Waxing nostalgically about old-time westerns returned to mind my unpublished – beyond my own personal printer – classic – if you can call something no one’s ever read a classic and if you will indulge me I will – I call Saddle Up!
Explaining to those unfamiliar with these occasional excerpts I inflict upon an unbidding readership, Saddle Up! is a compendium of imagined interviews with actors and otherwise – critters, tumbleweed, “The Wind” – who regularly appeared in the most popular genre of the day, playing the same roles so often they became identified with them, earning inclusion as “Experts” in this collected fictionalization.
Today’s sample derives from the subsection of the book entitled,
“Characters Certain To Be Killed”
Including “The First Indian Over The Wall”, “The Henchman Ready To Confess”, “The Galloping Cavalryman Carrying the Flag” and “The Good Guy’s Headstrong Younger Brother.”
A chapter that also includes,
“The Grizzled Prospector Who Strikes It Rich (Foolishly Blabbing About It In The Saloon)”
Ready to ride?
Then “Saddle Up!”
THE GRIZZLED PROSPECTOR: “I didn’t mind gettin’ bumped off; if I don’t, there’s no story. I had my fun along the way. I’d do a funny dance when I hit ‘pay dirt.’ I got to sing drunk. I’d get a chuck under the chin from some playful saloon girl.
“Not bad for an old coot with no teeth.
“I played the same part for ten years. Then the roof fell in, and I was finished.
“They had to kill me; I got that. If I had been bushwhacked along the trail or gunned down at the ‘Claim Site’, I’d have no beef.
But that is not how it happened.
“The scene begins with me workin’ my claim, hummin’ some old ‘folk ditty’ the producers don’t have to pay royalties for – ‘Oh, Susanna’, or somethin’. Before you know it, this ‘claim jumper’ sneaks up behind me and he brains me with my own shovel.
“They’re supposed to come close, and put the ‘Sound Effect’ in later. But this time, ‘Oh, Baby!’ I went out like a light! When I woke up, I'd missed lunch!
“They race me off to the hospital. X-rays show a serious concussion. There was talk about surgery, puttin’ a steel plate in back there. Thinkin’ of my career, my longtime agent said ‘No.’
“You hit a steel plate with a shovel, it goes “Clang!” You don’t want to hear ‘Clang!’ The movie audience expects ‘Thwack!’ No good throwin’ a ‘Thwack!’ in later. There is this extended ‘”Clang!” Echo’ you just can’t cover up.
“Turns out, I had to give up work anyway. At least as ‘The Grizzled Prospector.’ When I went back, they caught me wincin’ when I knew it was comin’. What do they call in today? (PAUSING TO THINK) Oh yeah. ‘PTSD.’
“Of course, there’s no ‘Workman’s Compensation’ for ‘wincin.’ I earned my keep, playin’ ‘Extras’ in card games.
“I had ten good years. Actually married a playful saloon girls. She was ‘type cast.’ Ran off with a fella playin’ a cardsharp.
A LONG PAUSE.
“Y’know, I still don’t get it. There’s plenty of gunplay in westerns. But they don’t use actual ‘hardware.’
“A rubber shovel? I might still be workin’.
A PENSIVE PAUSE.
“I get headaches just thinkin’ about it.
LOOKING UP AT THE INTERVIEWER.
“Got one right now.”