“Dancing with Billy the Kid” has given me many amazing moments, but the best ones are some of the people I’ve met because of the book.
Meet Louise. Twenty years ago, she was a nice 18-year-old girl from England with a job as an au pair in America. As soon as she was picked up by her new family in Florida, however, she discovered that the kids were spoiled rotten and the mom was an unapologetic racist. Louise could see how her future was about to play out and she wasn’t going to put up with it. She went right back to the airport.
“While at the airport just decided to catch a plane to see where Billy the Kid was because it would be an interesting adventure, and, I had nothing else to do at that exact moment in time,” Louise said.
And so she did! She arrived in the tiny and isolated town of Lincoln, New Mexico just to hang out in Billy’s town for a while. “It wasn’t difficult to find a job, I wasn’t actually looking for one, but after a short while a job found me. The elder couple I was staying with asked if I would like to help their friend in the High Street General Shop who had health difficulties and needed a few days off during the week.”
Naturally, the westerners were drawn to this exotic English rose in the middle of their desert and they especially commented on her British accent. “I don’t know why that is, I’m not sure if there is anything especially nice about the English accent or idiosyncrasies to be honest.”
She had a wonderful time that year, living in this small town in the middle of pretty much nowhere. “I loved New Mexico as it was so open and untouched and vast. You could be completely alone in less than a few minutes out of town, in England that just wouldn’t happen.” The heat of New Mexico was a long way from the English rain, however. “It was really dry and fierce, I don’t know how Billy didn’t burn his pale Irish, skin to a crisp. Seeing guns everywhere was difficult, in the wrong hands I could see how dangerous a situation could become so I was always aware of that. It was unnerving.”
Louise didn’t travel beyond Billy the Kid’s backyard during her time in America. Experiencing Billy’s stomping ground was what she wanted. She’d been originally drawn to Billy since reading one of her dad’s old books as a child. “I didn’t need to read lots about Billy to feel the injustice he was subjected to. When you’ve experienced injustice yourself, you can just tune into it and feel outraged by it. He killed only to stay alive, and that is very different to killing for gain. Seems to me, given the opportunity, he would have happily settled for enough, a home, a family, friends, fun, work, and not have developed the desire for always wanting more of everything, which is what so many people descend into. I’m sure he could have gone on to better things given the opportunity. He had the personality and courage to succeed with a different life, and he was smart, really smart, his letters show that.”
On her return to England, Louise brought a small reminder. She took a snippet of a bush that had been growing next to Billy’s grave. She’s cared for it for twenty years, keeping the desert plant indoors so it wouldn’t drown in the English weather. “That makes me smile,” she said. “A little piece of Billy’s life energy and southern charm transposed into my house.”
To the right is a copy of Louise’s Driving License from the time she was adventuring around in Billy’s world.