Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fort Sumner, New Mexico

October 16 - 19, 2016:

An easy 108 mile drive, (except for the wicked wind) on routes 3 south to Interstate 40 east and route 203 to Fort Sumner State Park.  We are seeing lots of RV’s on the interstate as the snowbirds are flocking to their winter nests.  Fort Sumner Lake State Park is situated on a large reservoir formed by the damming of the Pecos River in1938 for irrigation and flood control.  The Park has several campgrounds, although some of them closed in October.  We have no trouble getting a campsite with electric and water.  It’s a beautiful wide, level site with a picnic table in a ramada overlooking the lake at $14 a day.

It's simply Paradise on the Pecos

Rest area built by a private individual, Raymond Samora, to honor veterans on the road to Sumner Lake State Park

Sumner Lake Dam

Sumner Lake

Fort Sumner's claim to fame is that it is where Billy the Kid was killed and is buried.  His name is used to advertise all over town, it's quite remarkable that a 21 year old outlaw is so referred today.  There are two main attractions in town about the Kid, the Billy the Kid Museum which has been around for decades with a huge collection of various historical relics and personal "Billy" items along with a replica of the Billy the Kid grave stone.  The other attraction is the Fort Sumner cemetery where the real grave stone resides inside a locked steel cage, to secure it as it has been stolen two times.  Who knows or cares if Billy is still there ?

Billy the Kid who was gunned down in a 
surprise raid at the home of a friend,
Pete Maxwell.  Pete was the son of Lucien 
Maxwell described below

Lucien Bonaparte Maxwell, fur trader and 
trapper in 1854 became the owner of the
largest single tract of land in the US owned
by a single individual at at one time owned 
1,700,000 acres of land

Billy the Kid grave stone in front section of the cage, 
rear stone is for his buddies.  The stone has been stolen 
two times hence the locked cage

The stone is worn and lettering is barely legible

The Museum which really has tons of stuff

There were people who questioned if he was really dead

A photo of the recently found new photo of Billy the Kid
and friends playing croquet

Billy supposedly ate food cooked in this frying pan

Billy also supposedly killed a cattle rustler
and took these chaps and spurs which
he liked to wear at dances

A stone that Billy carved his name in

This contraption was built by a local man after losing his 
drivers license, all sorts of bicycle and motorcycle parts 
were assembled together so he could still get around

Even a collection of old cars in the museum, note Billy
did not drive any of them

There isn’t much else to do in Fort Sumner except look at several photogenic murals (although mostly faded) and a few old abandoned buildings.  The town itself seems to be on the decline with only a couple of “real” restaurants, one decent grocery store and hardly any stores or services to attract the tourist crowd.

Several fading folksy murals like this in Fort Sumner

They all appear to be fading away like the town itself

The building is for sale

Front side of the above building which appears to be
an old gas station

Great old murals on the old Bowling Alley along with Heritage timeline

The Bowl-O-Matic Lanes are truely classic

We find a decent small laundromat to do a load of clothes and have lunch at the Cowboy Cafe where I have  Billy the Kid Chili cheeseburger which was pretty good, although maybe not award winning caliber as advertised.

I also had the cheeseburger special at the Dariland Restaurant in town, best french fries I’ve had in a while and cheap prices.  There were only two other restaurants open in town. Vegetarians may have a problem here !

The Dariland sign

There is a nice coffee shop, The Mill Coffee Bar, adjacent to a great old Windmill repair shop but as is becoming more frequent these days when you go into a coffee shop, you get a strange look when you ask for a plain old coffee, in fact they often don’t have any.  The Windmill & Supply Company looks very interesting, there are many old windmills on ranches and this business has parts and does repairs them for them.

The Mill Coffee Bar at the Windmill Shop

Old Windmill at the Windmill Repair Shop

If you need working WiFi in Fort Sumner one of the few places in town is the public library.  I was there every day.  

Another main attraction in town is the Bosque Redondo Memorial on the site of the original Fort Sumner.  Approximately 9,000 Navajo and Mescalero Apaches were forcibly removed from their homeland and marched to Fort Sumner where they were imprisoned on the Bosque Redondo Reservation during the years 1863 to 1868.  This march became known as the "Long Walk" with many indians dying along the way.  By 1867 it was realized that the Bosque Redondo Reservation was a failure and a new treaty was signed allowing the indians to return to a reservation in their homeland.

Fort Sumner was abandoned in 1869 and purchased by Lucien Maxwell who rebuilt one of the officers quarters into a 20 room house.  On July 14, 1881 Sheriff Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid in this house, now referred to as the Maxwell House. 

Sign for the Bosque Redondo Memorial

The Bosque Redondo Memorial

Artist rendering of the Long Walk

Art mural of the Long Walk to Fort Sumner

Indians on one wall with the US army on the opposite wall

Next stop is the UFO Capital of the World, Roswell, New Mexico,

Twinkles and Slick

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