A Treasure Found

One of the reasons I started writing westerns was being thoroughly addicted to television westerns in the fifties and sixties and seventies. I loved them all, but I certainly had my favorites: “The Virginian”, “Rawhide”, “Wagon Train,” “Cimarron Strip,” “Have Gun, Will Travel,” and on and on. Of course I also liked “Bonanza” and “The Big Valley” and other family oriented westerns, but the ones that really appealed to me featured the lone tough hero with a well-concealed heart of gold. He’s the hero I wrote in my westerns, including the one published in September, “The Lawman.” He’s the hero I truly love.

One trivia answer: the most popular genre on television during the 1950’s and 1960’s was westerns. There were several hundred western series during those decades. In checking a list of series for this blog, I found some that entirely escaped me. “Bordertown,” for one. “Brave Eagle” for another. And then “The Californians.”

I have mourned their loss. Oh, a few producers have tried. There was the “Magnificent Seven” that had a brief run. And the “Young Riders”. But none had the impact and staying power of their predecessors. I fumed and fussed, and finally had to be satisfied with Encore’s Western Channel where I’ve happily indulged in the nostalgia of “The Virginian”, “Gunsmoke”, and the enigmatic Paladin.

 I was going to blog about something else today, but then on Saturday, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Cracker Barrel (I go only once a year to get country ham and their wonderful cheesy hashbrowns because that’s about all my body should have in one year). Now Saturday is not a good day to go. Everyone in Memphis goes on Saturday morning, and there’s always a waiting time. Waiting times mean browsing. Browsing means sales. It always does for me, anyway, because it’s a great place to find some oddity that’s great for a gift basket or dirty Santa gift or little token of appreciation to someone.

I found the mother lode this time: an entire rack of collections of old western television series. Among them was a CD with the first season of “Wanted: Dead or Alive” with Steve McQueen. All 36 episodes. My fingers itched to grab all the series, but I disciplined my self and only took the McQueen series. Now if “Rawhide” had been there, I would have been in real trouble. Still, I might have to check back next week. Minus the country ham.

In any event, I don’t know if you all remember “Wanted: Dead and Alive.” Steve McQueen played Josh Randall, a moody bounty hunter who used a Winchester sawed-off shotgun. He was a man of few words who gave half – or even all – of his reward money to charity, then disappeared. I remember him as being absolutely relentless in pursuit of a wanted man but protective of children and women. I’m sure he had a secret somewhere, but I’ll have to listen to the series to discover it. I might add I was/am a huge Steve McQueen fan. Maybe it was the smoldering blue eyes.   Or the quirky grin. Or the laconic aloneness.

 Now I look forward to hosting a “Wanted” Dead or Alive” marathon and inviting my niece and grandnieces, all of whom I’ve addicted to westerns as well.

And I had to share my find with you, just in case you share my obsession and have a Cracker Barrel nearby.    Thirty six episodes for $12.99. There were also seasons of “The Virginian,” “Wagon Train,” “Bonanza” and “The Rifleman.” And then there was a three-CD library of episodes from a variety of western series.

 What is your favorite western from the past? And why? And do you mourn, as I do, their absence from the small – or maybe not quite so small  – screen today?

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15 thoughts on “A Treasure Found”

  1. Oh, I miss TV Westerns. I loved Steve McQueen in ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ too. I think my favorite of the old Westerns was Bonanza, but more recently I was a big fan of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. And I’m a sucker for the brooding lone hero with a troubled past.

  2. I loved the High Chaparral and Big Valley. I liked the series with the grumpier guys and strong women for some reason 😉

    Peace, Julie

  3. I’m actually too young to have been around in the heyday of the tv western but I wish it would make a comeback!!! Soooo much better than so much of the trash on tv today.

    As a kid I adored Dr Quinn (still do~even have the complete series box set!) But most of all I love, love, love Bonanza. Those Cartwrights just do it for me…and everytime I read a western I insert one of them in the hero’s place 🙂

  4. Steve McQueen? You lucked out, lady! There’s a Cracker Barrel about 40 minutes from me here in Utah. Never been inside. My body would freak out if I even breathed the cholesterol-laden air. But I may brave it after reading your blog. My favorite was High Chaparral, can’t find it anywhere these days.
    Thanks for the info and the smile, Pat.

  5. What I wouldn’t give for a good Western series or two. “The Rifleman,” “Rawhide,” “Wagon Train,” “Paladin,” “The Virginian,” “Bat Masterson,” “Bonanza,” “Young Riders,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” ‘Dr. Quinn” I never missed an episode. The ethic of the West – honor and standing for what was right – doesn’t seem to be in vogue today. Solid values reflected by dedication to family, justice, and a frontier full of new beginnings for those who need them. It may be we as a society have lost sight of the promise The West represented in simpler times.
    I was out of town the last week or so. At one store (SAMS, Wal-Mart, ?) I found a collection of Western episodes from a wide variety of shows. It was not inexpensive, $59 or so, but had
    60+- shows. Would make for a nice trip down memory lane.

    Thanks for a post that brought back lots of good memories.

  6. High Chaparal was one of my favorites as well. So is Rawhide that I’m anxiously trying to find. Particularly love the music on that one. I was in New Orleans last year and wandered into a famous bar where two women singer/pianists were belting out requests. One English-sounding gent asked for Rawhide, and by golly the entertainers knew it. I just sat there in happy nostalgia.

  7. Elizabeth. Unfortunately I have two Cracker Barrels within five miles. Very dangerous to good health. I don’t care much for their lunches and dinners but I love, love, love their breakfasts. And, hummmmm, I don’t usually eat breakfast except for coffee and V8 Juice. A visit is one of those rare guilty pleasures.

  8. Pat, my list of favorite old westerns is waaaay too long to mention here. Laredo was one of them though. I was thoroughly in love with Peter Brown. And I have to mention Laramie with Robert Fuller, Lancer, and Cheyenne with Clint Walker. I do love my cowboys. I know growing up and watching TV westerns is the reason I write western romance.

    Enjoy your Wanted Dead or Alive treasure you found at Cracker Barrel!

  9. Goldie. . .Thanks so much for the comment on the Lawman.
    Linda. . .I too love Cheyenne. They’ve been running episodes on Encore’s Western Channel and they are among the best of the westerns.

  10. Hi Patricia, my first and only Cracker Barrel so far was last summer in Cedar City UTah. I loved it but there’s none close to me. So glad you fo und your treasure!

    I hadn’t thourhg of Bordertown in years. I loved it. It was repeated on some cable channel around here some years ago.

    Aw, I’m a Bonanza girl, but I loved all the shows and thank God for the Western channel. Yee-haw.


  11. Tanya. . .I think Cracker Barrel started in the south and is now moving rapidly in the west. There’s few interstate exits in the south without one. Altogether too much temptation. I love their funky general store; it’s one of the few places you can still get iron skillets.

  12. Oh Pat I loved those old westerns too. I remember all the ones listed here plus Laredo, Wyatt Earp, Death Valley Days, Maverick, Broken Arrow, Wild Wild West, and a few others that kind of danced around the edges of being westerns – Yancy Derringer, Here Comes The Brides and Zorro

  13. Hi Pat,
    We have a Cracker Barrel here in Oklahoma City and we do a “pilgrimage” every so often, too, but we have to pass a lot of other great breakfast places to get to it so it doesn’t happen that often for us because it is on the other side of OK City. I loved all those old westerns too. I remember when I was a little girl, and Bonanza came on right after The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. I begged mom to let me stay up and watch Bonanza and sometimes she would let me. I was in love with Adam. I even asked her to call me Adam when I was about 7 or so. LOLLOL (No, she wouldn’t do it.) My favorite western was LANCER, and it was only on for a couple of seasons. It had James Stacy and Wayne Maunder in it as half brothers who hadn’t known about each other and only met as adults. Do you remember it? I loved Rawhide, too. Always a great story there. Thanks for a wonderful post.

    Cheryl P.

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