As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, you’ve got to be careful with this Cowboy thing, but with judicious application, the most mundane duties become charged with Mythic meaning.
from Gunman’s Gold, by Max Brand
Pocket Books, 1960
Last Stand! Trapped! Brush Fire! or Die! When this is truly the case, you have a problem. Until then, when you find yourself in a pinch, try running those words through your mind to get the adrenalin going. But be careful, you might end up kicking out a window or something.
Western popular novels are true romances and were practically eaten like sage-flavored candy by both buckos and buckettes. The story lines satisfied, momentarily but intensely, the yearning to be a real Man/Woman and kick a bully’s ass/take the love interest into your arms/own a big spread/look good in cowboy boots.
Pre-1960, these stories have heroes who are stone-rugged; their heroines are pliable yet composed. Problems in these pages were solved with a one-two punch and if that didn’t work, with a gimlet-eyed stare and threat of deadly aim.
It seems that many problems arise when one realizes that making decisions and getting respect are not easy–rarely are decisions or people simply good or bad, for example, and our western culture is rabidly anti-hero and anti-respect.
So when the going gets tough, and I get mired down in my own wishy-washiness or faced with less old-fashioned kowtowing than I think I deserve, I like to appropriate pulp western moments. What would the Cowboy hero do? Drink a whiskey/kill; kiss/kill; shoot/kiss; ride/don’t ride; drift/stay… It makes things so much more interesting. And simple.
Along with the prized back cover copy of the 1960 version of Gunman’s Gold by Max Brand (called the “Shakespeare of the Western range”) here are a few more epithets you might find appropriate. Use cautiously.
[Why this is just a] TRAIL DRIVE TO HELL!
[insert name of town here] is BAD…devilish bad, dirty, evil, stinking.
My personal favorite: “I DRAW THE LINE AT DRINKING WITH A POLE-CAT!”
DRIFT OR DIE [makes any decision easy]
[I’m just a] LONE MAN against RANGE RATS!
And I’ll leave you as I: RIDE LIKE HELL!
P.S. Hand and gun illustration from Lazy H Feud by Ed La Vanway, published by Dell in 1955, with cover illustration by the great Robert Stanley.