Any kid who grew up in the San Jose area in the 60’s and 70’s remembers Frontier Village. The Old West shoot ‘em up town where you could be a cowboy for a day.
I remember Frontier Village well. I caught my first trout with a cane pole at a pond just outside the village. There was a haunted mine ride my brother was absolutely terrified of and a few other western themed attractions. Our eighth grade middle school graduation party was a “too cool for school” boot kickin’ wanna be cowboy hoedown every boy looked forward to. As a 13-year-old, anything to impress the girls. But the main attraction to Frontier Village and what impressed me most was the three times a day shootout on Main Street.
Frontier Village is long gone, developers came into town with their big guns and wallets and put up a parking lot right there on dusty old Main Street.
Well, last week I got to relive my boyhood cowboy fantasy at the holy grail of shoot ‘em ups~the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
Sometimes tourist tacky is okay. We found that out here in the Town Too Tough To Die. I’m guessing most of the tourists here just love watching men shoot each other. I was here for the melodrama and history lesson. A lesson I’ve only seen in movies.
This is what I learned:
After silver was discovered nearby in 1877, Tombstone quickly grew into one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest. Wyatt Earp, a former police officer working as a bank security guard, and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, represented “law and order” in Tombstone. The Earp brothers also had reputations as being ruthless, power-hungry vigilantes. Their rivals, the Clantons and McLaurys were cowboys who lived on a ranch outside of town and made trouble as alleged cattle rustlers, thieves, and murderers. In October 1881, the rift between these two “gangs” for control of Tombstone ended in a blaze of gunfire at the O.K. Corral. Three dead.
After the smoke cleared and dust settled, the audience applauded the still standing “good guys” gang. Although slightly wounded, the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday walked away. Then after the dead cowboys got up and walked away, most of the spectators walked away. Some stuck around to get a photo with the actors (Dead or Alive). Me, I didn’t want to choose sides so I exited through the gift shop and bought a few postcards.
Walked up Main Street passing up the sheriff badges sold at every souvenir shop, nodded to a couple Old West dudes, waved to the stage coach, and claimed my FREE copy of the Tombstone Epitaph at the printing press building.
This four page news document wasn’t nearly as exciting as the live shootout but it relates the real testimony of the survivors and witnesses. The Verdict: the good guys were exonerated, the bad guys dead.
Welcome to the Wild, Wild, West.
The Frontier Village of Tombstone, AT