Monday, July 31, 2023

Curly Bill On The Galeyville Trail

 July 30, 2023

   We are working on the October issue. We're going to celebrate the movie "Tombstone" at the 30 year mark.  We are asking our contributing editors and writers this question: What makes "Tombstone" such a good Western?" And, so, I am asking you. What do you think?

   Meanwhile, I am excerpting three takeaways from the Tombstone story from my three books on the subject. The first is a good hard look at the Cow-boys (for several years at the magazine we styled it with a hyphen just like the newspapers of the era did). Were they as bad as the Earp legend claims? Or, did they have more in common than not?

The Cow-boys of Cochise County

   After escaping jail in Ysleta, Texas, Curly Bill Brocius and Bob "Dutch" Martin steal their way westward and land in the Bootheel of New Mexico.

   They are not alone.

   Since the early 1870s, after the Apaches were moved onto the San Carlos Reservation, enterprising cattlemen like John Chisum began to drive herds of cattle into Arizona to feed both the Indians and the soldiers brought in to keep them corralled. These large cattle herds brought with them a few cow-boys who stayed on to carve out a piece of the business for themselves.

   Numerous other renegades from west Texas and New Mexico were either forced out or chose to move farther away from the law to this virtual outlaw haven.

   Curly Bill, Martin and the Clantons are some of the cow-boys attracted to the lush grasslands (old-timers in the Animas Valley tell of the groundwater being less than two feet under the surface near the Lang Ranch). Curly Bill ends up establishing the famous Gray Ranch, still in existence in the 21st century.

   The outlaws particularly enjoy the haven's close proximity to two borders and three jurisdictions (New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico). Plus, the bootheel is about as far from New Mexico officials and the law as one can get.

Daily Whip Out:

"Curly Bill On The Galeyville Trail?"

   I am doing an original painting taken from this photograph by Camilius S. Fly, outside Tombstone, A.T., in May of 1887. The cowboy in the original photo is J. E. Andrews. I especially liked his bib-front shirt, small cow pony (this is what so many modern Westerns get wrong when they show everyone riding big quarter horses, instead of these raw-boned ponies) and rifle stock sticking up on the left-hand side. He has Mexican style monkey-face tapaderos and the D-Guard Bowie Knife, which is quite rare at this late date. But the big difference is I made the outlaw chieftain grinning, because everyone who knew Brocius said he was always laughing. So there.

Daily Whip Out:
"Curly Bill Grinning On The Galeyville Trail"

   Coming up, the inside skinny on how I met this crazy guy.

John D. Gilchriese

   And, how he ended up finding this gravesite.

"You're a pious sort of man. I've been told, but I want to test it. You just naturally think of the savior while my bazoo [gun] works and at the same time pay a little attention to me."

—Curly Bill, fresh out of jail in Tucson, interrupting a church service four miles from Charleston and forcing the pastor to dance in front of his congregation 


  1. What made Tombstone great? Great writing of course. Casting. Costumes. Editing. The opening montage gave you all the information you needed-it didn't bog you down with the details (not everyone enjoys a history lesson, I know, I don't get it either, except, I do get it when it comes to movies and novels). Robert Mitchum told you who the good guys were and who the bad guys were - that's all you needed to know. And as far as the bad guys go...some of the greatest villain's to fill the screen. Imagine Star Wars minus Darth Vader- but, if you imagine Tombstone without Ringo, you still have Curly Bill. Great villain's. In Kevin Costner's Wyatt Earp who was the villain? Good vs. evil. A lot of people who saw Tombstone never heard of Wyatt Earp and they believed there was chance Ringo would kill him...your hero has to be vulnerable. Tombstone was a masterwork of storytelling.

  2. Anonymous7:01 PM

    The authenticity that Kevin Jarre brought to the screen through costuming, hats, leather, tack, dialogue, etc. Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday was the epitome of cool just like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Marlon Brando in the Wild Ones, and Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. The humor in the movie was great! How could you miss with lines like "Johnny I apologize. I forgot you were there. You may go now." "I know- let's have a spelling contest." "We don't want any trouble in here- not in any language." My only regret is the Kevin Jarre scenes cut out of the movie such as his brilliant telling of the Vendetta Ride. I even read in John Farkis' book "The Making of Tombstone" where he had a group of Apaches standing on a hill watching the fight between Wyatt Earp and Curly Bill. How amazing would that have been to see? Tombstone is by far my favorite movie and I can't remember how many times I've seen it. Well over 100. I wear bib shirts and stovepipe boots and jinglebob spurs to Cowboy Action shoots because of how great they looked in Tombstone. It changed the way I look at all westerns.

    Mark TW Maniac 235

  3. Hear hear! Tombstone was my Star Wars back in the day. Any scene with the Cowboy Gang made it every bit as good, if not better, than the cantina in a galaxy far far away. So much personality, that movie.


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