Southwest Children's  Literature

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Billy the Kid


McClean, Arizona Territory

Hands as nimble as rattlesnakes.
An hombre with an attitude.
Smoke curling from blazing Colt .44s.

Billy the Kid, age 19, is simply greased-lightning fast with a gun. He's in town looking for a job because he's tired of shooting cattle rustlers in Mexico. Eight dollars, an exhausted horse, two exquisitely engraved Colt .44s with pearl grips, and his special talent are his sole possessions at the moment. Billy needs a grubstake to get his life on track. But train robbery? That's what a father and his two sons, a family of stickup artists, are offering him. Billy decides it's easy money. Unfortunately, Billy's cousin and boyhood friend, Willie Monroe, age 22, is the new sheriff, a sheriff who's pledged to catch lawbreakers like Billy and then bring them to justice. Justice for train robbery is hanging.

Plans go awry after the train robbery. Billy's ruthless partners, a persistent posse, and determined Sheriff Willie Monroe are all in hot pursuit of Billy.

"Dumb mule-head! Go back! Don't make me kill you!" Billy yells to Willie.

"Let him get away!" Willie thinks. Years of love and friendship for Billy should count for something. Willie remembers a summer's day at a river not long before each of them chose different paths.

"Willie, lookit me, I'm a golddurned frog."

"Billy, frogs don't belly bust like that."

"Then I'm a golddurned fountain, a-spittin' at the world."

How could Willie look himself, his wife Kate, and his community in the eyes again because Billy, no doubt, would continue to spit at the world?

"Drop it, Billy!" Willie yells back.

Either Billy or Willie would be dead in a minute.

Billy the Kid - this man of reality and legend has fascinated people for years. We probably will never understand completely what this man was about. Nonetheless, many have tried to tell his story; since his story seems to fascinate readers so.

The version we have all just read is authored by Theodore Taylor, who is probably best known for writing The Cay. His version introduces the reader to an outlaw with a dash of charm, an outlaw with dreams. This is a story of double crossings, family loyalty, and greedy cattle ranchers.

These elements combine to create a story that will appeal to the young adult reader. At the end of the book, there is a note by the author as to what the "real" Billy the Kid was probably like. As long as the reader takes what he or she is reading with a grain of salt, or sand in this case, this book can be fun for fans of the Old West.

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