Tombstone, Part 1

If you’re a history buff or a fan of historical recreations, you’ll want to visit Tombstone, Arizona. This site of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been remade into a tourist town with quaint shops and restaurants, museums, and a reenactment of the gun battle that resonated throughout history.

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We stayed at the Landmark Lookout Lodge, an easy ten minute drive from the heart of town. The oldest house dates back to 1879. The town started when a cavalry scout discovered silver. When he proposed exploring the hills, he was told, “The only thing you’ll find out there is your tombstone.” Hence the town name.

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The Good Enough Mine is open today but we didn’t have time to go. This one has a vertical shaft and is located off Toughnut Street, so-called because if you could walk outside without being shot or stabbed, you were a tough nut. The mine went down 600 feet where it hit the aquifer, so water had to be pumped out. It closed operations when silver prices dropped.

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Along this street worked the attorneys who served the courthouse, now a museum. There’s still a gallows in the backyard where seven men were hanged. The white fenced house a little further down used to be a pleasure palace, if you know what I mean.

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We took a trolley tour, and our friendly guide wearing a brown cowboy hat explained the sights along the way. There was Doc Goodfellow’s house. He signed an outlaw’s death certificate and lived on Toughnut Street. The sheriff’s house was here, too. A couple of thousand Chinese used to live in Tombstone. They worked as merchants and miners. Their women ran prostitution and opium rings. The guide pointed out many of the historic buildings, telling stories that went along with them.

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Back on the main street, we shopped in the interesting gift shops, ate in the saloons, attended a historical diorama in a little theater, and bought tickets for the infamous gunfight reinactment. If I got the info correct, 30 shots were fired that day and 3 men were killed. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are the featured heros. Here is my first attempt at a video.

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How does this relate to the story I’m writing? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton visit a dude ranch run by his cousin, Wayne. Wayne’s father is renovating a nearby ghost town. Guess what I used as a model? My fictional town is loosely based on a combination of Tombstone and Jerome (Oct. 30 post).

Coming next: Tombstone, Part 2—The haunted Bird Cage Theater and Boothill Cemetery.

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See all the trip photos here: http://fw.to/SB2DmEH

Year-End Splash Party at The Romance Reviews; November 1-30. Register and win up to 400 prizes! Look for mine, a Kindle copy of Shear Murder, on Monday, November 25. http://www.theromancereviews.com/event.php

Bisbee Copper Queen Mine

Entering a copper mine deep inside a mountain was one of the more awesome things we did on our trip to Arizona. Gathering inside the main building at the Bisbee Copper Queen Mine, we explored the rocks for sale inside the gift shop until our group was called.

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We were each given a brass tag with a number, like a real miner. These would survive in case of an explosion or cave-in to identify the bodies. This was called “brassing in” when miners reported for duty. At the end of his shift, the miner would turn his tag back in to the timekeeper. Here’s a replica from the Bisbee historical museum of the timekeeper’s station.

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Then we each went along an assembly line to get outfitted. With assistance from a seasoned miner, we donned yellow slickers, lights around our necks, belts and helmets. From here, we boarded a tram for our ride into the mountain. We sat astride like on a horse. A bell clanged, and the tram jerked forward. A gap yawned in front of us as we moved ahead. Wheels creaked as we entered a dark tunnel with chiseled rock walls.

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We glimpsed other passages leading off into pitch blackness as we rattled deeper into the interior. Rocks glistened in places from crystals. Dust-covered ore carts and discarded tools lay about. The only way we could see in the dark was with our lights. Wood supports shored up the walls at intervals. Loose rock was “barred” or secured behind metal bars.

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This mine, unlike others, was cool with a temperature in the fifties. That’s because air flows in from outside. We rode horizontally into the mountain. Other mines go straight down. Those mines are hotter and need air pumped in. This one evolved from a natural hole and was discovered by army scouts in 1877. Because methane gas wasn’t a danger here, miners could smoke in these tunnels. However, the men had to hand roll their cigarettes so they would go out if dropped.

Riding on the tram, I felt someone tap my head. I twisted around. My husband hadn’t done it. Who, then? A ghost? Mines were rife with accidents: explosions, cave-ins, tumbles down the shaft, falling rock. Who knew how many workers had died there? Unexpectedly, lots of orbs showed on some of my photos. Spiritual entities or dust motes? More scenes from the museum.

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Eventually we came to a stop and got off at a big dug-out chamber where our guide explained about mining methods. Miners worked by candlelight and swung a pickax to break off rock from the walls. If the rock was too hard, they drilled holes in the rock using a steel drill bit and a sledgehammer. They’d put in a stick of dynamite and light the fuse. This broke up the rock and expanded the tunnel. They’d transport the ore to chutes. It went down into ore carts which were pulled by mules. The mules lived in the mines. When their time was up, they were taken to the surface with blinders on and their vision gradually restored so they didn’t go blind from the brightness.

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We saw the metal toilets where early miners did their business as they toiled for 12 hour shifts underground. Those seats must have been chilly!

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If a miner needed to reach the surface, he’d tug a rope pull by a cage. The cage operator would send down the open wood platform. We saw the boss’s tricycle (or similar conveyance) by which he checked on his men twice a day.

They pumped in air and water. The water cut down on dust, which could damage the lungs. The compressed air was used in machinery-operated drills once they became available. Today, the mines are tested for radon gas. Other types of mines have to be tested for air and methane gas. You can light a candle to see if there’s air flow. Parakeets were used to detect dangerous gases. Miners would equip themselves with a helmet, candles and matches, lunch pail, and sometimes a survival kit or gas mask.

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Copper doesn’t deposit in veins like gold. It’s mixed in the ore, so processing techniques are needed to separate it from other substances. It would have been sent to a stamp mill for crushing and refining. Side products could be gold, silver, zinc, lead, and other minerals.

I learned a lot more when we went to the history museum in Bisbee, after a pleasant lunch in town. Bisbee is built among the hills and has some interesting shops and restaurants as well as a historic hotel.

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I won’t bore you with further details about mining, but they were fascinating. The method used today is called the open pit technique. You can see the results at the Lavender Pit. It’s not a pretty sight.

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Disclaimer: Any inaccuracies are due to my note taking and not the information presented.

You can see more photos here: http://fw.to/SB2DmEH

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How does this relate to my story? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton are staying at an Arizona dude ranch owned by his uncle. Raymond is also renovating a ghost town that used to be a former copper mining camp. Marla’s exploration of a hillside where a worker vanished leads to an astounding discovery. Consider the information above and use your imagination to determine where Marla and Dalton find themselves next.

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November Booklover’s Bench Contest Nov. 4 – Nov. 18
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Taking Time Out

Since Saturday was a religious holiday, and that meant we couldn’t conduct business, I took the day off from social networking and working on my book projects. Other than saying prayers and reflecting on life, what else did I do? I got caught up on reading newsletters. I read magazines for pleasure, learning about such diverse topics as a camel trek across the African desert, the latest medical research findings for certain diseases, the dangers of plastics to one’s health, and exclusive adult hideaways on cruise ships.

It was luxurious to lie on my couch and read. I took a nap. I peeked at my email but didn’t answer messages. And I did a bit of household filing, nothing too taxing.

It was easier than expected to liberate myself from the social networks. In fact, I lost all ambition until the evening when I sat and wrote the entire blurb for one of my upcoming projects.

So you see, it pays to take a break even if it’s a morning off. Your brain cells rejuvenate. Newly refreshed, you’ll return to work primed and ready to pump out the creativity.

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How did you spend the weekend?

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***This Tuesday all day, I’ll be answering questions over at Goodreads in the Romance Readers Reading Challenges group under “Ask an Author.” I’ll put up a link when I get one.

 

 

Crime Victim

Although I write mysteries, my only connection to the real world of crime has been through seminars with specialists in the field. Now I can finally claim a true crime experience of my own.

Our Orlando condo had a break-in and all jewelry plus portable electronics were stolen. The thieves tossed our clothing onto the floor, knocked over a lamp, riffled through the master bedroom dresser and nightstand, and took two pillowcases plus two entire drawers from our lovely dresser.

We felt violated, insecure, and sad for our daughter whose lifelong collection of jewelry had been taken. These included graduation and birthday gifts, heirlooms from her grandmother, gifts from her friends, and designer pieces we’d bought for her on our Caribbean cruises. The sentimental value is greater than the actual value.

Insurance doesn’t nearly cover the cost of everything. Her company was easy, listing her losses over the phone. Mine requires receipts or appraisals, photos and replacement values. Doing all of this paperwork has consumed my attention in recent weeks, which is why I haven’t posted here until lately. Fortunately my blog tour picked up the slack, since I’d already written and submitted those pieces. This experience has been an education. I’d advise you to check your insurance policies. Coverage on valuables is very limited. You might want to itemize certain items of value. Make sure you have everything you own well documented.

Our bedroom dresser has to be replaced. Right now it has two gaping spots from the missing drawers. Really? The burglars had to ruin my piece of furniture?

I am angry at the crooks who have no respect for anyone’s property. I am dismayed by the delay in replacing our damaged front door. The thieves used a crowbar to gain entry and damaged both the door and the frame. It’s taking our homeowner’s association weeks to get a new door that fits the code. Meanwhile, we’ve instituted a monitored alarm system and additional security measures.

The fallout from a theft takes a toll. We haven’t even begun to shop for replacement items, but the dresser will be a priority. We’ve made two unexpected four-hour trips to Orlando to deal with these issues. This means two weeks of work lost and other chores gone undone, not to mention the cost in gas and meals.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone who loses their home and all their possessions in a fire or other natural disaster. How horribly sad and unsettling. In the case of a break-in, though, you feel more paranoid. You realize your home isn’t sacrosanct. No more do you feel safe from invasion.

One bright spot in all of this: Our kids discovered the Beck Brothers blueberry farm and they picked a bunch of sweet berries. So I made blueberry bread and blueberry coffee cake.

Blueberry Cake