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National and Global, United States

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cowboys Debunked ...

I must admit that I grew up in an age of Western heroes: John Wayne, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers. Sitting in my living room on the East Coast and watching these heroes was a good part of my youth. They would always ride off into the sunset with the prettiest woman, and the bad guys never got away with anything. They were iconic. Supermen in a world far beyond my bedroom.

I noticed the environment from John Ford on. Monument Valley and the Desert...long, vast, brown. As I matured I looked further into this geographic setting. After moving to Arizona 15 years ago, I found that there are four deserts out there:
The Mojave -- The California part (Joshua Trees)
The Great Basin -- Everything 'high' like Las Vegas north
The Sonoran -- Arizona into Mexico
The Chihuahuan -- Most of Western Texas

So, why did I see Saguaro cacti in all these movies, even if the location didn't appear to be Arizona? What I found is that aside from John Ford movies most filmed in Monument Valley, Arizona, the films were all made in the Mojave desert, close to Los Angeles. If the Director of the film needed a real Western flair with Saguaro's, they would just use them as props behind a scenery that was most certainly not Sonoran, but Mojave, where Saguaro do not grow. Joshua Trees do not grow in the Sonoran, to begin with. This was Palm Springs, not Tombstone.
No Dodge City here.

That, in turn, gave me thought as to what really was this 'cowboy' stuff all about.
If John Wayne said he was in Tucson or Tombstone, was he really there? Or was he just outside Palm Springs on a 'horse with no name'. Worse yet, on a soundstage in Burbank?

The final dagger came a few years after moving to Arizona: My childhood cowboy heroes, not only did not do many films in the Sonoran desert, they didn't even live there. It was all part of the American mystic. It was Hollywood reaching out to us.

John, Roy, and Gene all lived in Los Angeles. They lived in Newport Beach, California on the ocean. Ocean-front. How can you be a cowboy in Newport Beach?
"Where do I park this horse, pilgrim", John Wayne would often say.

And so, childhood dreams face the reality that Western cowboys, for the most part, are probably mythical characters made up in a writer's mind somewhere in Los Angeles.
Those that took it all at face-value, like me, will just have to suffer through the thought that my childhood heroes were never real, never really there, and never really rode off into the sunset. Unless there was a 'boulevard' attached!

Rather, they played the scene, completed it, and got in a limo to somewhere on Sunset Boulevard. And none of them, I can assure you, died with their boots on.

Most likely patent leather Gucci shoes.

1 comment:

  1. Slapped in the face by reality once again. Ouch. :-(


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