In this Arizona outpost, residents revere the Wild West—and live it

Local residents fulfill their sartorial fantasies on Tombstone's dusty streets (Daniel Borris)
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“Being an officer,” she goes on, “I have all these men saluting me, saying yes ma’am, no ma’am. My God, I’m 24 years old and I’m a ma’am already! I try to get away from that in Tombstone.” Her friend Heather Whelan agrees. “The military is very cut and dried, you’re a professional, you tell people what to do,” Whelan says. “In the military, we all look the same. And then you go to Tombstone and you’re the center of attention and people are buying you drinks’re a girl again!”

While many people moved to Tombstone for adventure, James Clark sought it as a refuge. Now the owner of the Tombstone Mercantile Company, stocked with western antiques and collectibles, he raced locomotives into ambushes or train wrecks and performed other high-speed stunts in more than 200 Hollywood films. (Recently, he went back to his old job with Steven Spielberg for a six-part movie series, “Into the West,” on the cable network TNT.) And he keeps his hand on the throttle by running a freight train from time to time, between the Arizona town of Benson and the Mexican border. But most days he enjoys the slower pace of life as a Tombstone merchant. He built a stockade-like house outside town, modeled after one he’d seen on a movie set. “I live in the very area where the people I love to read about lived,” he says. “This is a place you can play cowboy Halloween every day of the week.”

At Old West Books on Allen Street, Doc Ingalls leans against the door frame. His mustache, his battered hat, even his slouch, are pure cowboy. As he looks on, a tourist asks a passing sheriff when the next gunfight is scheduled. The sheriff, in a big, wide-brim hat, says he doesn’t know. The tourist asks again, insistently. Ingalls steps out into the street and takes the visitor aside. “He’s the real sheriff,” he tells the tenderfoot. “You don’t want to be in a gunfight with him. He uses live ammunition.”


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