Tombstone’s Strange But True Tale From the Old West
Five different newspapers were historically known to be running as daily or weekly editions in the early days of 1880 Tombstone, Arizona. If you had the leisure time to peruse the variety pages of their old archives, you might have come across this one based on a true account.
Johnny Blair of Double Dobe (short for adobe mud) Ranch was looking forward to riding into Tombstone to see the sights with a bunch of cowboy comrades when he was taken down with a sudden case of smallpox.
Smallpox was a frightening disease that was hard to survive or to get rid of. Whole Native Indian tribes had been wiped out due to the lack of any natural tolerance to the affliction. Everyone was afraid of smallpox. His friends quarantined him under care of a Mexican woman, immune from the plague, in a cabin out on the mesa. His friends occupied another cabin a half mile away to lend whatever long-distance assistance they may. They waited patiently and seemed honor-bound to support their trail buddy.
After five days, the Mexican nurse approached within earshot and announced that poor Senor Juanito was ‘very dead.’ To bury the victim, and pal, of this dreaded disease, without endangering the lives of the other cowboys became their immediate problem. Having scooped out a grave, they played ‘seven-up’ card game to determine who would officiate as mortician.
The loser of the game saddled his pony and, riding to the open door of the cabin where the dead man lain on a blanket on the floor, threw a loop of a lasso about his feet. Spurring his pony to a gallop with the corpse dragging and bouncing at the end of the rope, the rider raced at break-neck speed toward the grave, into which the dead man flounced headlong. The other cowboys, anticipating the delivery, rushed up with spades and made the dirt fly as they filled the grave, establishing doubtlessly a world’s record for lightning speed in funerals.