By Don McAlavy
Again Billy the Kid has gained access to the front pages of newspapers.
Witness the latest from Gov. Bill Richardson’s office where he (the state) will investigate whether Billy is really buried in Fort Sumner; whether Brushy Bill Roberts is really Billy; whether Sheriff Pat Garrett helped Billy escape the Lincoln County jail. All of this hinges on digging up Billy, Brushy, and Billy’s mother and doing DNA testing. Costs? Why a volunteer in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office will do it all for free.
The state will do it free? Ha! Again I ask and I’ve asked before, what is the drawing power Billy the Kid has on the general public?
Tourism is just a side-product of the interest in Billy the Kid. Of course (as in all of these cases of famous persons) money is continually being made off Billy.
All famous people, and you can call Billy infamous if you choose, have that drawing power. People swarm to their graves, their monuments, and to movies and even outdoor dramas, such as the one I wrote about Billy in 1986 that played each summer from 1987 to 1996 at the Caprock Amphitheater 50 miles north of Clovis. At the Caprock Amphitheater we didn’t make any money off Billy. I can vouch for that. I came out in the hole.
Back in the spring of 1987, the people of Hico, Texas, started a Billy the Kid Museum. A lady, and she is a lady, who runs the Old Fort Sumner Museum heard about the Billy Museum at Hico, went there, heard the stories and saw the material published by museum and its supporters, came back to Fort Sumner madder than hell.
She gathered up her friends and told them: “Hico, Texas, is stealing New Mexico history, now what are we going to do about it?”
Well, they organized and came up with a cute name for this new historical society. They called it “The Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang.” The name got attention. The group soon had 2,000 members worldwide — one of them was Ronald Reagan.
Don McAlavy is a history buff who lives in Clovis.