ME AND DUKE WAYNE – BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

I liked him so much I named a dog after him. Now that is appreciation.

Our Arizona vacation is a trip back in time to some of my favorite western movies and TV shows. The cactus covered fields and surrounding mountains evoke memories, especially of John Wayne-John Ford classics.

The locales around Phoenix are similar to areas in Utah where Wayne and Ford made some of their iconic films. In the aftermath of two vacations in Arizona, there were requests for my oft-told story about meeting Duke Wayne. If you’ve heard it before, head for the nearest saloon, Pilgrim.

Forty-three winters ago, as I reckon, it was John Wayne versus the anti-Vietnam War crowd at Harvard and surrounding areas of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sunset reflected on the Superstition Mountains

Duke was cheered and jeered as he sat atop an armored “half-track” which moved slowly through the crowd as light snow fell. Some dissidents lobbed snowballs at Wayne as they shouted in derision. The Duke smiled and waved.

At one point, everything stopped as the legendary star hopped out to shake hands amid a flurry of snowballs. It was a bad situation for a reporter attempting an interview.

Me in Arizona

I remember calling in a few favors. Somehow, Duke and his entourage slipped into an empty theater. Long moments — to me, it was an eternity — followed as I waited alone on stage. Suddenly, the stage lit up. I froze.

“Hello, Garry!” Duke Wayne boomed in a friendly voice as he ambled in that familiar gait across the stage and greeted me. My TV persona kicked in as I shook hands with my hero, beaming with a happy smile.

I was oblivious to the cameras and time. Later, I would learn that it was a pretty fair interview with me swapping stories with Wayne including some anecdotes about my stint in the Marine Corps. Apparently, that impressed the Duke. He laughed when I recalled how I’d upset several drill instructors during basic training with my irreverent behavior.

72-GAR-Sunset-Phoenix-01062015_239

The interview apparently ran long because a press agent finally had to pry Duke loose to resume his “march” to Harvard.

During a formal, group interview at Harvard, Wayne singled me out as “his pal and former Gyrene”. I remember basking in the glow of that moment as other reporters glared at me. Later, as the gathering dispersed, Wayne approached me and said, “Good to see ya again, Gyrene”.

I offered what must’ve been a broad, idiotic smile and said, “Good to see YOU again, Duke.” I could see, over my shoulders, my crew smirking and laughing. It didn’t matter to me. Back in the newsroom, I walked around repeatedly asking people if they knew who shook my hand that day. Finally, someone told me to throw some cold water in my face and get on with my job.

Prickly and then some!

They didn’t get it. I had spent “private” time with the Duke. With Hondo, Sgt. Stryker, Ethan Edwards, Capt. Nathan Brittles, and Rooster Cogburn … among others. Damn, I had swapped stories with the man who really shot Liberty Valance.

Sadly, there were no personal pictures from that memorable day. No autograph. I’d always felt uneasy about asking celebrities for these signatures and autographed pictures. Not asking did open the door for more candid conversations and some unforgettable social afternoons and evenings with Hollywood legends, royalty, presidents, sports heroes, wise guys, godfathers.

Even Mother Theresa who singled me out from a crowd, chastising me about news coverage. I never figured that one out.

Topping all those memorable days and nights was my afternoon with the Duke. Back here in Arizona, where the Duke galloped through so many westerns, I think maybe … mebbe … I can top that encounter in the future.

That’ll be the day!

‘THE LATE, LATE SHOW’ – “GUILTY PLEASURES” (MA-XXX) – Garry Armstrong

Yes, I know. The title sounds like a promo for a soft porn movie. No, it’s not!  I don’t do that stuff. Hold on. It does involve soft porn. I’ll get to that in a few minutes.

One of the few retirement perks we have is staying up late. During my 40 plus years as a TV/radio news guy, I had crazy schedules, usually mandating I be out of bed way before the roosters and sunrise. It meant missing lots of stuff that aired after dinner and during the wee, small hours. It meant missing lots of my favorite old movies.

I’m an ardent fan of the old movies. As a 20 something, I’d set the alarm for 2 or 3 am for “The Late, Late Show.”  This was before the DVR age when all you had to be was awake to see your program. Not just the classics like “Casablanca.” I’m a devotee of film nuggets like “Jubilee Trail” a B-western from the 1950s.  I love the film’s theme song and, actually, almost lobotomized myself to see the pre-dawn airing of the film just to hear Buddy Baer and the iconic Vera “Hruba” Ralston sing the song. I sang along with them until my parents awoke and told me to shut up. “Jubilee Trail” is one of my guilty pleasures.

The Magnificent Seven

Hell is definitely coming …

Marilyn doesn’t share my fondness for these movie nuggets. Golly, my heart still skips a few beats when Forrest Tucker finally concedes his love for the adorable Joan Leslie and the “Jubilee Trail” song swells up full volume to a happy ending and the closing credits. My eyes still tear up over the romantic conclusion. Yes, a guilty pleasure for a cheezy b-western.

Marilyn doesn’t share my fondness but “gets” the pleasure I derive from these films. She’s set me up with headphones and the opportunity to nightly watch my guilty pleasure flicks as she listens to audiobooks or watches her own favorite stuff on her Kindle.  Thanks, Marilyn!  You’ll do!

Okay, last night, still recovering from my “Marathon Man” like dental session this week, I snuggled under the covers with a headset on to watch some classic guilty pleasure stuff.

I started with “Marie Antoinette,” a lavish 1938 MGM picture I haven’t seen in decades. I watched it with great anticipation.  What a cast!  Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power, John Barrymore, Robert Morley, and Gladys George just to name a few legends from the studio that boasted more stars than there are in heaven.

Norma Shearer was queen bee at MGM from the late ’20s to the early ’40s. She was married to Irving Thalberg,  Metro’s “Boy Wonder” who churned out some of Hollywood’s greatest films.  It meant Norma Shearer got all the plum roles. It didn’t matter that she was always “playing young” for parts in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Marie Antoinette.”  It usually doesn’t faze me.

However, last night I realized Norma was bringing her “Sandra Dee” take on the “let them eat cake” lady.  It was ridiculous. I stayed with this epic out of respect for old Hollywood. I gave up, however, when Joseph Schildkraut popped up, wearing more mascara, powder, and eye-liner than Norma Shearer. I couldn’t handle it.

What a cast!

I went to something I knew would be good. A Randolph Scott western. “Riding Shotgun.” a 1950s Scott cowboy saga in blazing color. I sat up straight as the credits rolled and a deep baritone voice sang a familiar range rider song. This was gonna be great!

Randy was doing a voice-over narration to barrel up a plot that was older than its venerable star. I watched in disbelief as the movie played on like a “Blazing Saddles” parody except this was not supposed to be a comedy. I gave up in disgust about 30 minutes into the western. Unbelievable!

Two classic movies, guilty pleasures, that were stinkeroos. I felt so cheated, so abandoned, so bereft and numb. I was in limbo, trying to fall asleep.

Remember my line about soft porn? Yes, guilty pleasure of a different kind. Why do guys watch (soft) porn? For its cinematic value?  Hey, I used to read “Playboy” for the articles and studied the photo layouts for their pictorial artistry.

I remember attending The Fine Arts Theater back on Long Island of the ’60s. It was a semi cultural venue. They were running “Tunes of Glory.” I went, anticipating “culture” with 40-DD breast cups. I was bummed out. “Tunes of Glory,” with Alec Guinness and John Mills, turned out to be a memorable twist on war movies. Guinness and Mills were brilliant as the disparate military heroes. Think “Bridge on The River Kwai” with a heavier bashing of heroic images.

I sat in the dark, mesmerized by the film but disturbed that it wasn’t a Hugh Hefner/Russ Meyers product. Gee Whiz! It wasn’t a total loss because the film introduced Susannah York who I immediately adored. So, a guilty pleasure? Yes!

I must “out” myself on another guilty pleasure type film. As a kid and young man, I was addicted to westerns and war movies, normal for any red-blooded young fella. I cringed when the action paused for “mushy stuff.” I didn’t understand critics who praised the work of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Claudette Colbert, Myrna Loy and other notable actresses of Hollywood’s golden age.  The gooey love stuff was so boring. Nowadays, I never miss the films of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Ida Lupino, Myrna Loy and the other legendary ladies which I dissed as a young movie maven.

I like the pluck displayed by these women on and off-screen. They fought the studio bosses for quality roles and against movies and parts that demeaned women. I didn’t get this when I was younger. Now, as an old fart, stereotypes, and ageism, resonate strongly.

Guys are not supposed to like romcoms, chick flicks, melodramas or other movies where women have equal standing or are stronger and savvier than the male co-stars.  Reality bites!

When I hang out with the guys, we mourn the demise of westerns and dramas where a man was a man. If I mention Davis or Crawford, I can see the eyebrows rise around the lunch table. You have to be discreet with guilty pleasures, right? No, wrong, dammit! Our current political culture is egregious enough without ridicule of your entertainment preferences.

I wonder how Duke Wayne, Papa Hemingway, Bogie, and their brethren would deal with today’s good old boys and the too-long delayed exposure of their moral decay.

I’ll take my guilty pleasures, thank you, and enjoy their stories.

What’s it all about?  As an iconic movie private eye once observed, “Uh, the stuff dreams are made of!”

THE LAST OF THE SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS – Garry Armstrong

A Nostalgic Spoof of Those Great Old Westerns

We watched “Rustler’s Rhapsody” again last night, this time with Rich Paschall who had never seen it before.

We love this movie. It’s an affectionate spoof of the B-Westerns of the 1940s starring Tom Berenger, Patrick Wayne, G.W. Baily (“Major Crimes” on which Berenger has a recurring guest role), Andy Griffith, and Fernando Rey.

The women include Sela Ward, a solid dramatic actress perhaps best remembered as Dr. Richard Kimble’s slain wife in the movie version of “The Fugitive.” There’s also Marilu Henner who riffs on all the “Miss Kitty/Miss Lily” saloon ladies of our favorite TV westerns.

Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey both play power-mad cattle barons. Fernando usually plays an international drug czar and you probably remember him in “The French Connection”. He is slimy sinister personified. Rey and Griffith make a very odd couple. Check out the scene where they argue about who gets to do the countdown for killing the hero. They are hilarious, but Andy Griffith steals the show.

We love the movie so much we owned three identical copies of it on DVD, one of which now belongs to Rich. It wasn’t going to be available for long, so we bought extras. Just in case.


rustler's rhapsody dvd cover

Tom Berenger is The Hero who shoots the bad guys in the hand. Pat Wayne is the other good guy, but he used to be a lawyer, so be warned. Casting Pat Wayne was an inspiration. “Rustler’s Rhapsody” could easily be an homage to his Dad’s ‘poverty row’ westerns of the 1930s. Pat even nails Duke’s acting range of that period.

My heroes have always been cowboys, even the stalwarts of those budget-challenged B movies. I had the good fortune to spend time with two legends of the genre. Buster Crabbe and Jack “Jock” Mahoney.

Crabbe, most famous for his “Flash Gordon” days, contends he had more fun playing the lead in the oaters where the line between good and bad is always clear and you get to wear nice costumes. He considers his westerns as “small classics” not B movies. (Crabbe continued his career into the late ’60s when producer A.C. Lyles revived the B cowboy movie with over the hill actors including Johnny Mack Brown, Rod Cameron, Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and Richard Arlen among others).

Jack “Jock” Mahoney, known to many as TV’s “Range Rider,” is a former stuntman who graduated to supporting roles as nimble villains and finally established a following at Universal-International, playing literate good guys in lean, well-written westerns. Mahoney clearly is proud of his work in the B movies. I remember the smile on his face as he recalled the fun of being recognized as a cowboy hero.

I think all the cowboy actors I’ve met (Including John Wayne) would heartily approve of “Rustler’s Rhapsody”. It’s an affectionate tribute to their work.

This is the song they play at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. I love the song and the memories it brings because I’m of the generation that went to the movies and watched those B movies as part of the afternoon doubleheader at the Carlton or Laurelton, the second or third-run movies houses where you could see two movies and a cartoon for a dime. Eleven cents if you were considered an adult. Which turned out to be any child older than 10, but they still made you sit in the kid’s section — which I firmly believed (and still believe) was unconstitutional.

Warner Brothers, 1982. “Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys” by Rex Allen Jr. and Rex Allen Sr. Be sure to listen for Roy Rogers in the final commentary and chorus!

A PILGRIM’S TALE – Garry Armstrong

Our Arizona vacations were trips back in time to some of my favorite western movies and TV shows.

Those cactus covered fields and surrounding mountains evoked memories, especially of the John Wayne-John Ford classic Westerns and the areas around Phoenix are similar to some of the areas in Utah where Wayne and Ford made many of their iconic films.

In the aftermath of my first Arizona post, there were requests for my oft-told story about meeting Duke Wayne. So now, a few years after the second trip, here it is again. If you’ve heard it before, head for the nearest saloon, Pilgrim.

Forty-three winters ago, as I reckon, it was John Wayne versus the anti-Vietnam War crowd at Harvard and the surrounding areas of The People’s Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Duke was cheered and jeered as he sat atop an armored “half-track” which moved slowly through the crowd as light snow fell. Some dissidents lobbed snowballs at Wayne as they shouted in derision. The Duke smiled and waved. At one point, everything stopped as the legendary star hopped out to shake hands amid a flurry of snowballs. It was a bad situation for a reporter attempting an interview.

I called in a few favors and somehow, Duke and his entourage slipped into an empty theater. What felt like an eternity to me, I waited alone on stage for John Wayne to appear. Suddenly, the stage lit up. I froze.

“Hello, Garry!” boomed the Duke in a friendly voice as he ambled in that familiar gait across the stage. After the greeting,  my TV persona kicked in. I shook hands with my hero, beaming with pleasure.

I was oblivious to the cameras and how much time had passed. Later, I would learn from the tape that it had been a pretty long interview. Me swapping stories with Wayne including some anecdotes about my stint in the Marine Corps which impressed the Duke. He laughed when I recalled how I’d upset several drill instructors during basic training with my irreverent behavior.

The interview ran long. Towards the end, a press agent had to pry Duke loose to resume his “march” to Harvard.

During a formal, group interview at Harvard, Wayne singled me out as “his pal and former Gyrene.” I remember basking in the glow of that moment as other reporters glared at me. Later, as the crowd dispersed, Wayne approached me and said, “Good to see ya again, Gyrene”.

I offered what must’ve been a dumb smile and said, “Good to see you again, Duke.” I could see, over my shoulders, my crew smirking and giggling. I didn’t care. This was the interview I’d dreamed about.

Back in the newsroom, I walked around the newsroom repeatedly asking everyone if they knew who shook my hand that day. Finally, someone told me to throw some cold water on my face and get on with my job.

They didn’t get it. I had spent “private” time with the Duke. With Hondo, Sgt. Stryker, Ethan Edwards, Capt. Nathan Brittles, and Rooster Cogburn … among so many others. Damn — I had swapped stories with the man who really shot Liberty Valance.

Sadly, there were no personal pictures from that memorable day. No autograph. I’d always felt uneasy about asking celebrities for these artifacts.

Ironically, this gesture apparently opened the door for more candid conversations and some unforgettable social afternoons and evenings with Hollywood legends, Royalty, Presidents, sports heroes, wise guys, godfathers and even Mother Theresa who singled me out from a crowd, chastising me about news coverage. I never figured that one out.

Topping all those memorable days and nights was my afternoon with the Duke. Back here in Arizona, where the Duke galloped through so many westerns, I think maybe … mebbe … I can top that encounter in the future.

That’ll be the day!

HORSE SENSE – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn and Garry wrote a blog a while back about watching one of their favorite movies, “Rustler’s Rhapsody.” It’s also one of my favorite movies. They introduced it to me.

I’ve seen it dozens of times and I  love introducing it to any friend who hasn’t seen it before.

It’s a very loving parody of all the great western movies of the 30’s and 40’s.  An ode to the singing cowboy. The closing music over the credits is one of my all time favorite songs, “The Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys”. I swear to God I tear up a little every time I hear it.

I was one of those little kids with the Roy Rogers cowboy hats and a pair of six-shooters.

Every day when I was four or five, I’d strap on my six guns, put on my hat and go out in the backyard and do my “patrol.” You’d be amazed by the number of bad guys and rustlers I ran off my property. When I’d come back home (my back porch), my Grandpa would have already left me my “lunch.”

A single Necco Wafer. We ran a lean ranch.

I listened to the song again after I read the post and it got me to thinking.

There’s a great line in the song that says “Roy, and Trigger, we loved you. And Hoppy we saved all our dimes. Saturday afternoon double features. And we sat through each movie two times.”

I’m tearing up again. They acknowledged Trigger, but what about the other great horses? Silver, Scout, Buttermilk, Topper, Buckshot, Wildfire, and of course, Champion, the Wonder Horse.

Think about it. The horses were really the smartest ones in the movies. Silver was always pulling the Lone Ranger out of the river after he falls off a cliff and is unconscious. Scout is always getting Tonto out-of-town at the last minute after the townsfolk finished beating the shit out of him because the Lone Ranger sent him to town to get some “information.”

I’ve often wondered what they thought about their riders, seeing them doing the same stupid things over and over again.

TRIGGER: Silver, Scout, hey guys! What’s up?

SILVER: Same ole, same ole. Just pulled the Ranger out of the river again before the bad guys found him.  Fifth time I’ve had to do it this month.

TRIGGER: How’d he end up in the river this time?

SILVER: Same reason as always. Got his head grazed by a bullet, fell off a cliff, and knocked himself out. You’d think he’d learn.

SCOUT: Humans, very hard to train. Take my guy, Tonto. The Ranger is always sending him into town to get some “information.” And every time he does, the townsfolk beat the shit out of him, knock him out. I have to drag his ragged ass back to camp. You’d think by now he’d say “Fuck you Kemosabe, you go to town and get the shit beat out of you.” But no, not Tonto. A real type-B personality.

SILVER: What about your guy, Trigger? What does he do that annoys you?

TRIGGER: Not much really. I do get tired of having to rear up on my hind legs and whinny every time we leave to go somewhere. I mean, most of the time there’s nobody around to even see it. What’s the point?

SILVER: I hear that. My guy does that all the time. Drives me nuts.

SCOUT: Tonto tries to do that too. I just ignore him.

SILVER: So, Trigger, I got a question. I’ve always been curious. Is Roy, uh, how do I put it? Um, gay?

TRIGGER: What?! No!

SCOUT: Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

TRIGGER: Why would you think that?

SILVER: Well, I mean, come on. Look at how he dresses. He’s very stylish for a cowboy. And he’s into musical theater. He sings in every one of his movies. I’m just saying …

TRIGGER: What about your guy? He basically wears a unitard!

SILVER: Point taken.

SCOUT: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

TRIGGER: And what about Dale Evans?

SILVER: Could just be his beard. Ever seen them kiss?

TRIGGER: Well, no, but…

SILVER: The only one I’ve ever seen him kiss is you.

TRIGGER: Hey! I’m a confident heterosexual horse!

SILVER: So that means’ you’ve done it with Buttermilk?

SCOUT: Oh, I would so tap that filly. She’s hot. Get em up, Scout!

TRIGGER: Uh, well, not yet but ….

SILVER: Look, it’s all cool. There’s something else I’ve always wondered about. Why is it that all the people in the towns ride horses — except Pat Brady, who drives a broken-down World War II jeep?  What the hell is that all about? What year is it, anyway?

SCOUT: And why do you make Bullet run alongside the jeep? I mean, we’re built to run 30 to 40 miles an hour. He’s just a German Shepard! Why not let him ride in the jeep?

Hey Roy, I can run fast, but give me a break!

I guess these are questions that will never get answered.

And for the record, I am not suggesting that Roy Rogers was gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

I was just horsing around.

AND HELL’S COMING WITH ME … – Marilyn Armstrong

Wyatt Earp: All right, Clanton… you called down the thunder, well now you’ve got it! You see that?
[pulls open his coat, revealing a badge]
Wyatt Earp: It says United States Marshal!
Ike Clanton[terrified, pleading] Wyatt, please, I …
Wyatt Earp[referring to Stillwell, laying dead] Take a good look at him, Ike … ’cause that’s how you’re gonna end up!
[shoves Ike down roughly with his boot]
Wyatt Earp: The Cowboys are finished, you understand? I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin’ it!
[lets Ike up to run for his life]
Wyatt Earp: So run, you cur… RUN! Tell all the other curs the law’s comin’!
[shouts]
Wyatt Earp: You tell ’em I’M coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear? …
[louder]
Wyatt Earp: And Hell’s coming with me!


Hell is definitely coming …

The dust rose from the desiccated, dusty road that is Main Street in Tombstone. The horses looked hot and tired. They had every right to be. It was godawful hot. In the sun, more than 125 degrees and I don’t care, dry or not, that’s like sitting in an oven. Add basting and soon, you could be Thanksgiving dinner somewhere.

Tombstone

I think when it isn’t quite as hot, you can ride the stage. When the temps are that high, it’s not good to stress the horses more than they are already stressed merely by pulling the coach. Slowly pulling the coach. It’s a pretty big carriage, though they are also huge horses.

Still, heat kills. It’s bad enough to make horses pull the stage in such weather, but to add the weight of passengers might be too much. Those big horses come dear, you know. The interior of the stage is probably pretty hot too.

As we wandered around the town, we bought souvenir tee shirts. One for me, one for Garry. Of course, we did. Wouldn’t you? They were pretty pricey, so we bought only two. We also bought some books. And a calendar. I think we would have bought the coach, the horses and maybe the saloon if we could have. We really liked Tombstone.

We also love the movie. I really don’t know how many times we’ve watched it. Often enough so we both know all the lines. the scenes. We laugh before it’s funny because we already know. So being in Tombstone was awesome. No, I mean it. Really awesome. As in “we were struck with awe” and also, we didn’t fall down with heat stroke, though I’m pretty sure we were pretty close to it.

Garry bought a tee-shirt that said “You tell ’em I’M coming…” and mine said, “And Hell’s coming with me.” You had to see us together to really feel it.

These days, our sense of justice has been so deeply damaged, we have returned to watching Westerns to get some of that old justice juice going.

The movie is “Tombstone.” It was shot in Tombstone, Arizona in 1993. They more or less rebuilt the town to make the movie and have kept it that way. It brings in tourists. We are exactly the kind of tourists for whom they are always waiting.

We would gladly have spent more money, but retirees don’t have a lot of spare money. And, to be fair, we own many, many tee-shirts already. I had settled for taking pictures and staying in the shade. No wonder they had covers over the sidewalks. Even for Arizona, that was a serious heat wave, but at least the shade made it possible to inhale.

We watched Wyatt and his crew clean up the west. They killed them all. The move is full length, but it always feels too short. Garry says that’s how you know a movie is perfect because you don’t want it to end.

I didn’t want it to end.

A NOSTALGIC SPOOF: THE LAST OF THE SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS – Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

A Nostalgic Spoof of a Beloved Movie Genre

We watched “Rustler’s Rhapsody” again last night. I love this movie. It’s an affectionate spoof of the B-Westerns of the 1940s starring Tom Berenger, Patrick Wayne, G.W. Baily (currently with “Major Crimes” on which Berenger has a recurring guest role), Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey.

The women include Sela Ward, a solid dramatic actress perhaps best remembered as Dr. Richard Kimble’s slain wife in the movie version of “The Fugitive”. There’s also Marilu Henner who riffs on all the “Miss Kitty/Miss Lily” saloon ladies of our favorite TV westerns.

Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey both play power-mad cattle barons. Fernando usually plays an international drug czar and you probably remember him in “The French Connection”. He is slimy sinister personified. Rey and Griffith make a very odd couple. Check out the scene where they argue about who gets to do the countdown for killing the hero. They are hilarious, but Andy Griffith steals the show.

We love the movie so much we own two identical copies of it on DVD. It wasn’t going to be available for long, so Marilyn bought a copy for us, another for our best friends … and an extra. Just in case.


rustler's rhapsody dvd cover

NOTE: As it turns out, “Rustler’s Rhapsody” is available. Again. Who knows for how long? If you are interested, Amazon has the DVD and the download.


Tom Berenger is The Hero who shoots the bad guys in the hand. Pat Wayne is the other good guy, but he used to be a lawyer, so be warned. Casting Pat Wayne was an inspiration. “Rustler’s Rhapsody” could easily be an homage to his Dad’s ‘poverty row’ westerns of the 1930s. Pat even nails Duke’s acting range of that period.

My heroes have always been cowboys, even the stalwarts of those budget-challenged B movies. I had the good fortune to spend time with two legends of the genre. Buster Crabbe and Jack “Jock” Mahoney.

Crabbe, most famous for his “Flash Gordon” days, contends he had more fun playing the lead in the oaters where the line between good and bad is always clear and you get to wear nice costumes. He considers his westerns as “small classics” not B movies. (Crabbe continued his career into the late 60’s when producer A.C. Lyles revived the B cowboy movie with over the hill actors including Johnny Mack Brown, Rod Cameron, Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and Richard Arlen among others).

Jack “Jock” Mahoney, known to many as TV’s “Range Rider,” is a former stuntman who graduated to supporting roles as nimble villains and finally established a following at Universal-International, playing literate good guys in lean, well-written westerns. Mahoney clearly is proud of his work in the B movies. I remember the smile on his face as he recalled the fun of being recognized as a cowboy hero.

I think all the cowboy actors I’ve met (Including John Wayne) would heartily approve of “Rustler’s Rhapsody”. It’s an affectionate tribute to their work.

This is the song they play at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. I love the song and the memories it brings because I’m of the generation that went to the movies and watched those B movies as part of the afternoon doubleheader at the Carlton or Laurelton, the second or third-run movies houses where you could see two movies and a cartoon for a dime. Eleven cents if you were considered an adult. Which turned out to be any child older than 10, but they still made you sit in the kid’s section — which I firmly believed (and still believe) was unconstitutional.

Warner Brothers, 1982. “Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys” by Rex Allen Jr. and Rex Allen Sr. Be sure to listen for Roy Rogers in the final commentary and chorus!

GUN SENSE, GUNS, AND GUNSMOKE – Tom Curley

I can no longer count all the mass shootings in this country. We’re still into serious protesting about the February 14, 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and I’m rooting for the kids to finally get done what we have obviously failed to do.

Last November there was another mass shooting in Texas. Which was just weeks after really big mass shooting in Nevada. Which was a mere few weeks after the mass shooting in … Oh, I don’t know.

I don’t remember. Pick a state. Odds are, a mass shooting recently happened there, too.


Given the state of the state and since obviously “thoughts and prayers” don’t seem to be getting the job done, this seemed relevant. 


I can look through the posts on Serendipity over the months and years … and instead of becoming dated — because we fixed this or that — or at least moved on to a different issue, we are months and years later dealing with exactly the same stuff. Our “leaders” — such as they are — are spouting the same slogans and platitudes.

So … on the subject of guns …

I’ve been thinking about why this country is so gun crazy. The craziest of the crazies keep saying: “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is, of course, ridiculous. Now the right-wing is saying that in the case of the recent Texas shooting, apparently a good guy with a gun did chase the bad guy with a gun. The only thing they left out is he chased the guy AFTER HE KILLED 26 PEOPLE AND WOUNDED A LOT MORE!

Then it hit me. It’s our fault so many people believe this kind of thing. By “our fault,” I mean the fault of those of us who grew up in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Our heroes were cowboys. We grew up watching Westerns in which everybody, men and women alike, had guns strapped to their waists. (Dale Evans was a hell of shot. So was Annie Oakley.)

Everybody had a gun. Good guys. Bad guys. Grandma. But, the world was a lot safer in those westerns than it is now — and not because everyone had a gun. Or two. Or three.

First. The bad guys rarely — if ever — actually hit anybody at whom they shot.

Second. The good guys merely shot the guns out of the bad guys hands. They weren’t trying to kill them.

Third. Grandma just shot people in the ass. Usually with a shotgun filled with rock salt.

Okay, sometimes the good guy would need to be little more extreme, so he’d shoot the bad guy in the shoulder (or “wing em” as we used to say). But it was always just a flesh wound.

BAD GUY:OW! You shot me in the shoulder!”

GOOD GUY: “Oh stop whining. It’s just a flesh wound.”

BAD BUY: “Well if you shot me between the eyes wouldn’t that technically be a “flesh wound” too?”

GOOD GUY: “Hmm. Never thought of it that way. You know, you’re rather astute for a bad guy.”

BAD GUY: “Thank you.”

Another thing. When the bad guy used up his bullets shooting at the good guy, he’d throw the gun at him! I never understood this. Seriously. You just fired a few dozen bullets, each traveling at about 1000 feet per second, at a guy a couple of hundred feet away. You missed every shot.

What exactly do you hope to accomplish by throwing the gun at him? Bonk him on the head?

GOOD GUY: OW! What the hell?! Did you just throw your gun at me!?”

BAD GUY: “Uh, yeah.”

GOOD GUY: “Well that really hurt! Look! I’ve already got a lump! What’s wrong with you?? Why would you do that?”

BAD GUY: “I ran out of bullets.”

GOOD GUY: “And whose fault is that?! If you’re going to a gun fight, come more prepared.”

BAD GUY: “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

At this point, seeing that the bad guy doesn’t have a gun with to shoot anymore … and all the good guy was intending to do was shoot the gun out of his hand, both go home feeling oddly unfulfilled.

I don’t own a gun, but I took a gun safety course. I’ve done some target shooting. So I know guns are REUSABLE! That’s right! All you gotta do is find more bullets for Pete’s sake — and that gun’s back on the job.

FYI, don’t call them bullets. They’re cartridges. The bullet is the lead part you actually fire from the gun. (See? I told you. I took a course.)

One more thing we tend to forget about Westerns. If you went into a town that had a Sheriff, you had to leave your guns at the sheriff’s office. When you left town, you got your guns back. The Sheriff understood the only reason anyone came to town was to go to the saloon. Which, let’s face it, was a brothel with a liquor license. Letting a bunch of horny, drunken cowboys hang out in a confined space with booze, hookers, and guns is not a great idea.

Even if you were in a town where they let you keep your guns, there were rules.

1 – If two bad guys got in a fight, they at least gave everybody a few seconds to move their chairs out of the way, or jump behind the bar.

2 – If a good guy and a bad guy got into a disagreement, they would usually schedule the gunfight for the next day in the middle of town. That way, no one else got shot.

3 – They set it up for high noon.

Why high noon? Probably because it was the lunch hour. Everybody in town could come out to watch. It also made it easier for the combatants. It wasn’t always easy to get time off for a gunfight.

BAD GUY: “Hey boss? Can I get off early today? I have a gunfight at 2 o’clock.”

BAD GUY’S BOSS: “Okay, but I’ll have to dock your pay.”

BAD GUY: (Sighing) “Never mind. I’ll reschedule it for lunchtime.”

Besides, “Gunfight at Two-ish” doesn’t have the gravitas of “High Noon.” So yeah, everybody had guns in old Westerns, but they were more mature about using them. You could argue things were simpler back then. “Things were more black and white,” you say.

To this I reply: “So what? Westerns weren’t more black and white. They were completely black and white.” They didn’t go to color until the mid-sixties.

These days, everything contains infinitely more shades of gray. With a whole lot of color thrown in.

WILD HORSE PASS: THE SHOWDOWN – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Story by Garry Armstrong
Pictures by Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

72-Road to Mountains-GAR-Sunday-011016_158

THE STORY OF THE POSSE FROM HELL – Garry’s Tale

More than a week in Arizona and we couldn’t lose them. We couldn’t see them. The big country that protected us shielded them, too. It was the posse from Hell!

72-Desert-GAR-Sunday-011016_565

We kept to the high country, hoping the cactus, tumbleweed and narrow trails would distance us.

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Scorpion Gulch was the way to the mountains and beyond. We saw a few pilgrims here and there taking in the view. They ignored us. Good for them.

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This was the same trail used by Waco Johnny Dean, Long Tom and Dutch Henry Brown in the relentless chase for that Winchester ’73.

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The same trail used by Sheriff Pearly B. Sweet and the posse from Welcome and Carefree who pursued Bob Hightower, Pete and the Abilene Kid, the three Godfathers.

72-Scorpio Gulcht-GAR-Sunday-011016_435

There was no losing our posse from Hell.

Rawhide, we figured, might be a good place to lose those guys … whoever they were.

Rawhide — a place where dudes are welcome. We wouldn’t be noticed as the pilgrims sashayed up and down Main Street. Maybe the posse from Hell might have paper on a few of these strangers.

Rawhide also was a good place to grab some grub. Maybe even some shut-eye. But no time for real fun if you get my drift. Those pilgrims kept giving us shifty looks.

72-Garry-010816_035

72-Iron-Cowboy-GAR-01042016_019

Back on the trail, I thought we saw an old saddle pal. He rode with us in the old days. He was a good old boy. Turned out he was dead and just a statue, probably done in by the railroad men who dogged us for too many years. Close up, our old pal still looked good. They don’t make men like him any more.

We had to move on. No sense chasing memories. We wanted to head back to the high country and the safety of those mountains. But time was running out. We knew the end was near.

Just as well. We were running low on luck and bullets.

The posse from hell finally cornered us at Wild Horse Pass. They stayed with their long guns as we faced them down. It was a long day’s siege into night.

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We would not go quietly. We could see the fear in their eyes as we held our position. Clearly, we  had them on experience, as we stared across the pass and other confrontations which have blurred over the years.

72-Scorpio Gulcht-GAR-Sunday-011016_425

In the distance, we heard the strains of “Shall We Gather At The River” sung mournfully by the good folks at The Light of The Desert Lutheran Church. Was this a boot hill elegy?

Print the legend.

GUNS, GUN SENSE, AND GUNSMOKE – BY TOM CURLEY

A few days ago there was another mass shooting in Texas. Just weeks after the mass shooting in Nevada, which was a few weeks after the mass shooting in … I don’t know. I don’t remember. Pick a state. Odds are, one happened there.

Given the state of the state, this seemed pretty relevant. I can look through the posts on Serendipity over the months and years … and instead of becoming dated — because we fixed this or that — or at least moved on to a different issue, we are months and years later dealing with exactly the same stuff. Our “leaders” — such as they are — are spouting the same slogans and platitudes. So … on the subject of guns …

From March 2016 …


I’ve been thinking about why this country is so gun crazy. The craziest of the crazies keep saying: “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is, of course, ridiculous. Now the right-wing is saying that in the case of the recent Texas shooting, apparently a good guy with a gun did chase the bad guy with a gun. The only thing they left out is he chased the guy AFTER HE KILLED 26 PEOPLE AND WOUNDED A LOT MORE!

Then it hit me. It’s our fault so many people believe this kind of thing. By “our fault,” I mean the fault of those of us who grew up in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Our heroes were cowboys. We grew up watching Westerns in which everybody, men and women alike, had guns strapped to their waists. (Dale Evans was a hell of shot. So was Annie Oakley.)

 

Everybody had a gun. Good guys. Bad guys. Grandma. But, the world was a lot safer in those westerns than it is now — and not because everyone had a gun. Or two. Or three.

First. The bad guys rarely — if ever — actually hit anybody at whom they shot.

Second. The good guys merely shot the guns out of the bad guys hands. They weren’t trying to kill them.

Third. Grandma just shot people in the ass. Usually with a shotgun filled with rock salt.

Okay, sometimes the good guy would need to be little more extreme, so he’d shoot the bad guy in the shoulder (or “wing em” as we used to say). But it was always just a flesh wound.

BAD GUY:OW! You shot me in the shoulder!”

GOOD GUY: “Oh stop whining. It’s just a flesh wound.”

BAD BUY: “Well if you shot me between the eyes wouldn’t that technically be a “flesh wound” too?”

GOOD GUY: “Hmm. Never thought of it that way. You know, you’re rather astute for a bad guy.”

BAD GUY: “Thank you.”

Another thing. When the bad guy used up his bullets shooting at the good guy, he’d throw the gun at him! I never understood this. Seriously. You just fired a few dozen bullets, each traveling at about 1000 feet per second, at a guy a couple of hundred feet away. You missed every shot.

What exactly do you hope to accomplish by throwing the gun at him? Bonk him on the head?

GOOD GUY:OW! What the hell?! Did you just throw your gun at me!?”

BAD GUY: “Uh, yeah.”

GOOD GUY: “Well that really hurt! Look! I’ve already got a lump! What’s wrong with you?? Why would you do that?”

BAD GUY: “I ran out of bullets.”

GOOD GUY: “And whose fault is that?! If you’re going to a gun fight, come more prepared.”

BAD GUY: “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

At this point, seeing that the bad guy doesn’t have a gun with to shoot anymore … and all the good guy was intending to do was shoot the gun out of his hand, both go home feeling oddly unfulfilled.

I don’t own a gun, but I took a gun safety course. I’ve done some target shooting. So I know guns are REUSABLE! That’s right! All you gotta do is find more bullets for Pete’s sake — and that gun’s back on the job.

FYI, don’t call them bullets. They’re cartridges. The bullet is the lead part you actually fire from the gun. (See? I told you. I took a course.)

One more thing we tend to forget about Westerns. If you went into a town that had a Sheriff, you had to leave your guns at the sheriff’s office. When you left town, you got your guns back. The Sheriff understood the only reason anyone came to town was to go to the saloon. Which, let’s face it, was a brothel with a liquor license. Letting a bunch of horny, drunken cowboys hang out in a confined space with booze, hookers, and guns is not a great idea.

Even if you were in a town where they let you keep your guns, there were rules.

  1. If two bad guys got in a fight, they at least gave everybody a few seconds to move their chairs out of the way, or jump behind the bar.
  2. If a good guy and a bad guy got into a disagreement, they would usually schedule the gunfight for the next day in the middle of town. That way, no one else got shot.
  3. They set it up for high noon.

Why high noon? Probably because it was the lunch hour. Everybody in town could come out to watch. It also made it easier for the combatants. It wasn’t always easy to get time off for a gunfight.

BAD GUY: “Hey boss? Can I get off early today? I have a gunfight at 2 o’clock.”

BAD GUY’S BOSS: “Okay, but I’ll have to dock your pay.”

BAD GUY: (Sighing) “Never mind. I’ll reschedule it for lunchtime.”

Besides, “Gunfight at Two-ish” doesn’t have the gravitas of “High Noon.” So yeah, everybody had guns in old Westerns, but they were more mature about using them. You could argue things were simpler back then. “Things were more black and white,” you say.

To this I reply: “So what? Westerns weren’t more black and white. They were completely black and white.” They didn’t go to color until the mid-sixties.

These days, everything contains infinitely more shades of gray. With a whole lot of color thrown in.

WINDOWS, CHAIRS, BULLETS AND BODIES

So there we were, watching an old western movie. A major shootout was underway and Garry looked annoyed. “Why,” he asked me, “Do they always break the glass? Why don’t they simply open the windows? And why are the guys on the roof always the first to get shot? And why doesn’t anyone fall over unconscious when hit with a chair? And how many bullets do those colts hold?”Garry immediately wrote his western loving friends on Facebook.

QUESTION: “Given the cost and scarcity of panes of glass in the old west, why — instead of breaking the glass before shooting — don’t they just open the windows?” 


Garry: I’m watching an old “High Chaparral” episode and I want to know — why do they always break the windows before the shootouts? Couldn’t they open the window first? Glass was expensive! And how come the guys on rooftops always get shot first in those shoot outs?

Marilyn: I never thought about the windows. Not only are they expensive, but they’d be pretty hard to get. I mean, did they make that stuff on the ranch? Or did they have to haul it from back east?

Texas Tom : This reporter is nowhere near the movie expert you are. However, my sense is they always break the windows for (first of all) the visceral sound effect of the shattering glass, which also is a much stronger macho gesture than simply opening a window. Besides, opening the  window just might require one or two more seconds than smashing the glass –which can also be interpreted as an act of absolute crazed panic and desperation — and shows the blood curdling anger and hostility of the glass breaker’s killer instinct.

As for always shooting the guys on the roof first, my sense again runs to the most bang for the moment answer. Having a stunt man tumble a story or two from a roof, balcony, overhang or whatever has a much more visceral (there’s that word again) impact on the  viewer’s brain and gut than simply shooting a guy standing  in front of you, or  on the same level with you.  It’s a much more dramatic way of saying “this is the real deal here”.  – T. Texas Tom: Champion Cap Gun Fighter of the Entire West

Garry: Damn, you are so much more cerebral than me. You sound more like a Pilgrim than a Texican. Mebbe it’s because we’re on a fixed income that I wince when they break the windows rather than opening them to spray lead. That’s another thing. You would think they would be more economical with their bullets. Let the bad guys use up their ammo and shoot when you have a clear target. I guess the Duke would be pissed if he heard this austerity rant.

Jordan: Do you think they only manufactured breakaway glass and furniture back in the old west?  Thought stuff back then was made to last?

Marilyn: You’d think the chairs would collapse if you sat in them. Balsa must be sturdier than I thought.

Garry: Yeah, I used to laugh my ass off at the six shooters that never ran out of bullets. Also, Roy, Gene and our other heroes being chased by hordes of bad guys who could shoot over their shoulder with precision and nail three bad guys with one bullet.

Texas Tom: Hoot, Gene, Roy, and Tex — those old guys would chase the bad guys and shoot for a whole reel without ever reloading. We used to laugh about that never-ending stream of bullets. They never fired their last bullet.

Marilyn: No one ever went into town to buy bullets, either. They must have had their own armory. Even the Lone Ranger never told Tonto to go into town and buy some ammo. I bet bullets came free with guns. Get a gun, come back any time for a box of bullets. That’s another thing. No one ever bought a gun. Did you ever see one of these guys go into a gun store and buy a gun? They always had guns and if one got blown away in a shootout, they had another immediately in hand. Then, another. 


And there you have it. A conversation about guns into which the NRA never enters.

Some weeks back, there was a TV cop show on which a guy got killed having his head slightly blown off by a blank. Turns out, while a blank is blanker than a standard bullet, if you stick the gun in your ear and pull the trigger, you’re just as dead as you would have been with the real deal bullet.

Go figure, right?

HANDS UP! – HOLD UP AT THE DISCO – EVIL SQUIRREL

This piece and its accompanying video clip absolutely made my day. The song is bouncy and cute, but whoever put the video together is just a little bit of brilliant. How the editor so well sychronized the action in the video montage with the song … well. I’ve always been a big fan of really great editing. And the catchy song isn’t bad either! You can catch all the action over at EVIL SQUIRREL’S NEST

The video is wonderful. How many of the movies in the video can you recognize (for silent movie film buffs). I picked out Charlie Chaplin and William S. Hart (the cowboy), but who’s the tap-dancing saloon girl? There’s so much more!


The time has finally come to chill out with the month of October now upon us.  It’s time to get out those sweaters, hot chocolate, and of course on Mondays.. those all-important ear muffs.

The time has finally come to chill out with the month of October now upon us.  It’s time to get out those sweaters, hot chocolate, and of course on Mondays.. those all-important ear muffs.  The seasons may change and the calendar pages may flip, but The Nest will always start off your week with another lost ditty we saved from music history’s burning leafpile.  It’s time for the next Fall classic to the played from the acorn stash we like to call the Dusty Vinyl Archive!  DJ Scratchy is always keeping things cool behind the turntable… and while the Sponkies may be missing the beginning of Spring in their homeland, they certainly won’t miss out on the leaves changing colors like Dennis Rodman’s hair…

dusty vinyl

While everyone loves to make fun of Americans’ tendency to be idiots when it comes to simple world geography, we certainly don’t hold any patents on looking stupid.  You might expect a band named Ottawan to be from, you know, Canada since Ottawa is only the country’s freaking capital city.  But no, it was actually a duo made up of two Caribbean singers which was put together by French record producers to become disco superstars stars in the Eastern Hemisphere.  Can’t we have a little truth in advertising here?  After all, the rock groups Chicago and Boston were both formed in those cities.  It works even with bigger place names, as the band Europe was actually from Europe, Kansas originated in the state of Oz Kansas, and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band hailed from…. you guessed it, Earth!

Dammit Asia! You had to ruin the point I was making...

Dammit Asia! You had to ruin the point I was making…

Ottawan jumped on the disco bandwagon after the US had long since moved on from having Saturday Night Fever.  As a result, the group never charted here at all… only in a handful of European countries and Down Under.  So why do I even know this group exists?  Because this song gets played occasionally on Music Choice’s Party Favorites channel… and I absolutely love it!  Here is Ottawan’s 1981 non-US smash hit, “Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart)”

Yes, it’s another happy-making song!  You know by now how much I love pop songs like this, and can’t understand why they wouldn’t make anyone else tickled pink when they hear it as well…

Source: Hold Up At The Disco!

A NOSTALGIC RERUN: LAST OF THE SILVER SCREEN COWBOYS

A Collaboration of Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

We watched “Rustler’s Rhapsody” again last night. I love this movie. It’s an affectionate spoof of the B-Westerns of the 1940s starring Tom Berenger, Patrick Wayne, G.W. Baily (currently with “Major Crimes” on which Berenger has a recurring guest role), Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey.

The women include Sela Ward, a solid dramatic actress perhaps best remembered as Dr. Richard Kimble’s slain wife in the movie version of “The Fugitive”. There’s also Marilu Henner who riffs on the Miss Kitty/Miss Lily saloon ladies of our favorite TV westerns.

Andy Griffith and Fernando Rey both play power-mad cattle barons. Fernando usually plays an international drug czar and you probably remember him in “The French Connection”. He is slimy sinister personified. Rey and Griffith make a very odd couple. Check out the scene where they argue about who gets to do the countdown for killing the hero. They are hilarious, but Andy Griffith steals the show.

We love the movie so much we own two identical copies of it on DVD. It wasn’t going to be available for long, so Marilyn bought a copy for us, another for our best friends … and an extra. Just in case.


rustler's rhapsody dvd cover

NOTE: As it turns out, “Rustler’s Rhapsody” is available. Again. Who know for how long? If you are interested, Amazon has the DVD and the download.


Tom Berenger is The Hero who shoots the bad guys in the hand. Pat Wayne is the other good guy, but he used to be a lawyer, so be warned. Casting Pat Wayne was an inspiration. “Rustler’s Rhapsody” could easily be homage to his Dad’s ‘poverty row’ westerns of the 1930s. Pat even nails Duke’s acting range of that period.

My heroes have always been cowboys, even the stalwarts of those budget-challenged B movies. I had the good fortune to spend time with two legends of the genre. Buster Crabbe and Jack “Jock” Mahoney.

Crabbe, most famous for his “Flash Gordon” days, contends he had more fun playing the lead in the oaters where the line between good and bad is always clear and you get to wear nice costumes. He considers his westerns as “small classics” not B movies. (Crabbe continued his career into the late 60’s when producer A.C. Lyles revived the B cowboy movie with over the hill actors including Johnny Mack Brown, Rod Cameron, Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and Richard Arlen among others).

Jack “Jock” Mahoney, known to many as TV’s “Range Rider”, is a former stuntman who graduated to supporting roles as nimble villains and finally established a following at Universal-International, playing literate good guys in lean, well written westerns. Mahoney clearly is proud of his work in the B movies. I remember the smile on his face as he recalled the fun of being recognized as a cowboy hero.

I think all the cowboy actors I’ve met (Including John Wayne) would heartily approve of “Rustler’s Rhapsody”. It’s an affectionate tribute to their work.

This is the song they play at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. I love the song and the memories it brings because I’m of the generation that went to the movies and watched those B movies as part of the afternoon double-header at the Carlton or Laurelton, the second (third?) run movies houses where you could see two movies and a cartoon for a dime.

Warner Brothers, 1982. “Last Of The Silver Screen Cowboys” by Rex Allen Jr. and Rex Allen Sr. Be sure to listen for Roy Rogers in the final commentary and chorus!

AGAIN! GUN SENSE AND SENSIBILITY – BY TOM CURLEY

Given the state of the state, this seemed pretty relevant. I can look through the posts on Serendipity over the months and years … and instead of becoming dated — because we fixed this or that — or at least moved on to a different issue, we are still, months and years later dealing with the exact same stuff. Our “leaders” — such as they are — are spouting the same slogans and platitudes. So … on the subject of guns …

From March 2016 …


I’ve been thinking about why this country is so gun crazy. The craziest of the crazies keep saying: “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is, of course, ridiculous.

Then it hit me. It’s our fault so many people believe this kind of thing. By “our fault,” I mean the fault of those of us who grew up in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Our heroes were cowboys. We grew up watching Westerns in which everybody, men and women alike, had guns strapped to their waists. (Dale Evans was a hell of shot. So was Annie Oakley.)

gunfight-at-the-corral-poster-png-2

Everybody had a gun. Good guys. Bad guys. Grandma. But, the world was a lot safer in those westerns than it is now — and not because everyone had a gun. Or two. Or three.

First. The bad guys rarely — if ever — actually hit anybody at whom they shot.

Second. The good guys merely shot the guns out of the bad guys hands. They weren’t trying to kill them.

Third. Grandma just shot people in the ass. Usually with a shotgun filled with rock salt.

Okay, sometimes the good guy would need to be little more extreme, so he’d shoot the bad guy in the shoulder (or “wing em” as we used to say). But it was always just a flesh wound.

BAD GUY: “OW! You shot me in the shoulder!”

GOOD GUY: “Oh stop whining. It’s just a flesh wound.”

BAD BUY: “Well if you shot me between the eyes wouldn’t that technically be a “flesh wound” too?”

GOOD GUY: “Hmm. Never thought of it that way. You know, you’re rather astute for a bad guy.”

BAD GUY: “Thank you.”

Another thing. When the bad guy used up his bullets shooting at the good guy, he ‘d throw the gun at him! I never understood this. Seriously. You just fired a few dozen bullets, each traveling at about 1000 feet per second, at a guy a couple of hundred feet away. You missed every shot.

What exactly do you hope to accomplish by throwing the gun at him? Bonk him on the head?

GOOD GUY: “OW! What the hell?! Did you just throw your gun at me!?”

BAD GUY: “Uh, yeah.”

GOOD GUY: “Well that really hurt! Look! I’ve already got a lump! What’s wrong with you?? Why would you do that?”

BAD GUY: “I ran out of bullets.”

GOOD GUY: “And whose fault is that?! If you’re going to a gun fight, come more prepared.”

BAD GUY: “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

At this point, seeing that the bad guy doesn’t have a gun with to shoot anymore … and all the good guy was intending to do was shoot the gun out of his hand, both go home feeling oddly unfulfilled.

I don’t own a gun, but I took a gun safety course. I’ve done some target shooting. So I know guns are REUSABLE! That’s right! All you gotta do is find more bullets for Pete’s sake — and that gun’s back on the job.

FYI, don’t call them bullets. They’re cartridges. The bullet is the lead part you actually fire from the gun. (See? I told you I took a course.)

One more thing we tend to forget about Westerns. If you went into a town that had a Sheriff, you had to leave your guns at the sheriff’s office. When you left town, you got your guns back.

The Sheriff understood the only reason anyone came to town was to go to the saloon. Which, let’s face it, was a brothel with a liquor license. Letting a bunch of horny, drunken cowboys hang out in a confined space with booze, hookers, and guns is not a great idea.

Even if you were in a town where they let you keep your guns, there were rules.

1. If two bad guys got in a fight, they at least gave everybody a few seconds to move their chairs out of the way, or jump behind the bar.

2. If a good guy and a bad guy got into a disagreement, they would usually schedule the gunfight for the next day in the middle of town. That way, no one else got shot.

3. They set it up for high noon.

Why high noon? Probably because it was the lunch hour. Everybody in town could come out to watch. It also made it easier for the combatants. It wasn’t necessarily easy to get time off for a gunfight.

BAD GUY: “Hey boss? Can I get off early today? I have a gunfight at 2 o’clock.”

BAD GUY’S BOSS: “Okay, but I’ll have to dock your pay.”

BAD GUY: (Sighing) “Never mind. I’ll reschedule it for lunchtime.”

Besides, “Gunfight at Two-ish” doesn’t have the gravitas of “High Noon.”

So yeah, everybody had guns in old Westerns, but they were more mature about using them.

You could argue things were simpler back then. “Things were more black and white,” you say.

To this I reply: “So what? Westerns weren’t more black and white. They were completely black and white.”

They didn’t go to color until the mid-sixties.

These days, everything contains infinitely more shades of gray. With a whole lot of color thrown in.

“SHANE” – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT – BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

(Shane & Jack Wilson square off, eyeing each other as a stray dog limps out)

Shane: “I’ve heard about you..”

Wilson: “What have you heard, Shane”..

Shane: “I’ve heard your name isn’t Wilson. It’s Isidore Moshe Rabinowitz”…

Wilson: “Prove it”…

(Gunshots exchanged. Wilson/Rabinowitz falls)

Shane: “Shalom, Sucker!!”

(Shane riding away)

Joey: “Shane, come back, Shane!!”

Shane: “F#@k off, you little bugger” …

(Shane gives the kid a finger as he rides off into the sunset with music up full)

– The End –


BACK ON THE SAGEBRUSH TRAIL – GARRY ARMSTRONG

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With the world around us covered with snow, it seems a perfect time for one (last?)(probably not) visit to Arizona …

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We were watching an old western the other night. “The Quest” was an unsuccessful TV pilot. Marilyn watched it for a while, then said “That’s Arizona. We were just there. That’s just outside Phoenix. I have pictures of that mountain. You have pictures of that mountain.”

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We watched the credits. She was right. (I hate when that happens.) It was, indeed, Arizona.

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We have pictures. These are my pictures of those mountains. As opposed to Marilyn’s, which look pretty much the same. Roads cross the sands where before, there was empty desert. More houses, here and there.

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Many more cacti. Arizona has done a really good job protecting the saguaro, so they’ve been growing huge and spiny since the movie was made in 1976.

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The mountains haven’t changed.

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