Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rattlesnake Crossing

On our last day in the greater Tombstone area, we finally managed to get a small group together to ride out into the desert to see whatever there was to be seen there. It had just been too cool to ride earlier in the week. It never ceases to amaze me the things we see in the desert through this mode of travel that we just would not see by any other means. Oh, I suppose we could hike out there, but just for discussion sake, today we covered a 50 mile round trip- give or take a mile. Long hike on the hoof. (Or five days by Conestoga wagon is how I like to think of it.)

The air was a bit chilly, but sunshine was the order of the day...and a pretty one it was. We headed out into the desert in the general direction of Tombstone. Made a stop at the monument to Edward Schieffelin. Schieffelin was a lifelong prospector who had learned everything there was to know about prospecting from his father- with one exception: how to strike it rich. He'd tried a few other vocations on occasion but found them to be less than satisfying by comparison. Upon showing up in "these here parts" he was told that there was nothing worth finding...and that all he was likely to find in this lawless area was his "tombstone." But oh contraire! Instead he found silver. Lots of silver. Enough silver so that a town was born...a town that became known as Ed Schieffelin's Tombstone. Now that story- being one of historical significance to Tombstone today- you would think that might have that monument being built in a park right smack dab in the middle of the town- maybe down there near the OK Corral. But no. This monument is on a dirt road out in the desert where the only way someone is gonna see it is if they set off to go there in the first place...and probably by ATV. Schieffelin is buried there, on this site, which, it turns out was the site of the boundary marker of his very first claim upon arrival here. He is buried in his mining duds, with a pick ax by his side. Comfortable. Satisfied. Successful. Having found silver and gold AND his Tombstone!

Now as classic a Tombstone epitaph as that may be, we mixed things up a bit by then driving down through the town (you can do that on an ATV in Arizona, one of the things that makes it such a neat place) and out into the desert beyond town. Destination: Rattlesnake Crossing. I'll give it my best effort at a verbal description, but in reality only "seeing is believing" for this place. OK. Picture this: a dilapidated old blue trailer- scrapped and left for dead in the desert. Inside the trailer is a store. In the store is darn near everything you could possibly think of that is made from rattlesnake skin. Rattlesnake belts. Rattlesnake rattle ear rings. Ties. Wallets. Cell phone holders. Sculpture. Everything- but shoes. Why no shoes you ask? Because to sell shoes you would need a shoe sale clerk. And this store has no clerks. No, not even one. With hundreds, more like thousands of dollars in inventory- this store operates on the honor system. You like something that is not priced you may not buy it- it ain't for sale. You like something priced, you add it up when you are finished shopping and you put your money in the wooden box by the door on your way out. You buy more that 100 dollars worth (which is easy to do), you figure your own discount...and can take an additional twenty dollars worth of goodies free. Don't have cash? No problem, the name to write on your check is on the sign by the door- all checks welcome. Out of state check without ID- no problem here either. And the merchandise? Crummy stuff? Nope. First rate, great quality- every single bit of it. Is the cash box locked? Nope. No need apparently. The system works.

Now outside the decor is less of a store and more of an open air museum. This has to be the best collection of stuff, crap, junk, and priceless antiques that I have ever seen under one roof! Oooops. My bad; no roof! Bubble gum machines, mineral specimens that are enormous and gorgeous, petrified wood by the tree load, tools, motorcycles, depression glass, red wagons, guns and roses, metal and wooden sculpture, skulls of real stuff and extra-terrestrial, glass insulators, mining equipment, kitchen equipment, kid's toys, animal hides, and on and on and on. Even a well carved bust of Jesus (which may account for everyone's honesty). Lots of stuff you know what it is but didn't expect to see here. Stuff you have no idea what it is, but it's really cool. Is there a charge to see all this stuff? Nope, but that doesn't stop visitors from putting money in the till. There is a rusty metal sculpture of a cowboy wearing a vest in the middle of the display and he is holding a big plate. What's in the plate? Money. Lots of it. Quarters, Dollar bills. Two dollar bills. Five dollar bills...and bigger bills. Does anyone take it? Nope. They put more in. We did too. What a business model! We wandered around there for more than an hour- each encouraging the other to "come here and see this..." We came. We saw. We are still amazed.

Like the best monument in Tombstone, the best store in Tombstone.....ISN'T in Tombstone. It's out in the desert in the wind and the sands of time. And lucky we are to have seen it if only for a moment as we passed through.

If you are only ever going to watch one of our slide shows all the way through- make it this one.

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