Gunfights at the O.K. Coral
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  Posted November 20th, 2010 by Zdenko  in Travel | 7 comments

Visiting Tombstone, Arizona

By: Zdenko Kahlina

The Town Too Tough to Die
I continued my stay in Tucson, Arizona, by visiting Tombstone, a city in Cochise County, Arizona, only about one hour of driving to the south east. The day when I arrived there, the temperature was about 80 degrees and sunny. Indeed, very pleasant day especially for early November… Tombstone is great. November is a great time to go.

Tombstone is located in the high desert of Southeastern Arizona. With an elevation of close to 4,600 feet they actually have the climate of all 4 seasons! The average temperatures in the summer months are in the low 90′s and winter temps are generally quite mild and pleasant with perhaps an occasional snow fall that is beautiful to look at but gone by the next day!


This is the famous O.K. Corral saloon

People are dressed accordingly

Shady side of the main street

Tombstone offers the atmosphere of the Old West. Walk the wooden boardwalks and hear the clink – clink – clink of the cowboy’s spurs, as they saunter along their way. Watch the horses of the stagecoach transport people back in time. Part the bat-winged doors of the saloon and be served by the charmingly dressed saloon girl. But be nice, because she carries the gun… And you can even dress the part yourself if you so desire, as some shops in Tombstone offer the opportunity to rent your costume and become part of the legend.

Even the waitresses carry guns

Cowboy with ice-cream… signs of different times!

Tombstone does not have a shopping mall, a large grocery store, a movie theater and all the other amenities larger cities offer, but Sierra Vista is just 16 miles away and you can find a Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart and 3 major grocery stores. 

Visit the OK Coral. They have reenactments of the famous gunfight every day at 2pm. Buy your ticket earlier in the day so in case they sell out. The Bird Cage Theatre is also worth seeing. Make sure you take the tour. The Six Gun restaurant has a gun show fight also during the lunch time.

Horse carriages are waiting for tourists

The stagecoach ride for tourists

You may also enjoy a carriage ride around the town. There are several pickup areas on the main street. That’s Allen Street. The stagecoach ride is about 10 minutes long and costs $10, while informative and an interesting experience, in my opinion the Tombstone Trolley ride is far superior, it costs $4 for adults, and lasts at least 25 minutes. Including an option to disembark at the Boot Hill Graveyard and be picked up later.

As to the gift shops, well, yes, sorry to say, weather it be DisneyLand or Tombstone, anywhere you’ve got tourists, you’ll have overpriced crap, However, there are numerous attractions that don’t revolve around the junk, recently one of the original silver mines that put Tombstone on the map reopened and is giving tours, the two main saloons on Allen St., the Crystal Palace and Big Nose Kates Saloon are both fantastic for the “Old West” experience. You can also go to the Court house, which is now a museum. You should watch this YouTube movie about “O.K.Corral” before you go, so you have a better idea of why the town is famous.

The Famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Due to movies, television, legend and lore, the events of October 26, 1881, have come to epitomize the days of the rough and tumble American West. There were the “good guys” and the “bad guys” and the “good” ones always won, so the old stories would say.

Mr. Doc Holliday taking a well deserved break

Mr. Wyatt Earp ready for another gun fight

Tombstone relives one afternoon when the Earp Brothers (Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan) along with Doc Holliday, faced off against the Clantons and McLaurys in a showdown. In the two daily performances, the famous battle is re-enacted at the site of its original setting.

The famous battle is re-enacted

Drama, intrigue, and the inevitable shoot-out are played out before the audience. From this event, Wyatt Earp’s reputation as a gunslinger was re-enforced. Also on the premises are original buildings and displays of period implements and a “Historama”. This staged multi-media presentation, narrated by Vincent Price, depicts the full-range of Tombstone’s history as “The Town Too Tough to Die.” Fire, flood, boom times and busts, are all presented in the dramatization.

Six Gun City Wild West Show
There is another gun show in town and this one is at the place called “Six Gun City” – which might be the best-most realistic show. It puts you in the 1,800′s while your there. Good to watch a show, have a drink ($2.00) Margaritas, eat, and smoke a cig. all at the same time. A very good family restaurant and entertainment center. The outside patio bar is finished and they are building a game room now! Huge 40 foot bar, covered from the rain or sun, smoking allowed, and VERY friendly staff. Food was great. Y’all need to tip those girls because they work their tails off!

Stage setup for the gun fight

Here comes the trouble…

Two are dead in two seconds!

I was there for 12:30 show. There was a historic gun battle reenactment show that was about to begin. I paid $6.00 and went into a covered outside patio that was facing the show area. I began with the margarita that was alright for the price. The show began and it was a comedy reenactment type of show with several (six) historical gun battles that occurred throughout Tombstone’s history. The actors have some interaction with the audience which is always fun, you never know how the audience will react. Overall it was a good experience and I would recommend a visit to Six Gun City. F.Y.I. tipping the actors is encouraged.

Another scene, another story…

Another gun fight!

This time it’s the Mexican caballeros…

Boot Hill Cemetery
With all of the gunfights and killings in Tombstone, the local cemetery filled with outlaws, innocent victims, cowboys, and Indians. In the 1880’s, the Wild West town boasted three undertakers and they were more prosperous than the miners.

A descriptive list shows over 250 graves at Boot Hill. Most famous are those of Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy and Ike Clanton, all killed at the O.K. Corral in 1881.

Many unique messages mark the graves. Lester Moore, a Wells Fargo agent, was shot in a dispute over a package. His marker reads: “Here lies Lester Moore, Four slugs from a .44, No Les, no more.” Perhaps Tombstone had a sense of humor, too. Tombstone’s motto, ”The Town Too Tough to Die”, continues to hold true today. Indian raids, fires, floods, gunfights, a depressed economy several times over, mine closings, population loss – none has kept Tombstone from dying. It continues to re-invent itself and its present reincarnation as a Western attraction continues to keep it alive.

In the summer of 1877 prospector Ed Schieffelin was working the hills east of the San Pedro River in the southeast portion of the Arizona Territory, when he came across a vein of very rich silver ore in a high plateau called Goose Flats. When Schieffelin filed his mining claim he named it “The Tombstone”, after a warning given him by a passing soldier. While telling the soldier about his rock collecting experiences, the soldier told him that the only rock he was likely to collect among the waterless hills and warring Apaches of the area would be his own tombstone.

The town of Tombstone was founded in 1879, taking its name from the mining claim, and soon became a boomtown. Fueled by mineral wealth, Tombstone was a city of 1000 by the beginning of 1881, and within another year Tombstone had become the seat of a new county (Cochise County) with a population between 5,000 and 15,000, and services including refrigeration (with ice cream and later even ice skating), running water, telegraph and limited telephone service. Capitalists and businessmen moved in from the eastern U.S. Mining was carried out by immigrants from Europe, chiefly Ireland and Germany. An extensive service industry (laundry, construction, restaurants, hotels, etc.) was provided by Chinese and other immigrants.

Without railroad access the increasingly sophisticated Tombstone was relatively isolated, deep in a Federal territory that was largely unpopulated desert and wilderness. Tombstone and its surrounding countryside also became known as one of the deadliest regions in the West. Uncivilized southern gangs from the surrounding countryside, known as “cow-boys”, were at odds with the northern capitalists and immigrant miners who ran the city and mines. On October 26, 1881 this situation famously exploded in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, leading to a continued family and political feud that resulted in multiple deaths.

On December 25, 1881 the Bird Cage Theater opened, and in 1882 the New York Times reported that “the Bird Cage Theatre is the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast.” Since Tombstone was in the desert, a company built a pipeline to supply the town with water. No sooner was this pipeline built than Tombstone’s silver mines struck water.

As a result of relative lack of water and quick wooden construction, Tombstone experienced major fires in June 1881 and May 1882. The second fire was particularly destructive and signaled the end of the classic old boomtown mining city. After the mid-1880s, when the silver mines had been tapped out, the main pump failed, causing many mines to be flooded with deep groundwater, and Tombstone declined rapidly.

Tourist trap
Let’s face it, Tombstone is one big tourist trap, but worth the visit because of the history and it is also nice that the locals have decided to preserve it to be more like it was when Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp walked the streets.

The street and buildings look nice. But EVERYONE has a gift shop inside. You are going to find plenty of souvenirs not made in America, and plenty of folks who do not live in Tombstone but come dressed in old west costumes. Most of the stores close by around 7pm. But the Saloons stay open. So any tourist stuff has to be done before 7pm.

Wyatt Earp’s house 

Wyatt Earp’s monument

And that is what this is all about… that was my story about Tombstone in November. Returning to Tucson was non eventful even though I used local highways 80, 82 and 83 instead of I-10. I was surprised to drive by several RV camp grounds full of Canadians in the middle of the desert (Sonoita village) and was wondering what are they doing there. Sonoita Mountain View highway was very scenic drive and before I knew it I was back in Tucson.

Have a good and healthy season.

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7 comments to “Gunfights at the O.K. Coral”

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    Wanted to know the production company that hired the actor who plays Doc. He is the reason we keep coming back! Can you tell me the actors stage name and who to write to and let know what a wonderful job he is doing?

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