Billy the Kid, the Southwest, and More from Gene W. Baade Books on the West

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Billy the Kid, the Southwest, and More from Gene W. Baade Books on the West


By Michael Stillman

Gene W. Baade Books on the West has issued a new catalogue: Catalogue 909. Baade describes these books that came mostly from a private research collection as covering Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War, New Mexico, Arizona, the Southwest, the Apaches, and a few on mining and Idaho. That isn't all of what is in this group, Baade pointing out that the most collectible of titles offered, The Frontier Years, is outside of this subject list. Many of the titles are later editions and reprints, appropriate for a research collection, and are priced accordingly (in other words, you won't have to pay very much for many of these books).

Item 28 is that most collectible title, The Frontier Years. L.A. Huffman, Photographer of the Plains, by Mark H. Brown and W.R. Felton, published in 1955. Huffman was a photographer who worked the plains, particularly eastern Montana, during the last decades of the 19th century. Brown and Felton painstakingly went through and researched his photographs to create this book and a later follow up. This particular copy is notable as it belonged to historian Walter Prescott Webb. It is not signed by Webb but is signed by his wife, Terrell Webb. Included with this copy are two signed typed letters from author Brown to Webb. In his 1956 letter, Brown asks Webb to provide a comment for his next book (which would be Before Barbed Wire, published later that year). Brown admits what he is asking of Webb amounts to "crawling out on a limb" since Webb is being asked to endorse something he has not seen. However, he assures Webb this second volume will be as good if not better than the first, and evidently Webb was convinced as he provided glowing praise. Priced at $750.

Probably the most common sight in the dusty towns of the Old West was the barroom. Dozens of them could be found in many of the fast-growing, short-lived mining towns that dotted the frontier. Nevertheless, I had never seen a book about them until now. Item 54 is Richard Edroes' Saloons of the Old West, published in 1979. Baade describes it as "an excellent study of the social institution that was so much a part of the Old West." $10.

Item 27 is one of many books you will find in this catalogue about Billy The Kid and the Lincoln County War: Billy The Kid. The most hated, the most loved outlaw New Mexico ever produced, by Mary Hudson Brothers, published in 1949. America has long had a love-hate relationship with the Kid, at least in part because the details of his life are unclear. Some say he killed 20 men, others say only four. Some believe he was a cold-blooded killer, others that he was defending his friends and the poor Mexican ranchers who were under siege from more powerful ranching interests. Billy seems to have been a ranch hand and small-time horse thief of little consequence when he took part in a killing of two men who had killed his boss. You can call it justifiable homicide or murder, but it was clearly extra-legal (however, this was the Old West). In time Billy would kill a couple more in a prison escape and was finally tracked down and shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett, who set about building Billy's reputation as a means of promoting his own. Indeed, Garrett lives on for his connection to the legendary Billy The Kid. $32.50.

Item 105 recounts the most notable days in an otherwise obscure life: The Last Eleven Days of Earl Durand. Those days took place in 1939, though Jerred Metz's book was published in 2005. Durand was something of a latter-day mountain man. He grew up in Powell, Wyoming, and learned wilderness skills as a young man. His was an essentially uneventful life until one day in 1939, at the age of 26, when he was arrested for poaching. He and some friends had hunted elk out of season. Durand was also charged with resisting arrest and killing a neighbor's cow. It got him a six-month sentence. He should have just done his time, but like Billy The Kid, he decided to escape instead, and it led to tragic consequences. He assaulted a deputy sheriff and forced him to drive to Durand's parents' home. There, things went from bad to worse. Durand ended up killing the deputy and a town marshal. He quickly retreated to the mountains where a large search began. Newspapermen gathered to follow the story and Durand became an instant headliner all over the country. For ten days, Durand eluded capture while killing two more pursuers from the sheriff's posse. Then, on the eleventh day, Durand hijacked a car and rode back to Powell, where he robbed the local bank. However, the bank was surrounded before he could escape and Durand died in the ensuing shootout. $12.50.

Gene W. Baade Books on the West may be reached at 425-271-6481 or bookwest@eskimo.com. The website is www.booksonthewest.com.

You will find many of Gene W Baade's books listed in "Books For Sale" on this site. Click here.