Tombstone Territory

Went to Tombstone today. It was hot and sunny, although the sky was not completely clear because of the forest fires nearby.

Tombstone was founded to take advantage of rich silver deposits nearby. It was the classic boomtown that grew rapidly, burned almost the ground twice and was rebuilt each time. Of course it is most famous for the gunfighters, especially Wyatt Earp, his brothers & Doc Holiday and their fight with the Clantons. I have been interested in Wyatt Earp since I was a little kid and saw the Wyatt Earp television series. The series debuted on Tuesday evenings the year I was born, but survives in reruns even today. When I heard the song – Wyatt Earp – brave, courageous and bold, I though it was brave, contagious and old. I saw several of the movies. My favorite is “Tombstone” with Kirk Russell as Wyatt, Sam Eliot at Virgil Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc. Their rendition of the gunfight at OK Corral seems the most like the real thing, although eyewitness testimony varied. The other movies killed people at the corral who were not even there. For example, in “Gunfight at OK Corral” starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, Doc Holiday Killed Johnny Ringo, who was not even present at the fight. “My Darling Clementine” with Henry Fonda was no where near accurate, but had the redeeming characteristic of being innocent. “Wyatt Earp” with Kevin Kosner sucked so much it does not even merit comment. The whole thing was over in about 30 seconds in reality, so accounts varied. I was surprised how small the OK Corral was in real life. The actual fight did not even take place in the corral. Recent CSI style forensic investigation indicates that the whole bloody business was a misunderstanding. Probably Doc Holiday cocked his shotgun, which set everyone else off.

We saw the usual attractions, including a reenactment of the gunfight at OK Corral, the Birdcage Theatre and Boot Hill. The Birdcage was the place where the cowboys pursued their three hobbies: gambling, rye whiskey and wild-wild women. The gambling rooms have all the charms of a teenager’s basement rec-room, which is pretty much what they were like.

The reenactors did a decent job. I felt sorry for them in their black coats in the hot sun. I think they were all members of the NRA. One of them set his gun on the ground and yelled, “kill”. It did not go off and he said, “See guns don’t kill; people kill.” People killed a lot of each other in Tombstone, if you can believe the markers on the streets and in the graveyard of Boot Hill.

Boot Hill is really depressing. The dry, bleak loneliness of the place gives you an idea of what it might be like being dead, and maybe going to hell. The graves are more than 100 years old, but they still have their piles of stones. There is no grass here to do the work of covering the sins of the past and soften the landscape. The graves just bake in the sun forever, or until the next ice age, which is got to be a long time from now. It is also such a small graveyard. I have been to Arlington many times. Sometimes I make a point of walking through it on the way to the State Department. It is calm and pleasant. The dead lay there with some dignity. Boot Hill is just land of the dead, like you might see in an episode of the Twilight Zone – a dry hell of a place to spend an eternity. You expect the dead might want to get up and leave.

Tomorrow on to the Grand Canyon. I expect it to be a hard walk – uphill at least half the time.