Long ago I recall watching in Cherryvale, Kansas where I used to live Tulsa 23, a network out of Oklahoma which barely came in on our television but it was quite a treat because we got to watch movies some young some old that were more entertaining than the dumb soaps that used to be on. Every Saturday and I may be wrong about this as far as what channel it was actually on we would watch westerns which always started and ended with Willie Nelson’s My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys with pictures of statuettes of indians and cowboys. In between these bookends were great old westerns. I recall only one movie for certain which was Red Sun with Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune. I kind of like that movie though it does leave much to be desired. Anyway, this is where and when I probably picked up my first western book called Utah Blaine by Louis L’amour.
I think I learned a lot of things from the old westerns when I was young. Defend women and orphans. Develop a steely nerve. Don’t cheat. Don’t murder. Don’t be a drygulcher. Work hard. Do your best. These are a lot of simple platitudes and formulae but they became a part of my heart. I recall early on feeling protective of women and children especially my mother and brothers.
I remember Flint a particularly good book by L’amour. I recall the Ford, Hawks, Hathaway, Sturges, Mann, etc. westerns. There were so many good westerns back in the day. Yes, there were some terrible oaters too. It is a part of nostalgia that Ford made famous and I felt in my youth. Folks now have their hip-hop which I will not compare westerns unfavorably to. The west as it supposedly was had it’s flaws too as outlined by many of the old tales just as hip-hop is very negative perhaps almost totally so I don’t know. Some people have Dr. Dre some people have Zane Grey. Personally I think Grey is cooler but that was how I was raised. I don’t fault anyone for having heroes if they are morally reputable. If they are without value I might question why one would give one’s heart to such slop if it has no redeeming value. But I said I wouldn’t compare unfavorably.
Westerns have because of their violent content problems as well. But generally there are positive endings and everything turns out well. The good triumph over evil narrative. It is simple but it will hopefully always be a story that works. Maybe because of the supposed demise of the western one cannot see a hopeful future for humanity. There is no ride off into the sunset or the figure eclipsed by silhouette in the doorway with a nostalgic tune playing. I hope there is a positive ending for everyone that is good.