My Own Story: The Autobiography of Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid! That story’s been told.

And yet -- no one has given Billy’s side. Until now, with My Own Story: The Autobiography of Billy the Kid.

What were Billy’s feelings, his intentions, as his saga unfolded? Killing his first man at a tender age, Tunstall’s murder, leading older men in war, ambushing Sheriff Brady, Governor Wallace’s deceit, escape from the Lincoln jail?

>Why didn’t he head for Texas after that escape, instead of going back to Fort Sumner, where Pat Garrett caught up and shot him in July, 1881?

This is Billy’s story, just as he told it to me when he was dying of cancer at 89 in a nursing home in Wichita.

Oh yes, there have been many claims that it wasn’t Billy whom Pat Garrett shot in Pete Maxwell’s darkened bedroom on July 14, 1881. But in fact it was. Though severely wounded, Billy didn’t die, and as Henry Carter survived to build a new life in Wichita.

Then in 1951 a fortuitous contact with high school student Ralph Estes led to Billy telling, and Ralph recording, his life’s story. Billy’s side of the saga: why he did what he did, what choices he saw, what he felt. His hopes, his fears, his joys, his regrets.

This is that story, just as Billy the Kid told it as he lay dying.

What others say

John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War and many other books:

“Ralph Estes writes like Billy the Kid lived: fast, furious, a great adventure. Hail, hail Billy the Kid and Ralph Estes.”

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Late in the afternoon - this is Monday, February 18 - we were on a trail through the hills that would take us to Brewer’s and on to Lincoln. Mr. Tunstall, Brewer, and Widenmann were out in front, Middleton and I were a few hundred yards in the back keeping a lookout in case the posse came up behind us.

Now comes the part that I’ve gone over a thousand times in my mind.

Then this so-called posse came swarming over the hill behind us. Middleton and I goosed our ponies and hollered for the others to take cover. Middleton was closest to Mr. Tunstall, and I could hear him calling Tunstall to follow him. But Mr. Tunstall seemed stunned or something. He was jerking his horse back and forth and yelling something like “What, John? What, John?”

The four of us got some trees between us and the gang, then we got over the crest of a hill. We were riding hard when we heard shots. We hunkered down, peered through bushes, and could see Mr. Tunstall on the ground obviously shot. The killers were whooping and laughing.

We were badly outnumbered, so we worked our way through the hills to Lincoln.

That’s what my memory tells me happened. But I don’t entirely trust my memory. I’ve gone over this so many times in my mind I worry that I could have painted too good a picture for me, for William Bonney. But even the picture I think I remember isn’t all that good for me and the other fellas.

Our job, right then, was to protect Mr. Tunstall. We didn’t do it, and we let him be murdered. We knew that gang was on the loose, we knew or ought to have realized that they might come after us.

Maybe instead of Middleton and me riding so far back, we should for more...