Outgunned by a Skunk

Bill Carver (standing left).
William “News” Carver (standing left).

By the early 1900s, the law was closing in on outlaws like the Wild Bunch. Modern technology such as telephones was making it easier to track the movements of outlaws on the run and Butch was beginning to feel the pressure and considered going to South America. The cattle industry was big in Argentina so he decided to pull another robbery to finance the venture.

The gang included Butch Cassidy, Harry Longabaugh, aka the Sundance Kid and Will “News” Carver. Carver earned his nickname because he devoured newspaper stories heralding the daring exploits of the Wild Bunch.

They chose the bank in Winnemucca, Nevada. The boys camped near town for about ten days prior to the heist, casing the town and the bank. On the morning of the raid, September 19th, 1900 they headed for town.  They stopped briefly to cut through a barbed wire fence to take a shortcut through a field. Carver dismounted, took his wire cutters and cut the wires. Then, he spotted a large skunk. He pulled his pistol, fired and missed. While the rest of the gang laughed and cheered him on, he took off chasing the stripped polecat. Now, it was the skunk’s turn to fire his weapon and he didn’t miss.

When Carver returned and approached his horse the animal shied away, not wanting any part of him. After several unsuccessful attempts he managed to swing into the saddle, however Butch and Sundance, holding their noses, made him ride in the rear.

The bank robbery went off smooth but as one Pinkerton agent later wrote, “Carver could hardly stand the smell himself. The clerks kept sniffing and at one point he muttered, ‘Dammit, I can’t help it. He got me first.’”

The robbery netted the gang some $32,000 and only took about five minutes but on the way out Carver accidently dropped a small bag of gold and stopped to pick it up, His horse picked up the smell and once again Carver and his horse had a small rodeo. A passerby grabbed a shot gun and fired off a blast but only succeeded in shooting out both windows of the saloon next door.

The first thing Carver asked when he reached the next town was where he could get a bath and some fresh clothes. It was said that afterwards he still smelled like a skunk. All in all News Carver was having a bad day.

The three bank robbers took the loot and headed for Fort Worth where met up with Ben Kilpatrick and Harvey Logan aka Kid Curry.  They bought themselves some expensive suits, silk shirts, and new boots then headed for Fanny Porter’s bordello for some frolicking and a little R & R with Fannie’s good time girls.

The next day Butch, Sundance, Will Carver, Ben Kilpatrick and Harvey Logan posed brazenly for a local photographer in their new duds. The photographer liked the picture so well he put it in the window of his shop, where a passing lawman recognized one of the outlaws. The photos were copied on “wanted” posters and plastered all over the West. By that time Butch and Sundance already in Argentina.

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian, board president of the Arizona Historical Society and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu