art Forms).
I grew up loving western movies – and, although early on I had a child’s inability to discern the difference between a quality movie from a piece of junk I did figure out that – although I totally LOVED Roy Rogers, the movies my Dad took me to that featured Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, Robert Mitchum, Preston Foster and Gregory Peck seemed to have a certain something about them that told better stories than those staring Roy, Gene Autry, Lash LaRue, the Durango Kid et al. A sort of footnote: I never saw a Hopalong Cassidy movie in a Theater.
Following that 1946 Birthday Party Bash, my Dad, Mom and I moved to El Paso,TX for a while and then lived much of 1947 in various places in New Mexico, finally settling in Pampa, Texas which is Northeast of Amarillo. (Hereford is another 50 miles or so Southwest of Amarillo.) Between 1947 and 1949 we visited many “places of interest” in New Mexico – including Carlsbad Cavern, White Sands, and Lincoln, New Mexico.
Lincoln was and is famous for having been the center of the “Lincoln County War” of the 1870’s; the most famous – or infamous – participant in that war is without a doubt Billy the Kid.
I remember my Dad explaining how Billy managed to escape being held in Jail in the Lincoln County Courthouse, saying that he was playing cards with his jailor and dropped a card and because of his cuffs and chains couldn’t retrieve the card himself so his Jailer bent over to retrieve the card and Billy took his gun.
It was during this era that my cousin Larry Don and I went to see a movie called “The Kid From Texas” which was one of Audey Murphy’s earliest movies – and I remember wondering why they named it that because didn’t everyone know that Billy The Kid was from New York City?
To Be Continued . . .