Saturday, February 16, 2008

Aliens and Outlaws

Day 2 we head north once again determined to see an alien in Roswell and hopefully "bump" into the ghost of Billy the Kid at Fort Sumner. Well, all kinds of "alien" type items we did see in Roswell, especially at the UFO Museum and Research Center. Got the whole history, lots of pictures, and displays. Very interesting stuff. Plus, Dave was determined to bring home an "alien" so we poked our heads into several of the touristy souvenir shops finding just the right one. Now, those places I can only describe as "quirky," but alien in hand, we set out on a more familiar trail -- that of the Old West.

We roll through the next 84 miles barely seeing a soul through the desert plains, our only company, a few scattered cows and a brief peek at a few fleeing antelope. One lonely adobe house sits abandoned on these quiet plains. How long has it been since this quiet little place heard laughter and voices within its walls? Finally, we reach the village of Fort Sumner, population of about 1250 - friendly folks and a great hamburger at Fred's Lounge.

At a visit to the Billy the Kid Museum, history comes to life with displays of Billy the Kid's rifle, chaps, spurs and original Wanted Poster, as well as military displays, saddles, vintage photographs, antique furnishings, and old Model-T's.

Now, on to Billy the Kid's gravesite and the Fort Sumner State Monument. At the old cemetery, we see Billy's grave, along with his pals Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre. Poor Billy's original grave stone has been stolen twice, so the gravesite sits behind an iron cage. Who would do that? Steal a grave marker? But, they got it back and the original marker is also in the "cage," further imprisoned within yet more iron.

Of the Fort Sumner State Monument, we learn more of the Navajo's Long Walk to the Bosque Redondo Reservation. It was to "guard" these Indians, that Fort Sumner was built in 1862. However, the reservation was soon hailed as a miserable failure --the victim of poor planning, disease, crop infestation, and poor conditions for agriculture. The Navajo were finally acknowledged sovereignty in the historic Treaty of 1868 and allowed to returned to their land along the Arizona-New Mexico border.

In 1870, the old Fort Sumner buildings were sold to Lucien B. Maxwell, the former owner of the largest land grant in U.S. History. Maxwell relocated his family from northeast New Mexico and refurbished the buildings into proper housing. Lucien Maxwell soon turned over his affairs to his son Peter and passed away a few years later. When Billy the Kid arrived on the scene, Peter Maxwell and Billy became friends. On July 14, 1881, Sheriff Pat Garrett found Billy the Kid in a bedroom of the Maxwell home and ended the life of the teenage outlaw.

Though all of the original buildings of the fort, as well as Maxwell's home, are long since gone, the site provides a museum and an interpretive trail which provide information about the tragic history of the site.

We're off again, destined for Ruidosa. Along the way, I am pleasantly surprised when we run into the ghost town of Yeso that I was unaware was on our route. Though we saw not a single soul, amazingly, there is still an operating post office in this abandoned agricultural community. Here, there are numerous homes and businesses standing in various stages of collapse.

As our journey turns southward, we bump into yet another ghost town -- Duran. Though this small village continues to be called home to several residents, it's obviously seen better days, as every business is closed and numerous homes are abandoned.

Finally, we reach Ruiodosa and our hotel. Another delightful day!

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