Thursday, March 01, 2012

Tombstone Travesty

March 1, 2012

It has become almost an annual event that a journalism student from the University of Arizona calls me to interview me on why Tombstone didn't make our Top Ten Towns list. As I understand it, the U of A Journalism School has a deal with the Tombstone Epitaph to give students real life experience of working for a legendary newspaper.

So every year I get the call and I am invariably asked how the Top Ten Towns are chosen. And, then, the questions get more pointed: "Is it true, if you buy an ad you get an award?" Not true, I always tell them. Many of the towns chosen have never bought an ad with us.

I did an interview on the phone several weeks ago about the travesty of this year's list. Here is the link to the resulting article.

Based on that article we received this from one of our Tombstone friends this morning: "I don't think merchants from Tombstone want to advertise in your magazine, Santa Barbara over Tombstone, REALLY, take me off your mailing list!!!"

As I say in each and every interview, we love Tombstone and we talk about them in almost every single issue, but we do think there are concerns about the historical authenticity of the place. They put dirt on the streets, then some merchants threatened to bill the city over tourists tracking dirt into their establishments, so another regime comes to power and takes out the dirt. One step forward and two back.

According to my parents I first visited Tombstone in 1950 when my Iowa grandparents came out for a visit and we made a trip across the state to visit all the big sites. I don't remember it (I was three). There is a photo album of the trip and in it is a picture of Allen Street. But no photograph of me in the town.

Even though I attended the U of A in nearby Tucson for five years from 1965 to 1969, I never quite made it to The Town Too Tough to Die. It was only about 70 miles away. I even played the Elfrida Prom in 1967, but we drove to it from the Sulpher Springs Valley side and I overshot the town. One summer, circa 1968, I delivered beef to Fort Huachuca five days a week, from Tucson, and as I made the daily run from Benson to Sierra Vista, I often looked longingly off to the east at the Tombstone Hills, wondering what the place looked like.

Finally, in 1974, after watching "Appointment With Destiny: The O.K. Corral Fight" on TV, I talked Dan and Darlene Harshberger into going with me and my wife to visit the place. On the way down from Tucson, I made my wife read the Spicer Hearing out loud, so we could all hopefully get in the mood. After about five minutes, she promptly nodded off and went to sleep. I then handed the Spicer Hearing back to Dan in the back seat, who in turn, read for several minutes and he too went to sleep. Darlene was already asleep. As I drove along in the deathly quiet, I realized I was the only one who loved this stuff enough to stay awake.

Here is a photo taken by Dan the Man of me, Terry Townsend and Darlene Harshberger, standing in the doorway of the Tombstone City Hall (note date at bottom, left). This was in 1974.

Today, I'm almost as old as the building. Not long after this trip, Terry moved out (something about being forced to endure long readings of historic documents).

And so, almost forty years later, here I sit immersed and embroiled in the turmoil and angst of a town that I love dearly. In spite of all the infighting and bickering, it really is a treasure. And, I must admit, it's very stimulating and I've never nodded off. Gee, I wonder where I went wrong?

"Remember, the higher up the flagpole you go, the more people can see your rear end."
—Dandy Don Merideth

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