Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Tombstone
by [?]

More than forty years ago a raw young mining camp down in southeastern Arizona was preparing to assume the functions of a duly organized municipality, and its population–at that period nearly every one in the place was a male of voting age–was considering the important question of a name.

The camp stood out against the sky-line at the crest of a ridge in the foot-hills of the Mule Mountains, not far from the Mexican boundary. For the most part it consisted of tents; but there were a few adobe buildings and some marvelous creations from goods-boxes and tin cans. Facing one end of its single brief street you looked out upon a dump of high-grade silver ore, and if you turned the other way you surveyed a sprouting little graveyard hard by a large corral. From almost any point you had a good view of the Dragoon mountains across a wide stretch of mesquite-covered lowlands, and at almost any hour of the day you were likely to see the smoke of at least one Apache signal-fire rising from those frowning granite ramparts.

The men in the camp were, nearly all of them, old-timers in the West: miners from the Comstock lode whose boom was then on the wane, teamsters who had been freighting all over the blazing deserts of the Southwest, investors and merchants from Tucson, buffalo-hunters from western Kansas, Texas, and Colorado, gamblers from Dodge City, El Paso, and Santa Fe, Indian-fighters, cattle-rustlers, professional claim-jumpers, and some gentle-voiced desperadoes of the real breed, equally willing to slay from behind or take a long chance in front, according to the way the play came up. Few of these men wore coats; a great many of them carried single-action revolvers in holsters beside the thigh; the old-fashioned cattleman’s boot was the predominant footgear; and, excepting among the faro-dealers, there was a rather general carelessness in sartorial matters. Nicknames were even more common than surnames, and it was bad form–sometimes dangerously so–to ask a man about his antecedents until he had volunteered some information on that point.

In such a crowd it is easy to see there would be many ideas on any given subject, and the question of the new town’s name had evoked a multitude of suggestions. Amusements were still few; the purveyors of hectic pleasure had thus far succeeded in bringing only one piano and a half-dozen dance-hall girls–all decidedly the worse for wear–into the camp; and either faro or whisky has its limitations as a steady means of relaxation. So it came about that any advocate could usually find an audience to harken to his arguments for his pet selection.

At intervals when they were not toiling at assessment work in the shafts which pocked the hillside or dodging Apaches in the outlying country, the citizens found diversion in discussing the ideas thus submitted. And the merits of these propositions were debated by groups in the brief street, by players seated before the tables in the gambling-halls, by members of the never-absent lines before the bars, and by dust-mantled travelers within the Concord stages which came tossing over the weary road from Tucson.

Gradually public opinion began to crystallize. One name was spoken more often as the days went by. Until it became evident that the great majority favored it, and it was chosen.

They called the town Tombstone and placed one more tradition on the Western map.

The old-timers always showed a very fine sense of the fitness of things when they christened a river, mountain range, or town. If one were to devote his time to studying the map of our country west of the Mississippi River and resuscitating the tales whose titles are printed thereupon, he could produce a large volume of marvelous stories. But the entire compilation would contain nothing more characteristic of the days when men carried rifles to protect their lives than the story of that name–Tombstone.