Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Last Gun Fight -- The Death of Ordinance Number 9 (Chapter Twelve)

Written by Terry McGahey

Chapter Twelve: Our Day In Court

Things had really settled down since the nights of camping in the wash, and no longer did Jack and I have to worry about someone sneaking down to our place and causing any damage.

I began working as an extra in the movies because I thought it would be interesting to see how movies were actually made. The first one I worked on was a real stupid movie called, “Four Eyes and Six Guns”.

It was about an optometrist played by Judge Reinhold, who had made a set of spectacles for an aging Wyatt Earp, who was played by Fred Ward. Like I said, it was a stupid movie, but I enjoyed spending a short time talking with Fred Ward. He seemed like a nice fellow who still had his feet on the ground.

Next I did a narration for A&E about Boot Hill in Tombstone. It was very impromptu and they asked me to make it up as I went along. It could have been much better with a script, but there wasn't one so we just played it by ear.

My favorite extra job was the movie “Tombstone” with Sam Elliot, Kurt Russell, Bill Paxton, and many more.

I played the part of a drover who had just come in off the trail, and who was playing an old west card game called Faro. Billy Bob Thornton was the dealer, and he had threatened to kill me if I backed that queen one more time. This was just before Kurt Russell (Wyatt Earp) had slapped him around and threw him out of the bar.

A few funny things happened while filming that scene but the best was when Kurt Russell was to throw the gun he had taken away from Billy Bob Thornton to the bartender without looking at him. Of course the gun they used for this scene was a rubber one so no one would get hurt.

The first time Kurt Russell tossed the gun without looking it hit one of the extras who was standing at the bar in the back of the head. The director hollered cut, everyone chuckled and they started all over again.

The second time he threw the rubber gun, it hit the same extra in exactly the same spot in the back of his head. By now everyone had broken up laughing, and after a short break the scene was finished on the third take.

The last thing I did was a video game called the “Bounty Hunter”. I was one of the gunslingers that you had to quick draw against. I never did see the end result of that one, but I heard that it turned out pretty well.

I had the offer to work on two more movies, one was “Lightning Jack” with Paul Hogan and the other was the “Quick and the Dead” with Gene Hackman and Sharon Stone, but to tell you the truth I really didn't want anymore to do with that business.

Not that the people had treated me badly or anything, quite the opposite, but it just wasn't for me. I had also decided to sell my interest in the Boot Hill Gunslingers because, like I said, it just wasn't for me.

By this time it was beginning to come close to our court date' so I decided to take a little vacation while I had the chance.

I loaded up my camper on the back of my pickup truck and headed north. I ended up in Yellowstone Park and from there I went into Cody Wyoming because I knew a gal who lived there, so I decided to pay her a visit. While in Yellowstone Park, I had written another poem about my feelings for nature and I call it “Lost Beauty”

There were people before us who saw this country when
it was natural and pristine, but for us today it’s nothing
more than a passing midnight dream.

For us to see the wondrous sights, we must pay to enter
a park. I’d have dearly loved to have seen this country
the way did Lewis and Clark.

Or even the way those first cowhands did driving the herd
up the untamed trail, or even the fellows with the pony express
riding hard to deliver the mail.

This country we know is nothing more than a shadow of it’s
once great glory, its been ravaged and raped of most of its
beauty, its really a sad, sad story.

If only it were possible to go back in time, and through their
eyes was able to see, the natural beauty in its original state,
that would be riches to me.

When I got back to Tombstone, about three weeks later, I asked Jack what our situation was with the lawsuit and he stated that our attorney had called and our court date had been moved up to next week.

We called Ed and met him uptown to have a few beers together and celebrate some. We were sure glad to see this thing finally coming to an end.

It had been over two years since the first time the marshal’s deputy had pulled me over on my horse and harassed me over wearing my sidearm, and a lot of water had passed under the bridge since then.

By then, newspapers, including the Associated Press, had also carried the story of our fight against the city..

The Tucson Citizen, January 10, 1994:
"Too-tough town" may ease gun ordinance

Tombstone, synonymous with the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, soon may allow people to tote firearms within the city limits. An amended gun ordinance – less stringent than the city’s current gun law – is expected to be presented to the City Council at its Jan. 17 meeting, said City Attorney Biagio Gingo.

If approved, the ordinance would permit the carrying of firearms within city limits at any time the city has not scheduled a “special activity,’ according to Gingo.

The existing ordinance prohibits carrying firearms within city limits at any time – despite the fact that the state Constitution permits residents to carry non-concealed firearms, and has wording that forbids a lesser governmental agency (such as the Tombstone City Council) from passing contradictory laws.

City officials had argued that because Tombstone, a tourism-oriented community, frequently sponsors mock shoot-outs, gunfight re-enactments and “wild West’ scenarios, it was dangerous to allow firearms to be carried in the city. Former City Marshal Ed Schnautz said in 1991 that city officials feared visitors might get caught up in the realism of the situation.

“I can just see somebody with a concealed weapon pulling a gun out after he’s had a few drinks, and somebody getting shot,’ he said.

Schnautz said at the time that he and other city officials felt Tombstone’s situation involved special circumstances, and therefore required a special ordinance to deal with the problem. Three Tombstone residents disagreed, however, and challenged the ordinance in court.

One of the three, Terry McGahey, complained to the City Council about the ordinance in December 1991 and asked that it be amended to agree with the state Constitution. The council refused to amend Ordinance 5-5-1, enacted in 1977, and McGahey and two others – Jack Fiske and Ed Phelan – subsequently filed a lawsuit, hoping to force the changes.

Because of Tombstone’s reputation as “the town too tough to die,’ the case drew national media attention, and that of the National Rifle Association, which agreed to provide some funding for legal fees involved in the suit through its Firearms Civil Rights Legal Defense Fund.

Deneen Peterson, a Tucson attorney representing the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the situation and advised her clients to remain silent.

Gingo, however, said, “Their attorney, Miss Peterson, and I have been working on fine-tuning the ordinance. We’ve agreed that the ordinance has to protect the public throughout.’

He said the reworded ordinance will make exceptions for “special activity days’ in town, when firearms will still be prohibited.

“The mayor and council will have to post advance notice, telling the public which days and times the events are scheduled,’ Gingo said. He said there are many such events scheduled during a typical year – usually on weekends – but had no estimate of the number. -- end Tucson Citizen article.

The Prescott Courier, January 11, 1994:
Tombstone's anti-firearm Law could be eased

Associate Press

TUCSON (AP) _ Tombstone, home of the gunfight at the OK Corral, might let townsfolk go back to the frontier tradition of strutting down the street with six-guns strapped to their hips. Openly packing a pistol is legal in Arizona, but Tombstone outlawed the practice in 1977 for fear that mock gunfights staged for tourist could lead to confusion and real bloodletting.

The old silver mining town in southeast Arizona thrives on tourists drawn by the story of the 1881 shootout re-enacted in movies including the current ''Tombstone.'' The battle in which Wyatt Earp and his posse killed Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury at the OK Corral is re-enacted in mock gunfights, as are other historic gunbattles.

The ban angered some folks in ''the town too tough to die,'' and three residents sued in 1991 to overturn the ban. They argued the local ordinance is superseded by the state Constitution, which, like the laws of several other states, allows people to carry guns in public as long as they aren't concealed.

Now, their lawyer is in on negotiations shaping a compromise city ordinance, said City Attorney Biagio Gingo. The idea is to allow ''open carry'' of firearms except on days when mock gunfights are planned, he said. ''Their attorney ... and I have been working on fine-tuning the ordinance,'' Gingo said. ''We've agreed that the ordinance has to protect the public throughout.''

An amendment to the ordinance is expected to go before the City Council on Jan. 17, he said. Deneen Peterson, the Tucson lawyer who challenged the law, declined to comment on the situation and advised her clients to do the same. -- end Prescott Courier article.

During the following week I mainly stayed home because I didn't want to answer questions about the lawsuit, and I just wanted to relax and enjoy myself for a bit before court. So for the rest of the week, I did just that.

Now the time had come for everyone to lay their cards on the table, because the next day we would go to court in Tucson and finish this thing once and for all.

That evening, Ed drove over to Jack’s place, and I met them over coffee. We decided to meet at the Longhorn Cafe for breakfast in the morning about nine o’clock before driving to Tucson. We then talked about what a rough road we had traveled throughout this ordeal, and when we finished Ed said his goodnights and headed for home.

Jack and I decided to drive up to Big Nose Kate’s for a couple of beers, and both of us took our own vehicles. When we walked in, Bill was tending bar, and Hal and a few others who were behind our stand were also there.

Ron, our friend on the city council, was just getting up to leave and he walked over to us and said “Give them hell tomorrow guy’s, they deserve it" then he walked out the door.

The rest of the evening went pretty much the same way. We hadn't seen anyone that night which had been against us so it turned out to be a nice quiet evening and that really was an enjoyable change.

I decided to stay and help Bill close up that evening because I wasn't tired, and I just wanted to spend some time alone talking to Bill. I thought the world of that old man because he was truly a nice gentleman with no hidden personalities and no axe to grind with anyone.

I remember, while helping him to restock and clean up the place, by wiping down the bar and sweeping the floor, Bill had mentioned the supposed Big Nose Kate’s ghost and how Bob, the fellow who tried to look like Kenny Rogers, believed strongly that the ghost really existed and he was somewhat afraid of him.

He also said that Hal was unsure about the ghost, and would get somewhat nervous when someone would talk about the ghosts antics.

We finished cleaning up and Bill poured us a couple of draft beers. Then he told me that Bob and Hal would be opening up in the morning and that maybe we should play a little ghostly trick on them. I thought that would be funny, so we agreed on it.

First off, we opened a package of peanuts and scattered them on the bar, then placed one of the pistols up side down in the holster which was on display behind the bar, and last we placed an empty beer mug upside down over the mop handle in the corner.

I told Bill what time Jack, Ed and I would meet in the morning before we left for Tucson, and said I would meet him at the bar before we left so we could see how our handiwork affected Bob and Hal. We called it a night and went home.

The next morning Jack and I met Ed at the Longhorn just before nine o’clock and we ate breakfast. While doing so Ed said that he wanted to drive, so we decided to ride in Ed’s truck.

By the time we finished, we still had about a half an hour before we had to leave for Tucson, so I told Jack and Ed about the ghostly trick that Bill and I had set up for Hal and Bob on the previous evening, and asked them to pick me up in front of Kate’s when they were ready to go.

I could see both Bob and Hal walking down the boardwalk towards Kate’s so they could make ready to open the place, and I could see Bill waiting at the door. I hurriedly walked down the boardwalk as to catch up with the three of them before they went inside and locked the door.

As we entered Kate’s, Bill thanked me for coming to meet him before going to Tucson so Bob and Hal wouldn't have any reason to believe anything was out of the ordinary.

As Bob approached the bar, he had completely stopped in his tracks, and a very strange look came over face as he noticed the peanuts, the revolver up side down in the holster, and the beer mug on the mop handle.

He said, with some excitement in his voice said, "Hal! Look at this!"

Hal began looking over the situation as Bob told him that the ghost had been at it again!

Bob, while looking around in a very cautious manner, then walked back to the storage room. At that time, Hal asked Bill if he had done this on the night before with just a bit of nervousness in his voice to which Bill answered, “Yes, we did” while pointing at me.

Bill then asked Hal not to say anything about it to Bob, because he had bit on the ghostly trick, hook, line and sinker. Hal agreed and fell right in with us as we prodded and pushed Bob’s imagination.

For some time after that, Bob would tell the story of the ghostly antics to anyone who would listen and to this day I don’t know if Bill or Hal had ever told him the truth. I know I didn't, and I don’t believe that they did either.

As Ed and Jack pulled up in front of Kate’s, I was just walking out the door. As I climbed into Ed’s tuck, it struck me how well we all dressed for the occasion.

Jack was wearing black slacks with a maroon shirt and a black string tie with a black leather vest along with his best black cowboy hat and boots. I wore gray slacks with a white shirt, a gray string tie and a gray four pocket vest along with my best silver belly cowboy hat and new boots. A silver belly is nothing more than a nice gray hat.

Ed on the other hand was really decked out. He was wearing what must have been a thousand dollar western suit along with his silver belly hat and a pair of very expensive Ostrich boots. We all looked good enough to go to a Saturday night dance.

When we entered the court room we could see our attorney having a conversation with the Tombstone city attorney as well as the Judge.

As we looked around, we also saw the Tombstone Mayor and Marshal standing on the other side of the room.

Since this wasn't going to be a jury trial, the room where the case would be heard was fairly small with regular chairs and a small desk like podium which would be the judge's bench with the court stenographer sitting in front of it.

The Tombstone City Attorney, as well as the mayor and marshal, would be sitting on the left hand side of the aisle facing the judge, and the three of us with our attorney would be sitting on the right.

Before the proceedings had begun our attorney had taken us into a smaller room yet, and explained to us what kind of questions the judge might ask us and said, "Just tell the truth because this is an open and shut case in my opinion."

She told us that the judge had all of the Chochise County Sheriff’s police reports that we had filed as well as many other items of evidence, which she had subpoenaed from Tombstone as well as a few of the newspaper reports and the records from the Tombstone City Council meetings which we had attended, not to mention the copies of the Arizona State Laws which Tombstone had broken.

The Judge opened the hearing and asked us some questions individually about any proof we might have, and each time our attorney would point out to him the reference page which he already had on his podium.

Each time the Judge would look over this evidence, and go on to the next item. When the Judge came to the permit allowing Ed to carry a cap gun, we could actually see, for the first time, a look of disapproval on his face.

Next the Judge questioned the mayor and marshal about the incidents which had occurred over the past few years, but their answers were pretty weak because it was very clear by all of the evidence that Tombstone’s old Earp ordinance was completely illegal.

The evidence also showed that the three of us had been illegally harassed by the city officials in Tombstone, so the Judge's demeanor towards the mayor and marshal had begun to change in a way that didn't look good for them.

The Judge then retired to his chambers as to reach a decision in the case only about an hour into the hearing.

When he returned from his chambers, he ruled in our favor completely.

He told the mayor and marshal of Tombstone, in a stern voice, that if something of this nature ever came up in front of him again, or if the city of Tombstone continue any harassment of us in any way, he would put them in jail.

He then awarded us a small settlement for our trouble, and dismissed the court.

This fight had never been about money, it was about our rights being violated as citizens of the State of Arizona, by a small town that thought that it was above the law, so we did not care about the amount of money.

I think that some of the long time Tombstone residents thought that we were after money, but they never understood our fight, and as far as I was concerned, the ones who thought that could all go to Hell.

We thanked our attorney and headed back to Tombstone.

While on our way home, we discussed the fact that we were glad to see this thing finally come to an end, and we also discussed the fact that the city officials would be much more careful in trying to enforce any made-up laws to bully their citizens in the future because they would not want to go to jail themselves.

When we arrived back in Tombstone, we parked on Allen Street near Big Nose Kate’s Saloon.

As we were walking up the boardwalk towards Kate’s, Jack said, "You know, it has taken one hundred and twelve years to undo what Mr. Gray and Virgil Earp had started back in 1881, and in a way this is a late coming victory for the McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton."

I looked at Jack and said, "No, this is a victory for every person who lives in Arizona and especially for the folks in Tombstone no matter if they deserve it or not."

We walked into Kate’s, took a place at the end of the bar, and ordered ourselves a beer.

Bill, Hal, Bob, and several others, had begun to stare at us while waiting to hear what had happened. By not paying attention to them we were pulling their legs and waiting to see how long it would take before they couldn't stand it any more, and we also wanted see how long it would take before someone would ask us about the outcome.

Finally, about thirty seconds after we received our beers, Bill asked, “Well, are you going to tell us or not?"

I smiled at Bill and said, "Its over, and we won hands down!"

With that several people let out a congratulatory hoop and began walking over to us and shaking our hands. We only stayed in Kate’s for about an hour or so after that, and no one would let us pay for our own beers even though we had tried to.

The old Earp ordinance, as it was known, had survived in one form or another for far too many years and it had finally been laid to rest, once and for all, just as it should have been when Arizona had become a state back in 1912.

I stayed on in Tombstone for one year after the court case had come to a close, and the old Earp ordinance had been stricken from the books, but I have to admit that I looked at the people in Tombstone in a whole different light.

I had began to notice that many of these folks who were playing cowboy had started wearing their old west garb and their colt replicas more often than not, and I had even heard some of these folks telling the tourists, when they didn't realize that Jeff or I was near by, how "we," meaning themselves as well as others, had fought the city of Tombstone over the old Earp ordinance, and how their bravery and toughness had got the job done.

 I had reached the point of no longer caring what these folks had to say, or how many lies they told. I would just shake my head in disgust while thinking of the old movie, High Noon with Gary Cooper, and inside myself, I wanted to puke.

But rather than say something, I had decided that it was no longer worth it and I would just walk away. The nerve of these phonies, taking credit for something that they never had the guts to stand up for in the first place, and during the mix wanted nothing to do with it because of their lack of sand and fear of retaliation by the Tombstone marshal's office.

Yep! They were a brave bunch. A braver bunch of cowboys had never existed. If you didn't believe that, all one had to do was ask them, and they would have gladly told you so.

By now I had had enough of Tombstone, and the phonies who lived there at that time, and I no longer had much respect for many of them, so I moved away from that city and vowed to never return except to visit a few friends from time to time.

I am now living in Wyoming, which is the least populated state in the Union. I have been living a very nondescript life, which is the way I like it, and the way I will live out my years.

The End

Terry McGahey


  1. Amazing story, well told. Thank goodness for the World Wide Web or else stories like these might never be heard beyond friends and family.

  2. Yes I firmly agree, I read and re read and thoroughly enjoyed it all, Thanks Terry and thanks Tom for putting it in print,

  3. Enjoyed this immensely. Incredible about the repercussions. I live in Tombstone so I totally relate to everything being about 50/50 for or against anything. Not sure who the mayor was then...but the mayor now has had Tombstone named "The Second Ammendment City"


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