During the summer of 1999 Dena and I drove through a small, dusty town in New Mexico and stopped at the Old Fort Sumner Museum which perported to hold the one, true grave of William H. Bonney, a.k.a. Billy the Kid. It was a small tourist trap with the requisite gift shop and handful of antiquities. Behind the store was a small, fenced-in field that contained, among other things, a chipped and weathered grave marker.
The debate over the final resting place of Billy the Kid has been around for years. The battle is now reaching a fevered pitch, as reported by MSNBC. Local officials are now petitioning to have the body of Billy the Kid’s mother in an effort to extract DNA in order to settle the controversy once and for all.
The part of the debate I find interesting is the historical importance of the identity of Billy the Kid versus milking the tourist value of the 122-year-old legend. Personally, I think this boils down to a regional battle between the various groups that claim to control the true grave of the kid. Whichever is proven to be the true resting place of the legendary marauder will become more popular than ever and the losers will fade into the background. It would be nice to know the truth, but there is a certain beauty in the mystique of an unsolved mystery.