Day 2: Nov. 15, 2003
Tombstone is O.K.



I had hopes of reaching Tombstone in time for a 9:00 walking tour so hit the road pretty early. The road I hit was Arizona Route 82 - an official scenic route. Nice scenery and nice curves but also some not nice fog. The fog ranged from quite dense to quite absent and I may have missed an occasional visual treat but I still caught enough to make the drive very enjoyable. Thankfully, the fog did not interfere with a rare opportunity to snap a picture of an international airport from the edge of a scenic highway. The remaining three pictures were all taken at the same roadside stop. The blue plaque first caught my eye but the shrine is undoubtedly the more interesting of these two roadside attractions with no obvious connection except a shared location. The shrine was started in 1941 by the Telles family to garner some extra war time protection for their sons. The plaque marks the site of the John Ward ranch - abandoned in 1903.

I arrived in Tombstone in plenty of time, did some brief exploration, then waited with the group starting to form across the street from the office of the Tombstone Epitaph. This is the weekend of the yearly Clanton Rendezvous and my first visit to the town was going to be a bit different than most. Event organizer and Clanton cousin Terry Clanton guided the group around the town sharing his knowledge and opinions. It should not be surprising that someone named Clanton has a view of history that differs from the popular story about honorable lawmen protecting the town from lawless cowboys. There is no doubt that the Earps were not full time good guys and there are quite a few facts that support Terry's version but it remains the minority view. At the corner of Allan & 3rd, Terry formed up the group for a picture and, even though we quickly broke formation, I managed to get most of the group into a photo. After the walking tour, Terry joined up with another historian for a question & answer session at Big Nose Kate's. I received a whole lot of new information in a very short period of time.

Of course, there has to be a picture of the O.K. Corral. There are many old photographs displayed in various establishments around town and in one of them, taken in 1884, an O.K. Corral sign can be seen that looks nearly identical to the current one. The 1882 City Hall is still in use today. History is Tombstone's lifeblood and the town is filled with it. Some real, some manufactured; Some free, some for a fee. Inside the Epitaph office, the original press can be seen along with many other items associated with the paper. That is free. The lobby of the Birdcage Theater displays some interesting items and can be visited without charge although it will cost you $6 to see the main part of the theater turned museum. I also visited the "for fee" museum in the old court house -no picture - $4 . Big Nose Kate's Saloon makes its money from food & beverage. Various props, including cowboy hats & coats, are available for use in pictures using the saloon as backdrop. Those props obviously include red boas.

One of the best known attractions in town is the daily reenactment of the famous gun fight held near the site of the original. I've seen my share of movie & TV versions of this event but the suddenness and intensity of the actual shooting was really brought home with the noise and smoke of real gunpowder. Another "must see" is the Boothill Graveyard west of town. I had passed this when I came into Tombstone but did not have the time then to stop so doubled back before leaving town. Many of the shallow rock covered graves are marked "Unknown" and others have only part of a name or an obvious nickname. Identification is not a problem with the three dead men from who the entire town seems to be making its living. They are together under an extra large rock pile marked with four painted tombstones. Billy Clanton and Frank & Tom McLaury each have a marker and there is a fourth with all three names. That marker also has the phrase "Murdered on the streets of Tombstone". I suspect that Terry "Ike" Clanton might have had something to do with that fourth marker.

Somewhere I had learned of a ghost town east of Tombstone and I figured I should visit it while I was close. Its existence was verified at the Visitor Center but with little encouragement. After about a dozen miles of dirt road, I hit pavement as I neared the site and eventually learned that a different route would have been entirely on paved roads. The cemetery gates show the town's name - Gleeson. This was the only real evidence that I was near the right spot. I did find a few abandoned buildings but not what I would call a town. There may have been more further along a narrow dirt road but it looked rough enough that I, even with my rental car mentality, feared to tread. The cemetery was clearly still in use. One stone bore an April 2002 date and at least one grave appeared even newer.

Once I had visited what I guessed was the ghost town of Gleeson, my thin plans were finished. I turned north on US 191 and eventually decided that heading more or less toward Tucson made sense. Travel range is limited by the need to be at the Phoenix airport tomorrow afternoon and I might as well take a shot at seeing the city with reduced traffic. Darkness was falling when I reached I-10 and turned east. Memories of childhood visits, or denied visits, to "The Thing" were the topic of a recent discussion in one of the road oriented e-groups to which I belong. I did not actually see "The Thing" but it's right there at exit 322 and you can see it for a buck. 75 cents if you are 18 or younger and it's free for kids under 6.

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