Tombstone’s Boot Hill

One of the few precious childhood memories I have is of wearing a holster with two 6 shooters, a black suede, fringed vest sporting a most beloved sheriff badge, a pair of black cowboy boots and my head topped with a beautifully embroidered black cowboy hat. Now back then, as is still now the case, I tried never to take sides when the choice between good and evil was blurred. Even as a small child of 5… I alternated back and forth between my cowboy getup and my giant colorful Chieftain headdress with feathers that ran all the way down my back, accompanied by my war drum and bow and arrows. I do have to admit, I always wore the vest with that badge, regardless of the rest of the ensemble. Kinda Switzerland even then.

This past week we were lucky enough to go back in time (if you will) to the land of Cowboys and Indians. Crossing plains that Geronimo, Cochise and Sitting Bull rode over and visiting towns that Billy the Kid and Bat Masterson gambled in…well that’s just plain old cool stuff to someone who loves history. Along the way there were characters who take this stuff mighty serious and have tried their darn best to preserve what’s left for people like you and me to enjoy. I saw things that saddened me, some that plain angered me and things that absolutely enchanted me. I’ll do my best to share them with you…a little at a time.

Upon arriving in Tombstone, the first destination was Boot Hill. Now, if you don’t know what Boot Hill is (or was) it’s a place of rest for some of the most notorious gunslingers and even some innocents that died in childbirth, or of cholera…or even hung without cause… all in one large graveyard. Many old western grave-sites are referred to as “Boot Hill” but to me… there’s always been only one. Now I’m here to say that sadly Boot Hill was left for many years to decay, and in it’s forlorn state, some well meaning folks resurrected these old grave-sites and now everything is completely new. I asked an old Cowboy caretaker inside, with as much patience as I could muster…”Why?”. He told me with equal patience (for a City slicker) that the graves were destroyed, lost forever and had to be researched and rebuilt. He had no idea I currently have 5 of my Father’s vintage rifles in my closet and I take History quite serious. I think in the end we came to understand each other and each loved this place in our own way. He passed me a little map and we followed it on the trail to all those laid in infamy.

As we walked, I could not help being angry. Why would people let something so important to this country’s roots…disappear? Why is there so much money spent on things like researching who used steroids in Baseball (when they weren’t even illegal and who bloody cares anyway?) or analyzing trendy colors and names for the next generation of cell phones…but no one see the significance in holding on to something so precious? Why leave history keeping in the hands of folks with barely enough funds to live on, let alone try to finance the restoration of the most famous American Western Grave Site in the US? WHY? That’s a question someone in power needs to answer to to our Children, our Grandchildren and those beyond. Me, I’d just do the obvious. I’d make sure they had the cash to restore it properly.

I have no photos to share of Boot Hill. Nothing to give you an idea of where Gunslingers like Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury and Billy Claiborn were laid to rest after dying in the most famous gun battle in American Western History. I left without taking a single one. I have only some words and the memory of yellow crosses made of simple wood and piles of rocks, tenderly laid by well meaning folks… paying a simple man’s homage to the bones that lie beneath.

AS YOU-PASS-BY
REMEMBER-THAT-AS
YOU ARE

SO-ONCE-WAS -I
AND-AS-I AM-

YOU SOON-WILL-BE
REMEMBER-ME

2 Responses to “Tombstone’s Boot Hill”

  1. I can’t imagine how they would expect one to think that a brand new head stone would be better than the original. That is what makes it Historic, the fact that it is in the original state. I could stand a few splinters for the sake of the Old west and the likes of the many that fell to the gun and the fever.

  2. Ah, a sad situation. Lost history. My cowgirl outfit was also one of my favorites when I was growing up. Well, at least well-meaning people are making effort to restore. Writers and photographers can make a difference. It’s why I appreciate old photographs and memoirs so much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: