|Welcome to Two Guns|
The area around Two Guns, known as the Coconino Plateau, consists of rolling ranges surrounded by distant mountains. According to pieces of pottery and other items which have been carbon dated, the area has seen human habitation since around 1050. The Indians originally farmed and hunted in this area in the warm months and later on used it mostly for grazing their sheep and horses. By the 1700's though, the Apache and Navajos who were sworn enemies, began also to use the canyons for staging surprise attacks on each other and for staging raids on each other's camps.
|Large water tanks painted with murals as you |
enter Two Guns.
The Navajo were extremely confused as not only had the Apache raiders vanished without a trace, they had also not taken the ponies from either of the camps they had attacked. Their leader sent out a number of scouts on fast horses in a desperate attempt to locate the enemy before they made their escape. Two men, B'ugoettin Begay and Bahe, were sent along the canyon rim toward a cave in the canyon walls directly across from what would years later become the town of Two Guns. Arriving at the place, they crawled on their bellies through the sagebrush and weeds intending to get a look over the rim into the canyon below. As they were slowly making their way forward, Bahe was surprised by a blast of air striking him in the face. After getting over his initial astonishment, he cautiously leaned forward again and heard Apache voices coming up from below. The enemy had been found hiding in the cave!
The two men hurriedly made their way back to their main group with the information. Riders were sent to the scouts who were still out and the excited Navajo quickly made their way to the hideout cave. Stopping a short distance away, they waited until full dark before closing in. Creeping forward, they managed to silently kill the two Apache guards posted outside. Making their way a few feet into the cave entrance, they found it was just wide and tall enough to allow access for a horse. The resourceful Apache had brought their horses into the cave with them and had not taken horses in their raids because they would have had to leave a herd on the canyon rim giving away their location. Backing out of the cave, the Navajo made their plan for vengeance.
Leaving a few men to guard the cave entrance, the rest of the group climbed to the plains above and gathered dry sagebrush and driftwood. Stacking the debris into the cave entrance, the Apache heard the noise and tried to make an escape, but the first few were easily cut down by the Navajo guards in the narrow passageway forcing the rest to retreat. Once the entrance was full of the wooden materials, it was set on fire. As the heavy smoke and flames were sucked deeper into the cave, it became impossible for anyone inside to escape a terrible death.
The Apache began singing their death songs, but the Navajo were not moved to give quarter. As the brush burned down, they threw more into the entrance. Eventually, the Apache death wails subsided and the brush was allowed to burn out. The Navajo were able to see that in their desperation, the Apache had used what little water they had along with the blood from cutting their ponies necks trying to put out the raging fire. They had even cut up their horses and threw large pieces into the fire trying to stem it.
At this point, a noise was heard and the Navajo were astonished to see a burned, but still alive Apache pushing aside several pieces of horse flesh. He stumbled through and speaking in halting, broken Navajo, he made it understood that he was begging for terms for his life as well as several others who were not yet dead. The Navajo leader told him to send out the 3 young captive girls and they would then talk terms. The Apache though, hesitated and began making excuses. It was clear the captives had already been raped and tortured to death for their captive's pleasure.
|Where the Apache Death Cave, supposedly now collapsed, |
is located. We did not go into the canyon looking for it.
That afternoon, when the cave had finally cooled enough for the Navajo to enter, they found 44 Apache warriors in their final grotesque, twisted positions where death had found them desperately trying to get just one more breath of air. The loot taken during the raids was recovered and the Apache bodies were stripped of anything of value. It would be the last raid by Apaches against the Navajo in this area. The cave is still known as Apache Death Cave and is considered cursed by all of the Indians living in the area as well as most anybody else who visits this site. It is said the few people who years later lived in Two Guns would often hear the tortured whinny of horses along with human screams and cries of unbearable pain coming from warrior spirits who roam the canyon on particularly dark, still nights.
|The abandoned campground building.|
|Abandoned now like everything else, this was the last |
trading post building.
The Cundiff's began arguing with Miller over his shady practices and in 1925, leased their store to a couple of drifters who came through. Just a few weeks later, Earle stopped by the store and found the couple had left in the middle of the night and taken almost all of the store's merchandise with them. It took almost everything he had to restock.
In early 1926, Earle and Indian Miller had another argument and Miller shot and killed Earle. He claimed self-defense and the jury acquitted him. A few weeks later, Earle's widow erected a headstone on his grave with the epitaph of "Killed by Indian Miller." Miller took offense at this, got drunk one night and destroyed the headstone. Not able to claim self-defense against a headstone, he was convicted of defacing a grave and had to spend several months in jail.
|The "zoo" is now in severe disrepair. It won't be long before |
it crumbles back into the ground.
|Former cages in the zoo.|
|Ruins along the Canyon Diablo rim not far from the |
Apache Death Cave.
Why the last caretaker of this place committed suicide is no mystery to me. He was out there all alone. He must have dreaded the setting sun. There are places in the world, perhaps like this place, where it's best to not intrude on the spirits and things that go bump in the dark of night.
Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state: