Every story has heroes and villains, the good guys and the bad guys, the ones we want to win, and the ones we know will be defeated. In books and movies the distinction is usually made pretty clear cut by the writer showing us that one is the goodie, the other the baddie. Sometimes the boundaries are blurred and we find the good guy being treated as a bad guy, one example being Harrison’s Ford’s character Dr Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. Kimble is accused of murdering his wife, resulting in US Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard, wonderfully portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones, hunting him down, determined to catch a killer. In the film we know Kimble is innocent of this crime because we see scenes from his point of view, we become insiders, people who have witnessed the truth of the matter.
In real life that insider knowledge is denied to us. If we have a personal friendship with someone, then we might believe that we have some understanding of their motivation for a particular action. If they are a stranger to us, then we rely on newspaper reports, television news reels and hearsay, but these are easily coloured by sensationalism. This distortion can become even further exaggerated if the individual we’re judging died many years ago and has become a legend.
Ever since a child I’ve been fascinated by the outlaw Billy the Kid, also known as William H Bonny amongst many other aliases, and originally named Henry McCarty. During my childhood he repeatedly appeared in westerns, as a youth lurking in the shadows, propping up a bar, being told he could only drink milk. ‘Is that the kid?’ some gunslinger would ask. ‘I hear that Sheriff Pat Garrett’s in town.’ The characters were clearly defined, Billy the Kid as an outlaw, Pat Garrett as the cop who was after him. We know who’s supposed to win.
So, why do we root for Billy the Kid? Is there a large question mark concerning his guilt or innocence? Or, do we simply feel empathy because he’s referred to as ‘kid’ and therefore must be young and less likely to do bad things? Movie makers err towards portraying him as a sympathetic character, and not a hardened criminal. He’s an outlaw, a man on the run, and just like Dr Kimble, a fugitive. The distinction between the two men is that we have never been given an insider scene for Billy the Kid, we don’t know precisely what happened that set him on a desperate trail.
The recent discovery, and verification, of a new photo of Billy the Kid set me on a trail of investigation. Was this guy a hero or a villain? Firstly I researched his date of birth and set up a noon time birth chart for him. I would go and read what others said about him later, after I’d made my own assessment of his character.
Henry McCarty was born on 17th September 1859 in New York. (no birth time available) Early on that day the Moon is in Taurus, while from approximately 6:30 pm it’s in Gemini, closely conjunct his natal Uranus. This change in the Moon sign makes for two very different characters, but I prefer the earlier Taurus Moon, because when I did read up on him I learnt that he spoke fluent Spanish, and the earlier time places his natal Mercury conj. Mars in the 9th house, which would make him quick to pick up a new language. It also makes him an overall nicer person, steady and loyal; while Moon conj. Uranus would have him dropping his friends as quickly as a hot potato. I rather like the idea of him being a nice person, after all, I’ve been captivated by his story since childhood.
The new photo shows Billy playing croquet, allegedly after a friend’s wedding. This is normal stuff, this makes him a good guy. In his birth chart he has Jupiter in Cancer, showing how he likes and respects the concept of family and a sense of belonging.
So, where’s the villain in him? Is it there? Well, he has four planets in Virgo which would make him someone who is very intelligent, and extremely precise. He has Sun conj. Venus in Virgo giving him a desire to dress up smart, and to be clean and tidy. It can also give someone a slight stature, and records say that Billy wasn’t very tall, hence his nickname of ‘the kid.’ But, what’s this? He has Mercury conj. Mars in Virgo, which is maybe where the trouble begins. He’d have had a cutting tongue, but not necessarily a quick temper; however, it would make him extremely fast to draw a gun when angered, and he’d be highly accurate. This is turning him into Billy the Precision Kid. With Pluto in Taurus trine this Mars/Mercury conjunction, he’s someone who would brew and smoulder, build up hatred deep inside, then react when pushed too far.
Billy also has Uranus square Mercury/Mars conj. which would make him a risk taker. If he were alive today he’d ride a fast motorcycle, weave in and out of traffic at speed, but never fall off, never make a mistake. This square could make him quick to flare up, but more likely when speed is the challenge, such as a horse race or a competition to see who can shoot six tin-cans faster than the other. It could also make him impatient, but more with his tongue than his fists.
During my research I read various accounts of how Billy the Kid first came to kill a man, Frank P. Cahill. The consensus of opinion is that Billy went into a bar to do some gambling (he’d be good with cards and numbers, so probably won often – which might make him unpopular). Over the game of cards he gets into an argument with Cahill, reports suggesting that this was not a new issue and that Cahill frequently bullied Billy and physically assaulted him. On this fateful occasion, Cahill, a big man, knocks Billy down and straddles him, continuing to punch. Fearing for his life, Billy manages to draw his gun and shoots Cahill in the stomach, a wound he ends up dying from.
This story about Cahill’s behaviour, how he repeatedly picked on Billy and beat him up, paints Billy in the light of a man who was forced to take action to protect himself, and had reached the end of his tether with a bully. Billy was pushed too far. Billy was quick on the draw and didn’t think twice about the consequences of his actions, all he wanted was for that bully to stop thrashing him.
It also backs up my assessment that Billy has Moon Taurus. He’s stubborn. He kept going back to that darn bar, refusing to let a bully control his life. If he was born later in the day, with Moon conj. Uranus he’d more likely have had entirely the opposite reaction. He’d have walked away. If someone kept picking on him he’d have turned right around and found a different bar to gamble in, found new friends. He wouldn’t have hung around.
None of this casts Billy the Kid as a hero or a villain, but if I were writing an insider scene, something that only the reader gets to share, I’d show a conversation between Billy and his friends. They’d beg him not to go into Atkins saloon, tell him that they’d seen that bully Cahill go in there earlier, warn him to gamble elsewhere. Billy would, of course, have responded that no man was going to intimidate him into not going where he wanted to go. If Cahill attacked him then he’d sidestep, he was quick on his feet, nimble like a dancer. I’d then change scene to inside the saloon, show Cahill talking with his buddies, telling them how was going to thrash that kid if he showed his face today. As we read we beg Billy not to walk through those swing doors into that bar, but the stubborn youngster pushes them open, steps inside, and an outlaw is born.
Here are som great places to research Billy the Kid.