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Historically Speaking: The story of Billy the Kid — told by his friend John Meadows, part 2

Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives White Oaks — date and persons unknown.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily


Today, we continue the story originally published in the March 2, 1931 edition of the Roswell Daily Record, told by John P. Meadows when he arrived in New Mexico. Billy the Kid helped him and became his friend. The first part of the story was reprinted Feb. 9, 2020 in the Daily Record, which is available online at rdrnews.com.

“… When he (Billy the Kid) was rough, he was rough as a man could get, yet he had a good streak in him somewhere, and where he got it, the Lord only knows and he won’t tell, but he evidently had some good feelings. He did things I can’t endorse nor like, when he killed Charlie Carlisle. He didn’t need to do that. He was too awful rough at times, but everything in this country was rough right about then and it was very rough. The country was full of all kinds of bad men, from coldblooded murderers down to sneaky thieves, and everybody just had to take care of himself, and the man that was the quickest with his gun was the fellow that came out first. … It seemed like the Kid was pretty quick with his gun and sometimes quicker than he ought to be. He done things that no one would endorse, and I don’t.

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“Cowboy: when did he kill his first man?

“I don’t know when, but I do know where. It was at Camp Thomas, Arizona. It was an old blacksmith. The Kid was dealing monte, he had run away from home at Silver City and went out to Camp Thomas, him and a Mexican friend named Segundo. They went to a gambling house, dance hall, and made a deal with the proprietor to deal monte. He set up a table, and the old blacksmith there was broke, had spent all his money, and he took a notion the Kid was nothing but a boy and he could get a drink off of him, and he tried to take some of the Kid’s money. The Kid slapped his hand away and said, ‘Go off and let me alone, here’s two bits.’ The old man took the two bits and the people who were there told me that in September 1880, and the Kid also told me this. … Presently the old fellow took a notion to have another drink and tried to take it from the Kid, and the Kid resisted it and he slapped the Kid under the table. But when the Kid came out from under the table, he came out shooting and the bullet went out through his head.

“The Kid and Segundo then made a trip into old Mexico and trailed over the Montezuma Trail and down into Chihuahua, worked a while, and I forgot how long, for an old cow man, and after they delivered that herd of cattle, him and Segundo lost their job and came back towards Juarez. Near Juarez, they went to Isleta. Segundo had relatives living at Isleta and they stopped there among his relatives. In a day or two, the Kid had a taste of cow work, and that work he done in Mexico with cattle must have been the first cow work he ever done. He heard of a big cow outfit up at Fort Seldon and went out there to work for John Keeney. Keeney had a bunch of stolen cattle and the Kid told me he played poker and won two or three dollars, and then went back to Isleta, there wasn’t no cow work for Keeney.

“He stopped at Las Cruces and dealt monte in the Lapoint Saloon. Lapoint told me this same thing. He goes on back to Isleta and had a little difference with Segundo, Segundo wanted to go down through the Big Bend. The Kid wanted to go to the Chisums to get a job. He came through the Guadalupes and at Pine Springs they stayed all night. Next morning, Segundo quit and went back towards Fort Davis, he never saw him again. The Kid went up and joined Mr. Chisum’s outfit in some way, but he was with the Chisums a while and then drifted off up the Hondo.

“I am getting way off with my story. I want to go back to Fort Sumner about the next day, if I remember right, after these men left there, a man named Doc, who was a partner of Pankey, rode in and had lost six head of horses, two of them favorite horses, and you could tell he thought we folks must know where them horses was, you could see that he felt that way. But he had trailed them to where they crossed the Pecos River right below Sunnyside. He told us all about it. Doc was a partner of Pankey but hadn’t seen Pankey with the cattle. The Kid told him, ‘I have sold these cattle and I will give you a bill of sale and you can take it to Pankey.’ George Fulham and I witnessed that bill of sale where he sold the forty-two head of cattle to Pankey.

“The Kid said I’ll bet them horses are up at Pinos Wells, and a bunch of thieves that is laying up there has them. I said, ‘Let’s go get them,’ that hundred dollars he offers would look good to me now. He said, ‘I don’t care about fooling with it, but I want to get back to White Oaks, I won some pretty good money at White Oaks, I want to go back.’ So we went up, this Doc, I cannot think of his other name, he told me where we would find the trail and we took it and followed it to Seven Lakes. Got to the big lake and it had water in it, camped before we got to it, next morning rode up and looked over and he said, ‘These are a bunch of horse thieves, these are Indians and I would not be surprised if it ain’t Victorio’s whole outfit. …’ We looked up and hunted around there to see what was left, and I found a new rawhide rope and we found an old pony that was lame and his back skinned, and was no manner of account, and I said that thing don’t look like it would do anybody any good.

“When we got to Pinos Wells, the Kid was going to turn off to White Oaks and I was going with him if we didn’t find the horses, but the Indians had killed three or four people there and they were burying them when we got there. He said let’s go over to Punta de Agua, we found a sheep camp at a waterhole, and stayed all night. The next day, we turned south and went to Gran Quivira. Found another water hole over there, been raining in that country. We got there in the afternoon and stayed until the next day afternoon to let the horses rest up. We left there about noon or a little later and had calculated to get water at Red Lake and got there next morning and there wasn’t a drop of water there.

“He said the next water would be at the C Dot Ranch (now the Bar W,) then owned by Tom Catron and his brand was a C with a little dot in it, so they called it the C Dot Ranch. We got there late in the evening and the Kid gave me two silver dollars and he said, ‘Go up there to that ranch and get some grub, I have had trouble with these folks and I don’t care to do anything that is embarrassing, I have a chance to get out of all this devilment and I don’t want to get in to any more.’

“He had a letter from Governor Lew Wallace to come in and give himself up and stand his trial and if anybody was convicted on either side, he would pardon him. The governor was doing everything he could to bring peace in Lincoln County, and it had been in turmoil for two years and he was writing to do anything to get them pacified, to bring peace up there, and that is the way that letter sounded.

“I went up and got the grub and came back and told the Kid. The old man didn’t charge me for this grub, here’s your money. He said, ‘Put it in your pocket you may need it. I will get up that much.’ We camped there about half a mile from the ranch and next day, we rode into White Oaks. When we got there these very same identical men, the same I had seen in Fort Sumner, four or five of them, there in White Oaks. When we rode in, I met some of these people. One was Billy Wilson and Charles Bowdre, and Tom Cooper, and O’Folliard.

“I went and hunted a job and got one with old Uncle John Walton, who went over and lived at Lincoln many years and died in Lincoln. Old man LaRue was in charge of the mine. I saw Uncle John and he said, ‘I need a man here, but I have no authority to hire him. LaRue is in charge of it and he is not here; if you want to, come and go to work and I think you will have no trouble getting your pay when La Rue comes on Saturday.’ So I worked for him, it was Monday when we got there. I worked until Saturday night. Sunday, LaRue comes in and says, things are in a lawsuit and we will have to wait for our money, and I am waiting yet.

“Cowboy: Where did the Kid go after he left John Chisum’s ranch?

“My understanding is, I might be making a mistake and if I do I will thank any old-timer to put me straight. I want the truth to go here tonight, I don’t want to say nothing to offend anybody. I am going to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. If I make a mistake I want somebody to put me straight. The way I understand it is only going to be an outline of history anyway.”

At this point, the original story continues on Tuesday, March 3, 1931,

Roswell Daily Record


“Old Timer, Friend of Billy the Kid, Tells of the Kid’s Capture After Many Killings

“John Meadows Continues Story Of The Kid’s Career, With Huge Praise For Sheriff Pat Garrett In His Fearless Cleaning Up Of The Lawless

“The Kid went from Chisum’s up on the Ruidoso and if I remember right, he stopped with Frank and George Coe. Whether this is just right or not, I don’t and can’t say, but he told me about living with Dick Brewer and Frank in George Cole. He stayed quite a little while with them and then went over and went to work for Mr. Tunstall, who had cattle down on the Felix. The Lincoln County War was brewing hard and the country was full of hard men, just as hard as they could be. While he worked for Mr. Tunstall they made a trip over to Lincoln or Fort Stanton and returned to the Felix over the old Ham Mills Trail. While going on the trail home, there were two boys with them, I don’t remember who the other was, but the Kid was there. They was trying to kill a deer or turkey or something. Tunstall was riding ahead along the trail and he met a posse of men, some from the Pecos, some from the Penasco and other places, among them Tom Hall and Jesse Evans, and Mr. Tunstall started to run. Hill pulled his gun and said, ‘Tunstall don’t run, I’ll protect you.’ Well, Tunstall reconsidered, according to the way Buck Powell told me, and Hill sat on his horse and killed him himself. That is the kind of people we had in this country, and such as that will create bad blood, no matter what country it is.”

To be continued.

Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.


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