You and I are nearly the same age. I started about five years before you did in 1876. I’m told you became a town in 1881 or so.
We were both born of a mineral in the ground. You had silver. Lots of silver. I had, and still have, oil … black gold. We both also have native peoples, the Apache for you and the Tataviam for me. Likewise, at one time, both of us had “ownership” by Spain and then Mexico.
Many of the historical figures in your past, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and the Clantons, have connections to at least one of mine, the silent movie star, William S. Hart. Hart was a friend of Wyatt Earp. Hart and another silent star, Tom Mix, were pallbearers at Mr. Earp’s funeral.
Now, I have to say that if it weren’t for your past, there would have been a lot fewer Western movies filmed in my environs. I can’t say how many times some actor playing the part of Wyatt, Morgan, Virgil, Doc and many others graced the various movie sets and ranches in and near me. Tom Mix built two of the buildings on my Main Street. Don’t know if he ever used them in a portrayal of you. My guess is that he or someone else did.
I do know that any number of movies and TV shows filmed in my town limits had various scenes of Tombstone, at least my version of it. I can tell when it isn’t really you because you don’t have the California live oak trees that are shown in those flicks. Saw one recently that had a couple of palm trees. Haven’t seen them on any of your streets.
Well, OK, not the real Wyatt Earp. You had the real Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral. We had Hugh O’Brian and Melody Ranch.
It is hard to believe I was once a part of the “Wild West.” I don’t have signs on Main Street like you have on Allen Street, your “Main,” that tell of gun battles and folks being killed. I have a close neighbor, Castaic, that had a “range war.” The men killed in that war didn’t go to a “Boot Hill” or even my cemetery, Eternal Valley. No, they were buried near where they were shot and only recently has their final resting place been found.
I do have some plaques in the sidewalks of my “Old Town” that honor many of the Western movies and recording stars who may have been in films, recorded music and in some way told your story. For instance, Hugh O’Brian, who played Wyatt Earp on the TV show, “The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp,” is on that Walk of Western Stars. Sam Elliot, one of the Earp brothers in the 1993 film, “Tombstone,” even has a plaque on that walk. So does Harry Carey Jr., who was shot down in that movie. He was born right over the hills in Saugus.
So, it seems we are in fact “Sister Cities,” although I would prefer to say “Brothers.” We once had about the same population. Today I have grown far beyond the 1,400 folks you have today. Little is left of what looked like a Western town on my Main Street. Your Allen and Fremont Streets look much the same as they did in the 1880s. Well, you paved your streets, but since then you’ve covered your Allen Street with dirt to make it look old.
You have stagecoaches, horses and mules on your streets, and I have cars. Lots of cars. You have shots being fired on your streets every day. I do, too, but when I hear shots, the sheriff deputies show up in force to find the cause. You can set a watch by when you hear shots. Could I ask you just how many hundreds of blanks are fired on a weekend in your streets and theaters?
We both have had problems with water. Some of yours comes from some 20 miles away in the Huachuca Mountains. Isn’t that because you had at least two fires that destroyed your buildings not long after you started? I have some deep wells, but a huge project to supply water to Southern California now supplies some of my water. I know you also had a problem which stopped the mining under you. When the mines filled with water and could no longer be pumped, they closed. So sad. Of course, they still make money for you, since folks can tour the mines a short walk off your Toughnut Street.
I hope this finds you well in these tough times. Please stay safe and avoid getting that dreaded virus that is all around us. Your motto, “The town too tough to die,” shall be proven right again. Both of us have stores and restaurants closed until the virus passes. We are both “too tough.”
With that, I close and await your reply.
With warmest regards,
Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley for a spell. Darryl has traveled far and finally landed near the town “too tough to die,” Tombstone, Arizona, calling it home for the past two years with the exception of summers, camp-hosting at Refugio State Beach near Goleta. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].