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Anson Stevens-Bollen

Keep your trousers on, Billy!

Suspending disbelief?

September 14, 2016, 12:00 am

Gather ’round, history buffs, it’s time for another rip-roaring tale of Billy the Kid. New Mexico sort of owns Billy, since he fought, killed and died here. He even spent a few months jailed in Santa Fe, back in 1880.

Roughly every eight minutes, somebody comes forward with a grainy old tintype and claims it’s Billy. You may recall the last one of those supposedly showed the Kid holding a croquet mallet. I’m not making this up.

There is only one authenticated photo of the outlaw, and even that one was published in reverse for many years, leading to the widespread misconception that Billy was left-handed. That photo sold for $2.3 million five years ago, so there’s big money in Billy memorabilia.

Which brings me to the latest round of Billymania. According to a recent story in The Santa Fe New Mexican, yet another possible photo of the Kid has surfaced, but that’s not all. The guy in this photo is wearing red and yellow striped suspenders, and somebody may still own those as well.

Imagine, owning Billy the Kid’s old suspenders! That would sure be a nifty thing to have in your collection, right next to Billy the Kid’s toenail clippers and Billy the Kid’s flip phone.

In this new photo, Billy is sitting on a large rock and has three handguns—two pistols and a Derringer in a small holster attached to the suspenders. If it’s real, this would be the most heavily armed Billy ever photographed, unless he was really, really good at swinging that croquet mallet.

The article mentions an unnamed guy in Oklahoma who says he used to own those suspenders but sold them about 35 years ago, so clearly the trail is white-hot. A Western antiques dealer is quoted as saying he would like to find the suspenders, and that “Somebody’s got to know where they’re at.”

Grammar aside, who the hell cares? Suspenders once owned by a grunting teenage sociopath? What is wrong with people? In my lifetime, I’ve seen human beings bid on Lee Harvey Oswald’s coffin, Adolf Hitler’s monogrammed bed linens, Bernard Madoff’s underwear and a Pez dispenser owned by Pontius Pilate. Okay, maybe I made up that last one.

Why will people pay so much to get close to evil—and, more to the point, how can I get a piece of that action? Listen, and I’ll tell you.

This guy who is trying to authenticate the new photo says he has actually located the rock Billy is sitting on. If he can find it, I can, too—it’s a rock, in New Mexico, right? When I find it I’m going to need some sledge hammers and a pickup truck.

That’s right, collectors, get ready for certified chunks of a rock that Billy the Kid’s butt once sat on, $1,000 each! Billy’s Butt Rocks, the perfect holiday gift!

There is one small bit of irony that I haven’t mentioned yet. The person who bought the left-handed Billy photo back in 2011 was none other than billionaire businessman William Koch, one of those Koch brothers who spend millions funding the most vile, slimy, despicable miscreants the Republicans can find to run for public office.

And while I don’t normally approve of buying artifacts left over from the worst people in history, in Koch’s case I’ll make an exception, because I figure that’s just less money for the nut job politicians.

Hey, Mr. Koch, can I interest you in a genuine Billy’s Butt Rock? And maybe one for your brother?

Robert Basler’s humor column runs twice monthly in SFR. Email the author:


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