Walking in the Footsteps of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Some Biosphereans

15 Oct

Necole and I just returned from Tucson, Arizona and the conference of the Western History Association. The conference was informative and will be covered in the next post. This post is about the touristy things that we did while there. Obviously, there are lots of places to see, but our time was limited. Necole had never spent much time in that part of the country, and I wanted to make sure she saw some good stuff. With that in mind, I picked one place that neither one of us had ever seen and another place that I have visited several times. In fact, it’s one of my favorites.

North of Tucson sits a giant scientific experiment called Biosphere 2, which was recently named one of the 50 Wonders of the World. In the 1980s, it was built by a private firm for $150 million as a way to study the environment in a controlled setting. For two years, eight Biosphereans were sealed in the facility to live and study their surroundings. After our tour, I am still not sure what they were trying to accomplish, but they came out alive. More people probably remember Pauly Shore wrecking the place in Bio-Dome than they do the actual experiment.

I have always wanted to see Biosphere 2 and thought it would be something good for us to both see for the first time. We had to walk through a little village that is supposed to be the model for a perfect community. I have no idea why people keep trying to create one of these. People aren’t perfect, and, therefore, communities will never be perfect.

Then, we saw it.Arizona 2013 001

Before we went in, I was afraid that we might run into a Sandman. The crystal in my palm has already turned black, and there was no way I was going to Carousel. My options started to run through my mind. I could look for Farrah Fawcett at the plastic surgeon, or I could run. It turns out that I didn’t have anything to worry about. Instead of a Sandman, we found a tour guide.

He took us through a building with miniaturized versions of different environments. There was a rainforest. There was an ocean. There was a swamp. There was a desert.Arizona 2013 004

After touring the upper world of Biosphere 2, we went into the underworld and saw the guts of the place. Then, we sat the dining table in the living quarters of the Biosphereans. It was a nice place, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

It was at some point toward the end of the tour when a German tourist asked about the power source for the structure. The tour guide said that it ran on 2% solar power. Necole said what I was thinking. How can an experiment design to study the environment run on 2% solar power? Shouldn’t they be more environmentally friendly than that? As Necole said, it made the entire thing seem hokey.

The next day, I took Necole to one of my favorite places, Tombstone, Arizona. Known for the Gunfight at the OK Corral, this town has been immortalized in movies, books and television. It’s a good thing because without a gunfight that lasted a few seconds “The Town Too Tough To Die” would be dead. The old mining camp lives off tourist who want to walk in the footsteps of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. I won’t destroy anyone’s opinion of those guys in this post. Instead, I may do it in the next one.

My parents took me to Tombstone when I was a kid, and I have been back several times since. I wanted Necole to see one of the places that made me want to study and teach the history of the West. To do that, we needed to step into the streets of a famous mining camp.Arizona 2013 007

Our first stop, like everyone else, was at the site of the gunfight. Of course, you have to go through a souvenir shop before they will let you in the corral. In truth, that’s not where the gunfight took place. We walked through the corral to a backlot where the action took place. Now, there are cheap animatronic figures representing the combatants. As the narrator describes the fight, they move. However, they don’t fall down when they are shot.Arizona 2013 008

After watching the fake gunfight, which I had explained to Necole before the narrator ever began, we walked down the street. Necole wanted to stop in a jewelry store, and it turned out to be a good thing. That was the place where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday stopped to buy cigars before going toward the corral. Movies make it look like they walked a long way. It was just a block away.

Then, it was on to the highlight of any visit to Tombstone, a meeting with Ben Traywick. We entered his bookstore to find him behind his desk. I introduced myself and introduced him to Necole. Mr. Traywick is the Tombstone historian. He also happens to be from Watertown, a little town in our county where my dad grew up. For the next hour, he told us how he got to Tombstone; talked about the actors who have visited him; talked about people back home; and showed all of the books he had written. I bought too many of them. Mr. Traywick is an interesting person who has lived an interesting life. I wish more people knew to stop in and see him.

We went further down the street to the Birdcage Theater, perhaps the most famous saloon in the West. It served as a theater, a gambling hall, a bar and a brothel. In fact, prostitutes plied their trade in the theater boxes that overlooked the main floor. The boxes looked like birdcages.Arizona 2013 009

If you see anything weird in this picture let me know. The Birdcage is supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the country.

After the Birdcage, we did like Doc and Wyatt and went to a bar for a drink. I was tempted to order a shot of redeye. Instead, I got a Jack and Coke.

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8 Responses to “Walking in the Footsteps of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Some Biosphereans”

  1. Manu Kurup October 15, 2013 at 03:11 #

    I remember watching it in films like Tombstone (Kurt Russell) and Wyat Earp (Kevin Costner). Your post is giving off the same feeling. 🙂

    • Rick October 15, 2013 at 03:51 #

      It’s a great story to turn into a movie. Unfortunately, a movie can’t tell it all.

      • Manu Kurup October 15, 2013 at 04:09 #

        Yeah, both movies dealt with the same incidents except that Wyatt Earp showed even more of the character’s early life. 🙂

  2. El Guapo October 15, 2013 at 15:59 #

    I have mixed feelings about tourist traps like that.
    On teh one hand, it’s good to keep the history alive (if it’s accurate), but on the other, well…tourists.

    • Rick October 15, 2013 at 16:58 #

      I understand. However, it’s difficult to keep up a historic site without someone paying to see it. That’s especially true if the site is owned by an individual or a nonprofit.

  3. shutterbugshea January 9, 2014 at 00:43 #

    The O.K. Corral used to have human reinactors! I haven’t been there in a while..sad to be replaced by robots…I really loved the largest Rose garden…Is it still there …did you notice?
    I enjoyed your post…I must revisit .
    Thsnk you :-).

    • Rick January 9, 2014 at 01:41 #

      Thanks. They still have the role players and the gunfight. I have seen the rose bush but not on this trip. I like Boot Hill a lot, too.

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