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December 19, 2019

Hanging Out in Tombstone with Johnny One Dog

Author’s Note: I’m drinking Johnny One Dog's Sarsaparilla as I write this. The question isn’t whether it’s good, or not…the question is “how do I spell sarsaparilla?”

I pulled into Tombstone on a warm and sunny late Tuesday morning and was immediately underwhelmed. I’m not saying don’t go there, I’m just saying I’m not a big fan of things that smell too “touristy.”

I stopped at Boothill, mainly to use the toilet, but decided to lay down the three bucks and go in with my Rolleicords to get a few shots. I guess I question the authenticity of a gravestone that has been fixed with a Sharpie. I’m not a historian, but I don’t think that technology existed in the old west.

So with a bit of a cynical attitude, I returned to the VW and headed into town. I could see the old cowboys wandering toward the town center for the reenactment of the famous Earp brothers shootout with Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury. I didn’t think it would be worth getting out of the truck for, so I simply drove past and around.

I cut through the center and was going to make my way out of town when a little stand caught my eye. It was warm out, and a cold Sarsaparilla DID sound good right then. I pulled in.

A loudly barking dog welcomed me, but his tail was wagging so I wasn’t too worried. I stood there for a second before my eyes adjusted to the dark inside the stand and I saw the purveyor sitting in the back at his desk.

“Can I get a cold one?” I asked. He got up and came out to greet me.

“That’ll be two dollars” he said as he set my bottle on the bar.

We chatted for a bit, typical stuff, just before the sound of gunshots rang out from behind me. He’s heard it so many times I’m not sure he really noticed, kind of like living next to a train track, you get used to it.

I told him a little about Kooky’s Road Trip as some exposition to my real question, which was “Can I get your picture?”

He agreed and I went to the truck to get a couple of cameras. I pulled out one of the Rolleicords and had to load it with film. We chatted as I loaded it. I was able to get off a few shots before it jammed. Old things.

I then went back to the truck to grab something more trustworthy, my Canon Rebel G with a 50mm, 1.4 lens, loaded with Kodak T-Max 400.

As I snapped a few more he asked where I was from. “Kansas City,” I told him.

“Missouri or Kansas,” he asked, revealing some knowledge of the area.

“Born in Missouri, living in Kansas.”

“My parents are from Mission Hills,” he told me, and fumbled around for a picture of the old homestead.

“What’s the address,” I asked, telling him I would drop by and ask to borrow some money.

“They’re not there anymore…long ago.”

Now John’s in Tombstone, Arizona selling the best Sarsaparilla I’ve ever had, made exclusively for him by a place in Louisburg, Kansas.

I finished my bottle and ordered another for the road, laying another couple of bucks on the counter.

“You post my picture on my Facebook page and this one’s on me,” he said as he handed me another cold one, showing me his name on the side of it, so I could find his page.

We shook hands and I headed back to the truck, cameras and sarsaparilla in hand. I loaded up and aimed south.

I guess my thing is that I like it real. Johnny One Dog seems real. The gun fight, not so much. Tombstone, aside from a few buildings, is a movie set and Lester Moore? Well, his fake tombstone in Boothill should read "Here DOESN’T lie Lester Moore … No Les, Never Was.“


Russell Viers

I'm just a guy who finds the world an interesting place and likes to capture certain moments with a camera. They aren't for sale, or anything. I just like them. Well, usually. I've taken a lot of photos I don't like, as well.

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