I didn’t think I was going to have such a good time!
I was expecting to experience a certain amount of boredom, because I’m not really interested in Tombstone lore, especially compared to my father. Boomers grew up in the golden age of westerns, with cowboy movies and TV shows galore.
Around a decade ago, my dad was sent to Tucson for a work project — he works in tech — and he decided to check out Tombstone on a day off, since he’d never been there, but had of course heard about and seen it on the screen.
He became enraptured.
After that first visit, my dad has returned to Tombstone almost every year, and not just for sightseeing; he discovered a group of historians, researchers, and authors who meet annually for what they call the Tombstone Territory Rendezvous, always around the anniversary of the infamous 1881 gunfight at the O.K. corral with Wyatt Earp and company.
The “TTR” group plans each yearly summit around a certain topic or subject matter — this year’s focus was centered on “Law and Order” (DUN DUN!) — and individuals give presentations and illuminate new findings about the real history of the town and its cast of characters, not what we see in movies.
My dad was welcomed into the group, becoming friends with the TTR leadership team and its most respected members, and has since contributed in many ways to their efforts, from designing a book cover for an author from Australia, to creating and managing the TTR website, and even designing this year’s official TTR Law and Order t-shirt.
All of this is to say, Tombstone is now a huge part of my father’s life, and he wants to share it with his family. Prior to this year’s trip, he had brought my mother and brother with him twice each. This year, he brought the whole family, including me, my sister-in-law, and his 3-month-old granddaughter.
Now, you have to understand, I love my father, and I especially love that he has found something which brings him immense joy and pleasure, a group of friends with a shared interest; his eyes light up when he talks about it.
But at home, when he talks ad nauseam about the town and the group and the information and the research and the minutiae and whatnot, it’s hard for me to remain attentive. I’m just. Not. Interested. At least, not in the way he is.
And because of my lack of interest, my going along on the trip felt almost like an act of fealty instead of a desire to experience what he loves so much. At a minimum, I looked forward to seeing my dad among friends and interacting socially, which doesn’t happen often at home — my folks hardly ever entertain guests, and are mostly homebodies.
So, I told myself that no matter what I knew or thought I knew, or how uncomfortable I may feel, I needed to immerse myself in the week’s events, assimilate myself in the group, embrace any boredom if and when it came, and, most importantly, simply enjoy spending an extended amount of time with my family.
What transpired was nothing short of magical to me.
The trip was a week long. My folks had arrived on Monday, and my brother, sister-in-law, niece, and I arrived on Wednesday. Upon our arrival, we were surprised with the announcement that my mom and dad had renewed their wedding vows after 37 years of marriage.
On Thursday, the presentations began, which started at 9am and ran until 7pm, with breaks for lunch and dinner. The topics covered ballot box stuffing, critical events leading up the O.K. corral gunfight, the gunfight itself, the reasons the McLaury brothers (two of the gunfight victims) were in Tombstone to begin with, gunfight dynamics and bullet ballistics, and more. The night concluded with a reenactment of a court hearing, in which my father portrayed the prosecuting attorney.
Were there lulls in the process? Of course. But they were few and far between, spaced out enough to keep me focused.
And I got involved, asking questions and offering insight of my own, based on my outsider’s perspective, which ended up impressing the group (their words, not mine).
Friday, we traveled to Bisbee — home of Doug Stanhope — to visit the sites of the Bisbee Massacre, which resulted in the legal hangings of five men, and the lynching of their ringleader. When we returned to town, we were treated to a ballet version of the O.K. corral gunfight, in which my dad acted as Morgan Earp and danced ballet! (Seeing my dad pirouette was worth the trip on its own.) The night ended with a court reenactment of the Bisbee Massacre trial, in which I was volun-told to be a member of the lynch mob.
On Saturday, my sister-in-law’s birthday, we traveled to Willcox, AZ where my parents had purchased some land to be developed for housing. They had bought the property sight-unseen, and this was the first time they were going to visit it. It was a very emotional moment, resulting in the decision to purchase even more plots surrounding their original buy — their dream is to have a family compound for all of us.
When we got back from Willcox, we attended the wrap-up banquet with the TTR group, at which the group was effusive in their praise and compliments toward our family and our participation in the activities. (The leadership team is also interested in perhaps having me work with them to help grow the group and attract a younger demographic.)
After breakfast on Sunday, we said our goodbyes and visited Boot Hill Cemetery on our way out of town. We traveled to Tucson and spent a few hours at the Sonoran Desert Museum. I thought it was going to be a big building with a bunch of artifacts and displays and whatnot. It turns out that it’s a living museum, with both indoor and outdoor attractions, and we could have spent three more hours there and not see everything it had to offer.
Leaving the museum, we checked into our hotel, freshened up, then went out for family dinner at El Charro, which, according to reviews, is touted as the best Mexican restaurant in the United States. It did not disappoint, and the prices were more than reasonable considering the quality and the generous portion sizes. I highly recommend eating there when in Tucson.
As I type this, we are cruising at 39,000 feet on our way home. In retrospect, I really needed this trip. I haven’t taken a vacation since 2011, and it was rejuvenating to unplug from the hustle for six days.
Plus, I’ve been so busy working that I haven’t been able to spend any time with my 3-month-old niece since she was born. I was concerned that she wouldn’t warm to me because I’m a new face.
Quite the contrary: Not only does she smile every time she sees me, I was able to give her mom the best birthday present ever, the highlight of my trip…
I made my niece laugh for the first time in her life.
It’s the little things that make life wonderful. I wish for you to feel the same joy in your world as I felt this past week.
Now…I’m back to work!
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