Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Kid still raising ruckus after his death

Ned Cantwell: Local columnist

Our little state has gone nuts, just plain nuts.

Catch this: The mayor of Fort Sumner says he will set up a table outside a supermarket and sell cupcakes if that is what it takes to raise needed money for his community.

And for what purpose does Mayor Ray Lopez seek funding? A Little League park, perhaps? No, unfortunately, the mayor and the Chamber of Commerce are trying to scratch up quarters for a legal defense fund to stop crazy people from coming in and digging up Billy the Kid.

I kid you not. They want to dig up Billy, and they want to dig up his mother over at Silver City. These two have only been lying in peace for more than a century, but, in a publicity stunt run amok, we are investigating Billy’s death.

It all started with Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan. He thought it a good idea to explore possible myths having to do with Billy’s demise, and with a couple of cohorts took the idea to Gov. Bill Richardson.

Now, say what you want about Gov. Bill, but the guy has never met a headline he didn’t like. He immediately sensed the promotional value of the Billy the Kid scheme. Media exposure to our governor is like water to a fish.

Billy, the governor, not the outlaw — the latter is still dead — climbed aboard. The idea seemed innocent enough, even fun. Stir up some dust on the Billy the Kid deal and get some national publicity. Good for tourism.

Trouble is, at some point everyone started taking this seriously. The idea seems to be that Billy got a raw deal. I am sure the Kid felt he got a raw deal just after Pat Garrett shot him in the head, or back, or wherever he shot him, if he shot him. History has its villains and its heroes.

One of my modern-day heroes is the State Office of the Medical Investigator who said the proposed digging up of Billy’s mother “has very little possibility of contributing any information to the ... alleged investigation,” and “is a very great waste of public resources. ...”


And poor Fort Sumner. Here’s a New Mexico village of 1,200 with a budget of less than a half-million bucks. All those folks want is for people to let Billy the Kid alone so a few tourists will stop by his grave and maybe buy a hamburger on the way out of town. Is that asking too much?

You can send a “defense fund” contribution to Citizen’s Bank, P.O. Box 28, Fort Sumner, 88119.

Be generous.

A whole bunch of folks are running to replace the Lincoln County sheriff who started all this. We would guess their position on Billy the Kid will be a campaign issue. One of the most prominent, career Ruidoso Police Chief Lanny Maddox, told us, “I don’t know who killed Billy the Kid, but I can assure you he is dead. I would have better things to do with my time.”

If only the rest of the state had better things to do with its time.

Ned Cantwell is a retired newspaperman living Ruidoso. He denies any involvement in Billy the Kid’s death. Contact him at: