There have been plenty of negative and harsh words said about Billy the Kid, but what did his friends say about him? It seems their words fall on deaf ears and not taken seriously, while his legend is built on the accounts from his enemies which are taken as gospel. Therefore, I’ve made a composite of accounts by the Kid’s pals and acquaintances from their own writings and interviews they had with biographers and journalists, just to give you another side of the Kid’s story. Some may think, “Why should I believe what they say about the Kid, they’re his friends? Of course they’ll say nice things about him.” But I say, why believe what his detractors say about him? Certainly they'll say nasty things about him. So it’s up to you whose comments you will believe, but notice that all the testimony to follow is consistent with each other.

Anthony Conner Jr.
(Childhood friend from Silver City) “We were just boys together. I never remember Billy doing anything out of the way, anymore than the rest of us. Billy got to be quite a reader. He would scarcely have his dishes washed, until he would be sprawled out somewhere reading a book. It was the same down at the butcher shop, if he was helping around there. The first thing you know, he would be reading. Finally, he took to reading the Police Gazette and dime novels.” 

Louis Abraham-
(Another childhood friend from Silver City) “The story of Billy the Kid killing a blacksmith in Silver City is false. Billy never was in any trouble at all; he was a good boy, maybe a little mischievous at times than the rest of us, with a little more nerve. When the boy was placed in jail and escaped he was not bad, he was just scared. If he had only waited until they let him out he would have been all right, but he was scared and ran away. He got in with a band of rustlers at Apache Tejo in the part of the county where he was made a hardened character.” 

H.F. Smith-
(Ranch foreman -shortly before the Kid killed Windy Cahill at Camp Grant)  “He said he was seventeen, though he didn’t look to be fourteen. I gave him a job helping around camp. He hadn’t worked very long until he wanted his money. I asked him if he was going to quit. He said, ‘No, I want to buy some things.’ I asked him how much he wanted and tried to get him to take $10 for I thought that was enough for him to spend, but he hesitated and asked for $40. I gave it to him. He went down to the post trader and bought himself a whole outfit: six-shooter, belt, scabbard, and cartridges.”

Frank Coe-
(A Regulator and close friend) “The Kid stayed with me at my home for most of one winter, during which time we became staunch friends. I never enjoyed better company. He was humorous and told me many amusing stories. He always found a touch of humor in everything, being naturally full of fun and jollity. Though he was serious in emergencies, his humor was often apparent even in such situations. Billy stood with us to the end, brave and reliable, one of the best soldiers we had. He never pushed in his advice or opinions, but he had a wonderful presence of mind; the tighter the place the more he showed his cool nerve and quick brain. He was a fine horseman, quick and always in the lead, at the same time he was kind to his horses and could save them and have them ready and fresh when he needed to make a dash. He never seemed to care for money, except to buy cartridges with; then he would prefer to gamble for then straight. Cartridges were scarce, and he always used about ten times as many as anyone else. He would practice shooting at every thing he saw and from every conceivable angle, on and off his horse. He never drank. He would go to the bar with anyone, but I never saw him drink a drop, and he never used tobacco in any form (that last remark is debatable -while some say he didn't, some say the Kid did use tobacco and was a social drinker, but the Kid could've picked up those habits after his relationship with the Coe cousins). Always in a good humor and ready to do a kind act for some one.”

George Coe-
(Another Regulator and close friend) “Billy was a brave, resourceful and honest boy; he would have been a successful man under other circumstances. I loved the youngster in the old days, and can say now, after the passing fifty years, that I still love his memory. When Billy was killed in 1881 by Pat Garrett, I was in Rio Arriba County. Though I heard the news with sorrow, it was by no means a surprise. His opponents were constantly on his trail, making his capture and killing merely a question of time. It was impossible for him to work or make an honest livelihood; otherwise many of his friends would gladly have hired him and given him a chance to settle down under Governor Wallace’s’ terms of pardon. But the Kid was never permitted to halt his career. His enemies were determined to have his life and would not stop until they had taken it. He was compelled to live the life of an outlaw, though his outlawry consisted more of stealing cattle than of killing. Cattlemen were organizing their associations and employing men to rid the country of thieves, of which Billy the Kid was by no means the most outstanding. But because he was so well-known, he became the target of the officers. The motive behind Pat Garrett’s relentless pursuit of the Kid was that his death meant money and the office of sheriff of Lincoln County. The Kid was a thousand times better and braver than any man hunting him, including Pat Garrett.”

Susan McSween-
(Alex McSween’s wife) “Billy was not a bad man; that is, he was not a murder who killed wantonly. Most of those he did kill deserved what they got. Of course, I cannot very well defend his stealing of horses and cattle; but, when you consider that the Murphy, Dolan, and Riley people forced him into such a lawless life through efforts to secure his arrest and conviction, it is hard to blame the poor boy for what he did. One thing is certain- Billy was as brave as they make them and knew how to defend himself. He was charged with practically all the killings in Lincoln County in those days, but that was simply because his name had become synonym for daring and fearlessness. When Sheriff William Brady was killed, we all regretted it, not that any of us cared much about the sheriff, but because of the manner in which it was done. Quite naturally, the killing of the representative of justice turned many or our friends against us and did our side more harm in the public mind. Brady was killed by a number of bullets, being shot at by the whole bunch of men hidden behind the adobe wall of the corral in the rear of Tunstall/McSween store. I understood at the time that Billy said he tried to get Bill Matthews, who was walking with Brady, and did not even aim at Brady. I think his subsequent conviction for killing Sheriff Brady was based on insufficient evidence and was most unjust. I have believed that if Mr. Tunstall had lived, Billy, under his guidance, would have become a valuable citizen, for he was a remarkable boy, far above the average of the young men of those times and he undoubtedly had the making of a fine man in him.”

Hijinio (Yginio) Salazar-
(Regulator and close friend) “Billy the Kid was the bravest man I ever knew. He did not know what fear meant. Everyone who knew him loved him. He was kind and good to poor people, and he was always a gentleman, no matter where he was. When in danger, he was the coolest man I ever saw- he acted like a flash from a gun. He was quick as kitten and when he aimed his pistol and fired, something dropped; he never missed his mark. I lived in Fort Sumner for a while and know many people there who saw Billy’s body after Pat Garrett killed him. I have read some of the accounts claiming he is alive, but I don’t believe them. It is possible that another Billy the Kid might be living and that he might be seeking to connect himself with the famous Billy the Kid. However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind about William H. Bonney, the Billy the Kid I knew and fought with, having been killed by Pat Garrett in Pete Maxwell’s bedroom.”

Carlota Baca Brent-
(A former resident of Lincoln County in a 1938 interview) “Today the Keed is featured as a mean man, as dark as a Mexican, he wasn’t he was a light complexion boy that was always smiling; he was brave and loyal to his friends. The Keed was gone but many Spanish girls mourned for him.”

Lily Casey Klasner-
(She didn’t have much fondness for the Kid since he killed her boyfriend Bob Olinger, but even she admitted he had good qualities) “The Kid had a great personality, and could ingratiate himself in peoples good graces very quickly. He had laughing blue eyes always smiling or laughing, quick and more accommodating very good hearted, had an innocent timid look all of this took with the girls at once.”

Dr. Henry Hoyt-
(A friend of Billy the Kid) “Billy was an expert at most Western sport, with the exception of drinking. He was a handsome youth with a smooth face, wavy brown hair, an athletic and symmetrical figure, and clear blue eyes that could look one through and through. Unless angry, he always seemed to have a pleasant expression with a ready smile. His head was well shaped, his features regular, his nose aquiline, his most noticeable characteristic a slight projection of his upper front teeth. He spoke Spanish like a native, and although only a beardless boy, was nevertheless a natural leader of men. With his poise, iron nerve, and all-round efficiency properly applied, the Kid could have made a success anywhere.”

Martin Chavez-
(In a interview with Miguel Otero Jr. author of “The Real Billy the Kid” in the mid 1930s) “ Most of the accounts of the Lincoln County War are far from true. The stories I have read were written by Pat Garrett, Charlie Siringo, Harvey Fergusson and Walter Noble Burns. I have also read the account of the killing of the Kid, published by E.A. Brininstool, which is correct. It was written by John Poe, who was with Garrett. All the other accounts are filled with inaccuracies and discrepancies, and do no justice to the Kid. All the wrongs have been charged to Billy, yet we who really knew him, know that he was good and had fine qualities. We have not put our impressions of him into print and our silence has been the cause of great injustice to the Kid.” 

John Meadows-
(A Lincoln County resident and friend)  “He must have had good stuff in him, for he was always an expert at whatever he tried to do. When he was rough, he was rough as men ever get to be…too awful rough at times, but everything in the country was rough back then. He done some things I can’t endorse, but Kid certainly had good feelings.” On the Kid's killing of Bell and Olinger:  “Kid told me exactly how it was done. He said he was lying on the floor on his stomach, and shot Bell as he ran down the stairs. Kid said of this killing, ‘I did not want to kill Bell, but I had to do so in order to save my own life. It was a case of having to, not wanting to.’” As for Olinger, Meadows recalls the Kid saying: “I stuck the gun through the window and said, ‘Look up, old boy, and see what your getting,’ Bob looked up and I let him have both barrels right in the face and breast. I never felt so good in all my life as I did when I pulled the trigger and saw Olinger fall to the ground.” Meadows... “Olinger was mean to him. In talking about it with me, Kid said, ‘He used to work me up until I could hardly contain myself.’”

Jesus Silva-
(Fort Sumner resident and friend, commenting on the events that led to the killing of Billy the Kid. An  interview with Jack Hull 1937) “ It was the night of July 14, 1881. It had been a hot day throughout the valley and Mesa Redondo country. I had strolled over to a neighbor’s house and on my return had stopped under a Cottonwood tree for a moment, when the Kid, whom I had known for some time, strolled up. He had just ridden into town. He was hot and tired and we drank beer together. He told me he was hungry and that he was going to the home of Don Pedro Maxwell for a cut of fresh beef for his supper, which was being prepared at a nearby house. We parted there and in a few minutes there were shots. The news soon spread that Garrett had shot the Kid at Maxwell’s home. I ran over there and Garrett, who had run out of the house, told me to go in and see if the Kid was dead.”
In an interview with Miguel Otero Jr. 1938: “ There on the floor, we (Silva and Deluvina) saw Billy stretched out, face down. We turned him over, and when Deluvina realized fully it was the Kid, she began to cry bitterly, interspersing with her tears the vilest curses she could bestow on the head of Pat Garrett (who may have just walked in and noticed the Kid was now lying on his back, which will explain his version of how the Kid’s body was position). We asked permission to remove the body, Pete Maxwell suggesting removal to the old carpenter’s shop. We laid the body on the carpenter’s bench and placed candles around the corpse.”
Shortly before the Kid was killed... “We had heard strange voices coming from the peach orchard but had given no thought to who it might be. If we had, the Kid’s life might have been saved. It was Pat Garrett and his two deputies. Billy would not have walked into the trap laid for him. Someone in Fort Sumner must have given Billy
away.”  “I have heard reports which say that Billy the Kid is still alive. I know that Pat Garrett killed the Kid on July 14, 1881, in Pete Maxwell’s bedroom. I also know with absolute certainty that he was buried in the old graveyard the next day.”

Deluvina Maxwell-
(Resident of Fort Sumner and friend commenting on the night the Kid was killed) “He (Garrett) was afraid to go back to the room to make sure of whom he had shot! I went in and was the first to discovered that they had killed my little boy. I hated those men and am glad that I have lived long enough to see them all dead and buried.”

Frank Lobato-
(Friend and Fort Sumner resident, commenting on the night the Kid was killed) “Billy had been very popular at Fort Sumner and had a great many friends, all of who were indignant towards Pat Garrett. If a leader had been present, Garrett and his two officers would have received the same fate they dealt Billy.”

Vicente Otero-
(Fort Sumner resident, also helped dig the Kid’s grave) “I was at Fort Sumner the night Billy the Kid was killed. I went to the carpenter’s shop and stood at the wake all that night. Jesus Silva made a wooden box, which served as the coffin for the Kid. The next day Silva and I dug the Kid’s grave and buried the body in the old graveyard. I know the exact spot of Billy’s burial thought I have not been to the graveyard for many years.”

Miguel Otero Jr.-
(Author of “The Real Billy the Kid,”  supposedly he met the Kid after his arrest while riding on the same train car with him to Santa Fe) “I liked the Kid very much, and long before we reached Santa Fe, nothing would have pleased me more than to witnessed his escape. He had his share of good qualities and was very pleasant. He had a reputation for being considerate of the old, the young, and the poor; he was loyal to his friends and above all, loved his mother devotedly. He was unfortunate in starting life, and became a victim of circumstances. In looking back to my first meeting with Billy the Kid, my impressions were most favorable and I can honestly say that he was a man more sinned against than sinning.”


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