Good Enough Mine Tour
Ed Schieffelin had a dry sense of humor. When he filed his first mining claim in 1877 he named it "Tombstone," because he'd been told that his tombstone was all that he would find in the parched, Apache-ruled hills of southeast Arizona. A year later, when he filed his second claim, he named it "Good Enough" because the silver ore was so rich that it was good enough to satisfy him.
Thousands of fortune-seekers followed Schieffelin, hoping to duplicate his success, opening dozens of other mines (Ed, alone, had 19). Above ground, the boomtown of Tombstone was born and flourished. But silver prices eventually fell, the veins of ore played out, and the town died. The mines were used as garbage dumps and then sealed shut.
Tombstone eventually resurrected itself as a tourist attraction. But if you ask the average Tombstone tourist WHY all those Wild West types had been living in this otherwise godforsaken part of the world, drinking and gambling and fornicating and killing each other -- you'd probably get a blank stare.
Andree and Shirley De Journett want to change that. Andree is Tombstone's ex-mayor; Shirley is a geologist and Andree's wife. For years they envisioned opening the Good Enough mine as an attraction and a missing link in Tombstone's history. They got their chance when the company that owned the property was told, "It's not worth anything, it's dangerous, get rid of it,'" said Shirley. As a measure of its perceived value, the mine was bought by Andree for only $2,000, but he had to pay $60,000 an acre for the surface property above it. He and Shirley then spent six years cleaning out the trash, sand, and rock and making the Good Enough reasonably tourist-safe. They finally reopened it on March 15, 2007.
Visiting the Good Enough makes one thing immediately clear: the silver miners in Tombstone had an easy daily commute. The mining district begins literally a block south of town, and it only takes 30 seconds to walk from the souvenir shops on Toughnut Street to the Good Enough entrance. It's probably the most convenient mine/cave tour in America. It's also dry, dark, and cool, attributes that should not be discounted in the SPF 50 climate of Tombstone.
Unlike the precise symmetry of, say, a coal mine or a salt mine, the Good Enough is a man-made cave. Passages twist and turn, sometimes enlarging into big rooms with soaring ceilings, with the empty spaces where the veins and bodied of silver ore were dug or blasted out by the miners. The mine goes a thousand feet out this way, hundreds of feet down that way. Shafts disappear into the abyss just off of the tour route -- future attractions, no doubt, in the De Journett's subterranean empire, as the Good Enough abuts the Toughnut, Lucky Cuss, West Side, and other mines, running even under the town itself.
Tourists don plastic miner helmets and bright green safety vests (Why? Perhaps it's easier to spot a wayward tour member wandering off the tour route, or at the bottom of an undeveloped shaft...). Groups are shepherded down a steep flight of wooden steps into the main mine tunnel.
Andree knows every vein of ore, every mineral outcropping, every original wooden post, every detail of construction. He spits out facts at every turn and nubbin; the man's energy is impressive. He shows us where he paved and flattened the floor of the mine with concrete and red clay (It used to be all rocky).
He recounts how he paid two guys to live in the mine for six months just to wash the walls so that tourists could "see the color" of the various ore veins; "If this was a working mine," he tells us, "you'd see nothing." He explains how he had to dig this room out by hand, blast that passage out with compressed air.
Andree even notes wherever he bumps his head, and paints those rocks blood red, a helpful visual cue that eco-sensitive natural caves can't copy. We don't known if his choice of color was meant for visibility or camouflage, but it certainly made us duck.
Andree and Shirley have big plans for their attraction. A shelter is being built over the mine entrance; burros will be imported to work mine equipment and charm the young; a blacksmith shop will be built along with gift shops and a restaurant and bar. Old miners shacks will be brought in and retrofitted as tourist cabins, so that visitors can spend the night in a miner shack.
"It's a job, isn't it?" Andree asks with a catbird grin worthy of Ed Schieffelin. "But work is cheap. I'll make it work."