Only a bird in a guilded cage

As we have mentioned before, we are avid weather watchers and our time in Deming was no different – it was becoming increasingly windy and after hearing that the interstate is often closed because of dust storms we were anxious to know if we could move west. The good news was the road was open; the bad news was it was still windy enough to whip your words away almost before you’d thought of them. We decided to press on, unperturbed by the warning signs on the way! Poor Malc had no time to look at the changing scenery; “I have to keep this thing between these two white lines!” it took all his concentration, together with that white-knuckle grip he displays at such times. The road was thankfully reasonably straight, but with the strong headwind the mpg was hovering around 6 and this did not make for a happy camper! We were heading for Tombstone Arizona (our 19th state)  , a town whose name conjures up gunslingers, sheriffs and posses all in glorious black and white. We had chosen a camp site a few miles out of town, in fact a few miles out of anywhere…we were not disappointed. We have mountains to the left, mountains to the right, oh and scrubby desert everywhere else. The draw back being that our water pipe was frozen this morning! (cold desert nights)

Some might consider Tombstone nothing but a tourist trap, but we have thoroughly enjoyed our visit. It’s a small town with just over 1000 residents, most of whom are probably either directly or indirectly employed to keep us tourists happy. But it has a great feel everyone wandering the streets, riding the stagecoach, all seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves. The costumes were amazing, with the clanking of spurs, the atmosphere infectious. Check out the picture of Malc following the bustle. We learnt that Tombstone grew rapidly with the discovery of silver in them there hills and for a short 8 years was the place where fortunes were found and lost. Names like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday came to life, as we witnessed a re-enactment of the famous shoot out at the OK Corral.  The “Bird Cage Theatre” (where Lilly Langtree once performed) was a veritable treasure trove: abandoned when the mines flooded and the town died in the late 1880’s it was not entered again until 1939, when it was bought by the family who still own it. Unaware of the contents, they planned to open it as an attraction. Today it remains as it was then, virtually untouched with the original gaming tables and the “bird cages” upstairs where the ladies entertained their customers. In fact this is where the song, She’s only a bird in a guided cage  originated. At about 6×4’ they earned $400 per customer in today’s money, two more “luxurious rooms” in the basement would cost the guys the equivalent of $750. Seeing the photographs of many of the ladies, some looking quite respectable and others in poses that would make many blush even today, somehow brought home the harsh reality of life back then. Some were European immigrants who earned a living where language didn’t matter; some were forced into it through widowhood and the need to survive. Bullet holes in the woodwork testify that when tempers flared be it over women, cards or money, no one was safe. It also boasts the longest card game in history, over 8 years and with a starting stake of $1000 then. This netted the owners a profit of the equivalent of $30 million today with their 10% take. They had no need to go down the mine!


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