Published on -5/4/2012, 2:50 PM
Q: In what state is the Lincoln County where Billy the Kid kicked around? I know it's not Kansas; is it Nebraska? -- From a conversation.
A: My first guess was Arizona, which is completely wrong.
There are 23 states that have a Lincoln County and Arizona isn't one of them.
New Mexico is where William H. Bonney became a Regulator in the Lincoln County War of 1878.
The "War" began as a feud between two rancher-store owners -- Lawrence Murphy who long had monopolized the area and John Tunstall, an English-born upstart.
This was back in the day when people could form their own law enforcement if you could fund it and the law was mostly what you made of it.
Murphy put together his gang, so did Tunstall. Bonney fell in with the Tunstall gang in 1877, mainly employed to protect cattle.
Tunstall was murdered Feb. 18, 1878, by members of the Murphy gang over a handful of horses.
The Tunstall gang was deputized and became the Regulators, who were bent on avenging Tunstall's death.
Bonney took Tunstall's death very hard and was fiercely loyal to his fallen employer.
During the next five months, the Lincoln County War was fought on the New Mexico range. Twenty-two people were killed during the guerilla fighting, and Old West history gave rise to the legend of Billy the Kid.
Eric Norris is the director at the Hays Public Library.