Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Old West is Alive in Arizona

I am not a big fan of western/cowboy novels, although I am a fan of the Old West. I’ve lived in Arizona for my entire life – I better love it, or find another place to live. I enjoy visiting some of the old west towns in Arizona, and there are some unusual names for towns in Arizona: Tombstone (one of my favorites), Carefree (although I’m sure it has as much stress as any town), Skull Valley, Show Low, Littletown are just a few.

I love doing research in some of these places, although I’m positive I’ll never write the kind of novel where it’s needed. My friend, Jan Christiansen, and I visited the cowboy museum in Wickenburg, AZ, and I loved it. I took so many pictures.

But, by far, my favorite is Tombstone. It claims to be the most famous town in the old west. It’s where Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and others had the famous fight at the OK Corral.

Boot Hill, the cemetery where many of these legendary cowboys are buried, is an awesome place to tour in Tombstone. Some of the epitaphs on tombstones are so bizarre, you can’t make this stuff up. So if you’re ever in Arizona and love westerns or write about the old west, Tombstone, Wickenburg, and Jerome (a ghost town) are rich with cowboy history. Tombstone even reenacts an actual gunfight in the street.

From actual tombstones:

Chas. Helm. Shot 1882. Shot by Wm. McCauley. Two hot-tempered ranchers who disagreed over the best way to drive cattle, fast or slow.
James Hickey. 1881, shot by Wm Clayborne. He was shot in the left temple by Clayborne for his over-insistence that they drink together.
Margarita. Stabbed by Gold Dollar. Two dance hall girls quarreling over a man, and Gold Dollar won.
J.D. McDermott. Killed, 1882. His spinal column was fractured when his horse fell with him while crossing the San Pedro River.
John Martin. Killed, 1882. He was killed while working on the Huachuca water line. A tested pipe was unplugged and a blast of water hurled a jack against his chest. He was a native of England.
Freddie Fuss. 1882. A small boy who died from drinking stagnant or poison mine water.
John Gibson. 1881. Gibson, a driver for Nadeau’s ore teams, fell from a wagon and his skull was crushed when a wheel of the heavy wagon ran over his head.
M.E. Kellogg. 1882. Died a natural death.
Geo. Johnson. Hanged by mistake. Johnson innocently bought a stolen horse and suffered the consequences. “Here lies George Johnson, Hanged by mistake, 1882. He was right, we was wrong, but we strung him up and now he’s gone.”
Alfred Packrel. 1882. English. He was a young miner, aged 24, who died from inflammation of the bowels.

Kansas Kid. A cowboy killed in a stampede. 
Thos. Fitzhugh. 1882. He was found dead one morning in the water closet back of Mrs. King’s lodging house on Toughnut Street, where he roomed.
3-Fingered Jack Dunlap. Shot by Jeff Milton. Dunlap, one of a band of train robbers, attempted to rob an express car which Milton guarded. He was critically wounded and his friends left him to die. He was found and brought to Tombstone, where he lived long enough to inform on his friends. 
Killeen. Shot by Frank Leslie, 1880. Results of a disagreement over Killeen’s wife. Leslie married the widow.
John Wickstrum. 1882. A Swede who was killed when a well he was digging caved in.
Johnnie Blair. Died of smallpox and a cowboy threw a rope over his feet and dragged him to his grave.
Hancock. Shot, 1879. Shot by John Ringo when he made a disparaging remark about some women.
Johnnie Wilson. Shot by King. Two gunmen’s discussion of the fastest way to draw ended here.
Two Chinese. Died of leprosy.

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