A wood cabin in the Lake District of Argentine Patagonia is the perfect place to retire. Unless you’re a career outlaw with a penchant for robbery and the Pinkerton Detective Agency hot on your trail. For Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, settling down was never really an option.
By the end of 1900, the Wild Bunch were feeling the heat. The gang was being whittled down, killed or incarcerated at a worrying rate. For Butch Cassidy, it was time to get out of Dodge. And the USA. Along with Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, better known as the Sundance Kid, and the Kid’s female companion, the strikingly pretty Etta Place, Cassidy headed for Argentina.
On February 20, 1901, the trio boarded the British steamer Herminius destined for Buenos Aires. From there, they headed for cowboy territory: the rugged landscapes of Patagonia. The gunslingers purchased a four-room cabin on the banks of the Rio Branco, tucked away on a swath of secluded land outside the small village of Cholila in the Chubut Province.
For a while, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lay low, at least as far as we know. In a letter to a friend back in the U.S., Cassidy explained how much he liked this part of the world, even considering settling down for good: “I own 300 heads of cattle, 1500 heads of sheep and 28 riding horses. I have 2 helpers, a nice four room house, barns, a stable and a henhouse… the only thing I need is a cook, since I am still unpleasantly single and many times feel lonely.”
But men like Cassidy rarely get to settle down. It’s hard to kick the habits of a lifetime, and even harder to waste a very particular set of skills. On February 14, 1905, two men held up the Banco de Tarapacá y Argentino. The bank was in Río Gallegos, about 650 miles south of Cholila. A fair distance, but the two English-speaking bandits may well have been Butch and Sundance. The robbery, which netted around $100,000 by today’s standards, certainly fit the pair’s modus operandi.
Less than three months later, Butch and Sundance began to get nervous, fearing the law was closing in on the ranch. They were right. The Pinkerton Agency was on to them, just waiting for the brutal winter to pass before making their move. Luckily for Butch and Sundance, a local Sheriff of Welsh descent tipped them off. They had time to sell the ranch before fleeing north to Bariloche and then west into Chile, never to return to the cabin near Cholila.
Over the years, the cabin fell into a state of disrepair. By the end of the 1990s, it was ready to collapse. But in 2007, local authorities finally went in to save the building. Today, Butch Cassidy’s cabin remains a secluded spot with no real tourist infrastructure, and not a whole lot to see. But if you grew up with 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, you won’t have any trouble conjuring up images of the two roguish outlaws, while whistling “Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head…”