Treasures of the High Plains

Editor’s note: Following is one in a series of features about destinations some consider treasures of the High Plains.

Fort Sumner will forever be linked with legendary outlaw Billy the Kid. It was also home to another dark 19th-century event — the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans in the U.S. government’s attempt to tame the Old West.
Reason to visit: Fort Sumner is home to four links to the Old West — the Billy Kid Museum, his gravesite, the Fort Sumner Historic Site and the Bosque Redondo Memorial.

THE KID: A frequent visitor to the Fort Sumner area, Billy the Kid was 21 years old when he was shot to death in 1881 by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett.
He was buried July 15, 1881, in the old Fort Sumner Cemetery.
Orphaned in his early teens, William Bonney, as he was commonly known, was a cattle rustler, a gambler and a killer. While historians disagree on the number of men the Kid killed, most agree it was five or fewer.
The personable outlaw’s exploits during the Lincoln County War drew the attention of New Mexico’s governor, who placed a $5,000 bounty on his head.
The events of Billy the Kid’s life and death remain a subject of debate even today.
Fast facts:
• On his album “Piano Man” (1973), Billy Joel performs a song titled “The Ballad of Billy the Kid,” which is not about the outlaw. The title refers, in part, to a bartender Joel knew.
• Billy the Kid’s headstone has been  stolen three times, including when it went missing in 1950 and wasn’t recovered until 26 years later in Granbury, Texas.
• In 2010, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson considered a posthumous pardon for Bonney, who had been convicted of killing Sheriff William Brady. Richardson decided against the pardon; critics said he was only drumming up publicity for New Mexico by bringing the Kid into the national spotlight nearly 130 years after his death.

BOSQUE REDONDO: Opened in 2005, the Bosque Redondo Memorial south of Fort Sumner commemorates the dark days of suffering of about 9,000 Navajos who were imprisoned at the site by the U.S. government between 1863 and 1866.
Known as the Long Walk, Navajos were forced to march at gunpoint 450 miles from their homeland to Fort Sumner. Mescalero Apache were also held at the site.
The alternative was death.
After the military moved on, the site was ultimately sold to private landowners and is in the same location where Billy the Kid was killed in 1881.

If you want to visit

Location: Fort Sumner is located 60 miles west of Clovis on U.S. 60/84.

Billy the Kid Museum
Address: 1435 East Fort Sumner Avenue on U.S. 60/84.
Visitor information: 575-355-2380
Web site: www.billythekidmuseum

Billy the Kid gravesite: He is buried in the Old Fort Sumner Cemetery, located three miles south of U.S. 60/84 on Route 212.

Bosque Redondo/Fort Sumner Historic Site: 3647 Billy the Kid Road
Visitor information: 575-355-2573