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 off a horse into a railroad box car. He
was married seven times to six different women.
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.
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.
Soon thereafter, it was discovered that the statue of the horse had
several bullet holes in it.
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