Rosanne Bittner: Heart of the West
Cowboys and...Well, Just Cowboys!
The "Cowboy" in All of Us.
Ive been watching the promos for the movie Cowboys vs. Aliens. Looks fun! Looks like the western town/cowboy part is really well portrayed, although I havent seen the movie yet. I cant wait! I am hoping this movie will stir a renewed interest in the genre - more movies and books about Americas Old West. I am also furious with myself for not coming up with this idea for a book of my own a modern-day twist to the theme and time period I love writing about cowboys and the American West of the 1800s.
No matter how you look at it, cowboys have always been popular. You can barely count the number of western movies that have been produced over the last 50 years, the biggest share of them in the 1950s and 60s. Lately, remakes of famous old standards like TRUE GRIT and 3:10 TO YUMA, have done well. Then there are the famous big screen favorites like DANCES WITH WOLVES and HOW THE WEST WAS WON and of course there are the unforgettable Clint Eastwood shooters. My favorites are THE GUNS OF JOSIE WALES, PALE RIDER and TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARAH. Then there is the name known world wide for his western films John Wayne. Actually, my favorite John Wayne movie is THE SHOOTIST his very last film. Its so touching to know that was the last movie he made before he died from cancer, when in the movie he was an old gunfighter also dying from cancer. In the movie he went out of this life in the way only an old gunfighter should go he went down shooting. I, of course, cried my eyes out.
TV got into the act during the popularity of the mini-series with LONESOME DOVE and CENTENNIAL. And of course few people are unfamiliar with the numerous TV half-hour and hour-long westerns like HAVE GUN/WILL TRAVEL and GUNSMOKE, the most famous of them all. I sure hated to read about the passing of James Arness, but he will live on forever in the form of Marshal Matt Dillon.
As far as books, few authors helped keep the genre alive like Will Henry and Louis LAmour did. Dee Brown did a fabulous job of enlightening readers to the truth about the gradual demise of the American Indian way of life in his book BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE.
There is something about the American western frontier that fascinates, something about those pioneers that makes us proud and makes us want to keep the right to bear arms. We are even fascinated and in a strange way proud of our infamous outlaws, like Jesse James and Butch Cassidy. Even more fascinating is that there was a very fine line back then between outlaw and lawman. There were those who couldnt say which Wyatt Earp and his brothers were good? Or bad? How many books have you read, or movies have you watched, in which the bad guy was really good at heart?
Ah, yes, the American cowboy restless, wild, roving, hard-drinking, ready for a fist fight, quick with a gun, tough, brave, rough looking yet handsome even those who werent all that good looking were handsome in their own way when they wore those great hats and smoked that cheroot and stood their ground. I think the western hero has remained popular because we all identify with some part of their personality perhaps we all daydream that we could be that rugged, that brave, that quick with a gun, that much in charge of our lives and ultimately that free to be whoever we want to be that much in control of our own destinies and unchained from rules and responsibilities.
I truly believe there is a little bit of cowboy in all of us and so I will keep writing books about men like that and the equally brave and tough women it took to keep up with them or tame them whichever they were brave enough to try. I love the American West, the American cowboy, and the American dreams they represented. It was an era when there were still frontiers to conquer, still places where man had never stepped, still gold and silver and oil to be found, still free land as long as you were willing to homestead that land, still endless horizons with no skyscrapers or smokestacks to mar the landscape. Its the cowboy in Americans that makes them dare to try new ventures, dare to leave the familiar and take a new job or start their own business or move to a completely new area of the country. There is a little bit of cowboy in our armed forces, in that devil-may-care attitude of our veterans who fought world wars, in those who dared travel into space, in a boxer, a football player, a race car driver, even a reckless investor who risks it all on a hunch. Its the American spirit, and a whole lot of that spirit can be identified as the cowboy in us.
If you have a dream, if there is something you want to try but have put it off, if you want to stand up for yourself but are afraid to, if you have a good idea but havent put it out there into the real world, you need to cowboy up! Think like a cowboy, and you might be surprised where it can take you! I hope to keep that kind of spirit alive in my writing and even though Im told western history isnt popular right now, I intend to cowboy up and keep writing what I love, because what goes around, comes around. Cowboys have always been a favorite, and although that genre isnt the most popular right now, it will come back, and Ill be ready!
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