Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Westerns & Me

Saying I have a passing knowledge of the Western genre in Films, Television and Literature is an understatement.  I blame four people for this, my father, my paternal uncle, and both of my grandfathers.  It is mostly the men on my father’s side.  My Maternal grandfather was not as forthcoming with his enjoyment of the Western.  My father, uncle and paternal grandfather are Western Ubergeeks.  My dad knows all of the cast members of almost every John Wayne and Clint Eastwood Western. 

Before we get into my history, let’s get into my dad’s history.  Why?  That is because, my knowledge and interest in this genre is mostly his damn fault.  My dad is a Baby boomer, born in the late 1940’s.  He grew up in the 1950’s when television had tons of Westerns on TV.   Theaters were still showing Western serials in those days.  Television showed films from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Dad had a steady diet of Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, The Rifleman, and old John Wayne films.  He loved them.  In his twenties came the Spaghetti Westerns and Clint Eastwood.

Here I am a little kid, when dad was home he would watch Western Film and Television.  He introduced me to most of his childhood favorites.  I never got into Hopalong, Autry or Roy Rogers, but I did get into most everything else plus The Virginian, Big Valley, Alias Smith and Jones, and more.  I watched John Wayne and Clint Eastwood with dad.  Later in my Twenties I started to re-visit the Western Genre.  The late 1980’s and early 1990’s Hollywood decided to try the genre again with Unforgiven, Young Guns, and the TV show Young Riders. 

It was during this time my maternal grandfather got me into his favorite author, Louis L’Amour.  I went on a camping trip with him and my grandmother.  I was dealing with some heavy things at the time.  He handed me The Sackett Brand.  Louis L’Amour had this series the Sacketts about a Tennessee Hillbilly clan that become involved in opening the West.  The Sackett Brand was about one member finding himself in serious trouble and anyone with the Sackett name showing up to help him whether or not they knew him. I knew dad and my paternal grandfather loved his books.  I had no idea about my maternal grandfather.  So like any good geek I dove head first into Louis L’Amour’s work.  I loved it.

When I met Barbara, I discovered we shared a history with Western and Country music.  She led me to re-watch and re-examine those old Wayne and Eastwood movies.  As an adult they made more sense.  I realized that I still was not really big into the Western Serials except for Lone Ranger.  They tended to be cheesy and silly, even the ones with a young John Wayne.  I started to notice Directors: John Ford, Howard Hawkes, Sergio, Leone, and Clint Eastwood, himself. 

I watched a few with dad as an adult.  During commercials he would tell me all about the lore behind the films and shows he loved.  I realized that my dad was a Western Ubergeek.  He even had read L’Amour, which I figured may have been connected to his relationship to his father. Dad’s Ubergeekiness has translated to other hobbies, he is a firearms enthusiast, he is a western style equestrian enthusiast, and he loves Southwestern culture.  All of these interests can be traced back to his beloved Westerns.  With this realization I came to grips I did not fall far from the tree.  The main difference was our passions, those may have been different.  We however approached them in very similar ways.  This gave me a new appreciation for the man who raised me.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

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