Have you ever seen Goldman's film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? In one well-known episode near the beginning, Cassidy returns home to his hideout in the 'Hole-in-the-Wall', only to find that the leadership of the 'Wild Bunch' has been usurped in his absence... by a hulking giant by the name of Harvey.
The scene that follows, in which Cassidy uses all his effrontery to slide out of a situation in which he must kill or be killed, then cheerfully appropriates Harvey's alternative plan for the next robbery, performs an important part in establishing the atmosphere of the film, its lead characters, their relationships and their situation. In fact it is an impressive piece of writing technique, as well as a memorable sequence in a deservedly famous movie.
This isn't the place to discuss film history. I will say only that — being what I am — my own reaction on first encountering the film in February 2001, more than thirty years after it was made, was to develop a sudden unprecedented interest in doing some research into the dying days of the American 'Wild West'. And to discover, to my amazement, that not only did 'Butch Cassidy' really exist, but so did the other players in that little scene, with their queer comic-book names — 'News Carver', 'the Sundance Kid', 'Flat-nose George Currie'... and plain 'Harvey', the odd one out. (Always, by what I could discover, the odd one out.) Harvey Logan.
That particular unequally-matched knife fight, however, never took place — or at least, not like that. Because one of the things I was surprised to find out, from the three books I managed to retrieve from the mouldering limbo of the Store at our local library, was that Harvey Logan wasn't a giant at all. While Cassidy himself, like most men who chose to spend their careers on horseback, was by modern standards relatively short and wiry, his putative opponent was not only two or three inches shorter but also a good twenty-five pounds lighter. In fact in 1897, Logan even suffered the humiliation of being summed up by a South Dakota wanted poster(1) as 'rather small'.
The other thing that struck me, as Logan's name kept cropping up on the peripheries of Butch Cassidy's life and times, was the man's consistently bad reputation. In a culture which glorified such unpromising material as Martha Jane Burke, Clyde Barrow and William Bonney, in a region where the locals were quoted as remembering Cassidy with affection and amusement and many of his fellow outlaws as easy-going boys on the shady side of the law, Logan seemed almost uniquely unpopular. Even characters such as Tom Ketchum, described(2) as 'to put it mildly, as mad as a hatter' and 'the West's most predictable robber — not a title to be proud of' were discussed with a certain wry amusement. Harvey Logan's name, on the other hand, tended to be preceded (frequently) by the stark words 'crazy' or 'insane'. Fruitier variations quoted from an old Wyoming cow-hand(3) included "The real bad one... a bad ass" and "a mean son-of-a-bitch, jes' as soon kill you as look at you".
Somehow I couldn't help but be intrigued by this slender, wild-eyed outlaw whose prominent nose and dark complexion ('color white but tan' as Pinkerton's(4) put it) betrayed traces of an Indian ancestry far from uncommon among men and women of that generation. And being what I am... I ended up putting Logan into the story I had just begun. Naturally enough, as a villain.
The high-traffic newsgroup rec.arts.drwho remains, to a surprising degree, on-topic. That is, they discuss Dr Who. The style of abuse in which much of the discussion is conducted, however, can only be described as anathema to a mild-mannered academic such as myself.
Since the beginning of the year I had been a lurker on the newsgroup, posting little or nothing due to my sketchy acquaintance with the 'Dr Who' series, my total ignorance of the acting merits or otherwise of Sylvester McCoy, and my reluctance to expose myself to personal attack. For some weeks I had been mulling over the possibility of establishing an alternative, more aggressive identity on the Net to handle such situations. At this time, with Harvey Logan very much on my mind, I contrived to obtain a separate e-mail account under the same alias, 'Kid Curry', that he had used. As it turned out, I was not the first person to seek alternative solutions on a newsgroup which was being flooded by self-styled 'Anti-McCoy Trolls'...
The 'Pro-Fun Troll' Movement had been started, more than a year earlier, by Ann Magill. Who better to describe it than she herself?
What it means to be a "pro-fun" troll: To slurp bandwith with thoughtful posts, praising what we enjoy before criticizing what we don't, enticing lurkers into the sunlight, provoking laughter, and hosting the occasional hoedown.
They are Usenet 'trolls' inasmuch as they seek to dominate the bandwidth in the groups to which they post; they are 'Pro-Fun' inasmuch as, in rec.arts.drwho terms, they are neither 'Pro-' nor 'Anti-McCoy'. And little did I suspect that they had established an annual, and at the time imminent, Pro-Fun Troll Hoedown — a 'virtual' party at which all contributors to the newsgroup were invited to write a description of themselves having fun....
I'd like to be able to claim that I had no idea the Hoedown was planned to turn into a mammoth multi-author adventure. That it was a simple coincidence that I decided to walk into the party that evening in the twitchy persona of Kid Curry, when the festivities had already been running for some time. But the truth is that it was not until the author in me caught the scent of a developing plot-line — a chance to influence a story, when my own had more or less stagnated — that I even considered joining in. And there had to have been a definite spirit of devilry in my choice of identity. After all, I'd just spent some weeks coming to the conclusion that Harvey Logan was possibly the most 'anti-Fun' outlaw in the USA!
In the interests of posterity, however, I should like it set down that I had no intention that my character should dominate the plot to the degree which eventually ensued. Indeed, I spent some weeks attempting to take a back seat....
Exactly when and where Harvey Logan was born is apparently uncertain. Different authors give different dates and locations. Bruce E. Logan Jr (5), approaching the subject from a genealogical angle, is perhaps best qualified to pronounce on this subject. He reproduces data from the 1870 census stating that in that year Harvey was three years old and that while his parents came from Kentucky, all their children were born in Iowa. While Bruce points out that the genealogical records he has traced are not in total agreement with each other in other respects, (the relative ages of the parents and the names of the children, for example), it would seem safe to state that Harvey Logan was born in or around 1867.
There were definitely four brothers, Henry(?), John, Harvey and Lonie. One can only assume that the boys lost both parents at a young age, since they were all brought up by their aunt, a Mrs Hiram Lee of Dodson, Missouri, near to Kansas City. One document(6) on Elizabeth Gibson's site claims that their mother, Eliza Jane, died in 1876 while the family were en route to Missouri, while her main article(7), in which she actually cites sources and which apparently merited official publication, merely suggests that the boys were sent to live with their aunt in 1876 after their mother died. The father, presumably already dead, is never mentioned at all. By her chronology, Harvey would have been orphaned at about nine years old.
There was Red Indian blood on one side or other of the family — both Harvey and Lonie were later described on the South Dakota wanted poster already quoted above(1) as 'quarter-breed Indian' in appearance, and a further poster(8) issued in 1899, noted 'complexion, hair and eyes very dark'. The shaman and spirit stories told to the Kid Curry of the Hoedown as a child by "his grandmother's people", however, can have had no basis in fact. The Hoedown had already dictated that the fictional outlaw should be familiar with such terms; I created a non-existent Indian heritage as the easiest excuse to bring those references back in-character.
In naming the youngest brother as 'Lonie', I followed Larry Pointer, who specifically notes(9) that the name was pronounced with a long 'O'. However, every single reference on the Web uses the more modern version 'Lonnie'.
In the early 1880s, when some or all of them must still have been in their teens, the four brothers had apparently left their aunt's house and acquired a cattle ranch in Montana. There is a strong suggestion that the cattle they handled there may have been stolen. On the other hand, the story that brother John hand-reared an orphaned colt in the ranch kitchen during one winter is not only pure invention on my part, but highly unlikely in the circumstances! As far as I know ranchers didn't raise their own horses, and even inexperienced teenagers would have known better than to let a working mare get in foal.
No-one really seems to know where the name 'Kid Curry' came from. At some point — probably when they left home — for some reason, the Logan boys from Kentucky or Iowa simply became the Curry brothers of Montana. I've seen it suggested that Harvey Logan 'borrowed' the idea for the name from Flat-nose George Curry, or Currie, a fellow outlaw and sometime recruit for Butch Cassidy's raids — but I suspect that this explanation is no more than an attempt to tie up a tempting loose end. The name is not uncommon; for what it is worth, the current London telephone directory lists two and a half columns of Currys/Curries versus one column of Logans. Larry Pointer(10) states that all four brothers were already using the same alias as early as 1884, though he gives no specific source.
My personal theory, for which I have absolutely no evidence whatsoever, is that the change was Lonie's idea. I picture him as a spirited and precocious youngster, and after all, the previous name of 'Lonie Logan' does have a faintly ridiculous ring to it....
As for 'Kid' — I can only assume that by this period it had become some kind of Western honorific. Billy the Kid and the Sundance Kid both acquired the sobriquet 'legitimately' by virtue of committing crimes before they reached the legal age of majority, but this cannot surely have been the case for all those who used it. If so, it would seem to suggest that Harvey, although not the eldest, was the definite ringleader when it came to criminal activities, and recorded history tends to back this up. Alternatively, it is possible that his small stature led to the nickname, just as later hardened Chicago gangsters would acquire the improbable sobriquet of 'Baby-face'.
Precisely which of the four brothers were involved in the day-to-day running of the ranch is unclear. Harvey, for one, definitely came south from time to time, and Henry, who seems to have been the eldest, was at Steamboat Springs in the mountains of Colorado when he caught pneumonia and died. Lonie was almost certainly the youngest. John may or may not have been older than Harvey and/or Lonie — I elected to go for the version that makes him Harvey's younger brother.
I would guess that he was the one to take the main responsibility for the working of the Curry ranch. He was certainly the one to die in a dispute over it.
It seems to have been a long-running neighbours' dispute over water rights, of the type that made all the difference between a viable ranch and a random fenced-off piece of prairie, and bred so many unglamorous but festering feuds when dry years came. The neighbour's name was Jim Winters. Whatever the original rights and wrongs of the affair, at some point around 1894-6 he took a shotgun to John Logan, with fatal consequences.
There appears to have been no legal process against Jim Winters. But years later, in 1901, after Cassidy had disappeared to South America, Harvey Logan is reported to have 'shot a rancher to settle an old feud'(11). A webpage account by the current owner of the neighbouring ranch(12) claims that this man was definitely Jim Winters, who was "gut-shot on our front porch while he was cleaning his teeth". It is certainly very tempting to think so — and for the purposes of the Hoedown I couldn't resist....
Allowing his temper to get the better of him in the town of Landusky in the Christmas season of 1894 was almost certainly the biggest mistake of Harvey Logan's far from stellar career. Up until that date he had been a reasonably settled and law-abiding citizen; if he and his brothers had indeed been involved in minor cattle-rustling, such activities were far from unusual among the cowboys and small ranchers of the area.
But as mistakes go, this was a fairly major disaster. Not only was it Logan who started the fight that left another man dead, but the victim was no trigger-happy low-life or casual drifter, but an honest citizen — and a very important one. Pavel, or Powell, Landusky was the man after whom the town itself had been named. His death, whether justified or not, was something that would never be overlooked.
The problem, apparently, was the girl Elfie, Landusky's daughter, who had managed to get herself pregnant.
Elizabeth Gibson, in her somewhat romantic account, claims that it was Kid Curry himself who was involved with the girl, although the only fact she cites is that later Elfie was "acknowledging that Lonny Curry had got her pregnant" in order thereby "to get close to the Kid"! Whichever brother was responsible — or even, as the other account on the Gibson site puts it, that the guilty party was someone entirely different and Landusky seized the girl's disgrace as an opportunity to pick a quarrel for reasons of his own — the affair ended in a drunken confrontation which left Landusky dead.
The exact details of the story seem to vary according to whether the teller wishes to titillate his audience with Kid Curry's wickedness or rehabilitate his subject. Landusky was shot in the back — no, beaten to a pulp, then gunned down — no, knocked to the floor fair and square before drawing a gun on his unarmed opponent... I'm willing to believe that Kid Curry killed for the first time in self-defence, or at least to accept that the verdict may have been manslaughter rather than murder. However, I don't think that one then needs to invoke the spectre of a corrupt judge in order to explain the ensuing flight from justice by which he effectively condemned himself to the short and brutal life of an outlaw.
The dead man had been a leading member of local society, and the Curry brothers were obviously far from eligible as prospective husband material. Kid Curry had been seen to throw the blow that started the fight, even if the same witnesses were then prepared to swear that the actual shooting had been in self-defence. And the girl had unquestionably been placed in an interesting condition; feelings locally were no doubt running high. Under the circumstances, it is easy to see how getting out of town fast and explaining later could have seemed a very tempting thing to do.
Kid Curry may have been a late starter in the paths of crime compared to contemporaries such as Butch Cassidy or Matt Warner who had been in and out of trouble since their teens; but when he turned up in the lawless Hole-in-the-Wall valley in Wyoming after Christmas 1894 it was in the character of a wanted murderer on the run. Perhaps this was an instant passport to acceptance by the loose-knit outlaw associations who roamed the neighbouring states; perhaps the Curry brothers had already been involved in handling the rustled cattle that passed through Hole-in-the-Wall on a regular basis; or perhaps desperate men simply couldn't afford to be too picky. Whatever the truth, Kid Curry seems to have fitted right in.
Click on thumbnails to see larger versions of photographs
This 1895 photograph shows Kid Curry in an attempt at a relaxed pose with one arm on the shoulder of the Sundance Kid (seated — not shown). Despite the poor quality of the image, note how the expression in the eyes belies the casual stance; just a little too wide, a little too nervy, a little too intense. For me, it was an expression that proved uncomfortably familiar. I'd seen it before — in my own mirror.
Towards the back of a 'Wild Bunch' group photograph(13) taken around 1896, Larry Pointer identifies the fresh-faced youth on the left as Lonie, the older man to his right as Harvey Logan, and — looking somewhat ill-at-ease — a burly figure behind them who may be their brother John. (The black shape just visible in front of Lonie's shoulder, incidentally, is Butch Cassidy's hat!)
The 'crowded camp one autumn and winter up at the hidden canyon' to which I tossed in a throwaway reference during the Hoedown, was in fact an unlikely real-life scheme, reported(14) to have taken place during the winter of 1896/7 and partially confirmed elsewhere(15). Some of the outlaws and their women supposedly over-wintered at Hole-in-the-Wall that year, sleeping in a pair of huge canvas tents measuring twelve foot by sixteen — tiny, of course, when compared to the dimensions of the Hoedown's Big Top, but when I wanted a frame of reference for my fictional outlaw to understand the concept of a huge circus tent, it was Butch Cassidy's daft camping scheme that came to mind. (Cassidy, of course, was the "one crazy guy" whose "wild ideas" occasionally "came up real fine" to which the character Kid Curry refers — but historically speaking, even if the snow-bound camp really did take place, I'm afraid it's unlikely Logan would have been present!)
Another anecdote(16), from Kerry Boren, which I repeat here as a good story although I am almost certain that it is apocryphal, depicts a highly-formalised outlaw society which somehow reminds me of Mallory's Morte d'Arthur, with Butch Cassidy and Kid Curry as knights sparring for dominance:
"It was at Cassidy Point in Brown's Park on August 18, 1896, that plans were formulated to organize what Cassidy proposed to call the Train Robbers Syndicate, but which later became known as the Wild Bunch. Over two hundred outlaws... were in attendance, including members of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang, led by Flatnose George Curry together with Kid Curry and the Sundance Kid....
"A conference of sorts was held in the cabin on Cassidy Point and it was agreed that an organization was needed, but there was a dispute between Cassidy and Kid Curry over who was best qualified to lead it. Tense moments passed until someone — probably Butch — came up with the idea of a contest.
"It was a simple idea. They would meet again at Brown's Park in one year — on August 18, 1897. During that year, two groups, one led by Cassidy, the other by Kid Curry, would pull off various robberies. Whoever was most successful, most spectacular and daring, would become the leader.
"By the following August, Cassidy, with the aid of Elza Lay, Bub Meeks and Joe Walker, had successfully pulled off several robberies, the most spectacular being the robbery of the Castle Gate payroll of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company on April 21, 1897. During that same period, Kid Curry, together with Flatnose George Curry, the Sundance Kid and several others, had attempted to hold up the bank at Belle Fourche, South Dakota, were pursued, captured and escaped from the jail at Deadwood. It was obvious that Cassidy (with the aid of Elza Lay, a brlliant strategist) had won."
However, by 1897, as Kerry Boren recounts, Kid Curry was indeed in trouble — and bound for jail, where this unshaven photograph was taken. A careful look at the hands of the weary, sullen outlaw suggests the presence of handcuffs. On June 28th he had taken part in a bank robbery in the South Dakota town of Belle Fourche which had been a less than total success (Eamonn O'Neill(17) claims that they only got away with $97 in total). One of the robbers, Tom O'Day, was so drunk that he was left behind during the getaway and caught on the spot, and by September two further accomplices and Kid Curry had been captured before they could carry out a further planned raid. While attempting to resist arrest, Curry was pierced through the wrist by a lucky shot which forced him to drop his weapon. A fraction of an inch either way, and he might well have been permanently crippled — as it was, the wound was to leave him with the deep scars along his forearm to which the Hoedown briefly alludes.
It would not stop him from taking part in the Deadwood jailbreak a month later, however, when "all of the captured Belle Fourche robbers escaped, gaining their freedom by overpowering the jailer and his wife, 'beating the woman quite badly, on account of her resistance'. (18) This recurring note of violence runs like a dark thread through accounts of Kid Curry over the next few years. In his description of the 1899 Wilcox train robbery(19), Eamonn O'Neill alludes to him as "always eager to thump, bully or shoot anyone who annoyed him" and another story claims that he used the butt of his weapon to smash the engine driver across the face rather than holding him at gun-point.
During the Hoedown, the stars that the character Kid Curry remembers under the starry dome of the Zero Room are those of the night of the Wilcox robbery, June 2nd 1899 — and it was that same "one, big, fifty-thousand-dollar job... eight miles out of Rock Creek" which proved fatal to little brother Lonie.
To this day, no-one can prove who really took part in the Wilcox affair. Lonie may have been involved in the actual robbery, just as he may have been present at Belle Fourche — in both cases, his description appeared along with that of his brother on wanted posters afterwards(1), (8), although modern accounts prefer to attribute the crimes in question to other, more 'professional' outlaws — and it is also possible that Harvey, despite his increasingly ugly reputation, was sufficiently protective towards his younger brother to send him money out of his own share of the 'take'.
Pinkerton's, at any rate, were convinced that both Lonie and his cousin Bob Lee, who must have been around as an older boy when the four young Logans were growing up at their aunt's house, were connected with the robbery. Shortly before the hold-up, Lonie had sold the saloon he'd been running back in Montana and left town. Afterwards he'd reappeared with enough money to buy a new establishment, the 'Club Saloon', which he was operating in partnership with his cousin when the detectives arrived. As soon as the Pinkerton's operatives turned up, Lonie vanished(20). All in all, it must have seemed an open-and-shut case.
It took Pinkerton's precisely six days to track their quarry down. He'd sought the only refuge he knew — he'd gone home, back to his aunt's farmhouse in Dodson. And when the detectives turned up, he panicked and tried to shoot his way out. It was a stupid, scared kid's trick. This wasn't a dime novel, and he was no gunman. Totally outnumbered, he didn't have a chance. Cousin Bob was quietly arrested, tried, sentenced, and released after only seven years — Lonie was buried. Permanently.
History does not record Kid Curry's reaction to the death of his last surviving brother. I chose to take the liberty of hinting that he may have felt at least partly personally responsible. Lonie had managed to establish himself in a separate career as a saloon-keeper, largely independent of his brother's dangerous way of life — a not inconsiderable achievement for a young man who must have been less than thirty when he died in February 1900. It seems a fair guess that whatever fatal degree of involvement he had in the Wilcox affair — probably, like Bob Lee, limited to handling the stolen money — would have been entirely at Harvey's prompting. However, we have no real evidence as to how close the orphaned brothers would have been to each other as adults. The sole tiny justification I have for hypothesising that Harvey Logan was fond of his family is that — of all the photographs I have managed to track down — the only picture in which the expression in his eyes appears normal and relaxed is the one in which he is standing next to John and Lonie.
At some point during the 1890s Kid Curry posed for this photograph, together with a hard-faced woman whom Robert Redford's book(21) captions as 'a prostitute named Annie Rogers [from] the red-light district of San Antonio [who] later gave testimony against him to the federal marshals who were trailing him.' Kerry Boren and Elizabeth Gibson also mention this woman. Gibson, who has a tendency to be romantic, claims that the couple were in 'a long-term relationship' while Boren, who has a weakness for enhancing the social status of his subjects, claims that she was 'Annie Marie Thayne, a school teacher from Wellington, Utah'. What is certain is that Kid Curry's wild-eyed glare and quivering moustache do not give the impression of a relaxed man; nor even, perhaps, a sane one.
The last known picture of the man, taken in the winter of 1900, is arguably also the most familiar image. For Kid Curry was one of the 'Fort Worth Five'.
During the summer of 1900, a train robbery near Tipton in Wyoming followed by a major bank hold-up at Winnemucca, in Nevada, had netted a spectacular total of almost $90,000 for the outlaws. That winter in Fort Worth, they settled down to enjoy the proceeds. One of them, 'News' Carver, got drunk enough to propose marriage — to Lillie Davis, another prostitute from San Antonio(22). And four of his boon companions were rashly persuaded to immortalise the occasion by joining him in a group portrait.
Given that one of them was Butch Cassidy, who had hitherto been cautious enough to leave no known photograph save an ancient prison mugshot, it was not long before the 'Fort Worth Five' appeared on 'wanted' posters far and wide. Curry, in the back row, stands out from the others like a sore thumb. Eamonn O'Neill(23) claims that he appears 'to smile and scowl simultaneously'. To me, he just looks off-balance and twitchy... and, as always, there are the eyes.
Over his entire outlaw career, Kid Curry was imprisoned twice, scarred frequently, and only on a few occasions ever succeeded in stealing more than a few hundred dollars. In almost every case, this was when he formed part of a 'Wild Bunch' attack planned and directed by someone else. The one successful exception was the Wagner holdup of July 3rd 1901.
This was the last-ever robbery carried out by members of the 'Wild Bunch'. Butch Cassidy, "the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn't have"(24), had last been seen in February and was already on his way out of the United States for good. Ellsworth 'Elzy' Lay, the acknowledged brains behind Cassidy's most successful exploits, had been jailed for life in October the previous year. All the indications are that Kid Curry was responsible for planning this final attack.
This time, it was a different railway company — the Great Northern — and a different state — Montana — from any that they had hit before. They were hundreds of miles north of Hole-in-the-Wall and their old roaming-grounds on the Union Pacific Railroad; practically on the Canadian border. Most probably the reason was simply that by this time they had made Wyoming, Utah and Colorado all too hot to hold them. But it is interesting, with Kid Curry in mind, to note the precise area that was picked.
According to Larry Pointer(25) (although he also claims that Butch Cassidy was present, which seems improbable) one of those recruited to help with the attack was a certain Jim Thornhill, a local rancher... and an old acquaintance. In fact, he was running the very same ranch that used to belong to the young Logans.
Harvey Logan must once have known this part of the country very well.
The robbery went like clockwork — at least from the outlaws' point of view; Larry Pointer states(26) that two passengers and the guard were hit by randomly-fired shots. The participants got away with a vast sum of money, although $40,000 of it was in unsigned banknotes — on their way from the Treasury to be signed and released into circulation — which were not strictly speaking legal tender.
But the numbers of the notes were known. The money had been easy to get, but was hard to spend safely.
When Kid Curry was arrested in Tennessee after a violent poolroom brawl in Knoxville, including a tragi-comic getaway attempt in which he dashed out by the back way and fell 20 feet straight down over the edge of a railway cutting, it was the cash found in his possession that first identified, then condemned him. According to Kerry Boren(27), the charge on which he was ultimately to be brought to trial was that of 'passing stolen money' from the Great Northern robbery.
He spent long months in Knoxville jail awaiting trial, on display to visiting crowds like a wild creature in a zoo. When the trial ended in November 1902, he had been found guilty. The sentence was twenty years' hard labour.
In a way, he could be said to have got off lightly. He had acquired the reputation of a cold-blooded killer — and had been named as responsible for enough deaths to have hanged him five or six times over. Robert Redford's book(28) captions his photograph as "said to have gunned down at least eight men", and Kerry Boren goes further: "He was wanted on warrants for fifteen murders, but it was generally known that he had killed more than twice that number." Such things get exaggerated. I suspect the true figure probably lies somewhere lower. At any rate he was no innocent by anyone's standards.
He was no spring chicken, either. Twenty years in gaol would have left him a broken old man.
However sane he may have been by this stage — and Kerry Boren's account suggests that over the course of the months spent caged his mental stability hardly improved — Curry was undoubtedly resourceful. In June 1903, while awaiting transfer to the main high-security state prison, he contrived to manufacture a home-made wire garotte, and used it on a prison guard. The guard's keys got him a gun. That gun got him another guard. The second guard got him a horse. The horse got him clean away from Knoxville.
It was his second successful prison break; but it was the last time he would come out ahead. Even in the 1890s, the horseback outlaw had been on the verge of becoming an anachronism. Now, the West was no longer 'Wild'. There were few places left where criminals could disappear with immunity.
Yet Kid Curry did manage to disappear, for a while. A local tradition reported by Robert Redford (29) claims that he spent some of this period hiding out, together with his Belle Fourche accomplice Tom O'Day, in a cave now known as the Outlaw Cave on Middle Fork River in Wyoming, near Hole-in-the-Wall. The story goes that Curry received a rifle-shot wound so grave that the doctor whom O'Day fetched at gun-point from Thermopolis was certain he would die; but that he did recover, and indeed outlived the doctor, who later died of a morphine overdose.
Tom O'Day was indeed arrested in Wyoming in November 1903. He was not in company with Kid Curry at the time — neither proving nor disproving the account above.
The generally-cited version of events is that Curry's last known appearance was in 1904, during an abortive train-robbery in Colorado, near the town of Parachute. As Eamonn O'Neil(11) recounts:
"....Finding only a pathetically small amount of money in the safe, Logan and the two outlaws fled the scene, pursued by a detective from the Pinkerton Agency.
"After a lengthy chase Logan found himself trapped like an animal surrounded by twenty men from the posse, all of whom had their guns aimed at the rock behind which he was hiding. It is said he shouted "I'm hit and I'm going to end it here!" Then he blew his brains out."
Other versions have it that the outlaw, knowing himself to be mortally wounded, nobly volunteered to stay behind and hold off the posse while his comrades made their escape. What is undoubtedly true is that there was some question over the identity of the messy, badly-damaged body.
The face was unrecognisable. Identification rested on examining the scars on the body — in particular, checking for the well-known marks on Kid Curry's wrist and forearm — and on a letter found in the dead man's pocket, addressed to one 'Tap Duncan'. Was this an alias, or the man's real name? The corpse was examined, and buried. Exhumed a month later, and examined again. Pinkerton's own agents could not agree.
The simple — and cynical — explanation is that Curry's death carried a sizeable reward, which thanks to the convenient controversy was never paid. But the question-mark over his fate, coupled with the unexpected re-appearance of Butch Cassidy in South America, led Pinkerton's to investigate the possibility(30) that Harvey Logan had somehow found his way south to rejoin Cassidy in Argentina.
Originally, I'd intended for the Hoedown to take place on Kid Curry's timeline post-Knoxville but pre-Parachute; the last gasp of his outlaw career, when he was fast approaching the end of the line but didn't yet know it. At the end of the Hoedown, he would have gone back, committed his final crime — and died for it.
However, my fellow authors were anxious to tie this mysterious stranger into the world of Doctor Who. Vortex City was instead established as his origin — an archetypical Wild Western world, where an alternative version of the Doctor fought for his own version of justice. This presented me with a slight problem.
The character Kid Curry might somehow have ended up in Vortex City; but he could hardly have done so in the middle of his story, and then gone back to Parachute. The balance of probabilities suggested to me that, hunted and desperate, Curry had in fact killed himself in 1904. But it looked as if my version of Kid Curry had to have been the one who supposedly made it to South America and disappeared there, to no certain end... and this was the 'history' I ultimately used. Not wishing to refer explicitly to Butch Cassidy, I simply hinted that the character had been forced further and further South — Mexico and beyond — by the relentless encroachments of civilisation upon the West.
Larry Pointer cites a series of newspaper articles(31) by Justo Piernes in 1970, based on Argentinian provincial police reports, which he claims stand up well in correlation with material in the Pinkerton archives. These stated that when Butch Cassidy left Argentina for Bolivia in 1906, three of his 'gang', Harvey Logan, Evans and Wilson, remained behind and carried out a series of clumsily-executed attacks, resulting in a number of murders and little money. Finally, Piernes reported, it was believed Logan was killed "by his own companions... in a place close to Corcovado" in 1910. (Corcovado is a volcano on the Chilean coast, directly west of Butch Cassidy's known base in Argentina.)
Eamonn O'Neill, writing twenty years later, had clearly heard the same story(32) but was rather less persuaded:
"The Pinkertons back in the USA had managed to convince themselves that this man [known as Dientes de Oro, or 'Gold Teeth'] might be the murderous (resurrected or escaped) Harvey Logan.... fresh evidence clearly suggested Duffy was somone else. But he was connected to Butch and Sundance, like Wilson and Evans.... In August 1910, William Roberts, a British settler, came upon [their camp].... On sitting down, however, Roberts spotted the dead body of Andrew Duffy lying near by: 'That's Dientes de Oro,' he was told. 'We killed him because he was too cruel. The other day he wanted to murder a young boy just to see him fall.' "
Combine the two stories, add an unreliable narrator, change history to allow Harvey Logan to be pulled through into another universe at the last minute: and you end up with our entirely fictional explanation of how Kid Curry came to Vortex City.
It is ironic — and would doubtless gladden the heart of every Pro-Fun Troll to know — that by attributing Kid Curry's origin to Vortex City in order to explain his presence in the story in the first place, Imran Inayat essentially forced me to save the character from the bleak historical reality initially envisioned....
What kind of a man was Kid Curry?
He was an outlaw; of that there is no doubt. And the outlaws of the American West had little in common with Robin Hood of legend. They were far from altruistic, definitely not noble, and most of them were not even particularly good at what they did. Even on the few occasions when large sums of money were stolen, those involved rarely seem to have got much benefit out of their short-lived wealth. Nor was living outdoors on the run particularly pleasant, as the following accounts illustrate. It was a rough, scrambling existence, and most outlaws spent most of their brief careers either broke or in gaol.
Physically, Harvey Logan was small, dark and twitchy. I based my depiction on the last known description of him as quoted by Larry Pointer(4), issued in Argentina but assumed to originate from Pinkerton's files: "Harvey Logan, Kid Curry, 41 years of age. 1.71 meters [5 feet, 7 inches] in height; body slender; color, white but tan; eyes dark, nose prominent; teeth noticeably white; he has a scar back of wrist, two on his back and on left shoulder; middle finger on his hands is extraordinarily long." Kerry Boren cites an eyewitness description taken at the time of Logan's Knoxville captivity by Lowell Spence of the Pinkerton Agency, who was later to be called in to verify the identity of 'Tap Duncan' : "...five feet, seven inches tall with jet black hair, 'peculiar dark eyes' and a reserved manner...."
An 1899 reward poster(8) issued by the Union Pacific after the Wilcox robbery describes Harvey and Lonie Logan: "Two men, look like brothers, complexion, hair and eyes, very dark; larger one, age about 30; height, five feet, five inches; weight 145 pounds; may have slight growth of whiskers; smaller one, age about 28; height, five feet, seven inches; weight 135 pounds; sometimes wears moustache." Note that the two heights cited here would appear to have been transposed in error.
The poster issued after Belle Fourche(1) in 1897, also seeking a pair of brothers, is similar:
It's clear none of the Logans were heavyweights; though in the group photograph, John, in the centre (if it is indeed he), appears possibly somewhat burlier than the other two. As for the fourth brother, Henry — he had the good- or ill-fortune to die before history could record anything about his appearance whatsoever....
Harvey Logan's personal character is harder to establish.
Robert Redford's book mentions him only briefly, quoting local tradition(3) from an old cowhand who'd arrived in Lander, Wyoming in the 1920s and some research by Kerry Boren. Both paint a black picture.
Larry Pointer quotes at length from the 'Bandit Invincible' manuscript, which purports to have been written by a man who knew Butch Cassidy "very, very well". Pointer is convinced that this is in fact an autobiography; more modern evidence(33) has almost certainly disproved the claim, although the clumsy style of the manuscript does suggest a man of rudimentary education rather than a qualified engineer. Whether or not the author ever met the outlaws whom he describes, at the very least his thumbnail sketches reflect the popular image of them that remained in the 1930s, a period when 'Kid Curry' was still within living memory.
"To Curry human life meant nothing.... he did not look for trouble but did not wast time if it came his way.... Robbing a bank meant nothing but Killing in cold blood was another, and which [Cassidy] did not approve. Cassidy would rather out wit the persuers but Curry would kill if they followed to close..... he was rather inclined to be surly and appeared to resist new acquaintances regardless of who they were. He would not cause trouble but would resent the slightest insult or injury instantly. If a man did him wrong or attempted to injure him in any way, he never forgot it and at the first opportunity would eaven his score with him. His experiences in early life had been very bitter and he gradually arrived at the state of mind where he felt every one was against him and therefore did not hesitate to kill upon the least provacation."
Eamonn O'Neill quotes no sources concerning Harvey Logan to back up his lively and highly readable travelogue; but I'll admit to having been heavily influenced by his vivid characterisation, and his allusions to Logan are, if anything, even less flattering than those of the other accounts. "Harvey Logan, alias Kid Curry, the most feared, brutal and unhinged member of the Wild Bunch... the murderous Harvey Logan.... when there was a full moon some of Butch's gang, especially characters like the fevered Harvey Logan, were known to 'go a bit funny in the head'.... the vicious, cold-blooded killer Harvey Logan...."
Those amateurs who have produced webpages, almost all of whom give no sources at all, tend to be more favourable to their chosen subject but with an equal lack of evidence. To a degree I suspect that this has been influenced by the television series Alias Smith & Jones, one of whose lead characters was named Kid Curry. The 'other Kid Curry' appears to have been a typical Western hero and a thoroughly decent and likeable chap, and I have a nagging feeling that some of this reflected glory has had a tendency to rub off on perceptions of his earlier counterpart.
On the other hand, Elizabeth Gibson, who does give sources, names three ranch bosses who 'respected [Logan] as a good cowhand', and both she and Kerry Boren cite prostitutes who spoke in his favour despite being questioned by the law. I actually found the description by two girls from the Knoxville brothel, of "a sweet and bashful person" who tried to impress them by boasting about the quality of his underwear, surprisingly easy to correlate with Larry Pointer's unsociable outcast.
In my depiction of the man's character, I was also influenced by the surviving photographs. When examining pictures of Harvey Logan, it is the eyes that immediately catch the viewer's attention. This is perhaps most true of the last and most well-known photograph, that of the 'Fort Worth Five', but it is an unsettling thread that runs in common through most of the other images — including, unsurprisingly, my own pencil sketch based on those photos. Either Kid Curry really disliked having his photograph taken... or he was, to say the least, not entirely stable.
Ultimately, I suspect, any writer is attracted towards subjects he feels he can mould into his own image. We discount views that do not match our preconceptions, and seize upon tidbits that back up our own ideas. The Kid Curry envisioned by happy, healthy young Americans is a less misanthropic and unhinged creation than the character that emerged into the story as I began to write.
Kid Curry - Fiction
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