I didn’t think I liked cowboys or cosplay–actually, I’m still pretty sure I don’t like those things–but when you’re in Tombstone Arizona, once the most opulent and lawless city in the old West, you deal…willingly. In researching the southern half of Arizona, I came across the town of Tombstone in considering the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, named for a large number of Saguaro cactus that inhabit the area. Of all the shots that I felt were necessary to capture the spirit of Arizona, I needed to get up close and personal with these mystifying arborescent cacti. What I didn’t realize before, but became increasingly apparent, was how the legacies of the western expansion were too apart of Arizona’s story.
Tombstone is a city located 3 hours from Phoenix in the southeast corner of Arizona, a little under an hour from the U.S-Mexican border. Like much of Arizona, the land sits on hilly, steepe like terrain that is surrounded by various foothills and mountains, notably a granite dome called the“Sheephead” in the Dragoon Mountains. The dome was named for its uncanny resemblance to, unsurprisingly sheep heads (supposedly there an image of an Apache chief among the sheep, but I couldn’t see it). The town was founded by Ed Schieffelin, a U.S Army Scout on the hunt for ore in the late 1800s and grew to prominence as a destination for miners seeking riches. It’s said that the town got its strange name because of stories of Schieffelin’s various friends warning him not to go to the land upon which Tombstone was founded claiming that if he went seeking ore he’d “find his tombstone”, to paraphrase. Once it was discovered that Tombstone did, in fact, have silver and the promise of riches, people began to settle there. This increased attention brought prosperity as well as infamy to Tombstone. People, like the infamous Earp brothers; places, like the O.K Corral; and the word “cowboy” all have origins in Tombstone’s history.