"It's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid"

Patrick "Pat" Floyd Garrett (5 June 1850 – 29 February 1908) was an American Old West lawman, bartender, and customs agent who was best known for claiming to have killed Billy the Kid. He was also the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico.

Billy the Kid
Public DomainBilly the Kid - Credit: Ben Wittick

'Billy the Kid' was a famous teenage outlaw. Reportedly born Henry McCarty (also known as Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney) in 1859, legend has it that he killed over twenty Americans and a number of Mexicans and Indians, although it is now generally accepted that he killed only four.

A relative unknown during his own lifetime, he was catapulted into legend after his death when Pat Garrett, with co-author M.A. "Ash" Upson, published a sensationalistic biography entitled The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid.

When Garrett was elected sheriff of Lincoln County in November 1880, he assembled a posse and set out to arrest the Kid, who carried a $500 bounty on his head. They ambushed him in Fort Sumner, leaving one member of the gang, Tom O'Folliard, dead.  The Kid escaped and was tracked to an abandoned stone building located in a remote location known as Stinking Springs (near present-day Taiban, New Mexico).

While the gang slept inside, Garrett's posse surrounded the building and waited for sunrise. The next morning, a cattle rustler named Charlie Bowdre stepped outside to feed his horse. In a case of mistaken identity, he was shot down by the posse. Soon afterward, somebody from within the building reached for the horse's halter rope, but Garrett shot and killed the horse, whose body blocked the building's only exit. Realizing that they had no hope of escape, the outlaws finally surrendered later that day.

Sentenced to hang, the Kid killed his guards and escaped, cutting off his leg-irons with an axe and riding away. Garrett set off in pursuit and eventually shot him dead in a friend's house. He was 21 years old.

The story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett is told in Michael Ondaatje's 1970 novel, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.  A loose version can also be found in the film Young Guns II.