GUNSLINGERS AND ROSES

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When planning where to spend St Patricks Day, the Wild West town of Tombstone Arizona is probably not at the top of the list… but maybe it should be.

We said goodbye to Ajo Arizona, destined for our next stop, Tombstone Territories Rv Park located on a patch of desert 11 miles west of Tombstone itself.

When looking at the site from satellite it’s clear to see that this place is isolated!

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Tombstone Territories is a full service RV Park, surrounded on all sides by wild desert scrub full of twittering, chirping, birds. Over 50 species have been observed here. The park has a large clubhouse which boasts an indoor pool and exercise equipment. The rate was reasonable and discounts for lengthy stays are freely offered, but metered electricity is charged separately. The park grounds, laundry and all facilities are spotless and well maintained. All sites are huge. In the meeting room, the staff have binders which are full of information about things to do in the local area, including BLM recreation maps.

Numerous ATV trails pepper the desert around the park, all in great condition because they’re also utilized by border patrol agents. A lot of campers had ATV’s  which they took out to the desert regularly.

The day after we arrived was St Patricks Day and nearby Tombstone was celebrating Tombstone Days with a parade recognizing The Armed Forces. We decided to join the festivities. 

These young men opened the parade.

Many branches of the military were recognized including the Buffalo Soldiers.

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Love this lady’s garb!

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Not too sure about these guys! They look shifty to me!

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Luckily the law is out in full force.

Small town car show.

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Local beauty queens of course.

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Wild west costume characters were in abundance.

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Johnny Tombstone is here.

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This happy guy is a one man jingle jangling music show!

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Watch out! Don’t wanna end up in jail!

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Lots of beautiful horse flesh.

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Darling Donkeys!

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Bringing up the rear, a pack of gunslingers invited us to come on out to their comedy stunt show at Old Tombstone. 

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How could we resist?

“Old Tombstone” is a touristy, movie type, western town situated behind the main drag. It’s the type of place we usually avoid, however we’ve been to Tombstone twice already and it’s the only thing we haven’t done, so we gave it a try.

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It was clear from the moment we bought our tickets that this attraction is family owned and operated. Everyone involved with the production, food and arcade took great pride in customer service and satisfaction.

We took our places at the top of the bleachers and settled in to enjoy the show.

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The plot was a rambling story of a female miner, a stolen mule, a drunken sheriff and father and son outlaws who were up to no good.

The jokes came fast and furious with nods to modern culture (the local judge in town was referred to as Judge Judy). Audience participation is encouraged and I found myself laughing, booing and cheering right along. 

The stunts were great as the performers are movie professionals.

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In the end, of course it comes down to the law versus the bad guy.

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Lots of gun tricks ensued.

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How will it end?

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Guess you’ll have to come and find out for yourself!

After the show we were pretty hungry but every place in town was swamped, we decided to stay here in Old Tombstone and eat at The Chuckwagon Grill. It’s a very small place and the only seats available were at the counter. We didn’t mind as we were served promptly. The restaurant seems to be operated with the same family- like, familiarity as the stunt show. They were all running their tails off serving the room and a takeout window but no one seemed to mind the wait. I had a chicken sandwich and Jeff had a hamburger. The food was tasty and filling.

After lunch we were in search of something different to do and I remembered reading about the World’s Largest Rosebush Museum. The title itself fits in nicely with our quest for unusual things. It just begs to be explored.

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The rosebush is located in the courtyard behind the old Cochise Boarding House, now known as The Rose Tree Museum. The old inn was converted to a small museum which showcases some of the belongings of the Macias and Devere, pioneer families. The building, one of the oldest in Tombstone is for sale and the collection a bit dusty but that sort of gives it some charm. 

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The first gallery is a small collection of pioneer goods and a diorama of Tombstone’s famous shootout. 

The collection of photos and furnishings and personal goods, rambles on through the other rooms of the inn. 

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A small collection of minerals and mining pictures tell the story of the silver mines in Tombstone. Unusual personal collections and interesting pioneer stories with seemingly no rhyme or reason are sprinkled throughout.

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Sharing the room with the fireplace is a random collection of pewter, urns and locks of every kind. Including a facial device which was employed to discourage a gossiping woman! Some of the locks date to the 1500’s. It’s a very unique collection but I’m still not sure how it all fits together!

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Tearing ourselves away from the lock display was difficult but necessary in order to take in the sight we came for…

The World’s Largest Rose Bush.

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The story of the rose bush began in 1884 when, just one day after being married, a young miner named Henry Gee and his bride Mary left Scotland bound for Tombstone, Arizona. The couple lived at the Cochise boarding house until they were able to build a home and a very homesick Mary became friends with Amelia Adamson, the woman who ran the boarding house for the Vizinia mining company. 

In the spring of 1885, a large box arrived from Mary’s family in Scotland. Inside the box Mary found several cuttings of plants from home including several rooted cuttings of the White Lady Banksia rose she had planted as a child. As a token of friendship, she and Amelia planted one of the cuttings on the back patio of the boarding house. 

Over the years as the tree grew and flourished an elaborate trellis system of wooden poles and metal pipes was devised which today creates a lovely shaded patio. Tucked among the branches are secret carvings, art and wind chimes.

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In 1937 the tree was made famous in Ripley’s column, Believe It Or Not. The World’s Largest Rose Tree is also listed in the Guinness World Book of Records and it’s status has never been challenged. 

The Rose Tree now covers nearly 5000 square feet and can be viewed from an elevated viewing platform in the backyard.

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Each spring Tombstone’s Rose Tree blooms for about six weeks in March and April. We visited a little early in the season and the tree was just beginning to bloom.

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Thus ends our quiet day in Tombstone but no review of Tombstone’s many attractions is complete without mentioning some of the most iconic.

In 2009 our family took an epic, trip filled with hilarity and shenanigans which included a stop in Tombstone. We walked from one end of the town to the other taking in the sights starting with the historically haunted Birdcage Theatre.

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This building is truly something out of another era. Nothing has been changed or altered and there is something dusty and wonderful around every corner.

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Bullet holes are still visible in the walls under the stage from a drunken patron taking shots at the performers. He missed!

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The vip curtained boxes are populated by mannequins. 

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A narrow staircase leads to the card rooms and brothel.

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A dark basement storage is full of creepy dusty things.

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The Black Moriah waits to ferry the dead to Boot Hill.

The courthouse offers a more organized view of the law of the land.

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There is a profound sense of history here. Exhibits cover many facets of life in Tombstone, carriages and transportation, fire fighting, clothing and women’s issues, miners lighting and medical implements. The most extensive collections are as expected, the law and enforcing of the law.

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A collection of illustrations show the famous gun battle in detail and letters and documents associated with it decorate the walls but the most spine tingling exhibit of all is outside in the back.

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The gallows.

Much of tombstones history is of a more violent time but there is one famous place in town which pokes fun at the wild west, Big Nose Kates Saloon.

Big Nose Kate was a Hungarian born prostitute and longtime companion and common law wife of Doc Holliday. The saloon itself was originally The Grand Hotel. The first hotel burned in 1882. The bar in the basement survived and is now the main bar in the dining room. There’s a tunnel underneath the hotel which led to the mine shaft. The tunnel, and the story associated with it, still exists today and you can go down to experience it for yourself.

When we visited in 2009 it was lunchtime on a weekday. There was seating readily available and the waiter encouraged the girls to dress up and take pictures. A singing cowboy took requests and the hamburgers were delicious!

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We tried to get a table this year on St. Patricks Day but the line was out the door. The following Saturday around 2 pm we tried again and though there were only two couples in front of us, the wait was taking forever. You can walk in and belly up to the bar without a wait but we were hungry and wanted to eat.  I don’t know if they still encourage rabble rousing the way they did in 2009 but if I had to guess the weekends would be too busy to do so. It’s such a fun place even so.

After three trips, we’ve still missed a few notable things, the reenactment at the Ok Corral, narrated stagecoach rides and closeups of the outlying historical buildings.

Guess there’s always a next time!

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