Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Butch" Cassidy and the Wild Bunch


"Butch" Cassidy and the Wild Bunch


Last of the Outlaw Gangs

"Butch" Cassidy and his Wild Bunch comprised the last of the outlaw gangs in the West, as well as the largest and most efficient. "Butch" himself was a crack shot with a revolver and rifle, but he claimed that he never killed a man during his years as an outlaw.
His real name was Robert Leroy Parker, and his father was a devout Mormon who owned a ranch in Utah. Unfortunately, young "Butch" hero worshipped one of the ranch hands, a gunman named Mike Cassidy. When Cassidy was killed in a gunfight, young Parker took the name of "Butch" Cassidy, and soon he was learning the out law trade as a member of the Tom McCarty gang. He later left the McCarty gang and took up ranching in Wyoming, but he was charged with stealing horses there and spent the next 18 months in prison. After serving his time, he promised the governor that he would stay out of trouble in Wyoming. He kept his word and broke no laws in Wyoming but other states did not fare so well. By 1896, Cassidy had organized the Wild Bunch and was busily engaged in robbing banks and trains.
As a train robber, "Butch" relied on trickery rather than blazing guns to get the job done. In a typical case, several of his outlaws would buy tickets and board the train. Then, at some lonely spot along the way, other members of the gang would flag down the train on the pretext that the track up ahead was blocked by a rock slide or a loose rail. When the train stopped, the outlaws who were already aboard would surprise and overpower the guards in the express car, haul out the safe, and blast it open with a stick of dynamite. Within minutes, the Wild Bunch would grab the loot and be gone.
In 1897, the Wild Bunch was joined by Kid Curry and his "Hole in the Wall" gang. Soon the number of banks robbed and trains held up soared. During frequent clashes with posses, "Butch" relied on a fast horse rather than a gun, but the deadly Kid Curry killed five pursuing lawmen. Understandably, "Butch" was not fond of Curry and he began riding instead with the "Sundance Kid" (Harry Lang baugh), a less bloodthirsty outlaw.
By 1901, dozens of railroad detectives and lawmen were hunting Cassidy's Wild Bunch, so "Butch" decided to clear out. He fled to South America with the Sundance Kid and the Kid's girl friend, Etta Place. There, it is said, "Butch" and the Kid robbed several banks and mines in Peru, Chile and Bolivia until 1911, when they were ambushed and killed by Bolivian soldiers.
Illustration: The Wild Bunch. Ft. Worth. Tex. Sundance seated at left. "Butch" at right
© 1979. Panarizon Publishing Corp, USA Photo: Union Pacific Railroad Museum

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