Brad Messer Commentary
Thursday, October 30, 2003

The Kid (or is he?)

We glorify killers, buy their books, visit their gravesites.

Someone stole assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's headstone for a souvenir. Towns get into arguments and lawsuits over whose town some killer outlaw is buried in. Granbury, Texas claims Jesse James died there, under an assumed name, and wasn't shot by Bob Ford in Missouri.

Click image for the story

Questions about Billy the Kid, too. The popular story is that sheriff Pat Garrett shot him to death near Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The counterstory is that the sheriff shot someone else - who knows who - and the Kid escaped across the Texas border. Changed his name to Ollie "Brushy Bill" Roberts, lived to be an old man in Hico, Texas, and is buried there.

DNA can tell a lot about such things. Jesse James' body was exhumed. Lee Harvey Oswald, president Zachary Taylor, lots of people have been dug up lately. So far, everyone has been who they were supposed to be.

The Billy the Kid story isn't over. They're having a terrific fight in New Mexico now about whether to dig up the Kid's mother, to compare her DNA to Brushy Bill— and if it matches, he was really The Kid. A city council is battling a sheriff, the governor is involved, pleadings have been made in District Court, the whole nine yards.

All to find out where a glorified killer is really buried, so people can go there and glorify him more. We're an odd bunch, aren't we.

Brad Messer— commentary, KTSA.

Houston Chronicle 10/29/2003 Mayor fights to keep Kid's mom buried 5/23/2003 Billy the Kid mystery revisited

Hico, Texas website: Welcome to Our Legend [Billy the Kid]

Granbury, Texas website: The Truth about Jesse James

History News Network Digging Up the Dead to Settle Historical Debates: A Good Idea?

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