We left Pinos Altos around 11:00 a.m. on Friday to head back to Tucson. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at a randomly selected town that turned out to be Willcox, AZ. Willcox has two claims to fame. On July 6, 1900, Warren Earp, the brother of Wyatt, Morgan, James and Virgil Earp, was shot and killed in the Headquarters Saloon right here.
The saloon burned down in 1940, but there’s a plaque on the street corner to commemorate the occasion. Of course, the plaque now hangs on the outside wall of a craft shop which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Headquarters Saloon, but you can still “come in and stand where Warren Earp was shot on July 6, 1900”. Yes, there’s a sign in the window of the shop inviting visitors to do exactly that. We didn’t go in.
Oh yes, Willcox has another claim to fame, thank goodness. It’s the hometown of Rex Allen, the “last of the silver screen cowboys”, star of many Republic Pictures productions in the 1950’s, and contemporary of Roy Rogers (who was my personal favorite). He was also the star of “Frontier Doctor,” a TV series that ran 39 episodes in 1955 and 1956. There’s a large bronze statue of Rex Allen in a park located in the historic section of Wilcox, directly across the street from the Rex Allen Theater and the Rex Allen Museum.
The Museum also houses the Arizona Cowboy Hall of Fame, which I got to see for free along with the admission to the Rex Allen Museum (a $5.00 donation per family). The Rex Allen Museum was well worth the 5 bucks, and the AZ Cowboy Hall of Fame was worth what I paid to see it, too.
I was surprised to find that Rex actually grew up on a homestead in the 1920’s and early 30’s , so he was clearly more qualified to be a movie cowboy than my old hero Roy, who came from Ohio. Anyway, the museum contains a lot of memorabilia, including early artifacts from the homestead, costumes, props, recordings, hats, boots, saddles, etc., etc., etc.
A TV in the back was playing “Colorado Sundown” starring Rex Allen and Slim Pickens.
Coincidentally, this is the only Rex Allen movie I can ever recall having seen before. Figures.
On the way out, I decided to purchase a numbered bronze commemorative medal struck in Rex’s honor back in the 70’s and still available to visitors. Unfortunately, the guy in charge had no idea “which key fit the lock on the case,” so I had to forgo the pleasure. Apparently those medals aren’t too popular, as he told me no one had ever asked to buy one that he knew of.
In retrospect, the thing I liked best about Willcox was Big Tex’s Barbecue, an actual railroad dining car which now offers some of the best brisket I’ve had outside of Texas. If by some miniscule chance you ever find yourself in Willcox, don’t miss Big Tex’s.