Cowboys and...Well, just Cowboys!

I’ve been watching the promos for the movie “Cowboys vs. Aliens.” Looks fun! Looks like the western town/cowboy part is really well portrayed, although I haven’t seen the movie yet. I can’t wait! I am hoping this movie will stir a renewed interest in the genre - more movies and books about America’s “Old West.” I am also furious with myself for not coming up with this idea for a book of my own – a modern-day twist to the theme and time period I love writing about – cowboys and the American West of the 1800’s.

No matter how you look at it, cowboys have always been popular. You can barely count the number of western movies that have been produced over the last 50 years, the biggest share of them in the 1950’s and 60’s. Lately, remakes of famous old standards like TRUE GRIT and 3:10 TO YUMA, have done well. Then there are the famous “big screen” favorites like DANCES WITH WOLVES and HOW THE WEST WAS WON – and of course there are the unforgettable Clint Eastwood “shooters.” My favorites are THE GUNS OF JOSIE WALES, PALE RIDER and TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARAH. Then there is the name known world wide for his western films – John Wayne. Actually, my favorite John Wayne movie is THE SHOOTIST – his very last film. It’s so touching to know that was the last movie he made before he died from cancer, when in the movie he was an old gunfighter – also dying from cancer. In the movie he went out of this life in the way only an old gunfighter should go – he “went down shooting.” I, of course, cried my eyes out.

TV got into the act during the popularity of the mini-series with LONESOME DOVE and CENTENNIAL. And of course few people are unfamiliar with the numerous TV half-hour and hour-long westerns like HAVE GUN/WILL TRAVEL and GUNSMOKE, the most famous of them all. I sure hated to read about the passing of James Arness, but he will live on forever in the form of Marshal Matt Dillon.

As far as books, few authors helped keep the genre alive like Will Henry and Louis L’Amour did. Dee Brown did a fabulous job of enlightening readers to the truth about the gradual demise of the American Indian way of life in his book BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE.

There is something about the American western frontier that fascinates, something about those pioneers that makes us proud and makes us want to keep the “right to bear arms.” We are even fascinated and in a strange way “proud” of our infamous outlaws, like Jesse James and Butch Cassidy. Even more fascinating is that there was a very fine line back then between outlaw and lawman. There were those who couldn’t say which Wyatt Earp and his brothers were … good? Or bad? How many books have you read, or movies have you watched, in which the “bad guy” was really good at heart?

Ah, yes, the American cowboy … restless, wild, roving, hard-drinking, ready for a fist fight, quick with a gun, tough, brave, rough looking yet handsome – even those who weren’t all that good looking were handsome in their own way when they wore those great hats and smoked that cheroot and stood their ground. I think the western hero has remained popular because we all identify with some part of their personality … perhaps we all daydream that we could be that rugged, that brave, that quick with a gun, that much in charge of our lives and ultimately that “free” to be whoever we want to be … that much “in control” of our own destinies and “unchained” from rules and responsibilities.

I truly believe there is a little bit of “cowboy” in all of us … and so I will keep writing books about men like that and the equally brave and tough women it took to keep up with them … or tame them … whichever they were brave enough to try. I love the American West, the American cowboy, and the American dreams they represented. It was an era when there were still frontiers to conquer, still places where man had never stepped, still gold and silver and oil to be found, still free land as long as you were willing to homestead that land, still endless horizons with no skyscrapers or smokestacks to mar the landscape. It’s the “cowboy” in Americans that makes them dare to try new ventures, dare to leave the familiar and take a new job or start their own business or move to a completely new area of the country. There is a little bit of “cowboy” in our armed forces, in that devil-may-care attitude of our veterans who fought world wars, in those who dared travel into space, in a boxer, a football player, a race car driver, even a reckless investor who risks it all on a hunch. It’s the American spirit, and a whole lot of that spirit can be identified as the “cowboy” in us. If you have a dream, if there is something you want to try but have put it off, if you want to stand up for yourself but are afraid to, if you have a good idea but haven’t put it out there into the real world, you need to “cowboy up!” Think like a cowboy, and you might be surprised where it can take you! I hope to keep that kind of spirit alive in my writing … and even though I’m told western history isn’t popular right now, I intend to “cowboy up” and keep writing what I love, because what goes around, comes around. Cowboys have always been a favorite, and although that genre isn’t the most popular right now, it will come back, and I’ll be ready!


  1. Great post! "My heroes have always been cowboys," and probably always will be. Another cowboy favorite is Sam Elliot. Love that voice. I also can't wait to see Cowboys and Aliens. What a concept!

  2. What Lucy said, Rosanne. Great blog. So much truth in your words. Please keep the American West alive by writing your great books. Love those cowboys!

  3. I'm with Lucy and Loralee! Great post, Rosanne!

  4. Great post, Rosanne! Amen!! Keep writing about cowboys and the old west. One movie I would like to add to your list is the "Electric Horseman" with Robert Redford. I loved it: the music, scenery, and his love for the horse! (I also like Sam Elliot and Tom Selleck.) I don't believe movies would do your books justice. They are so wonderful and take us right into the action! I also enjoy your descriptions of "sage and leather" and enjoy reading about how your subjects are always dressed. You would make a great fashion designer along with being the best writer of those days that are gone forever. "Power to the Old West" Rosanne. Keep blessing us with your marvelous books and teaching us about this part of America's history!

  5. I thought Tommy Lee Jones was a misunderstood cowboy in Lonesome Dove. One winter my family and I watched a Centennial episode every night during a heavy snow storm. Loved it, and really felt so blessed and cozy. All the hardships those pioneers withstood. Good westerns...yeah! Keep writing them for us, Rosanne.