By Brad Dison
Robert LeRoy Parker was a “medium short, stocky build, with blue eyes and an infectious smile. His sense of humor was highly developed; he made friends easily, was highly dependable when he chose, and was loyal to his friends.” He could “outrope, outride, and outshoot any man on the range. He drank sparingly and never allowed women to interfere with his business.” His business, at this time, was working cattle.
Sometime in the 1870s, the exact date has been lost to history, Robert stole a saddle and several horses near Circleville, Utah. Two deputies tracked Robert for miles through the desert and got a lucky break. They found Robert asleep at camp. Before he was fully awake and aware, the deputies handcuffed Robert. Anyone else in that situation would have admitted defeat, but not Robert. One newspaper reported that Robert’s “mind worked like chain lightning.” As the deputies were transporting Robert from his camp in the desert to the nearest jail, they stopped near a spring to prepare lunch. The deputies built a fire and got enough water from the spring to boil a pot of coffee. One of the deputies went back to the spring to fetch more water while the other deputy stayed to guard their prisoner. Robert sat near the fire directly across from the guarding deputy. The deputy squatted by the fire to check on the coffee. At that instant, Robert kicked the boiling coffee in the face of the deputy. The deputy grabbed his face and screamed. Robert snatched the deputy’s pistol from its holster and trained the pistol on the second deputy. He disarmed the second deputy, retrieved the handcuff keys, and removed the restraints. In less than a minute, Robert jumped into his stolen saddle and rode away with the stolen horses and the deputies’ two horses.
In most other cases, that would have been the end of the story. By most accounts, Robert was a likable, caring guy. After riding a couple of miles from where he made his escape, he realized that the deputies’ water canteens were still tied to the saddle of their horses. He knew the area well enough to know that the next nearest spring to the deputies was about 30 miles away. He knew the deputies would try to walk to some sort of civilization but without their water canteens they would certainly perish. Robert rode back to the stranded deputies and, to their surprise, returned their water canteens and gave them directions to the next nearest watering hole. The shocked deputies thanked Robert as he rode away again.
Robert’s criminal career continued for more than a decade, and he joined forces with other like-minded criminals. The pressure of continually being pursued by law enforcement officers convinced Robert to leave the country for South America. He and his most infamous partner purportedly died in a shootout on November 7, 1908. Robert used many aliases during his criminal career including Santiago Maxwell, Jim Lowe, George Cassidy, and Mike Cassidy. You and I know Robert LeRoy Parker as Butch Cassidy. His partner’s alias was the Sundance Kid.
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, March 19, 1950, p.63.