Billy the Kid

by Charles McGrath

Click on photo to enlarge:

Springfield Avenue was a turnpike (Newark /Morris Turnpike?) that ran from High Street to Morris Avenue in Union. Like most turnpikes it had tollgates. With tollgates came semaphores, which are raised after the person pays the toll. Another word for the semaphore is pike. A pike is a long spear. Toll collectors in the Middle Ages used these pikes and they turned upward to allow the traveler to proceed after the toll was paid. That is how we got the name Turnpike. The pike was turned upward and downward.

This turnpike also had highway men in circa 1870. They seemed to operate near the present Newark / Irvington line. Were they masked men like Zorro or the Lone Ranger? I'm not sure. But they were outlaws since they operated outside the law. Did Billy the Kid ever come to Newark? Well he was born in New York City and in all probability he had to at least pass through Newark to go to New Mexico.

In 1970 a friend gave me a six-week-old raccoon that was abandoned by its mother. A raccoon as we all know is a wild animal. It is not domesticated like a dog or a cat. We recently heard about a tiger in Las Vegas that almost killed its owner. It was a wild adult animal. One that is primarily ruled by instinct rather than love and affection. Well what about the raccoon?

The raccoon was very young and what happens is that it accepted us as its parents. We enjoyed this relationship for just about one year. Then guess what? Puberty! That is even a problem with wild animals. He no longer wanted or needed us as parents. The raccoon didn't know whether to bite us or lick us.

The above picture is that of my two daughters holding him as a one year old. You can see the black mask on his face. Because of this mask we called him "Billy the Kid". Shortly after this picture we set him free in the forest of New Jersey.

For a period of one year Newark had its own Billy the Kid, not just one passing through on his way to New Mexico.


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