Tombstone Times Tombstone News, History and Information
by Janice
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   The cluster of oak tree limbs extended out creating a makeshift bench in which to rest his alcohol-sapped body. The creek flowing alongside would offer him a refreshing drink, as the oak tree's limbs shade the banks of the rivulet and cool this hazy traveler. After riding for several days in the July heat taking his boots off to cool his feet in the flowing water close by would be refreshing. And his horse could graze on the nearby green grass after quenching his thirst in the rippling creek. He had made the decision to stop here and preparing to rest in the natural chair before him he propped his rifle up against the gnarly trunk of this old oak tree. His 6 feet tall body leaned back into the fork of this tree and gave out a sigh of refreshing ease. It had been a long ride and the Arizona sun had taken a toll on this traveler. A weeks worth of drunk had compounded the need for rest. And it was here that he closed his blue eyes and contemplated his journey.

   The clouds were rolling in from the west bringing a cooling to the air. The summer monsoons crouching on the horizon prepared to bring a quick but blasting rainstorm. The wind was whipping up and stirring the birds to flight. And the chestnut colored mare lazily snipped at the green grass underfoot oblivious to nature's threat.

   His rest was interrupted by the sound of leaves crunching under foot. His hand grasped the pistol prepared to defend. The fog cleared from his languid eyes enough to see the mare move past him. Oh his head hurt! And now it hurt even more with the sudden reflex jerk to his pistol. He needed a drink he thought. That would help his condition for sure. Whiskey was the cure or was it the cause? He did not know, nor did he care. His thoughts were on his journey.

   Laying back into the fold of the tree he looked up into the heavens. His hat blocked the view and so he tossed it over to the side. The sky was becoming bold with different hues of blue. The light wispy clouds were moving quite fast and right behind them were legions of darker clouds deep with moisture ready to spill. He was bound to get wet he thought but the limbs of this tree will breach the path the raindrops will take to his resting place and give him a semblance of protection. And the storm is bringing a cooling to the air. It will be good to rest just a bit more he thought as he closed his eyes yet again, his journey on his mind.

   The clap of thunder broke the silence. The sound blasted through the peaceful afternoon and startled the horse to race through the canyon. The man did not move. His head lay to the side and his right hand held the gun. The raindrops found their way through the protective fortress of the leaves and his lifeless body was bathed in the monsoon of July 13, 1882.

   The storm passed over and the sunset was aglow with the multiple shades of red closely matching the radiance of red splashed over the bark of this tree the man rested his head on. The deer began gathering by the creek in the evening twilight and the bats started their night flights. The night sky became filled with copious amounts of stars and the owls began their nightly chat amongst the oak trees. The moon cast a ghostly glow across the man whose head lay against the tree trunk. The night air chilled after the summer rainstorm and the man remained still to the cool breezes that passed over his body.

   The early morning light finds the man still in place. The fish are starting their dawn feeding on the insects that swarm over the water's surface and their attempts to feed create a musical splash of sorts as they reach for their prey and fall back into their watery home. The song extends to the banks of the stream as the birds sing their greetings to the new day chiming in with the ever-present splashes the trout create. The bees are busy buzzing their way through the tall grass that this man's horse was feeding on before the thunderclap yesterday. This symphony of nature resonates throughout the canyon and yet does not disturb the resting man.

   The afternoon sun begins to beat down on the man. There will be no let up of heat today. Yesterday's storm left behind a sweltering heat that begins to sear his body. The morning coolness has gone now and the flies noisily swarm toward the smell that covers his body. A circling of vultures' overhead gives notice to others that a meal awaits them by the creek.

   Up the trail a man and his team of horses winds his way down the rocky road that leads out of Turkey Creek Canyon. Loaded with lumber he carefully directed the team of horses down the incline and brings them to a halt when he notices the man leaning against the tree 20 yards away by the creek. Stepping down from the wagon he edges closer to the figure in the trees. The scene a bit of a puzzle to him as he notices the man has no boots on. His feet wrapped in what appeared to be pieces of an undershirt torn into strips. A rifle is leaning up against the tree. The man has two cartridge belts on. Curiously one of these is attached around his waist upside down.

   His attire is the typical cowboy garb. A blue shirt, a vest, pants and drawers and his hat lay alongside the ground where he rests. His right temple gives evidence that this rest will be a permanent one. There is a bullet hole through the temple and his right hand folds around the grips of a .45 caliber Colt.

   The teamster recognized this cowboy and immediately called for help. As others arrived and testimony to this man's death was complete a grave was dug nearby where his body was found resting and his remains laid to permanent respite along the banks of Turkey Creek. A wooden marker was nailed to the tree forever laying claim as to who died here along the banks of Turkey Creek. Forever his grave remains a marker in history. Forever his death remains a mystery. And forever this oak tree will hold onto the story, the truth of that fateful day in July when John Peters Ringo stopped on his journey and rested under the old oak tree. Did he know his journey would end here? Did he plan his last thought? Or was his journey cut short by an assailant's bullet directed through his temple?

   One hundred and twenty two years has past since Johnny Ringo took his last breath. And one hundred and twenty two years of ponders and wonders, of claimants and deniers, and of mysteries and obscurities have followed his life and clouded his death and subsequently kept his legend alive.

   No one knows for sure just how Johnny died. Reports of suicide and claims of murder will forever surround the story of this man and his death. What makes a man worthy of such an epitaph? What about him perpetuates the mystery of his death? Why would other legends of that time all want to claim a part in the death of this man? Time only understands and will forever guard this mystery as the quest for the truth goes on, time immemorial.

   The certainty of this story only truly known by the oak tree. The secret never to be revealed. The mystery of his death began. His legacy was not necessarily the story of his life, but more precisely his death. A moment when his life ended and the story began.

   His final thoughts will forever be pondered over. His final journey endlessly discussed and yet never exposed. His legacy would forever be the question - murder or suicide?


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