January 22, 2005 was a Saturday. Kathi and I were staying at the Benson I-10 RV Park in Benson, AZ. I found a brochure in the RV park office that told us about Tombstone, AZ which was about thirty miles south on Arizona Route 80. We looked at the map and realized we would never naturally pass through Tombstone, since it was away from everything, so we decided to drive over. It was a beautiful Saturday for driving and after all seeing the sights is why we decided to become RV travelers. I suspect I wanted to see Tombstone more than Kathi wanted to see it, but it was a nice day for a drive so she acquiesced
I have always been a movie and TV fan. I remember seeing western movies on Saturdays at the “Main” and “Texan” theaters in Nacogdoches when I was growing up. Wyatt Earp is a well-known name, primarily because of the OK Corral gunfight. I even saw a life size mannequin of Wyatt Earp in a restaurant in Livingston, TX. Actors that I know who have played Wyatt Earp include: Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Burt Lancaster, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Guy Madison, James Garner, Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner. I am sure there are others but I probably have not seen those movies. There was even a western series on TV in the late ‘50s called "Tombstone Territory."
Tombstone was erected on a mesa above the Tough Nut Mine. Most people remember that Tombstone had a “Boot Hill” cemetery. The reason western towns called their cemeteries “Boot Hill” was because most people died with their boots on via violence. The violence came as a result of Tombstone being a “Boom Town” primarily due to the discovery of silver. Silver miners flooding the area caused the plethora of saloons, gambling halls and brothels in town. There were over 100 saloons during the silver mining era. Mining was slowed considerably when the Contention Mine hit the water table. The Contention and Grand Central mine owners bought a Cornish Engine to pump out the water. It lasted a few years and when the engine melted down, it was deemed too expensive to repair. This resulted in Tombstone becoming a ghost town in just a few years.
When we visited Tombstone on that beautiful Saturday in 2005 we found a small desert town with only one business – tourism. Obviously I am one among many western movie buffs. They have old west saloons, an OK Corral, simulated gunfights and various shops designed to gather dollars from purchased tourist mementos. We drove up and down every street and even pulled off to the side on a couple of streets to look around, but really saw nothing that interested us, so we never got out of our car.
Tombstone is thought to have the biggest rose bush in the world. In 1885 cuttings of the Lady Banksia Rose were sent to a Tombstone resident from Scotland. The bush is still growing and expanding in size. The drive back to Benson gave us our highlight of the day. Near sunset the entire sky seemed pink, purple and blue. Another amazing sight to add to our memories.