Legend says that famed Old West outlaw Billy the Kid was shot and killed July 14, 1881 by Sheriff Pat Garrett in New Mexico, but some say the notorious gunfighter and cattle rustler also known as William H. Bonney actually escaped the law and lived a long life in a small central Texas town not far from Killeen.
In fact, just an hour’s drive north of Lampasas on U.S. Highway 281 is the town of Hico, home of the Billy the Kid Museum, billed as the “main attraction” in this town of 1,360 people. The museum is open to the public 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, at 114 Pecan Street.
According to the museum website, a dispute over an inheritance in 1948 led to an investigation that discovered an old acquaintance of Billy the Kid. The old acquaintance reported during interviews that Billy the Kid had in fact not been shot by Garrett and was living in Hamilton County, Texas, under the name Ollie L. “Brushy Bill” Roberts.
The probate investigator visited Brushy Bill, who admitted he was Billy in exchange for a chance to pursue a pardon promised him by the governor back in 1879, so that he could be pardoned for his crimes before he died.
A petition was filed on Nov. 15, 1950, and New Mexico Gov. Thomas J. Mabry agreed to a private hearing, but the pardon was denied. Brushy Bill later died and was buried in Hamilton County, and his claim to be Billy the Kid was never proven.
For more information visit www.billythekidmuseum.org.
Whether you’re visiting Hico or just passing through, a definite must-stop is Wiseman House Chocolates, at 406 W. Grubbs St., just off the main drag. As the name suggests, any and all assortment of fine handmade chocolates can be found at the shop, which features chocolate from such places as Belgium and Venezuela, other fresh ingredients like whipping cream and chopped fruits, natural flavors like crushed coffee beans, and various liqueurs and spices.
Normal hours for the business are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Go to www.wisemanhousechocolates.com for more information.
And if you’re not in the mood or don’t have time for a little weekend road trip, a number of attractions closer to home are always available, including:
Summer Fun Water Park, 1410 Waco Road in Belton, features multiple water slides, a lazy river, large swimming pool, and pavilions for parties. The park is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission prices: adults, $16; children three to 12 years old, $13; non-swimmers, $7; and seniors, free. The park offers discounted rates for admission after 3 p.m., and Sunday admission is $13 for all ages. Summer Fun also features teen and adult nights throughout the summer. Go to summerfunwaterpark.com for more information.
The Killeen Family Aquatics Center, 1800 E. Stan Schlueter Loop, includes a 10,360 square foot multi-use pool, a lap pool, bathhouse, three water slides, kid’s play area, shaded rest areas and more. Day passes range from $5 to $8 based upon age, with kids 3 years and under always free. The center is open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 6:30 p.m.
Hancock Springs Free Flow Pool is one of the last free-flowing spring-fed pools in Texas with water staying at a cool 72 degrees no matter how hot it gets outside. The spring is at Hancock Park, Highway 281 South in Lampasas. Adult admission fee is $3.50 per day and seniors and children are $2.50. The pool is open Thursday-Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.
Belton Lake Outdoor and Recreation Center, at the intersection of North Nolan Road and Cottage Road, has a number of activities for families to enjoy. Camping sites, picnic pavilions, horseback riding trails, hiking, mountain biking, as well as a man-made beach complete with a downhill water slide and more are available. Military patrons pay $3 per car; all others are $10 per vehicle. Visit hood.armymwr.com for more information.