PHANTOM OF THE DESERT
True West|September 2020
THE APACHE KID IS AS ELUSIVE IN DEATH AS HE WAS IN LIFE.

“The Kid was a dark folk hero, a celebrated outlaw. He was at large in Mexico, living off the land, raiding when he felt like it. It was the Old Apache way.” —Neil Goodwin, as quoted by Paul Andrew Hutton in The Apache Wars

As lawmen, historians and treasure-hunters have chased the spectral life of the Apache Kid from Mexico’s Sierra Madre to the U.S. National Archives the past 130 years, the elusive outlaw and former Army scout’s life story has grown in reputation and notoriety. Many of the details of his final years living in Mexico and raiding in Arizona remain unknown, although his final days and demise, according to Lynda A. Sánchez in her February 2019 True West article, “The Final Nail in the Apache Kid’s Coffin,” took place in November 1900 in a fight with Mormon settlers in Chihuahua, Mexico.

One of the items that historians have used to possibly identify The Kid was a pair of “French” field glasses, which he famously was known to carry. An Apache scout wearing a set of field glasses was identified as the Apache Kid by C.S. Fly or Mollie Fly on the reverse of a photograph taken in Sonora, Mexico, prior to Geronimo’s surrender in March 1886. As historian Phyllis de la Garza says in her biography The Apache Kid “…at some point in his scouting career Kid began carrying binoculars on a long shoulder strap.”

Searching for and correctly identifying images of rarely photographed Old West men and women through closely kept personal possessions can be a key factor in determining provenance for Western historians and photographers. This is also why historians have for decades debated the exact number of existing photos of the Apache Kid and have sought to identify new and confirmed photographs of the elusive outlaw.

So how many actual photos of the Apache Kid exist?

First, historians generally agree that there are at least two known photographs of Kid: a prison mug shot printed on a cabinet card and a group shot of prisoners known famously as “Apache Kid and His Red Devils in 1882 [sic] Kid is 2nd from right standing.”

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