February 28, 2024


Automotive pure lust

1993 Ford Taurus SHO Boss Wagon Sidles Up to the Old West

From the April 1993 issue of Car and Driver.

Apart from the Justice of the Peace in Lincoln getting shot in both buttocks while hoeing onions, what is remarkable about New Mexico’s wild west—and so quintessentially American—is that it is accessible in the manner of those other uniquely American totems of today, McDonald’s and Burger King. You simply drive your car right through it all, picking up historical McNuggets.

In the case of”America’s Most Dangerous Street,” which is all of four blocks in length, you get a bucketful of nuggets. Drive the main (and only) street of Lincoln, New Mexico—population 70—and you see an antique town of squat adobe buildings untouched for a century and set against a backdrop of mountains strewn with boulders, scruffy pines, and snow. You also pass the sites of 40-odd murders committed in just a few years during the late 1800s.

Mostly, the townsfolk of Lincoln straight­forwardly blasted bullet holes in one another in random alcohol-fueled dust-ups. Sometimes, however, a fair bit of imagination was invested. For example:

  • During a wedding in December 1883, when the minister inquired “if anyone objects to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace,” the Horrell family—involved three weeks earlier in a gunfight—added to the nuptial merriment by shooting to death four wedding participants.
  • Lincoln’s sheriff, William Brady, on a morning stroll to the courthouse, was made to resemble a Japanese drift net when “between eight and twelve balls pierced his body from positions unknown.” This prank, consummated on April Fool’s Day, 1878, so unnerved one man that a gunshot wound suffered sometime earlier burst open, and he died on the spot.
  • In July 1878, the house of the town’s lawyer, A.A. McSween, was set ablaze by various disgruntleds, and in the typical chaotic hijinks that ensued, five men were shot dead.
  • A soldier accidentally shot himself fatally. This feat was surpassed by one George Washington, who, in an attempt to blast a dog that had annoyed him in the summer of 1879, instead shot to death his wife. Also his child.
  • Two deputies, J.W. Bell and Robert Ollinger, were, within two minutes of one another on April 28, 1881, eliminated from the living by an otherwise charming, slope-shouldered wraith with comical buck teeth and an amazing variety of names. Depending on when you met him, he was: Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, William Antrim, Billy Antrim, Kid Antrim, Billy Bonney, El Chivato, William Henry Bonney, and Billy the Kid.

    If you read a few history books (start with John Tuska’s excellent Billy the Kid: A Handbook), you’ll know that every site that figured prominently in the Kid’s short but action-packed life is accessible to motorists in New Mexico. Even so, Billy’s trail and trials can be bewildering, because the only body of information that outstrips what is known about the Kid is that immense body of what is not known.

    Billy was, for example, born either in 1855 or 1860 in New York or in Indiana. He either killed one man for each of his 21 or 26 years or killed only four. He was gunned down by Sheriff Pat Garrett and buried in Fort Sumner in 1881, or he lived to be 90-year-old “Brushy” Bill Roberts of Hico, Texas.

    What is known with certainty is that during the 48 months between 1877 and 1881, Billy set in motion a monstrous media machine—a dozen ten-cent novels—whose sensationalist scribes transformed this moderately overactive juvenile delinquent into “a young demon urged by a spirit hideous as hell.” Imagine writing the history of Elvis Aron Presley 113 years after his death, using only The National Enquirer as a resource. This gives you a feel for what Billy’s chroniclers confront today.

    What we also know is that, contrary to what you may have observed in more than 40 movies dedicated to the Kid’s capers (including Paul Newman in Gore Vidal’s The Left-Handed Gun), Billy was indisputably right-handed, never robbed a bank, never raped nor pillaged, never captained a gang, and never engaged in a mano-a-mano gunfighter duel on Main Street. Anywhere.

    In fact, a hotelier in Silver City, where Billy worked as a teenager, recalled, “Henry [McCarty] was the only kid who ever worked here who never stole anything.”

    On a driving tour, an efficient method of tracking Billy’s trail is to pitch camp in the Lincoln National Forest (see map, #3), a place right out of a Louis L’Amour novel. It also happens to be chockablock with challengingly contorted roads. Try the secluded, Apache-operated Inn of the Mountain Gods (see map, #4). This is a ski resort three miles south of Ruidoso (see map, #5), which in Spanish means “noisy” but isn’t, perched at 7200 feet in the Sacramento Mountains.

    billy the kid map

    Car and Driver

    Growing up in Silver City, Billy evidently was not a problem child. He developed flawless penmanship, wrote articulately, was eloquent in his own tongue and fluent in Spanish. At the ripe age of fifteen, the Kid—known then only as Henry McCarty—conducted his first daring foray into lawlessness, proving, however, that he was not brilliant. He expropriated a pile of dirty clothes from a Chinese laundry and was jailed. Fleetingly. This is because, when the sheriff turned his back, young Henry squirmed up the chimney to freedom.

    As a young man—which is all he would ever live to be—Billy was five feet nine, had clear blue eyes, weighed 140 pounds, and never managed to grow more than silky fuzz on his upper lip. Sheriff Pat Garrett said, “His attire was usually of black—a black frock coat, dark pants, and his only peculiarity in dress a Mexican sombrero.”

    A local reporter wrote, “He is quite a handsome-looking fellow, the only imperfection being two prominent front teeth slightly protruding like a squirrel’s, and he has agreeable and winning ways.” (His teeth were also hyped in tabloids as “fangs which gave to his features an intensely cruel and murderous expression.”) Moreover, the Kid was born with a second imperfection: wrists as thick as his hands—an abnormality that allowed him to slip out of handcuffs almost at will.

    Billy did not gain notoriety easily, even after a nasty barroom fight near Camp Grant, Arizona, with “Windy” Cahill—the nickname referred to the gusts created by the man’s continually flapping mouth. Windy called Billy a pimp. Billy called Windy a son of a bitch. This fascinating philosophical exchange concluded with a bullet finding its way into Windy’s large intestines, more or less discharging forever all of Windy’s wind. The Kid fled, and was pursued with all the vigor attached to barroom fatalities of the day—which is to say virtually none whatsoever.

    The second of four men Billy can confidently be credited with having shot to death was Joe Grant in Fort Sumner. This, too, was a barroom barney in which Grant was blasting away at whiskey bottles from which patrons were attempting to drink. Grant informed Billy: “I’ll bet $25 that I kill a man today before you do.” Irked by such drunken bravado, Billy took Grant’s pearl-handled revolver, spun the cylinder until the gun’ hammer fell on an empty chamber, then returned the weapon. More words were exchanged, and, as a witness recalls, “Grant squared off at Billy, who, when he heard the click, whirled around and, ‘bang, bang, bang,’ right in the chin. Could cover all [three shots] with a half dollar.” A chinless Grant was, ironically, buried in a plot that would soon be just feet away from Billy’s.

    What few dollars Billy acquired were from rustled cattle. He was also an accomplished gambler—notice the pinky ring he flashes in the only photo of him—although his luck at cards was probably attributable to the near-constant inebriation of his opponents. These were, as Jake Page observed in The Smithsonian, “a bunch of drunks with the sense of boys and the weapons of men.”

    Giddings Brown runs the old Wortley Hotel in Lincoln, New Mexico, and Bob Hart, in period costume, is the reigning master of accurate Billy trivia.

    Dick KelleyCar and Driver

    In any event, what cash Billy pocketed was not invested in IRAs. Rancher Frank Coe recalled, “He never seemed to care for money, except to buy cartridges with. Cartridges were scarce, and he used about ten times as many as anyone else.”

    He did womanize, says Bill Rakocy, author of The Kid and curator of a gallery in Ruidoso filled with ads featuring Pierce­Arrows, Franklins, and Lincolns. The Kid’s coterie of Mexican girlfriends was in San Patricio (see map, #7), although trysts there became less romantic after the place was ransacked by a posse certain Billy was stashed nearby. Like Lincoln, San Patricio today is untouched and intact, rutted gravel roads and all, and offers to motorists the immense bonus of an adobe guesthouse and Peter Hurd’s amazing watercolors of the nearby hills, collected in the La Rinconada Gallery.

    Billy met with real trouble only when he innocently involved himself in the Lincoln County War—a squalid, mean­-spirited spat between two store owners, John Tunstall and the Murphy-Dolan faction, both of Lincoln. These men petulantly disputed lucrative contracts to sell cattle and supplies to the Army at nearby Fort Stanton (see map, #8).

    Having been employed by Tunstall, a Brit whose store stands unchanged today, Billy was fiercely loyal to him. Alas, in 1878, Tunstall was blown clean out of his saddle by a hail of bullets, an action that, sure enough, affected sales that month. This messy murder unfolded in front of Billy, who was, at the time, humming his favorite tune, “Turkey in the Straw.” Tunstall’s picturesque murder site is marked on Route 70, near Bent (see map, #9).

    It was a pivotal moment. The Kid vehemently vowed to avenge his employer’s assassination and was there­after blamed for every murder west of Chicago, for all cattle rustled in Texas, and possibly for the sinking of the Lusitania.

    The Lincoln War fizzled out two years later. This is because every combatant had been pardoned, or resided beyond the short arm of New Mexican arrest warrants, or had become food for worms.

    Except Billy.

    Cruise through Lincoln today—no gas stations, no convenience stores, and one lone pay phone outside the Wortley Hotel—and you discover an antique, not a restoration. An American Wild West movie set, upon which Hollywood has yet to improve.

    If you know your history, you’ll make discoveries here that will trigger goosebumps. Behind Tunstall’s store, for example, the bullet-ridden Englishman is buried next to his attorney, Alexander Mcsween, the latter burned out of his home and shot to death while Billy escaped via the back door. It was during the siege of Mcsween’s that one none-too-subtle Lt. Col. Nathan Dudley from nearby Fort Stanton sought to impose a semblance of peace, aiming a mountain howitzer at McSween’s porch.

    To which the lawyer responded, “Before blowing up my property, I would like to know the reason.”

    Dudley inscrutably replied: “[I] desire to hold no correspondence with you; if you desire to blow up your house, the commanding officer does not object, provided it does not injure U.S. soldiers.”

    A building that needs work in the White Oaks ghost town.

    Dick KelleyCar and Driver

    Today, Lincoln’s Wortley Hotel, which Pat Garrett owned briefly, not only stands—it’s perfectly preserved—but still serves meals daily in its 50-seat restaurant. Proprietor Giddings Brown, a Texan who looks like a young Kenny Rogers in The Gambler, has renovated the hotel’s eight rooms with brass beds and Victorian furnishings. For $53 per night, you can sleep where the Kid may have entertained a girlfriend or two.

    One of Billy’s favorite haunts, principally for the gaming tables and dance halls of its ten saloons (the Kid was a renowned hoofer), was the village of White Oaks (see map, #10), off Route 54, just north of Carrizozo. White Oaks today stands forlornly at the dead end of a nine-mile paved driveway, where our Taurus SHO wagon magically worked itself up to 130 mph before encountering a badly executed 90-degree turn. It’s a ghost town, replete with the sound of the general store’s shutters banging in the wind. One erect-but-tilting saloon bears the warning, “No Scum Allowed.” There are two plantation houses on opposing hills, and a restored hotel on a gooey mud track, whose reason for existence in this eerie, windswept valley is known to no one nearby. Superstitious tourists do not visit. It was to White Oaks that Sheriff Garrett came for lumber to build a gallows intended for Billy.

    Crazy Lt. Col. Dudley’s Fort Stanton, just north of Lincoln, is worth a glance, too, not only for its neatly preserved parade grounds (the facility now serves as a hospital for the handicapped, so cameras are considered tacky) but also for the purple hills that surround it and for its proximity to the ursine stomping grounds and grave of the real Smokey Bear (see map, #11), with whose death the Kid is, amazingly, in no way associated. Yet.

    Ford Taurus SHO Wagon—The Billy Wagon

    Dick KelleyCar and Driver

    Strong as hog’s breath, our one-of-a-kind hauler amazes Little Leaguers. Sorry, you can’t have one.

    Car and Driver has a long and volatile history of assembling one-of-a-kind Boss Wagons, the word “Boss” in the late 1960 meaning today roughly what the expression “way cool” portends, or, if you’re Bill or Ted, “Most excellent, dude.”

    We began in 1966 with Boss Wagon I, a Plymouth Fury on which Navy fighters could have landed, followed by a 455-cubic-inch Olds Vista-Bruiser that went 120 mph, which was, trust us, a novelty in 1968. Those two were out­engineered by surprisingly eco-trendy Boss Wagons III and IV: a Volvo 265DL turbocharged to spit out 200 horsepower and a 1981 Benz 300TD that collided on Michigan Route 14 with a 24-inch RCA television set, a TV smash-hit special.

    So when we decided to pursue the still-warm trail of America’s best-known outlaw, we needed an American outlaw wagon—a Millennium Taurus, maybe—that could carry two duffel bags, one ice chest, ten days of winter clothes, a car cover, two sleeping bags, one air mattress, one 75-pound Siberian husky (plus attendant Alpo), 22 history books on Billy the Kid, and 26 pounds of cameras and tripods. At 130 mph.

    Dick KelleyCar and Driver

    A Tauru SHO wagon, with its 220-hp bundle-of-snakes Yamaha engine, seemed the ticket. And after Ford came up with a four-speed automatic that it trusted in the face of 215 pound-feet of torque, voila, the die was cast. So here is our arrest-me-red Boss Wagon V, a.k.a. the Billy Wagon.

    A it turns out (why don’t we ever learn?), transplanting the engine and driveline from a SHO automatic was no overnight lark with a six-pack of Bud in the neighbor’s garage. What chiefly worried Ford’s engineers (we, ah, hadn’t actually thought of it) was the wagon’s torsional rigidity. Ford’s guys thus welded reinforcing plates in the front wheelhouses, on the floor near the D-pillars, at the tops of the C-pillars, and in vital wheel-well locations. According to a computer, this made our Billy Wagon 30-percent stiffer than anything you’ll find in Ford showrooms, not counting Cal Worthington’s leisure suit.

    Pumping up the suspension was somewhat simpler, tuning it somewhat trickier. SHO front struts were installed, a unique 23mm front anti-roll bar was fitted, and a 15mm rear bar (2mm fatter than the standard wagon issue) was put to work. Because the wagon might be used for heavy hauling (Ford perhaps misunderstood our definition of “hauling”), a unique transmission cooler was added. But, ironically, to get the handling to mimic the automatic sedan’s, low-load springs proved most appropriate, and the wagon’s dead-stock rear shocks worked like warm cocoa butter.

    Dick KelleyCar and Driver

    Inside, the SHO sedan’s unique leather buckets, center console, and instrument panel slid neatly into place. Outside, artisans fabricated SHO-like side cladding, a fiberglass rear bumper cover, and a handmade front fascia—a clone of the 1993 SHO sedan’s. Because we kept mumbling things like, “130 mph would be neat,” the roof rack was pitched in the dumpster, and the whole wagon was slathered with SHO-only crimson clearcoat, which everyone knows is good for, say, 11 mph. To this we added the SHO’s proprietary Cuisinart alloy wheels and a set of Eagle GAs. No civilians have asked if we use this wagon to haul golf clubs, potted plants, or Girl Scouts.

    In fact, the most common query during fuel-ups is, “Is this what I think it is?” To which we simply point to the dual exhausts. (We are so cool.)

    Throughout this jiggery-pokery, only one wagon trait refuses to comply with SHO business. The sixteen-gallon tank, mated to the SHO’s gauge, says it’s dry after only twelve gallons have been swallowed—a drag in the New Mexican outback.

    Under wide-open throttle, the SHO wagon shifts (at 6700 rpm) more slickly than a pre-inaugural Bill Clinton, and the transmission is programmed with hair­-trigger precision to lunge from fourth to third if your right loafer so much as twitches. A small annoyance.

    Ride and handling are close to the SHO automatic sedan’s, if slightly more supple. This explains why I had no trouble covering 780 miles one day from Hereford, Texas, to St. Louis and had the grits thereafter to go looking for a nonexistent Steak and Ale.

    Were it always summer, we’d prefer Eagle GTs to these tame GAs, although the wagon tracks superbly and slogs okay through a Lincoln Forest five-inch snowfall. Its skidpad figure of 0.80 g equals that of the SHO automatic, except the Billy Wagon does it with five Little Leaguers’ faces mashed against side windows.

    Given its 3636-pound heft, even 220 snap-revving horsepower can’t make this wagon a drag queen, although it will stuff a Dodge Ramcharger Canyon Sport back into its canyon. In fact, it pistol­whips 60 mph in only 7.3 seconds, making it slightly quicker than its sibling SHO sedan (we can’t explain it either) and far quicker than other people haulers, like, say, the Jeep Grand Cherokee V-8 (8.1 seconds).

    Dick KelleyCar and Driver

    The anti-lock brakes are more potent than the sedan’s too—partly because of weight distribution—bringing matters to a halt in an amazing 172 feet. This is as good as an Infiniti Q45.

    Not that we ever wanted to stop. The Billy Wagon is a solid, carefully assembled, practical, quick-witted, long-distance cruiser with visibility surpassed only by minivans. It’s also a head-turner, and ergonomically superb with the exception of the radio, whose stupid manual-tune button gives you four seconds before it defaults to automatic “Seek,” whereupon, in Oklahoma, you receive Chaplain Ray and the International Prison Broadcast.

    In pursuit of Billy the Kid, I happily put 4100 miles on this vehicle and thereafter attempted to sign it out on four subsequent weekends, claiming I had crucial hauling duties: a gallon of milk, a Brooks Brothers suit, a prized collection of Aqua Velva bottles.

    So, how much would our SHO wagon go for? Probably $30,000, though no one at Ford is sure. The whole project was “just for fun,” unless you and 20,000 of your friends send deposits to Dearborn demanding one.

    Just when we figured the station wagon was a vehicular brontosaurus out­ Darwined by minivans, this comes along.

    Hold on. Front-wheel drive, transverse V-6, automatic transmission. What would happen if we slipped this whole drivetrain into a minivan? Call it Boss VI. Maybe Villager the Kid.

    Having endured Billy’s notoriety longer than his ego preferred, Sheriff Garrett, who in his pre-constabulary days was reputedly a co-conspirator in Billy’s freelance cattle­-rustling enterprise, tracked young William to a bulletproof rock house near Stinking Springs, a quarter-mile south of the marker on Route 60/84 in Taliban. In a snowstorm, Garrett laid siege to the place.

    Billy had planned to escape by yanking his horse into the tiny house, then riding out at Derby speed, taking his chances with the spray of lead that would inevitably erupt. Sensing what Billy had cooked up, however, Garrett simplified matter by nonchalantly shooting holes in the horse.

    Said Billy as he surrendered, “I guess the joke’s on me this time.” Garrett hauled the Kid south to stand trial for the murder of Sheriff Brady—never mind that Billy was the only man charged and that Brady’s corpse was riddled with more bullets than even Billy possessed.

    Taiban today is the site of the rabid Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang Inc., whose members, ah, still dress up like Billy, but is a fine place to obtain information or souvenir snakeskin panties.

    Next, arrange a day trip south, out of the mountains, directly through the White Sands Missile Range (see map, #13), past 9000-foot Organ Needle, to Mesilla, just south of Las Cruces. (Avoid the LaQuinta Inn, where Billy, like Elvis, was sighted last year drinking mocha espresso in the lobby.)

    Except for its chic turquoise-jewelry boutique , Mesilla’s town square is as it was on April 13, 1881, the day Billy was sentenced in the courthouse to hang for having pumped so many bullets into Brady that his clothes caught fire. That courthouse, now a gift shop, has original vigas and latillas—wooden beams interspersed with stripped branches—and eighteen-inch-thick adobe wall . This garage-size building was a courtroom, a jail, the state capitol, and a schoolroom. At the same time. Pupils were encouraged to jump rope elsewhere when the afternoon’s social highlight was a hanging.

    The privy behind the courthouse was the catalyst for the Kid’s great escape.

    Dick KelleyCar and Driver

    Billy’s date with the noose, however, was scheduled not in Mesilla but back in Lincoln. It was there, in the courthouse, as the Kid awaited the gallows, that he would acquire an enduring infamy that even Elvis, despite recent encores in Baskin­ Robbins parlors, will likely never surpass.

    Because he was so adept at escape, Billy’s hands and feet were shackled, and he was guarded in Lincoln by two deputies—J.W. Bell and Robert Ollinger—24 hours a day. But when Ollinger departed for dinner across the street at the Wortley Hotel, Billy promptly feigned a desperate need for an outhouse, pleading with the remaining deputy to lead him thence. What happened next is open to grassy-knoll theories. Either one of Billy’s many Mexican sympathizers stashed a six-shooter in the privy, or Billy used his shackles as a bludgeon, bashing poor Bell on the brainbox. Either way, as Deputy Bell tried to dash down the courthouse steps to safety, Billy acquired a revolver and put it to immediate effect. That shot—the hole it created remains today in a wall at the bottom of the steps—surely silenced Bell but was a resounding claxon for Ollinger, who leapt from his dinner table, sprinted across the street, and foolishly gaped up at the second-story window. There, the deputy came face to face with the noisy end of the very breech­loader he himself had earlier loaded with eighteen buckshot per barrel, commenting to Billy as he did so, “The man that gets one of those loads will feel it.”

    Ollinger got both barrels—one in the head, one in the chest. It can be surmised that he felt it.

    Dick KelleyCar and Driver

    Still heated by a Round Oak wood­burning stove, Lincoln’ courthouse today displays Billy’s spurs and shackles, Garrett’s wooden boot lasts, John Chisum’s cattle ledgers (showing an interest rate of eighteen percent), and the original floors, which were cleverly soundproofed by dirt.

    For two and a half months, the Kid remained on the lam. When he was seen, Billy was rarely without his Winchester .44-.40 carbine, which he would often toss into the air and catch, as well as a nickel­-plated Colt .45 Peacemaker with a 5.5-inch barrel (on display today in Lincoln) or a double-action .41 caliber Colt Thunderer. The latter he twirled on his finger, recalled a girlfriend, and “a boy from Vegas tried to act like him once and killed himself.”

    Billy’s enduring cockiness cost him. It led him foolishly to his friend Pete Maxwell and to various female admirers in Fort Sumner, just south of Route 60/84, on Billy the Kid Road. There, at midnight on July 14, 1881, Sheriff Pat Garrett had already entered Maxwell’s bedroom for an impromptu interrogation. No sooner did Maxwell wipe the sleep from his eyes than a second shadowy figure appeared in his increasingly crowded boudoir.

    “Quien es?”—who is there?—Billy asked.

    “That’s him,” Maxwell squealed, although Garrett had already recognized the voice and raised his Colt .44 Frontier, firing wildly at a vague silhouette. Because that first shot blinded him, Garrett fired a second time, nailing nothing more substantial than Maxwell’s washstand. He needn’t have bothered. The initial bullet had already pierced William H. Bonney’s heart. The Kid fell face-first and died almost immediately—to the immense relief of Maxwell, who had in terror jumped through a window and into his mother’s bedroom.

    Garrett and several Mexican women quickly assembled, the latter wailing hysterically over Billy’s corpse, one of them screaming indelicately at the sheriff, “You piss pot!” Sensing he was unpopular in Fort Sumner that night, Pat declined to sleep.

    (Billy’s girlfriends would later justify their urinary epithets, noting that the Sheriff was shot while responding to a call from nature. “The only time in history,” wrote Garrett’s biographer, “a man has been assassinated while urinating that the defendant claimed self-defense.”)

    Billy the Kid shares a tombstone (his portion chipped, hacked, and scratched by souvenir hunters) with two pals in Fort Sumner’s cemetery: Charlie Bowdre and Tom O’Folliard, both killed by Garrett’s men seven months before Billy’s own bloody demise. Few places in America are as flat, forlorn, and flagellated by bone­-chilling 29-degree gales as this hell’s half-­acre of anvil-hard earth—a Hollywood archetype of Boot Hill without the hill and a place often strafed by bored F-111 pilots from nearby Melrose Bombing Range.

    Billy’s marker, stolen in 1950, went missing for 26 years. It was found under a boxcar in Texas and returned, only to be boosted again by a trucker who hauled it to Huntington Beach, where he mounted it next to his barbecue. Now the tombstone is itself entombed in a steel cage.

    To tourists who ask, “Is he really buried here?” cemetery caretaker Gene Thorn replies: “You could dig him up and find out. The Kid was interred in Pete Maxwell’s shirt, but it was too big, so they hitched it with a big safety pin. You locate that pin down there, you got yourself Billy.”

    Billy’s tombstone has been chipped and scarred by souvenir hunters. Stolen twice, it now resides in its own steel jail. The Kid was buried next to two friends, both also shot to death by Sheriff Garrett’s posse.

    Car and Driver

    The question that confounds scholars and historians is this: Having blasted holes in three of Lincoln’s best-known constables, and with a $500 bounty on his head—enough to buy a ranch, which is what Garrett did with his portion—why didn’t The Boy Outlaw simply flee to Mexico?

    Says Lincoln County Heritage Trust’s Bob Hart (who, when you run across him in Lincoln, will be dressed in period costume): “Billy may have gone north to say goodbye and to have a final fling—possibly with Garrett’s wife’s sister. Or he got caught up in his own celebrity. The Kid was literate and was probably amused by exaggerated accounts of his own deeds.”

    Bill Rakocy says it’s simpler than that: “Billy could not and would not stay whipped. It’s the American way.”

    Which may explain Billy’s outsize legend, in which he emerges as neither Robin Hood nor a psychopath but a heroic villain who did not work and play well with others.

    The Kid was, however, well liked by those men he did not shoot to death. And, 112 years later, he remains well liked by the pilgrims who still stand awestruck at his grave, along with (on the day I visited), two coyotes, a roadrunner, a hare the size of Harvey, and a mule deer. Tourists leave flowers, coins, photos, a plastic comb.

    “Been on this earth a long while,” says graveyard-keeper Thorn. “I hear a Billy story every day of my life. Folks come with flashlights at 4 a.m. They sleep by his grave. No one forgets.

    “They do that for Elvis?”



    1993 Ford Taurus SHO Wagon

    front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon

    $30,000 (if you could get one)

    DOHC 24-valve V-6, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection
    195 in3, 3191 cm3
    220 hp @ 6000 rpm
    215 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm

    5-speed automatic

    Suspension (F/R): struts/control arms
    Brakes (F/R): 10.0-in vented disc/10.0-in vented disc
    Tires: Goodyear Eagle GA, P21560VR-16

    Wheelbase: 106.0 in
    Length: 193.1 in
    Width: 71.2 in  
    Height: 55.5 in
    Passenger volume: 101 ft3  
    Cargo volume: 38 ft3
    Curb weight: 3636 lb

    60 mph: 7.3 sec
    100 mph: 20.5 sec
    130 mph: 36.4 sec
    Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.5 sec
    Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.6 sec
    Top gear, 50–70 mph: 5.3 sec
    1/4 mile: 15.6 sec @ 89 mph
    Top speed (drag limited): 130 mph
    Braking, 70–0 mph: 172 ft
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.80 g

    Observed: 23 mpg

    Combined/city/highway: 20/17/26 mpg

    c/d testing explained

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