Story of Billy the Kid centerstage at Marshals Museums night out Nov. 2

Story of Billy the Kid centerstage at Marshals Museums night out Nov. 2

The phrase “Night at the Museum” might evoke a roaring Tyrannosaurus Rex and Teddy Roosevelt on horseback. But what visitors will see at the U.S. Marshals Museum’s first “Night at the Museum” event will be more about access, architecture and the American West, not animation or animatronics, says Leslie Higgins, the museum’s chief programs officer.

“We have had several people ask if we ever planned to have evening hours,” she explains. “This gives those who may be unable to get to the museum during normal business hours a chance to visit. When we decided to have our speaker here on the evening of Nov. 2, it seemed the perfect combination!

“The look of the museum changes at night, and it is just beautiful,” Higgins enthuses. “The Wall of Honor is reflected in the windows looking out toward the river, and the backlit stars in the rust motif around the building are much more visible. The architecture even takes on a different look after the sun goes down. The view of the Arkansas River is also extraordinary at night.”

Galleries will be open, and special guest author Mark Warren will speak about his historical novel, “A Last Serenade for Billy Bonney,” an outlaw better known as Billy the Kid.

In addition to his work as an author, Warren is an award-winning naturalist, Western historian and owner of Medicine Bow Wilderness School in the mountains of Dahlonega, Ga. He has taught survival courses to thousands of people, written extensively about nature for magazines, composed music for a concert to raise money for the Cherokee people of Georgia and thought he would grow up to be an artist … or a doctor. When he “realized that I could not live my life away from the forest,” he says, “I had to forge my own way to where I am now.”

“To me, wilderness is the ‘real world’ — the one we were intended to inhabit and navigate,” he explains. “I simply had an unquenchable thirst to learn as much about it as I could. The more I learned, the more I wanted to teach it.

“My interest in the Old West is a world of its own, not necessarily connected to my passion for the environment. That Western interest was spawned by a single biography I read when I was 7 years old. That reading affected me profoundly.

“Today, I know that book to be distorted with many fictions by its disingenuous author, but it began my serious probe into history,” Warren goes on. “The story of Billy Bonney (the Kid) is one of the most captivating and controversial subjects in Western history. He died almost a century and a half ago, and yet half a dozen books continue to come out on Billy every year.

“At 14 years old, he was orphaned and on his own as he rode off on a borrowed horse to survive the violent frontier. He lived for only seven more years, but he left a legacy that refuses to die.”

Warren says at 75, he’s still forging his legacy — teaching wilderness classes several times a week; cutting, hauling, splitting and stacking his firewood; and writing as much as five hours a day.

“I want to educate folks about a section of history so that they might have a new perspective on it,” he says of his work as an author. “Mainly, I hope to humanize my protagonist by digging into his/her personality. I am a novelist at heart, and writing historical fiction allows me to tell the story in a way that is engaging.

“The most ‘typical’ part of every day [though] is something private and unseeable. It is gratitude,” he adds. “I am blessed with creativity. I was hit by its thunderbolt at an early age. All I can say is how thankful I am that I have it. Imagine, an old guy in his 70s rising at 5:30, his feet hitting the floor, and he is excited about getting to work on his manuscript.”


Night at the Museum

WHEN — 5-8 p.m. Nov. 2

WHERE — U.S. Marshals Museum, 789 Riverfront Drive in Fort Smith

COST — $13; Fort Smith Brewing Company will have a cash bar


BONUS — Mark Warren’s lecture and book signing are included with the cost of museum admission. Books will be available for purchase.

Categories: Galleries