Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Old Tombstone

  Life was uncertain in   Tombstone, Arizona Territory.  You could get in trouble just crossing the street.   I don't really know what happened to Les Moore, but I suspect he had something to do with it...or maybe he just got caught in the crossfire.  

  Before Wyatt Earp showed up with his family, some people called parts of the town Helldorado.  in truth, it didn't change much after they got there, but they added a certain flavor that makes us remember it even today.


  Once, Tombstone was the largest city west of the Mississippi.  As John Taylor, who took some of these pictures, says: "It makes you wonder what Denver and San Francisco must have looked like then."  

Here's Tombstone now.

   It was a mining town. Silver.  It boomed. Theater and music was imported from the east.  There was dining and drink.  Drink's where the trouble usually started.  Here's an example of what was available..the Oriental Saloon.  The Oriental is where Wyatt Earp settled in as a gambler, hoping to put his gun and badge away for good.  Of course, we all know the story.  There was no escaping his past..everybody knew about Earp's days as a lawman in Kansas and when the trouble started, they wanted him to put it to rest.  When it finally got personal, he did.

     And the past a way.  Above, you see actors portraying (L to R) Virgil, Morgan and Wyatt Earp, accompanied by Wyatt's friend, Doc Holliday..marching to their destiny at the OK Corral.   

    The fight with Ike Clanton's outlaw bunch lasted about 45 seconds.  Three of Clanton's people were killed, Morgan and Virgil Earp were injured, Wyatt and Doc were left standing.  Somehow, Clanton escaped the fusillade and ran.   What happened afterward is a mixture of fact and fable, but whatever the final truth, Earp paid heavily; his brother, Morgan was killed by an assassin, Virgil was seriously wounded.  The legendary Earp started a campaign to root out the gangs..and did.


  Eventually, the silver ran out.  The big money was gone.  Tombstone began to fade.  

  It never became a ghost town, but it got pretty sleepy.  The big theater, the Bird Cage, was shuttered in 1889.  It was purchased and unsealed in 1934, when the new owners found everything inside pretty much as it was back then.  Today, the Birdcage is one of Tombstone's major attractions..complete with bullet holes in the walls, carefully preserved.


   Going back to Tombstone every once in awhile does wonders for my imagination.  I revisit the old story and wonder what life must have been like in that day.  After all, people did live there and raise families.  It wasn't all gunpowder and whiskey.  But while there was money, those things set the tone.

  The chief and I will be looking for you.  

  Check your gun at the door.