Sunday, April 10, 2011

MY FAVORITE OUTLAW by ELIZABETH LANE


Elizabeth Lane, Author

Harlequin Historical author, Elizabeth Lane is a guest today at Sweethearts of the West. Elizabeth is graciously donating a copy of her March 2011 release, THE WIDOWED BRIDE, to one lucky person who leaves a comment on her post. Thank you Elizabeth!


           MY FAVORITE OUTLAW


What can you say about a guy who was played by Paul Newman in one of the best Westerns ever filmed? The real Butch Cassidy wasn’t as cute as Paul (who is?), but he had his own charms. What’s more, to this writer, Butch is practically a hometown boy!

Robert Redfore as
the Sundance Kid
and Paul Newman
as Butch Cassidy
Butch was born Robert Leroy Parker in 1866, in Beaver, Utah, the first of thirteen children. In 1879 the family moved over the mountain to Circleville, Utah. I never knew Butch (no, I’m not that old), but I grew up an hour from Circleville. My sister married a Circleville boy, and I went to school with descendants of Butch’s younger siblings. Lots of Parkers down that way.


Butch Cassidy
 Young Roy, as he was called, cut loose early and worked odd jobs. He earned the name Butch from the time he worked as a butcher. Cassidy was the name of a shady rancher who befriended him as a youth. By 1884, Butch was rustling cattle outside Parowan, Utah. From there he drifted to Telluride, Colorado where he pulled his first major crime, the robbery of the San Miguel Valley Bank. He and three cowboys got away with $20,000. They escaped along the Outlaw Trail, a meandering path that ran from Mexico to Montana.

After Telluride, Butch’s reputation grew. He liked to think of himself as a kind of Robin Hood, fighting for settlers’ rights against the railroads and cattle barons. Of course, he was really just a criminal. But what he did, he did with flair. He gathered a band of outlaw cowboys (including Harry Longbaugh, known as the Sundance Kid) and established a hideout at the Hole-In-The-Wall, in central Wyoming. The gang became known as the Wild Bunch.

Etta Place
By 1896 the Wild Bunch was robbing trains and banks all over the West. Butch was a clever strategist. His gang would strike fast and flee over a network of hidden trails. They became bold and confident, even sprucing up to pose for the famous photograph that helped lawmen identify them. But their glory days couldn’t last forever. By 1900, they were on the run. In 1902 the Wild Bunch disbanded.

Butch, Sundance, and Sundance’s girlfriend Etta Place (who was no schoolmarm) fled to Europe, then to Argentina where they bought a ranch. In 1908 the famous shootout, with Butch and Sundance supposedly gunned down by Bolivian troops, took place.

Harlequin Historical, March 2011
Now, here’s where the story gets interesting. According to Butch’s last surviving sister, Lula Parker Betenson, her brother showed up to visit the family sixteen years later. Current research suggests that Butch faked his death, sailed to Europe and got a facelift and returned to the U.S. where he married and went into business. He died of cancer in 1937. Evidence to support this includes a detailed manuscript about Cassidy’s life, which he appears to have written himself.

Nobody can call Butch a good man. But you have to admit he was entertaining. Do you have a favorite bad guy, historic or fictional? Do you find outlaw heroes appealing?

13 comments:

  1. Elizaabeth, thanks for sharing. I loved the movie, and enjoyed learning more about the real Butch Cassidy.

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  2. Wow, I hadn't heard that last bit of information about him faking his own death. How fascinating. That would make a good book!

    Congrats on the new release, Elizabeth. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I will. I LOVE the cover.

    Take care,
    ~Caroline

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  3. Welcome, Elizabeth Lane. I see Caroline chose a wonderful guest, and we're so pleased to have you with us. So...you're related to a famous, handsome outlaw. If I were to have a relation who was a crook, I guess I'd choose him, too.
    I really enjoyed your tale about both the outlaws and Etta. You might know Hollywood would mess up the real story. I'd not heard of him faking his own death either. or the facelift story. Very interesting!
    Thanks for the wonderful photos and your story.
    The cover for your newest book is absolutely gorgeous.
    Thanks...Celia

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  4. Interesting information. Thanks much for sharing. I've had a thing for these two outlaws since the movie was so yummy. I always found Billy the Kid to have sort of a sad life. But you gotta love cowboays and the old west.

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  5. Hi, and thanks for your comments, Caroline, Caroline and Celia. One correction, I'm not related to Butch. But I really did go to school with some of his great grandnieces and nephews.
    I'll be in and out today, but will drop back.
    Thank you again for having me as your guest on this great site.

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  6. Thanks, Clancy. You couldn't call Butch's life sad. It was actually a lot like the movie. Remember the part about the young man who was a guard on three different trains Butch robbed? That was actually true!

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  7. Hey, my filly sister! So good to have you here at Sweethearts of the West! Loved this post, too! I really loved that movie when it came out--I had life-sized poster of Butch and Sundance running out of the building into the hail of bullets at the end of the movie--it was about 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide. When the movie about Bonnie and Clyde came out with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, my mom just went on and on about how Hollywood was trying to make common criminals into heroes. I guess that stuck with me. A lot of people don't realize that during that era, Bonnie and Clyde and some of those other outlaws were in Oklahoma quite a lot. The outlaws before them in the western days used Indian Territory as quite the hideout, as well. That Butch and Sundance movie did glamorize them, but it was totally entertaining. LOL Great post and how cool that you knew some of Butch's relatives.
    Cheryl P.

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  8. Elizabeth, your book cover is beautiful--congrats on the release! Loved hearing about good ol' Butch. I'm with Caroline, I loved that movie!

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  9. I love stories about historical bad guys. I guess the time distance glosses over the fact that I wouldn't want them for a neighbor. Fascinating post. Please count me in for the drawing if I'm not too late.

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  10. Thanks for your comments, Cheryl, Marin and Clarissa. And I didn't think about the Olkahoma connections till you mentioned it. Yes, movies do glamorize the bad guys, especially the older ones. But I figure they're just entertainment. On the other side, you get films like "The Assassination of Jesse James..." Now that one didn't glamorize anything.


    I loved the movie, too, Marin. I could watch Paul Newman breathe.

    No, bad guys wouldn't make great neighbors. I lived next door to some drug dealers once. Scary. They were one of the reasons I moved.

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  11. Hello Caroline and Elizabeth, well that was certainly and educational article. I enjoyed reading it. Am I attracted to bad huys as hero's? Well I guess that depends on his motive for becoming an outlaw. I thought Kiefer Sutherland made for one handsome Doc Scurlock in Young Guns I and II, and he made every effort to straighten his life out. I thought Kevin Costner as Wyatt Earpp and Colin Farrell as Jesse James were both H-O-T, hot but according to the movies they were fighting to defend thier homes and family. That's a big part of what attracts me to them, thier motivation. Thamks again for sharing.

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  12. I agree with you, Debby, that it depends on the bad guy and his motives. Some outlaws, like Billy the Kid, wouldn't hesitate to kill people. There's no record of Butch ever killing anyone (although I suppose it could have happened). And he didn't rob poor people, just the rich owners of banks and railroads. That doesn't make him a hero, but it does make him easy to like.

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  13. I live near Telluride, CO, and that story is legend there. I thought the story of him sneaking back into the states and living out his days in NM was commom!

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