Saturday marks the 153rd anniversary of the birth of Robert Leroy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy. The oldest of thirteen children, Robert left his Mormon parents’ subsistence farm in Beaver, Utah at age thirteen.  He found work in a butcher shop in Rock Springs, Wyoming and was soon known around town as ““Butch”. While working on a ranch, Butch met a cow poke named Mike Cassidy whose skills included stealing horses. In honor of his mentor, Butch adopted the name “Cassidy”.

Butch robbed his first of many banks in 1889 but was never arrested until he was apprehended for horse theft in 1894. After being released from prison in 1896, Cassidy met Harry Longabaugh.  Born in Pennsylvania, Longabaugh moved west as a teenager. He became known as The Sundance Kid when he was imprisoned for stealing a horse near Sundance, Wyoming. Along with his mysterious companion, Etta Place (allegedly a former school teacher), Sundance moved into a tent near Cassidy’s remote Southeastern Utah hideout. Cassidy’s gang was known as the Wild Bunch. Sam Peckinpaugh’s classic film of the same name was loosely based on Cassidy and his cohorts. Butch’s gang’s name was changed to “Hole in the Wall Gang for “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” since Peckinpaugh’s film was already in production.

Butch Cassidy waved a gun around during his robberies however he never used it. Despite his aversion to violence, Cassidy and his gang pulled off an impressive series of train and bank robberies across South Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada and Wyoming. Union Pacific Railroad executives became so desperate that they offered Cassidy a pardon if he would end the robberies and take a railroad security job. After Cassidy declined the offer the company enlisted the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, The lawmen were able to find The Wild Bunch’s hideout and Butch, Sundance and Etta fled to Argentina. They bounced back and forth between Chile and Argentina, robbing banks and successfully evading authorities. In 1906, a worn-out Etta moved back to the U.S and the two men commenced operations in Bolivia.

The movie depicts a popular theory of the duo’s demise. They supposedly robbed a payroll outside of San Vicente and then rode into town with one of mining company’s mules. When somebody recognized the mule, the Bolivian Cavalry was summoned and a gunfight ensued. Some historians believe the pair were gunned down by the Bolivian army and that they were buried in unmarked graves at the local cemetery. Yet there is no conclusive evidence linking the duo to the robbery and shootout. A few years ago, researchers exhumed remains thought to be those of the famous outlaws and determined that they were not Butch and Sundance.

What really happened to the notorious criminals remains a mystery. Many reports indicate that Sundance and Etta got back to the United States separately but they were never seen or heard from again. There are several claims that Butch returned and lived under aliases in Oregon, Washington, Nevada and several Eastern states. It is also claimed that he worked for a railroad company. Butch’s younger sister Lula insists that he visited her and their father at the family home in 1925, 17 years his supposed violent death.

 Movie Trivia
The studio bosses wanted Jack Lemmon to play Sundance however Lemmon turned them down. They turned to Steve McQueen but could not meet his non-negotiable demand for top billing. Paul Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward suggested Robert Redford, a relatively unknown stage actor and the rest is history.
The filmmakers tried to get Bob Dylan to perform “Raindrops keep falling on my head” but he demurred.
The Bolivia scenes were shot in Mexico, where virtually the entire cast and crew suffered from Montezuma’s Revenge. Newman, Redford and Katherine Ross were the only people spared, because they eschewed the Mexican drinking water and drank only soda and alcohol for the duration of the filming.  

Have a great weekend and remember “The fall will probably kill ya”
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