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It was a lazy Sunday morning and I was surfing the TV channels looking for some good noise to accompany my breakfast. I came upon a Brad Pitt movie, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”
Assassination? Jesse James was a sociopathic moron who killed for money and pleasure. He was wanted by the police for a long list of atrocities, including a string of bank robberies and his role in the guerrilla attacks by Quantrill’s Raiders on civilians and prisoners during the Civil War.
So what does society do? Missouri erects a museum in his honor, portraying him as a latter day Robin Hood who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. People name their kids “Jesse James.”
Several Hollywood actors and members of professional sports teams wear the name proudly. There’s even a Jesse James Sports Bar in Toledo, Ohio.
Why would anyone care how Jesse was killed? The same people who brand Ford as a “coward” somehow neglect to do the same for James.
But this is a common theme for America legacies in crime, psychopathic creeps who rob and murder and then are idolized as folk heroes.
John Hardin. Harvey Logan (Kid Curry). Henry Longabaugh (The Sundance Kid). Robert Parker (Butch Cassidy). Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
John Dillinger. Pretty Boy Floyd. Machine Gun Kelly. Baby Face Nelson. The list is sickeningly long.
Despite the vile nature of these people, the countless lives they ruined, and the grief and sorrow endured by families of their victims, our society chrome-plates them as “legends” and they are admired — admired(!) for the exciting and dangerous lives they led.
Here in New Mexico, it’s William Henry McCarty Jr. whose name and “legacy” stirs constant debate. More commonly known as William Bonney, or “Billy the Kid,” his gang still exists. Founded in Taiban, N.M., the moron club calls itself “The Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang, Inc.” These incorporated idiots host annual summer camp-outs at Ruidoso where they enjoy picnics and cowpie flinging.
Outlaw Gang Incorporated? Seriously, how do you incorporate stupidity?
Well, praising outlaws turns out to be big business. Hollywood has produced no less than 52 films about or starring Billy the Kid (and that doesn’t include the numerous TV series and documentaries). Even John Wayne’s movie “Chisum” portrayed him as a loving caring bible-quoting charismatic young man.
Personally, my favorite is “Billy the Kid versus Dracula.” Sometimes, you just have to let art flow over you.
Fort Sumner has an entire museum devoted to the “great tales of gunfights and outlaw heroics” of Billy the Kid, bringing to life the “exciting and daring adventures” of this historic legend.
(Oh man, I almost upchucked on my keyboard with that one!)
There are countless books on this lowlife; biographies, crime stories and other literary swill. You can even buy Billy the Kid toys and action figures.
Immortalizing this imbecile is nothing new. In 1959, the New York City Philharmonic presented “Billy the Kid Rodeo,” composed by Aaron Copland and conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
And right here in New Mexico, legislation was proposed to grant McCarty a full pardon. Gov. Bill Richardson found himself in a national debate over the issue and waited until his last day in office to deny the pardon. Richardson said that “it was a close call,” but what “tipped the scales for me” was the fact that Billy had murdered two law officials while escaping jail.
Gee, really? His murdering two deputies “tipped the scales” against a pardon? I suppose the other 17 people murdered by Billy and his gang weren’t quite as “heavy” on the scales?
If you want more information on this icon of lunacy, you can visit Lincoln in early August and enjoy the “Billy the Kid Folk Pageant,” an annual tradition of galactic stupidity which reenacts some shootouts, Billy’s incarceration in the Lincoln County courthouse, and “his remarkable escape from jail.”
Oh yeah, that remarkable escape was where he just happened to murder the two deputies.
Too bad about that. If not for those two killings, he just might have gotten that pardon!