Get your 6 shooters ready! Tombstone - The Town Too Tough To Die

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August 23rd 2012
Published: August 25th 2012
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23rd Aug ’12 Tucson to Tombstone

So we saddled up and rode on out of town, we had about 70 miles of desert to cross and the sun was high and hot! There was little to see but rocks, scrubby bush, mountains a ways off on the horizon and the shimmering heat on the trail.

Luckily our car has air conditioning and we had plenty of drinks in the cool bag. Still it was a relief to pull into Tombstone – The Town Too Tough To Die! Our first stop was right on the outskirts of town, at the Boothill Graveyard – so named as most of the inhabitants died with their boots on. It was free to visit but for $3 you could get a leaflet with the layout and information on who was buried there. The most infamous people buried there were Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McClury, the 3 men shot and killed in the gunfight at the OK Corral.

The graveyard was quite small and the tombstone markers were wooden with names (where known) painted on and brief descriptions of the cause of death (and where known), they weren’t all murders, there were a few natural causes, diseases, suicides, mistaken killing and a lynching amongst others. It was quite atmospheric in a wild west kind of way, with a picket fence around it and Cochise’s Stronghold Mountains in the distance. It was definitely worth a visit.

Then we drove into town, parked up and strolled down Allen Street. There weren’t many tourists around – it isn’t yet high season, but the wooden sidewalks, the hitching posts, the dirt street and all the old wooden buildings were fantastic, real old school western stuff! Lots of people looked like they were still in the 1800s, with their long beards, cowboy hats and holsters.

We were soon paid up and sitting in a stage coach ready to do the historic tour, I had read about this and was looking forward to it. Our driver was another character straight out of a western and he introduced Jack and Joker the horses and we were off. We had an almost non-stop commentary from him as we passed various sights in the town, every building seemed to have an event or person from the west associated with it, it was great! It only took 20 minutes to do the loop round Allen Street and Toughnut Street but riding in the stage coach alone was worth it!

Then we moseyed on down to the OK Corral and watched the re-enactment of the famous gun fight. This was really well done and did make you question how fair a fight it actually was. After the show we looked around all the museum displays and exhibits and even saw Wyatt Earp’s saddle.

There was a really good exhibition of C.S. Fly’s photos of early Tombstone, the Apaches and Geronimo. We then walked around to the Tombstone Epitaph museum where we were given copies of the paper on the day the gunfight was reported and had a look at all the old printing machines. We then walked up and down the street, looking in all little shops and the saloons. There were more re-enactments taking place in the street, showing encounters between the Earps and the Clantons and McClearys.

We ate at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon that night. Big Nose Kate was Doc Holliday’s girlfriend and got her name because she couldn’t keep her nose out of anyone’s business! The saloon was a great place, covered in memorabilia and the staffed were all in costume. The women were ‘saloon gals’ and the bartender – well I’m sure he was one of the Earp brothers! In fact we kept thinking we recognised people from the shows popping up in different places around the town.

The food at Big Nose Kate’s was really tasty, the portions were huge and unbeknown to us we were there on karaoke night. There were plenty of people there and lots of people getting up to sing, we got the distinct impression that this was their regular Thursday night out as they were all really good, didn’t need the auto cue and did lots of extra gestures and movements to their songs. The biggest surprise was when an old boy, who was sat right behind me started playing the trumpet, I nearly jumped out of my skin! He was another classic ‘old timer’ with his grey beard, hat and dungarees. The funniest was one man who got up to sing Hotel California, he was obviously half cut and suddenly rushed across to the bar where his dinner was, picked up his plastic knife, rushed back again and when he sang ‘stabbed them with their steely knives’ began slashing and stabbing the air!

The biggest surprise was the song book, there were millions of songs including 15 Led Zep and lots of Offspring! However as I had only had a diet coke and Howard had only had 1 Big Ass Beer – that’s what it said on the glass, we didn’t get up and sing.

When we got back to our motel – The Trail Riders Inn, we met the owner who was from Stratford on Avon! They have lived out in Tombstone and run the motel for the last 9 years, we asked her how come they chose Tombstone and she just said The Male Menopause!! I have to say I can think of a lot worse places to live. We both really liked Tombstone.

24th Aug ’12 Tombstone to Silver City

So we were rather sad to leave Tombstone but we had seen all the sights, so we said our goodbyes to our English hosts and set off for Silver City. We drove through more desert, passed the state line and we were in New Mexico. As we were approaching Silver City it started raining.

We spotted a Visitor Information so pulled in and ran inside. The guy on the desk gave us a State Map and suggestions of things to see in the area. Just outside the building was the site of the wooden cabin that Billy the Kid, his brother, mother and step father lived from 1873-5. There was a replica log cabin to look in also.

We drove to the ‘historic’ area of town and visited the Silver City Museum, which is within an old house and full of interesting memorabilia, accounts of people who lived there, reproduced rooms and traced the development of Silver City. The front desk was manned by a lovely lady who was so pleased we had gone to visit and insisted we sign the visitor book, I don’t think they get many English visitors!

The historic streets were nice, old wooden buildings and wooden side-walks, the shame was the number of empty shops and the distinct lack of visitors. I only hope it picks up in the high season. We wandered down to the bridge over The Big Ditch, this was originally the town’s main street but due to floods it was destroyed. It has now been developed as a riverfront park.

After checking into our motel we paid our usual visit to …… Walmart, to get something for tea. While buying some food the girl serving us asked us where we were from, once she found out it was England she just said ‘why on earth did you come here!’ When we got to the check out the same thing happened and the girl said the same thing!! She kept asking us about our travels and what were the differences between the US and England – I think she would have kept us there all night if she could have!

Howard bought the funniest tub of margarine, just because of what it said on the lid – Wow! I totally thought it was ‘butter’! Ha Ha and it was the smart price equivalent too.

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