A painting of “Billy the Kid.” Tales of outlaws and sheriffs can be fun. But committing crimes, like Billy did, harms others. (AP)

A painting of “Billy the Kid.” Tales of outlaws and sheriffs can be fun. But committing crimes, like Billy did, harms others. (AP)

This image shows Billy the Kid and several members of his gang playing a leisurely game of croquet alongside friends and family in 1878.

This image shows Billy the Kid and several members of his gang playing a leisurely game of croquet alongside friends and family in 1878.

Here’s a zoomed-in view of Billy the Kid (left) playing croquet. Billy could be charming. But he could turn violent quickly.

Here’s a zoomed-in view of Billy the Kid (left) playing croquet. Billy could be charming. But he could turn violent quickly.

Al Tellez describes plans to renovate the Old County Jail and Courtroom in San Elizario, Texas. According to legend, Billy the Kid freed the only man ever to escape from this adobe jail. (AP)

Al Tellez describes plans to renovate the Old County Jail and Courtroom in San Elizario, Texas. According to legend, Billy the Kid freed the only man ever to escape from this adobe jail. (AP)

Black Hats, White Hats

Posted: November 1, 2020

Take a gallop through the Old West . . . in the movies. Tumbleweeds blow across dusty towns. Sheriffs capture bandits. Marshals wrangle with outlaws. The bad guys wear black hats, and the good guys wear white hats.

You’ll find Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett in the movies too. Billy the Kid has been portrayed on TV at least 50 times! But these two slung guns in the history books as well as on the big screen. They’re the real deal.

Billy the Kid was born in New York City in 1859. What was his real name? Scholars disagree. Some say Henry McCarty, Jr. Others claim it was William H. Bonney, Jr.

Billy’s family left New York and moved west to the New Mexico territory. He got used to life in the West and learned to speak Spanish. But as a teenager, Billy fell into a pattern of stealing and breaking the law.

People knew Billy by his sombrero hat. At times, he was charming. But he could turn violent quickly. Billy didn’t commit famous Old West crimes such as holding up banks or robbing trains. But he did steal lots of cattle and horses.

Eventually, Billy was arrested in 1880 for killing a sheriff in the New Mexico territory. He escaped from jail, killing two more deputies before Pat Garrett caught up with him. Legend says Billy murdered 21 people total—one for each year of his short life.

Until God restores perfect justice, there will always be “white and black hats.” After Billy’s death, Pat Garrett wrote a book about the outlaw’s misdeeds. The book probably tells some tall tales. But no matter the actual number of Billy’s crimes, his story teaches us something true. Crime never pays—then, now, or anytime.

For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong. — Isaiah 61:8