I’m not one for writing Western, I’ll leave the honours for that to Louis L’Amore, whose acquaintence I made when I saw How The West Was Won on the big screen, then read the book.
That led to reading a few more by Zane Grey, but it was not in the reading of the stories, but in the visual splendour of the west depicted in these films that made the actors almost secondary.
But my interest in watching Westerns had been fuelled by the fact my parents watched them on TV, though back on those days, they were in black and white, and starred John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Alan Ladd and, later on, Clint Eastwood among a great may others.
But the mainstay of my interest in the archetypal Western centred on John Wayne whose movies may have almost the same plot line, just a substitution of actors and locations.
Often it was not so much that John Wayne was in it, but the actors he surrounded himself with, like Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan, and Robert Mitcham, all of whom made the experience all the better.
Films like The Sons of Katie Elder, True Grit, Rio Bravo, and El Dorado.
Who can forget the vast open spaces, the dry dusty stresses lines with wooden buildings and endless walkways that substituted for footpaths. Bars in hotels, rooms overlookinf street, havens for sharpshooters, when bad guys outnumbers the good guys, and typically the sherrif who always faced insurmountable odds.
Or the attacks staged by Indians who were routinely killed, in fact there was not one film I saw where they ended up winning any battle. Only in recent years did they get a more sympathetic role, one film that comes to mind Soldier Blue, which may have painted then as savages, but a possible reason why they ended up so.
But for those without Indians, there were plenty of others whose intentions were anything but for the good of the settlers.
A lot of films ended in the classic gun fight. High Noon, 3:10 to Yuma are two, or where the story led to gun fights between good and bad in unlikely places like El Dorado or Rio Bravo.
There are countless others I could name, like Shane, or became to be called, the spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood, or last but not least, The Magnificent Seven, or Once Upon a time in the west.
All have contributed to a picture in my mind of how the American West was, fearsome men, beleaguered sheriffs, people with good intentions, and those driven by greed and power. All of this playing out in the harshest of conditions where life and death could be determined by a wrong word or a stray bullet.
And let’s not forget the role of the guns, Colt, Winchester, Remington. And Smith and Wesson, and the gunslingers of the day. Some were good, most according to the film world were bad.
So, against the lifelong interest of watching and reading about the archetypal view of the old West, shall I attempt to put pen to paper. Thank God it will be a work of fiction, because I don’t think there’s many who knew what it was really like.