Dancing with Billy the Kid came out a year ago. Since then, I’ve been so lucky to meet many Billy fans. I’ve also met a few descendants of the men who rode with Billy. Happily, none of them complained about my portrayal of the Kid (whew!).
One of the people I’ve met is Jan Reardon, New Mexico born and raised. Her great-grandfather was Frank Coe, who was a Regulator and rode with Billy. I also quote liberally from him in my book. Jan was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, so I had to share them with you.
The photo to your left was of Frank and Helene Coe on their wedding day in in 1881.
Growing up, Jan heard a lot about Billy from her relatives. He lived at the Coe ranch for a while because he didn’t have a horse. Her great-grandmother talked about how Billy loved to dance with all the valley girls and that he was fluent in Spanish. As always, Billy seemed to inspire fierce loyalty. Her great-grandmother was very fond of him and her great-grandfather, Frank, took it on himself to write to the territorial governor on Billy’s behalf.
Like Billy, her great-grandfather was also a very intelligent man and fiercely loyal. He also didn’t suffer fools gladly and held others to a high standard. Although Jan said that one subject that you could never mention was the Civil War. A good father and a product of his time, he exemplified ‘tough love.’ When his youngest son was stricken with polio and his lower extremities were withered, Frank taught the boy to pull himself up on a horse and ride as well as his siblings. When his son Bob was twelve, he took off on his own with a younger brother in tow. This is very much like Billy’s background when he was left on his own at age fourteen. As Jan put it, “What cojones they all had to strike out on their own like that.”
As Billy’s legend continues, so does the legacy of the men who rode with him. “I think pop culture likes the bad boys of legends,” Jan said. She didn’t seem overly impressed with Hollywood’s treatment of Billy so far, however, and thought she might have seen part of “Young Guns”. Maybe.
“I think Billy would’ve laughed ‘til his sides hurt if I told him he had a legacy,” Jan said. “Both men would say ‘the HELL you say!’”
I want to thank Jan again for answering my questions and for generally being awesome!