Traveling Along Butch Cassidy's Outlaw Trail
By 1900, technology was at the heels of the Wild Bunch: the expanding network of telegraph wires; the invention of the telephone; the new paving of roads; the high-speed locomotives, outfitted to move a posse most anywhere needed. The renegades fell one by one. Elzy Lay, Butch's smartest man in the saddle, was caught and given a life sentence. Matt Warner did two years in a penitentiary and went straight. The "Black Jack" Ketchum Gang was decimated, its members killed or dispersed. News Carver was killed; Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan, cornered by a posse near Rifle, Colorado, shot himself instead of being taken alive.

Foreseeing a dismal future in the U.S., Butch fled, in 1901, to South America, accompanied by the Sundance Kid and Sundance's girlfriend, Etta Place, who was described in Pinkerton files as "a refined type." Etta may have been a schoolteacher, but she may also have been a prostitute. In Argentina, planning to go straight for good, the group started a ranch. By 1906, however, Etta disappears from the history, and Butch and Sundance leave the ranch and become outlaws once again.

Two years later, after robbing a mine payroll near San Vicente, Bolivia, they were surrounded by soldiers and killed in a bloody gun battle. One version of their deaths – there are many – relates that Butch shot the dying Sundance with a bullet to the head before turning the pistol on himself.

Yet there were also rumors that Butch returned to the States without Sundance sometime after 1908, changed his name, went on to start a number of manufacturing businesses – among them, a company that made, of all things, counting machines – and that one day in 1925, he showed up in Circle Valley to visit his family, driving a shiny new black Ford. Bill Betenson, Butch's great-grandnephew, believes this is the real story. "The two men killed at San Vicente were buried as unknowns," Betenson told me. "They were never identified. And the grave site has never been found. To me, there are still a lot of questions."