When the Legend Becomes Fact; or, The Sand Creek Massacre’s Inconvenient Truths

This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

That infamous line in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (dir. John Ford, 1962) succinctly describes much of what lies behind sepia-toned country nostalgia and pumped-up cowboy-wannabe posturing: the legend of the West is bigger than its reality, and it’s a lot more interesting to watch . . . → Read More: When the Legend Becomes Fact; or, The Sand Creek Massacre’s Inconvenient Truths

Circle the Wagons!; or, More Advice from a Besieged Writer

Steer the rattling wagons into a tight circle! Protect the women and children! Draw your six-shooters as whooping Indians on painted war ponies streak over the rise of a hill!

Look sharp, Tonto! This isn’t just a tired western stereotype, it’s a Silver-Screen Western Hero Equation!

c. 2011 es cowboylands

In reel life: Earnest pioneers moving to promised . . . → Read More: Circle the Wagons!; or, More Advice from a Besieged Writer

Sagas of Fighting Men and Flaming Guns; Max Brand’s Words Move Me

A mighty happy (um, late) birthday to Max Brand! He never thought much of his westerns between May 29, 1892 and May 12, 1944, but I can’t hold that against him for too long. If you had been named Frederick Schiller Faust, you might have wanted to be a high-falutin’ poet too.

Unlike many pulp western writers, . . . → Read More: Sagas of Fighting Men and Flaming Guns; Max Brand’s Words Move Me

Colt’s .44; or Western History Triggers Countdown

On January 4, 1847, Samuel Colt sold his first revolver to the United States government, allowing buckskinned frontiersmen and uniformed soldiers everywhere to sheathe their Bowie knives and mail their powder-and-ball kits to their poorer relations.

When Samuel Colt, cigar clamped manfully between his teeth, shook hands on the deal for one thousand .44-caliber revolvers to be . . . → Read More: Colt’s .44; or Western History Triggers Countdown

National Punctuation Day; or Gratuitous Steve McQueen Pic

In honor of National Punctuation Day, a day revered by comma geeks everywhere, I hereby give formal thanks herewith, in perpetuity, without exception, to the heretofore unjustly ignored stylistic convention, long forgotten and usually misunderstood, and not to be confused by the subtitle, which in itself is of great worthiness to nonfiction writers, as it allows, . . . → Read More: National Punctuation Day; or Gratuitous Steve McQueen Pic

Pardon Me?; or, Clemency for Billy the Kid, 129 Years Later

Billy the Kid pardoned????

Say it isn’t so. He wouldn’t be the archetypal 1880s bad-boy outlaw anymore–that sexy beast who wants to be tamed, played by handsome hunks in 46 (no lie) silver-screen westerns.

If he is pardoned by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, it would be

a.) justice finally given to the young man who . . . → Read More: Pardon Me?; or, Clemency for Billy the Kid, 129 Years Later

Happy Birthday to Real-Life Cowgirl Hero Annie Oakley

Back in the late 1800s, she was hawtness personified–Annie Oakley, sharpshooting superstar, a favorite of Buffalo Bill, Chief Sitting Bull, and European royalty. She was the idol of American youth.

No, she wasn’t  a cussin’, mannish, cross-dressing kind of gal. She was a typical late-1800s lady, decked out in heavy skirts and petticoats and awesomely cute . . . → Read More: Happy Birthday to Real-Life Cowgirl Hero Annie Oakley

Roy Rogers @ Christie’s; or, Happy Sales to You

The Roy Rogers Museum in Branson, MO, closed = bummer.
An exceptional collection of western kitsch and singing cowboy duds for previewing at Christie’s auction house = lifts the spirits a little
Trigger = $266,000
Bullet, Roy Roger’s dog = $35,000
Hand-drawn music and lyrics to “Happy Trails” = $27,500
Most of the items bought by collectors who will keep the . . . → Read More: Roy Rogers @ Christie’s; or, Happy Sales to You

Or Not So Happy Day of the American Cowboy

Reason #1 I love the movie cowboy so much
He (and now more and more she) is fictional.
That’s why they’re great heroes.
They

don’t massacre a tribe’s women and children in surprise attacks unless they go through deep soul questioning and soul searching (which they should, goddammit)

don’t shoot up a town like thugs unless it’s for comic effect

don’t get . . . → Read More: Or Not So Happy Day of the American Cowboy

Happy National Day of the American Cowboy!

And WHY isn’t this date on calendars everywhere?
Whaddaya mean nobody “does” cowboy anymore?
Tell that to rodeo goers to the more than 600 rodeos held every year in the United States, from Las Vegas to Estes Park Colorado, home of the Best Small Rodeo in the Nation, with a not-so-small yearly attendance of 10,000 people.

Oh right. You don’t . . . → Read More: Happy National Day of the American Cowboy!