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American Handgunner Jan/Feb 2011 - Page 20
Massad ayoob Butch cassidy and the sundance Kid: how did they ReaLLy die? situation: Boliviantroopsknowyou’vebeenrobbingand killing,andnowtheyhaveyousurrounded.Like thesongsays,“Whatchagonnadowhentheycome foryou?Badboys…badboys…” Lessons: Americanshaveastrangetendencytolionize criminalsasheroes.ThelastminutesofButch andSundancedonotseemtohavegonetheway moviemakerswouldhaveusbelieve. Perhaps the largest and longest lasting of the Old West outlaw groups was “The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang,” a somewhat loose-knit amalgamation of multiple gangs whose members occasionally intermingled. One subset was also known as “The Wild Bunch,” a name applied at least as often to the Doolin-Dalton gang, but this “bunch” included serial cop-killer Harry Tracy, Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan, Ben “The Tall Texan” Kirkpatrickandothernotoriouscriminalsofthetime.IfWesterngangshadbeenlawfirms, the “name partners” in this one were Robert LeRoy Parker, who called himself Butch Cassidy, and Harry Longabaugh, nicknamed “The Sundance Kid.” Over a period of 20+ years,beginningcirca1887,thisorganizedcriminalenterpriserobbedmanybanksand trains, but nothing in the legend they left was more dramatic than the deaths of SundanceandButch. There are many different accounts of their demise. Historians differ as to whether SundancespelledhisrealnameLongbaughorLongabaugh,andwhetherthepairdiedin aplacenamedSanVicenteorSanVincente.(Insoon-to-followquotes,thespellingswillbe thoseusedbythegivenresearchers.)Whatdiffersfarmore,however,isthe mannerof theirdeaths.There’sonlyroomheretoexaminefiveversionsofthatclimacticshootout. the hollywood Version Since moviegoers vastly outnumber history buffs, most people flash back to director GeorgeRoyHill’sfilmof1969, ButchCassidyandtheSundanceKid.Ambushedwithno warningbyevilminionsofaforeigngovernment,surroundedbyavasthordeofBolivian soldiers, the bad boys shoot down about a dozen men in uniform. Each with a pair of Peacemakersinhand,theymakeafinal,desperate“chargeagainsttheodds,”whichends infreezeframebeforetheirpresumed,heroicdeath. Thisistheoneversionhistoryshowsabsolutelydidnottakeplace. the seibert Version In theearly1950s,Western historian James D.Horan metthe elderly Percy Seibert, whoHoranconfirmedhadbeenaclosepersonalacquaintanceofCassidyandLongabaugh during their end time in South America. From Horan’s book, The Authentic Wild West: theOutlaws,1977,comesSiebert’sversionofthedeathsofSundanceandButch. TheYank outlaws robbed a mine payroll and, to add insult to injury, Cassidy stole a Continued on page 70 mulefromamozo,ornativeguard. WWW.AMERICAnhAnDGUnnER.COM 20 WWW.AMERICAnhAnDGUnnER.COM • JAnUARY/FEBRUARY 2011 20