John Wayne is featured in my living room at least once a day, because my husband is a HUGE fan! I don’t watch (I have to write!) but I know many of these from sheer repetition (I have to eat sometime, right?)
All you have to do is guess the movie the quote came from to win one of my Western romances, set in the world of professional bull riding. I’ll send one each to two people who get them all right (or comes the closest) NO GOOGLING!
I’ll give you a hint: There’s only one quote from each movie.
‘Monsewer, words are what men live by’
‘Somebody outa belt you in the mouth…but I won’t, I won’t, the hell I won’t’
‘Fill your hands you son-of-a-bitch’
Slap some bacon on a biscuit and let’s go! We’re burnin’ daylight!
I’m a dying man, scared of the dark.
“You can call me Father, you can call me Jacob, you can call me Jake. You can call me a dirty son-of-a-bitch, but if you EVER call me Daddy again, I’ll finish this fight.”
“Baby sister, I was born game, and I mean to go out that way. That shows you know more about the Lord and His Good Book than you know about men. I was proud to tell my deputy’s wife that I shot his killers.”
“I guess you can’t break out of prison and into society in the same week.”
“Next time you shoot somebody, don’t go near ’em till you’re sure they’re dead’’
They’re famous – but they’re just a little bit dead. They were hung.
Okay, these are the prizes in the offing!
Left with only nightmares and an ugly physical scar, Aubrey Madison is on the road looking for a new life with more freedom. On a whim she answers an ad for a groom on a Colorado ranch. The job gives her plenty of hard work and a quiet place to heal – and it also introduces her to hot, old-school rancher Max Jameson. Max has been raising cattle and breaking horses for all his life, just like his father did before him. Now he’s faced with the fact that those skills are not enough to keep the land in the family. Bree has an idea to save the ranch, but can she risk getting attached to the land and the cowboy who comes with it?
Army medic Katya Smith is unable to get past the experience of losing a fellow soldier. She can’t go back to her unit until she can keep from melting down, so she takes a job as a medic for the pro bull riding circuit in an effort to recover her mojo. She doesn’t expect to become attached to the sport or the riders, especially the king rider of them all, Cam Cahill. Cam is a two-time world champion, but those years have taken a toll. It is time to retire, but he can’t imagine himself off the circuit. Katya does wonderful things for his body, but he is not certain he is ready for the things she does for his heart. She has made it plain this is a temp job, but if he could get her to stay, he can see a whole new future.
The Fillies welcome guest Kathleen D. Bailey. Please make her welcome.
Judge Henry Garth owns “Shiloh,” the largest ranch in and around Medicine Bow, Wyoming. When feuding ranchers and Indians from “up north” want to meet to settle their differences, Garth offers Shiloh as a neutral venue. He has two house guests: Ben, a city-slicker newspaperman come to visit Garth’s daughter Betsy, and the Indian Affairs agent who’s supposed to settle the whole mess. Garth wants a peaceful solution to the Indian/rancher problem, but his plans go awry when a group of thugs takes over Shiloh. He finds himself a hostage in his own home along with Betsy, the journalist, the Indian agent and Randy, his singing cowboy. His other hands are all at the roundup.
The hostages try various ways to foil the thugs. After the criminals take everyone’s guns, Randy mouths to Ben that there’s one in the desk Ben’s leaning on. Ben sneaks it out and aims it at the ringleader, but loses his nerve. When the captives discover a small bottle of laudanum they try to drug one of their captors’ coffee, but they are again foiled. The Indian Affairs guy turns out to be part of the problem when he reveals himself as allied with the criminals. There are other attempts at freedom, and each time the viewer thinks, “Well, they’ve got it now.” Except they don’t, because this is a 90-minute Western and there’s plenty of time for things to go wrong. Even The Virginian, Garth’s relentlessly resourceful foreman, can’t get them out of this one. He’s been shot.
Where will it all end? How will it all end, with every escape blocked?
Western movies and television have always known how to keep a viewer engaged. The classic stories hook viewers by baiting, switching and baiting again. Just when the viewer thinks the cowboy/wagon scout/marshal has figured a way out of their dilemma, someone or something will trip them up. Just when the viewer thinks there’s no hope, a solution appears, and they’ll wonder why they didn’t see it before. It’s like mystery writing only with horses.
The genre could be formulaic, especially in the early years. My husband and I are aggressive Western watchers and we’ve learned to recognize the archetypes such as the physician who won’t practice medicine any more, usually due to alcohol or losing someone precious to them. Or losing someone precious, then turning to alcohol. But it’s what they do with these archetypes that makes these tales stand the test of time.
I spent most of one summer watching “How The West Was Won,” the epic TV miniseries starring an aging James Arness as Zeb Macahan, one of the legendary Mountain Men. Arness was perfection in the role of his life, and supporting cast members included shoot-em-up royalty such as Slim Pickens and Dennis Weaver. But as I rolled through it a second time, I became hooked on the story itself. It wasn’t just Zeb meeting up with old cronies, or rescuing his kinfolk from one scrape after another. Oldest nephew Luke, played by a young Bruce Boxleitner, stumbled into serious trouble when he went back East to check on his father. He got conscripted into the Union army, ran away from same, stole a horse and shot a sheriff. The sheriff lived but lost the use of one arm, and that one rash act—and the sheriff’s lust for revenge—followed Luke through the entire series. Luke spent most of the show on the run, eluding the sheriff’s spies, hired guns and the sheriff himself. The threat to Luke’s life kept resurfacing, like Whack-A-Mole, every time he thought he had a chance at happiness. It’s perfect story structure, a thread that runs through the entire series and keeps the watcher hooked.
The best Westerns carry out the classic themes of guilt, shame, retribution and justice. They connect on a deeper level, as with John Wayne in “The Searchers.” It’s why I chose to write Westerns. Take two strong characters, give them something to fight about, give them an attraction—and set it against the Oregon Trail or a cattle drive or the Land Rush. Watch the magic happen.
What of Judge Garth? He solved his dilemma without a single bullet. Calling on his memories of a court case, he set two of his assailants against each other. A long-simmering grudge came to the front, and they destroyed one another. With all other escape routes blocked, Garth solved the problem with his mind.
The perfect ending to a not-so-perfect day.
The Western genre is adventure, romance and at its best something more. Western stories pack a satisfying experience for the reader. And if you’re a writer of Westerns, you can chalk up all that movie watching as research. You’re welcome.
So…what’s your favorite Western movie, mini-series or TV program? I’ll be giving away a paper copy of my first book, “Westward Hope”; an e-copy of the sequel, “Settler’s Hope”: and a New England gift pack to three separate winners. Leave a comment to enter the drawing.
Kathleen Bailey is a journalist and novelist with 40 years’ experience in the nonfiction, newspaper and inspirational fields. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s, a young adult in the 70s and a young mom in the 80s. It’s been a turbulent, colorful time to grow up, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it and written about most of it.
Bailey’s work includes both historical and contemporary fiction, with an underlying thread of men and women finding their way home, to Christ and each other. Her first Pelican book, ‘‘Westward Hope,” was published in September 2019. This was followed by a novella, “The Logger’s Christmas Bride,” in December 2019. Her second full-length novel, “Settler’s Hope,” was released July 17, 2020. She has a Christmas novella, “The Widow’s Christmas Miracle,” scheduled for this December as part of Pelican’s “Christmas Extravaganza,” and is completing “Redemption’s Hope,” the third and final book in the Western Dreams series.
She lives in New Hampshire with her husband David. They have two grown daughters.
Last week I wrote about Lonesome Dove. This week we’ll take a look at the inspiration for the book.
In June 1866, former Texas Ranger Charles Goodnight and cattle rancher Oliver Loving went into partnership to drive cattle to western markets. Settlers, soldiers stationed on forts and Navajos recently placed on reservations were all demanding food supplies, and the two men took a chance that their venture would be profitable.
They planned to drive 2000 Longhorn cattle from Texas to Wyoming on a trail that later became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. That meant passing through dangerous Indian territory. But given Loving’s knowledge of cattle and Goodnight’s background as a Texas Ranger and Indian fighter, the two men were confident they could succeed.
Not only was their venture a success, but it also led to an amazing act of friendship that inspired the Pulitzer prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove.
Things went well for the two men until their third drive in 1867. Heavy rains slowed them down. To save time, Loving went ahead of the herd to secure contracts, taking a scout with him. Despite telling Goodnight that he would travel only at night through Indian country, he rode during the day.
That turned out to be a bad decision as he was trapped by Comanches along the Pecos River. Though he was shot in the arm and side, he managed to escape and reach Fort Sumner.
His injuries were not life-threatening, but he developed gangrene. The doctor at the fort was unwilling to do an amputation and Loving died. He was buried at the fort, but that was not his final resting place. Before Loving died, he turned to his good friend Goodnight and asked that his body be returned to Texas. He did not want to be buried in a “foreign land.”
Goodnight promised Loving that his wish would be carried out, and that was a promise he meant to keep. But honoring his friend’s request couldn’t have been easy.
Credited with inventing the chuckwagon, Goodnight arranged for a special wagon and metal casket to be built. With the help of Loving’s son, Joseph, he had his friend’s body exhumed and carried him 600 miles back to Texas—an act of friendship matched by few.
Loving is buried in Weatherford, Texas.
What is the truest form of friendship that you’ve experienced?
While do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by sheltering in place, a new challenge arises . . . how to stay sane while cooped up with annoying (cough, cough), I mean beloved family members.
Never fear, we have a host of cowboys who are ready to hogtie your boredom and send it packin’.
There’s a western to fit every mood.
In the mood for a crime drama? Try Longmire (streaming on Netflix).
Maybe you’re into reality shows. Check out The Cowboy Way (streaming on Amazon Prime).
There’s nothing better than a good medical drama, right? Gotta love Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (available for purchase on Amazon).
Or maybe you like to mix in a little kooky steampunk action with your cowboys. You can’t get kookier than Wild, Wild West (available on Netflix DVD).
And if you like kooky, you’ll no doubt enjoy this western adventure/comedy from back in 1990s – The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (available on Amazon Prime).
Or maybe you like to mix things up with a bit of science fiction. Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford. Yep. Cowboys & Aliens (available on Netflix DVD or to rent on Amazon).
Then to help you get some much-needed exercise, everybody can get up and dance through a barn raising with the classic western musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (available through Netflix DVD or to rent on Amazon).
What western movie/TV show are you going to watch to help save the world?
A dear friend, Jennifer Jacobson sent me a link to an article on a wonderful artist, Felice House. It’s her amazing work you see in this post. Her paintings and Evan Porter’s write up got me thinking more than usual about heroes and heroines.
We all love a strong, confident hero. The phrase alpha male comes to mind. When I started writing, I attended countless workshops on how to create a strong hero. But writing this, I paused and thought for a moment. How many workshops had I taken on how to create a self-assured, strong heroine? I’ve attended a few, though not nearly as many as ones on heroes. That thought led me to realize whether I’m reading a book or writing one, for me, the stronger the hero’s personality, the stronger the heroine must be. She can’t be a wimpy Missy Miss who crumbles under a strong wind or the hero’s stinging retort.
I want a heroine who doesn’t need a man in her life because she’s fine just the way she is, thank you very much. But should she find one, she believes he’s lucky to have her in his life. She has skills she’s proud of and helps the hero as much, often more, than he helps her. She’s not sitting back moping about the obstacles fate has thrown in her path. No, sir. Instead, she tugs on her big girl panties and develops a strategy to overcome her problems. And if the hero is one of those obstacles? He’d better watch out.
Felice House’s painting reminded me of that type of heroine. When House moved from Massachusetts to Texas, like many of us, she fell in love with “western” culture: the clothes, cowboy boots, music, the whole thing. However, when she watched classic western movies starring actors such as John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and James Dean, she found women’s portrayal as helpless damsels in distress disturbing. House described the situation as “the empowered and the powerless.” Already familiar with creating work that fought stereotypical women’s images, House set out to re-envision these cowboy heroes with women.
As you can see from House’s paintings, she and her models succeeded in portraying woman every bit as formidable, compelling and fierce as the original actors. To add emphasis, House made the paintings 1.25 times larger than life to ensure these western women towered over people. These paintings portray images of strong, capable women who can handle anything life sends their way.
House’s paintings have inspired a 2019 goal for me—create heroines half as awe-inspiring, assertive, and frankly, badass as the women in Felice House’s paintings. If I can do that, I’ll be more than happy.
Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about what you think makes a compelling heroine to be entered to win a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.
To read Evan Porter’s article click here. All images of Felice House’s work are used with permission. To view more of her paintings click here.
Few things have made such a huge impact on our lives than the movie industry. I don’t know about you but I love sitting in a dark theater and watching magic unfold on the screen. I’m drawn into the story and love watching how the actors chose to portray each scene. Some are excellent and I lose myself to the magic to the point where I’m up there in the story with them. It’s a beautiful thing and deeply personal.
Roundhay Garden Scene was the first recorded short silent film in 1888 by a Frenchman named Louis Le Prince. It’s definitely the oldest surviving one. Amazing!
Thomas Edison started capturing motion on film around that same time. Everything was very short, approx. a minute or two.
The first film with a sustained plot was a 12 minute one titled The Great Train Robbery. Suddenly America had a new form of entertainment. They called those early films flickers and I’ll bet you can guess why.
They were all silent as no one had figured out yet how to record sound. The theaters hired men and women to play the piano while the movie showed. Slow songs, fast songs, medium songs designed for the biggest impact.
They built huge movie palaces with ornate lobbies, crystal chandeliers, and luxurious carpet. Instead of hiring one pianist, they had orchestras and they hooked the American public.
I recently watched an eight part documentary that Robert Redford made called The American West and it was so interesting. I found it on Amazon Prime. Redford started at the end of the Civil War and showed each step in the progression of the settlement of the west. President Grant actually opened up the west and offered cheap land as a last ditch effort to keep another Civil War from starting and hold the country together.
I didn’t know that.
At the end of the documentary, was a clip of Wyatt Earp on a film set in Hollywood. He was 80 years old and a young John Wayne (21) was working as a prop boy. John Wayne was enamored by the man he idolized and hanging out with Earp forever changed John Wayne. He imitated Earp’s manner of walking and talking and he adopted the Code of the West that Earp lived by.
Wyatt Earp must’ve been drawn to movie making. I’d love to have known what he thought. He was often found on movie sets and that’s where John Ford, the director met him. Ford got Earp to draw on paper exactly how the gunfight at the OK corral happened and he used the sketch to film the gunfight scene in My Darling Clementine.
Wyatt died in 1929 in Los Angeles and cowboy actors Tom Mix and William S. Hart were pallbearers.
Can you imagine a world without cinema? I can’t. I’m sure glad they invented sound though.
Tell me—do you like to go to the movies? If so, what is it that draws you? Maybe it’s the popcorn. Or what is one of your favorite movies? I’m giving away a copy of either To Catch a Texas Star or Gunsmoke and Lace to two people who comment. In addition to title, winner chooses either print or ebook. I’ll draw the winners on Sunday.
My western mystery, The Reckoning, was recently released by The Wild Rose Press. It’s set in 1868 and follows Ike McAlister, a Union soldier who returns from the Civil War to his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas to find that his parents have been killed by Quantrill’s raiders. He sets out on a single-minded hunt to find the murderers; a search that takes him to the high plains of Colorado. My sequel, The Renewal, set in South Park, Colorado, 1872, was released in March 2108, also by The Wild Rose Press.
Let’s talk westerns for a minute. We’ve all heard that the traditional American western is dead—which prompts the question, ‘If that’s so, why write westerns?’ Well, it’s true the golden age of westerns was some time back. Since then, there’s been a bit of a dry spell until recently when several big box office westerns based on great new novels have been released.
Are they’re coming back? It sure seems like it. Why would they be mounting a return? Probably because westerns and the Old West embody timeless values—a place and time where right triumphs over wrong. Not always, certainly, but in our stories it does. The American West in the nineteenth century was a black and white society with clear-cut rules—there were things you were supposed to do as well as things you weren’t. And if you did wrong, there were consequences, oftentimes immediate.
Code of the West
There was a code of the West, even observed among the bad guys. Simple rules for simpler times. Unwritten, but adhered to nonetheless. The Code drew its strength from the underlying character of westerners, both men and women alike. Life back then was hard, but it was also simple. Things that needed to get done got done. Whining wasn’t tolerated. Complainers were ignored. You weren’t a victim. You played the hand you were dealt.
If you’re getting the idea I like that kind of culture, you’re right.
The world we live in today sometimes baffles me. Everything seems to be different shades of gray. Honor and fidelity seem to be out of fashion. People are entitled. The media are advocates, not observers.
While the Code of the West was unwritten and existed in various forms, there were certain common elements everyone—from the hard-working sodbuster, to the law-abiding citizen, to the hardened criminal—typically abided by. Granted, there were exceptions, but generally that held true.
In 2004, Jim Owens synthesized the Code into ten guiding principles in his book, Cowboy Ethics- What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.
Live each day with courage.
Take pride in your work.
Always finish what you start.
Do what has to be done.
Be tough, but fair.
Keep your promises.
Ride for the brand.
Talk less and say more.
Some things aren’t for sale.
Know where to draw the line.
Let’s look at three of these.
How about number seven—Ride for the Brand. It means be loyal to the people in your life—from family and friends, to those you work for. Support the people you’re involved with.
Take a look at number four—Do what has to be done. Life is oftentimes messy. Our days are filled with ups and downs, and we make choices all the time. This is about choosing to get done what has to be done, then getting on with life.
Next, there’s number nine—Some things aren’t for sale. The Code gave westerners a guide to live by that they broke at their own peril. Are there still things today that aren’t for sale? What are they for you? They might be different for each of us, but at the end of the day I’d wager we all still have values that are non-negotiable. After all, values don’t really change—only times, circumstances, and people do.
The good news is the values the Code embodied haven’t vanished from today’s America, but more often than not it seems they have been marginalized. Popular culture tends to look down on old-time values, or should I say the timeless values of nineteenth century America. We’re an instant gratification society that focuses on the here and now, and disregards the lessons of the past. Imagine a world where you sat with your family for dinner at night, even going so far as to talk with each other. Imagine a world where a man’s word, and a woman’s, was their bond. Where handshakes took the place of fifty-page contracts and lawyers.
Arthur Chapman captured these principles in a poem he penned in 1917.
“Out Where The West Begins”
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
And a man makes friends without half trying—
That’s where the West begins.
So, yes, occasionally I yearn for those simpler times amid the hustle and bustle of our world. We’re inundated today with various media from morning to night. Sometimes Ike’s and Lorraine’s world-my main characters-looks pretty appealing. Especially right now.
At the end of the day, westerns remind us of our solid roots and what we were and could become again. That’s why the American western will never die.
To buy a copy of Mike’s latest release The Renewal, click here.
Mike is giving away the winner’s choice of either a print or digital copy of his novel, The Renewal. To be entered in the drawing leave a comment about one of the ten Code of West principles listed above.
I love Christmas movies. Especially the classics. Miracle on 34th Street is probably my all-time favorite. It’s a Wonderful Life is a close second.
It’s rare to find a western romance Christmas movie. At least for me. (I don’t have time for the Hallmark Christmas movie marathons.) Maybe you know of some good ones to recommend. Please leave me movie names in the comments!
I did run across a made for TV Christmas movie many years ago that has stuck with me. It was as corny as all get out, but I loved every minute of it. Dolly Parton and Lee Majors were the two stars. It dates all the way to my high school years – 1986. A Smoky Mountain Christmas. Anyone remember this one? I actually bought a copy of it about five years ago, just because I wanted to see it again.
Dolly plays country music star Lorna Davis who is suffering from writer’s block, so she decides to leave the big city and get back to her roots in the Smoky Mountains over the holidays. When she gets to her cabin, however, it’s filled with seven orphaned children who are hiding away from a bad situation. This is where the plot overlaps with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Mountain Dan has been watching out for the kids on the sly, which bring him into contact with Lorna and pulls him out of his hermit shell. The two of them work together to save the kids. But not only the kids need saving In true Snow White style, there is a wicked witch, a poison apple, and a true love’s kiss that come into play as well. Yes, it’s corny – I warned you – but for someone who loves fairy tales and rugged mountain men and heroines who take in orphans – it was perfect.
Besides, it might have been a few years between this show and Lee Majors’s appearance as Heath Barkley on The Big Valley, but he still makes a mighty fine western hero.
What are your favorite holiday movies?
Any recommendations for romantic western Christmas movies?
Lately I’ve wondered how an Iowa city girl ended up writing romances with cowboy heroes. Or, I’ve wondered about the reasons other than the obvious—that cowboys are incredibly sexy. For my first official blog as a filly at Petticoats and Pistols, I’m sharing what fascinates me about cowboys.
For me, a cowboy isn’t as much about the occupation as the state of mind and attitude. Sure when I think of a cowboy, I see a man in form fitting Levi’s or Wranglers. I see dusty, worn cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, but it’s more than that, too. There’s something about the way he moves in a slow, yet deliberate way, that says he’ll take his time with what matters in life. If you’ve seen Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride, you know what I mean. If not, watch it now. I’ll wait.
Now that we’re done drooling over Scott, back to the topic at hand. Cowboys have a connection to the land that goes deeper than most people’s. That taps into my love of my grandparents’ farm in Decorah, Iowa. I spent hours wandering over that land spinning stories and imaging my life living on a similar place. Writing about my heroes and heroines strolling over their land or walking along Wishing’s streets fill me with the same warm affection. That intense bond with the ZSAER%^land was a big inspiration behind my Wishing, Texas series. For those heroes, their link Ty Barnett’s ranch, The Bar 7 and each other anchor their lives.
As to a cowboy’s attitude and mind-set—people see him as a loner, and he is, but I also see his strong tie to family. Family, however he defines it, is allowed past his guard. When I wrote my first novel for Harlequin, I wanted my hero so desperate for money he’d model in New York. But I wanted something different. What does a cowboy love more than his ranch and horse? His mama. That one detail told me everything I needed to know about my hero.
A cowboy has a sense of honor that factors into every decision. In my first Wishing, Texas book, To Love A Texas Cowboy, Ty Barnett’s world is turned upside down because of a promise to a friend. One he’ll keep even if it means dealing with Cassie Reynolds. This unwavering honor paired with a good dose of Alpha male, makes writing stories with cowboy heroes fun when I turn the tables on them. In To Catch A Texas Cowboy, AJ Quinn’s sick of hearing “let’s just be friends” from women. Poor cowboy. I had a blast torturing AJ giving him what he asked, but not what he bargained for, in New Yorker Grace Henry.
For me, these characteristics make cowboys fascinating, and oh so hero-worthy. Now it’s your turn. Tell me what it about cowboys makes you swoon or say that’s a hero?
I’m giving away a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy and a wine glass. Post a comment to enter.
I love a good western flick, and when my boys (who are computer nerds and Star Wars lovers) pleaded with me to take them to see the latest rendition of The Magnificent Seven, they didn’t have to twist my arm very hard to get me to say yes. So last night (Tuesday is bargain night at our local theater – I’m too cheap to pay full price for a first run movie, even a western LOL), we finally made the time to go see it.
It was a great, gritty western in the classic style. You just have to cheer for rough and tumble cowboys who find meaning for their lives by bonding together to help others.
Now, I have to admit that I never saw the original with Yul Brenner. After first meeting him as the king of Siam in The King and I, I just couldn’t quite picture him as a gunslinger. But as I perused the cast listed on the 1960 film, there are some pretty big names from the western genre – Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn – so I might need to reconsider.
However, I fell in love with the television series version from the late 1990s. It only ran a couple years, but I loved every minute of it. (It didn’t hurt that the cast was comprised of some pretty good looking cowboys.)
I had a bit of a crush on Eric Close at the time. You gotta admit, he makes a right fine western hero.
In the latest edition, Chris Pratt was the one who stole my heart. Gotta love a cowboy with a sense of humor along with a dangerous set of skills to ensure he is always taken seriously. Doesn’t the picture below just have western romance written all over it? The movie was about as far from a romance as you can get, but I can’t help but be inspired by this picture. Makes me want to spin off on another tale altogether.
So, have you seen the movie yet? If so, what did you think?