When I was growing up, many of the cowboys in the western movies wore a lot of sequins, carried two six shooters, played guitars and sang orchestrated music as they rode across the prairie. One had to wonder how they got the entire strings section behind a single cactus. Their guns never ran out of bullets.

Later we learned that real cowboys didn’t dress like that. They often wore baggy pants, and most often their horses did not have names. A rule of animal companionship exuded from the reality of the old West: Don’t name something you may have to eat.

Quite often their guns were not strapped down in quick-draw holsters but instead were stuck in their belts. And their guns did run out of bullets. They didn’t really throw silver dollars into the air and shoot them several times before they hit the ground. In fact, often their gunfights were at almost point-blank range and were dominated by errant shots.

And subsequently, some historically accurate western movies have depicted all of this.

Now we have a modern-day cowboy movie called “Brokeback Mountain.” It’s about a couple of gay cowboys. I haven’t been to see that movie yet, but I have read quite a number of reviews, and I have seen clips about it on television. The late-night comedians have had quite a bit of fun with this movie. Certainly for those of us who grew up on cowboy movies, it gives a new twist to the concept of romancing the wide frontier.

So we went from sequins on fancy pants to more accurate depictions of hardened, scar-faced characters shooting at each other from across the table and now to cowboys who shared more than the stars out on the lone prairie.

I think many movies suggest that we read between the lines. So do we read subtleties in “Brokeback Mountain” that suggest homosexuality was a closet item of the early cowboy’s frontier?

And along the way we’ve had some real slapstick like “Blazing Saddles” — but perhaps more realistic than the sequins and the singing cacti.

I suppose we have to wonder what is next in this genre of silver screen. Do we expect to see cowboys sitting around a campfire getting in touch with inner feelings? And who is to say that didn’t happen?

Now if we see cowboys sitting around the campfire discussing whether they like their coffee with a French vanilla twist as opposed to just plain black, then we might suppose that we’re getting back into some slapstick. Starbucks started in the Seattle area, not in the Tucson area.

I’ll probably watch “Brokeback Mountain” when it comes out on video. I’m told there is some beautiful scenery and that if we get beyond homophobic tendencies, the story is not bad either.

And when I said movies may often suggest that we read between the lines, I’m not saying that we should embrace that as gospel. In other words, when we watch “Horse Whisperer,” I don’t think we are supposed to wonder just what Robert Redford is whispering into the horse’s ear and to draw some unfounded conclusions in the realm of animal husbandry. By the way, there was some beautiful scenery in that movie as well.

Nor should we watch “The Natural” (also starring Robert Redford) and conclude as a couple of college professors have done that the story was really about who had the biggest bat, and perhaps was an inspiration to develop Viagra and Cialis.

Of course with the production of “Brokeback Mountain” someone is going to get very philosophical and ask such questions as how did Hop Along Cassidy get that moniker? Why did the Lone Ranger always leave Tonto at the camp while he rode into town wearing a mask to look around? And what was the real reason Lash LaRue carried a bullwhip? And then there was Red Ryder and Little Beaver.

Enough said, I suppose.

(Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545. E-mail: wain.walden@gaflnews.com)

React to this story:


Recommended for you