As Well As Being History’s Most Notorious Outlaw, Billy The Kid Had An Extraordinary Hidden Talent

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Image: Ben Wittick / via Wikimedia Commons

On August 17, 1877, two men wrestled on the floor of a saloon in Bonita, Arizona. A young man named Henry McCarty had answered back when Frank “Windy” Cahill, a blacksmith and notorious bully, labeled him a “pimp.” Now the pair were grappling for McCarty’s gun. Then a shot rang out; Cahill was fatally injured. And McCarty, who was 17 years old and had never murdered anyone before, went on the run…

Image: John C. H. Grabill

Historian Frederick Jackson Turner famously claimed that American democracy was forged in the westward expansion of the American frontier; he also suggested that the western U.S. may very well have helped forge a core American identity. And the Wild West itself was a place of hardy pioneers, settlers, cowboys and entrepreneurs that has now become synonymous with notions of adventure and rugged individualism. The period is arguably best known for its outlaws, however, with the likes of Jesse James, Curly Bill, the Dalton brothers and Butch Cassidy still infamous today. But perhaps none of these legendary criminals have become as iconic as Billy the Kid.

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Image: via C@rtelesmix

And according to psychoanalyst Alfred Adler, who scrutinized the myth of Billy the Kid in 1951, the gunslinger’s legend has taken on an epic stature comparable to those of King Arthur or Robin Hood. Indeed, most artistic portrayals of the gunslinger tend towards one of two basic archetypes: romantic anti-hero or cold-hearted villain. However, a new historical analysis asserts that the Kid may have had a hidden talent, suggesting a more nuanced view of the fabled outlaw.

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