Back by popular demand – okay, two people – okay, one “Commenter” and myself.
What’s it about? Well, sir, and ma’am, as a huge fan, I noticed the same actors playing the same classic characters in every western again and again. I imagined the reminiscences of those actors – human, animal and vegetable actors – and here, in their own words, is what those beloved performers have to say.
The following are excerpts from different sections of my cowboy book, Sagebrush Memories.
FROM THE CHAPTER ENTITLED: “‘BIT’ PLAYERS”
THE GUY WHO HOLDS THE HORSES DURING BANK ROBBERIES
“It isn’t as easy as it looks. People think, ‘They’re in there robbing the bank, but he’s so dumb, they left him out with the horses.’ Bull Roar! Holdin’ the horses is a very important job. I mean, think about it. What if they break loose and run away? Robbers come barrelin’ out of the bank – no horses.”
“‘Cause of me, those horses were there. Otherwise, them bank robbers’d be walkin’ out of town.”
“Horse holders had to do some pretty good acting. You had to play it casual like, you know? ‘Nothin’ unusual.’ Just a guy holdin’ six horses.”
“How’d I keep ‘em in line? I had my little secrets. I’d hum to ‘em. Sometimes, I slip ‘em some gum. They liked Juicy Fruit. It seemed to settle ‘em down.”
“Just once, I’da loved to have gone into the bank. I never made it.”
FROM THE CHAPTER ENTITLED: “CRITTERS"
THE VANISHING BUFFALO
“At the time they were making those westerns, there were maybe fifteen, sixteen buffalo left. In stampedes, to make the herd look bigger, we’d run until we were out of ‘camera shot’, then they’d move us to another position, and we’d run again. I’d run maybe a dozen times in the same stampede.”
“I’m sure nobody noticed, but every time they moved me, I imagined I was a different buffalo – a buffalo with a limp, a buffalo with a twitch, a drooler. I told my agent I should get paid for each characterization. He told me to keep running.”
“You probably know Hollywood’s not the natural habitat for buffalo. We were trucked in from North Dakota. You know what that means. We not only had to act like people were shooting at us, we had to pretend we were doing it in a colder place. At least, that’s what they wanted. This one director, he said, ‘Can you guys make steam come out of your noses?’ We just looked at him. Where did he think it came from?”
“To a buffalo, those “massacres” felt frighteningly real. We all lost relatives, you know? A buddy of mine had nightmares after those scenes. The poor guy started drinking. He talked about joining a support group, but he didn’t feel comfortable about that. He thought he’d stand out in the crowd. Finally, he connected with some chat room on the Internet. They don’t even know he’s a buffalo.”
“It’s kind of ironic. They stopped making westerns just when the buffalo herds started to grow. Imagine, only having to run once.”
FROM THE CHAPTER ENTITLED:
“CHARACTERS CERTAIN TO BE KILLED”
"THE FIRST INDIAN OVER THE WALL"
“The good thing about bein’ the first Indian over the wall is you stood out. I mean, you were the first Indian over the wall! The bad thing was you always got killed. They had to kill ya; they had no choice. Other Indians see the first Indian gets over the wall and doesn’t get killed, it emboldened them. They’re thinkin’ ‘If he can do it, so can we.’ The people in the fort don’t want emboldened Indians, so they kill me. It’s like they’re sayin’ to the rest of them, ‘It’s not that easy.’”
“You never had a lot of Indians comin’ over the wall together; it was always one Indian at a time. As an actor, I tried imaginin’ why I’d do such a foolhardy thing. What was my thought process? ‘I think I’ll climb over the wall alone and kill everyone in the fort?’ What were the chances of that happening? I decided it was a ‘strikin’ fear’ kind of thing. You know, ‘An Indian’s over the wall! That can’t be good.’ It plants the seed, you know? ‘When they learn to climb in a group, we’re done for.’”
“Comin’ over the wall, you were way off the ground, meaning when they killed you, you weren’t just dyin’, you were dyin’ and fallin’. ‘Course, they’d have this mattress out of ‘camera shot’ for you to land on. I missed the mattress once and was laid up for a month. I’d have been back sooner, but I landed on my tomahawk.”
“I liked to slaughter a sentry before they got me. It made me feel better. Funny thing. Even playactin’, you want to take somebody with you.”
Coming Soon: Saddle Up! – Part Three. Who’s with me?