Monday, January 17, 2011

There’s Something About A Western

Sunday afternoon I went to the movies to see True Grit. I didn’t see the original; I confess I’m not a big John Wayne fan. That’s just personal preference here. But on the other hand, have you ever thought about how many criminals and other infamous people have been named John Wayne Something? Just off the top of my head, I remember John Wayne Gacy and John Wayne Bobbitt.

But I digress. True Grit held me captive to the screen for its full running time of 110 minutes. I never once looked at my watch, didn’t sneak out to the bathroom, and I was sort of yanked from my spellbindings (I know, not a real word) when the credits began to roll. I learned from my friend Lee B to always sit through those to the very end because it’s part of the experience, and she’s right. My being a big fan of Coen brothers’ films didn’t even enter into this, except that they've made another wonderful movie.

True Grit reminded me why I’ve so often been drawn to write westerns.  I have studied and researched this part of our heritage, always entertained and sometimes surprised. The American West even now holds a fascination for many people, including those from other countries. It has been my privilege to visit south Texas several times, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada (not just the casinos) and eastern Oregon and Washington. These and other western states were the birthplaces of real heroes, genuine psychopaths who could and did maneuver openly through society because there was no way to really stop them. Life was hard and those people who survived did so without our conveniences and advantages, the lack of which would probably kill us now. Many couldn’t read or write. Others were educated and cultured to a point that a lot of us would not even recognize today. A good example can be found here: US Army Captain Sullivan Ballou wrote a letter to his wife that is so eloquent, so beautiful, it’s hard to imagine that we’ve devolved to a point in time when I read posts on the internet that are simply incomprehensible.

So, my thanks to Joel and Ethan Coen, their brilliant cast and, most importantly to author Charles Portis for crafting this great story.

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