Yesterday morning, after coffee and a bit of getting the day started Chuck and I decided to drive to Tombstone Arizona. We got the idea after a fun and informative conversation Sunday afternoon with my wonderful and creative friend Scott Taft who has agreed to do the cover art for my book. We were talking about what I was visualizing and what he imagined after reading some of the story. Chuck also had a really good idea for it and once a date was set for the photo shoot I got very excited to do my part of the prep.
The point of going to Tombstone was to find some props for the shoot, and get a feel for the time period of the book-1886. I’ve lived most of my life in Tucson and have been to Tombstone a lot, starting in the 1960’s. On this last visit I realized how it is changing. In my memories Tombstone is a dusty old town, with old buildings full of the old west spirit and characters who seemed to come right out of history.
The Tombstone I saw yesterday was spiffed up, cleaned up, painted and very touristy. They have even made a place called “Old Tombstone Western Town” on the outskirts to the south. Bizarre. The outside of “The Bird Cage Theater” was painted freaking pink! I never, ever remember that place being pink. It was a faded white-washed adobe building, a bit crumbly but maintained it’s essence. The inside still held onto the old stuff. The ghosts of the ladies and the gamblers moved there. The host, dressed in appropriate attire found an old whiskey bottle for me to photograph. It was authentic to the period, blown glass and had a beautiful amber color. Most of the bottles of the day didn’t have labels, instead they were etched or embossed with the makers name and what it contained.
I went across the street to “T. Miller’s Tombstone Mercantile & Hotel” to look around and found two books with some helpful material and a beautiful black Victorian cravat! Woo hoo, one prop down. The woman who worked there, CC, was so helpful in directing me to some places to look for my other items so here is a shout out to her.
We stopped in at “Big Nose Kate’s” for lunch and to get strategic on what was next. Down a tiny metal spiral staircase was “The Shaft” and there is supposed to be the ghost of “The Swamper”. I left Chuck to wait for our food and went down there and looked into the gated off area where he is supposed to be. It was where he lived while he worked there in the Hotel that was originally there. I asked the woman working the gift shop if she had seen him come out of there. She laughed and said, “I haven’t seen him come out,” then smiled. Hmmm, so maybe she’s seen him go in? I left it there, we finished our lunch and moved on.
We stopped at an amazing place called “The Killer Bee Guy” and discovered the most amazing honey and honey blends ever. We sampled and bought some really good stuff, because Chuck is a real big time honey eater. If you ever get to Tombstone go to this shop on 5th and Toughnut. We found it by accident when I was looking for the location of the “Russ House” which I mention in my book. Buildings and history are perfect bedfellows and to know this place was part the culture and touched by the people of Tombstone gives it history energy.
Nellie Cashman, the owner at the time my story is set, knew the Earps-she was there when the OK Corral went down. She walked the floors of this building, served food and helped many people who were in need. She was called “The Irish Angel of Mercy.”
We walked to our car to drop off our honey purchase and just before we walked back Chuck pointed to a Land Rover next to us. It’s plates were from the UK, it was covered in stickers and it had a blogger named on the side. I looked it up and am now following her blog. She is a traveler.So here’s a shout out to janetdowle.wordpress.com who was in Tombstone when I was. A very cool co-incidence.
We wandered into “Russell’s Roadrunner” and after much searching and a very helpful Cheryl Honeycutt, we found a perfect replica 1880’s gambler’s hat for the shoot. Boom, that’s two props!! Chuck spied the smoke shop across the street so it didn’t take long for him to find a cigar. Walking slowly back toward our vehicle we said a see ya later to this town. I hope they don’t do too much more fixing up. Leave some of the ghosts of the past to wander through whats left of the old adobe of 1870.
As we drove home I looked over to the west toward the Huachuca Mountains, looking across the landscape where my fictional people live. The light was soft, there were storm clouds with scattered rain and winds blowing up dust swirls. I know these characters well and as we rode on I spoke of them as real people who experienced life in such a place.