I recently spent a day in Tombstone with Sun News correspondent Dr Matt Emanuele. He is shown above with Dr. Jay, a local expert (and retired dentist) who gives 2-hour walking tours of Tombstone.
Eve though it is a 2-hour tour, you won’t cover a lot of ground so don’t worry about walking a long way. There are several areas to sit and listen while Dr. Jay speels off another yarn about Tombstone. But for those prefer historical accuracy, I have to say at the outset his yarns are as good as it gets when it comes to reality. You will learn he prefers to slay myths rather than propagate them, making this tour the ideal introduction to any tenderfoots who might wander into the most infamous town of the Old West.
Many myths surround the famous shootout at the OK Corral, one being it actually happened at the OK Corral. On the tour Dr. Jay will take you the site of the Corral, which is now just a parking lot. In the lead photo with this story, Dr. Jay is showing a map that locates the site they are standing at as the real location of the gunfight. It’s not too far away from the Corral, but one must be accurate!
And from that point, by turning around, one can see mountains in the distance. That is where the Indian Chief Cochise held out for many years, raiding the area between Tombstone and Tucson, which made the trip especially dangerous. Now it is a leisurely 90-minute drive from here to Tombstone, where snowflakes fell on the day of the shootout between the Earps and the Clantons on October 26, 1881.
You will learn many things about gunfights from the good Doctor. Who was the fastest gun in the West? Well, we can’t say for sure when it comes to the 19th century, but in the 20th century a lot of Hollywood actors practiced to be superfast. I won’t spoil the fun by giving away the answer, but it will be a big surprise when Dr. Jay tells the story.
Several gunfights are staged in Tombstone for tourists. After taking Dr. Jay’s fact-laden tour, you might want to leave reality behind with the only gunfight show in town that does not have a historical basis. There are just as many laughs as gun blasts in the Western Theme Park, where audience interaction (boos for the bad guys and cheers for the good ones) is encouraged. Actually if you don’t cheer or boo you might get threatened by an old geyser packing a pistol, so it’s best to participate!
You can follow this very entertaining show, with its hardy band of skilled actors who do a really great job at offering a semi-serious parody of the Old West (photo above), by taking a trolley tour offered by the Theme Park. Since there was a very chilly wind the day I was in Tombstone, I opted for the warmth of a good dinner.
I heartily recommend The Longhorn Restaurant, the oldest continually operated restaurant in Tombstone, where we had a fine meal. An historical building, The Longhorn Restaurant is located in what used to be the Bucket of Blood Saloon, the Holiday Water Company, and the Owl Cafe and Hotel. Virgil Earp was shot and nearly killed from the second floor of this building on December 28, 1881. Not to be missed inside are several beautiful stained glass murals, one of which depicts the Earp/Clanton gunfight.
There are many other historical sites in Tombstone, far more than can be done in a single visit. I will write about those in another article.
Visit Dr. Jay’s website to book a tour in advance: tombstonewalkingtours.com
For the Old Tombstone Western Theme Park, visit: tombstonegunfights.com
The Longhorn menu is online, along with historical notes: thelonghornrestaurant.com
Photos by C Cunningham