Tombstone Silver


Reunion tells the tale about the day the ghosts came back to re-fight the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

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It was exactly 3:14 on October 26, 1981. Tombstone was experiencing a balmy 72 degree day with no clouds and a light breeze from the southwest. It was Monday following Helldorado weekend and most of the tourists had already returned to Phoenix, Tucson, and other distant homes. City employees were cleaning up after the busy weekend and merchants were inventorying their wares. A few snowbirds were already in town for the winter but it was, overall, a very lazy afternoon.

Suddenly breaking the boredom of a perfectly mediocre day was a flash of light in the middle of Freemont street near Third, which was the location of a gunfight that took place behind the OK Corral 100 years earlier to the minute. A tiny wisp of smoke curled upward from a spot on the highway's surface and then it grew darker and bolder before it materialized into the specter of Virgil Earp. He was oblivious to the large truck bearing down on him just a few feet away since he was on a dirt road in another time looking for his friends and a few enemies. Virgil shouted "Lookout, Wyatt, he's armed..." then a second flash of light and wisp of smoke became the corporal body of Wyatt Earp, standing close beside his brother and staring straight into a concrete wall that was not there 100 years back. Within moments, a dozen flashes of light and Morgan Earp, Doc Holliday, Billy Clayborne, and all of the others were standing in what, to them, was an empty lot on a chilly afternoon in Tombstone. Ike Clanton ran to Wyatt and begged him to not start the fight while Sheriff Behan threatened to arrest anyone found carrying a gun. A shot was fired, men began running, shouting, and firing bullets wildly into the air, hoping to change the outcome of that fateful day 100 years before.

Then, the script changed and dozens of gunfighters began to appear in rapid succession all over Tombstone. These men, and a few women, were not present 100 years ago but had returned for this reunion to fight beside their kith and kin. The gunfight spilled into the alley that used to run behind the OK Corral and Billy Clayborn ran down that alley before turning toward a saloon on Allen Street. As he did, Bat Masterson appeared at the end of the alley and shouted something unflattering about Billy's retreat. Masterson then pulled his gun and began to fire. Billy fell in the middle of Allen Street just feet from the safety of the door and his friends in the Alhambra Saloon.

More gunfighters appeared and the fight expanded to cover the entire length of 1881 Allen St. Buckskin Frank Leslie and Johnny Ringo squared off in front of the Oriental Saloon and a few seconds later only Leslie was still standing. Curly Bill Brocius and two unnamed cowboys popped up in front of Rafferty's Saloon and immediately afterwards Marshall White appeared. Angry words were exchanged before White shot Curly Bill and was then quickly gunned down by one of the cowboys.

For about 15 minutes that afternoon, the solitude along Allen street was disrupted by the hammer of gunshots and also by merchants and customers shouting and diving for cover inside stores. Horses broke loose and ran wild down the streets and mis-tuned pianos in the bars burst forth with sudden urgency.

As quickly as it had begun, it ended. The gunfighters, horses, merchants, and everyone else shimmered briefly in the afternoon sun, like the rippling of distant mountains over a hot desert road. Then, they disappeared into whatever world they had come from and were gone.

It was just a few seconds after exactly 3:14 on October 26, 1981. A few of the locals on Allen Street had noticed an odd flash of light. A few others reported hearing a distant pop, like the backfire of an engine somewhere in the distance. Roy Jackson, who was sweeping the boardwalk in front of his restaurant, mentioned to a passing tourist that the air "sure felt odd" before he calmly returned to his task. The tourist then laughed that the town was as quiet as a ghost town that afternoon.

Ten-year-old Benjamin Cooper noticed the glint of metal beneath the boardwalk in front of Fred King's gift shop on Allen Street. He squeezed his arm through a crack in the walk and managed to fish out the casing from an old bullet. Fred told him that finding that treasure was good luck and that he should hang onto it. Fred also said that the casing had probably fallen there from one of the gunfights during Helldorado Days the previous weekend; however, he couldn't explain why the casing appeared to be very old and somewhat corroded, like it had been lying in that position under that boardwalk for many years.

In the end, the local folks and tourists enjoyed an unremarkable afternoon in a very remarkable town.