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Why Westerns?

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In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2010 9:44:56 PM PDT
Meyer3 says:
Don't forget to catch the film versions if you can. Some are true classics, like BLOOD ON THE MOON.

Posted on May 4, 2010 12:36:18 PM PDT
journeyman says:
Great discussion! My own attachment to Westerns comes naturally in many respects. I grew up in California and Nevada, went to college as an undergraduate in Idaho, but have lived in the East since graduate school. I lived on a farm (sort of a farm) as a kid, rode some horses--not very well--and learned to hunt and fish. After raising kids and getting them out the door I took up hunting and fishing again. Then three years ago (after turning 60) I took up cowboy action shooting...what a blast!(so to speak) I decided to live the rest of my life "western"...

I second everything that has been said about the values portrayed in the books and films, as well as some reservations about some of the more recent films--"3:10 to Yuma" comes to mind. Being a cowboy shooter has made me sensitive to the realism that finally taken hold, exemplified by "Lonesome Dove." As far as heroes go, JW is still up there, despite the remarks about his WW2 actions. (I retired w/ 40 years active and reserve from the Navy). Some great statements in his films, like "The Searchers", about issues like racism. As far as more recent heroes, I don't think Sam Elliot or Tom Selleck are slouches when it comes to sitting tall in the saddle these days.

I would move back to Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming or Arizona in a heartbeat...but with 4 little grandkids in Virginia, that ain't going to the movies and the books will have to do, I guess, from here on in.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2010 1:05:49 PM PDT
Walter Meyer says:
I identify with you in your life. I grew up in San Francisco, moved to
Montana and always loved everything western. Have lived the cowboy
lifestyle, rodeo, dude wrangling, packing, driving and riding horses and
mules and working on ranches. I repair saddles and do leatherwork and also do cowboy shooting(not from horseback). Being a history lover I know much of the old west history and about western literature
and movies. I have two quarter horses and rope at brandings. I did not
like the Russell Crowe version of 3:10 to Yuma as it was too violent,
more violent I believe than the old west was. Jack Meyer

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2010 1:18:05 PM PDT
journeyman says:
I envy yours, but I still love my wife, so will have to make do here in upstate NY. By the way, I ran across The Cowboy Way by David McCumber and it nearly killed me... I think I read it in one night. Have a friend named Darwin Mang from there who knows the Galt family. He's planning on moving back this summer and I WILL get back to see them... I have inlaws in southern Idaho that I get to see every three or four years, but it still hurts to see the scenery in westerns...

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2010 12:37:37 AM PDT
Shotsy says:
I have not read this thread beyond the initial post, so I will no doubt repeat what others have already said.

Why Westerns? - They portray good and evil in a stark way that is accessible to all ages, from kindergartners to adults. Movie examples: too many to mention, and also no need to mention - good vs. evil DEFINES the Western. Without that opposition, you may have a movie, but you don't have a Western. Only politicians speak in terms of "nuances" and shades of gray. The rest of us normal people prefer clear value judgments of what's acceptable and what isn't. Westerns, in general, provide that civilizing necessity (the good guys vs. the bad guys, if you will).

The second thing that is essential to a Western is an act of courage (not necessarily successful) on the part of the protagonist (not necessarily a "hero"). Again, normal people want to see how bad guys are confronted and what it takes in terms of character. Random examples: In High Noon Gary Cooper has just gotten married and only needs to leave town on his honeymoon to avoid getting killed. Instead, afraid, abandoned and outnumbered, he faces the evil murderous gang coming to his town, and thus exhibits the elusive trait of "character". In The Magnificent Seven, the hired guns at first face Eli Wallach's gang of cutthroats and thieves for the money. Brave, maybe, but not couageous. It's when they lose, get kicked out of the village, and THEN despite the real danger decide to retun to rescue the village from the bad guys (not for mercenary reasons) that they exhibit the personal courage that I believe defines the Western.

To tie up loose ends of my post, what do I mean above by not necessarily successful? A rather unsatisfactory example might be to point out that all but two of the Magnificent Seven died (unsuccessful to say the least! ;-)) after they decided to go back. Unsatisfactory because, while the individuals did die, the Seven did also succeed in freeing the village from the outlaws. A much better example of unsuccessful courage would be the protagonist in The Great Silence.

What do I mean by not necessarily heros? - The Magnificent Seven were not heros, but gunslingers, hired killers. What they ultimately did may be noble, but these men are not the normal definition of heros.

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2010 9:41:48 AM PDT
Fay Risner says:
The Dark Wind Howls Over Mary
I too grew up in the fifties reading the western books my parents bought and going to western movies with them. I was in my teens before I realized there were other kinds of movies besides westerns. That was the only movie genre that my parents went to see. So as an author I like writing westerns. The Dark Wind Howls Over Mary is the first in my Stringbean Hooper Western series. Stringbean is sheriff of Sully Town, Montana. His job description for being sheriff is to relax with his feet on his desk while he watches the town from his office window. That all changes when he has to solve the disappearance of the town doctor's wife. Hooper is in the middle of a family feud between cattle baron Mac Sullivan and the town doctor. During his investigation Hooper finds several women who seem to know something about the doctor's wife but they aren't talking. All he can get out of the midwife/Indian shaman is that she felt the dark wind howl over Mary Strummer. Shot from ambush, Hooper hides out at the wash woman's house on the edge of town while she takes the bullet out of him. Hooper's only backups are a nervous part time deputy pig farmer, Whiskers Parker, and a gun toting woman rancher set on marrying the sheriff. Suddenly, Hooper finds himself fighting for his life and his bachelorhood.
If you like this western soon another Stringbean Hooper Western will be out.
Author Fay Risner

In reply to an earlier post on May 22, 2010 6:10:31 AM PDT
journeyman says:
Very good observations about what makes Westerns work. Probably a major reason why people watch them. But it is the setting, as well, that makes it a Western. Either the action takes place in the wild, or in a small town set in the wild. I think the setting helps underscore the "elemental" feel of the story--that things have been stripped down to their most important elements--what's real and enduring...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 18, 2010 11:01:16 PM PDT
Meyer3 says:
Knowing your feelings about Westerns, horses, and Montana, I would like to recommend a novel to you. You may already be familiar with it, it is called THE WILLOW FIELD, by William Kittridge. It is about all of those things. I recently started it and am very impressed with the writing. It is not an 1800's shoot em up, by a more modern day Western. Happy reading.

Posted on May 4, 2011 10:48:31 PM PDT
Meyer3 says:
With the success of TRUE GRIT, I hope they decide to make some more good Westerns. I would love to see some of Elmer Keltons books turned into Westerns. So far the only one has been THE GOOD OLD BOYS.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2011 10:56:16 PM PDT
I'd like to see more of Elmore Leonard's short stories.

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2011 4:48:04 AM PDT
Walter Meyer says:
The Good Ole Boys was a very good western, authentic in it's portrayal of turn of the century people. In real life, Tommy Lee Jones
is a Texas horseman. Clay McGonigal in the movie was a real life cowboy well known for his roping ability. A great western.

Posted on May 7, 2011 3:40:24 PM PDT
Meyer3 says:
I remember seeing the TV Series THE LAWMAN as a kid. What I do not remember is how well written is was. Despite some limited acting ability (Russell has one expression on his face in virtually every episode) the writting and the story lines are exceptional for a half hour western.

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2011 8:22:29 PM PDT
If you like Western short stories, check out Award-Winning Tales, published by Moonlight Mesa Associates. It's an anthology of 26 award-winning Western tales, all by different award-winning authors, so the style changes with each story. There's everything from murder to romance, olden days stories to modern times. Great reviews, too.

Posted on May 19, 2011 11:23:26 PM PDT
If you like short stories from someone who was there try.

Apache Land (Bison Book)

Posted on May 25, 2011 12:04:28 AM PDT
My husband Kenneth Pratt just rencently published his first western novel called Sweethome, which has received some great reviews so far. I know he's unheard of and doesn't raise an eyebrow of interest, but if you have a minute to check out sweethome and read the reviews, you might take an interest.

Posted on Jun 3, 2012 11:32:10 PM PDT
Meyer3 says:
I have recently seen some reviews on a brand new Western by James McGarrity called HARD COUNTRY. The reviews sound very good. Has anyone here ever read this or know anything about it? I recently drove thru New Mexico and found it not just beautiful but quite interesting and this book apparently takes place partly in New Mexico.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2012 11:37:18 PM PDT
He used to be a deputy sheriff for Santa Fe County.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012 5:15:31 AM PDT
Walter Meyer says:
Have not read "The Willow Field" yet. Kittridge comes from an historic ranching family in
Oregon and originated the statement "The Last Best Place." What better way to ruin a place than by telling the world that that it is the best place? I do not think too highly of

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2012 11:42:34 AM PDT
Meyer3 says:
I heard about that. I am also aware that up until now he has been writing modern day Westerns, mostly mysterys with mixed reviews. But HARD COUNTRY has almost all good reviews and is a more traditional Western.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2012 11:44:35 AM PDT
Meyer3 says:
Kittridge's book, THE WILLOW FIELD, reminds me of some of Wallace Stegner's books, very well written but not really about all that much. I recommended it to you because I am aware of your love of both Montana and of horses.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2012 1:42:38 PM PDT
Walter Meyer says:
I read Wolf Willow while in college and enjoyed it very much. Thanks
for the recommendation. I will have to find the Willow Field. I had
read Kittridge's Hole in the Sky which I did not like, except for the
references to the MC ranch in Oregon, an historic ranch.

Posted on Jul 1, 2012 11:59:37 PM PDT
Meyer3 says:
I am also recommending Frank Collinson's LIFE IN THE SADDLE, a memoir. It is very readable and enjoyable. Unlike many he does not make himself a hero. He was just a regular cowboy who met a number of people briefly who became famous and tells some wonderful stories about his life as a cowboy and a buffalo hunter.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 2, 2012 5:08:07 AM PDT
Walter Meyer says:
I will try to find a copy. A wonderful book is PIONEER CATTLEMEN IN
MONTANA by Walt Coburn. The story of the Circle C. Walt Coburn was
raised on the Circle C and later moved to Arizona where he wrote many western novels during the 20's and 30's.
Walter Meyer

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 12:28:14 AM PDT
Meyer3 says:
Anyone who is ever in Tucson should check out the Book Stop, a wonderful old used and old book store that has numerous hard to find books. I partiularly went wild checking out all the westerns, both fiction and nonfiction.
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Discussion in:  Western forum
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Initial post:  Mar 29, 2009
Latest post:  Jul 3, 2012

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