Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Saddle Up! - Part Five"


People, animals, a piece of vegetation and a Force of Nature remember – in their own words – their experiences working in classic and not so classic western movies. (As imagined by me.)



“We just stunk the whole time.”

“At the start of the picture, all the ‘extras’d’ be lined up for assignment. The Assistant Director’d go down the line, and he’d point – ‘Cowboy,’ ‘sheepman,’ ‘cowboy,’ ‘sheepman...’ We’d stand there, prayin’, ‘Please! Not ‘sheepman!’ Please!”

“I never made ‘cowboy’. Figured it was a height thing. You think of cowboys as bein’ tall men. I’m five-foot three. In boots.”

“I’d come home, one whiff, and my wife knew which part I was playin’. I’d have to sleep in the garage. Not from the shame of it. It was the smell.”

“‘Course, the cowboy weren’t no bouquet of roses either. But somehow – the ‘Cowboy Mystique’, or some such – their smell was ‘heroic.’ Ours was just stinky.”

“Sheepmen got the short end of everything. Cowboys dressed in stylish clothes and used up-to-date weapons. Sheepmen wore sheep vests, and used firearms that looked like they made them themselves. Cowboys also rode horses, while we rode, I don’t know, donkeys.”

“In every picture, the sheepman was considered 'the interloper'. When the cowmen would bushwhack us or burn down our houses, or shoot us to pieces when we’d go to town for provisions, it’s like, ‘They had it comin’.’ That always burned my chaps, even though I was just playin’ a sheepman. I mean, what’s the difference?

"Sheep, cattle. You raise ‘em, you butcher ‘em and you eat ‘em. And, in our case, make sweaters out of ‘em. Sure, they get belts, but which would you rather have, a belt or a sweater?

“We never caught a break, ‘till the Good Guy took our side. He wasn’t fighting injustice, or anything noble. He was just sweet on some sheep girl.”

“Word was the Assistant Director was on the take. Slip him a ‘ten spot’, and he’d make you a cowboy. I refused. And I was always a sheepman.”



“As I came out, pulled myself up, and took my first unsteady steps, there was the sense – or so I was told by the cattle who were there – that a star had literally been born on the silver screen. Who knew that would be the high point of my entire career?”

“It’s not that I’m bitter. It’s just hard when your shining moment occurs seconds after you’re born, and your life is downhill from there. I mean, I did work after that - I worked a lot - but I never stood out.

"After the auspicious way I came into the world, I was just part of the herd. One of many. Never played a stray, never got branded or butchered – thank God – never became a little cowgirl’s pet. I was just there. In the middle. Trying not to get stepped on. It was quite a comedown. You're a star for a second, and then, just another piece of meat.”

“When I was born, I was special. Everybody said so. I had something. The camera loved me. But the minute I wasn't cute and vulnerable anymore…nobody cared. (TEARING UP) Okay, here come the waterworks. As you can see, it still hurts.”

“I really should be grateful. I mean, how many cows can claim that the moment of their birth was immortalized by the iconic director, John Ford, in the classic western, Red River? Not many, I can tell you. I was truly blessed."

"I just wish I’d been blessed a little longer.”



“In those days, you had two choices: You could play a Chinese laundryman, or you could be a Chinese laundryman. I chose the former.”

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