Welcome to Day Three of Jingle, Jangle, Spurs! Before I wrote my first western romance, I wrote science fiction/fantasy time travel and still do under another pen name. What most folks don’t know, however, is that I also wrote a teleplay. And guess what, it was a western!
I had my first western book idea years back and started the book for fun, when lo and behold, I got approached by a very small production company that had joined with a western re-enactment group. These guys wanted a fun story they could shoot a tech reel for, (tech reels are to see what it might look like and how something flows on film) before they got serious about trying their hand at turning it into a major project. So I went to work and the tech reel was shot between Thanksgiving and Christmas. What an education that was! Not to mention a lot of fun. It was shot in Northern California and we all had a blast. I’ve never had a holiday season quite like it. It was definitely a combination of Jingles, Jangles, and Spurs. Lots of spurs, as the re-enactors acting as the bulk of the characters, were in full costume. The pictures are some I took while on the set. Yes, I got to be there!
These guys took their westerns seriously and I found out how much when they took me along to some western events in Los Angeles a few times. Some were friends with old-time actor favorites such as cast members from Little House on the Prairie, Gun Smoke (I got to meet Amanda Blake who played Miss Kitty) and Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman. One gentleman knew a few stuntmen (Steve McQueen’s for one) and I got to meet and hang out with Jack Elam and also James Best (Dukes of Hazard). Those were such fun times but also a lot of work. They didn’t pursue the project due to various circumstances, so I still have my rights to that story. One of these days I’ll get around to finishing the book for fun. But I wouldn’t trade those weeks for anything. I met a lot of great folks back then and had the best holiday season ever. And, got to hang out with folks who were western enthusiasts through and through, both professional actors and re-enactors alike.
I have to say, my biggest thrill was meeting the wonderful Jack Elam, who shook my hand and thanked me for being a writer. “Without you, we’re nothing,” he said. “it’s an honor to meet you!” As a kid, I grew up watching this actor in Disney movies and various westerns. And yes, he DID look like that! And he also had a wonderful smile. I have pictures I took of him but I’m at my son’s for Christmas and don’t have access to them here. I had to post one of good ol’ Jack though, for those that don’t recognize the name but definitely will the face.
Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and get to read a lot of Christmas stories that take place in the old west! Speaking of which, what old-time actors from your favorite western shows or movies would you like to meet and spend time with around the holidays?