Home / Culture and Society / Travel / Has Tombstone Become the Town Too Dumb to Die? – Part V

Has Tombstone Become the Town Too Dumb to Die? – Part V

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In Part I, we discuss the new handbill crackdowns and how small businesses are being seriously harmed. Part II details the pending closure of Fourth and Fifth Streets and the unintended consequences. In Part III comes the lurid tale of mayhem outside of the OK Corral. The Incident at Six Gun City goes under the microscope in Part IV.

We conclude our Horse Opera with the morality play entitled Would Wyatt Earp make his horse wear diapers?

A source who once worked in Tombstone reminded me of one of the Town Too Tough to Die’s less than stellar moments. About 14 or so years ago, the powers that be decided the horses pulling the various stagecoach rides were pooping too much on the city streets. The usual source of horse-you-know-what street cleaners decided they were not being paid enough to shovel horse-you-know-what. They quit. There was no one to shovel horse-you-know-what. Someone had the bright idea to force the stage owners to put diapers on their horses so there would be no horse-you-know-what on the paved streets of Tombstone.

There was no end to the hilarity, the t-shirts, and the slogan, “Tombstone: The Town Too Tough to Diaper!”

In many ways Tombstone is no different than any other small town, USA. The usual suspects (names and faces interchangeable) in small town USA always have the best interest of the town at heart when they start making changes. With those changes and good intentions come the unintended consequences, many of which do more harm than good, and can inadvertently ruin the lives of good, decent people.

This is a cautionary tale. One of our current national discussions is just how big the Federal government should be. What will be the consequences of a large, seemingly overreaching Federal government? How ever-present is “Big Brother”? Unfortunately, we have a tendency to forget that small town government can sometimes be more destructive than anything the Feds could ever envision.

When one is battling the Feds over some overreaching of government — be it imminent domain, a tax lien, or the new interstate highway coming through the neighborhood — people in a community band together. Neighbors who have never said more than a curt “hello” are suddenly allies. But it can be different when these changes take place in a small town. Instead of banding together, neighbor can turn on neighbor. Your best friend may soon become your worst enemy. Suddenly the busybody across the road is your staunch defender.

Small town government can be the cruelest. With big government it is impersonal and uncaring, but when small town government overreaches you can’t help but wonder, is it simply good intentions gone bad or something else? Is that former best friend who is now on the town council serious about that change, “for the good of the community” or is it a way to destroy your business?

Does the new town marshal of Tombstone realize that when he is cracking down on the mayor’s demands about permits, costumes, and re-enactors and refusing to allow replica guns on the sidewalks of Tombstone, he could be breaking a state law? Is the Second Amendment being infringed upon by not allowing side arms to be worn in public, when Arizona has one of those laws allowing someone to go armed as long as they have a permit?

What about the First Amendment? Is denying the different groups of re-enactors the right to dress up in Tombstone a violation of their First Amendment rights? What about the innocent bystander who actually dresses that way?

Tombstone is in the Southwest. There are men — perfectly normal, well-employed, well-heeled men — who always dress like cowboys, complete with jeans, bandana, boots, buckle, hat and guns. In this country, as long as a person is not indecently exposed, are they not free to where what ever they want, where ever they want to wear it, even when it is in bad taste?

Then there is the closure of Fourth and Fifth Streets. At least one long-term resident of the community could be denied the right to park in front of his home. What about senior citizens who might live along those streets? If all parking is prohibited, how do they get to their homes?

There are laws requiring reasonable access for those needing special assistance and handicapped access. The very nature of the street closures, unless the current handicapped parking is maintained, is in violation of those laws.

The Six Gun City permit problem is interesting. Evidently new laws concerning construction were enacted during the construction process. Isn’t there a “grandfather clause” or should the owner not have been advised of those changes in a timely fashion?

There are certain businesses in Tombstone that rely upon the distribution of handbills to draw customers. If those businesses are denied access equal to those fortunate merchants who are along Allen Street, isn’t there something inherently wrong with the system?

Why would a mayor and town council deliberately enact and enforce rules and regulations that would not only destroy independent businesses, but also eliminate dozens of jobs? Isn’t one of the duties of the mayor, town council, and chamber of commerce to ensure that business in a community has a chance of survival?

Without appearing to take sides, I must admit that I am friends with two of the individuals who have been seriously effected by the latest attempt at “authenticity.” To state up front that any of the detailed incidents are intentional or malicious would not be accurate or honest. We all must labor under the assumption that the motives of the mayor, town council, city marshal, and chamber are to make their community a better place to live.

Progress, like birth, is an extremely painful process that can, at times, prove fatal. There are times when progress isn’t really progress at all, but those involved simply cannot see the damage they are inflicting on others, their community, and ultimately themselves. If the current trend continues, all the color, fun, and excitement that makes Tombstone such a unique destination will have been destroyed.

In this day and age of recession, logic dictates that those in charge of the community do whatever is necessary to ensure what has worked in the past is only enhanced to ensure their special little town remains just that: special.

Tombstone is one of my favorite places. I make it a point to visit at least three times a year, and I try to spend a week there with each visit. After many years visiting the town, I have a number of friends, many of whom email or call with all the latest gossip. What is going on now is different. The moment I arrived in town in early March, a friend pounced, “Have you heard what is going on and what they have done to Sylvia (the owner of the Tombstone Boardinghouse B & B)?”

I stopped off to visit another friend who stressed that any comments must be “off the record” and never reveal an identity. This person’s view was that Dusty Escapule is simply out to close down his competition at the Tombstone Trolley. If other merchants are damaged, or people are hurt, they are simply collateral damage.

This person went on to say that the changes would not be permanent. If the townsfolk get enough, they will simply have yet another mayoral recall, then things will start getting back to normal.

Such is life in Tombstone. It has not changed since the days when Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and Doc Holiday faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys at the OK Corral. Those of us who love Tombstone wouldn’t have it any other way.

As a writer I pride myself in being honest and upfront with my work. Before I proceed any farther, I need to mention that currently, my feelings toward Mayor Dusty Escapule are less than charitable. For the past three years, on a regular basis, when I was in Tombstone, I would stop by his establishment, leaving a message and a phone number.

Mayor Escapule has information I desparately need to complete an expose that could be huge for me as a writer. One time I even called ahead of time, informing his assistant I would be stopping in on a certain day with a documentary film crew from the UK. To this day I have yet to hear from him. I hope I have not allowed my annoyance with him to taint my reporting of something that is a very serious issue.

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About SJ Reidhead

  • Your series was very interesting and brings a lot of questions to the fore. Thanks, SJ.