October 17, 2012
Last Saturday I had a talk in a cowboy tent out on the paddock of the Ruidoso Downs. This was for the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium and it was standing room only. I had an ace up my sleeve as I teased the audience about a certain gentleman scholar from England who gave us so much when he found the Tunstall family in London back in the 1950s and unearthed John Henry Tunstall's diary among other treasures. This was a major breakthrough in Lincoln County War scholarship and when I started on my journey to discover the truth about Billy the Kid, back in 1991, Mr. Nolan was one of the icons on the mountaintop I just had to meet.
"If only he were here today," I teased the audience, "we could ask him the questions we all are dying to ask someone of his stature." About half way in to my talk I stopped, turned to the right side of the audience and said, "Well, what do you know, Mr. Nolan is sitting right there in the third row." The audience gasped as I invited him up on the stage. To say we killed is an understatement. In addition to being the foremost expert on the Lincoln County War AND Billy the Kid, Fred is quite a performer. We had a great time.
Here we all are at a dinner in Fred's honor. Left to right, moving around the table at The Cattle Baron's Restaurant in Ruidoso: Patty VanDerGang of the Westerns Channel, Doreen Daiss, Heidi Nolan, Dave Daiss, BBB, The Man, Morgan Nelson (93), Sue Lambert and Jeff Hildebrandt of Encore Westerns Channel.
We had a lot to talk about, but even I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Fred originally got hooked on the Kid from reading Walter Noble Burns' "The Saga of Billy the Kid." That is the book that tripped my trigger as well. So I started asking my friends and Billy authors the same question: What book or movie made you Kid Krazy? I will post some of the comments as they come in. In the meantime, I got this off of Facebook and I think it's quite astute (especially the ground zero comment):
"I was born in NM and have been to many of BTK's haunts including ground zero in Lincoln. Once you educate yourself about his life and not the Hollywood versions, you can't help but become engrossed and intrigued by his personality and of course the mystery. There is a reason why so many old west historians continue to try and chip away at that enigma that is the Kid. We still know so little about him and perhaps that's why he will always have us coming back for more."