The dry wind kicks up puffs of dust while I shade my eyes against the glare of the sun. Jeff places his arm around me and we pose as my daughter, Stephanie, takes a picture. Then we change places so I can take a picture of her and her husband, Todd. I take several steps backward, trying to get as many grave markers in the background as I can.
So many are laid to rest here at the legendary Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona. Ah, Arizona, known in days of yore for Old West legends of which books are written and movies made.
I smile, wondering if people realize that Tombstone is a real town that still exists today. The locals capitalize on the legends by re-enacting scenes from a bygone era. It’s a tourist town now, rich with history. Earlier we stood by the OK Corral, best known for the Gunfight at OK Corral involving Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and Wyatt’s brothers, Virgil and Morgan, who confronted the Clantons, a band of suspected cattle rustlers.
Disappointment seeps through me. This is it, I think, this patch of ground with a rail fence? It’s hard to think that the blood of men soaked into soil that has long since blown away in dry desert winds. I close my eyes and try to imagine what it was like to live back then, although I’m glad I didn’t.
Now we’re walking the rows of graves at Boothill. Some grave markers have names, dates and simply say stabbed, hanged, murdered, poisoned, drowned, shot, killed, suicide, pneumonia, or some other one word epitaph. Some markers go into great detail.
Chas. Helm. Shot 1882. Shot by Wm. McCauley. Two hot-tempered ranchers who disagreed over the best way to drive cattle, fast or slow.
James Hickey. 1881, shot by Wm Clayborne. He was shot in the left temple by Clayborne for his over-insistence that they drink together.
Margarita. Stabbed by Gold Dollar. Two dance hall girls quarreling over a man, and Gold Dollar won.
J.D. McDermott. Killed, 1882. His spinal column was fractured when his horse fell with him while crossing the San Pedro River.
John Martin. Killed, 1882. He was killed while working on the Huachuca water line. A tested pipe was unplugged and a blast of water hurled a jack against his chest. He was a native of England.
Freddie Fuss. 1882. A small boy who died from drinking stagnant or poison mine water.
John Gibson. 1881. Gibson, a driver for Nadeau’s ore teams, fell from a wagon and his skull was crushed when a wheel of the heavy wagon ran over his head.
M.E. Kellogg. 1882. Died a natural death.
Geo. Johnson. Hanged by mistake. Johnson innocently bought a stolen horse and suffered the consequences. “Here lies George Johnson, Hanged by mistake, 1882. He was right, we was wrong, but we strung him up and now he’s gone.”
Alfred Packrel. 1882. English. He was a young miner, aged 24, who died from inflammation of the bowels.
Kansas Kid. A cowboy killed in a stampede.
Thos. Fitzhugh. 1882. He was found dead one morning in the water closet back of Mrs. King’s lodging house on Toughnut Street, where he roomed.
3-Fingered Jack Dunlap. Shot by Jeff Milton. Dunlap, one of a band of train robbers, attempted to rob an express car which Milton guarded. He was critically wounded and his friends left him to die. He was found and brought to Tombstone, where he lived long enough to inform on his friends.
Killeen. Shot by Frank Leslie, 1880. Results of a disagreement over Killeen’s wife. Leslie married the widow.
John Wickstrum. 1882. A Swede who was killed when a well he was digging caved in.
Johnnie Blair. Died of smallpox and a cowboy threw a rope over his feet and dragged him to his grave.
Hancock. Shot, 1879. Shot by John Ringo when he made a disparaging remark about some women.
Johnnie Wilson. Shot by King. Two gunmen’s discussion of the fastest way to draw ended here.
Two Chinese. Died of leprosy.
I stand gazing at the rows of markers. So many graves, so many lives, too many to mention. “It always says Hanged, not Hung,” I mumble.
“Huh?” my husband responds.
“Oh, nothing,” I say with a shrug, wondering what people will say about me when I’m gone. People laid to rest, their lives summed up in one word, or a short phrase. Thank God there’s more to life than that.
**Grave marker information provided by the City of Tombstone, Arizona, Boothill Graveyard.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.