It was over 8 years ago when Dennis and Cyndi Carroll decided
to "head west" from their Michigan home. Packing things up they
looked at each other and wondered where in the west they would
go. Cyndi decided upon Arizona and with Dennis in agreement they
gathered their belongings, pulled out the map and began their
adventure. They had no specific destination in mind and would
figure that out when then got close to Arizona. A map showed them
that Tombstone was near and they took the exit and headed on down
to their intended destination.
It happened to be a Sunday
when they arrived and the streets were blocked off. Thinking that
the town was closed and they would have to return on Monday to
see what Tombstone was all about they headed back towards the
interstate and took a room in Benson. This was before Allen Street
had been permanently closed to vehicle traffic and on special
occasions or Sundays the street would be blocked or roped off
so people could get better pictures of our great western town.
While bunking in Benson they were reading a newspaper that advertised
for a driver position. Dennis was going to need employment if
this was going to be their new home so he called up and scheduled
an appointment for an interview for the position. The job would
be in Tombstone and the driving would be a team of horses hooked
to a wagon! Their adventure in Tombstone was to begin and it was
February 22, 1999.
March 22, Dennis had learned the ropes and was put in charge of
his own team to guide on the streets of Tombstone. His training
included everything from taking care of the 5:30 am feedings to
shoeing and training the new teams. Dennis had spent some time
with quarter horses before but never with an animal the size of
these Belgians and Percherons. He took his new position seriously
and learned all he could about these animals and the care needed
for them. He found that working with these grand animals became
second nature. He grew to love the horses and the horses learned
to respect and value their new guide.
But the position did not
just require horse sense; it necessitated the memorizing of Tombstone's
story. So during this month of training it was also necessary
for him to not only memorize and repeat the words scripted for
the tour route but to become familiar with Tombstone's history.
Day after day he read and re-read the script. He and Cyndi would
drive the route and he would tell the story familiarizing himself
with each historic location and creating a flow to the words he
would share with his passengers. Soon, Dennis not only had it
down pat, he was repeating it in his dreams and on more than one
occasion still today, Cyndi has to wake him up and tell him that
she already knows the story!
seems hard to think of Dennis learning the ropes of this teamster
role. For as long as I can remember he has been the face of Old
Tombstone Historical Tours. He has been photographed more than
any one person or building in Tombstone. His picture has been
spotted in magazines all over the world and even in a German commercial...
to say nothing of the zillions of personal cameras that have captured
the stagecoaches and the white haired cowboy who drives them.
This oft-photographed stagecoach driver though is more than just
the image captured on film. When he takes his cowboy hat off and
pulls his boots off for the day he has not just played the part,
he has lived it. In the eight plus years that Dennis has been
with the stage line he has trained and put 24 horses on the street.
Even though we only see two horses at a time guiding the stagecoach
or covered wagons there are about 15 horses out on the ranch where
they all live. Each team is only worked 1 or 2 days a week, allowing
them ample time to rest between each shift. On an average day
horse and driver cover anywhere from 10 to 15 miles, event weekends
easily 20 miles. And Dennis has been there with them from sunrise
to sunset, feeding, brushing, cleaning, training and loving them.
It's not the cold harsh winters
of Michigan now for Dennis though there are some days that he
can get quite a chill sitting atop the coach in December and January.
And the summer's heat becomes tolerable for him after he douses
himself with some cool water. But it is all in a day's work for
him. A day's work since he headed west and went from tourist to
teamster and the most photographed person in Tombstone.