How the West Was Done

Zane Grey (Oregon Historical Society Research Library).

I’m not a big fan of western novels, movies, and TV series — those book and screen creations set in the American West, often during the 1800s, often populated with outlaws, sheriffs, cowboys, gunfights, horses, saloons, etc. — and of course more than a few times featuring lone, laconic strangers riding into town. Sure, such creations frequently offer excitement, courage, the pioneering spirit, and so on, but they can also be off-putting.

Why? A predominant focus on white men, even though there were many cowboys of color in the real 19th-century American West. Brutality toward, and repulsive stereotyping of, Native Americans. Rampant sexism — whether in the form of condescending chivalry or macho viciousness. Also, many western creations can be rather formulaic.

But there have been some western novels I’ve found compelling, and usually it was because they were sort of anti-westerns satirizing/criticizing the genre or turning some conventions on their head.

Among the novels I’ve liked a lot are Charles Portis’ True Grit and Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune. They attracted me for several reasons — including the fact that they both star female characters: teen Mattie Ross in the first novel and Eliza Sommers in the second. The half-Chilean Eliza is also not a totally white heroine.

In the young-adult-fiction realm, the 19th-century portion of Louis Sachar’s Holes novel features a white Texan named Kate Barlow who becomes a deadly and charismatic outlaw after the Black farmer she loves is killed by racists.

Then there’s Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, one of the most violent literary novels ever written as it depicts the homicidal barbarity of a gang of white men in the 19th-century West who ruthlessly slaughter male and female Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and others. No whitewashing of white misdeeds here, and the writing is amazing, but it’s an ultra-painful read.

There are also some nasty goings-on in McCarthy’s absorbing Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain) — but not at the carnage level of Blood Meridian.

Among other western books I’ve enjoyed is The Prairie — the 1827 installment of James Fenimore Cooper’s “Leatherstocking” novels quintet best known for The Last of the Mohicans. Protagonist Natty Bumppo is a mostly likable guy whose attributes include having relatively tolerant views about Native Americans for a man of his time.

I also enjoyed some of The Virginian, Owen Wister’s influential 1902 novel responsible for a number of the tropes that would later appear in other western novels (including many written by the ultra-prolific Zane Grey) as well as in western movies and TV series. Derivative in those later creations, kind of original in Wister’s book.

The idea for this post occurred to me while reading Zane Grey for the first time last week. I looked for his most famous work — Riders of the Purple Sage — at my local library, but, after not finding it there, chose another Grey novel at random: the Nevada-based Boulder Dam. Turned out to be set in the post-frontier 1930s, so not a classic western, but it was quite a page-turner. Still, it had some of the disturbing flaws of certain western novels — disdain for Native Americans (Grey vilely called them “savage red-skinned tribes” in the prologue), racial slurs against African Americans, and false insinuations that only white men are capable of doing great things. Also, to repeat a word from my second paragraph, the novel was rather formulaic and featured a young male protagonist (Lynn Weston) who, while appealing, perodically didn’t seem believable as a character creation.

I haven’t read Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, Jack Schaefer’s Shane, or Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man, but saw the compelling movie versions of the latter two.

Which reminds me that film icon John Wayne of course appeared in various westerns (including the first movie version of the aforementioned True Grit) while usually playing brave, “manly” characters even as he didn’t serve in World War II in real life. There is some dispute about whether the right-wing Wayne deliberately avoided enlisting or made an attempt to do so but wasn’t selected because of his age (over 30 at the time), his movie stardom, and his having a family. Yup, the actors who played fictional cowboys were often not so courageous in real life.

Your thoughts on the western genre? Novels in that realm you’ve liked or not liked?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — about the tone-deaf hiring of a communications person by my town’s school district — is here.

126 thoughts on “How the West Was Done

  1. Thank you for this very interesting post.

    I liked western movies as a boy back in the 40s (as did many boys then), but gradually outgrew them. But then along came a movie which I loved even before film critic Leonard Maltin called it a “literate, magnificent Western” and rated it 4 out of 4 stars: RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962), about two aged gunfighter pals (including Randolph Scott in his final film).

    Judging by your writing, I think you’d love this film too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, mistermuse! I felt the same way — liking many westerns as a kid before taking a more skeptical view of them. I appreciate the mention of “Ride the High Country”; some western movies (and TV shows and novels) are terrific even in the eyes of a skeptical-about-westerns adult. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Riders of the Purple Sage” was my introduction to Zane Grey. I think it’s a great novel. The protagonist is a gunfighter, and the antagonist is a Mormon elder. the focus is on prejudice and subjection of women by men. I found it fascinating.
    “When the Legends Die” by Hal Borland is about modern day rodeo cowboys- another great novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, vanaltman! Very sorry I somehow missed seeing your comment until today. I’m sure “Riders of the Purple Sage” is quite a bit better than “Boulder Dam,” which I enjoyed for the most part despite some reservations. Your excellent description of “Riders” makes me want to read it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to love watching westerns on TV when I was a kid. Of course westerns were a mainstay of early(ish) TV.
    I didn’t read many, though.
    One that I did read, stuck with me to this day; “The Ox-Bow Incident” by by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. It got me asking a lot of questions about the old west’s injustices.
    I also saw the movie a few years ago. It’s from 1943 with Henry Fonda.

    A game changer, although non fiction, is “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown.

    Interesting topic. UCH – Now I’ve got the theme from “Rawhide” running through my brain.

    They’re talking about cows “Don’t try to understand them,
    Just rope, throw and brand ’em,”

    As a veggie, I think I understand a bit about cows. 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Resa! All very well said! I also sort of liked to watch some westerns as a kid until I learned to view them with a little more awareness of injustice. (You’re right that there were many westerns on TV back in the day.) And, yes, some “anti-western” books and movies helped with gaining that little more awareness of injustice.

      As for cows, the best way to understand them is indeed not to eat them. 🙂

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  4. I have to admit, Dave, that I have never been a fan of sheriffs, cowboys, gunfights, but I remember having read and seen the film of “the Last of the Mohicans”, which speaks about the seven years war between the English and the French and the involment of several tribes of American Indians. I was then very touched by story, but I later learnd that, in part, it was fiction. Now, I have, however, read that James Fenimore Cooper had however a very good understanding of the American Indians culture. Your topic is really very interesting and a pleasure to read with all the conversations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Martina! “The Last of the Mohicans” was indeed a compelling novel (I never saw the movie). And I agree that James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) had a more three-dimensional view of Native Americans than most people of his time. I think his Chingachgook character was a mostly excellent creation.

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  5. A very interesting choice this week! Although I confess that like you, I haven’t dabbled in Westerns as much as other genres. Although I was happy to see you mention “Holes,” I loved that book in high school and was very excited when the movie came out. I have read Lonesome Dove a very long time ago – it was a commitment, but I remember it being a pretty good read overall, although it did have an awful lot of violence. And while I haven’t read Shane, I did see the movie in College. I’ve also seen True Grit (the more recent one) without having read the book. I might have to check out the Isabel Allende book you mentioned, since I’ve liked most of her other stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, M.B.! I also enjoyed “Holes” a lot — both the novel and the movie.

      “Daughter of Fortune” is definitely one of Isabel Allende’s better novels. (All of her books are of course good.) Much of it set in California during Gold Rush times.

      I thought the “True Grit” remake was excellent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jack Bruce’s first solo album, “Songs for a Tailor”, where this song first appeared, was produced by Felix Pappalardi (1939-83), who also produced Cream’s “Disraeli Gears”, went on to become bassist for Mountain. Mountain also recorded a version of the song— but I think this one’s the better of the two, though the Mountain version got far more airing when it was new. Pappalardi died young, shot to death by his wife, Gail Collins. Somewhere among the boxes and heaps, I still have his business card.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown is, in my opinion, the best ever take on the history of the west from a Native American perspective. It is deeply moving and rather tragic so warning: read it with a box of tissues at hand. I must say I loved the movie McCabe and Mrs. Miler an anti-western movie; however, what made it so great was the soundtrack featuring nothing but Leonard Cohen songs. That lone laconic stranger you mention above in your post fit perfectly with Cohen’s The Stranger Song. In fact, it was the first time I heard Leonard Cohen (1971). Surprisingly, for those I’ve known who do like westerns, they usually can’t tell you the difference between a sheriff and a marshall. So much for identity politics in the Old West, ha! Great post Dave. Thanx Susi

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh yes, Dave, Blood Meridian was awful yet beautifully written. The first novel which came to mind was Téa Obreht’s 2019 Inland. Written by a woman and whose protagonist is a woman. I think you’d really like it. Very unusual story, to say the least!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mary Jo, for the comment and the recommendation! “Inland” is now on my list. 🙂

      Yes, “Blood Meridian” is exactly as you describe. Very few “literary novels” are as graphic (in terms of violence) as that Cormac McCarthy work.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I feel the same way about westerns, but can never turn off when “Westward the Women” comes on. Goodness I am such a feminist 🙂
    If you haven’t seen it. A cowboy leads a wagon train full of mail-order brides. It’s an interesting movie about the weaker gender. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Don’t think I’ve read any westerns but I have watched a lot. Recently I watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood –I find Tarantino a bit hit and miss, so i was unsure. Anyway I loved the whole portrayal of the then collapsing Western film and TV series genre, fascinating, the biz of the big names being made to look good by stunt doubles and make up artists, the drift to Spaghettis cos there was work there, even if it was just standing looking mean cos you couldn’t get your tongue round a line of dialogue and you weren’t used to working with those who recited dialogue like an automaton. I think it’s important to remember that that genre, rightly or wrongly provided escapism.

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  10. When I sit down, pop corn in hand to watch a movie, I suspend disbelief. I don’t give a hoot whether or not John Wayne went to war. In his movies, Wayne was manly without the quote marks. Today’s white males have been nicely neutered by the woke folk who fancy themselves to be “inclusive” except when it comes to white men.
    The Wild West was dirty and lawless. It needed its heroes. It needed manly characters.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for the comment, Mary. I totally understand about suspending belief when watching certain movies (and reading certain novels). I enjoy that at times, too. 🙂

      As a white male myself, I don’t believe all or most white men are bad. 🙂 There are countless white men I admire in real life and literature (such as Natty Bumppo, mentioned in my post). But white men have dominated real life and literature, until relatively recently at least, and it can get a bit tiresome after a while. Re the real and fictional white men of the old American West, some were admirable and even heroic, but plenty were also nasty and racist and misogynist and even sociopathic. The victims of those men weren’t fans of them.

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      • Thomas Edison, Isaac Newton, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Marie Curie, Leonardo da Vinci.
        Graeme Clark invented the multiple channel cochlear implant. When he was five, his father was deaf, Clark already knew he wanted to fix ears when he grew up. All white. And except for Marie Curie, all men. I don’t find it tiresome.

        Dave, my male children are not any of the above, just decent human beings, loving fathers and husbands. And they aren’t the exceptions. The most frustrating thing today is that we are so anxious to show ourself to be inclusive that rather celebrate our achievements we denigrate them and find ways to justify excluding “white, pale and stale”. Now that’s getting tiresome. It seems to me that it’s not possible to include both black and white folk in our woke world.

        Life was brutal in the mostly lawless West. Hollywood toned it all down. If people were nasty and misogynist back then, you’ll find that people haven’t changed. We have anti-social media now. We can be quite vicious, brutal, misogynist and misandrist. Keyboards are our weapons. And if you say there were black men in the Wild West then what makes you think they were any different in that dog eat dog world to white men?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, Mary, for the follow-up comment. Yes, many white-male inventors. Also, many inventors who were Black men or white women or women of color — often not getting the credit and renown they deserved.

          https://dailyhive.com/seattle/inventions-by-black-people

          https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=12223

          Sure, lots of very bad behavior today — not just in the old American West and other past times and place. Were women and Black people in the old American West just as bad as some of the white men back then? Probably not, partly because they didn’t have the power to throw their weight around.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’d say, Dave that you missed my point which was that white achievements in art, science, medicine, music, literature, should be celebrated, not denigrated. I’m fed up with constantly hearing mea culpa – from white apologists in particular. I’m saying that it’s possible to acknowledge black achievements without the need to denigrate white ones.

            You say, that the reason women and black people weren’t as bad as white men, was because they didn’t have the power. That’s speculation, not proof. But even if you’re right, what if they had the power? Would they have been as bad as white people? Or would their colour or gender exempt them from that?

            Even though some people are dividing us by race and colour we are all one. Homosapiens. Martin Luther King hoped that his children would one day be judged on on the content of their character, not their colour. We were getting there. Who would have imagined in the Wild West days that the US would overwhelmingly vote in a black president. Twice. Nwe have people like you judging on colour.

            Kind of you to publish my posts and respond to them. But as we can’t convince each other, there’s no point in going any further.

            Liked by 1 person

      • A nettlesome and thorny thang, this particular white man’s burden. The psychopaths and murderers who are required to steal and burn out the natives do not wear well with the colonists who follow them, or with those of us who come after, yet are necessary as literal trailblazers for the colonial, and post-colonial enterprise.

        The conquest of Mexico, for example, was accomplished by treasure-seeking adventurers and soldiers of fortune, who were succeeded, eventually, by later generations of calmer, more socialized types, such as my own ancestors from the Biscay area of Spain. This population was prized by the monarchy for its sober administrative and clerical skills– but they could not come to the New World in any number till the wild killers– the conquistadors– of Native Americans had done their despicable deeds.

        So was it, more or less, in our own Wild West– and in the history of colonialism throughout the world. We stand today on bloody ground, but without the conquering blood-spillers, where would we be?

        Liked by 1 person

  11. A very interesting post and follow-up discussion, Dave. When I look back over the history of western literature, I believe the “Western” genre is able to reinvent the narrative to respond to an ever changing social context. Even the western archetypes of cowboy, gunslinger, gambler, preacher, doc, Sheriff, the drunk and tycoon have made their appearances in recent adaptations. I remember watching Wagon Train, and Gunsmoke and was fascinated by the long stares made famous by the Spaghetti westerns. And then there was Shane, a western novel by Jack Schaefer and immortalized in a movie that starred Alan Ladd. Who could forget the words, “Shane, come back….”

    I think that Louis L’Amour captured the spirit of the western writer when he wrote: “I think of myself in the oral tradition–as a troubadour, a village tale-teller, the man in the shadows of a campfire. That’s the way I’d like to be remembered–as a storyteller. A good storyteller.”

    My father was a Montana cowboy, who cooked on an open fire beside an authentic covered wagon (I have the photo close to my computer). He worked on a ranch and herded cattle on horseback. This was difficult work, especially in the bitter cold of winter. He spoke often of the freedom of riding on the open range, surrounded by big, magnificent vistas, breathing in the crisp air.

    Always look forward to your Sunday posts!!!

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Funny thing: Liz Gauffreau’s ‘A man with no name rides into town’ figures fatefully and fatally in EL Doctorow’s debut novel “Welcome to Hard Times”, known in the novel as ‘The Bad Man From Bodie’– otherwise nameless.

    Hard Times is a mining town in the Dakota Territory, which was burned and most of its inhabitants killed by the doings of that Bad Man, or fled. After, survivors regroup and rebuild, and newcomers arrive– then one particularly dark day, The Bad Man returns.

    I’ve made no exhaustive survey, but this book is the only one I’ve seem favorably reviewed by Norman Mailer, whose competitive spirit usually precluded much generosity and praise for those he viewed as his competitors.

    In its own way, “Welcome to Hard Times” is a little tour de force, compelling and well-made, though a wee bit arty in its structure.

    Recently, I read “The Hot Kid”, another Western– and I don’t read many, by Elmore Leonard. Set in 1930’s Oklahoma, with bank robbers and bootleggers and gamblers and a young G-Man, of local origin, sent to tame it all. Not bad, good even, but with a few too many brushes with the contemporarily famous and too much loving detail of a period and a place– obviously dear to the author’s abiding interests, but a bit overmuch, straining credulity.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, jhNY, for the mentions of and thoughts on those two books! E.L. Doctorow wrote some really good novels (I’ve read three: “Ragtime,” “World’s Fair,” and “The Book of Daniel”). As for Norman Mailer — not a great human being.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I went through a spell of reading all of Louis L’Amour’s books. I loved them. His descriptive language was beautiful without being overwhelming (as Zane Gray’s seemed to be).

    It was said of Louis that if he wrote about a mesquite tree in a certain location, you could bet on finding it there.

    I grew up in the panhandle of Texas where many of his books were set, so maybe that’s why I love them so.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. By the time the 1960’s rolled around, John Wayne was a bitter, heavy-drinking man of reactionary political leanings, with a converted minesweeper for a yacht– and I think that’s what’s behind much of the unease many of us feel about him. But, at least according to the wikipedia entry, he wasn’t a dodger or a shirker during World War Two:

    “Wayne was exempted from service due to his age (34 at the time of Pearl Harbor) and family status (classified as 3-A – family deferment). Wayne repeatedly wrote to John Ford saying he wanted to enlist, on one occasion inquiring whether he could get into Ford’s military unit. Wayne did not attempt to prevent his reclassification as 1-A (draft eligible), but Republic Studios was emphatically resistant to losing him, since he was their only A-list actor under contract. Herbert J. Yates, president of Republic, threatened Wayne with a lawsuit if he walked away from his contract, and Republic Pictures intervened in the Selective Service process, requesting Wayne’s further deferment.

    U.S. National Archives records indicate that Wayne, in fact, did make an application to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), precursor to the modern CIA, and had been accepted within the U.S. Army’s allotted billet to the OSS. William J. Donovan, OSS commander, wrote Wayne a letter informing him of his acceptance into the Field Photographic Unit as a special forces commando, but the letter went to his estranged wife Josephine’s home. She never told him about it. Wayne toured U.S. bases and hospitals in the South Pacific for three months in 1943 and 1944, with the USO. During this trip, he carried out a request from Donovan to assess whether General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the South West Pacific Area, or his staff were hindering the work of the OSS.: Donovan later issued Wayne an OSS Certificate of Service to memorialize Wayne’s contribution to the OSS mission.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wayne

    Liked by 3 people

      • It is a bit more ambiguous, but seems more accusatory, and conclusive, sans compelling and traceable evidence. And there are points in which the supposed facts clash. Did Wayne, or Republic Pictures, seek his 3A status? There’s also nothing in the article that treats the OSS stuff.

        I admit a grudging fondness for the acting persona, John Wayne Movie Star, my fondness largely limited to his last years on screen– True Grit, Rooster Cogburn and The Shootist– and I’m not trying to put myself in the business of defending him exactly– but I also don’t think the article provides enough to make me discard or seriously question the information in wikipedia.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, it was just one of the articles I read when writing my post. 🙂 (Didn’t want to post multiple links.) But, yes, as I acknowledged in my post, the evidence is far from conclusive that John Wayne was a World War II “draft dodger.” Still, if Wayne had absolutely insisted and demanded that he serve (which is what his screen persona might have done), he might have served.

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  15. The only novels with western themes which I have read are “Giants in the Earth” (for high school) and “My Antonia”. They were well written but for some reason not to my taste. Unless one considers some of Steinbeck’s works set in California such as “Of Mice and Men” and “East of Eden” as western themed fiction.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I rarely choose westerns but did enjoy reading “News of the World” by Paulette Jiles for library book club. The setting is 1870s Texas, in which a man is paid to return a young captive girl from the Kiowa back to her people. The characters and premise are so interesting! The reading takes some getting used to, as the book is written in what I see listed as prose poetry and contains no quotation marks for dialogue. There is a movie based on this, but I haven’t seen that, yet.

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  17. Cormac Mc Carthy came first to mind. I haven’t read his books. Have you read ,”The Road?” Am seeing as an Oprah book pic, I can put on my list.
    When it comes to this genre of Westerns,I’m not a fan of books but would,on occasion watch a John Ford film or Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Western films by Sergio Leone.

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  18. All The Pretty Horses was too grizzly for me to continue. I put it down rather quickly, saddened to leave such beautiful writing. I’m not usually squeamish but it was really too much – probably because it seemed very real. I did read a Zane Grey once, but I can’t recall much about it. I think it may have been Riders of the Purple Sage, but I remember finishing and thinking it just wasn’t up to its hype.
    There was a book I read years ago that had some vivid scenes of the heartache that took place for homesteaders settling the Oregon /Washington state area in its early years. Some related to attacks by local tribes but one scene was just a terrible fire that swept through as a mother was away from the house. It killed twins that hid under a bed. I’ve been trying to recall what book it could have been for years! If anyone knows, I would be so grateful for the info. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Donna! Yes, Cormac McCarthy writes beautifully while offering very disturbing content. A jarring combination at times.

      That book you’re trying to remember sounds devastating but perhaps more realistic than many other books in the western genre.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. I’m going to be the opposite. I read Shane and Little Big Man but did not see the movies. I’m not a big fan of western novels but I can get sucked into some movies quite easily. Eldorado, staring John Wayne is one of my favorites.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Dave, thanks for another interesting and informative article. I grew up loving the American Western movies. As movie-theater goers, we lapped up every John Wayne and, later, Clint Eastwood Western movies, firing up my imagination of the brave and hardy frontier men and women of America’s expansive Midwest. When I moved to the USA, I was shocked to learn about the real-life John Wayne. Sad to say, I haven’t read any of the books you’ve mentioned, though I have seen the movies “The Last of the Mohicans” and “True Grit.” During my young adult years, my father allowed me to read his large collection of Western novels by Louis L’Amour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rosaliene! I also liked a number of western movies and TV shows (including “Bonanza”) as a kid before learning about the whitewashing done by many of those screen creations. Clint Eastwood is a good actor and director, even as some of his roles are kind of problematic and his personal politics mostly (though not 100%) right-wing. And I appreciate the mention of Louis L’Amour, who I haven’t read.

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  21. I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and found them interesting for the reasons Robbie mentions. I don’t have an interest in Western novels for adults, particularly not “one of the most violent literary novels ever written as it depicts the homicidal barbarity of a gang of white men in the 19th-century West who ruthlessly slaughter male and female Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and others.” It’s good that white men’s misdeeds were not whitewashed, but I have no desire to lose my lunch over it. Western tropes did give me a nice bit of snark to write an a student’s paper: “The man with no name rides into town . . . “

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Hi Dave, I have not read very many Westerns. It was not a genre that appealed to me much as either a book or a film. The only books I have read in this line are all the Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder which I enjoyed very much. I loved all the detailed descriptions of how things were done at that point in time like a scene where Pa smokes meat in a hollow tree or cleans his gun and where Ma makes butter and dyes it yellow with carrot juice. I still remember those books very vividly. Other than those, I’ve only read The Last of the Mohicans which you mentioned and one Western by a fellow author and blogger, Kaye Lynne Booth. I will be interested to see what other bloggers think about Westerns. PS from what I understand, the more modern Westerns aren’t as stereotypical and do feature Native Americans and women in a different and more balanced light.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Robbie! Somehow I’ve never read any of the “Little House” books, so I didn’t mention them. But they are a big part of the western genre, and I’m glad YOU mentioned them. 🙂 From what you’re saying and from what I’ve heard elsewhere, they definitely captured a time and place.

      Yes, the more modern western creations fortunately tend to be less stereotypical and kinder to characters who aren’t white men.

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            • The demographic changes in the ethnic populations of GB which took place over Elizabeth’s longest of reigns is pretty breathtaking. GB just plain isn’t, on those terms, what it was, and neither, of course is the monarchy or its future.

              Perhaps Elizabeth’s steady presence and demeanor allowed these changes to happen more or less in plain sight, but were seen by the public as somehow temporary or comparatively insignificant, until the migrant crises that boiled up after Syria and Libya disintegrated into civil war. Also, that steady presence left much room for an unhelpful nostalgia for the ever-shrinking Empire and notions of Britain-can-go-it-alone among some segments of the electorate, a shrinking that was also somewhat obscured by her unwavering presence wherever the flag yet waved.

              I am an admitted Anglophile, and fell in love with Elizabeth by way of her voice as a boy. Excerpts of a wartime speech she made were contained in an lp we had at home titled “This Is London”– I’d listen to her with my eyes closed, so as not to miss an inflection. Not so sure today as to the contents of the speech– but the voice alone to me was magic, and remained so.

              Given the headwinds a-loose just now, I fear for the nation in the short term, and its embattled currency.

              The true depths of the British public’s affection for the monarchy have yet to be plumbed, but I’d guess everyone there expects a leveling off, if not a steady downturn, now that Elizabeth is gone.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks for those thoughts, jhNY. Queen Elizabeth II was probably better than most English monarchs, and admirable in various ways (not all ways). Still…all that wealth and symbolic power in one family in a UK that has plenty of poverty. And a very mixed family — including Prince Andrew, who should be in jail for sexual misconduct against girls courtesy of the sicko Jeffrey Epstein. When I visited London and saw Buckingham Palace, the crown jewels, etc., I had a very uncomfortable feeling.

                Liked by 1 person

                • I am not a royalist, and can only defend my fascination with Elizabeth’s voice on my youth– much as I can defend liking the song “My Boy Lollipop” by Millie Small: I was just a kid.

                  As a kid, the beauty of a speaking voice could charm me– there was a Chinese-American girl in my elementary school whose voice sounded so lovely that there too, whenever she spoke in class, I’d close my eyes to take it in without distraction.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • I totally understand, jhNY! We can admire certain things about someone while not necessarily being impressed overall. And of course how we felt as kids was often different than how we feel as adults. Some of the people and things I admired as a kid now make me cringe in memory. 🙂

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