Wild West: Tombstone, AZ

Tombstone, AZ is famous for a gun fight at the O.K. corral. The sign below provides the details. This former ghost town is now a national historic site and attracts of thousands of tourists each year. Gun fights are a common staple of cowboy TV shows and movies; much less so than the real life of working cowboys. Real places like Tombstone keep the fantasies of the past alive and allow tourists to actualize the fantasies that they have learned. In a circular fashion, visiting a real place confirms the fantasies, and the fantasies of place encourage visiting the real places!
In the "real world" gun fights rarely killed people (see Wills' statements below). Check out a boot hill.

The following statements come from Garry Wills, A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

At the shoot-out at Tombstone's O.K. Corral (actually, behind the corral) - the only gunfight Wyatt Earp ever took part in - "nine men and two horses are suddenly gathered in a lot perhaps eighteen feet wide." They turned revolvers, a shotgun, and a Winchester rifle on each other in this small area, which was quickly filled with smoke, and only three of the men were killed. Earp mainly used his revolver as a club when arresting people.

If one intended to kill a person, a rife or shotgun, whose longer barrel gave greater accuracy and more control, was used, not a revolver.

A lone marshal shooting bad guys with his quick draw rarely happened. Cattle towns hired polices of five or so men who acted as a team (like those going with the marshal, Virgil Earp, and his deputy, Wyatt, to the O.K. Corral). When cowboys were not coming to town, the police were sanitation and repair work force!

The myth of the frontier individualism - of the man whose gun made him his own master, free and untrammeled - dies hard. What is excitement for the movies is ideology for the National Rifle Association, which thinks gun control would destroy the frontier spirit that made America great. But the gun did not tame the West. The West had to tame the gun.