At home on the range for 7 decades

Opinion: Columns

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Doug Deuchler


I have been hooked on western movies, books and TV shows for over 70 years. The West has exerted a strong influence on my imagination. I have been fascinated by the wide open spaces and other geographical features.

The books written about the West depict strong, rugged men and women, mostly frontiersmen, cowboys and settlers, who challenged the outlaws and the untamed land.

My favorite novels of the West include the Zane Grey books, notably Riders of the Purple Sage. I also liked Lonesome Dove and The Virginian. The latter I read in my high school American literature class.

Movies have played a major role in establishing the conflict between outlaws and good guys.

The movies I watched in the early days of my addiction starred Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, but I lost interest in these movies because Autry and Rogers sang too much.

I liked the more serious treatment of western themes as depicted in High Noon, Shane and Stagecoach.

My favorite line in Shane occurred when a small boy asked if the gunman Shane had just dispatched was fast on the draw. Shane said, "Yeah, kid, he was fast. He was real fast."

Television, too, contributed to the popularity of westerns with several long-running series such as Gunsmoke, Maverick, Have Gun Will Travel, and Bonanza. Of these, I liked Gunsmoke the best.

Once when I was visiting a friend, he jokingly told me that Matt Dillon the marshal had been killed in a gunfight on the show which I had missed seeing the week before.

I was really shook up because I was certain the show would end with Matt's death.

The next week, to my relief, I realized that though Matt had been seriously wounded, Doc patched him up and the series continued.

Have Gun Will Travel interested me because of the main character, named Paladin and played by Richard Boone.

Boone usually portrayed a more-than-sinister villain in western films, but in this series, he played a person who helped people out of difficult situations or was the leading champion of a cause.

Bonanza was the one show my grandmother rarely missed seeing, and I liked the depiction of this family, consisting of a widowed father and his three sons who worked together to bring justice not only to themselves but the downtrodden people they met along the way in 1880s Nevada. I also liked how each Cartwright had a unique character.

Ben, the father, was the wise one; Little Joe, the youngest son, was rash and hasty; Hoss, the middle son, was happy-go-lucky, and Adam, the eldest son, was the thinker.

When I was growing up, I asked for western novels for both Christmas and birthdays, and I accumulated quite a large collection over an eight-year period.

I still read western novels, and though I haven't seen a western movie or TV series for quite a while, I'm always ready to ride the range when the opportunity arises.

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad