We Go Full-On Tourist at One of the Old West's Most Famous Towns
By GERRY BARKER
North Palm Beach Life
Published February, 2019
TOMBSTONE_On looking for things to do around Willcox, this place jumped out from the map. Along with Dodge City, Tombstone is legendary in the lore of the Old West, and glorified by Hollywood in both TV and the movies.
You may not know the Presidents, but you probably know what happened at the O.K. Corral, where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday shot it out with Billy Clanton and his gang.
We couldn't leave Arizona without playing full-on tourist, could we?
So we left Willcox and headed east on I-10 toward Tucson, then joined Arizona Highway 80 south to Tombstone, a distance of about 75 miles.
Founded in 1879, Tombstone was an authentic Old West boomtown. After the discovery of the richest silver mines in the state, the population exploded overnight. At its height, the town featured over 100 saloons, a dozen gambling halls, an opera house and the famous Bird Cage Theatre and brothel. With all that newfound wealth, as well as a mix of newcomers and ranchers, tensions were bound to flare. You can see the results in Boot Hill Cemetary.
Things took a turn for the worse in the late 1800s when water flooded the mines. The population dwindled and it was feared Tombstone would become a ghost town. But it hung on, and turned to tourism in place of silver. Today, it plays host to some 500,000 visitors a year who want to experience the Old West the way it was in Wyatt's and Doc's day.
We parked in a lot just a few blocks from Allen Street, where several blocks are devoted to perserving the town that was and all traffic that isn't drawn by horses is prohibited.
As we left our car, we ran into one of the town's most famous residents -- Doc Holliday, himself. Well, the actor who plays Doc Holliday. He provided us all sorts of useful information for our visit, including the times when he and the Earp brothers recreate the O.K. Corral shootout.
'Doc Holliday' and Pam
Pam 'walks where they fell' on Allen Street
The historic Courthouse is open for tours
You never know when a gunfight might break out
The Old West version of Uber
The Shootout at the O.K. Corral
After spending time with 'Doc,' we had to buy our tickets for the O.K. Corral and the recreation of the famous shootout. Of course, history tells us the confrontation actually took place a few blocks away "in an empty lot on Fremont Street." But we can attest that visiting the O.K. Corral store/museum/grounds was a lot more interesting than a vacant lot.
The story goes that Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers -- Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil -- had an ongoing feud with a group of Cowboys that included Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Claiborne. It simmered over on Oct. 26, 1881 in a gun fight that resulted in the deaths of Frank, Tom and Billy Clanton.
We took our place in the bleachers with the rest of the tourists and watched as the story of the feud unfolded. All the actors did a great job of mixing authenticity with humor, keeping us engaged until the big moment when the guns blazed. All the noise and smoke was too much for one of the smaller members of the audience -- a baby who didn't appreciate the noise and made some noise of his own, as you'll see in the last video.
Doc, left and the Earp brothers
Those coats ... in this heat?
All Pam needs are the horses
by North Palm Beach Life
Pam looking very fashionable at the gunfight