Westerns Bring Back Rural Memories

I 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.


Vindicator, along with several of the Longhorn bulls, perishes in a harsh Texas winter (I expected the heat to be more of a problem), but in the spring several Hereford calves, several baby-white faces, are discovered.

It’s more of the tamed variety of Western movies you’ll find in my opinion – at one point Stewart and the antagonist seemingly play chicken on their horses, the horses collide and one cowboy dies – and there are few to no gunfights, an aspect of the American Western that appeals to me, hence my affinity for Open Range, The Outlaw Josie Wales, Lonesome Dove and others.

What does it for you? What aspect of the American Western movie appeals to you most, and what are the types you like the best? Also, what memories do you have as a child watching Westerns like I do?

Caleb Reganand his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

Published on Jan 28, 2009

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