Sunday, August 1, 2010


(Updated Wednesday 8/4/2010 -- see WOODY STRODE below)

No, I’m not kidding. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is considering granting a posthumous pardon to Billy the Kid. Among those objecting most vigorously to the historical whitewashing are three grandchildren of lawman Pat Garrett. Garrett, who had at one time been a friend to Bonney, shot and killed him on July 14, 1881, following the outlaw’s escape from the Lincoln County Jail, an escape that left two deputies dead.

A letter sent to Richardson this week by three Garrett grandchildren stated that to grant the pardon would represent an "inexcusable defamation" of the lawman. "If Billy the Kid was living amongst us now, would you issue a pardon for someone who made his living as a thief and, more egregiously, who killed four law enforcement officers and numerous others?"

Among those being brought into the debate is a descendant of Bonney’s employer, rancher John Henry Tunstall, whose 1878 murder ignited the Lincoln County War. Hilary Tunstall-Behrens, a great-nephew of the rancher, who came from London to meet with Garretts, is taking sides against Bonney. "I wouldn't join the cause. There is so much strong feelings."

Personally, I am never happy to see people blithely rewriting history. I understand in the case of Dr. Mudd. His name became synonymous with ‘traitor’ – as in ‘his name was Mudd,’ – after he treated John Wilkes Booth’s wounds without turning him in. An argument can at least be made that he didn’t know his patient was Lincoln’s assassin, and if his descendants feel better with his pardon, fine. You might expect me to support Bonney, us both being Brooklyn boys, but while there is some doubt whether he murdered as few as nine or as many as twenty-one before he reached his majority, the fact is he was a prolific killer. He was guilty as charged. If there is a Hell, and if Billy is currently burning in it, I doubt the authorities there will be much impressed by the authority of Governor Richardson in the matter.

If you’d like to read an excellent article on the subject by Barry Massey for the Associated Press, CLICK HERE. If you’d like to get Pat Garrett’s own perspective, CLICK HERE to read his fascinating biography of Billy the Kid.



Not long ago, Susan Sarandon was out and Jessica Lange was in as Victoria Barkley, the role made famous by Barbara Stanwyck. Now, in the role of Charles Crocker, the real railroad magnate, Richard Dreyfus is out and Sam Neill is in. Unlike the fictional Barkleys, Crocker was a real man. He, Mark Hopkins, Collis Huntington and Leland Stanford formed ‘the big four,’ built the Central Pacific Railroad, which became the western section of the Transcontinental Railroad.

(Pictures, top left to bottom: Pat Garrett, William Bonney, Charles Crocker)


A staggering number of western TV episodes and movies are available, entirely free, for viewing on your computer at HULU. You do have to sit through the commercials, but that seems like a small price to pay. The series available -- often several entire seasons to choose from -- include THE RIFLEMAN, THE CISCO KID, THE LONE RANGER, BAT MASTERSON, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, and one I missed from 2003 called PEACEMAKERS starring Tom Berenger. Because they are linked up with the TV LAND website, you can also see BONANZA and GUNSMOKE episodes, but only the ones that are running on the network that week.

The features include a dozen Zane Grey adaptations, and many or most of the others are public domain features. To visit HULU on their western page, CLICK HERE.


Every day in August for several years, TCM has featured a single actor's movies for a full day and night. For the first time to my recollection, they are featuring a full day of Woody Strode movies on Thursday -- yes, tomorrow, August 5th! In addition to BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY and TARZAN films, and more 'classy' fare later on, they are showing, starting at 9:15 a.m., SHALAKO, at 1:00 p.m. THE LAST REBEL, at 3:00 p.m. TWO RODE TOGETHER, and at 5:00 p.m. SGT. RUTLEDGE. THESE ARE ALL PACIFIC TIMES -- CHECK YOUR LOCAL SCHEDULE! How cool that Woody is finally getting his due!



Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. Currently they have HOMELANDS: HOW WOMEN MADE THE WEST through August 22nd, and THE ART OF NATIVE AMERICAN BASKETRY: A LIVING TRADITION, through November 7th. I've seen the basketry show three times, and am continually astonished at the beauty and variety of the work of the various tribes. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.



Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.


Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run THE LONE RANGER at 1:30 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.

I guess that'll have to do for now.



Copyright July 2010 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. Just now reading Mark Lee Gardner's new book about Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, TO HELL ON A FAST HORSE. Billy was a popular guy in New Mexico especially among Hispanics. He was by accounts a real charmer, who also happened to be a killer. Today we'd call him a psychopath.

    Gov. Wallace apparently did strike a deal with him and didn't honor it. But Billy went on to kill more men after that deal, so he doesn't have much of a case for a pardon. Problem is, people prefer myth to history.