Riderless horse outline at the Tom Mix Memorial.

Tom Mix Death Site

Field review by the editors.

Florence, Arizona

Tom Mix was the greatest of the silent-era movie cowboys, and a cowboy in real-life as well. He reportedly could knock a button off of a shirt with a rifle shot, and jump a horse into a railroad box car. He was married seven times to six different women.

But Tom was 60 years old on October 11, 1940, and behind the wheel of a V8 convertible, not in a saddle, when he decided to race north across the Arizona desert to visit his son-in-law. No one knows how fast he was going when he saw the road repair crew, but some say that he was standing straight up on the brakes, trying to stop, when his car flew into the washed-out gully. Tom's aluminum suitcase was thrown out of the back seat and into the back of Tom's head (He was wearing his trademark 10-gallon white Stetson at the time). Mix emerged apparently unscathed from the car -- which was not badly damaged -- took one step, and crumpled, dead of a broken neck.

Tom Mix Memorial Picnic Area.

The gully was renamed Tom Mix Wash as a makeshift memorial. Seven years later the Pinal County Historical Society erected a monument at the remote site. It's a mortared, cobblestone pile topped with a two-foot-tall black iron silhouette of a saddled but riderless horse, its head bowed. The horse has several holes in it. At first you may think it's rust -- but then you remember that you're in a desert, and there is no rust, and the holes are in fact bullet holes.

The monument was restored in 1990 when the horse, which had been stolen ten years earlier, was returned and had its first batch of bullet holes repaired. In the early 21st century a single, sheltered picnic bench was built just behind the monument, for those who want to eat lunch in the middle of a desert where Tom Mix died.

Also see: Tom Mix Museum - Suitcase of Death

Tom Mix Death Site

Address:
Highway 79 South, Florence, AZ
Directions:
Hwy 79 between mile markers 115 and 116, 16 miles south of Hwy 287 (Florence) and 24 miles north of Hwy 77 (Oracle Junction).
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