This book is about David Rudabaugh, a man whose life is both obscure and wildly mythologized.
One myth about Rudabaugh is that he was a "nasty, treacherous bully" who "stole and killed and brutalized people... Dirty Dave would try anything, as long as it was crooked." Not true. Another fictitious accusation is that Rudabaugh shot a jailer in cold blood. The true account of jailer Antonio Lino Valdez's fatal shooting is presented for the first time in this book, based on the never-before-published trial transcript. The unquestionable trial evidence shows that it was another man who shot the ill-fated jailer, not Rudabaugh.
Following the jailer's killing, Rudabaugh fled. Now a wanted man, Rudabaugh teamed up with Billy the Kid and participated prominently in Billy's final gun battles with authorities. Famously, Rudabaugh was captured along with Billy at Stinking Springs by Deputy Sheriff Pat Garrett and his posse.
After his capture, Rudabaugh was tried for Valdez's killing and sentenced to death by hanging. He escaped jail and went to Mexico.
On February 18, 1886, Rudabaugh was killed by a Winchester rifle shot to the chest in Parral, Mexico, by a grocery man named Jos . Following his killing, Rudabaugh was decapitated by Jos . His head was placed on a pole and paraded around the Parral plaza. Present at Rudabaugh's beheading was Albert W. Lohn, a nineteen-year-old photographer.
Lohn took four photographs of Rudabaugh's decapitated head. The two negatives he printed were confiscated by Mexican authorities. The other two negatives remained in Lohn's files for 57 years, entirely forgotten by him. The story of how these two negatives were acquired by an avid collector of Western memorabilia is given in the book.
Rudabaugh's life story is mesmerizing. It is as adventurous as that of any Wild West figure. The events of his life include being both a wanted man and a lawman. They include a failed train robbery and two successful stage hold-ups. They include saying nothing when three innocent men were convicted of one of his stage robberies. They include the aforementioned accusation of murder and being sentenced to death by hanging. They include a successful; ingenious jail escape and numerous attempted escapees. They include an eight month association with Billy the Kid, an association that made him almost as famous in Wild West outlaw history as Billy.