As we drove East towards Lincoln, New Mexico, I asked Mark what exactly Billy the Kid had done. His response was “surely you’ve seen lots of films with him in them?”. Erm… nope…. One thing that’s been guaranteed to make me turn off a TV, from an early age, has been blokes on horses in cowboy hats…. So Mark had to recite the “bloke’s guide to Billy the Kid”.
Along the way, we skirted the Northern end of the White Sands missile range and passed a sign commemmorating the Trinity Site (where the first atomic bomb was tested in July 1945), somewhere off in the featureless landscape to our right. We may learn more when we visit the White Sands visitor facilities, which are on the Southern side, in a few days’ time.
Lincoln is a small collection of buildings on either side of the road through town. It’s a bit of a time capsule, with many of the buildings pretty much unchanged in the last 140 years. Many are open to the public, and those that aren’t part of the museum are typically cafes and gift shops (all closed for the winter). The weather here was absolutely perishing….
In the 1870s / 1880s, Lincoln County was the largest county in the USA at 22,000 square miles. There was a local Indian population, a sizeable hispanic population that had settled in the area in the 1850s, and pressure from incoming ranchers and cowboys. With only one sheriff, you could pretty much do what you wanted if you had enough pals and enough guns…
Things kicks off in Lincoln in 1878 with a dispute between rival shopkeepers in town, and very soon folk are being shot right, left and centre (I tried to follow who was on which side and why x might have shot y but soon gave up, the randomness of it all most likely being the reason I never watched any of those films….). The carry-on continues through to 1881 when Billy, convicted of murdering the town sheriff, makes a daring escape two weeks before his execution, killing two more deputies in the process before being himself killed by the new sheriff later that year. The building where this took place was open and we could see the window from which he shot one deputy and the staircase down which he escaped.
Roswell, our next stop, had an equally muddled story to tell. We visited the grandly-named International UFO Museum and Research Center to find out all about the aliens who crash-landed their flying saucer on a ranch 75 miles from Roswell back in 1947. Or maybe it was just a weather balloon, as the US military claimed a day after putting out a press release to the effect that they’d recovered a saucer……
It was a very old-fashioned museum. There was a film room showing some very old (circa 1990) films about the incident including interviews with quite a few eye witnesses. The main museum contained lots of wall displays with a surprisingly large number of printed affadavits from eye witnesses. Most of the eye witness testimony was about the debris recovered and how it was definitely later switched for bits of weather balloon before photos were released to the press. A smaller number of witnesses spoke about the four aliens supposedly found near the wreckage, one still alive and three dead. These were described by a local nurse who had been called in to take notes during the autopsies. Interestingly, there was no explanation of why locals (the nurse, a photographer etc) would have been called in at all if everything were really so hush hush. Also the descriptions given (3.5 to 4 feet tall, greyish in colour, 4 fingers) seem to have been subject to a bit of artistic licence when creating the exhibits for the museum….
All in all they could do a lot with this place to bring it into the 21st Century. A huge amount of “proper” work has been done in the last 30 years that would be relevant. I’d like to know, from all the research on the development of complex life (a book I’ve been reading whilst we’ve been away, Chance, does touch upon this), how likely is it that complex life that developed independently elsewhere in the Universe would end up with broadly human form (2 arms, 2 legs, head with eyes, nose, mouth, ears in the same place, fingers etc)? How far away are the closest planets currently thought to have conditions suitable for life (liquid water, carbon etc)? and what about the lack of an obvious engine in the flying saucer and talk of anti-matter propulsion: what’s the modern-day take on the possibilities there? Is the speed of light really a limiting factor for how fast a saucer could travel (again, Chance had touched on this issue)? If an alien survived for at least a number of days (as reported), what would that say about their physiology / conditions on the planet they came from? Plus a thousand and one other questions that bounced around in my mind as I walked round….
We left Roswell with continued thoughts of aliens, an alien bottle-opener for Kampington’s collection, and an alien mug (which raises another fundamental question of life: why is it that hotel rooms and hire vans always come with mugs the size of egg cups?), heading south towards Carlsbad.