Every bone in my body resists writing on this subject. Westerns are a
droning sound in the background on a boring afternoon or early evening. When you hear it, you
KNOW to be very quiet on account of dad is watching TV. The music ranges from hyper-mixed
with-gunfire for chases on horseback, to flouncy, bouncy saloon piano, to tension-laden for sneaking up on bad guys...pre-confrontational climax, switching to drums for the all important
showdown at high noon, with humorous little ditties tossed in on occasion. You can co-exist
with a western on TV doing your own thing and tell just by the music how the story is
If I had my druthers, I'druther NOT be parked in front of a western. But I don't feel hostile in
such ambience as I do when sports are on in the background...and an insidious seething begins to
brew inside...and it takes me a while to figure out why I'm getting so agitated. Then I realize that
annoying roar of the crowd like loud static and sports caster's play-by-play, every word shouted
with great exhuberance so you never WOULD know if something significantly exciting did
happen...it's a monotony that just might bring me to go buy meself a rifle and blast the TV or
radio like Yosemite Sam. "Take THAT, varmint!"
There are things that intrigue me about westerns though. Trust me. I had plenty of opportunities
to contemplate such things, albeit against my will. One thing was the concept of "lawlessness".
Individuals carrying out justice and injustice on their own. Lives dropping right and left.
Primitive. When like-minded people witnessed murder for what they considered justice, the
person who did the killing was sympathized with, comforted by a pat on the back, "You had to
do it...there weren't no other way!" and they walk away in silence...have a drink...carry on...go
back to their families heroes. Well, not always. The thing is, it was an unsafe world...unprotected
cepting for the sheriff. But after all, he's only one person. (Yeah, I know he can whip a posse
together, but still!) Imagine all the killing, robbing, and pillaging being carried out because
much evil can easily be accomplished in isolated places. Populated ones too, of course, but
going west was moving farther into the wilderness. The thing is...it wasn't all that long ago. Evil
has increased with populations, but we are no longer free to take matters into our own hands.
It was possible back then to kill someone and get away with it in myriad situations. I mean, there wasn't a body count back then...no reliable census...no one keeping track of us...no demanding of registrations and numbers to exist. It was possible to give birth back then and no one would even know another person had entered the world. Unless you lived in a town and interacted with others. When I lay back and imagine myself, one-on-one, in an uncivilized world, carrying out my
interpretation of justice, or even attempting to protect myself from an intruder...as in shooting him (yes it's probably a him..ha!) and to then, carry out procedure for getting rid of the
body, and to then go put the kettle on for tea and get back to churning makes my breathing stand
still. It seems to me that putting an end to someone's life even if someone else drags and tends
the corpse, would alter my psyche so it'd never be the same. I'd be eternally warped somehow.
But then I was brought up in a so-called civilized mind-set.
Then it was just a fact of life. Maybe you were taught that most likely you wouldn't have to
contend with such things, but if the need to kill arose you'd better have the grit to protect
yourself because no one else would be there...no 9-1-1 swooping in to surround the area.
Another fascination was the tah dah! Saloon! What merrier place could there be on this earth, I
ask you. I love that music and all those fun, tacky frocks the saloon women wore...bosoms
bulging out the top surrounded by satin and lace...tucks and gathers and slits and drapes and
colors galore topped off with an imposing, proud gala feather just off to the side, hair swirled and
curled! See how they danced so carefree and merry! I wanted to be one of them! Their clothing
was enough reason...as opposed to the no-nonsense dull, boring, plain attire of the upright townswomen.
Westerns that were on every week had some common town folk. The Big Valley had quite an
intricate network of people beingst that the main family therein was rich and traveled a lot. No
matter what show, there was often someone playing the role of listener or wise one. Someone
who incidentally listened to another's woes. And there would be a righteous sheriff, who was
occasionally one-upped by some brave, fearless hero who saved the day and made his job easier.
There had to be a town clown...someone who broke the monotony of the show with his
shenanigans...like Festus on Gunsmoke. No one has ever pulled the same sort of chuckle from
my dad as did Festus. Now the Indians were a whole nother thing I'm not even gonna touch on
except to say I loved when cowboys found themselves in the midst of teepees...another culture. I
stared and stared loving the Indian villages even if they were portrayed in a hokey way.
Romantically, I was in love with Adam from Bonanza. He was the brother who was rarely on. I'd tell my dad to call me if Adam was gonna be on, but I always stayed for the
opening music with that fire burning an opening in the screen. My sisters all went cuckoo over
Little Joe, and I did too, but preferred my Adam. I was devastated when they replaced his
character with another guy part way through the series. I was heart sick for the original. But who
wouldn't fall in love with Little Joe on a floor rolling with uncontrollable, contagious
laughter....my god what a handsome man with a handsome father..Lorne Green?! Another quirky
character which showed up occasionally through the years is the wild, untame drifter, uncivilized, riding bareback, hair unkempt, sometimes
remaining an anonymous hero unbeknownst to the towns people...he surprised them in the end
with his unexpected behavior even though they were repulsed by his way of life. I always
thought that would be the man for me.
The most predictable part of a western...the "orgasm" of the entire show would be some
showdown between the bad guys and the good guys, be it one-on-one, one-on-many or many-on-many. Someone on each side would have this presence....this intimidating power about him that
struck fear in and silenced others...be he good or bad. Close up shots of clinching facial
muscles...beading sweat...crinkly animal eyes...hands poised mid-air near gunned hips, ready. Close-up view of gun barrel stealthily siting in from the rooftop or out a window...metallic click of gun being cocked slowly. The drama of that whole scene reminds me of my dad...how he used that power portrayed in
westerns with us for daily life issues. I hated it. It was always dramatic and drawn out...some
enjoyment of our fear and respect. Maybe that's where westerns lose their appeal with me.
What about the HATS! I know so many guys who are crazy about their hats. Hide beneath them.
You aren't allowed to touch them...or they wore them so long, they're disintegrating right on their heads
and they're in denial! Cowboy hats were used for drinking out of, hiding things in, sit askew on
drunks, tilted comically on the love-struck. I wish more men would wear a variety of hats instead
of these frickin frackin, danged, boring BALL CAPS...I say we have a ball cap burning
party. We live in a ball cap society....cloned hats...the billboards up front are the only variance.
They are so dorky! Multitudes of ball caps on multitudes of heads
look like multitudes of dorks to me. I wunna see something different!
Remember water being pumped into tin cups or bare hands after dragging butt into town from some hot, dusty endless trail? Cowboys landing in the tub of water out front during a brawl? And I do believe there is an art to maneuvering reins down off of a horse and wrapping round the post before you enter the saloon. Snorting nostrils, flick of tail, a pat on the rear. Then later, saddling up. Telltale horses whinny that intruders approach camp.
Favorites westerns of mine are mostly not series, although I'd have gladly married Grizzly Adams. I love Jeremiah Johnson,
Quigley Down Under. I love more westerns than I knew, come to think of it. I love a good
storyline and characters with a sense of humor. I must be pleased in order to watch it clear
through, for the makers of such shows cannot count on me being "easy" just because there will
be a "chase-and-pursue", violence, gunfire and what-not. I loved the background story of Grizzly
Adams being a fugitive whose circumstances were misunderstood so really he was righteous
with no way of proving himself and trying to survive alone in that environment. Loved the mule
on there named Number Seven. Jeremiah Johnson beats them all for me...it has appeal in all
directions including visual. :) As does Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I thrive on such
humor. Dances With Wolves and Legends of the Fall get two of my thumbs up!
The only remnant of a mind pervaded with westerns is a timely comment in my very best Mae West to a partner..."Hey cowboy...don't you owe me some money?" which always made him laugh.
I did learn one thing. I'd never accept the occupation of stagecoach driver!