Saturday, January 19, 2008

1/13/08 A Trip Back in Time - Tombstone

We got a fairly early start this morning picking Dale and Karen up around 8:30. We are headed south this time, we're going to Tombstone, home of the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral.

We found Tombstone with no problem and got a parking place fairly easily. We had to walk a block to get to "downtown" Tombstone. We saw stagecoaches and horses everywhere so it took us back to the times of the Old West in no time flat.

Our first view of Tombstone.

One of the first people we met was the Sherriff.

The town site of Tombstone was laid out on March 5, 1879. At that time Tombstone had 40 cabins and 100 people. Allen Street lots sold for a mere $5.00. By June 20, 1880 there were 3,000 people in the town and by late 1881 there was over 7,000 and more gambling houses, saloons, and a larger "boothill" and "red light" district than any town in the southwest. Population increased rapidly from that time, and in the 1890's it had reached a maximum of 15,000.

I wondered how the town got the name Tombstone and did a little research to find the answer.

Back in 77', 1877 that is, a determined prospector from Pennsylvania arrived looking for silver or gold. The prospector was Edward Lawrence Schieffelin. For over ten years he had been seeking a rich ore deposit, but success had always eluded him. He had begun his search in the Coeur d' Alenes of Idaho, then across Nevada into Death Valley and into Colorado and New Mexico. Finally, his search had led him to into the San Pedro Valley of Arizona.

Ed pretty much stayed to himself, leaving in the early morning hours in search of the elusive ore. One of the soldiers in the area asked him, "why do you go off into them hills?" "To collect rocks," Schieffelin replied. "You keep fooling around out there amongst them Apaches and the only rock you'll find will be your tombstone!" the soldier blurted.

One day it was too late in the day for him to return to the area where he stayed and he spent the night in the hills. The next morning he found it. He estimated the vein to be fifty feet long and twelve inches wide. It was dark and heavy with pure silver! A real strike! After searching for over a decade, he had found a bonanza! All the years he had wandered through the lonely mountains and deserts; starved, blistered and frozen and faced death so many times, were nothing now. Now the wealth he sought was in his grasp! The vein of silver that he had exposed was pure and soft and a coin pressed into it , left a clear imprint. Ed smiled to himself as he thought of the words, "All you'll find out there will be your tombstone." If the Apaches had found him he probably wouldn't have needed one. Recalling the warning, he mused over the word "tombstone." Yep, he liked it! Might make a good name for his claim."

Schieffelin did not realize it at the time, but he had named a mine, the hills where it lay, an entire silver lode, and a town yet unborn. It would be a town whose fame and riches were soon to astound the world.

Enough with the history, on with our day. We had arrived just in time for a fashion show of sorts. These ladies came out dressed in the clothing that was popular back in the late 1800's.

As we were walking down the street taking in all the sights Bob nudged me and said, "See that guy over there?" I looked where he was pointing and he said, "I know that guy." I didn't recognize anyone in the direction he was indicating. Just then the "sheriff" walked over to us to welcome us to Tombstone and Bob asked him if he knew the fella in question. The sheriff said, "Do you mean Kenny?" Bob looked at me with a big smile and said, "It's Kenny Bie(!), I knew I knew him!" The name clicked with me right away and we started walking in that direction. Halfway there Kenny looked in our direction and saw Bob and a big smile crossed his face. Bob worked with Kenny in the National Guard for many years. Who woulda thought we'd see somebody in Tombstone that we know! Here's Bob and Kenny.

Kenny moved here several years ago and and dresses in character "for something to do". He had gotten a real job when he arrived in Arizona but soon realized that he "retired" and didn't want a full time job again.

We watched this guy put this hanging noose in place and wondered what he was doing.

We soon found out that it was a tourist thing and you could be "hung" and even receive a death certificate! Well, this was something we just couldn't pass up. Kenny walked over with us and Outlaw Bob got hung as the Sheriff and Kenny looked on with guns drawn.

We all got hung and Karen certainly found this amusing!

Next stop was Helldorado. This was an area within Tombstone where shows took place. We took in one where the actors threw out a lot of funny one liners. Just outside the stage area Bob found this outhouse.

After the show we made our way back to the main street area and decided it was time to get soemthing to drink. We found ourselves in Big Nose Kate's Saloon.

It was crowded when we went in but we were fortunate that a party was just leaving so we were able to get a table.

This fellow was playing the piano and singing the whole time we were there. He was pretty good too!

Downstairs of the saloon was a place where you could buy cowboy attire, boots and everything "cowboy". I guess I don't need to tell you that things were pricey to say the least. While Bob was down there scoping it out I took the opportunity to get "layed" in Tombstone.

After our thirst was quenched it was back out on the street for us. Some pictures of what we saw.

We passed this one man band on the street and he was fun to watch. I sure would like to know who picked out this guys clothing!

It was time for the re-enactment of the Gun Fight at the OK Corral so we joined the other tourists lining the streets to watch. This gunfight took place on October 26, 1881 and lasted a grand total of 30 seconds in which 30 bullets were shot and three ended up dead. This was a shootout between the law which included Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp and "Doc" Holliday against the cowboys, the Clanton brothers, the McLaury brothers and Billy "The Kid" Clairborne. It seems there was a verbal confrontation between Ike Clanton and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday. Well, one thing led to another and the end result was the gun fight. Here's a picture of what the street looked like after all was said and done.

Further on down the street we came to the Bird Cage Theater standing much as it did over 100 years ago.

In the 1880s it was not only a theater, but also served as a saloon, gambling hall and brothel. It was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - even on holidays. The New York Times called it, "the wildest, roughest, wickedest honky tonk between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast. " That statement was well deserved, since the Bird Cage was the scene for twenty-six deaths during its eight years of business. The stage and original curtain are still intact, and while touring the theater one can walk through the backstage area. This theater and its famous stage has been portrayed in almost every telling of the Wyatt Earp and "Gunfight at the OK Corral" saga.

The Bird Cage closed its doors in 1889, but it has not been silent. The sounds of laughing, yelling, and music have been reported to pour out of the theater at night. Visitors during the day have smelled fresh scents of cigar smoke and the sharp odor of whiskey, even though neither are allowed there now, nor have been for many years. Testimonies by tourists and Bird Cage employees recount sightings of people wearing period clothing from the 1800s, and in particular, a man in black wearing a visor has been witnessed walking across the stage. Some of the sounds seem to come from the balconies above the main floor.

The modern-day visitor is allowed to visit the room that held an continuous high-stakes poker game. Rooms off of the poker room were where the higher priced ladies entertained their gentlemen guests. This particular area has been a focal point of supernatural activity, where it seems some of the 1880s guests of the Bird Cage may still frequent. The longest card game here was said to have lasted 24 hours a day for eight years, five months, and three days, so perhaps some of the players haven't finished their game. It's no wonder that the Bird Cage's past reverberates throughout these walls. Between the main floor and the downstairs rooms, it saw just under 20 gunfights and 26 deaths - 140 bullet holes in the ceiling and walls stand witness to these events.

Just as we were getting ready to call it a day we passed this 1800's lady doing something very 2008....

What a great day this was in Tombstone, Arizona, the self-proclaimed "town too tough to die," With the re-enactments and tours it will live on for many more years to come I'm sure.

We stopped for dinner on the way home and made plans to get together one more time before Dale and Karen make their way to Florida.

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