Friday, September 21, 2007

And I also mix up Billy Idol and Billy Joel

It hit me this morning that I couldn't tell Jesse James from Billy the Kid. So now I'll subject you to my program of self-improvement.

Let's start with Jesse:

Jesse Woodson James (September 5, 1847 – April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw and the most famous member of the James-Younger gang. He became a figure of folklore after his death. He was a notable gunfighter, who carried on the tradition of pistoleering he acquired as a Missouri teenager riding with the Missouri Bushwhackers, William Clark Quantrill and William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson....

With his gang depleted by arrests, deaths, and defections, Jesse thought he had only two men left whom he could trust: brothers Bob and Charley Ford. Charley had been out on raids with Jesse before, but Bob was an eager new recruit. To better protect himself, Jesse asked the Ford brothers to move in with him and his family. Little did he know that Bob Ford had been conducting secret negotiations with Thomas T. Crittenden, the Missouri governor, to bring in Jesse James. Crittenden had made the capture of the James brothers his top priority; in his inaugural address he declared that no political motives could be allowed to keep them from justice. Barred by law from offering a sufficiently large reward, he had turned to the railroad and express corporations to put up a $10,000 bounty for each of them.

On April 3, 1882, as James prepared for another robbery, he climbed a chair to dust a picture. The moment was rare. He had his guns off, having removed them earlier when the unusual heat forced him to remove his coat. As he moved in and out of the house, he feared the pistols would attract attention from the passers-by. Seizing the opportunity, the Ford brothers drew their pistols. Bob was the fastest, firing a shot into the back of Jesse's head, killing him instantly.

OK, here's Billy:

Henry McCarty (November 23, 1859[1] – July 14, 1881) was better known as Billy the Kid, but also known by the aliases Henry Antrim and William Harrison Bonney. He was a 19th century American frontier outlaw and gunman who was a participant in the Lincoln County War. According to legend he killed 21 men, one for each year of his life....

Responding to rumours that McCarty was still lurking in the vicinity of Fort Sumner almost three months after his escape, Sheriff Garrett and two deputies set out on July 14, 1881, to question one of the town's residents, a friend of McCarty's named Pedro Maxwell. Near midnight, as Garrett and Maxwell sat talking in Maxwell's darkened bedroom, McCarty unexpectedly entered the room. There are at least two versions of what happened next.

One version says that as the Kid entered, he could not recognize Garrett in the poor light. McCarty drew his pistol and backed away, asking "¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?" (Spanish for "Who is it? Who is it?"). Recognizing McCarty's voice, Garrett drew his own pistol and fired twice, the first bullet hitting McCarty just above his heart and killing him instantly.

In a second version, McCarty entered carrying a knife, evidently headed to a kitchen area. He noticed someone in the darkness, and uttered the words "¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?", at which point he was shot and killed in ambush style.

Although the popularity of the first story persists, and does reflect Garrett in a better light, many historians contend that the second version is probably the accurate one.

The biggest difference between the two is that Jesse James conducted some of his robberies well outside of the West - unless you count West Virginia as part of the West.

September 5, 1875

On Jesse's 28th birthday, the James-Younger Gang robbed the Huntington Bank in Huntington, West Virginia making off with somewhere between $10,000-$20,000. One of their gang was shot during the robbery.

Ironically, Billy the Kid may have been born in Manhattan, but later moved to New Mexico.

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