Tumultuous Tombstone

Pony up for a historical learning adventure

By J. Adam Burch and Stacey Lane

The trees were like skeletons and it was cold when the signs came into view. The history  said it was haunted. Modern television shows and movies kids shouldn’t watch before bedtime have been made about this place. But, anyone can read about what happened in 1887, the same year Rutherford Hayes succeeds Ulysses S. Grant as president, Thomas Edison invents the phonograph, and an Arizona blacksmith becomes the first recorded kill of Billy the Kid, his demise coeval with that of an equally lesser-known prospector, Ed Schieffelin.

“The only rock you will find is your tombstone,” Ed was told when he went looking for rocks. The silver mine claim that he staked became more than a metaphor and more than a town; it became a monument. Today the signs proclaim the birthplace of a hellish town where so many were marked for death. The signs lead you past the grave markers and onto dusty dirt roads presently bordered by wooded sidewalks and shops where a gunfight might erupt at any moment. Ultimately, the signs lead to the bloody history of Tombstone, Arizona.

Seventy-three miles south of Tucson lies the tombstone monument enclosing Schieffelin’s footstep path from the Tombstone Monument Ranch. The Ranch is surrounded by open country and a stunning view of the rugged Dragoon Mountains.  Chief Cochise and the Chiricahua Apaches used the vertical labyrinths of the Dragoons when fleeing the US. Army more than a century ago.  The Ranch was built as an 1880s Main Street with dirt roads and whispering open land.  Views up and down the main thoroughfare provide the visitor the impression of having had traveled back in time to a town too tough to die.

The story goes that Schieffelin requested to be buried in Tombstone dressed as a prospector with his pick and canteen.   I took this step back in time with my granddaughter, Layla. Once we arrived, we were escorted to our suite, one with all the modern amenities. The next morning, we strolled the boardwalk and passed the post office, the newspaper office, the mining office, the blacksmith’s workshop and Miss Kitty’s bordello, all exhibiting an authentic turn-of-the-century look.  The room settings at the Ranch are facsimiles of the storefronts found in the town of Tombstone. They provide easy access to the lodge, pool, hot tub and horse corral.



Dudes come from all over to enjoy horseback riding, hiking, shooting, archery and evening entertainment. Three hearty meals are served every day, and mealtime is signaled by a traditional dinner bell. Experienced riders especially love all the riding options that the Ranch offers.  A day at the ranch may include a cowboy breakfast at the Chuck Wagon, followed by an early morning trail ride or late morning fast ride for the experienced rider.   For anyone who ever wanted to learn to shoot old style guns, lessons are available to boot.  “I am happy about the fun trails and nice staff here,” raved guest Mikey Anderson with a smile.

Discover a hidden talent when learning how to swing a lasso and rope a steer.  Other activities at the Ranch include a Dragoon Mountain Trip hosted by Charlie One Horse, how-to “Shoot like a Native” archery lessons using a 22 lb. standard bow, or the Chiricahua Mountain guided tour with Arizona Bill.

As the evening unfolds and the stars light up the night Wyatt Earp teaches a 5 card draw as live music plays in the Trappmann Saloon.  The same staff members who were serving breakfast in the morning are later to be seen saddling up horses for a trail ride in the afternoon. Layla learned all about horses and rode Blue Eyes during her stay.

Miss Layla learned to mount, dismount, steer and control the 16-year-old Maine paint, Blue Eyes, from the Head Wrangler, Mike Evans, himself. Mike is fond of his position here. A retired police chief from North Carolina, Evans first came to the Tombstone Monument Ranch quite a few moons ago. “I raised horses and have a passion for them. I recommend that, if you love horses, to just stick with it,” advised Evans as Layla dismounted her horse. “I think it is important that our staff be crossed-trained, as it also serves as a safety feature for the Ranch,” he added.

The enchanted excitement continues in the town of Tombstone as you wrangle up to see a shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, the tombstones at Boothill, savored a burger at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon and anteed up for the admission to the Bird Cage Theatre.

A Historical American Landmark, the Tombstone Monument Ranch is an ideal destination for anyone hankering to experience, learn, and explore the Western heritage circa 1880.

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