Inside the Capitol

Thursday, August 29, 2013

More reader questions answered

Billy continues his ride

BILLY THE KID – Columns causing greatest frustration
When former Gov. Bill Richardson called a press conference early in his 2003-2010 terms, to propose the exhumation of Billy's grave in Fort Sumner and his mother's grave in Silver City, he based his arguments on scientific and historical grounds.
The subject seemed like another natural for me to cover. I grew up on the Western edge of Billy the Kid Country in Silver City and Las Cruces, hearing many stories from friends and family.
Silver City is where Billy rather innocently entered his criminal career and Mesilla, a neighbor of Las Cruces, was where Billy was sentenced to death. Besides, friends from Silver City and Fort Sumner, where Billy was killed, encouraged me to enter the fray on the side of not digging up Billy or his Mom.
Several generations of my family had lived in Las Cruces, dating back to the late-1880s. My grandmothers had told me many stories about Billy and Sheriff Pat Garrett who lived in the Las Cruces area in his later years. The stories piqued my interest even though most of them turned out to be wrong. Books and movies of the era also got it mostly wrong.
And so it may be natural that events involving Billy during Gov. Richardson's two terms did not bear much semblance to reality. Everyone's motives seemed to be fuzzy.
What was it that grabbed Gov. Richardson's interest? He grew up in Mexico City and a Massachusetts boarding school so it is unlikely he developed a fascination during those years. But he says he always was interested in Billy.
Was it New Mexico tourism he wanted to promote? He occasionally hinted at that. Were there big campaign contributors who were fascinated with Billy or who wanted to be part of his story or wanted to move Billy's grave to their property? There were many stories along those lines. Did he think Billy's fame might help him in a presidential run?
And what about the three sheriffs who initially helped the governor in his quest to dig up Billy? Were they trying to prove Billy's pretenders were the real Billy? Or were they trying to prove they were frauds?
Were they trying to prove Sheriff Pat Garrett shot the real Billy and not someone else? Were they just trying to find the truth? Or were they just three good 'ol boys out to have some fun? The story kept changing.
It was a frustrating case to cover and it's not completely over yet? At least I turned those columns into a book.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On writing a column


Recently, Ned Cantwell, a friend who also is in this business,asked me to answer some questions from my 26 years in the business about column writing. Here's some answers.

By far my favorite columns were the ones written while aboard a Princess cruise ship in 2005. The cruise celebrated the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII. It docked in Pearl Harbor and finished in Nagasaki. The route traced the progress of the war in the Pacific.
I was mainly interested in the locations where New Mexicans had fought. After visiting Midway Island and its "Gooney Bird" Albatrosses, we headed south, thousands of miles to Guadalcanal Island, then worked our way up through New Guinea, Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
The natives always seemed to be ready for us with local bands and dancers -- and effusive praise for liberating them from their captors. The approximately 500 cruise passengers included veterans who had fought on some of the islands and many children who wanted to see where dad died.
My interest mainly came from having grown up in Deming and Silver City knowing many of the veterans or having friends who had lost fathers in the Pacific, some of whom did not return.
I combined that information with material from books by Dorothy Cave Aldrich, of Roswell, about the tribulations faced by the 1800 New Mexico national guardsmen sent to defend the Philippines.
Over the next few months, I received more mail and email responses than than on any other subject. I promised to compile all the columns into a book, which I still haven't done. Fortunately some of the returning veterans told me they made booklets of their own from the newspaper columns.
Tomorrow – most frustrating columns

Thursday, August 15, 2013

FW: You're back


Subject: You're back
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2013 05:25:29 -0600

  Why do the state's taxpayers have to pay for the so-called state fair at ABQ?  It's not a state fair, but a carnival for the local city folks.  The regional state fairs do the job, and the Eastern New Mexico Fair in Roswell  draws more attendance than the UFO fest, and from all over the eastern part of the state.  If the people of ABQ want a local funfair, let them run it and pay for it, and let the rest of us be rid of both the cost and the political troubles associated with the SF board.

Monday, August 12, 2013


I just couldn't quit writing. Now, I'm just doing it on my blog, They'll be short pieces. More like 50 words than 650 words and will be sent whenever the inspiration hits me.

Sunday, August 04, 2013


Dear editors -- Thank you once again for your loyalty and helpfulness over the years. A special thanks to those editors and papers that stuck with me the entire 26 years. Those include Bob Trapp and the Rio Grande Sun. Tina Ely and the Silver City Daily Press, The Roswell Daily Record under several editors and The Lincoln County News under Ernie Joiner, then Ruth Hammond.
It has been a joy doing this. I thank you for the opportunity.

8-2 It's been a nice ride

80213 Farewell

SANTA FE – This will be the final column of Inside the Capitol. I hope you have enjoyed the ride as much as I have.
Jeanette and I are moving to Scottsdale, AZ to be closer to our son, daughter and grandchildren. Although it is time for the move, we do it with heavy hearts.
We both were born in New Mexico. The longest I have been out of the state during my 75 years was for six weeks of Air National Guard basic training in San Antonio, Texas.
At least I won't be deprived of exciting politics. Arizona has impeached one governor and sent another to prison. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio keeps the county correction system in constant turmoil with his summer outdoors lockups and pink underwear for everyone.
Recently, the president of the Senate stopped his car on a busy Phoenix freeway and threw all his girlfriend's clothes out of the car. He then left her stranded at the side of the road. Republican senators soon voted him out of office. Later he resigned while being investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee.
Of course, New Mexico has provided plenty of excitement during my 26 years of covering it. Gary Johnson was the most off-beat governor any state could ever have. New Mexico got to learn what a true Libertarian really was.
Johnson didn't want regulations placed on business and he didn't want them placed on individuals either. Lawmakers and the public were confounded when he advocated decriminalization of pot. Now he is an advocate of gay marriage.
Johnson drew a big cheer from the motorcycle crowd when he vetoed a mandatory motorcycle helmet law. But he then announced that if anyone not wearing a helmet was injured as a result, the state would not pay for any treatment. He believed in personal freedom but also in personal responsibility, too.
Gov. Bill Richardson was an exciting guy to cover, also. With him, it was usually the size of the deal he was putting together that provided the excitement – a $200 million spaceport, a $900 million commuter train and rubbing elbows with Hollywood elite at the governor's mansion to encourage more films being shot in New Mexico.
Then there were the Mama Lucies vs. the Cowboys in the state House and the Manny Aragon vs. Les Houston battles for control of the Senate. And Pete Domenici reigned supreme on financial matters in the U.S. Senate.
Besides his mega-projects, Gov. Richardson had a very pet project in promoting Billy the Kid. It began early in Richardson's first year in office and ended eight years later at the stroke of midnight as he was leaving office.
The source of Richardson's interest was never revealed, although there were several tantalizing guesses.
The "Inside the Capitol" column has been in New Mexico newspapers since the 1940s. It was begun by Santa Fe New Mexican editor Will Harrison. He continued the column after he left the New Mexican, changing its name from "At the Capitol" to "Inside the Capitol."
Upon Harrison's death, the column passed down through Charlie Cullen, Fred Buckles, Bob Huber, Carroll Cagle and Fred McCaffrey, who sold the rights to me in 1987,
Several years ago, I received a note from John Ackerman, of Artesia, who once headed the Public Service Company of New Mexico and then served as the professor of ethics at the University of New Mexico's Anderson School of Management.
John said he had done a tally of how long each columnist had written this column. As of that particular day, I passed Will Harrison as the longest winded.
According to my figures, I have written somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,200 columns. In the early years, I wrote six a week. Various vision maladies have forced me back to three a week.
Although I have a thick file of notes from those who have disagreed with my columns from time to time, I hope the overall effect has been a balanced analysis from a lightly different view.
The urge to put in my two cents may never cease entirely, so I will sporadically continue my blog at and maybe on You Tube and such. You also may reach me at and at 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505.
Here is finally is. Only about a week late. Kikn't realize how hard it would be.

8-2 It's been a nice ride

Here it finally is. Only about a week late. Didn't realize it would be such a tough column to write.