I was having a conversation today about western books, movies, and TV shows. The heroes were strong silent types who squinted up at the sun before riding off to save the town or the homesteader or the schoolmarm. Remember Alan Ladd in Shane? Or Audie Murphy in all those Saturday matinée westerns? They were real men!
Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and The Rifleman were not really for children but they entertained us with tales of rugged men living and keeping law and order in the wild west. Zane Grey, Max Brand, Dusty Richards, and Louis L’Amour were prolific authors of westerns whose books are still being read today. I picked up Riders of the Purple Sage from my library today to reread.
There have been a lot of cow pokes who have ridden through our imaginations over the years. The spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood were stark and filled with gunslingers and small towns that had to be rescued, usually by the stranger who stayed in town only long enough to get the job done. There were flying bullets and bruised knuckles, sturdy horses and pretty women.
Can anyone forget the stirring intro to The Lone Ranger TV show? I’m sure Rossini couldn’t have imagined his work being used in a” duster”. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Cisco Kid, and Hopalong Cassidy were the cowboys I grew up with. They never killed anyone. They could solve problems and get the girl with the minimum of gunplay. Oh, they’d sometimes have to resort to shooting the gun out of the bad guy’s hand. They had fantastic aim. Sometimes they would get “winged” or have their “skull creased” but there was never any blood!
Roy and Gene would get the ranch back from the evil banker who tried to foreclose on poor Miss Flossie and her orphaned little brother and then they’d get together with the boys from the bunk house and sing a cheerful western song about their horse.
You knew the bad guys because they wore dark hats and had mustaches. It was important to know who to cheer for! Evil always failed and good always won. Perfect!
Roy Rogers – the last happy cowboy.