Posts tagged ‘cowboy’

May 19, 2010

The Cowpoke's Life's for Me; The Brands of Herb Jeffries and Roy Rogers

by cowboylands

My lucky horseshoe used to be my sister’s horse’s cast-off shoe, bent and scarred silver with use. Now I use Roy Rogers’s horseshoe. It’s stamped “Lucky Horseshoe,” and with Roy Roger’s name and Trigger’s for good measure. Yes, I am a lucky, lucky bucko.

The singing cowboy is a unique kind of hero in the pantheon of western heroes. Dressed to the nines in colorful satin shirts (and this before the age of disco), a singing cowgirl or cowboy warbled tunes from the back of an obedient yet spirited horse.

They drifted through life in a way that’s either happy-go-lucky or, well, as rootless as a tumblin’ tumbleweed. They had a job—somewhere—but late mortgage payments or lack of health insurance  didn’t ever get in the way of him or her singing the praises of winding trails, home sweet home, and kisses as sweet as prairie roses.

Handsome and clean-shaven, the singing cowboy’s ability to defeat evil-doers with his wits and a fast pair of fists made him the idol of American youth. Unschooled but wise, living an “unspoiled” life on the land, the singing cowboy stood as an example of patriotism, democracy, and awesome trick riding.

A singing cowboy like Leonard Slye’s Roy Rogers was not only King of the Cowboys but King of P.R. Every pin found in a cereal box that his Roy Roger’s cheerful grin on it had a copyright–for R.R. Toys, restaurants, and more were branded with his name. So he was doubly the idol of American youth–everyone’s dream is also to make it big.

Roy Rogers became a household name, but many households also venerated the name of Herb Jeffries, the “Bronze Buckaroo.” Swoon-worthy, a former singer with Duke Ellington, and multiracial (Ethiopian/French Canadian/Irish/Italian), he crooned about the Cowboy Way with silvery tones. He’s as decorated as any western hero: a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an inductee of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, and most awesomely, still alive and singing, surrounded in SoCal with great-great-grandkids. Jeffries’s voice is so beautiful in the video below your heart will ache.  Ah, the life of a silver-screen cowboy!


May 11, 2010

Cowgirls Gone Wild; or, I Can Has Cheezcake?

by cowboylands

Western porn.

Linda Stirling as the Black Whip in Zorro’s Black Whip, 1944, from

For me western porn is film stills and posters and book covers of hunks and hunkettes loaded down with western gear like holsters and chaps and cowboy boots and spurs and Colts and maybe a hard-edged stare or two.

And, oh yeah, I was doing some serious research to find some cowgirl heroes, the gunslinger or lawgiver kind.

And lo, I found both on Wild Western Web site Wanted Cowgirls. It has everything for the western fetish–strong women, especially. It’s got movies and pics, from straight-up singing cowgirls like Dorothy Page to recent fails like Penelope Cruz (my opinion, folks, put your guns back in your holsters).

It’s got movies and TV shows and pulse-pounding cowgirl pulps. It’s got arcade cards with winsome starlets and album cover hotties.

OK, maybe Cowgirl Catfight Outtakes gave me a stomachache, but it’s all in good, clean (kinda) fun, with a dose of healthy red-blooded lust and respect for these six-shooter-wearing goddesses.

My fave cowgirl? Barbara Stanwyck of Forty Guns and The Furies, a warrior woman who takes no prisoners…including any man she loves.

In Forty Guns you first see her riding a black horse at the head of a column of hard-bitten gun-toting cowboys. Awesomeness. I can’t do better on making a love capsule for Forty Guns than this, at Lightning Bug’s Lair.

Jessica Drummond: I’m not interested in *you*, Mr. Bonnell. It’s your trademark.
[gestures at his gun, purring]
Jessica Drummond: May I feel it?
Griff Bonnell: Uh-uh.
Jessica Drummond: Just curious.
Griff Bonnell: It might go off in your face.
Jessica Drummond: I’ll take a chance.

Forty Guns, directed by Samuel Fuller, 1957

January 1, 2009

New Year in Cowboylands

by cowboylands

Every start of the year I find some time to write out a few goals. I prioritize and create little boxes for checking off when I’ve completed them* and otherwise make curlicues and asterisks and bold underlines. This blog was one such goal from last year (alas, the Web site is still under construction–anyone know a good Flash artist?). I keep away from calling them resolutions–I can resolve to do anything w/out getting it done–but “goals seem to be sufficiently motivating.

sparkly boots © 2009 cowboylands

I always hope for a year of shiny energy and tremendous success. Like the boots I wore this New Year’s in NYC,** I hope the coming year will be sparkly, high-heeled, comfortable, eye-catching, over-the-top lovely, and, yes, slightly ridiculous. These boots I bought on the way to a reading (Bob Heman’s great CLWN WR readings at SAFE-T gallery in DUMBO), and I haven’t looked back. These would definitely fall apart in mud and dust and sweat, but who cares? Would someone who was wearing these actually work for a living? They embody the giddy times of bubble America, pre-2008. Or, the sad but titillating life of a lounge singer. 

worn boots © 2009 cowboylands

My practical side says the year isn’t going to be any such thing unless I work like hell–the aspect that I admire most about cowboys (other than the spurs and chaps and laconic wit and such). These were scooped up on the cheap in a Goodwill in a western state lost to my memory. They are stiff and creased, worn and drab, although someone industriously and somewhat clumsily applied shoe polish to shine ’em up (hey, it worked–it got an Eastern fool to buy them). Life isn’t going to be shiny unless I plant my rear in the saddle and stick to my steed-of-the-moment. Nor should life be all glitter. There’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had in working hard and making a living in a chosen field, whether its publishing or sage-covered corrals. 

sparkly boots II © 2009 cowboylands

Happy New Year, buckaroos! may our virtual trails cross often.



*My anality lasts about a week–I usually forget about the list, although I do tend to complete a few of the goals. 

**Imagine taking these out to fix fence posts. They’d scare the herd.

December 29, 2008

A Happy Healthy New Year; or, Cowboy Diplomacy in the Doctor's Office

by cowboylands

Medical tools from the Civil War

There is something to be said for a high-deductible health care plan: This year, thanks to a likely financial crunch in my chosen field, I will certainly be reviewing my health expenditures carefully. No more mammograms willy-nilly–squishing boobs for fun has gone the way of tinkering with stocks. No longer will I drop in on my dermatologist to have a chat, and then casually disrobe so he can check for moles and spots. That funny feeling in my stomach that comes and goes with the seasons? Not as important as sonograms for tracking cysts. I will have some choices to make this coming year, and as I am pro-choice, it kind of fits. 

Having a health insurance is a luxury, I am aware, and so I won’t bitch too much about having to cough up an unholy amount of money for the privilege of seeing doctors I respect and who know my internal organs. I’m one of the fortunate ones. The National Coalition on Health Care estimates that nearly 46 million Americans, or 18 percent of the population under the age of 65, were without health insurance in 2007. Lest anyone pull out the boogeyman of illegal aliens, note that according to the NCHC, 80 percent of the uninsured are natural or naturalized citizens. Also note (before someone trots out the laziness of Americans) that the increase in the number of uninsured in 2006 was focused among working age adults. 

So even being a hard worker can’t necessarily save one from facing crippling medical costs, as employment-based health insurance is going the way of the dinosaurs and the beluga whale. Both small businesses and part-timers can’t stretch their dollars enough to cover premiums, and thus we have a situation in which the best plan for many (those privileged with health insurance) is to pump up their deductible and crank down their expenditures. In the words of a once-upon-a-time candidate for the highest office of the land:

John McCain Believes The Key To Health Care Reform Is To Restore Control To The Patients Themselves. We want a system of health care in which everyone can afford and acquire the treatment and preventative care they need. Health care should be available to all and not limited by where you work or how much you make. Families should be in charge of their health care dollars and have more control over care. 

That would be me. And what has this to do with cowboys? I will be taking a page from our nearly invisible cowboy president in making sure that the quality and quantity of health care I receive is the best it can be. I plan on cowboying up every time I walk into the doctor’s office. 

I will:

♣ wear cowboy boots. As in Cowboy Fact #40–Even when you feel like shit, cowboy boots make you a little taller. 

♣ dress for success. That may not include a belt buckle the size of Texas, but it will include the kind of put-together look that comes with getting your way. The boots will help. But I will not, for example, be wearing this:

♣ speak softly and carry a big stick. I take that cue from Teddy Roosevelt and the Virginian. My stick won’t be a Colt Peacemaker but knowledge that will allow me to ask the right questions to the right doctors at the right time. In addition, a relative’s medical billing background will help crack codes; Internet searches will arm me with info (and hopefully not make me freak out); and a virtual and real-world support system of people (the interdependence that is the true Western ideal) will bring me community. And when the receptionist tells me I don’t have paperwork or the right attitude, I’ll reply, “If you want to call me that, smile.”

♣ get back on if I fall off. When I am confused about medication, procedures, a doctor’s advice, symptoms, prognosis, the bill, facility vs. non-facility, “medically necessary,” co-pays, co-insurance, premiums, excluded conditions, inpatient, outpatient, impatient, PPO, and EOB, I will have to remember that if I fall off this bucking bronco of health benefits I have to get right back on again. 


 Click here for more great pics from this photographer

Like a cowboy, I plan on being tough-minded and honest, polite yet fast on the draw. Unlike a cowboy, I hope not to get saddle sores and broken bones. I’ll have to wire together the truck and buddy up with a rodeo pal. Taking the cue from the cowboy, I will arm myself with self-assurance and confidence, elements of the cowboy can-do attitude. Lemme just call my relative in medical billing to crow about my plan….

Rats. Not to be a bummer but she said it’s tough to take control over your care when doctors have fifteen minutes average with each patient, a nonsensical arrangement that only makes sense when you consider that they often have to pay the staff and rent and insurance out of their fees. In her words, in that space of time, how can doctors possibly explain the diagnosis, possible procedures and tests, compare costs, and plan for the next step in enough detail for you to make a considered decision? 

Ride ’em, cowboy, ride. 

December 18, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a Clint Christmas

by cowboylands

I asked him what his favorite western pulp novel was. (Brave, I admit–Clint Eastwood does not have a lot of time to make nice with visitors to his California ranch.)

In reply he did that squinty Clint thing (my heart simultaneously leaped and quailed–giving me heartburn later on in the day).


You know, I persisted, like Luke Short or Ernest Haycox? Hard Money? Action by Night? Night Marshal? Ramrod

The rest of the group was moving ahead, and before he could go to the more important head of the party, I (doing my best not to latch on to his arm) I managed to tell Clint Eastwood that I thought he would enjoy Luke Short’s stories, because Short’s spare words pack a punch. (Thank gawd I didn’t say something simpering as in, “like your movies.”)

He nodded, appearing to take the time to think about what I said and then excused himself graciously.

OK! I had probably alienated one of my cowboy heroes, who, in a post-post-modern sort of way, would command his cowboy-bodyguards to toss me through a saloon’s plate-glass window rather than do it himself.  But at least I had spoken to him and not blathered like an idiot. 

It was later in the tour that he swung by again, asking me what I thought about… I can’t even remember, honestly. All I can recall is I got a mushy, warm feeling inside that spread through my solar plexus and zeroed in on my G-spot. I opened my mouth to reply–and woke up.


Only a dream! I can usually spot my dreams, but this one didn’t have space aliens or super heroes, or some sort of apocalyptic vision. It was so normal. A tour of Eastwood’s ranch, a casual word, the culmination of a fantasy. And yes, that’s all it would be. The man is an icon, but an aged one, after all. We would talk. We would become compadres. Pards. We would shoot e-mails back and forth between his red-carpet walks and my deadlines. I would fill him in on the mysteries of 1940s and 1950s pulps; Clint would tell me about, well, being Clint. 

For that’s what he is. Clint. For common mortals like me, he is and will always be Man With No Name. Dirty Harry. Josie Wales. Who else of today’s filmic world has that glory, or that burden?

The inciting action for this dream was an excerpt from a review of Gran Torino, by Manohla Dargis, in  the New York Times of December 12: 

…Mr. Eastwood is also an adept director of his own performances and, perhaps more important, a canny manipulator of his own iconographic presence. He knows that when we’re looking at him, we’re also seeing Dirty Harry and the Man With No Name and all his other outlaws and avenging angels who have roamed across the screen for the last half-century. All these are embedded in his every furrow and gesture.


Dream aside, as I type about my chaste love affair, all I think about is that I don’t want Clint for his directorial efforts or his jazz playing, or his ranch, or his forearms (they featured prominently in a dream of a writer friend of mine), or his many good works. I want him for the Cowboy in him, and so apparently, does everyone else (such as movie critics). 

And now I have the question that will haunt my sleep for nights to come: If you sell your soul to the Cowboy, do you ever get it back?

(Apparently not if you are one of the film/music icons who gets a fake-faded brown images of themselves sold at fake Route 66 shops in suburban malls, like Elvis, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe. And Clint is, unfortunately, part of that crowd.)

Ennio Morricone also lives on in a brilliant rendition of the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by the awesome Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain.

And Sergio Leone lives on in Legos: 

A Kaptain Kobold kreation. The photo here doesn’t do it service; the original photo on flickr has notes from lego-cowboy fans. See it here


October 15, 2008


by cowboylands

Mythology and ritual are the same thing. Take a look at Phantom Empire, 1935 Mascot serial. This twelve-episode serial is the worst Western of all time. But buried beneath its trick riding and kid-style secret club is a message as deep as the secret underground queendom of Murania. That’s about twenty-five thousand feet, way down where the Queen’s Imperial Guards speak with a New Jersey accent.

 Phantom Empire…The Cliffhanger!

Myths help humans get through the rites of passage that are common to all social levels, all tribes, and all countries. The universal issues of Birth, Death, and Rebirth are hard to handle for volatile adolescents. Hard for staid adults too. We all need role models to teach us how to deal with ourselves and others.(Lemme turn down the shoot-em-up on the TV, I can’t quite hear you. What did you say? How are cowboy movies like myths?)

Look, pilgrim…You take a semi-divinity like John Wayne. Put him up on the silver screen, giant size. Then put him through the Hero Quest, where he must find meaning in the conflict of guns, rustlers, and bar girls. He finds the true meaning of life after the big barroom brawl, and goes on to ride into the sunset, a changed and wiser man. A Hero. Up there on the altar in the theater temple.

And if ya don’t like it, I want ya outa town by noon tomorrow!

In Phantom Empire, the Hero, played by Gene Autry, descends to the Scientific City of Murania. The kids and the two ranch hand clowns follow him there. The Hero finds a secret tunnel and gets blown up, starting his underground journey.

(Perils of Post-Adolescent Pauline! The Queen holds on to her rank the way she holds on to her stiff foundation garments.)

Queenie spies on Gene Autry, a lot, and commands that he be brought before her ALIVE.

(Go for it, Queenie!)

Who needs the breathing mask, and where? Ahh, who cares! After six episodes in a row, I had a hard time telling telling Gene Autry from the weaselly uranium prospector from the Queen’s evil henchman. I look at the horse to make sure. The one who sings is Autry.

Archetypes are the shorthand of storytellers. The Hero/Trickster confronts the Evil Queen, and also the Dastardly Scientist Uranium Rustlers.

The Hero survives many cliffhangers, cycle of death and rebirth, where the tapestry of reality is torn and rewoven. Did the Hero die in the Place of Peril, the Lightning Chamber? Did he find his way to the Cavern of Doom? Will he still be able to speak the Language of the Dead when he is reborn?

Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode, boys and girls!

And now a word from our sponsor…remember that Rice Krinkles makes your breakfast as much fun as a circus! So get your mom, the semi-divinity, to buy you some the next time she goes to the grocery store!

by guest blogger batboy42!

Now a word from bucko, the blog sponsor. You go on out and act heroic now! Stay tuned for part three, on Death, Rebirth, and what does it all mean anyway….

 Plastic Hero in Orange ©2008 es


October 11, 2008

All My Heroes Might Be Cowboys

by cowboylands

plastic hero copyright es 2008

Plastic Hero © 2008 es

Anything can look heroic–it’s all in the way the lights and camera work. Maybe that’s why cowboys in movies don’t say too much. All candidates on Campaign Trail ’08 have to keep talking, but the more they talk, the less heroic they seem. It’s a problem, buckaroos and buckarettes. I think they know it, but their words (except for any hate-mongering-type words) bring them to the status of mere mortals. So I hope the candidates are investing in good lights and camera. And a shiny white horse. 

What actually makes a hero? Tune in over the next week as guest blogger Batboy42 describes the hero’s journey. The hero, that is, of the worst western ever made. Call it a mash-up between Joseph Campbell and Gene Autry. Call it a story of Everyman. Call it what it is: brilliance. 

With eyes that hide the man within
You see behind the eyes of other men
You’ve lived and died and come to life again
And now you stand alone at the crossroads of your mind
You’ve left your yesterdays behind..
But which road leads you to tomorrow?



You’ve turned your back on yesterday
Betrayed a man who swore he’d make you pay
For when you left you took his pride away
You know he’ll never let you break away so easily
You’ll have to fight, before you’re free
But how much more time can you borrow?


Now in a single moment your past grows dim
One thought goes racing across your mind
You ride to meet the woman you stole from him
Oh no!…Charro don’t go!…
Charro don’t go!!…


There’s something hanging, in the wind
Your past is catching up and closing in
You’ve been halfway to hell and back again
And now you laugh in the devil’s face
with your last breath…
You’ll run a race with life and death…
But will you live to see tomorrow?

Charro…To prep you for the birth of the hero were the words from Elvis western Charro (for a full review and a multitude of factoids, check out Aussie fansite For Elvis Fans Only). He sang the title song, but otherwise he just moved his lips to mutter his lines, and to give a sexy pout. Those eyes, those eyes. Remember the mystery eyes? Those were pure Elvis smolder.  

View CHARRO. Enjoy. 

September 10, 2008

Shooting from the Hip; or, What Every Candidate Needs to Know

by cowboylands

  Shoot from the Hip, copyright es 2008, based on Italian movie poster for A Fistful of Dollars


Everyone’s jumping on the presidential and vice presidential candidates: too cool, too hot-tempered, too much woman, too little man. And like a phantom, the Mythic Cowboy rides through before fading away into the mists of the collective unconscious. 

Thomas Friedman, in his September 9th New York Times op-ed column titled “From the Gut” describes what a successful politician needs:

If you as a politician connect with voters on a gut level, they will follow you anywhere and not fret about the details. If you don’t connect with them on a gut level, you can’t show them enough details. 

“Gut-level,” what Americans respond to, is just a cliché away from “shoot from the hip,” and a heartbeat away from the highest office in America’s theme park, Cowboyland. 

So Americans prefer a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy or gal.* What does it mean? To recklessly act, without thought of consequence? Or to speak bluntly and directly, even assertively? It depends on whether you live in a blue state or a red state, bucko. But then it doesn’t matter what we, the voters think. Shooting from the hip sounds really cool when you haven’t been in combat. And in combat, it’s just one more of the many defensive or offensive strategies you can use**

Shooting from the hip–It’s the 1950s all over again, the epitome of coolness, when G-Men did “point shooting,” the kind of aiming that relies more on the shooter’s natural reaction to stress than using the sights of a gun. Think about it: isn’t it true that if you are being attacked by the forces of fundamentalism of the non-Christian kind, it’s way better to rely on your gut instinct than fuss around with centering a target in the sights. Just shoot the gun in roughly the right direction and you’ll hit roughly the right person.

The big however for me is this: if point shooting, or shooting from the hip, is effective at short range under stressful situations, is it really a good choice for long-range international and domestic planning? The farther you are from your target, the more necessary it is to use a visual index, such a sight. As the distance grows, the shooter must use more discernment and care in lining up the sight with the target to achieve effective results. It’s a clear difference of approach, once you follow this particular Cliché Trail to its end. 

We may very well be entering year nine of Cowboyland once Election Day comes and goes. We may very well have a straight-shooting kind of guy and gal in the Oval Office. But do these two know what real gunfighters know? That a fast draw takes second place to a calm mind?




*Whatever my personal preference, I’m loving the fact we now can write “or gal” without using parentheses that I usually took to mean “not in my lifetime will we ever have a woman running for president or v.p.”

 ** I read a piece based on this thought–back in the days when people mentioned President Bush–to a group of Vietnam veterans against the Iraq war. I was scared shitless. Who was I, a passive-aggressive, to speak about combat and guns to those who had given their health and peace of mind so that I could write about combat and guns? They liked the piece. Whew. 

This article has its origins as a previous incarnation in the infamous and incomparable alternative ‘zine Mad Hatters’ Review


August 24, 2008

Wanted: Cowboy Presidents 2008

by cowboylands

I’ve been unwilling to saddle up the presidential cowboy analogies for some time–Dubya too easy of a target–but THANK ALL THAT IS COWPOKE for recent presidential candidate news. 

Barack Obama resists the cowboy hat–all I can see him as is the lawyer/Dude from a big city, or maybe as a laid-back (yet pistol-packing) James Stewart in Destry Rides Again, if the senator from Illinois is able to put away the bad guys with Stewart’s aplomb. Yet it becomes difficult to ignore the pungent smell of Western Mythos when pundits connect the dots of presidential, public, and popular appeal. 

It has come to pass that Obama’s “Yes We Can!” is not enough to draw the public into the new day, while McCain’s “Drill here and drill now” is.* While the Democratic candidate continues to stride along into the future in his lanky (yes, James Stewart-like) way, his messages are coming under fire for their subtlety, or their ambiguousness, or their vagueness, or their wiffle-waffleness–depending on your POV. 

Charles M. Blow of the New York Times opines thus in the August 28, 2008 Op-Ed section

Lately, you’ve demonstrated an unsettling penchant for overly nuanced statements that meander into the cerebral. Earth to Barack: to Main Street America, nuance equals confusion. You don’t have to dumb it down, but you do have to sum it up.**

I have to agree, even though I appreciate shades of gray, because when you’re a working Joe or Joette and you have little time between the 9 to 5, kids, and having to do things like negotiate with city and state and country to make sure your basic human right of shelter doesn’t get yanked away (…where was I? Oh yeah…), you don’t have the time or energy to pore over the voting history of the candidates, their platforms, and the ins and outs of issues facing your community. You tend to go to the summary, and if it’s a well-crafted bit of razzle-dazzle, then it sticks in your mind as much as Starship’s horrid “We Built This City” has been clogging up my synapses the past two days.***

Blow continues, and–saddle the horse–up rises the allure of the Cowboy in his glory.

For example, your [Obama’s] performance at Rick Warren’s faith forum came across as professorial and pensive, not presidential. McCain was direct and compelling. Your initial response to the crisis in Georgia was tepid and swishy. McCain was muscular and straightforward.

I’d prefer a muscular, straightforward cowboy! But then I recall that similar epithets were thrown at Stewart’s Thomas Jefferson Destry, Jr., when he arrived in town of Bottleneck to bring back law and order. Looking more like a shopkeeper than the dead-eye shot he is, he is ridiculed and ribbed and compared incessantly to the example of his father, a famous tough-guy lawman. But the perception of being a milquetoast has been carefully crafted by Destry a.) to trick the black-hat wearing bad guys and b.) because he really doesn’t believe that violence is the right path to law and order. 

I’m going to assume that Obama isn’t a trickster, and so what is left is his desire to find a world order founded on mutual respect and communication, as well as his embodiment of this: on good days nuance and on bad days wishy-washyness. Is that appealing to Americans? We’ll see on Election Day, but signs are pointing to “no.” Why?

Blogger CNULAN describes the American public’s cowboy-wish in  the blog Subrealism, in a summary (I do love an undumb sum-up)  of an article in the American Spectator. Apparently, for reasons of security–and I’m talking about deep-down “reptilian” limbic brain kind of security–Americans vote for a world leader who will respond to situations with his (or her) gut. Countless westerns glorify this shoot-from-the-hip approach, and as a consequence or as a reason, to an American, having presidents who are called “cowboy” (from TR, to RR, to GWB) is a positive thing. Defining the allure of the Cowboy thus, it looks as if McCain is the next Decider. 

But will Obama’s choice of sidekick, Biden, bring the requisite straight-shooter-ness to the Dems? Biden’s words tend to get him into trouble, which might be a sign that he calls a spade a spade****, a well-known attribute of of the Cowboy. Or that he is brash and impetuous, ditto. I can’t say whether Biden looks good on an ATV rounding up cattle, but this pithy running mate could lead to a line of White House-themed Barack Obama cowboy boots, western yoke shirts, and fancy ten-gallons. 

In absence of personal knowledge, I’ll follow the lead of the rest of America and use the Cult of the Cowboy to divine the future. I’ll turn to Destry Rides Again, because once you start on a trail, you have to follow it to its end. 

In Destry Rides Again, Stewart’s lawman stays his pacifistic course until he is pressed into taking up the gun by a dastardly deed-doer who threatens to upset the order of Bottleneck. Marlene Dietrich dies in his arms after taking the bullet meant for him, but still the ending is upbeat–Destry has righted the world (after seizing the power that was always his own–see discussions about this moment in Sixguns & Society: A Structural History of the Western and in a Cowboylands post*****). Yes, he “drill[s] [the bad guy] here, drill[s] [him] now.”

Take heart, fans of subtlety.

Despite the typical oater showdown, if this 1939 classic is on a best-of-westerns movie list, it is accompanied by other “nuanced” westerns, such as High Noon, Ride the High Country, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. These films are notable because their writers, directors, cinematographers, and actors have not only produced great entertainment but have also artistically shown the high price of cowboy-like actions, layering messages that both praise and condemn what is an integral part of the American psyche. These films are more powerful than their simpler, less complex comrades. They have won more accolades, provoked more questioning. They are better movies. 

If Americans want the Cowboy (and they do in the silver screen/pulp sort of way, not in the job’s gritty reality), they still have a choice.  

Tom Destry Jr.: Well, you will fool ’em, Wash. We’ll fool ’em together. 
Washington Dimsdale: The only way to do that is fill ’em full of lead. 
Tom Destry Jr.: No, no, no, what for? You shoot it out with ’em and for some reason or other, I don’t know why, they get to look like heroes. But you put ’em behind bars and they look little and cheap, the way they oughta look. —Destry Rides Again, directed by George Marshall, 1939


* accompanied by the roar of cheers and whistles and rumbling hogs at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. His speech was probably squeezed between Kid Rock’s concert and the infamous beauty pageant. Hard to believe those chopper-riding tough guys would be agog over a khaki-and-loafer wearing rich guy, but times change. Click here to watch this priceless video. 

** Note the awesome use of catchy internal rhyme: dumb/sum. Even I will be able to remember it. 

*** The horror. I’ve been waking up  with it in my ears. My only consolation is that it’s been rated as the worst song ever by Blender

**** That’s the last metaphor. I promise. 

*****Always wanted to be in the same sentence as this seminal book. Does it matter if I’m the one writing the sentence? 

August 5, 2008

What Does Ida Hoe?

by cowboylands

I’ll let you know.

For a few days I’ll be on real trails, hunting down cowboys and cow patties, spuds and starlit nights, lava bombs and limpid lakes, and real live rigamorole. And when I am back, I will deal with the wackness that is the site. (Anyone notice the blessed space that appears and disappears on the sides? Not supposed to happen. If you see nothing but white space on the sides, scroll down to find links to blog, sites, my Librarything library, archives, and scintillating commentary.)

Until then, thought I would leave you with this:


Destry Rides Again, by Max Brand

Cover illustration by Michael Aviano

Pocket Books, 1959

from the collection of es

Stunned and bitter, Harry Destry, the young, headstrong firebrand who had already earned the reputation for reckless bravery and flashing speed of hand and eye in the use of a “six gun”….