Earp was shy, unassuming, courteous to women, modest,nviolent only when forced into it, and deadly in his righteousnwrath.nThe moviemakers likewise discovered Tombstone, seeingncommercial potential in the emerging myth of the city. Likenthe fictioneers of the pulp magazines, they transformed thentown into King Arthur’s England. Earp became Sir Galahadnand his friends the knights of the Round Table, while hisnenemies were the wicked earls to be destroyed. Consider, fornexample, a less-than-epic feature in 1941 from Paramountnentitled Tombstone: The Town Too Tough To Die. Thisnstarred Richard Dix, Victor Jory, and Edgar Buchanan, andnbegan with a statement superimposed over the openingnscenes:nI am the voice of the pastnOf the days when I was a territorynOverrun with bad men of all kindsnRustlersnDance-hall girlsnOutlaws and gamblersnThe bad men of Arizona were strangling me withntheir lawlessnessnFor my existence, I am indebted to one mannHe became a living symbol of respect for the lawnWYATT EARPnWhen such books and films began to appear, there werenold-timers who remembered that Wyatt Earp had flednArizona under indictment for murder. But gradually thenold-timers died or else began remembering themselves asnparticipants in those epic battles of yore, heroes basking innreflected glory. And the money brought to Tombstone bynthe annual flock of tourists wanting to see the actual sites ofnthose battles-for-the-right made a new crop of believers.nIn Tombstone’s 50-year history there had beennonly one gun battle on the city’s streets. Inn1881, the year when most of the excitementnhad occurred, only six men had met a violentndeath within the city’s limits, and thenlynching party of 1884 had been organized innthe town of Bisbee, not Tombstone.nPromoters came to the city to cash in on the glories of anWest that never was. Artifacts long since abandoned suddenlynbecame pioneer treasures to be viewed for a fee. Pistolsnacquired anywhere in the West became, if not Wyatt’s ownnhandgun, at least that of Doc HoUiday.nThe residents of Tombstone may be partially responsiblenfor this packaging of plastic history, but in their holding ofnHelldorado Week each year they are close in spirit to thenpioneers who founded the town — they are mining the onlynvein of ore left.nThereby they have become different. Most cities in then10/CHRONICLESnnnwestern United States, once they achieved a certain maturity,nnot only turned their backs on their frontier heritage, butndeliberately tried to hide the crudities associated with theirnbirth. They downplayed the violence and the raw conditionsnof their past and stressed a cultural heritage more evident tonthem than to their ancestors. Descendants of pioneersntransformed their forebears into genflemen, ladies, andnphilanthropists, and they created historical societies whosenfunction, all too often, was to launder history.nBut not Tombstone. It glories in its frontier beginnings.nBarroom brawls, robberies, beatings, a lynching, even murdernbecame fit subjects for local chroniclers and a loosenoutline for reenactments. In this depiction and presentation.nTombstone’s history has become as false as the fronts ofnTombstone’s stores — and by city ordinance all new structuresnmust be built in Territorial style.nIf in the grand tradition of the Western there is a villain innthe corruption of Tombstone’s history, the bad guys arennot those presenting the city as something extraordinarilynlurid. Rather it is the public, which pays to see this distortion.nThe average tourist comes to see what he wants to believenwas the past. But part of that is gone, never to return, andnthe rest never existed. He’can only see a false representationn—and in the process be separated from his money. If he isnwilling to pay to see a plastic replica of what he wants —neven needs — the Old West to have been, it is difficult tonblame the people who give it to him.nAnd the average tourist goes to places such as Tombstone,ndeny it though he may, to see the lurid and the violent, notnthe prosaic and the ordinary. There is some dark strain innthe human character that attracts us to evil men and darkndeeds. We identify with the man with the gun, and we lustnto do battle — at least vicariously. Why else the emphasis onnviolence that is so much a part of the literature, movies, andnTV shows about the West? Our heroes’ deeds have becomenpart of our folklore until the myth has become reality andnthe truth is lost.nSymbolic of the myth and reality of Tombstone is BoothillnCemetery, which greets the visitor as he drives into town vianthe Benson highway. When the process of sprucing up thentown for the first Helldorado celebration was underway, itnwas discovered that most of the original headboards therenhad rotted and many of the graves were unmarked. Somenmembers of the restoration committee worked to check thenrecords before new headboards were erected, but the recordsnwere so sketchy that some of those buried there could not benidentified. This did not prevent the erection of a full slate ofnheadboards, however. Some names were coined from thinnair, along with colorful epitaphs either made up or elsenborrowed from other cemeteries in the West.nThis was the same Boothill Cemetery in which the betternelement of the Tombstone of 1881 did not want their deadnburied, so they started a new cemetery for themselves andntheir loved ones. Yet today no tourist pays to see that secondncemetery, which can be viewed for free. No, the cars stop atnthe first cemetery — Boothill — the one filled with menn”who died with their boots on!”nSomehow this seems fitting. Perhaps this is part of thenprice we pay for insisting on living in a world of simultaneousnmyth and reality. n