By Ned Cantwell
Somewhere between heaping one more spoonful of potato salad onto the plate and decorating the hot dog with colorful pickles and mustard, a sense of foreboding clouds this celebration of our independence.
— Where in the heck are those WMDs (weapons of mass destruction)?
— When will the next TIM (totally ignorant moron) ignite fireworks in New Mexico’s parched forests?
— Just who killed BTK (Billy the Kid) and where is he buried?
The latter is a question that has reached epic proportions in our state. It has even captured the attention of OOB (Our Own Billy) Richardson, governor of the Land of Enchantment who wasted no time jumping aboard the Billy the Kid express once he discovered the New York Times had boarded the train.
Billy — the outlaw, not the governor — is creating quite a stir for a guy who was buried 130 years ago. Just about everybody, including the Albuquerque Journal, thinks it is nifty that the Lincoln County Sheriff, Gov. Richardson and the New Mexico State Police are hot on the investigation of whether BTK is buried in Fort Sumner. If not, maybe the Kid was really a guy named Brushy Bill Roberts who lived in Texas.
May I be excused for asking, “who cares?”
Look, BTK did not have a lot going for him. I mean the guy was your basic thug. If he lived today, you just know he would be engaged in some nefarious shenanigans, like, maybe, the illicit downloading of music from the Internet.
They say Billy killed a lot of people, maybe 21 before his 21st birthday. Well, there you go. This is an historic icon whose history we should celebrate? BTK was known as a charming guy and a ruthless killer. That is also an apt description of Ted Bundy. Wonder where Ted is buried?
Truth is, BTK’s murderous rage might be the product, says Time-Life’s “The Wild West,” of itinerant, imaginative news writers the book calls “slippery-inked blue journalists.”
Whatever the truth, Billy’s legend is celebrated in theater and song. Who can forget Billy Dean’s “I miss Billy the Kid, the life that he lived, the things that he did; I guess he must’ve got caught, his innocence lost, how I wonder where he is; Oh, I miss Billy the Kid.”
Certainly, there has not been a greater contribution to American pop music culture since Billy Ray Cyrus brought us “Achy Breaky Heart.”
When it comes to getting all gushy over lawbreakers, the name Billy the Kid has a lot more appeal, hands down, than Brushy Bill Roberts. Billy, though, was not your screen-idol outlaw. Every picture I’ve seen of him shows this scrawny, ugly kid dressed in ill-fitting clothes.
Cast the BTK movie and you are going to go looking for Woody Allen, not Tom Selleck.
It won’t rub my saddle wrong if they continue to pursue this Billy the Kid nonsense. The only bothersome part of this whole shootout, real bothersome, is that business about slippery-inked journalists. I find that personally offensive.
Ned Cantwell of Ruidoso is a retired newspaper publisher and member of the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org