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Hatfields, McCoys and the Wild, Wild West

The "Hatfields and McCoys" joined the forces of the Union and the Confederacy on February 15-16, 2020 for "Arizona Civil Wars Days" at Old Tucson Studio in Tucson, Arizona.

Nestled in the heart of the Saguaro National Park, Old Tucson is surrounded by idyllic vistas of the Tucson Mountains to the west, the Rincon Mountains to the east and the vast plains of the Sonoran Desert that extend as far as the eye can see. The park is named for the millions of Saguaro cacti that inhabit the area.

The park is also home to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which houses a zoo, two aviaries and gardens showcasing the surrounding desert landscapes.

A visit to Old Tucson Studio is a literal step back in time. The studio is a showcase of vintage Americana, offering an idealized version of the "wild west" of the 1880s as presented in countless classic western films. Since 1939, when outdoor sets were first built for the William Holden film, "Arizona," the studio has been the filming location for more than 400 feature films including four that starred John Wayne ("Rio Bravo" "McLintock," "El Dorado", "Rio Lobo"). Old Tucson has also been the site for films featuring Clint Eastwood ("The Outlaw Josey Wales"), Paul Newman ("The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean,"), Jimmy Stewart, Charlton Heston, Ronald Reagan, Kirk Douglas, Charles Bronson and many others. The studio has also home to countless episodes of television westerns including Bonanza, Gunsmoke, High Chaparral and Little House on the Prairie.

With the Feud's links to the Civil War, "Arizona Civil War Days" was an ideal opportunity for the "Hatfields and McCoys" to carry our story out west. At the invitation of Judy Hatfield, Bobbi and I joined our friends Reo and Jack Hatfield in support of the Arizona Senora Western Heritage Foundation "The "Hatfields and McCoys" set up camp in the Hotel Del Toro, where the "Three Amigos" entertained in the 1986 film. Judy, Jack and I made presentations on Feud history, the role of women in the Feud, the Civil War and the Feud and Arizona's own “Graham-Tewksbury” feud.

Reo Hatfield spoke on the importance of the Truce signed by the families in 2003 and our ongoing commitment to unity. We reaffirmed this obligation by signing a new "Declaration of Unity," supported by over 400 signatures of witnesses collected over the weekend. (The new document will be on display at Old Tucson in coming years.) To close the first day's events, Randy Avon moderated a panel discussion by the families held at the Grand Palace Hotel and Saloon, celebrating the families' mutual history and assessing our joint plans for the future.

Throughout the weekend, the families participated in a number of events throughout the park. Activities included axe throwing at Dead Eye Dan's Shooting Gallery, picture-taking at the Old Time Photo Shop and surveying the encampments of the hardy Civil War reenactors. One of my personal favorite moments of our visit to Old Tucson was a guided tour of the park, perched on top of a vintage horse-drawn stagecoach.

Without a doubt, the most adventurous event of the weekend was riding Outlaw Zipline, the "world's only laser target shooting zipline."

Forgoing the ride's usual format of firing at posted targets, Owner Jeff Egan offered up a novel idea to make "feudin" more fun. The Hatfield posse took up secure positions on the ground to fire at the "real McCoy" suspended from the zipline 40 feet in the air, plummeting 350 feet downward over the creek below at 35 miles an hour. When the time came for me to return the favor, Jeff decided that my opportunity should be more challenging. My vantage point for returning fire on my Hatfield compatriots was sitting atop a 1,500 lb. longhorn steer named "Whopper!"

Old Tucson Studio is a one of kind venue. The park offers a full slate of engaging, informative and downright fun family-style entertainment. The uniqueness of the park is exceeded only by the geniality of the people working there. The kindness and hospitality afforded us by Megan Litwicki, Marketing Director for Old Tucson and her staff (Gabby, Nick, Van, Charlie, Debbie and many more) was beyond exceptional. Bobbi and I enthusiastically recommend Old Tucson Studio as a vacation destination and we look forward to returning again in the near future.

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