Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tombstone still fighting it out

Strictly for tourists: gunfight in today's Tucson

Tombstone, Arizona, may be “the town too tough to die,” but lots of gunslingers met their ends in street shootouts there.

Inside the Bird Cage
At one time, the local mortuary hauled an average of one gunslinger a day to Boothill cemetery. But Tombstone is most famous for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which is probably the most famous gunfight in the Old West. On October 26, 1881, Wyatt Earp, along with his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and Doc Holliday, faced off against the Clanton gang whom they had been pursuing for months for attempted stage robbery and killing two men on the stage. By the time the 30-second shootout was over, Billy Clanton and Frank and two McLaury brothers lay dead; Ike Clanton and other outlaw had escaped. Morgan, Virgil and Doc were shot.

This gunfight is re-enacted daily for tourists in Tombstone today. A gunfight also is re-enacted daily on the streets of Old Tombstone. Again the marshal and his deputies are victorious, with only one outlaw left standing when the shootout is over.

Most of the buildings that were there in Tombstone’s heyday are still standing, though many have been restored. They house the usual assortment of gift and souvenir shops as well as restaurants that charge upwards of $10 for a hamburger. Shopkeepers wear period costumes, as do other townspeople, dance hall girls, lawmen and outlaws.  One man, who described himself as a vigilante, said he always wore his costume whenever he came to town.

Wyatt Earp's historic Tombstone
Tours of facilities are offered. The former mortuary does paranormal investigations, some involving Doc Holliday playing faro. The Bird Cage was a saloon, opera house, theatre and hotel. Visiting the saloon is free, but there’s a charge for guided tours beyond this point.

Tombstone began life as a mining town in 1877. By 1881, there were more than 14,000 people living there. It was a rough and tumble, lawless place. Virgil Earp served as the town marshal as well as a U.S. deputy marshal, with Wyatt Earp as one of his deputies.

A few months after the O.K. Corral shootout, Virgil was ambushed as he was leaving his office and suffered a gunshot wound that left one arm useless. Morgan Earp also was killed. Eventually the Earps left Tombstone.

Tombstone today is a major tourist attraction in this section of Arizona. Located about 75 miles southeast of Tucson, it is reached by taking the Benson exit off Interstate 10 and then following Highway 80 to Tombstone.

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