Inside the Capitol

Friday, July 16, 2010

7-19 Wild West in Lincoln County

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The Wild West comes to Lincoln County this week as conventioneers hold the annual roundup of the Wild West History Association.
And what do you think might be the main interest of these 300-plus Western history fans scattered throughout the world? Of course, Billy the Kid. And where better to go than to Lincoln County where the Kid left so many footprints.
Billy the Kid has been in the news often since the beginning of Gov. Bill Richardson's administration in 2003. Richardson's interest in the Kid has sparked worldwide publicity.
Numerous books probing deeper into the Kid's life have been written during this period, perhaps more than at any time other than the age of dime novels when Billy the Kid fables were concocted and churned out at an amazing rate.
Despite the large number of serious historian-authors writing about Billy the Kid today, there still are many news stories quoting Gov. Richardson or a group of lawmen investigators confusing the public with comments suggesting that Sheriff Pat Garrett shot someone else and Billy lived a long life in Hamilton, Texas as Oliver "Brushy Bill" Roberts.
That story was shot down 60 years ago by former Gov. Tom Mabry, who refused to grant Roberts a pardon he requested. But Gov. Richardson appears to be resurrecting that myth and some historians fear that he will declare Roberts is the Kid and pardon him. That makes Billy the Kid's final resting place in Texas rather than Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
All this conjecture is sure to make for spirited discussions at the Roundup. An outstanding group of top speakers from far and wide has been assembled to delve into the various aspects of the Kid's adventures.
Among the luminaries in attendance will be the foremost authorities on Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett: Englishman Fredrick Nolan, Robert Utley of Scottsdale, AZ and Leon Metz of El Paso. All are clustered around 80 years of age.
Nolan will be bringing from England members of the Tunstall family for their first visit to the site where their ancestor John Tunstall was killed. His murder set off the Lincoln County War. Billy was one of Tunstall's hired guns.
Also reportedly attending the Roundup will be two of Sheriff Pat Garrett's grandchildren. Garrett has been made to look especially bad recently by the previously mentioned false stories that he shot someone else and then claimed it was the Kid.
The all-star cast that will be attending likely has boosted the registration numbers. Billy the Kid historian Mike Pitel says the last symposium of a similar nature in Ruidoso was in 1989 and attracted only 65 participants, including 19 faculty.
Wednesday, July 21, will feature an all-day tour to the village of Lincoln, where Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett would feel very familiar today. Except for paving the main street, little else has changed.
Participants also will get a tour of Fort Stanton, which figured prominently in the Lincoln County War. Host for that event will be Lynda Sanchez, who recently published an illustrated history of Fort Stanton, titled "Legacy of Honor, Tradition of Healing."
The Wild West History Association was formed three years ago by the combination of two other groups, the Western Outlaw-Lawmen Association and the National Outlaw-Lawmen Association.
This year's president is Robert McCubbin of Santa Fe, a noted Western memorabilia collector and owner of the meat knife Billy was carrying the night he was shot McCubbin also is the Roundup co-chair along with Karen Holliday Tanner of Fallbrook, California.
Headquarters for the Roundup will be The Inn of the Mountain Gods, on the Mescalero Reservation west of Ruidoso.
MON, 7-19-10

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)

Sorry to be so late with this. I finished it yesterday afternoon and then must have neglected sending it.


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