The search for Billy the Kid is fraught with pitfalls created by various myth makers. Depending on the source, Billy was either a sociopath, a misunderstood youth or a Robin Hood. Controversy even surrounds his death: most historians contend that he was shot and killed by sheriff Pat Garrett but a faithful public insists that Billy escaped the hands of his nemesis.
Billy the Kid was born Henry McCarty in 1859. Throughout his life he went by several aliases including William H. Bonney, Billy Bonney, Henry Antrim, and Kid Antrim. It was not until the final years of his life that he became known as Billy the Kid. Born in New York City in the Irish ghettos, Billy and his older brother lived with their mother Catherine McCarty. The McCarty family later moved to Wichita, Kansas, then settled in New Mexico where Catherine married William Henry Harrison Antrim. By 1875, Catherine was dead of tuberculosis.
After his mother's death, young Billy turned to a life of delinquency. His first crime, at age 15 got him off to a dubious start as a future desperado: the theft of several pounds of butter from a local rancher (James 25). Later Billy was caught stealing clothes from a Chinese laundry. He ended up in jail for this offense, but escaped by climbing through a chimney.
Billy left for Arizona, where he honed his skills as a criminal. There he engaged in horse and cattle thievery, and became an expert with firearms. Billy developed a fascination for guns: "He could take two six-shooters, loaded and cocked, one in each hand . . . and twirl one in one direction and the other in the other direction, at the same time" (Utley 66). His obsession with firearms extended well beyond gun play, Billy reportedly shot and killed his first victim, blacksmith Francis "Windy" Cahill while in Arizona (James 25). Billy was 17 years old at the time.
In 1877, Billy returned to New Mexico and became embroiled in the Lincoln County War....