Lucky Cuss and the Tough Nut
A Story of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Johnny Tyler and the Old West by Casey
By Charles Casey
A new punk band? Not quite. The Lucky Cuss and the Tough Nut were Arizona silver mines that begat Tombstone- the "town too tough to die."
Late October finds Tombstone in the throes of its famous Helldorado- the celebration of the infamous OK Corral gunfight between the Earps and the Clantons more than a hundred years ago.
Just a few short years before the OK Corral shootout, Goose Flats-- the mesa-like hill Tombstone sits on-- was another unlnhabited part of the desertscape...
Dawn found the man climbing into the mountains. He left the mules where they were and they did not follow; they were glad to rest before the boiling sun stole their shade.
For the man, though, there was to be no rest. He had been scouring the mountains since the beginning of April; he would contlnue to search until he found what he wanted, or untll he could search no more.
He paused for a moment his eyes surveying the harsh landscape. Perhaps he would never find what he wanted; perhaps the soldiers were right.
They had told him that between Apaches and desert all he would find would be his own tombstone. And now his supplies were beginning to run low...
Shrugging his shoulders, the man readjusted his backpack and pushed his shaggy hair out of his eyes. He reached out and ran his fingers over the outcropping in front of him. Leaning closer, his hands pulled a chisel and hammer out of his pack. The hammer flashed briefly in the sun before it struck the chisel.
A chunk of rock fell to the ground, and the man bent down to pick it up. Turning it over in his hands, Ed Schieffelin let a smile play over his face-- he had found what he had been searchlng for.
During the day he continued to gather ore samples, then, as the sun dipped below the horizon, he led the mules on a thirty mile trek towards safety. The moon was behind them, and Ed knew he could be seen from miles away. And Apaches had sharp eyes...
Several days later Ed was in Tucson, filing clalms and trying to interest people in his ore samples.
Tucsonans did not treat the fully-bearded, rough looking prospector well. They were sceptical of his chances for a rich strlke, and only glanced at his ore samples.
With stubborn resolve, Ed took his last six dollars and went to a general store to re-outfit.
Glancing at Ed's list of supplles, the storekeeper asked congenially, "Fixing to set up a ranch?"
"No. I'm prospectlng."
"Prospectlng? Around here?" asked the clerk laughlingly.
"There are mines in the territory." retorted Ed.
"Sure there are. But around here they haven't amounted to much. Best switch to ranching," advised the clerk.
Ed angrily took his list to another store and did not state his intentions...
Discouraged by his receptlon, Ed hooked up wlth another prospector and headed south. Passlng Goose Flats, the two trled thelr luck further south, close to the border with Mexico. The passing days left them with nothing to show for their prospecting.
October found Ed with 30¢ as he trudged north in search of his brother Al. The two had not seen each other in four years, so Ed wandered through the mining camps, sometimes working, sometimes not.
Their reunion was joyful, but for Ed there was a bittersweet taste. His brother Al was dubious of the ore samples' potential. An unhappy Ed went to work in the local mine, daily begging his brother to head south and prospect.
The days passed swiftly, and on one of them Ed came back from night shift and noticed that his brother and several ore samples were missing. Too exhausted to worry about it, he was soon lost in a dreamless slumber.
Dinnertime found him stretching bleary-eyed, and listening to his brother bubble forth his news.
"Listen, Ed, the company sent Dick Gird, an old friend of mine, to do assay work at the mine."
Ed nodded drowsily, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"There are mines in the territory."
"I took a couple of your samples to him yesterday and got the results today."
Ed's ears perked up, but before he could say anything AI was rambling on.
"One sample assayed a $40 a ton." With a mysterious smile Al watched the news sink his brothers shoulders then quietly added, "The other assayed at $600 a ton."
Suddenly both brothers were pounding each others backs, their shouting voices filling the tiny cabin with noise. When the commotion died down, Ed started asking his brother questions.
"Who is this Gird? What kind of man is he?"
"Don't worry. He's a good man. He's honest, and he'll keep the secret."
They talked for several more minutes, then Al told Ed he had taken another sample to Gird, and that the results would be ready in the morning.
"I knew there was silver in those hiIls."
It was a very exited Ed Schleffelln who worked the nightaway, and when morning came he was unable to go to sleep. Al went to work on the day shift, while Ed skipped breakfast and went looking for Richard Gird.
Gird had only been in his office a few days, and was just starting to establish routines. A hard worker and an expert in hls fleld, he had been very impressed with the ore samples Al Schieffelin had brought him. He had just received the last of the assay results when a knock sounded on his door.
"Come in," he said, looking up.
The door swung open and a man was framed in the doorway. Standing just under six feet, and weighlng perhaps 175 pounds, he introduced himself through a thick beard. "My name is Ed Schieffelin."
Dick Gird stood up and held out his hand. As they shook, he was startled by the hard blueness of Ed's eyes. Both men sat down, and Gird picked a piece of paper off his desk. Smiling, he said,
"Here are the results of the assay from yesterday."
Ed sat on the edge of his chair expectantly.
"The last sample assayed at $1,000 a ton."
Schieffelin let a triumphant gleam command his features. "I knew there was silver in those hills."
"There must be. These samples look good, very good."
And then they started talking business. The talks continued for several days. Both Ed and Gird were ready to go south and do some serious prospecting, with Gird bringing along some assaying equipment. Al was less wllllng-- he had a good job, and those weren't always easy to come by.
Finally, all three agreed to go, and as equal partners in the venture. Plans were laid, provisions readied, and on February 14 ,1878, the trio set out. Ed had not yet disclosed the exact locatlon of his strike, and none of the three spoke to any other miners, although everyone knew "something was up."
Once on the trail, they learned that another prospecting team had set out before them. Hurrying, they passed the group after a few days, and on February 20, they set up house in an old structure in southern Arizona. Hastily building a furnace, they were ready to assay within 24 hours.
The first place they went to was the area where Ed had picked up the richest ore. It proved to be a false lead, and they dubbed it the "Graveyard." As the days passed, the hopes of Al and Gird weakened, but Ed never gave up hope. Taking a mule, he often headed into the hills alone.
His stubborness finally paid off. A sample he brought in assayed at $15,000 a ton. They named the claim the "Lucky Cuss." Soon other prospectors flooded into the area and the town of Tombstone sprang up. Ed continued to prospect, and found the "Tough Nut," another rich claim.
Knowlng that money was needed by the trio to develop their clalms, Governor Safford offered them $150,000 for their mines. Turning it down, they cut the Governor in for a quarter share when he built them a ten-stamp mill. The mill opened In June, 1879, and Ed drove the bullion into Tucson, a practice they continued until the following November, when stagecoaches came to the new town of Tombstone.
More Tombstone History: Legends of Tombstone
© 1996-2016. EMOLorg. Tombstone Entertainment Magazine. All rights reserved. Republished from Entertainment Magazine, July 1984. Robert Zucker, publisher.