By Don McAlvy: Columnist
In the fall of 1987 Maryln and Joe Bowlin, owners of the Billy the Kid Museum near Billy’s grave and what was left of the old Fort where Billy was killed, returned from Hico, Texas, mad as wet hens.
They had seen Bob Hefner’s Billy the Kid Museum at the little town of Hico down southwest of Fort Worth. Hefner, wanting to get on Johnny Carson’s TV show, proclaimed to the world that Brushy Bill Roberts of Hico was the one and only real Billy the Kid.
What Maryln and Joe saw at Hico made them realize they needed a Billy the Kid organization in New Mexico to combat the fairy tales being spread by a bunch of grave robbers in Texas who were trying to take Billy from New Mexico.
The day Maryln got back she rounded up all the “outlaws” she knew in Fort Sumner and surrounding territory. Bob Craig came up with the organization’s name: “Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang.” Women became the first working members: Maryln Bowlin, Jean Hancock and Janean Grissom, all decked out in outlaw dress and carrying pistols.
Ed Jungbluth and Mike Pitel from the New Mexico Economic Development and Tourism Department, came to Fort Sumner and pledged state support, believing Billy the Kid was the best advertiser to boost tourism in our state.
The Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang quickly grew. President Reagan signed up as a member as did hundreds of others, from all over the country, including England and Europe.
1987 was also the year that my “Billy the Kid” outdoor drama commenced at the Caprock Amphitheatre. I joined up and later became president and editor of the yearly Outlaw Gazette. This year, 2007, the Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang will celebrate its 20th anniversary July 19-22 at the regular camp-out near Ruidoso.
The Albuquerque Museum of Art & History, at 2000 Mountain Rd., Albuquerque, is presenting the “Dreamscape Desperado: Billy the Kid and the Outlaw in America” exhibit. The exhibit is made up of manuscripts and a photo collection of Robert McCubbin as well as Paul Andrew Hutton’s popular culture collection. The exhibit runs through July 22.
The exhibit hopes to illuminate the Billy of reality as well as the Billy of myth. Come and catch “Kid Fever,” the May issue of New Mexico Magazine quoted.
Actually it was the Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang that started “Kid Fever” back in 1987. And Bob Hefner, who became a friend of mine, never got on the Johnny Carson show. Bob and I had a debate about Billy at the Caprock Amphitheatre and the vote said I won. Brushy died of a heart attack on the main street of Hico, Texas, Dec. 27, 1950, nearly 91 years old. He is only a myth now.