Forget the kid, get Billy the man

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Oh, Susana, I think you are onto a hot one. This “Catch the Kid” business, the contest to track down Billy the Kid and win 10,000 bucks? Good move, Gov. Martinez.

Last Sunday I saw the full-page ad featuring the contest poster: WANTED, BILLY THE KID. $10,000 REWARD. Here’s why that is a timely idea. New Mexico needs to start having fun again.
Remember the good old days of New Mexico? Just speaking the name evoked thoughts of Albuquerque crowds cheering multi-colored, gently floating balloons, trips to the magnificent Carlsbad Caverns and expansive White Sands dunes near Alamogordo, the charming Indian reservations of the north, the high school football tradition of Artesia.
Those were the days. Now when you hear “New Mexico” you think not of the Land of Enchantment but the Land of Political Corruption. You think of poor people struggling to put a meal on the table in a state where so-called third-party marketers pocketed millions of bucks of taxpayer money for steering state investments to favored companies. You think of scoundrels allegedly copying highway construction bids and sending them to competitors. You think of people being killed on the highway by drunken drivers with multiple convictions.
The governor wants to shine some light into these dark corners. Good for her. She says “Billy the Kid is loose in New Mexico.” The contest idea is you travel around the state, from the Wild West Festival in Las Vegas to the Old West Days in Silver City and points in between to search for clues and loot. Check it out at catchthekid.com.
Interesting how one establishes a legacy, obtaining that niche guaranteeing remembrance after leaving this Earth. Some get rich and powerful enough to have their names inscribed on buildings (and some of those get poor and disgraced and have their names removed from buildings).
Billy the Kid achieved lasting fame by robbing banks and shooting people. By all accounts, Billy was not the kind of fellow you hoped would stop by the homestead and take your precious daughter to the harvest festival. Nonetheless, his memory lingers on in a rather heroic light.
Gov. Bill Richardson milked the subject by threatening to pardon Billy, that clever ploy garnering, as he well knew it would, the intended coverage by the New York Times and major networks. Say what you want about Billy the Man, he sure knew how to turn on the publicity machine.
Susana takes the position Richardson was a bed-wetting liberal while she is a tough prosecutor. Therefore, she reasons, the smart way to capitalize on the Kid craze is to bring him in and prosecute him. That is a good theory except we have to suspend belief for just a moment and forget that Billy is, well, like, dead.
May we suggest there are other contest ideas to promote tourism?
WANTED. BILLY THE MAN. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO OUR FORMER GOVERNOR?
Drive around beautiful New Mexico and pick up valuable clues as to the whereabouts of Bill Richardson, aka “Chubby Cheeks.”
Look for discarded wrappers from Super Sized Snickers Bars and turn them over to Susana at the mansion where only repeated fumigation removed the cigar smoke before she moved in.
Take a ride on the Rail Runner. Keep your eyes open for a fellow passenger who is looking warily about him and muttering, “seemed like a good idea at the time.”
In the open prairie you might find a handsome pony, Sundance, whose tired eyes speak the message, “Please, Lord, don’t let him get on me again.”
Look for a guy at the Spaceport ticket counter asking if there are any flights landing in Washington D.C. As the corruption heat threatens to snare his ankle and pull him into the mire, Big Bill might be asking about one-way space shot tickets.
Cruise around Santa Fe and look for visiting movie stars. Bill won’t be far away.
Billy the Kid. Billy the Man. Only in New Mexico.
Have a nice day.

Ned Cantwell is a syndicated state columnist living in Ruidoso. He welcomes your response at ncantwell@bajabb.com.