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What Happened at the OK Corral?//

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 O.K. Corral Shooting – Tombstone Arizona (Western Song)


On Oct. 26, 1881, four men met at the corner of Fifth and Allen Streets in the bustling silver mining town of Tombstone, Arizona. They walked north on Fifth, turned left on Fremont Street and headed toward a vacant lot next to the OK Corral.

Minutes later, three men would be dead, and the four men who had walked to the corral and killed them – Tombstone marshal Virgil Earp, his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and Wyatt’s friendDoc Holliday – had unknowingly secured their places in history.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral is arguably the single most famous incident in the Old West. But what was it about? And why has it, above all the many other gunfights that took place in the era of frontier justice, achieved such infamy?

To understand the gunfight, you have to first understand the town. Tombstone in 1881 was a thriving, bustling silver mining community.

“There’s a huge misconception about Tombstone in the 1880s: that it was a violent, dangerous place,” says local author and historian Don Taylor. “It was extremely sophisticated and massively wealthy. Thirty-seven million dollars in 1880s dollars of silver was mined here; that’s $8.25 billion today. They had everything.

“They had fresh seafood every day. They would catch it in Baja California; pack it in barrels of salt, ice and seaweed at dusk; freight it by train to Benson or Contention City, immediately pack it on to wagons and bring it here by dawn every day. It was a very opulent town. But again, people don’t understand – especially if they come today – Tombstone was open 24 hours a day.

The miners worked rotating 10 hour shifts; everything had to be open when they got off, including banks. They were also pumping 2.5 million gallons of water out of the mines every day to keep them dry; so you had all the mining activity, all the milling activity, all the water rushing down Toughnut Street, and the town open 24 hours a day. It must have been noisy as hell.”

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As the mines thrived, so did all manner of supporting businesses: banks, bars, restaurants, hotels – and prostitutes, many of whom worked out of small ‘cribs’ that lined Sixth Street. The riches to be, had attracted plenty of would-be entrepreneurs — among them Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, James and Warren Earp, and Doc Holliday.

Both Virgil and Wyatt had been lawmen; Virgil had recently been appointed deputy marshal for the part of the Arizona Territory that included Tombstone, and although some record-keeping at the time was poor, it is possible that Wyatt may have been a deputy marshal as well.

Certainly, it appears as if all the brothers were anxious to join the list of those profiting from Tombstone’s booming business: they invested in one of the mines, James tended bar, Wyatt rode as a stagecoach guard and dealt faro – the popular card game of the time – in a local saloon.

But Tombstone’s growth and growing sophistication grated with one segment of society: the ‘cowboys’, a loose confederation of ranchers and cattle rustlers. The cowboys – who were predominantly rural, southern Confederates – eyed the primarily Yankee mercantile class that was dominating Tombstone, and which the Earps typified, with suspicion. And the feeling was mutual.

It didn’t take long after the Earps’ arrival in late 1879 for tensions between them and the cowboys to develop, particularly with Virgil and Wyatt spending time in law enforcement positions. That tension reached boiling point when Wyatt helped in the identification and arrest of some cowboy members in a pair of stagecoach robberies, and the cowboys in turn asserted that Wyatt and Holliday had in fact been the ones responsible for the holdups.

BIG PIC: Rare Billy the Kid Photo to go on Auction

On the night of Oct. 25, 1881, one of the cowboy leaders, Ike Clanton, got into a heated, drunken argument with Holliday, and the next morning he wandered drunkenly up and down Allen Street, threatening to kill him and the Earps. A series of confrontations steadily escalated until Virgil was informed that a group of armed cowboys had gathered outside Fly’s Boarding House – where Holliday was living – in a vacant lot close to the OK Corral.

Carrying guns inside city limits was a violation of a town ordinance, and it provided Virgil, who was now town marshal, with an opportunity to arrest the cowboys. But there may also have been other considerations at play.

As the self-identified Dr. Jay, who leads historical tours of Tombstone, explains: “Ike Clanton had openly threatened to kill the Earps. And why are they in that alley? Because it’s right outside Fly’s Boarding House. So if you’re Doc Holliday, you show up and here’s a bunch of guys with guns outside your house. You might want to think about, ‘Are they going to get me tomorrow if I don’t get them today?’”

Virgil deputized his brothers and Holliday and they set off for the vacant lot.

“Throw up your hands,” shouted Virgil as they reached the alleyway’s entrance. “I mean to disarm you.”

There was a pause, and the click-click of a gun – or guns – being cocked.

“Hold on, I don’t want that!” shouted Virgil, but it was too late.

There were two shots fired simultaneously – it is uncertain by whom – and then, as Wyatt later testified, “the fight then became general.”

Ironically, Ike Clanton, who had instigated the confrontation, fled the scene, grabbing Wyatt and screaming that he was unarmed.

“The fight has commenced,” snarled Earp. “Get to fighting or get away.” Clanton promptly took off, as did another cowboy, Billy Claiborne.

Within seconds, two of the cowboys – Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton – lay mortally wounded, Virgil Earp had been shot in the calf, and Morgan Earp shot through the shoulder blades. A third cowboy, Frank McLaury, shot in the stomach, staggered into Fremont Street and leveled his gun at Holliday.

“I’ve got you now,” he said, mistakenly believing Holliday was out of ammo.

“Blaze away,” taunted Holliday. “You’re a daisy if you do.”

At that point both Holliday and Morgan Earp fired almost simultaneously; bullets from one or both of their guns struck McLaury in the head, killing him.

The entire gunfight lasted approximately 30 seconds.

The following day, the headline in the ‘Tombstone Epitaph’ newspaper read, “Three Men Hurled into Eternity in the Duration of a Moment.” The cowboys’ supporters insisted their men had been killed in cold blood. The Earps and Holliday stood trial for murder,but were cleared.

A hundred and thirty years later, the gunfight has been the focus of numerous motion pictures, and a part of many more – and was even pivotal to an episode in the original series of Star Trek. So we ask again: why has the slaying of three men on a misdemeanor firearms violation endured through history?

Don Taylor offers one explanation.

“In January 1881, (Tombstone mayor) John Clum joined the brand new Associated Press,” he explains. “So everything he wrote went to San Francisco, Chicago, New York. Everybody knew what was going on here.”

There was also, explains Tim Fattig, who works as a tourist guide at the OK Corral and has written a voluminous biography of Wyatt Earp, another factor: the fact that the gunfight did not mark the end of the Earp-cowboy feud.

On Dec. 28, 1881, Virgil Earp survived an assassination attempt, but lost the use of his left arm. The following March, Morgan was gunned down and killed while playing billiards.

In revenge, Wyatt, Warren Earp, Holliday and others set out on a “vendetta ride” for justice, in which they killed at least three cowboys, including the faction’s de facto leader, Curly Bill Brocius.

“It was the vendetta ride that truly elevated the gunfight in public perception,” Fattig says. “The idea of a brother gaining revenge for one brother’s murder and another being wounded is compelling.”

That’s one reason why Wyatt Earp dominates the history books and the mythology at his brothers’ expense: he was the one who led the ride for vengeance. There is also another reason: In 1931, two years after Earp’s death, author Stuart Lake published Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, a hagiographic account he had produced with Earp’s collaboration. After that came the movies – My Darling Clementine, Gunfight at the OK Corral and more – and the TV series, including The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp.

Wyatt is lionized above the others, in other words, because he outlived them all, and got to tell his story. The rest, as they say, is history.

Top Photograph: The purported grave site of the men who were killed in the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Middle: A display at the site of the gunfight shows how close the combatants were to each other when the fight commenced. Bottom: A tourist poses with reenactors playing the roles of Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers in modern-day Tombstone. Photos by Kieran Mulvaney

HIWAY AMERICA ROUTE 66 The Oatman Burros Oatman Arizona

HIWAY AMERICA ROUTE 66 The Oatman Burros Oatman Arizona

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The Oatman Burros
Should you decide to take a leisurely drive along Historic Route 66 and down through Oatman, don’t be surprised if your journey comes to a sudden halt thanks to some stubborn jackass in the middle of the road. The town is full of them.

I’m not talking about the people, of course. I’m talking about burros. And they’re the reason most visitors stop in Oatman to begin with, whether they’re blocking the way or not. Sure, Oatman’s got a gold-mine tour, Wild West shootouts and an annual egg-frying contest, but it’s the braying beasts of burden everybody comes to see. Come to think of it, it’s probably the only vacation spot tourists flock to in order to be surrounded by asses entirely on purpose.

The burros, though they’ve gotten quite comfortable among humans, are actually wild. It’s estimated there are about 600 feral burros meandering between Kingman and Lake Havasu City, and about a dozen of them enter Oatman on a daily basis. They come down from the Black Mountains of their own accord and invade the town as though commuting to work. When the shops begin to close and the tourists start to leave, they head back out again.

They’re direct descendants of pack animals that were once used in local mining operations. When the federal government shut the mines down in the 1940s in response to the war effort, workers simply let the burros go. They never really left, though, and due to their obstinate charm, Oatman has survived becoming a ghost town, though just barely. As a nearby sign admits, “If it were not for these burros, in all probability, neither you nor this plaque would be standing here today.”

These days, the burros willfully amble among Oatman’s small collection of storefronts, planting themselves along the shoulders and walkways. They persistently beg for handouts, which come in the form of carrots sold in many of the town’s shops. The animals aren’t subtle about it, either. They head-butt their way into car windows and wander directly into the shops to get what they’re looking for. Tourists who neglect to have treats on hand are sometimes chased down the street. Those with an ample supply quickly find themselves outnumbered and drowning in donkey slobber.

Oatman insists the burros are friendly, but still advise visitors to beware. The more zealous of the bunch have been known to mistake fingers for carrot sticks. Kicking isn’t unheard of, either. In fact, the locals recommend you leave the pets at home, as some of the pack tend to see dogs as furry soccer balls.

Donkeys Rule in Oatman
There is a little town northeast of Bullhead City, Arizona called Oatman. It’s on old Route 66. The road is narrow, twisty, and pot-holed. The town is an old gold and silver mining town with lots of character and weird history. Many donkeys roam the streets and they have the right of way. These donkeys are descendants of the pack donkeys the old miners brought to the area. I’m sure that this place is rife with weird stories. —Ken Karnes




Mojave Desert

“A land of lost rivers, with little in it to love; yet a land that once visited  must be come back to inevitably. If it were not so there would be little told of it.” ~ Mary Austin, Land of Little Rain


Barstow, California

Mojave Desert Once a small mining center and railroad town in California’s Mojave Desert, Barstow is located at the junction of 3 major highways — Interstate 15, Interstate 40 and State Highway 58. It is centrally located in the western Mojave at the entrance to the Mojave National Preserve and is home of the U.S. Army National Training Center, Marine Corps Logistics Base, NASA’s Goldstone  Deep Space Network and Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad Yards.

Population / Elevation

21,500 / 2,106 feet above sea level

Bishop through Barstow to Prescott

February 28, 2013


Photos from Laws, California, near Bishop — those snowy things are the Sierras. That’s where we started Wednesday morning. We checked out the railroad museum in Laws, Laws being a hamlet of about 15 houses a few miles down the road from Bishop.


In the desert where Laws sits, I tried to get my painter’s eye around the desert while Jer had his camera to do the work.


We then drove not all that far to Barstow, a town about which I know almost nothing except that the Best Western is near a traffic island (unapproachable on foot) and a train that reminds me, almost pleasantly, of my youth along the Pennsy railroad.

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Photos from Laws, California, near Bishop — those snowy things are the Sierras. That’s where we started Wednesday morning. We checked out the railroad museum in Laws, Laws being a hamlet of about 15 houses a few miles down the road from Bishop.

In the desert where Laws sits, I tried to get my painter’s eye around the desert while Jer had his camera to do the work.


We then drove not all that far to Barstow, a town about which I know almost nothing except that the Best Western is near a traffic island (unapproachable on foot) and a train that reminds me, almost pleasantly, of my youth along the Pennsy railroad.

Seligman~ Route 66 Town

Arizona Route 66

Seligman, Arizona is a    Route 66 town all the way. This delightful town retains all the flavor of the old road. A    trip down Route 66 in Seligman is a trip back in time to the days when Route 66 was the    Main Street of America. Founded in 1895 after the completion of the “Peavine”    Railroad (see Ash Fork) the railroad camp known as Prescott Junction officially became    Seligman and was an important railroad stop along the line. Seligman embraced Route 66    wholeheartedly upon its arrival in the late 1920’s. The railroad and tourist traffic    from Route 66 became Seligman’s main source of economic security. In the late 1970′s    Seligman was bypassed by the Interstate and the Santa Fe Railroad ceased its operations in    the town in 1985. Many old towns with similar histories would have faded away once they    were bypassed, but not Seligman.




The Roadkill Cafe

Roadkill Café “You Kill It, We Grill It Open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Serving Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner   502 W. Hwy. 66  Seligman, AZ 86337 (928) 422-3554

Deer Delectables, Bad-Brake Steak, Fender Tenders, Caddie Grilled Patty
As you can probably tell from the name the Roadkill Café is a dining adventure.
The Roadkill is famous for its charbroiled burgers. What can we say, it’s well known that our burgers, steaks and ribs are the best to be found along Route 66.
But, seriously, our menu caters to those looking for a hearty meal to a light salad from our “all you can eat” salad bar.
We are proud to feature something for everyone.
Where else can you have as much fun ordering your meal as you can eating it?
Splatter Platter – Swirl of Squirrel – Big Bagged Stag – Highway Hash
Offering Daily Specials!

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…and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads, 66 is the mother road, the road of flight.
– John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath

Zane Grey
Few individuals have been more responsible for the American image of the old west than Zane Grey. An Ohio native, Grey was a skilled baseball player and went to the University of Pennsylvania on a scholarship for the sport. There he studied dentistry and eventually started a practice in New York. But it wasn’t long before he abandoned his trade and took up writing.

Over the course of 40 years, Grey wrote some 90 books. While he eventually made his home in Southern California, Grey traveled often through Flagstaff and kept a cabin near Payson that overlooked the Mogollon Rim, where he stayed several weeks out of the year. Grey traveled most of the year and returned home to pursue writing.

His stories focused on the conquest of the old west and the idea of manifest destiny. Grey, who wrote during the early 20th century, was criticized by some for romanticizing the west by creating unrealistic and larger than life characters. Yet after his early best-seller, “Riders of the Purple Sage,” Grey became a household name and his novels would cast the western genre.



1) The planet Pluto (or not-planet… whatever floats your boat) was discovered at Lowell Observatory by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Many locals (me included) still call Pluto a planet because hey, we were proud of it. But that’s besides the point.
2) It’s 6,910ft above sea level, making it the 20th highest altitude city in the USA.
3) The city’s name, Flagstaff, comes from the wooden staff that the founders planted to claim the land, and which is still planted on top of our city hall. If you look up to the top of the building, you can see the pole is in fact a wooden staff.
4) Probably the coolest city ever. The locals are culturally diverse, accepting, easy-going, helpful, tree-hugging, pot-smoking, shoeless, unwashed hippies, as well as college students, retired couples, health/fitness freaks, yoga people, artists, dancers, musicians, jocks, cheerleaders, braniacs, hikers, spirit guides, sk8ters, emos, goths, and generally cheerful people.

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Flagstaff (Navajo: Kinłání Dookʼoʼoosłííd Biyaagi, Havasupai: Wii Hagnbaj or Wii Baggwa[4]) is a city located in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2012, the city’s estimated population was 67,468. The combined metropolitan area of Flagstaff has a population 114,568.[3] It is the county seat of Coconino County.[5] The city is named after a Ponderosa Pine flagpole made by a scouting party from Boston (known as the “Second Boston Party”) to celebrate the United States Centennial on July 4, 1876.[6]

Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the continental United States.[7] Flagstaff is located adjacent to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is located about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness.

Flagstaff’s early economy was based on the lumber, railroad, and ranching industries. Today, the city remains an important distribution hub for companies such as Nestlé Purina PetCare and Walgreens, and is home to Lowell Observatory, The U.S. Naval Observatory, the United States Geological Survey Flagstaff Station, and Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff has a strong tourism sector, due to its proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, Oak Creek Canyon, the Arizona Snowbowl, Meteor Crater, and historic Route 66. The city is also a center for medical device manufacturing, since Flagstaff is home to W. L. Gore and Associates.