Which Way Did He Go?

Does the Billy the Kid Ride follow the Kid's actual escape route from Lincoln, New Mexico to Fort Sumner, New Mexico? Fact is, no one knows for sure.



Drew Gomber, a Lincoln resident and a historian with the Hubbard Museum of the American West, Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, said all that's known for sure is that after killing deputies James Bell and Robert Olinger, Billy cut through Lincoln Canyon a mile out of town and road through the Capitan Gap to the settlement of Las Tablas.

Oh, and one more thing. Historians know that before he even got out of Lincoln, Billy's "borrowed" horse pitched him into the street.

"The horse just freaked and threw him right in front of the courthouse (jail),"Gomber says.

But Billy got back on and was gone. People point to any number of spots between Lincoln and Fort Sumner as being the place Billy the Kid stopped to get help in shedding his shackles. The Billy the Kid Trail Ride passes two - the scant remnants of an old rock house on the south side of the Capitan Gap and Las Tablas, now just high, grassy pasture land.

Rex Buchman, founder of the Billy the Kid Trail Ride, said he thinks the outlaw's route took him toward Conejo Mesa, near Tex and Jan Elliott's West Camp, one of the ride's stopping points. It could be Buchman's riders sleep close to where Billy rested during his 1881 run for freedom. Still, Buchman concedes the Billy the Kid Trail Ride route's determined as much or more by necessity than history.

"How we had to travel pretty much determined where we had to go,"he said. "Today, the fences are different, the water holes are different and the roads are different. But some of the places are the same."

One thing's for sure: Billy, as well as Buchman's riders, reached the end of the trail in Fort Sumner. Sheriff Pat Garrett shot him to death there on July 14, 1881.