26 Dec 15-
We drove South to Fort Huachuca, AZ the night before our visit. On the Post, not a creature was stirring, not even the mice. It was obvious most of the troops based there were home for the holidays.
Reservations I made a week earlier were upgraded to suites at no cost to us. We were in tall cotton.
We woke Sunday the 27th and ate the "free" breakfast, then got on the road to Tombstone just before Noon. Temp was about 50 F., but the sun was shining and there was no wind, so we were comfy in light jackets.
Yeah, it's a "tourist trap". Sara Jean and I both commented how much Tombstone felt like Skagway, Alaska... lots of junk to sell to rubes, much of it made in China. Unlike Skagway, the main street was blocked to vehicle traffic (other than those pulled by horses), so pedestrians can freely walk the boardwalks and cross from one side of the street to the other without fear of being clobbered.
Research indicated the thing we needed to do first was to see the "Historama", a combined movie and diorama telling the history of Tombstone. For $10 you can buy a packet of tickets including the Historama, the re-enactment of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, and a replica of the "Tombstone Epitaph" newspaper devoted to the gunfight and the testimonies given at the following trial.
The packet was worth the cost.
We learned a few things at the Historama-
Obviously, silver attracted prospectors to Tombstone. Those prospectors needed supplies and entertainment. "Entertainment" to a man coming in from the mines with his pockets full of silver means wine/women/song and gambling. The town grew exponentially when word of the silver strike went public.
Fire destroyed much of the town twice, but so much money was flowing out of Tombstone the damaged areas were quickly rebuilt. But fire finally defeated the town in an odd way...
The mines struck water at a certain point and HUGE pumps were needed to keep the water at bay so the silver could be extracted. One of the big pumps caught fire and was destroyed and all the mines filled with water. There are still tons of silver down there waiting to be mined, but the price of silver will have to soar before it will be worthwhile to pump the water out to mine it.
(That day may come soon.)
The first thing the folks at the Historama want you to know is that the Kurt Russell movie is a bunch of hooey. The "Cowboys" didn't wear easily identifiable red sashes.
But one thing about Hollywood's version of the town is true... it was difficult to differentiate the Good Guys from the Bad Guys. Doc Holiday and the Earps were making a fortune from gambling interests, and that was maybe their main reason for keeping Tombstone relatively safe for folks to walk the streets.
About the gunfight-
It DID NOT happen at the OK Corral.
The actual altercation happened on Fremont St. between 3rd and 4th streets. When news spread of the fight news outlets wanted to know where it happened. "Near the OK Corral" was the response.
Testimony from the living participants is interesting to read. The following is my opinion based solely on my gut from reading the different descriptions:
The Clantons and McLowrys were bad dudes... horse and cattle thieves. Their gang, the "Cowboys" was a thorn in the Earps and Holiday's side. Over time, MUCH bad blood developed between them.
The night before the big gunfight Holiday and Ike Clanton had a heated verbal meeting. I think Doc Holiday made the decision then that something had to be done.
The next day that chance to do "something" presented itself...
There were reports that the Cowboys were carrying arms, in defiance of town ordinances. Virgil, Wyatt, Morgan, and Doc Holiday intended to disarm these men. From testimony it seems pretty obvious that (drunk and sick with not much to lose) Doc Holiday fired the first shot. Ike Clanton was not armed. Tom McLowry was apparently shot trying to remove his rifle from the scabbard carried on his horse. He was NOT carrying a sidearm.
The other thing that surprised me that I had never heard before reading the "Epitaph"?
"Billy the Kid" was there.
According to his testimony, when the shooting commenced he wisely laid on the ground and watched, having no "dog in the fight".
The area around Tombstone is beautiful. It's an hour South of Tucson, about three hours South of Phoenix. It's a nice drive and a fun place.
I recommend it.