Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
by Joy Harjo
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon, within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
“Eagle Poem” by Joy Harjo, from In Mad Love and War. © Wesleyan University Press, 1990. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It is the birthday of Henry McCarty, better known as Billy the Kid, who might have been born on this day in New York City in 1859. That’s according to the book that made the Kid famous after his death, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid by Pat Garrett and Ash Upson. But the date, year, and place of his birth are all up for debate — November 23rd was Upson’s own birthday, and he might have just needed a birth date for his subject, who up until just a few months before he died was known simply as The Kid.
The facts of the outlaw’s short life are fuzzy. His mother, Catherine, was certainly an Irish immigrant to New York City, and a widow, and at some point she moved her two sons, Henry and Joe, to Indianapolis and then to Wichita, Kansas, in 1870. Wichita was a rough pioneer town, but Catherine was a strong woman, determined to start a life there. Less than a month after they had arrived, she was the only woman involved in a petition to make Wichita a municipality. She started a successful laundry business, washing clothes by hand, and dabbled in real estate. She tried to give her sons some education. But Wichita remained a wild place, where horse thieves and outlaws rode in and out and murders were commonplace. And then Catherine was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and the family moved again, this time ending up in New Mexico, where Catherine married her long-term boyfriend and young Henry McCarty got a new stepfather.
Catherine found her place in New Mexico right away, taking in boarders and baking pies and cakes. But her tuberculosis got worse, and she died, leaving Henry and Joe to fend for themselves — their stepfather had taken off to prospect for gold and gamble.
So the boys tried to make do on their own. The Kid’s first crime was stealing some butter from a farmer, but the sheriff felt sorry for him and let him go. He stayed in a boardinghouse and became friends with a thief known as Sombrero Jack. Jack stole laundry from a Chinese launderer in town and gave it to the Kid to hide, telling him he could have some clothes in return, which the boy needed. Then Sombrero Jack skipped town, and the woman who ran the boardinghouse discovered Henry with the missing laundry, and he was arrested.
The sheriff only meant to scare the boy, hoping it would deter him from a life of crime. When he asked if he could wander around the corridors instead of being confined to a cell, the sheriff agreed readily. That night, the Kid escaped through the chimney of the prison and left town, and so his life as an outlaw began. He was probably about 15 years old.
He had trouble finding a job, partly because he was so small and youthful-looking. An acquaintance described him as “a short, slender young man with large front teeth, giving a chronic grin to his expression.” So he turned to crime. He stole horses and rustled cattle, and eventually, he got involved in a feud between two business factions looking to control the dry goods business in Lincoln County, New Mexico. It became known as the Lincoln County War, and Billy the Kid fought to defend his boss, John Tunstall, who had hired him as a ranch hand. The feud escalated, with regular murders on both sides, and the Kid was arrested by an old acquaintance, Pat Garrett, now the Lincoln County sheriff. He put him in jail, but the Kid once again managed to escape. Garrett made it his mission to find the outlaw, and he tracked him to Fort Sumner and shot him.
As far as his actual crimes went, there wasn’t much to make Billy the Kid stand out from other outlaws of his day. But he has endured as a mythical figure, partly because The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid made him famous, and partly because he was such a memorable personality. He charmed just about everyone — Frank Coe, who joined in the Lincoln County feud but was generally a respectable citizen, described the young outlaw: “He was about seventeen, 5ft 8in, weight 138lbs and stood straight as an Indian, fine-looking lad as ever I met. He was a lady’s man and the Mexican girls were all crazy about him. He spoke their language well. He was a fine dancer, could go all their gaits and was one of them. He was a wonder, you would have been proud to know him.”
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®