I have a taste for what I like to call alternative history. I think that is a good name for it because proponents cite sources and make judgments about historical events considered “settled.” Alternative historians aren’t always as rigorous as academics and serious amateurs and there is often a strong wishful thinking element to the alternative accounts. They are always interesting, though. Well, almost always.
The case of Robert Leroy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy, is an interesting one.
The conventional historical account states that Cassidy died with the Sundance Kid after a brief but flamboyant career as bandits in Bolivia. The accepted story is that a suspicious Bolivian went to the authorities and an impormptu posse was formed which cornered the pair who died, a possible murder-suicide, after a lengthy shootout.
There have always been holdouts who think Cassidy at least survived the sojurn to Bolivia and returned to the US and lived quietly.
In this case I support the conventional theory for a few reasons:
First, Cassidy and the Kid were pretty definitely in Bolivia and were up to their old tricks. How many other pair of English speaking bandits were there in Bolivia around 1908? Is there any trace of them? No, not so much. It isn’t as if Cassidy and the Kid were operating at the same time as Olson and Johnson and there is reason to suspect O&J were the ones actually killed.
Second, the shootout is well attested and two English speaking bandits died. It isn’t as if one body was found and one bandit was presumed dead. There is no claim I have seen that a third bandit was present.
Third, the alternative is to reject the conventional account simply because some people, including some Cassidy relatives, say he survived without producing evidence to prove it. This is a common flaw in many alternative history scenarios. The “alternators” reject the best evidence available – Bolvian authorities – in favor of essentially inadmissable evidence that “proves” what you always wanted to believe in the first place.
Apparently someone with time and money is trying to find the gravesite where the Bolivians buried the English speaking bandits. If they can be found and exhumed than, once again, forensic science may be able to answer this one, too.
Meanwhile, the search for DB Cooper continues as the FBI now says the “break” in the case wasn’t really all that.
I love the ending of the Redford Newman film.