A trip to Wal-Mart for gloves and then another bike ride from Ruidoso — seventy miles to the Lincoln County Courthouse. The very small town of Lincoln is where Billy the Kid killed two guards and escaped. Ghosts whisper my fate in my ear as I walk, alone and slowly, up the same stairs as Billy to the room where he was shackled to the floor, awaiting the hangman. I look for bloodstains at the top of the stairs. Large legends for such a tiny place. It's almost unchanged since the 1880s.
This is not the dry, dusty place that one might imagine. It's rolling grassland with mountains and hardwoods that turn brilliant yellow at this time of year. The Kid was perhaps innocent, but was sucked into a feud between two rival shopkeepers. Both stores are still here like time stood still. An Irish immigrant and an English newcomer both wanted to sell cattle and other goods to the soldiers at the nearby Fort Stanton. The fort was established to control the Mescalero Apaches and make the area safe for settlement. Billy worked as a cowboy for the dead Englishman and became embroiled in the cycle of violence. The two large competing stores are still the main buildings in Lincoln, which seems to have a population of about fifty with no services other than the stores that have been made into museums.
I discuss Pat Garrett's book with the museum curator. She says it sucks and recommends Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life.
Near the closed fort, five miles from Lincoln, we find a lonely fenced graveyard with a large anchor. It has graves and crosses for thousands of Merchant Mariners. A sign says 'No metal detecting'.
We will be traveling though the Mescalero Apache Indian reservation on the way to the White Sands National monument, Las Cruces, Truth-or-Consequences, Elephant Butte Lake State park, Gila Cliff Dwellers National Monument and a ghost town named Mogollon. Then into Arizona.