• Sage Webb

Place: Tombstone & Southern Arizona (with Alpacas!); Book: Looking for Little Egypt

The 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition/World’s Fair holds a lot of significance for numerous modern social movements and activities, some of which lie quite close to my heart: public defense, yoga, and belly dance. The Fair saw legal scholars (including women lawyers, with the profession recently expanding to receive the fairer sex) meeting for an international Congress of Jurisprudence and Law Reform. At this Congress, Clara Foltz (the first woman admitted to the California Bar) spoke on the need for parity between public defenders and prosecutors (while the US Supreme Court was decades away from the landmark right-to-counsel Gideon decision, states did have public defenders).

At the World’s Parliament of Religions, Swami Vivekananda spoke, laying the groundwork for his introduction of yoga to the West.

And the captivating Little Egypt shocked and entertained in the Street in Cairo exhibition. While some debate and disputes exist about the identity of Little Egypt, the fact remains that vaudeville and nineteenth-century dance in America provide some interesting stories ... and collide with the Wild West in the Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona.

After picking up our already-beloved new home on wheels, we headed southeast from Tucson to Tombstone, took in the Oriental Saloon (where Doc Holliday supposedly shot a couple guys) and a lovely shoot-out drama, and ended up at the Bird Cage.

(Inside the Oriental. Out of respect for the Bird Cage’s photo policy, I have not posted any interior shots of that venue.)

This theater-brothel-gambling parlor now hosts for tourists a gold-and-silver-decked nineteenth-century hearse, something like 46 or 48 (if I caught the number correctly) late-1800s bullet holes, and a large painting of Little Egypt, who performed at the theater in 1881. While Donna Carlton presents the Little Egypt saga in her Looking for Little Egypt, and points out that multiple Little Egypts took the American stage, I can’t say that I really cared whether the Bird Cage Little Egypt was the same Little Egypt who performed in Chicago and somewhat “launched” American bellydance (given numerous circumstances, I rather doubt she was). I just felt thrilled to see a piece of American dance history, walk where the Wild West legends had walked, and touch bullet holes left by these ne’er-do-wells. Allegedly, the place is home to over two dozen ghosts, the brothel rooms feel totally creepy, and the basement offers a view of a bunch of nineteenth-century cr@p and a plastic bucket! Authenticity truly abounds. Overall, the Bird Cage was our highlight of Tombstone and gave us a neat view of Wild West—and dance—history.

Heading toward the Mexican border, with our Harvest Hosts membership (a cool RV program that lets members camp for “free” at farms, golf courses, attractions, and the like, in exchange for purchases at the host site), we discovered an alpaca ranch. Swoon! A herd of alpacas (many moms and babies), a Navajo sheep, a majestic gray cat, and a couple beautiful Great Pyrenees dogs, and call me absolutely thrilled! The later feud over whether or not to run the generator (to have the air conditioner) or listen to the night sounds and enjoy the breeze couldn’t even dull the glow of the day!

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