Last week I told you about the first stops on our recent road trip through Southeastern Arizona and Southern New Mexico. Those first two days took us to Benson (and the fun little Mi Casa restaurant) and the Kartchner Caverns State Park. After Kartchner we set off for our next night destination Bisbee by way of the infamous Tombstone, Arizona.
You cannot have lived through the 1950s watching television without at least hearing a reference to Tombstone and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. It’s simply not possible. Even the classic 1960s science fiction series Star Trek had an episode about the O.K. Corral, as did Dr. Who in its third season (The Gunfighters) with the First Doctor. And then there are the movies: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) and two films from 1993 and 1994 respectively, Tombstone and Wyatt Earp. But that’s not even the beginning of the list. How about Frontier Marshal (1939), Tombstone, the Town Too Tough to Die (1942), My Darling Clementine (1946), Hour of the Gun (1967), and Doc (1971).
Unfortunately, today’s youth are relatively ignorant of the Wild West, gunfighters, or of lawmen and outlaws and the very fine line that separated the two. Whereas I would have been in awe of Tombstone had I visited it before the age of twelve, a child of the 2000s is left wondering about all the hoopla and what’s up with the funny costumes, stage coaches, and colorful old buildings. Mention Wyatt Earp and they think you just passed gas from a bean burrito.
Many of the buildings in Tombstone go back to the 1800s, including Victorian-style homes. Indeed, the Historic District appears much as it did well over 120 years ago.
Replicas of stage coaches and other period-authentic horse-drawn wagons and carriages ramble through town, eager to take tourists on a narrated scenic tour for $20 a pop. Well worth the price just for the experience alone.
Shops selling souvenirs, cowboy hats, leather goods, and even ice cream line the streets. Other shops cater to photographing patrons in period costume, or allowing one to demonstrate their six shooter fast draw by firing wax bullets at silhouettes (yeah, I was pretty good at firing from the hip without aiming — usually straight into mid sternum without a problem). Don’t think that horse-driven vehicles are the only classics prowling the streets, however. Other nifty vehicles such as a replica Indian motorcycle and a hot rodded Chevy “taxi” also make the occasional appearance.
Alas, for kids to get the same sense of wonderment from Tombstone as the parents and grandparents do, it will of course be necessary to indoctrinate them into Western lore before making the trip. So, get your Netflix queue ready for some extensive Western rentals before you buckle the preteens into the backseat.
Get out the classics, not only of the O.K. Corral, but also other memorable Western films dealing with lawmen, outlaws, and men who switched between the two. I’m thinking here of films such a Shane and High Noon.
For an added kick, and to show off how the Old West influences other genres even to this day, followup High Noon with a showing of science fiction film Outland.