My full name is William Fitzroy Raglan Battles, but most folks call me Billy Battles. My good friends call me Billy 'Rags' Battles. More on that later.
Let me begin by owning up to some pretty terrible things I did during my life. That way you can make up your mind right now if you want to read further.
I have killed people. And I am sad to say the first person I killed was a woman. It was entirely unintentional and to this day the incident haunts me. The next person I killed was that woman's grown son, and that was intentional. If you decide to read on you will learn more about these two people and how they came to die at my hands.
You will also learn about other things I did--some of which I am not proud of, some of which I am. In the course of my life I got into a lot of brawls and found myself having to defend myself and others in a variety of ways. I did so without regret, because in each case someone was trying to do me or someone else harm.
Now, I know the Christian Bible says it is a sin to kill and in some of these imbroglios I probably could have walked away and avoided the ensuing violence. I chose not to because I learned early in my life that walking away from a scrap is too often seen as a sign of weakness or cowardice and simply incites bullies and thugs to molest you later on. There were a few individuals who tried their damndest to put an end to me, but fortunately I was able to dispatch or incapacitate those malefactors before they could apply the coup de grâce.
So there you have it--a forewarning about me and my sometimes turbulent life. As the Romans used to say: 'caveat emptor' if you decide to continue reading.
I don’t know if anybody will ever read what I am putting to paper here, but I figure I should do it anyway. A few folks have told me my experiences are fascinating because they show what it was like in Kansas and a lot of other places in the last century when life could turn violent and capricious without warning.
As I am writing this I am 88 years old and the year is 1948. I am not sure how much longer I will be on this earth, so I figure I had better write pretty fast before I join the Great Majority. I have been fortunate in that my memory still serves me quite well, but I must admit that for much of my life I kept several journals and it’s those journals that have kept my mind on the trail when it was inclined to wander off into the brush.
It was also those journals that helped me make sense, now that I am an old man, of some of the things I saw and did during my life. It’s a funny thing, but as you grow older and you have time to look back on your life, things begin to make more sense to you. I guess that’s what they call wisdom—not that I’m necessarily a wise man. I’m just somebody who had the good fortune to see and do a lot of things—some pretty awful, some pretty wonderful—and the good Lord has blessed me, or cursed me, with the capacity to remember most of it.
There are some things I wish I could forget--things other people did and things that I did. But I cannot. Consequently, I have lived for decades with many ghosts; not the kind that appear as apparitions in the night, but the kind that grab hold of your mind and force you to remember even when you don't want to.
I know what it is like to be a hunter of men and I know what it is like to be hunted. I can tell you, I much prefer the former than the latter. I have known and caused terrible fear. I have experienced and inflicted dreadful pain. I have loved and been loved and I have been, without doubt, hated by some.
But I have always tried to live my life as my mother taught me--with uprightness, reliability and consequence. I wasn't always successful. Sometimes my disposition turned dark and I did things I truly regret today. I am, after all, one of God's wretched creatures--a simple mortal with all of the imperfections and deficiencies of that species.
Now I don’t claim that my life was any more important than anybody else’s. Most folks who lived in the 19th Century had their share of adventures—some more than others. But what I think is important is that the truth about certain things be told—or at least the truth as I witnessed it in those days. There has been so much fiction and fabrication passed along as fact about things that happened in places like Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona, Colorado and so on that people today have no real idea of what really went on back then.
For example, the moving picture people have gotten it almost all wrong—not that they were ever trying to get it right. After all, they are in the entertainment business—not the truth telling business. They have made some folks so much bigger than life that I have trouble figuring out if they are talking about the same people I used to know or had some acquaintance with. And some folks have been either forgotten or turned into the worst kind of villains—I am not sure which is worse.
Hell, they even got a lot of our history wrong. The Spanish-American War for example. A lot of that was fought in the Far East and most Americans don't even know it. I know it because I was there fighting in The Philippines. That is a dark chapter in our history, I can tell you. I was also privileged to have spent time in other parts of the Orient at a time when that part of the world was still pretty exotic and mysterious to most Americans.
And that's not all. There was a lot of skirmishing later on down in Mexico that we were mixed up in after Doroteo Arango, alias Pancho Villa, and his little army invaded the United States back in 1915. He led the U.S. Army on a merry chase throughout Mexico and leveled an American town in New Mexico. The late General George S. Patton (in those days just a shave tail lieutenant) even brought back the body of the commander of Villa's bodyguards tied to the hood of his car like a big buck deer. I know that, because I was there. But I wager students today don't read anything about any of that in school.
The folks in Hollywood and those who write books and radio programs have added so much twaddle and claptrap to things that happened that I sometimes have to ask myself if I missed something. Because what they are depicting is so far away from the truth as to be mythology. I never thought much about that until now when I realized that all the rubbish `coming out of Hollywood and over the radio and in books and magazines and on these new contraptions called televisions is being passed off or least being accepted, as fact.
Sometimes we just don’t see things the way they really are until we can stand back from them and look at them with the viewpoint of time and distance. That’s what a professor at the University of Kansas once told me when I was a student there for a while back in the 1870s. I never finished my college education—a fact which troubled my mother until her dying day. Nevertheless, I learned just enough at that place to be a modest man of letters, but not enough to be a danger to anyone or myself—except on a few singular occasions. My time at college may have been the two most important years of my life because it gave me a leg up on a lot of folks back then who couldn’t read or write or study things out in a logical way.
I was no warrior. Never wanted to be. Nevertheless, I got pushed or pulled into some regretful scraps. I did serve a hitch in the Army and that was a true adventure. In fact, I was a scribbler, a newspaperman for most of my life. But in those days there were no precise lines between journalists and the people they were writing about. I was just fortunate that I was able to write about what I saw and what I experienced. Not many men or, for that matter, women, in those days had that opportunity. I consider myself most fortunate in that regard.
Now that my life is drawing to a close I am eager to put as much of it to paper as I can. Maybe someday my descendants will be able to pass it on to their children and they to their children. Even better would be if a larger audience might read it, but I am not an author of great literary works so I cannot expect that to happen. I guess my modest wish is that I be able to share what I humbly regard as an eventful life with those who follow me and anybody else who might pick up these pages. But mostly, I want to set the record straight on a few things and about some of the people I got to know when I was much younger.
My life started off pretty slow--like most lives do. There was nothing special about my childhood years except for the fact that I had no father and it was up to my mother to keep me on a short lead. But about the time I hit 18 or 19 things got to moving pretty fast--faster in fact than I ever thought possible. It was around that time that I met some folks, some good and some not so good, who would re-enter my life many times over the next several decades. And it was around that time that I began my journey down the owl hoot trail.
But I am getting ahead of myself. I had best start from the beginning.
Recent Amazon Reviews
Finding Billy Battles is a powerful introduction to what promises to be a gripping saga, and is especially recommended for fans of historical fiction who seek accuracy and depth as much as entertainment. (There is) more than casual attention to historical accuracy in the course of this story. Ronald Yates has created the first in a trilogy that is marked by swift action, strong characters, and settings and a history firmly based on real events. D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review).
The novel's narrator is the great-grandson of Billy Battles, whom he meets for the first time when the old man is nearing the end of his days. The story unfolds from there, in this case, underpinned by letters and diaries as well as the old man's recollections, fact about taking the reader on a rollicking romp through the Wild West. There are artefacts about the historical characters who appear throughout this first volumeof what is designed as a trilogy. The book conveys a real-life ambience through the author's diligence in whipping up authentic Kansas dialogue. Palmetto Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars people I met - both good and bad - and places I traveled to
By Martha A. Cheveson December 4, 2016
Format: Paperback |Verified Purchase
"I made it a point during my life to keep a record of my comings and goings, events that I experienced, people I met - both good and bad - and places I traveled to," he continued. "I have written something like twelve journals. About a dozen years back, I began writing my memoirs based on those journals. Never finished it. I don't expect you to understand what I am about to tell you right now. You are still a boy. But later, when you are grown and you have finished your education, you will better understand things. It is just as well, because I prefer that a lot of what I am writing not be available to others until after your grandmother and I are gone." "Ted, I want you to take my journals, my memoirs, all my belongings, and someday, perhaps twenty years from now, you can help me set the record straight about some things I did, people I met, and some events I witnessed."
These were the instructions Ted Sayles' great-grandfather Billy Battles gave him at the young age of 12. Forty years later, Ted received some old chests filled with a historian's treasure - firsthand accounts of some of the most significant events and people in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century history. The journals within brought to life places such as Tombstone, the Crystal Palace Saloon, and the OK Corral, as well as people such as Wyatt and Virgil Earp, Doc Holliday and even Bat Masterson.
As you read Finding Billy Battles, you'll travel with him as he works as a scribbler for several newspapers that had sprung up in the west. You'll also feel his fears as he faces some truly dangerous men of the time.
I don't normally enjoy books of this time but following Billy became a truly exciting journey for me. It became a book I didn't want to stop reading. It's educational as well as enjoyable and one I would recommend for everyone. I do believe you will enjoy it as I did. Now I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series titles The Improbable Journals of Billy Battles. I expect it will be just as good.
5.0 out of 5 stars Immerse yourself in this coming-of-age, historical novel.
By Mary Parkhurston December 1, 2016
Format: Paperback | Verified Purchase
The narrator of FINDING BILLY BATTLES is bequeathed a task that many of us are given--to make sense of the diaries, letters, and other ephemera passed down by our ancestors. This novel, book one of a trilogy, begins in just such a natural way, with the narrator, the great-grandson of a centenarian, Billy "Rags" Battles, plunging back into the past and discovering that his great-grandfather had lived a much larger life than anyone in his immediate family would have imagined. If you grew up watching "Wyatt Earp" and "Bat Masterson" on TV, then you'll surely enjoy reading about them here--the "real deal" lawmen who, I learned, had lives that extended well beyond their years in Tombstone. As reconstructed by his great-grandson, Billy Battles himself is the "real deal." He can ride a horse and handle himself in a shootout, but he's also a romantic and a darned good observer of human foibles. Readers will particularly enjoy discovering the landscape between Kansas and Tombstone and Billy Battles' growth from adolescence to adulthood and a promising career as a journalist. But, will he find safe haven, far from the bad guys set on revenge? The answer to that lies in Volume 2. I can't wait to see what comes next.
4.0 out of 5 stars You will never be bored.
By Marisa Acostaon September 18, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
In the first book of this trilogy we follow the life of William Battles throughout 34 years. William, a young man living in the XIX century western North America, finds himself facing a life-changing event early in his life. This seems to define who he becomes as he grows up and we accompany him along this journey.
The genre of this story is difficult to describe. I would dare to say it is a novel, yet shaped as an autobiography, with a full-on western vibe going on. The beginning has a whole different color, as we are given the details of how this memoir came to exist. But as soon as you start advancing in the narrative you become aware of what to expect out of it.
For me, it started a bit slow, but it quickly picked up speed and never stopped after that. This book is a continuum of adventures, trouble and life-or-death situations. You will never be bored. However, I did find the writing tiring at points, with what I considered to be an excess of adjectives, overdoing the descriptions and making me lose track of the sentence. Luckily, it only happened in certain paragraphs and does not represent the book as a whole.
I think the most distinctive element of Finding Billy Battles is the abundance of characters, the recurrent change of location, and how it all seems to connect together to create this young journalist’s eventful life. People don’t just disappear from the story; they are in the background at all times, making reappearances with perfect timing. At the same time, the narrator himself provides updates on everyone’s life and destiny, which makes it all bundle into one well-tied story.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I liked the beginning very much, and it hooked me soon enough. I came to know the main character in a way that made me care about him, feel his dreads as well as his joy, and I found myself rooting for him at all times. It is a good adventure book, that you will most likely fly through, whether you are a fan of westerns or not.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent storytelling. Rated 5 Stars. Well written old west adventure.
By vermont reviewer on September 7, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
Finding Billy Battles
By Ronald E. Yates
I truly must commend Ronald E. Yates for his story of Billy Battles. The combination of history and fiction are mixed together and out comes this most wonderful and masterful storytelling adventure. He is able to show his readers the adventures of a young man growing up in the west. Working for a newspaper in Dodge City. A few of the lines that I enjoyed from the story. “I probably could have walked away and avoided the ensuing violence. I chose not to because I learned early in my life that walking away from a scrap is too often seen as a sign of weakness or cowardice and simply incites bullies and thugs to molest you later on.” And another “Sometimes we just don’t see things the way they really are until we stand back from them and look at them with the viewpoint of time and distance.”
“When you are facing down a man, look him in the eye until he looks away. Most cowards and bullies will look away first, and then you can make your move. If he doesn’t look away, then you best be damned accurate with your first shot.” This advice was given to Billy by Wyatt Earp.
This book was excellent and the storytelling superb. I enjoyed the descriptions of what the old west towns were like at that time of history. As well as the characters in the story. From Bat Masterson to many others that Billy came in contact with. One of my favorites was cousin Charley Higgins. I have rated this a solid 5 stars and would love to read more of the works of Ronald E. Yates. Well written and a pleasure to read.
5.0 out of 5 stars The story telling aspect was a great way to tell the story of Billy Battles
By J. Maugerion September 7, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
What a fabulous book. The plot, the action, the characters kept me on the edge of me seat. I couldn't wait to get to the next chapter. The story telling aspect was a great way to tell the story of Billy Battles. Can't wait to read part 2 and see what new adventures Billy Battles experiences.
5.0 out of 5 stars and fortunately, the manner is which the story ends hints ...
Amazon Customeron September 5, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
Written by Ron Yates, a veteran of the writing game, this book is a western read and set in the 1800s. It follows, predominantly, the adventures of Billy Battles, as rediscovered by his great-grandson, through the journals Billy left behind. Billy's exploits are filled with excitement and you will find him entangled in the Spanish-American war French Indo-China conflicts, and the turmoil in Latin America. By the end of the read, I wanted to keep following Billy on his adventures, and fortunately, the manner is which the story ends hints at a sequel. Battle on Billy!
5.0 out of 5 starsA truly amazing tale.
By Kevin Cooperon August 15, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
It's been decades since I read anything resembling a wild-west story/legend. This historical fiction is that, and so much more. I take my hat off to Yates for providing me with one of the most entertaining stories I have ever read.
Yate's is a truly gifted story-teller. He can take a well-known historical figures like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and develop their characters in such a way that you feel like you didn't know them as well as you thought, and you are left with the utmost admiration for them even though this story is not actually about them.
The story is really about Billy Battles, who is but a scrivener/journalist and his unfortunate clash with the Bledsoe family/gang that sends his life into a spiralling adventure throughout the old west fraught with life threatening situations and confrontations with some of the most notorious criminals of the time.
It is a truly amazing tale. I was captivated for hours. The penmanship is excellent. I did find some repetition in places, but this can be so easily amended, I found no issues with awarding the full five stars.
I am looking forward to reading Yate's second book in this series.
5.0 out of 5 stars This book transports you back to the late 19th century.
By B.Rubbleon July 17, 2015
Format: Hardcover| Verified Purchase
Read this book over 3 or 4 days while vacationing in Maine. I grew up in the '50s so I am familiar with the stories of the Earp brothers, Bat Masterson and Doc Holliday. That being said, I have never enjoyed reading western genre books. This book kept my attention. Couldn't wait to turn the page. Now can't wait to read the next 2 books in the trilogy.
5.0 out of 5 starsA rollicking story told, historically convincing
By The Profon April 12, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Ronald Yates's work of 'faction' takes us through the early adulthood of budding journalist Billy Battles in Kansas and surrounding parts of the West. Yates's first person narrator sets out as a wide-eyed innocent, soon thrust into a world of violence and revenge. His story is one of redemption, framed by the rough frontier justice of the late nineteenth century. The plot is fast-moving, the main characters are skilfully developed, and the settings are convincing. I was impressed by Billy's narrative voice and the feel of authenticity of the Kansas dialogue. A fun read!
4.0 out of 5 stars It made me want to learn more....
By Suanne Laqueuron March 21, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition| Verified Purchase
A rollicking, fast-paced read about the Wild West (and beyond) with historical detail only possible by one who was there. More light-hearted and fun than "Lonesome Dove" but no less authentic in its narrative. I had a ball reading it through a snowy winter and learned a few things about a bygone time. One of the greatest compliments I can pay a book is to say it made go look up people, places and events mentioned within its pages. If a story sparks my curiosity to keep learning, THAT is a great book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Like You Were There
By M. McManuson January 23, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition| Verified Purchase
William Fitzroy Raglan Battles was born in 1860. Soon after his birth, his family moved to Lawrence, Kansas where he grew up and received his education, which included two years of college. At age 18 Billy, as he was called by most people, traveled west to Dodge City and began his career as a journalist, a career that would prove exciting and, for him, dangerous. In the next 15 years he would travel through the Old West, which was struggling to change its status from “frontier” to “civilization”. He would meet many people and befriend the likes of Bat Masterson, Doc Holiday and the Earp brothers. Unfortunately, he would also come to know some folks who were quite unfriendly, like the Bledsoe brothers and their gang of thugs and murderers.
Billy Battles is a gentleman who never backs down from a fight. Although his early years were spent on a farm in the newly settled state of Kansas, he grew up in the city. However, he was all right with venturing off to the rough mining towns, like Leadville, Tombstone, Denver and Las Vegas. Backed up by his legendary friends, he always made it through the bad times, but not always unscathed. His was not a charmed life, but it did turn out to be a long one.
“Finding Billy Battles” is the first book of the trilogy of the same name. The author, Ronald E. Yates, himself a journalist, has given us a work of fiction that contains so much factual information about people and places, and presents it with such authenticity, using quaint but graphic dialogue spoken in the day, that you will swear it is based on a real person’s life. This book was an absolute pleasure to read. It kept me in the middle of the action and taunted me with brilliant foreshadowing of upcoming events. I cannot wait to read the next book in this series.
4.0 out of 5 stars Kudos to Yates for a thumping good read!
By slammedon December 30, 2014
Billy Battles wasn’t looking for trouble, but trouble found him and stayed hot on his trail through the Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and just kept on following him...
The adventure gallops through the 1880’s and '90's old west through a land as wide open as the sky and wild as the day is long. Through Billy’s eyes we meet the famous Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Doc Holliday as well as the lesser known but colorful figures of the old west, and we discover them as they truly were – men with strengths and weaknesses and we learn their fate that made those strong but everyday men into icons of the west.
Yates peppers this well written novel with colorful metaphors and language of the old west that makes you grin and shake your head at the same time. The history of places like Dodge, Denver and Tombstone is well researched and it’s so much fun to read that you don’t realize you’re learning history while experiencing the adventure right along with Billy Battles – through his battles and his loves and his losses.
Kudos to Yates for a thumping good read!