Inside the Capitol

Sunday, July 17, 2011

7-20 Cashing in on The Kid

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Who says Billy the Kid is dead? Within a week, earlier this month, Billy's photograph sold for $2.3 million, dozens of Billy the Kid artists and historians gathered to commemorate the 130th anniversary of Billy's death and the state of New Mexico announced a $10,000 bounty for the capture of Billy.
Friends sometimes tease me for writing about The Kid so often. I reply that until another New Mexican does something spectacular, Billy remains our most famous New Mexican.
On July 9, Old West collectors gathered in Denver for an auction which featured a very small tintype that historians agree is the one surviving picture of The Kid.
The estimated value of the tintype was $300,000. As it turned out, the auction house made that much from the 15 percent buyer's premium on the item.
Bill Koch, one of the four oil-rich Kansas Koch brothers made the final bid of $2 million. An unnamed mystery bidder, said to be from New Mexico, was the under-bidder at $1.9 million. The crowd cheered him on but the stranger said that was as far as he was authorized to remain in the bidding.
Who was the tall cowboy working for? My source said it was a banking consortium from Southeastern New Mexico that wanted to keep Billy's only photo here in our state.
Historical societies, working to preserve New Mexico's rich cultural history, are working tenaciously to uncover the bidders' identity and make a pitch for funding of their causes.
Five days later, on July 14, Santa Fe's new Due West gallery held a requiem for Billy and invited Western artists from Texas to Arizona, plus historians, collectors, authors and a grand daughter of Pat Garrett to participate in the occasion.
The artists got to speak about their pieces hanging in the gallery. Many tall tales were told -- some possibly true. Buckeye Blake told of wanting to sculpt a crypt lid for Billy's grave, depicting him in the finery that Fort Sumner admirers had gathered for his burial.
Blake said he obtained permission from the local "powers that be" and then went back to Texas to spend a year creating the sculpture. When he returned to Fort Sumner, he was told the permission had been withdrawn. Villagers didn't want a dead person in their cemetery.
Thom Ross, Due West's gallery owner, told of how he had always been a Billy the Kid fanatic. He says as a child he refused braces for his buck teeth because he wanted to look like Billy.
A day later, on July 15, Gov. Susana Martinez held a press conference to announce a manhunt for Billy the Kid throughout the state of New Mexico.
It is a tourism promotion that takes people to all four corners of the state looking for clues to where Billy is hiding out. The idea is to get New Mexicans to confine their travel to New Mexico this summer.
In the process, they will receive many small prizes and be eligible to win the big one to put the clues to find Billy and serve him with an arrest warrant.
The governor is having fun with this promotion, mentioning how a former governor wanted to pardon Billy but how she is approaching The Kid from a law enforcement angle, wanting to capture him.
Regardless of the slant, it is fun to have two governors in a row using New Mexico's most famous gunslinger to promote the state. Richardson's contemplated pardon gained worldwide publicity. Let's hope this promotion will do the same.
While searching for The Kid and a $10,000 prize, individuals, families or groups can search for loot stashed in every county of the state. A carload of people traveling around New Mexico searching for loot, prizes and clues is called a posse, of course.
A lot of thought and several hundred thousand dollars has been invested in this creative idea. Let's hope it works well.
WED, 7-20-11

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



Post a Comment

<< Home