Mr J likes his cigars, he likes his scotch, and he likes his Westerns. I’ve been to Mr J’s numerous times on pre-scheduled or client drop-by visits. I enjoy the drive to his house and particularly love the magnificent view of the lake from his living room. Yet, every time I go I find him with his back to the view, his attention centered on the TV set, the station dial locked on GRIT.
And he is not alone. Over the past year, I noticed that an afternoon western may very well be an established practice at many of our clients’ homes, male and female alike. Mrs D was born and raised in a farm South of Hillsboro in the late 40s and never really cared to venture too far. She is a fan. As is Mrs K, of Norwegian descent and who travelled throughout the country supporting each of her husband’s projects and embracing each new town and each new neighborhood as her own before settling back, a widow, near Clifton where she grew up without television.
In a seemingly obsessive attempt to validate this pattern, upon getting a call from a caregiver offering her services to our agency after the passing of her client, the first thing I asked was if, by any chance, the client used to watch Westerns. He sure did. “His number one thing was the stock market” the caller confided, “number two was watching cowboy movies”.
Westerns are arguably one of the most popular genres in film and television. Thousands of movies and TV series were produced since The Great Train Robbery was first released in 1903. Westerns on film have gone through three commonly accepted eras: Classic westerns like Stagecoach (1939) and others and with John Wayne as the era’s iconic figure and John Ford as it most prodigious director; Revisionist westerns primarily represented by Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy in the mid’60s starring Clint Eastwood; and the Neo westerns including films like Unforgiven (1992) directed by Eastwood or Quintin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012).
But it is the TV series of the 50s and 60s that most endeared generations of Western fans. Titles like The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (229 episodes), Gunsmoke (635), The Lone Ranger (221), Have Gun Will Travel (225), Wagon Train (284), Bonanza (431) and countless others comprise an interminable inventory that continues to fill the airwaves daily with adventures and nostalgia.
Per his own account, Mr J’s fascination with Westerns stems from the simple effectiveness of the good guy-bad guy proposition. Mrs D enjoys the traditional values embedded in each episode and Mrs K likes that people in those towns always help each other out. Whatever their reason, the fact is that their long afternoons are more enjoyable in the company of a Western. As I recall, so were those of my own grandmother, who just couldn’t get enough of The Duke…in Bolivia! Go figure.
The Discretely column by Eduardo Berdegué is published monthly in newspapers throughout the Heart of Texas region.