I recently spent some days working in the tiny town of Hico, Texas and every time I am there, I am reminded of the fact that Comanche is losing out in the marketing game. Hico, on the other hand, is not, and it is paying off in dollars spent in that town.
In fact, the day that I was making the comparison was a weekday, and it was raining…and I could not find a parking place on the main street. What I did find besides a ton of people, however, were signs, statues, and photos of Billy the Kid, infamous 19th Century outlaw, and merchants who were more than willing to give me their take on the man.
Now, before we have to go down the same old roads we’ve already traveled, hear me out. I am not suggesting that anyone stand on the street corner and preach John Wesley Hardin into Heaven; however, I am suggesting that history is history, and we have it, and we are not using it to our advantage.
Like it or not, cowboys and Indians and old west outlaws interest people, and they draw people. And…when people are drawn into your town, they spend their dollars there.
No one will ever know for sure if Hico’s Brushy Bill was in fact Billy the Kid even though I am certainly willing to believe it. However, Hico has taken that probability and run with it…actually sprinted would be the better word, and it is paying off in dollar signs.
Comanche County, on the other hand, has more documented, interesting history than any place in the area. It was a frontier town for decades, and it was filled with Indian battles, mob violence, outlaws, and a tree that saved a boy’s life. It also produced the Father of Geology in Texas, frontier preachers, and had a Masonic Lodge that stepped up and built a school when there was none.
Of course, those in that 19th Century lodge were involved in some pretty interesting things themselves! And, yes, I confess to having read every single lodge minute written in that time period!
The bottom line is that Comanche has to make a choice, and maybe it already has and is content to sit back and watch other small Texas towns take the stage. If that is what every merchant in town wants, then I think it is a perfect choice. However, if it is not what the ones who make their living as the merchants of the town want, then it is time to make some huge changes.
As it was in Hico, Comanche merchants should be given free rein as to how the town is promoted…no civic groups, no councils, etc. Those who keep the profit/loss sheets must be allowed to make the decisions that affect their their personal businesses, and it is the job of the rest of us to support them.
And if it means using an outlaw or two to bring travelers into our town, well my vote is SO BE IT. Let’s tell the world that JWH was a rotten guy, and let’s take the money while we’re doing it!