Tag Archives: Cowboys & Indians

The Difference Between Sitting on a Horse and Standing on a Rock

22 Feb

The arrival of the latest Cowboys and Indians magazine is always a highlight at our house. It is filled with all things Western – art, history, movies, fashion, decor. It is a must read for anyone who likes the stuff that can be found in the West.

With that in mind, I was surprised to find an article that bothered me. On top of that, it is dumb to let it bother me. After all, it is not about some controversial subject that leads to great debates. It is about the 50th anniversary of The Sons of Katie Elder, a movie starring John Wayne.

The entire thing started off bad with the first few sentences. It goes a follows:

“The first time we see John Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder, the image is appropriately iconic. After his character, errant gunfighter John Elder, is frequently and sometimes fearfully discussed by blood relatives and mortal enemies for the first several minutes of the movie, he finally appears on horseback on a hilltop, silently gazing down at the graveside gathering for his recently departed, dearly beloved mother.”

What was bad about that? This is my favorite scene from the entire movie, and John Wayne is not sitting on a horse. He is standing on a rock.Katie Elder

Bottom line, if you are charged with writing an article about a movie, then you should watch the movie. Heck, this is one of the first scenes. How can Joe Leydon, the writer, get that wrong?

Anyway, those first sentences got the article on the wrong track, but there is another problem. This movie is not good enough to deserve a 50th anniversary commemoration. It is written with the theme that this was John Wayne’s first movie after surgery to remove cancerous tumors. That is a noble subject and deserves to be written. However, a better article would be about his fight through the years and not focused on this film.

I am a huge fan of John Wayne and will read anything about him. I also understand that other people will do the same. That is why this magazine and others like it do all that can to put him in their pages. I just think that something better could have been written.

What is my problem with The Sons of Katie Elder? The entire thing is filled with bad casting. The age difference between John Wayne and Michael Anderson, Jr. makes the entire thing unbelievable. In fact, one was 36 years older than the other.Katie Sons

I guess that is possible, but Katie Elder must have been one heck of a woman.

Oh yeah, there is one other problem. Who decided to use the name Katie Elder? In the movie, she is described by everyone as the best woman who ever lived. They do not even have the words to describe her goodness. With that in mind, they should have come up with a better name because the real Kate Elder was not filled with goodness.

Big Nose Kate was a prostitute who hung around Doc Holliday. I will not go into the sordid details of her life, but I think about her whenever I watch this movie. Did she turn her life around and move to Clearwater, Texas? Was she such a good person in an attempt to make up for her past? I cannot separate the fictional Katie Elder from the real Kate Elder.

I write all of that to write this. If you are going to write an article about John Wayne then write about John Wayne. If you are going to write about John Wayne’s fight with cancer then write about John Wayne’s fight with cancer. However, if you are going to commemorate one of John Wayne’s movies, then make it one of the good ones.

On top of that, watch the movie first so you can describe the scenes accurately.



In Memory of Stefan Gierasch

13 Jan

The latest edition of Cowboys & Indians magazine has arrived with sad news. September saw the death of Stefan Gierasch, who played Del Gue in Jeremiah Johnson.Stefan

Gierasch created a great representation of mountain men as he showed Robert Redford the ways of survival in the mountains. At the end of the movie, Del and Jeremiah were saying their goodbyes, and Gierasch spoke the lines that epitomize the thinking of mountain men – both real and imagined. He said:

Ain’t this somethin’? I told my pap and mam I was comin’ to the mountains to trap and be a mountain man; acted like they was gut-shot. Says, “Son, make your life go here, son. Here’s where the peoples is. Them mountains is for animals and savages.” I says, “Mother Gue, the Rocky Mountains is the marrow of the world,” and by God, I was right.

As the two men parted ways, he continued:

I ain’t never seen ’em, but my common sense tells me the Andes is foothills, and the Alps is for children to climb! Keep good care of your hair! These here is God’s finest scupturings! And there ain’t no laws for the brave ones! And there ain’t no asylums for the crazy ones! And there ain’t no churches, except for this right here! And there ain’t no priests excepting the birds. By God, I are a mountain man, and I’ll live ’til an arrow or a bullet finds me. And then I’ll leave my bones on this great map of the magnificent…

Geirasch appeared in several productions that I have watched – The Hustler, High Plains Drifter, Carrie, Silver Streak, and The Champ. However, he will live in my mind as the crusty mountain man, Del Gue.

Rest in Peace, Stefan Gierasch. As Del Gue, you said, “I decided that when I depart from this life I’d like to leave something.” You left a great performance in one of the great movies.

Listeria – New Mexico Edition

17 Jul

New Mexico is one of my favorite states. How’s that for a short and to-the-point sentence? It is a place that I have visited numerous times, both for my job and for pleasure. Each time I go, I discover something new about the state and about myself. That’s the kind of place that New Mexico is.

Last night, I was grocery shopping and made my way over to the magazine aisle. There, I picked up a copy of Cowboys & Indians (a very non-politically correct title) and flipped through the pages – mostly looking at the pictures. That’s when I noticed some recognizable scenes. Turns out, they were part of an article called “100 Reasons We Love New Mexico”.

Another list after recently writing about lists! And, this list is about New Mexico! So, the magazine people did their job and sold a copy. I took it home; read through the list; and realized that I knew a bunch of things on the list. After counting, I had experienced 41 items on the list. Not bad for a history professor in Tennessee.

In homage of a great state, this is the list of the 41 things I have experienced on the Cowboys & Indians list of 100. First, a few disclaimers. The number is where the magazine has each item listed. Second, the quoted comments in bold come from the magazine, and the comments without quotes come from me. Third, the photographs come from me, so I don’t have pictures of everything.

1. “First impressions: clean air, blue skies, clear light; soft colors.” New Mexico definitely has plenty of each.

2. “The Sangre de Cristos Mountains.” They look over Santa Fe.

4. “The high road to Taos!” I’ve driven on the road but not all the way to Taos.

6. “Sunset at La Fonda’s rooftop Bell Tower bar in Santa Fe.” This place is on top of one of Santa Fe’s premiere hotels and provides a great view of the Santa Fe Plaza.

7. “The view of the Santa Fe and Jemez Mountains from the Cross of the Martyrs. Dedicated in 1920 to commemorate the 21 friars and numerous Spanish colonists killed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, the site is accessible by stairs from Paseo de la Loma.” This site has a few issues. First, parking is a problem. Second, it doesn’t say anything about the Native Americans killed by the Spanish.

11. “Ristra hanging everywhere.” El Pinto in Albuquerque is my favorite place to see these.

12. “The pinyon, the cherished state tree names by Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in the 1530s.” These plants are everywhere and are an important part of the state’s landscape.

15. “The Sandia Mountains at sunset.” This is truly a beautiful sight.

16. “The Zia symbol for the sun (from the ancient Zia Pueblo people) flying on the red and gold (for Spain) state flag.” The state capitol, which I walked around and through this year, is also built in this shape.

17. “Pueblo cliff dwellings and Kokopelli’s image among the ruins at Bandelier National Monument.” This is a great hike, and there is also a great visitor center with a grill and gift shop.

19. “Frito pie – served in the bag – at the Five & Dime on Santa Fe Plaza.” It’s also a great place to buy t-shirts.

22. “The oldest Madonna in the country, Our Lady La Conquistadora statue (she arrived in 1625 with the Franciscans), in the chapel at Santa Fe’s cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi; and in the cathedral’s outside portico, the Blessed Kateri statue of Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-80, Mohawk-Algonquin), the first North American Indian to be beatified.” No building in the downtown district can be taller than the towers of the cathedral.

24. “A museum pass and a shuttle ride up for a day on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill.” I must admit that I have never taken a shuttle to the hill, but I have walked through the maze several times.

25. “Friday night gallery walks along Canyon Road.” I have never been there at night, but I have walked through the galleries. I have even witnessed a few friends make purchases.

26. “Herds of elk.” This is one of the items that field trips students are supposed to mark off on their list. Sometimes we see them, sometimes we don’t.

29. “Scoring a find at the Pueblo of Tesuque Flea Market.” I have bought a few things at the flea market, but the best was a tall cup of prickly pear lemonade.

30. “Meditative moments inside the thick, old adobe walls of the lovely San Miguel Mission Church, perhaps the oldest church in the country (1610-26).” On this year’s field trip, some of our students helped make new adobe bricks for the church.

36. “Hiking slot canyons at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument on the Cochiti Pueblo through formations that look like giant rock soft ice cream cones or petrified sand castles.” We hiked Tent Rocks for the first time this year, and it was a fantastic experience.

43. “Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the gate way to New Mexico’s 19 pueblos.” I went here several years ago, and, admittedly, don’t remember much about it.

47. “The healing shrine of Santurio de Chimayo.” This church is a pilgrimage for those suffering from various ailments and maladies. The dirt in the side chapel supposedly has healing properties. Whether you believe that or not, it is a beautiful church.

50. “Shopping for turquoise and silver from the licensed American Indian vendors under the historic portal of the Palace of the Governors on the Santa Fe Plaza.” The Palace of the Governors is the oldest government building in the United States. If you walk its exterior to buy something from the vendors, then you need to remember to negotiate the prices with them.

51. “The Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos.” This is a great museum about New Mexico’s impact on the 20th Century. Los Alamos was the place where scientists built the first atomic bombs, and the museum chronicles the history of the town.

53. “The De Vargas Street House in Santa Fe for its history, tiny museum…Built ca. 1646, it is reputedly one of the oldest homes in the country.” It sits across the street from #30.

56. “Chacoan ruins…in Chaco Culture National Historic Park.” This is a great place to visit. Interesting ruins. Great mesa hike. But, it is a pain getting there.

58. “Georgia O’Keefe – from the eponymous museum in Santa Fe to her Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu homes to her seeming presence everywhere in the high-desert landscapes she loved and painted.” I have been to the museum and seen her house in Ghost Ranch, but the best part of the O’Keefe experience is hiking the mesa at Ghost Ranch. It overlooks one of her favorite landscapes.

60. “Four Corners Monument, marking the only place in the United States where four states – New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado – meet.” When I was a kid, my parents searched for this place forever so I could lie down in four states at once. A few years ago,  I went as an adult and wanted to do it again. They had it fenced off for construction, and I could only walk around in four states.

67. “Exploring old mining towns and galleries along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway.” I have purchased several pieces of art in Madrid, but I think I like Cerrillos better. For a special experience, try making a concert at Two Rocks and a Hubcap.

72. “The 16-mile scenic drive…at White Sands National Monument.” This is one of the strangest landscapes in the United States. You are driving along typical New Mexico landscape when there are suddenly sand dunes everywhere.

74. “Fry bread stands.” I didn’t realize until I tried this that Native Americans invented the funnel cake.

76. “Hiking Inscription Loop Trail at El Morro National Monument and taking in some 2,000 petroglyphs and Spanish inscriptions dating back to the 1600s.” This is an amazing trail because the inscriptions make you feel that you are hiking through time.

77. “An extraterrestrial day in Roswell.” The most famous UFO crash in American history happened outside of town, and the downtown museum is a perfect destination for conspiracy theorists.

81. “Going subterranean at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.” You know a cave is cool when you hike into it and ride an elevator out of it.

85. “Ghost towns.” My favorites are Cuervo, which sits along I-40, and Shakespeare, which is in the southeast corner of the state.

86. “Hiking in a collapsed volcanic crater at Valles Caldera National Preserve.” Ok, I haven’t hiked it, but I have driven along its rim. This is the place to see the elk of #26.

87. “Stargazing at the Very Large Array in Socorro.” Ok, I went there during the day, but it is still impressive. It is also where Jodie Foster first heard the alien transmissions in Contact.

89. “Green chili cheeseburgers – at Bobcat Bite, Bert’s Burger Bowl, and all along the green chili cheeseburger trail.” I have dined at both restaurants, and Bobcat Bite is the best by far. I don’t care what Guy Fieri says.

90. “An abundance of ancient ruins and petroglyphs that are now national and state monuments and historic parks.” The magazine lists a bunch of these, but I am only including the ones I have visited. Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Bandelier National Monument. El Morro National Monument. Petroglyph National Monument. Pecos National Historic Park. Coronado State Monument. I wonder what the difference is between a “historic park” and a “monument”.

92. “A docent tour at the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors on the Plaza in Santa Fe.” The New Mexico History Museum is the best museum I have ever visited.

93. “American Indian pottery, from Maria and Julian Martinez to Barbara and Joseph Cerno.” A few years ago, I bought a piece of Martinez pottery, and it is one of my prized possessions.

95. “Historic Route 66.” You can’t go anywhere in the Albuquerque area without crossing it.

97. “The miraculous staircase in Santa Fe’s Loretto Chapel.” I saw this on That’s Incredible when I was a kid but never knew where it was. One day, I walked into this church, and, lo and behold, I found it.

There you have it – my version of New Mexico Listeria.