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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Town Too Tough To Die




We spent the day in Tombstone, which was about a 25 mile drive from our campground.

According to Tombstone's official website, "The Town too Tough to Die," Tombstone was perhaps the most renowned of Arizona's old mining camps. When Ed Schieffelin came to Camp Huachuca with a party of soldiers and left the fort to prospect, his comrades told him that he'd find his tombstone rather than silver. Thus, in 1877 Schieffelin named his first claim the Tombstone, and rumors of rich strikes made a boom town of the settlement that adopted this name."

This is the place of the infamous shoot out at the O.K.Corral where Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp fought the Clantons and McLaurys on October 26, 1881.

Now it is a touristy town with most of the activity happening on Allen Street, which is about three blocks long. You are immediately thrown back into time with the stagecoaches, covered wagons and horse-drawn carriages (all for sight-seeing) that traverse the dirt roads. No automobiles are allowed on the road. Employees of the local establishments are dressed up in character and can be seen both in the stores and walking the streets. It was not uncommon to see cowboys wearing chaps, holsters with guns, hats, or vests. There are many gift shops, saloons, and restaurants lining both sides of the street.

I wanted to go to Big Nose Kate's Saloon but we couldn't get in unless we wanted to wait for over a half hour. Big Nose Kate is believed to have been the first prostitute in Tombstone. But her biggest claim to fame was in the company she kept - she was Doc Holiday's girlfriend. It seems ole Kate helped break Doc out of jail in Ft. Griffin, Texas before he was about to be hung. Together they traveled West earning money, Doc by gambling, Kate by doing tricks, and I don't mean by playing "fetch".

Big Nose Kate's Saloon was formally known as the Grand Hotel in 1880.




It is said to be haunted by "Swamper", the janitor who lived in the basement of the hotel. The basement, deep below the surface of Tombstone's streets, was not too far from the many mine shafts which ran beneath the town. Swamper spent many a nights tunneling an entrance from his bedroom to the nearby mine shafts. When his tunnel was finished, he hit the mother lode, accessing a thick vein of silver. What he did after hoarding his silver is unknown, but many believe it may still be hidden somewhere beneath Big Kate’s Saloon. Swamper has appeared in photos and has been seen roaming the halls, stairways and especially the basement. Some believe that he hid his silver in the building and returns to protect it.

We passed up our opportunity to eat at Big Nose Kate's and continued on down the street to the Crystal Palace Saloon. Before it was the Crystal Palace Saloon, the Golden Eagle Brewery stood in its place, built in 1879. The establishment suffered damage from fire on June 22, 1881. The brewery did not reopen and in May, 1882, when the town suffered yet another fire, the building was destroyed.

On July 23, 1882, the Crystal Palace opened its doors for business. The idea behind the "Crystal" Palace was to attract the "finer" people of Tombstone by providing "crystal" tableware, the best drinks, and as many as five bartenders on duty around the clock.



It is still a bustling place. A bar runs along the length of the whole side of the rectangular room. It has a huge mirror above it with a wooden frame around it.




We met two other couples there from Phoenix who were very nice. One of the women told me that this was her 6Th visit to Tombstone. She said that every day at 3:00 pm a gunfight breaks out in the street. It continues down the street and a crowd gathers to watch. The gunfight moves down the street to the front of the O.K. Corral. To see how the fight ends, you have to pay. Well, it was about 2:55 at this point. I gobbled down my hamburger without even enjoying it so I could witness the gunfight and take pictures. I left Jim to pay the bill. I grabbed my camera, hurried outside, and started taking pictures of what I thought looked like gunfighters. Jim finally came out, after I'm sure a leisurely lunch, and still no gunfighters. Finally Jim asked around and no one seemed to know what the heck we were talking about, so we were misled. I could have sat and enjoyed that nice juicy hamburger after all.

TO BE CONTINUED.....

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