You won’t find Dog River, Saskatchewan on any map, because Dog River is a fictional place–the setting of comedian Brent Butt’s “Corner Gas,” a hit Canadian sitcom that ran from 2004 to 2009, and a crowdfunded movie of the same name. In reality, the remains of the set for Corner Gas is located in Rouleau, Saskatchewan, on Highway 39 between Weyburn and Moose Jaw. …
Tombstone, Arizona is forever embedded in American Old West lore for its status as an outpost for scoundrels and heroes, and as the site of the infamous 1881 gunfight at the OK Corral (the actual gunfight happened near the OK Corral, not in it, but we’ll leave that subject for others to cover in-depth) in which the Earp brothers gunned down Tom and Frank McLaury (McLowrey) and Billy Clanton.
Before the gunfight, however, Tombstone was a town like many others in the southwest–a mining town that boomed with the discovery of silver, and withered as the boom went bust.
At one time, Tombstone reportedly had more than 10,000 residents, but in 1881 a series of unfortunate events started the ball rolling on the decline of Tombstone. In March, the Sulphuret Silver Mine struck water, which began to seep into the mine. On June 22nd, a fire destroyed the eastern half of the business district, 66 businesses in total. The following year, a second mine struck water, seriously complicating mining efforts, and another more serious fire devastated Tombstone, destroying nearly the entire business district. The city lacked the water to properly fight the fire, so, in keeping with the philosophy of the day, buildings in the path of the fire were demolished with dynamite to deny fuel for the fire.
Rebuilding commenced immediately, but in 1886, another fire impacted the silver mining industry, and by 1890, the US Census reported the population of Tombstone at 1,900. Ten years later it had fallen to 700. People were leaving in droves.
Tombstone received another blow in 1931 when it was stripped of its status as county seat and the county offices moved to Bisbee. Just a few years later, these photos were taken by photographers on behalf of the United States Farm Security Administration and the Historic American Buildings Survey.
These photos, taken between 1937 and 1940, represent a unique moment in time for Tombstone–after the pioneer-era silver boom but before the air-conditioned car culture that would bring tourists en masse.
The Crystal Palace Saloon had a tumultuous history due to the Tombstone fires, and later, prohibition. It was sold in 1963 to a buyer with an interest in restoring it to its former glory, and it underwent a restoration that left it looking very different.
The bank, on the corner of 3rd and Allen, is an adobe brick structure covered in stucco, with wood trim and floors.
The posters taped in the window advertise a circus in nearby Douglas, Arizona. “Al. G. Barnes and Sells-Floto Circus, Douglas, Afternoon and Night, Tuesday, November 9.”
The Bird Cage was opened as a Variety Theatre and Saloon in 1881, and escaped the fire of 1882. At the height of Tombstone’s popularity, the bar in the front portion of the theatre was open 24-hours. The theatre was lit by natural gas, and the gas fixtures were still in place at the time of these photos. The Bird Cage was closed for a time after the boom, but reopened to the public in 1929. According to Miguel Slack, who collected the data for the Historic American Buildings Survey, this place was a museum and cafe at the time these photos were taken in 1937.
The sign on the right says “Oldest Theatre in the Southwest.”
Tombstone’s Episcopal Church, made of adobe brick, looking west from Third & Safford Streets.
Above: Tombstone City Hall
The Cochise County Courthouse was built in 1882. It became a hotel for a time, and also stood vacant for a few years after the county seat moved to Bisbee, but today it is a museum.
The spiral fire escape of the former Cochise County Courthouse.
The former Tombstone Fire Department was described by the photographer as “abandoned” at the time of these photos.
In 1961, Tombstone received a designation as a National Historic Landmark District, but in 2004, the National Park Service declared the designation threatened due to “inappropriate” alterations. Some of the infractions included putting “historic” dates on new buildings, failing to distinguish new construction from historic structures, and more. Although these judgments have been controversial, many of Tombstone’s historic buildings have been appropriately restored with due respect to heritage.
The sleepy days depicted in these photographs would not last. With the coming of the highway system and air-conditioned cars, people would flock to Tombstone. Today, there are a number of festivals in Tombstone, including Wyatt Earp Days, Salute to the Buffalo Soldier Days, and Helldorado Days, and more than 450,000 tourists visit this tiny town of 1,400 every year.
Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone is the best known of a number of cemeteries dubbed “Boothill” in the southwest, so-named for the gunfighters and outlaws who so commonly died with their boots on.
A panorama of Tombstone taken in 1909 by the West Coast Art Company. Click to enlarge.
Original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
One of America’s greatest scenic byways winds through the Black Hills between Spearfish and Lead, South Dakota, featuring waterfalls, thousand-foot cliffs, and roadside turnoffs where travelers can stop and photograph the sights. Spearfish Canyon is so beautiful, some scenes from Dances with Wolves were filmed here. …
A visit to Devils Tower National Monument gives one a sense of mysterious contentment; a degree of spiritual calm instilled by few of North America’s natural wonders. The tower is located in the Black Hills of northeast Wyoming, not far from Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore in neighboring South Dakota, and just down the road from another place we visited — Aladdin, Wyoming. It is a rare honor to visit a place like this and bask in the grandeur of the creator’s work.
Native American tribes have considered the tower a place of spiritual importance for thousands of years. Different tribes each had their own name for the tower — Aloft on a Rock, Bear’s Lodge, and Bear’s Lodge Butte, for example. They were derived from similar legends about the origin of the mountain. One such legend, from Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday:
“Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet. His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur. Directly there was a bear where the boy had been. The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear after them. They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them. It bade them to climb upon it, and as they did so it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach. It reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the seven stars of the Pleiades.“
It was not until the 1859 expedition to Yellowstone by Captain William F. Raynolds that a European documented a visit to the tower. It was in 1875 that an interpreter in Colonel Richard Dodge‘s expedition mistranslated the Native American name as “Bad God’s Tower,” which eventually became Devils Tower. Christians and Native Americans have each advocated over the years to have the name changed, unsuccessfully.
President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower a national monument on September 24th, 1906, making it the United States’ first national monument.
The release of Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster motion picture “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 1977 resulted in a big increase in tourist traffic to Devils Tower. The movie, which was one of the highest grossing movies of all-time for a number of years, has become an inextricable part of the mystique of Devils Tower. They show the movie every night at sunset at the KOA campground just outside the park, and alien head souvenirs are everywhere.
It is hard to get a sense of scale from Devils Tower when you see it in pictures, so to give you an idea how big Devils Tower is, we’ve used two yellow arrows in the above photo to point out climbers who were descending on the day we visited. Inset of the same two climbers below.
Park rangers patrol along the visitor path with handheld radio units to communicate with climbers when necessary. Climbers intending to go beyond the boulder field at the base must register at the ranger station before leaving, and upon return.
Exactly how Devils Tower formed is a disputed topic. The rock is a magma intrusion, but geologists do not necessarily agree on whether the magma reached the surface, or whether it remained underground, to be exposed later by erosion. Some have speculated it is a laccolith, while others have said it is the core of an extinct volcano. As the boulder field at the base demonstrates, the tower continues to erode and crumble at a geologic pace, and one day, many millennia from now, the tower will be gone.
Hulett, Wyoming is the closest town to the monument, a tiny little tourist stop about 8 miles away. Terry and I like to try out the cheeseburgers at little roadside cafes when we’re on trips like this, and we both agreed that the burgers we got at the tiny diner in the Hulett Motel were some of the biggest and most delicious we’ve ever tasted. No exaggeration, they were really good.
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Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media