Tombstone race trademark of Old Fort Days

Ryan Autrey of Texico prepares to toss an 80-pound headstone over the first barrier in the finals of the Billy the Kid open division race during Old Fort Days in Fort Sumner. (CNJ correspondent: Andrew Chavez)

By Andrew Chavez: CNJ correspondent

FORT SUMNER — Since its conception, the Billy the Kid Tombstone Race has been the trademark of Old Fort Days.

Participants must carry a tombstone ranging from 20 (women) to 80 pounds (men) over four barriers and 100 yards.

Colby Greenwalt of Clovis took home the $2,000 cash prize in the open division.

“I wasn’t even gonna do this until last night and someone caught me and told me I should come,” said Greenwalt, a former Clovis High basketball standout who also played at Eastern New Mexico University. It was his first time in the competition.

The race is representative of two past thefts of the headstone marking the grave of the infamous New Mexico outlaw from a cemetery near Fort Sumner.

The idea behind the race is a collaboration between Fort Sumner resident Buddy Cortese and his wife Mary Ann.

“She (Mary Ann) was talking with me and said we need some race like the Deming Duck Race,” Cortese said.

The shorter barrier (4 feet) is representative of the fence around the grave site of Billy the Kid and the taller barrier (5 feet) of the cemetery wall.

The headstone was returned both times it was stolen. Buddy Cortese said that is the reason why race participants must make two trips over the barriers with the stone.