Sunday, July 20, 2008

Billy the Kid, Lincoln County Range Wars

After picking up the champaign and brown Motor Home
  • from the Edmon location (there also is now a West Side location) of Crown Coachworks
  • in Albuquerque New Mexico. The new rear compartment door expertly replaced and repainted and the torn edge of the door frame, now repaired to perfection. Thanking Eric who also brought to our attention the sun baked tires on one side that will need replacement before any long trip, we went home and loaded for our little 5 day trip to Ruidoso
  • in the Southern Sierra Blanca mountain area of New Mexico. This area we are heading to, is well known in Western folklore from the late 1800's (click top title). After hooking the Jeep behind the coach, we taxied out onto the canyon highway and lifted off, gaining altitude through the Tijeras Pass East of the city of Albuquerque
  • in the State of New Mexico

  • There are only four basic ways out of ABQ. East, West, North and South. We choose East for this trip, although South would have gotten us there as well by crossing The Valley Of The Fires
  • volcanic lava flow, which is our planned return route. After a 20 mile (32km) cruise East to Moriarty (yep Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame)
  • We banked South down through the Estancia Valley. This area was well known as the dry land farming fields that provided 'Beans' for our Military during the world wars. Past years they grow Sunflowers for seed and Pumpkins. Weather patterns changed many long years ago prompting the shift to other crops.

    This Southbound trip has some really beautiful scenery of wide open vista's. As the small town of Estancia passes by, the land is flat farming. As Willard, one of the little dead or dying towns of the past is reached, we turn further South toward Corona. This is where the ranch hand made famous by the Roswell Incident
  • hung out, and where he came to report finding something strange out on the ranch. Remember the name 'Brazil', it will come up later on.

    Cruising southbound through the rolling hills and canyons on descent toward Carrizozo where we turn East, we pass the sign for White Oaks
  • An oftentimes destination for endlessly roaming, Billy the Kid
  • once a railway stop in years past. Susan McSween
  • died here in 1931 at age 86, after an exiting, to say the least, life as a principle character during the Lincoln County wars. Now the steady and irregular climb up through the mountainous shoulders of Sierra Blanca
  • located East of the Northern end of the vast White Sands Missile Range
  • begins. As we climb leaving the Ancient Lava Flow bed behind us in the Tularosa Basin, the mountains begin to get more serious. Lower gears are used as we gain altitude and turn off through the Mountains of the Lincoln National Forest
  • North East of Ruidoso.

    Lower gears then yet even lower gears until we are moving at about 35 mph with an occasional pickup truck coming up behind. I pull aside and allow them to pass when the way is clear. Trafffic is rare on most NM secondary highways as this one built to shortcut the old road from Capitan to Ruidoso. After the mountain pass is reached, the downhill stretches begin. Now the lower gears are used to hold the 29,000 lb (13,154kg) rigs descent in check. A fast ride down through these mountains is not recommended. Even lower gears are used coming down the mountain into Ruidoso.

    The traffic builds as a tourist destination tends to do. Many people are already walking the sidewalks and crossing the streets in this little old town of many small shops and now big new hotels. The much media loved (read agenda) and loudly touted 'recession' is apparently not even noticed here. Most of the traffic is from Texas, which due to progressive thinking and less government interference, is not noticing this 'recession' either. When Texas does well, Ruidoso does well. When Texas is not progressing, neither does Ruidoso. Boom bust cycles are not strangers to this classic little Western mountain town that I have traveled and worked most of my life.

    After settling in, including a couple of scheduled site moves arranged by the Dynamic little fireball, Kay, for a five night duration at our favorite Twin Spruce RV Park
  • Her family and English Bulldog 'Butkis', works with her to keep this park a welcome base of operations for the travelers like us. Kay has a scheduled events 'calendar'. If you don't check it often, Kay looks at you like you didn't do your homework. We still love her. After docking our rig, we went out in the Jeep to dine Friday evening at The Cattle Baron
  • Sharing a great steak and Shrimp dinner and washing it down with a tall, cold Amber Bock draft beer. Returning to our coach and familiar bed, was our finale of the 195 mile (314km) drive.

    When some people get discouraged and leave an area, they are quickly replaced by others with great optimism and hope for the future. The rain and then dry cycles are just as predictable. Many beautiful new homes and businesses are under construction. A new, easier to land Sierra Blanca Regional Airport
  • and larger runways attracts bigger and more frequent aircraft. The new condominiums are going up everywhere.

    New big homes are layed out near beautiful vistas surrounding new Golf Courses through the tall pine groves that give this mountain area it's charm. We noticed the clearing of brush from the old growth forest surrounding the older canyon cabins. At least some people get the hint they are living in a natural tinderbox which on occasion is swept by forest fires. Rainfall is a welcome visitor and every afternoon we are getting a nice cool shower. Evening temperatures are in the 60 degree F range. One added note as of July 27; a heavy rainfall resulted in the flooding of parts of Ruidoso. It is definetly not a desert mountain town. Good thing our trip was planned for the time it was.

    In winter the snow capped peaks are an attraction for the skiers. Seasons for hiking, skiing, and just touring are always filled with visitors getting away from home for a refreshing break in their life. The fall Aspencade is enjoyed by thousands of motorcyclists, including this Blogengeezer who attended often. Trail rides are evident by the horse trailers parked near mountain trails. As we drove the Jeep over to LIncoln on Sunday, the scenic drive showed more new building of grand retreat homes for the retired and vacationers.

    Ft Stanton
  • was built in 1855 to guard the settlers and travelers from the Apache raiders. It then became more modern and took in Merchant Mariners that had aquired Tuberculosis. They were moved to this high desert location to heal or die whichever the case may be. Being Merchant Marine, they came from many different countries.

    White Crosses stretch across the high desert mesa cemetary, mixed in with a few actual grave markers with dates and names. Even a few Germans from The Columbus
  • Incident of pre WWII. Nice little museum to visit at the site of the well maintained historic Fort, was actually getting many visitors on this day. If the state of NM see's the continued interest in this historic site, it will direct funding this way, so visit often.

    The little historic village of Lincoln, in Lincoln county, which in the 1800's took up 1/5th the area of the New Mexico Teritory, was our destination on Sunday. Maybe you will remember reading about the Lawyer fueled fiasco The Lincoln County Range Wars
  • or the famous name of 'Billy the Kid'. Well this is the scenic part of New Mexico where it all happened in 1878-9. Even John Chisum
  • was remotely involved. these are pictures of what Lincoln looks like today and you can read fairly complete detailed, illustrated and Informative books about this fascinating history, written by Robert Utley High Noon in Lincoln
  • and published by the UNM press.

    We stopped in, across from the old courthouse and jail where 5'8" 137 lb (172cm 62kg) Billy the Kid escaped and killed his 2 guards, Murphy
  • Dolan-Riley Store)
    We then sat outside and ate lunch at the little Curry Saloon
  • from the 1880's for a burger and a wonderful Greek sandwich.

    Debi and Frederick whipped them out while we sat and watched dozens of Hummingbirds fly in for a sip of sugar water at their feeders. The old mirrored bar is still in there. This little village is always in a state of restoration by people interested in keeping history alive. The little bookstore near the Curry Saloon sells the very helpful visitor guide for 1.00 US.

    TUNSTALL Store
  • which caused the problem by it's audacity to try and do business in Lincoln, is beautifully restored as are other buildings Thanks to the restoration association and the State of NM,.

    'THE HOUSE' Store is larger than imagined, built by Murphy, sold to Dolan-Riley
  • and at one time the county court house and jail from which Billy made his escape, gunning down his guards.

    It is now a complete museum and a visitor 'must see' attraction. Three museums are along this street along with no less than 39 historic sites.
    As you check out each well marked site, you can almost hear the shouting and cursing between factions as this argument escalated into the murder of John Tunstall. To aprehend the killers of JOHN TUNSTALL, The Lincoln county Regulators
  • were formed and sworn in and led by Dick Brewer. After that the 'Lincoln County War' was in full rage.

    Sides were chosen and many even switched sides, as Whiskey fueled logic prevailed. As the conflict moved into town the quarters were close, Sherrif Brady was gunned down and Billy ran to retrieve his rifle Tunstall had given to him. Brady had confiscated it for his own personal use. Billy was slightly wounded during this foray. Some shots were nearly 400 yards (366m) and did their deed. This attests to the expertise of the riflemen in those days.

    The Torreon built to defend the early settlers from the raiding indians is restored and was used by the Dolan-Riley faction to pick off supporters of McSween.

    Even the more gentile, pacifist anti gun lawyer on John Tunstall's side, Alexander McSween
  • due to frustration with the corrupt legal system, was caught up in the gunbattle, became despondent as the Dolan faction under military protection, burned his home. 'Mac' was killed by the Dolan faction as he stepped outside unarmed to surrender during the culmination of the five day gun battle, drawing to a close The Lincoln county Regulators

  • The Governor Axtel supported, Dolan-Riley faction, supported also by the Army contingent from Ft Stanton, burned out 'Mac's home while the army under command of the alcoholic Colonel Dudley
  • (friend of Dolan's), made sure the defenders stayed inside while the dolan faction torched the McSween house they were in. Colonel Dudley swung his intimidating cannon to point only at the McSween forces and homes, while the Dolan-Riley faction fired from within Colonel Dudley's military ranks for protection from retaliatory fire.

    One can only wonder at this little old western town in those days, with it's bare minimum of buildings and it's 'numerous Lawyers'. Almost every building had a law office complete with Lawyers. Of course Lawyers always file 'Indictments'. The Lincoln County war was awash in 'Indictments' and political animosities harrasing, bankrupting and driving into absolute frustration, those not part of the political party that held regional power at the time. Sounds like today in the USA. Could history repeat itself.....

    As we left to return to our RV park back in Ruidoso, I thought about our violent past and the tough people that lived it. No 'weaksticks' survived back in those days. Knowing the full story, I would have been on John Tunstall's side, which meant I would have ridden with Billy the Kid, He would have loved today's weaponry, God rest his soul.

    The real atrocities occured after the 5 day battle in Lincoln. Hearing that the New Mexico territory was totally lawless, Governor at the time, Axtel was as corrupt as the rest, outlaw factions came from everywhere. They initially formed as the 'Wrestlers' associated with Dolan at Ft Stanton. They then broke into gangs with up to 200 really evil outlaws that raped and pillaged the entire New Mexico territory . The new Governor appointed to replace Axtel, was Lew Wallace
  • who wrote the book BEN HUR
  • during this time.

    He pardoned all of the really evil outlaws and publicly declared that he had ended the war (sounds familiar) but allowed charges to stand and prosecute only Billy the Kid. The 'dime novels' of those years were written to entice more readership.
    they stretched the truth to say the least. They reported that Billy killed 21 men and he was 21 yrs old when he was killed. Truth was more like 'involved in' the killing of about 9 men, most of which really 'Needed Killin'. See why I say Billy got a raw deal. Media is deadlier than the gun. "The Pen is mightier than the Sword"

    Pat Garrett
  • was not involved in the 'war', he most likely knew of 'Billy' but not as friends as frequently told. He was comissioned and eventually after Billy was caught once and escaped, recieved word that Billy was in Ft Sumner about a hundred and fifty miles (241km) to the Northeast. As a bounty hunter Sherriff does, he went there and shot Billy in Maxwells home
  • Pat himself was eventually shot and killed, 'supposedly' by a relative of 'Brazil' the name I mentioned early in this post. Some names are still around this territory and old animosities are just under the surface of our everyday life. I once worked with a 'Brazil' family member. He reminded me there are things he does not talk about in certain areas of New Mexico even today.

    Monday we drove over the mountain pass through the Mescalero Apache reservation
  • to Tularosa NM. As you descend through the pass, the entire Western horizon is pure white with the gypsum of the White Sands National Monument
  • I recommend anyone traveling this direction, stop in and see this natural wonder of snow white sand stretching out of sight in all directions. If you hike it be sure to bring a GPS or compass and water. Many souls have gotten lost in it's vast white beauty.

    F-117 Nighthawks
  • stationed near here in Alamagordo are being replaced with F-22 Raptors
  • soon. After lunch, on our loop return to Ruidoso, we drove up through the interesting Mexican box canyon hwy, through the tunnel to Cloudcroft, a scenic little town with a long history in this area. The abandoned and decaying, photogenic, curved wooden Mexican Canyon Railway Trestle
  • is still visable through the scenic canyon just outside of cloudcroft as well as the old 'Switchback' trail. I can imagine this route being used by the tough people of the 1800's as they rode horseback from Mesilla to Lincoln, 140 miles (225km) away, as Billy the Kid and the others did many times.

    Be sure and visit the old Cloudcroft Lodge with it's resident Ghost. The mountain scenery is always fantastic and inviting. Cloudcroft has a reputation as an artist community, try and schedule for an exibit time. At those times, artwork is displayed along the highway and throughout town.

    Wednesday morning and time to undock from our terminal at Twin Spruce, say goodbye to Dynamic Kay and begin our accent back over the shoulders of 12,005 ft Sierra Blanca. We then begin the cautious descent through the Sacramento Mountains toward Carizozo and down into the Northern end of the huge Tularosa Basin. Our trip across The Valley of Fires and across the barren, beautiful malpais begins. Valley of fires Recreation area
  • including over night camping of various size rigs and tents, is located in the middle of the lava flows for those interested in exploring into the recent (2 to 3 thousand year) past volcanic activity.

    Working our way across this 60 mile (95km) undulating basin floor we eventually come to I-25, bank hard right and continue North to our home terminal of ABQ. Stop and disconnect the Jeep at Sam's, Record milage at 390 miles (927km) fill up both vehicles at 3.65 US a gallon (3.78 litres). 'Neighborhood gas war'. Average Total cost of trip fuel and park fees, not figuring food which we also have to eat at home...65 dollars US per day. Nice vacation in cooler mountain area, reasonable price. Will start saving for the next trip now, One other note dated 7-28, the price of fuel fell to 3.57 a gallon (3.8 litre) :>) NM is one of the lowest taxed States. California at 4.19 is one of the highest taxed :<(

    One added note; The Ruidoso mountain area was hit by the moisture laden clouds from the gulf coast hurricane 'Dolly' on 7-27. Massive flooding wiped out a trailer park filled with vacationers as well as many homes and infrastructure. Trapped campers were airlifted out via Helo. Some elected to wait out the re-opening of the roads out of the hard hit areas. In the language of the people that have lived here for centurys, the name RUIDOSO translates to 'Raging Waters', Historicly signifant? The news media says 'worst on record' Don't know much do they. Maybe they should re-read the name. This mountain flood took place one week after we left. "Timing is everything"

    Enjoy the storys of this 'One Nation under GOD' as you visit each segment of it during this short lifetime we all have on Earth.


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