Buck nodded. "You know a dog will stay with you if you're dying. A horse won't," he said. The cowboy-outlaws, Egan said, who used and discarded their mounts as necessary, treated horses the way they should be treated. "People want to make horses into pets, into dogs," she said. "They're just big, dumb livestock who are very useful."
We talked about Butch. Buck liked what Butch stood for. He told the story of how Butch gave $500 to an old rancher couple to pay a banker threatening them with foreclosure. (When the debt was satisfied, Butch found the banker and stole back his money.) Or how he stopped hard in the middle of a chase, a posse close behind, to give away a white horse he'd promised to a wide-eyed boy on a ranch in Nevada.
"Butch was sick of seeing the big cattlemen, the rich people, taking from the lower classes," said Buck. "He was fightin' an unfair system, fightin' for the little guy. Yes, he was a criminal, he was a fugitive, but he didn't do so much wrong." Buck, too, shared the belief that Butch had never killed anyone. "Never hurt a man – I still think that's pretty neat," he said.
Buck unfurled his bedroll close to the horses that night. Jim, the alpha, had attempted an escape at dusk, so Buck was watchful. He told me later that it had been a long time – many months – since he had slept in the open, and it made him happy. This reminded me of something Charles Kelly had written about Butch and the Wild Bunch, how they "hated the monotony of settled communities. Their greatest joy was found in exploring new country, camping in the desert, and telling tall tales around a campfire."