In 1881 a legend was ended, though whether it was a legend worthy of praise or worth forgetting is up for debate between scholars and fans of the movie Young Guns. William H. Bonney, aka Henry McCarty, aka Henry Antrim, aka Billy the Kid, didn’t really live the life that Young Guns 1 and 2 showed in pop culture, but moments of his life caught in film were somewhat accurate since he did work for John Tunstall for a while, and he was a criminal. But as for the glorification of his life and his deeds, it feels fair to say that there might not have been a lot of heroes in his time, but not everyone was a stone-cold villain. The legend that Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid in the back at Fort Sumner in 1881 is a well-known tale that a lot of people still dispute to this day, but the fact that the revolver that Garrett used to finish the legendary outlaw just sold for millions of dollars is and isn’t that much of a surprise. People love items that tell a story and that belong to history, but authenticity is always in question when it comes to one item or another.
The problem with thinking that the revolver that was sold is genuine is that it takes a lot of faith as well as the experts that might know a little bit about firearms to really tell us if this was the gun or not. Plus, there are still rumors that Brushy Bill Roberts, who claimed to be Billy the Kid under a different name, might have been telling the truth, which might have the effect of bringing down the value on this item in a very big way. One has to remember that as valuable as firearms were back in the days of the outlaws and the lawmen that were sent to hunt them down, firearms might have changed hands a few times now and then.
To think that this isn’t so is a bit naive since no matter that a person might have been close with their weapon, to think that they never lost them, abandoned them, or even replaced them after a while is just a little too naive. There are a lot of factors that go into this matter and a lot of them are bound to be tossed out immediately since there are times when people want to believe the facts that have been handed down from one generation to another, and they want to believe what the stories from the past tell them. Billy the Kid was a murderer by all accounts, no matter if he did what he did for a good reason at times. Everyone in the old west had a reason to draw on someone at times and whether it was right or wrong, it was usually justified in their minds. But Pat Garrett had a job to do when he went after Billy the Kid, and for all intents and purposes he did it since a lot of people aren’t willing to dispute that things happened the way the history books say they did.
But, as you can guess, history isn’t as perfect as one might want it to be since there are plenty of accounts of what happened at Fort Sumner around 140 years ago. The historians that keep the records that were supposedly penned and kept by their predecessors for so long are bound to stick to the tales that they’ve been trusted with and have come to believe in, so it’s not hard to think that many would gladly argue that the colt revolver that went for millions recently was in fact the weapon that ended the life of one Billy the Kid. Discussing it any further though would likely open up one debate after another since it’s been stated that Pat Garrett shot the Kid in the back in the dark, and others have gone on to believe that Garrett staged the shooting to let the Kid escape. To this day no real proof has come about to say whether or not either story is true, but artifacts of the past still have a special hold over people that want to believe the stories that have been told, and as it’s easy to see, some folks and institutions are willing to fork over a hefty sum to own a piece of that history.
It’s likely that any chance to know what really happened between Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett on that fateful night will ever surface since DNA is out, and eyewitness reports could say anything. Historians are given the pieces that remain to work with, but like a lot of different tales from the past, most of what’s laid down in the history books will be the best guess, supported at times by facts.
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