David Moseley

Once Upon a Time in the Res

2014-07-08 11:54

David Moseley

My grandfather was a great fan of westerns. I can't quite remember all the classics in his VHS collection, but I remember many of his videos being in black and white, even some episodes of the Lone Ranger.

At one stage of my life I thought John Wayne was the coolest cat in town. His slow drawl and unflappable demeanour were appealing, as was the deliberate pace of early western movies. Nothing much seemed to happen, but someone always wound up with a bullet in the stomach.

My brother and I, being great fans of inactivity, would watch hours and hours of Wayne ambling his way through desolate countryside. We knew all the words to the Davy Crockett song, which if I remember correctly was from a Davy Crockett TV series. Later, when watching the Alamo, we couldn’t believe that they could kill off Crockett, the king of the wild frontier.

We watched Once Upon a Time in the West, Stagecoach, True Grit, The Magnificent Seven and more. We laughed when we discovered Wayne’s real name was Marion, then were stunned to find out he had died 1979.

Western revival

At university I was surprised to overhear a conversation in my residence regarding Saturday evenings where some of the guys would get together to watch westerns. I chimed in, saying I was a fan and would it be possible to join. Sure, they said. We watch in the downstairs TV room at around midnight.

Never thinking twice about the strange viewing time, I rounded up some friends who had earlier dismissed the merits of the genre and insisted that tonight would be there western education. “These guys really know what they are talking about. They watch westerns once a week. It’s like a club of sorts,” I told my sceptical friends. “I’m sure they’ll have rented a classic.”

At midnight we walked down to the basement of the residence, where I could hear that the movie had already started. Bursting into the room I first noticed that it was so full of students that I didn’t understand why we weren’t watching in the upstairs TV room, which was much bigger. Everyone who lived in our res was there, plus a few visitors from residences across the road.

Behind me my friends started giggling hysterically. They prodded me in the ribs, “Dave, now we know why you like westerns so much.”

The western on screen was not from the John Wayne collection, not even Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood. The “western”, you see, was a code name the older guys used for porn movies and whenever they wanted to show one, and to make a few bucks on the side, they would write on the chalkboard in our residence common room that Saturday’s movie was a “western”. News would spread around our part of campus, and invariably the western was the most popular movie in town.

“Ride ’em cowboy,” the packed TV room yelled as I made my way to the back row of seats. Just in case they’d hired Unforgiven for after this movie.

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