Along The Sagebrush Trail

Westerns! I LOVE westerns!!

When Marilyn recently readjusted our cable package in a good faith budgetary effort, we lost the Westerns Channel. I was mortified. Less than 24 hours later, I found something called the “Inspiration Channel” which carries a lot of religious programs. It also carries “The Big Valley”, “The High Chaparral” and coming up this weekend, “The Virginian”.

Talk about divine intervention. Westerns, oh my!

Growing up, I did notice that all of the characters in westerns were white. None of them looked like me. It didn’t faze me. I still dreamed of riding along side Duke Wayne,  Randy Scott, Joel McCrea, Jimmy Stewart and all the guys. Notice how chummy I was. That’s but one of the virtues of westerns.

These guys were my friends. Anyone can be a saddle pal. Then and now, I love westerns.

After a professional lifetime of seeing law and order, good guys and bad guys — up close and very real — my heroes are still cowboys of the silver screen.

I’ve had the good fortune to meet folks like Duke Wayne, James Coburn and Charlton Heston. The thrill of meeting those guys was and is — wonderful. My interview session with John Wayne still makes me sound and feel like an awed kid. Damn straight, Pilgrim. 

Hanging out with lesser-known guys from the corrals like Richard Jaeckel and Buster Crabbe was wonderful in other ways. I met Crabbe in the sunset of his years, long after the “Flash Gordon” hysteria was past. He smiled easily and took pleasure in spinning tales about his “B” westerns with “Fuzzy” St. John and the A.C. Lyles; westerns of the 1960’s that reunited old heroes like Johnny Mack Brown and Bob Steele.

Richard Jaeckel — who had a long career in movies starting out as “the kid” in films like “The Gunfighter” sat for a long chat when he was promoting “Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid”. We adjourned from the TV session to a nearby saloon where I got him talking about working with guys like Jack Elam, Myron Healy, Slim Pickens, Lee Van Cleef and other faces you know from so many westerns.

I’ve gotten lost in jabbering about westerns again  — more anecdote than movies.

Print the Legend!!



Categories: History, Movies

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. More! Please, sir, I want some more. You’ve led a wonderful professional life and I am eager to read more of your anecdotes and asides.

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  2. So. old campfire chatter aside, when are we going to have some new “traditional” westerns with genuine cowboy stars and not contemporary box office guys who look like kids or dudes in play outfits?? Tom Sellick, Kevin Costner and Robert DuVall have done recent cable TV stuff but they are getting a little long in the tooth. And, please, we don’t need no stinkin’ aliens in our oaters!! We need MEN. MEN with guns!! Men who deal in lead!

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  3. To say that I am green with envy is the understatement of the century. All the names you mentioned are names I grew up watching in awe. It was my devout dream to get a chance to work with many of them, but that was not to be. So I’ll be content to still watch them riding the trails and righting the wrongs of the old west. Great Post! 🙂 PS I love Westerns as well!

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    • I know that many very fine new westerns have more gray areas and less of the “black and white” morality that were part of the western mystique for so many years. I honor these newer westerns, many of which are really surperb movies, from Eastwood’s Unforgiven onward. For me, though, give me good guys who are really GOOD and BAD guys; villains I can blow away without regret. There’s a little movie called “Rustler’s Rhapsody” which is a comedy, a loving tribute to the old B westerns and singing cowboys. It’s hilarious (one of the movies we’ve seen so often that we start laughing before the joke?) but it’s also very well done. Kind of an underground hit around here. Pat Wayne and Andy Griffith among others … great cast. It reminds me why westerns give me so much pleasure. I LIKE the simplistic moral values. Complexity is available in full technicolor in the never-ending movie we humorously call “life.” I’m happy to abandon it … at least for a while.

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