Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Head 'em out, move 'em out-- Rawhide... oops where'd that come from? Probably the assortment of things rolling around in my head that influence who I am, where I might go and what I dream about-- when I'm lucky. For me at the top of the list, that's westerns-- books, movies, tv shows when I was growing up.

I think it pays to now and again think about what those elements are in our own lives. What subconsciously influences how we see the world? Sometimes those are good influences for quality living and sometimes not.

From the time I started picking out 'grown-up' books for myself, I read piles of westerns-- everything by Zane Grey, who is still the king of western writers from my viewpoint. What did I look for in a western book? Location was paramount. It should have descriptions of the western landscape, maybe a small town, romance was good with a strong woman heroine, and then the hero. Well he had to be strong, if not from the start, at least eventually. He was often tall but if he wasn't, he was wirily muscular-- at least eventually. He knew his way around and if he didn't, he quickly learned it. He wasn't a man who sought violence, but he knew how to deliver it when required.

Zane Grey did all of that in any of his books. He and many other authors of his time truly knew the country of which they wrote. When they described the heroine riding her horse down a stream, that stream was there, and they made you feel you were too. To some degree their stories did depict the West as a time period but it was a limited time. One that still fascinates people around the world today.

The main thing, with what Grey wrote, was the land healed, hard work healed and doing what was right, even when difficult, healed. Is that too simplistic? Maybe but sometimes simple philosophies are not wrong. Right or wrong, it undergirded his books.

Owen Wister wrote one of my favorite stories of the West, The Virginian, and it had in it all the necessary parts as well as some humorous descriptions of the people and times. It was written by a man who was living in the time of which he wrote. I have heard that he changed the book to give it a more romantic ending, not as realistic, when Theodore Roosevelt requested it after reading a first draft. I am glad he did as that honeymoon sequence ranks right up there at the top of any of my fantasies. And fantasy it will have to remain at least in this lifetime.

The Virginian talks about the Western culture which I remember my own father describing to me from when he grew up in South Dakota. Things like barn dances where the children would stay up in the lofts to watch the adults. Things like my grandfather carrying the gun I still have when he made a run for it from a posse. Now what the heck was he having to run from, who knows. That part didn't get relayed to kids. Probably some minor thing; but a lot, who lived in those parts and that time, did have connections to the Butch Cassidy gang which I am sure my grandfather never would have... but you never know for sure.

The heritage my father described, a world I never knew except through a few photographs (some of which I shared here) and his stories, as well as my own reading so many years ago definitely still impact my thinking, my concept of an ideal world, my romantic dreams.

(cover from an old Zane Grey collection of books, owned by my daughter. The quotation is from the book. My daughter told me it was one she had claimed for herself. Since the thought suits my thinking also, I had added it to the photograph I took of that dust jacket)


Parapluie said...

Between Winnemucca, Nevada and Lakeview, Oregon yesterday with ten minutes between cars or trucks we were signaled to slow down by a woman standing by a pickup truck parked just before a hairpin turn in the road. Sure enough a quarter of a mile on down the highway were cows and calves moving steadily behind a truck with a male driver. There were about 50 head or more followed by four young women and another pickup driven by a man. The women were enjoying calling to the cattle to keep the straglers moving. But one, I could see was heading down a ravine off the highway into the wilderness unobsered. On the whole I was tickled to see women were minding the Old West cattle drives. The rest of our journey was not so pleasant we observed an increase in the number of dairy and meat feed lots and animals in the flooded desert. One beef animal was actually swimming and I wondered if it could get out of the water without assistance. Really spoiled my vision of what the West should be and caused me to worry. Hold on if you can to whatever it is cow boys stand for. I am not sure the cattle drive was real. I think it was made for the tourist, urban, want to be cow girls.

Rain said...

My bet is you saw the real thing given this is the time of the year they are bringing in cows for calving, taking out pairs, and gathering for brandings. I have taken pictures a lot of places from my car of the cattle being moved and always love to watch it. Often it'll be several small ranchers putting theirs together for it. A lot of the way of raising cattle on grass anyway hasn't changed in a hundred years. There are only so many ways to do it.

When they move cattle, the ranches take turns helping each other and let it be known in the nearby community. Those who enjoy riding will come out to help with the job. I had a friend in Kansas who regularly took her horse out for that kind of work. Brandings are a major social time even today as the large ranches will have maybe 40 people helping-- some paid, some volunteers-- and the food is bountiful.

Mary Lou said...

My Grandmother's family came from Frankfort, S. Dakota. Where are yours from? I have a hand written family history of sorts done by my grandmother who was a Gottenberg, and believed that the generations should know where they came from. I can trace her linage back to the mid 1700's in Norway!

Parapluie, I have driven that road soooo many times. actually not to lakeview, but up 95 to idaho. I have pictures of cattle drives, and It makes you feel like you have gone back in time doesnt it?

Rain said...

my father was born in Hill City, SD and my grandfather born in the Black Hills supposedly the first white baby illegally born there in a mining camp called Tigersville which is a ghost town now if any trace is left. I tried to trace that family farther back but not easy to do with some people as they didn't always want records left behind. I know some of the family myths but not sure which are historic....

Parapluie said...

Thank you for informing me on the cattle drive. I was excited by it and took pictures. The ladies were dressed up like it was a social event. In the Malheure area five years ago I saw women after they went riding. They had chaps. But didn't get pictures. I'll e-mail you the Lakeview riders from yesterday. I took the picture just for you.
On another subject, family myths are great for inspirational purposes. And by the way mentioning my great grandfather on one of my postings resulted in Google listing it. And then most amazingly I received a telephone call from the son of a long lost relative who was untraceable because I didn't know her married name.

Winston said...

With us being the same age, you will also remember what we did on Saturday afternoons as kids, at least if you lived anywhere near a town. Matinees! Roy and Dale, Gabby Hays, Gene Autry, Pat Buttrum, Hopalong, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Lash Larue, later Zorro. Lots of positive impressions made on young minds by that group. I realize that was a cinematic caricature of the real west, but it was as close as most of us would ever get, plus it did a pretty decent job of implanting a set of mores far better than any TV show does with today's kids.

Rain said...

Yes, I remember all those TV shows. Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, Sky King. I told a friend I'd always wanted to be Penny and he said he had always wanted to date her. They were all full of simple stories that did encourage a person to think positive and do right. Maybe now that'd be called naive