Elmer Kelton 1926-2009; or, Happy Trails

“I have often been asked how my characters differ from the traditional, larger-than-life heroes of the mythical West,” Mr. Kelton said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News in 2007. “ ‘Those,’ I reply, ‘are seven feet tall and invincible. My characters are 5-8 and nervous.’ ”

Elmer Kelton died August 22 in Texas, after a long and . . . → Read More: Elmer Kelton 1926-2009; or, Happy Trails

Boone’s Day; or, Not the Boone of Boone’s Farm

We have Daniel Boone’s ADHD to thank for the western two-thirds of the United States. June 7 is a day that lives in glorious Disney colors or one that lives in infamy, depending on whether you were not or were a Native American.
On June 7, 1769, Daniel Boone crested a summit in the Appalachians and looked . . . → Read More: Boone’s Day; or, Not the Boone of Boone’s Farm

Dude!!

A Western definition:
Dude (dood) n.
Usually an Easterner, but it can be used to call anyone obviously unready for the West–such as if a person is wearing street shoes, too-fancy clothes, or unable to ride a horse or track game or make coffee in a tin can. A dude is usually mocked mercilessly (see The Virginian, by . . . → Read More: Dude!!

‘Into The Sunset'; or, MoMA’s Mything of the West

What Americans and Europeans bought with every Buffalo Bill’s Wild West ticket, and what people purchase around the world with every pack of American cigarettes is a little bit of ourselves as we want to be–alluring, daring, legendary. With every MoMA “Into The Sunset” ticket it appears we also want to be alienated and disillusioned. . . . → Read More: ‘Into The Sunset'; or, MoMA’s Mything of the West

I’m Dreaming of a Clint Christmas

I asked him what his favorite western pulp novel was. (Brave, I admit–Clint Eastwood does not have a lot of time to make nice with visitors to his California ranch.)

In reply he did that squinty Clint thing (my heart simultaneously leaped and quailed–giving me heartburn later on in the day).

You know, I persisted, like Luke Short or Ernest Haycox? . . . → Read More: I’m Dreaming of a Clint Christmas

Buffalo Gal; or, Palin’s Civilizing Influence

Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance. –General Philip Sheridan

Buffalo skulls, mid-1870s, waiting to be ground into fertilizer

Here’s a more recent quote:

“I am especially concerned,”  [Governor Palin] said in a written statement in August 2007, when . . . → Read More: Buffalo Gal; or, Palin’s Civilizing Influence

Maverick; or, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

MAVERICK. Ask not how many times you can say a word, but why you need to say the word so many times in the first place.

“Maverick.” Thou shalt not repeat a word in the hopes that it sticks.

“Maverick” took on a pop culture tone in the 1950s with James Garner’s hat-pushed back, insouciant gambler. The middle . . . → Read More: Maverick; or, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

True Romance; or the Life and Times of African-American Cowpokes

Cowboys are white. Thus proclaimed the thing with greatest authority in my life: TV programs. Even the Indians were white, and so were the chiefs and chiefs’ daughters (who were white enough to be loved by the white heroes). (Fact: Natalie Wood as Debbie Edwards in The Searchers, 1956) So imagine my surprise, at . . . → Read More: True Romance; or the Life and Times of African-American Cowpokes

Gunlock; or, From Cowboy to Taxi Driver

In times of moral confusion, I turn to my collection of a gajillion western paperbacks from the 1940s and 1950s*. Their bold colors and bolder titles (such as Action by Night, Gunsmoke Justice, Dig the Spurs Deep) bring me back to my center. Good/bad. Right/wrong. Yes/no.

The one-two punch of pulp writers, who must have banged these . . . → Read More: Gunlock; or, From Cowboy to Taxi Driver

Gone, Gone, Gone; or, Picksburg Kid Picks

Any western where the Hero bombs a town with trebuckets, and a TNT-dropping kite…

Well, folks, from the dead-eye aim of the Picksburg Kid, that can only be Gone with the West, a ’70s-porn-soundtracked, leather-clad-Sammy Davis Jr.-co-starring, James Caan-must-have-had-to-fulfill-a-contract-mumbling, weird-debauchery-flavored, shaky-camera-for-drunk-scenes, can’t-recall-the-woman’s-name-starring-but-she-became-famous-and-for-this-role-spoke-only-badly-accented-breathy-Spanish-and-got-pushed-around-by-James-Caan, naked-whip-smacking-opening-scene movie.

You’ve got to see it to believe it. It took me a while to appreciate, . . . → Read More: Gone, Gone, Gone; or, Picksburg Kid Picks