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The guardian letters to the editor today is a letter that was published in the Guardian on June 2023.
Tintype of Pat Garrett I was taken aback when I saw the cover picture for the February 2023 issue of Wild West. I don’t know anybody who thinks that’s a Pat Garrett photo. It may have belonged to Jarvis Garrett at one point or another, but it doesn’t make it a picture of his father. There’s also a fake Billy the Kid picture floating around that the owner claims comes from Garrett’s family, but without a signature from Garrett identifying the image as Billy, it’s most likely simply a goofy-looking Garrett relative. Jarvis didn’t include your cover image in the special edition of his father’s The Authentic Life of Billy, The Kid, published by Horn & Wallace in 1964, for which Jarvis provided a biographical foreword and two photos of Pat from his personal collection, and for which Jarvis provided a biographical foreword and two photos of Pat from his personal collection. Neither is the picture in Leon Metz’s [Garrett biography], which had access to Jarvis and Pauline Garrett’s collections. Sure, it’s conceivable that Metz, Robert Utley, Frederick Nolan, Robert McCubbin, Jack DeMattos, Herman Weisner, Donald Cline, and others missed this picture, but there’s still an issue (a big one, really) in that it doesn’t look like Garrett. I understand this is one of those “eye of the beholder” situations, but I think you’ll see what I mean if you compare the picture to all of the known genuine Garrett photos we have. It’s a pity that the photo’s presence on your cover gives it credibility that it doesn’t deserve, in my view.
To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett Cascade, Colo. Mark Lee Gardner, author of To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett Cascade, Colo.
‘It’s a pity the photo’s presence on your cover gives it credibility that it doesn’t deserve,’ says the author.
The Pat Garrett tintype was purchased in October 2017 when the contents of the Billy the Kid Museum in Fort Sumner, N.M., were sold at auction, according to the tintype’s owners, Karla Steen and Sally Kading. “Date unknown, the estate representatives think this was purchased by Joe Bowlin from Jarvis Garrett, Pat Garrett’s son, in 1983, 5 1/16” high x 3 1/16” broad, great details; original envelope with Joe Bowlin’s writing,” the tintype was accompanied by the statement. I understand Mr. Gardner’s worry, says David Thomas, who authored the story “He Shot the Sheriff” in the February 2023 edition. However, I think the tintype picture is of Garrett, based on the provenance given by the Billy the Kid Museum. There’s no reason to think Joe Bowlin lied about where he received it (the envelope said “Pat Garrett”), and there’s no reason to suppose Jarvis would give out pictures of anybody other than his father.
Garrett as a shooter The transcript of evidence as [New Mexico] Territorial Attorney General James Hervey questioned Carl Adamson, who was present at the murder of Pat Garrett, was very interesting to me in David G. Thomas’ essay “He Shot the Sheriff.” Thomas claims that Adamson’s description of a fight between Garrett and Wayne Brazel that resulted in the shooting has finally solved the riddle of who shot Garrett. If Adamson’s account is the last word on Thomas, the author ignores a major inconsistency in Adamson’s evidence. When the first shot was fired, Adamson claimed he was relieving himself on the side of the road with his back to the two guys. He claimed the first shot happened “just about the time” he turned around to face the two guys. Adamson claimed the second shot occurred “as fast as a guy can cock a handgun” when questioned about the time. “He was facing him,” Adamson said when asked how Garrett was positioned in relation to Brazel when the shooting started. According to Dr. William C. Field, who conducted Garrett’s autopsy, “I was convinced he’d been shot in the back of the skull, because when I inspected the hole, I saw that [the hair] was pushed inward into the wound.” This points to some nefarious collusion and deception on the side of Adamson and Brazel. This glaring inconsistency between empirical facts and testimony is troubling, yet it is not addressed in the paper.
Dahlonega, Georgia’s Mark Warren
David Thomas replies, “I was unable to provide the full transcript due to space constraints” (you can find it in my book Killing Pat Garrett). When Adamson stepped out of the buggy to pee, he had his back to the buggy when he heard Garrett threaten Brazel, he said. Garrett then jumped out of the buggy, which he heard. When Brazel fired the first shot, he was still looking away. After hearing the first gunfire, he turned to see Garrett “staggering” from the second. Brazel fired the second shot without his knowledge. Garrett’s location when Brazel’s first shot struck him is unclear. Garrett had to be moved away from Brazel, perhaps hanging onto the buggy with one hand, as his feet fell on the ground, according to Dr. Field’s recalled postmortem conclusion that the gunshot entered the back of his skull. Adamson’s testimony and that finding do not conflict in my opinion. Regarding whether Adamson would work with Brazel, I should point out that Brazel had never met Adamson until being introduced to him by Garrett in El Paso.
No. 11 on the List [From the December 2023 Roundup, “Top 10 Reasons Billy Was More ‘Outlaw’ Than Jesse:] And here’s why Billy the Kid was more of a “outlaw” than Jesse James: He was the only criminal to have his own ballet, courtesy to Aaron Copland’s 1938 Billy the Kid, in addition to being the aforementioned rock ‘n’ roll celebrity, thanks to Bon Jovi. I’ll leave it to you to decide if this is an indication of being more “outlaw” or just more renowned. I say this despite the fact that William Westfall, a cousin of mine, was the conductor murdered on the train Jesse James robbed in Missouri on July 15, 1881. Westfall had brought the Pinkertons as near to the James farm as the rails would allow, and then given them instructions on how to get there. When the Pinkertons launched a “smoke bomb,” the younger James child [Archie] died and their mother [Zerelda] lost an arm. The game is over.
Mike Flannery of Grand Forks, North Dakota
Send letters to Wild West, 901 N. Glebe Road, 5th Floor, Arlington, VA 22203, or send them via email. Please provide your first and last name, as well as your hometown. These letters appeared in the June 2023 edition of the magazine.
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