America’s greatest (and only?) contribution to mankind must surely be the invention of the Wild West Movie. Nothing they’ve done before, or since, comes even close.
I grew up in an era where everyone played “Cowboys and Crooks.” We never played “Cowboys and Indians.” (The Guptas were not allowed in the Orange Free State at that time.) We chased one another with cap guns and water pistols, and fired blindly at everything that moved. (Much like the corrupt cops in this country; except that these incompetent fools use real guns, and often kill innocent people.)
On Saturdays, we would watch Gene Autry, Kirk Douglas, Alan Ladd, Glenn Ford, and The Lone Ranger, at the local cinema. We stamped our feet and cheered the good guys and booed the bad guys. And so, like the old Willie Nelson song:
“I grew up a-dreamin’ of bein’ a cowboy,
And lovin’ the cowboy ways.
Pursuin’ the life of my high-ridin’ heroes,
I burned up my childhood days.”
Most cowboys were honest, god-fearing, hardworking men – the salt of the earth.
A cowboy’s life was often lonely. Calling one another: “Partner” in those days, did not mean the same thing as calling someone: “Partner,” these days. Cowboys were not allowed to be gay. They were allowed to be cheerful, merry, jolly, happy, elated, perky, and frolicsome. But never gay. And anyway – there were no closets in the bunkhouse for them to climb into, or come out of. So they were forced to stay on the straight and narrow.
Be that as it may…
Cowboys would go on long cattle drives, and they’d be away from their wives, girlfriends, and mistresses, for months at a time. One would imagine that they ended up being a bit sex-starved and frustrated. Cowboys were also known as “cowpokes.” (Maybe this was because of the things they did with the cows, when the lights went out on the prairie, at night? Who knows?)
(But then, in all fairness, shouldn’t the Australians be called: sheeppokes?)
There were standard themes, scenes, and stories to the cowboy movies:
The fight in the bar; the gunfight on the main street; the posse chasing the crooks; the cattle drive; the saloon girls having a good time; the shootout from behind the water trough/wagon/tree/livery stable door. And finally; the hero riding off into the sunset.
The fight in the bar:
Saloon keepers must have spent fortunes on new furniture. On most nights, the
randy rowdy cowpokes would destroy all the tables, chairs, the piano, and dozens of bottles of booze on the shelves behind the bar. But no matter how rough the fight – a good cowboy never lost his hat, or his temper.
The gunfight on the main street:
The two opponents would stare at each other for the longest time; eyes would squint and quiver; trembling hands would hover near the holsters; trumpet and guitar music (in a minor key) would play. Mothers would remove their children and chickens from the streets.
Finally, after about seven hours and twenty-two minutes, they would draw – and the bad guy would bite the dust. A girlfriend/saloon girl/cow would come rushing out – hang around the hero’s neck – and gaze deep into his eyes with pure unadulterated hero-worship and lust.
The posse chasing the crooks:
One thing they never showed in the movies was the needless number of horses that were killed or injured during the posse chases. How did it happen? I’ll tell you: The cowboys and crooks were armed with unique revolvers – six-shooters, which could fire up to twenty-seven shots of thick, white smoke, before having to be reloaded.
The poor horses, at full gallop, couldn’t see through the thick clouds of white gunsmoke, and often ran into trees, large rocks, or fell off the cliffs and into the canyons below.
The saloon girls having a good time:
Now let me tell you something: they don’t make saloon girls the way they did back then. These girls could give a sex-starved cowpoker the ride of his life. And not just one client per night! The cowpokers normally outnumbered the saloon girls sixty to one. But the saloon girls never complained – they flitted from lap to lap, and saddle to saddle, with gay abandon – riding the whole range.
The shootout from behind the water trough/wagon/tree/livery stable door:
The shoot-out normally lasted until the crook ran out of ammo, i.e. after seven hundred and sixty-five shots. He would then throw his empty revolver at the cowboy, jump on the back of a stolen horse, and try to make a getaway.
But the cowboy would calmly pick him off with an accurately placed shot from his Winchester, just before he was about to vanish over the horizon – fourteen miles away, as the crow flies.
The hero riding off into the sunset:
At the end of the movie, the cowboy would always ride off into the sunset; back to his harem of cows. Sometimes there would be a pathetic little boy crying: “Shane (or Dick, or Tom, or Harry) come baaack!” But real cowboys had strong resolve; they never looked back, or turned around.
END OF PART ONE
And then, in the ‘60s, we entered the era of the Spaghetti Westerns, and the Man with No Name. Who can forget this tune by Hugo Montenegro?
“Ah-hee-ha-hee-ha, wha wha wha,
Ah-hee-ha-hee-ha, wha wha whee.
Ah-hee-ha-hee-ha, wha wha wha wha,
Ah-hee-ha-hee-ha, wha wha wha.”
(OK, Sakkie, you try it! It’s damn difficult to mimic a melody which sounds like the howl of an injured coyote, but you get the general idea.)
The Man with No Name didn’t play by the rules. He had no love for cows, or saloon girls, or partners. He never said much, and when he did, it was in a whores whisper. He didn’t shave. He wore a filthy, flea-invested poncho.
He did a lot of squinting.
He could shoot straight up into the air; and the bullet would still ricochet... even his horse was scared of him. But, like pizza, he didn’t last very long.
END OF PART TWO
Nowadays there are no more good Westerns. All the old cowboys have died and gone on the Final Cattle Drive in the Sky. All the crooks have bitten the dust. The Man with No Name is a wrinkled old fart… and he has fired his last ricochet at the sky.
All we have left is The Man with No Shame.
Some call him the President of South Africa. Some call him Showerhead. Some call him a national embarrassment. What I call him, cannot be repeated on this august forum.
But, believe me, it’s not good.