Tag Archives: cowboys

Heroes of Yesteryear (Cowboy Movies)

When I was a boy, the Western reigned supreme on both television and in the movie theaters. Part of the benefit of that was being indoctrinated with “the Cowboy Way” which was a system of high ideals and morality that no longer exists, and in fact, never did exist outside of the imaginations of little boys in the 1950’s and 1960’s. We learned that good guys wore white hats and bad guys wore black. You only won the shootout if you shot the bad guy and you didn’t draw your gun first.

Of course, the cowboys who were the “White Knights of the Great Plains” we worshiped as six-year-olds and the singing cowboys on TV were not the same ones we watched when we were more mature young men of ten to twelve. John Wayne starring in Hondo (after the book by Louis L’Amour) was more complicated than that, and we learned new things about the compromises you make in the name of survival and trying to do things the best way you can. From Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence we began to see that sometimes you shot the villain in the back from down the street to save your simple friend from the gunfight in the street when he was too naive and green to win.

Wyatt Earp at the OK Corral was the white hat we wanted desperately to be when we grew up. And then I saw on PBS in the late 60’s a documentary about the real shootout and the real compromises and consequences of the thing we once thought was so clearly good versus evil.

Wyatt went from the TV hero,

To the mostly moral man fighting what seemed like lawlessness,

To a morally ambiguous angel of death, winning on luck and guts rather than righteousness, and paying evil with vengeance while suffering the same himself from those dirty amoral cowboys, sometimes good, but mostly not.

And then along came Clint and “the Man with No Name”. More ambiguous and hard to fathom still…

Who really was The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? What made any one of them worse than the other two? You need to listen to the music before you decide. We are all of us good, bad, and ugly at times. And all of it can be made beautiful at the end with the right theme music behind it. Did we ever learn anything of real value from cowboy movies? Of course we did. They made us who we are today. They gave us the underpinnings of our person-hood. So, why do they not make them anymore? The video essay at the end of my wordiness has answers. But basically, we grew up and didn’t need them anymore. And children and youths of today have different heroes. Heroes who are heroic without shootouts and letting the bad guy draw his gun first. Ideally, heroes who are us.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, cowboys, heroes, movie review, review of television, sharing from YouTube, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Cowboy Mickey

lil mickey cowboyI have written more than one “Understanding Mickey” post, and I feel I still haven’t given readers the tools to fully understand how to translate Mickeyism into English.  Part of the problem is that Mickey has changed over the years.  And Mickey never was the same thing as Michael Beyer.  That other self, the self-reflective Michael self, is the teacher, the thinker, the poet, the author.  Mickey is the cartoonist and story-teller.  And, most importantly, Mickey is a cowboy.

So, how did Mickey become a cowboy?  That isn’t such a hard thing to understand.  From childhood Mickey always had that sense of cowboy certitude.  You know, that feeling that no matter what problem rears its ugly head and threatens to stamp, and snort, and cause a stampede, there is a way to rope it, hog-tie it, and slap a brand on its rump.  The cowboy way is to never let anything stand in your way.  I always felt that there were extra reserves held deep down inside that I could call on to pull me out of the fire when troubles were at their worst.  No matter what, I would never be defeated unless I had my boots on and sixguns were a-blazing.

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I include this goofy cowboy-in-his-doll-collection-lined-studio selfie because the cowboy part of me is about to change again.  I am seriously thinking about shaving off my author’s beard and cutting short my Gandalf-hair.  Why?  Not because I am seriously considering stopping being a writer.  I could never do that till the day I die.  But, the cowboy part of me is gradually becoming less and less of an essential part of the plan going forward.  Besides, my wife doesn’t like the rough-old-cobb look that I have been cultivating since my retirement in the spring of 2014.

Mickey will always be a cowboy, but there is more to me than just Mickey.  In my selfie I am wearing my best cowboy hat, the one I bought at Goodwill that they apparently got from an estate sale.  It is from Hatter’s Inc. in Fort Worth, the place where LBJ bought a lot of his cowboy hats.  I feel like the spirit of some old dead Texan still lives in that hat.  I am also wearing my Naaman Forest Rangers teacher-shirt.  I spent twenty three years as a Cotulla Cowboy.  I spent one year as a Creek Valley Wildcat, and one year as a Garland Owl.  And then I ended my career with six years as a Naaman Forest Ranger.  So a lot of the cowboy in me is school-related.  And I am not going to throw away any of my cowboy hats any time soon.  I am never going to forget what it feels like to ride a horse.  I am never going to forget what it feels like to face an angry, out-of-control teenager and have to catch that bull by the horns.  I broke up more than thirty fights in my thirty-one year teaching career (and yes, I am counting the ones where no punches were thrown, and there was no kicking of teacher shins).  Those count too.  And in the long run, I will never be anything but a cattle-herding pedagogue who wields a mean wit and often shoots from the hip.

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Filed under cowboys, humor, Paffooney