Tag Archives: tourist trap

History and Hokeyness in Old Tucson

12 Jul

Winding on the mountainous road leaving Tucson in the distance, I blithely anticipated Old Tucson would be a hidden treasure tucked between the hillsides.  Certainly tucked away… in the middle of nowhere… it dawned on me that I just might be entering that pesky force field that sucks me into tourist traps once again.

Famed as the studios where many classic westerns were filmed (Arizona , in 1939, was the first), there is an interesting veil of movie history draped over this hokey, low budget theme park.   More than 300 films/tv productions have been created here, but it was a little hard for me to imagine film casts and crews making well known scenes amongst the western facades that seemed so cheaply staged.  The movie credits are quite extensive (check out the Old Tucson website for a full history) with a steady stream of productions flanking the Western primetime of the 1950’s.  Most in that era were unfamiliar to me, but there were quite a few productions that caught my pop culture interest.   I wandered around recognizable sets from Three Amigos, Tombstone, Young Guns, and Little House on the Prairie.  I posed beside “The Reno”,  an 1872 locomotive that carried passengers from President Roosevelt to John Wayne and starred in nearly 100 features. Character actors reenacted a shootout scene from The Quick and the Dead.  Horrendous cabaret ladies made me wince as they sang classic numbers accompanied by film footage shot at Old Tucson.  A miniature train ride around the perimeter of the studios provided many a view of desert dirt and scattered props.  Overall, I think the hokey outweighed the history.

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What is it about the great American tourist trap?

16 May

Plunked on the side of the interstate where the desert sand whips and tumbleweeds roll is Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch.  Its sun-battered roadside signs spark interest, luring me toward the exit.  Surely a magnetic force field sucked me into its vacant dirt parking lot… what other logical explanation is there for a grown adult partaking in a random desert version of a petting zoo owned by the fictitious True Grit US Marshall?

I easily entertain the notion that one particular Miniature Sicilian donkey is most definitely smiling at me and has to be the Donkey from Shrek.  After all, why wouldn’t Rooster Cogburn himself have the REAL Donkey residing in his park?

Like an elementary school girl, I timidly extend my hand with a ration of pellets to the cluster of Fallow deer.  What was Bambi’s girlfriend’s name anyway?

I’m pretty sure it was the Ostrich Rancher extraordinaire (and most definitely not the infamous Rooster Cogburn) who taught me the secrets to duck and lorikeet feeding.   

And then there were the ostriches.  Despite the wondrous picture painted of these (really creepy when up close) creatures, I am here to refute that image.  Case in point: the sign that reads “Yes! Ostrich bite!”  Although they don’t actually have teeth, they have sharply snapping beaks.  And freakishly long necks with which they aggressively lunge forward to snatch pellets from your sensitive, much slower fingers.  No wonder there is a disclaimer freeing Mr. Rooster Cogburn and his associates from responsibility for any ostrich nips.  Good thing my fingers were a less easy target than those of the not-so-lucky kiddos nearby. 

Have you secretly enjoyed a tourist trap as much as I enjoyed this one?

(The material of this post is simply my personal anecdote.  I think everyone should consider having their own unique experience at Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch.  And don’t hate on ostriches.)