Cabbages and Kings: State's Old West history becomes theme for gift shops

It's been an interesting couple of weeks.

While visiting Tombstone - a page out of Arizona's history, I wondered out loud: Have we become so obsessed with money that we fail to honor our past?

Apparently that is the case, at least with Tombstone.

I hadn't visited "The Town Too Tough To Die" in more than 40 years so instead of a couple of days in Laughlin, this year my wife and I took a trip to Tucson, Tombstone and Las Vegas to spend a few days out of a couple of work-free weeks.

We were almost snowed out in Tombstone, as the same storm that dumped snow on Kingman did the same in southern Arizona.

En route to Tombstone, I regaled my wife about how the old town probably hadn't changed much since its heyday in the 1880s, when Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Curly Bill Brocius prowled its streets.

We drove through a bucolic St.

David and 16 miles later we pulled into the parking lot of Boot Hill, Tombstone's famed cemetery.

The fee is whatever you want to donate - if you want to.

But you had to enter via the gift shop so whoever owns Boot Hill could have a shot at your billfold just as Wyatt shot at Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton.

We looked at the graves and headed for Allen Street just ahead of a major spring storm.

We found a parking place and moseyed over to the O.K.


We were anticipating this part of our journey because we're both avid western history buffs and have seen the film "Tombstone" about a dozen times.

It took $5 for us to have the privilege of walking into the corral and through a gate to the site of the famous gunfight.

We also could look at a restored crib of a prostitute and a room once allegedly occupied by Big Nose Kate and Doc Holliday.

It would have cost $4.50 each to get past the gift shop/lobby of the Bird Cage Theater but I drew the line there.

Three of the outside walls appeared to have been completely rebuilt with little or no inclination to follow history's path.

The former Grand Hotel, where gunfighter stayed and many a card game ended in gunfire, is now a bar called Big Nose Kate's Saloon.

It's sort of a colorful place that appears to cater to bikers and movie stars.

It cost $3.50 for a draft beer and a cup of coffee.

Big Nose Kate would've loved it!

Most of the rest of downtown Tombstone is a big gift shop mall.

T-shirts, mugs, and western attire are sold by the crate load and in spite of the snow, cold and wind, tourists were eagerly snapping up the stuff.

A coffee mug with Val Kilmer's photo (as Doc Holliday) cost $9.

I didn't buy one.

I did buy a t-shirt and shelled out $20 for a sepia-tinted vintage-type photo of my wife and I in Wild West attire.

As we left Tombstone for our motel in Tucson, we began to wonder why Arizona's cherished history is now merely a theme for a gift shop.

We also wondered how many poor families will never have the opportunity to see a chunk of their state's past simply because they can't afford it.

The state of Arizona made a park out of Picacho Pass, where Arizona's only Civil War skirmish took place.

Could it not afford to do the same with Allen Street in Tombstone? Not the whole town, of course – just Allen Street or parts of Allen Street.

Maybe the state would have, had not Kilmer, Kurt Russell, Sam Elliot, Powers Booth, et al, had not arrived in town and filmed their movie near there.

The film made millions for its stars and for the businesses in Tombstone.

At the same time, it may have taken away a priceless portion of Arizona's heritage from many of its residents.

* * *

On the other side of the ledger, you've got to visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson next time you're out that way.

It truly is a "living" museum but is far more than a zoo.

* * *

You really can't go back ...

I grew up in Tucson - in three brand new homes two of which are now located in what may be that city's worst slums.

Many Tucson neighborhoods seem to be decaying shells of their former selves.

Pride seems to have left a lot of the Old Pueblo.

On the plus side, Tucson still boasts the best Mexican food this side of Nogales!

* * *

A well-earned Cabbage to the people at Arizona Highways magazine.

In the most recent edition, Wyatt Earp Days in Tombstone was touted and an explanation that Wyatt Earp, "three of this brothers and gunman Doc Holliday shot it out with the Clanton gang at the famous O.K.

Corral ..." Wrong.

There were three Earps, not four at the corral - Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil.

This wouldn't be a big deal except that Arizona Highways is supposed to be our state's crown jewel of the printed media.

I'll give a back-from-vacation King's crown to the city's effort to clean up Kingman.

The hiring of the code enforcement officer was a giant step in the right direction.

It's finally being realized that if we clean up our act, it will result in a better national image of our community.

And what better time to clean up than spring? - especially for the Route 66 Fun Run.

Greg Bucci is the Miner's news editor.