• Marketing Billy The Kid?

    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!



    About Fredda Jones

    Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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    7 Responses to Marketing Billy The Kid?

    1. Fredda –

      You hit the nail on the head with this one. As I wrote in the short story, “Death Of The Small Town”, I believe Comanche has gone backward since I left in the mid ’70’s. It’s a shame that it’s being held hostage to economic growth.

      I remember the days when every single building around the square had a vendor in it and it was hard to find a parking spot on any day of the week, except maybe Sunday.

      Until minds and hearts change, Comanche and all the other small towns like it will be held in an economic stranglehold until one person, just one, steps up and lights a fire at the grass roots level to begin good, positive, economic change in Comanche, Texas. It’s been needing that for decades.

      I was in shock when I heard they changed the name of the festival from “John Wesley Hardin Days” to whatever the heck it’s called now. That was a plain, economic, politically correct driven, faux pas’ on a MAJOR scale.

      If it were me I’d erect a statue of John Wesley Hardin on the square and like you say, cuss his outlaw ways all the way to the bank.

      • Fredda Jones Fredda Jones says:

        You know, Steve, I think it is all a misconception. No one wants to praise a killer; that was never the point. The point of JWH Days was to revisit the history of that time period. The use of the name simply bought us the publicity that another name would not.

        Of course, Hico, New Mexico, Missouri, etc. use those names every day of the week to bring in tourists, and they do it well. I suppose I just believe (along with you) that we are going very backwards and allowing those dollars to be spent down the road.

    2. Wanona Scheriger says:

      Dear Fredda,
      Responding on a blog is new to this old gal but I wanted to add a comment or two. First let me say I love living here! I love the opportunity to meet and welcome new people and businesses into our community. Our family lives out near Sidney and call Comanche our town. We have lived in much larger cities and have enjoyed the many sites and entertainment that each offer but love the close family atmosphere that we find in our small town.

      Now comes the but…. there’s not much of a pull to stay and spend our money here. I find so much enjoyment in going to places like Granbury’s historic district and milling around the town square and maybe taking in a live show while we are there. Also the toursist trap of Fredricksburg, Tx. is pure enjoyment with all the shops and delicious food and drinks they offer.

      I have often thought to myself that our town could take a lesson or two from these thriving communities but hasn’t! I for one would love to see our town promote “our outlaw”. Why not? He can be shown as the meanest thing this part of the world has ever seen! Why not expand our profits and spread the word about the time this town had a wild outlaw living among the fine townfolks?

      Heck, someone might get creative and name a hamburger or plate lunch after this rough character and put some hot peppers on the side for spice! Why not create our own tourist trap filled with tales of the Indians and yes JWH? I can almost taste some good ole fudge candy and an ice cream cone. We might fill up the square and have to expand in each direction. We may even have to bring in some benches to scatter around for all the foot traffic!

      Let’s run with this and bring in the tourist, and not just for the “Outlaw Run Day” once a year or the Pow Wow! What a great opportunity we all have just waiting to happen! How do the merchants and small business owners feel about jumping on this and running to the bank with their profits? We have history here, people will find it interesting if we make it fun… and I believe they will come if we build it! LOL

      Spring and summer weather are ideal times to have street dances and or plays and concerts in the park. We have so many talented folks living in our own neighborhoods that would surely step up and entertain us! What a beautiful city park we have, wouldn’t it be fun to have something going on each month? How about some horse drawn buggy rides around the park in the evenings? I have seen other areas that have twinkling lights up in the trees…. okay my romantic side is coming out now. Seriously though, we don’t have an actual gold mine or a spewing volcano but we do have a quaint little town atmosphere that has some spunky history! It could turn into a vendors paradise!

      Sorry for rambling on. In closing, I would love to see this town develop a destination place for others to travel to.
      Thank you

      The business owners could offer tours. How about learning about a small town newspaper and how it was founded and what exactly has to happen to produce all that news? I bet our very own Durham Pecan would be a great place to visit and see how that business works! I can almost taste the samples now! Speaking of tours, let’s not forget the Winery! Is there a horse, cattle, or dairy that might thrive by expanding their business to include tours?

      • Fredda Jones Fredda Jones says:

        All absolutely wonderful ideas. And, you are so right; we do not have to ONLY use the name JWH…his is just the one that does the marketing for us. However, if I was not too busy to type right this second, it would take me 60 seconds to whip out 20 other possibilities of great historical stories that people would love. I know that for a fact because I have written them, performed them, and used them on radio, and the audience for them is always there.

        It just takes excited people getting others excited, and every little town that you can name started their growth and their tourist attractions in exactly this same way. Comanche is just more fortunate than most because we have more history to exploit than most!

        AND, you did a great job of responding to a blog. Keep it up!!

    3. Harrell Gilbreath says:

      Dear Fredda, we have had this conversation before about JWH . I have never spoken publicly before on anything but I believe you are 100 % correct on this one.I did not grow up in Comanche County but I could go down in the corner of our pasture and throw a rock over into Comanche County.Our Family has been down in the corner of Erath County since 1855 when they were one of the only families there. My Grandfather was the same age as JWH and involved in Cattle raising ,Buying of Trail Herds for Kansas, and Vigilante actions in Erath and Comanche Counties. He served as Sheriff of Erath County from 1882 to 1886. He was Killed the same year 1894 as JWH. This was the Golden Era of Comanche County as it was literally the edge of Western expansion and contained ALL the ingredients of our great Western History , Cowboys , Outlaws, Indians,Cattle Ranches, Cattle Drives from Old Cora, Shootings and fights in the Saloons of Hazeldale, Vigilante hangings ,Etc. Sam Walton, Big food chains,Loews and others have killed shopping in small-town central Texas. Not complaining just fact. If we in these small towns want to re-establish these small shops and rebuild a place where a small family-owned business or shop can survive look at Granbury, Hico , Glen Rose, and others where they have used their History and peoples love of History,Real History , to attract people back to these small towns where we all originated and all know stories. Take a drive on a Saturday afternoon to one of the above mentioned towns and observe the activity. Look at the fun family’s are having going in and out of the small shops,look at young couples wandering up and down the sidewalks checking out the window displays, the activity in the small cafe’s and eating places. Small family owned businesses do not have the overhead of the big chains and can better survive on weekend shoppers activity. These type businesses thrived for the first hundred years of the development of this part of Texas on Weekend business. Look what Dublin is doing with their Museums and Dr. Pepper. People love History,True History. Comanche has one of the greatest western history stories of all time. It’s only a matter of time until this story is put on film. Sorry about the rambling . Just my thoughts about my favorite time in history and how it could be kept alive while helping to keep alive something I think is worth saving. Our small towns.

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