Westerns Bring Back Rural Memories

| 1/28/2009 4:40:00 PM

A James Stewart WesternI really don’t recall what turned us onto the topic, but one day here in the editorial office at GRIT, Publisher Bryan Welch, my colleagues and I breeched the topic of selective breeding and the adaptability of livestock. I think we were working on a breed guide at the time, maybe hunting down photos of goat breeds and were overheard. This brought to Bryan’s mind an old Western, The Rare Breed (1966), which I had never seen. A couple of days later our movie, television and books buff, Senior Associate Editor Jean Teller, placed the DVD on my desk. Recently I had the chance to watch it.

I generally do like Westerns, both older – aside from this one, I also recently watched McLintock – and newer – I count Tombstone and Open Range among my favorites. This must be because I grew up watching the likes of Josie Wales, Gus from Lonesome Dove and, from my mom’s favorite television show Gunsmoke, Marshall Matt Dillon when I was a kid. I then would imitate these lifestyles, from cattle herder to sheriff to outlaw, while I roamed the farm on horseback and ran (too much, whatever the amount) fat off the cows on our farm.

Those were some of the best – and worst, from my perspective – chewings my mom ever gave. I say best because they always seemed fierce and well-deserved, although I don’t recall Momma ever giving an undeserving chewin’. With three boys, she never lacked for justification.

Anyway, The Rare Breed features James Stewart as a protagonist, and a mother-daughter duo (Maureen O’Hara and Juliet Mills, respectively) and their Hereford bull, aptly named Vindicator.

Mom and daughter are forced to sell the bull, and what results is relocation to a Texas Longhorn ranch, where Vindicator will hopefully substantiate the claim (Juliet Mills’ claim) that he can survive and procreate. James Stewart leads the bull on the drive, while O’Hara and Mills tag along to ensure Vindicator doesn’t just end up on a dinner table.


KC Compton_2
2/2/2009 11:51:50 AM

Trails. Western TRAILS ... although they were for sure trials, almost every step of the way ...

KC Compton_2
2/2/2009 11:51:05 AM

Nice blog, Caleb. Lonesome Dove -- no contest. But I also absolutely loved the Deadwood series, despite language fouler than anything I have heard since I worked in my first newsroom. My favorite reading for a very long time was the diaries of women on the Western trials and the early settlements in the West. I especially am interested in the history of African Americans in the West -- did you know that at one time one in four American cowboys was an African-American? The freed slaves after the Civil War headed west, hoping for wide-open opportunity. And they found it for a few years, until the disgruntled Confederates also got themselves established out west and started enacting the same restrictive legislation found elsewhere. It's such a fascinating, under-reported aspect of our history. I never got to have a horse as a kid, although my sisters and I pined for one so much you'd think it would have just been easier for my parents to give in and get us a darned pony. They kept bringing up all this mundane stuff like, "We have a suburban yard. Where do you plan on keeping this pony?" Details ...

Caleb Regan
1/29/2009 11:35:14 AM

Bryan and Hank- Thank you both for reading and commenting. The personal quest and the understated hero are both characteristics of great films, and great story-telling in general. Admittedly, there is something simple-minded, even childish, about the way gunfights in Westerns appeal to me. But they are consequential and often the apex. I especially love the way Charley (Kevin Costner in Open Range) fires about 20 times out of his 6-shooter in the culminating fight. Maybe that's my version of a superhero's trait. I do find it interesting that, for all three aspects we each like, Lonesome Dove is mentioned at or near the top of each of our lists.

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds