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On April 28, 1881, just days from being hanged, 21-year-old Henry McCarty, alias Billy the Kid, outfoxed his jailors and electrified the nation with the last in a long line of daring escapes. Just a few weeks later, he was finally gunned down, and the felling of one of the most notorious criminals of the age made headlines across the country. First demonized by the lawman who killed him, the Kid was soon mythologized by a never-ending stream of dime store romances and big-screen dramas. But with each telling, Billy the Kid's real story was further obscured. Born to Irish immigrants, the Kid led a hardscrabble, itinerant life. He came of age in New Mexico, caught in the middle of a many-centuries-old Irish-English conflict. Despite his reckless violence, the Kid's fascination with Mexican culture, his flare for Spanish, and his disdain for the Anglo authorities made him a hero of sorts to the Hispanic community, who hid him when the law came looking and mourned him most when he was gone.