The White Cowboys

The iconic buttes of Monument Valley, AZ have been pictured in many western movies.

Non Stop Western Movies

A few months ago, back in the dead of winter, I found myself holed up in Southern Utah taking public assistance for a couple of weeks. As a result I had no control over what I watched on TV.  This wasn’t a bad thing really, for I got a chance to watch a whole bunch of western movies, mostly from the 50s. Not only did I enjoy viewing the films, but also, I learned something about moviemaking and storytelling.

The Movies

The movies I watched were Gun Glory (1957), The Last Wagon(1956), The Cattle King(1963), Fort Dobbs(1958), The Jayhawkers(1959), The Marauders(1955), The Sheepman(1958) and McLintock(1963). All except McLintock and the Cattle King  were made in the 50s and McLintock differed significantly from the rest because it was a comedy, even though John Wayne starred as George Washington McLintock, the eccentric cattle baron. More about that particular film later.

A Common Theme?

What struck me most about the 50s Westerns was how quickly and easily the main characters changed partners. Even death of a spouse was often the catalyst for these changes. For example in the Jayhawkers, Fess Parker plays a man, just escaped from prison, who is headed home. Only problem is the woman in the house is not his wife, as she is buried nearby. No problem, for the moviemakers, because the homesteader, Nicole Maurey, ends of spending the entire film with Fess, as they try to find justice against the gangs of marauding men that are terrorizing the Kansas territory.

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara  during the filming of McLintock.

John Wayne In a Comedy

For the 50s movies, this seems to be a common theme among these Westerns, at least the ones reviewed in this article. Only with the sixties films of McLintock and The Cattle King, did I detect a more normal relationship between man and woman. The story of McLintock revolves around a powerful western couple, played by John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and their humorous escapades, as they try to reconcile their differences.

What’s Going On Here

The rugged reality of life in the Old West is definitely at work in a lot of these Westerns. The dangers were real, life was hard, and men and women could die suddenly for no logical reason. When tragic events like this did occur, survival may have quickly necessitated the relocation with a new partner of the opposite sex.

The Wars of the 40s and 50s

From 1942 till 1953, the U.S. went through two costly military conflicts. World War II was by the far the most deadly, but we should not forget the 50,000 soldiers, who perished in the Korean Conflict. Perhaps, some of the resulting turmoil on the home front is reflected in the Western movies that were being made in Hollywood.

Tom Mix was one of the first Hollywood cowboys

The White Cowboy

For just about all of our cinematic history, the Cowboy has been white. Mel Brooks put a crack in this myth with his landmark satire, Blazing Saddles, but even today, the hero of the Western tends to a white male mounted on horseback. Basically, the conquest of the West was told by the victor. Many good movies have been made using these parameters, but there still remains other stories out there that could be successfully brought to the silver screen, both real and fictional, or somewhere in between.


The Empathy and Antipathy Concerning Christopher Columbus

Christopher_Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo

Visiting Italy

Several years ago I made a rail trip across Italy. My journey began in old Venice and ended up at a small coastal town (Finale Marina) on the Italian Riviera. The scenery from Venice westward was rather mundane until the train began approaching Genoa, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Here, the flat plains gave way to a rugged almost mountainous terrain, where many dwellings were situated on the sides of some very steep hills.

800px-Genova_1481_(copy_1597) View of Genoa by Christoforo de Grassi
View of Genoa in 1481, copied in 1597 by Christoforo de Grassi

Birthplace of Columbus

At Genoa, I transferred trains at an underground station, so I didn’t get to see much of the city, but the ride along the Mediterranean coast was spectacular as the train passed through several long tunnels interspersed with short lengths of rail set right next to the tranquil blue sea. All in all, this provides little insight into the life and times of the “Great Mariner”, though it could shed a little light on the origins of the explorer, who crossed the Atlantic. For info on the trials and tribulations of Mr. Columbus it is necessary to do some research. A good place to begin is Martin Dugard’s excellent book, entitled The Fourth Joutney of Christopher Columbus.

Travel Poster for Venice

Cruising the Internet for Columbus Editorials and Articles

Every year about this time there appear several articles underscoring the destruction and misery caused by the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. This year the big winner seems to be over at the Oatmeal, where a poster by Mathew Inman has been published entitled Christopher Columbus was awful. Check it out.  On a similar (but not so negative) note you might want to check out what the staff at Indian Country Media Network has to say. Just go to their website and read the piece entitled, How not to party on Columbus Day. Then there is the more positive view which found at the Queens Gazette.  And finally on a lighter note, in an article written last year, Laura Geggel of the NY Times speculates on what that mysterious light might have been that Columbus saw just before he landed in the New World.

In Conclusion

After taking in all these viewpoints, don’t forget that Italy is still a fun place to visit. Along these lines I have included another travel poster. Ciao, and so long for now.

Travel Poster for the Italian Riviera

The Blood of Christ

The Sangre de Christo Mountains near Taos, New Mexico, photo by author

Winter Sunset Reveals A Colorful History

Back at the end of January I was standing outside my place-to-stay in Arroyo Seco, NM. Immediately the vivid violent panorama of the snow-covered mountains caught my eye, so I rushed indoors, grabbed my point-and-shoot digital camera and snapped off several photos of the towering peaks, just as the sun was setting in the west. The above picture features a mountain range called the Sangre de Christo mountains. For those of you, who do not understand Spanish, Sangre de Christo literally means “Blood of Christ”. The colorful handle was first applied by the Spanish explorers, who visited this part of New Mexico during the 16th century and took special notice of the intense color of the mountains, displayed as the sun set in the west and cast its rays eastward, illuminating the towering summits in the process. This natural phenomena is very similar to the “alpenglow” found in Switzerland.

Taos town mural of Coronado on his journey along the Rio Grande near the New Mexico town of Taos, photo by author

Coronado On the Upper Rio Grande

Francisco Vásquez De Coronado was a Spanish explorer, who ventured into the southwestern portions of the United States in 1540, 1541 and 1542. His adventures took him to the Colorado River, many Native settlements in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Reportedly, he and his party of explorers traveled as far east and north as Kansas. The above mural can be found in the mountain town of Taos, NM and documents Coronado’s journey north along the Rio Grande, where he encountered many of the Pueblo villages. In 1542 Coronado returned to Mexico, but his footsteps were followed several decades later by other Spanish explorers.

Another View of the Sangre de Christo, photo by author

The Sangre de Christo Range

The Sangre de Christo Range in the southern Rockies is quite extensive, for it extends from Glorietta Pass near Las Vegas, NM in the south all the way north to the Colorado Springs area, where the mighty Pikes Peak can be found. The above photo was also taken in the Taos area, but features a different group of peaks located slightly to the north.

What Not To Buy Your Girlfriend On Valentine’s Day

Valentines Barney Cam filming.
Barney watches as Miss Beazley gives a “kiss” to Kitty, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007, as the White House pets pose for a Valentine’s Day portrait at the White House, from Wikipedia, photo by Paul Morse

Origin Of Valentine’s Day

Today, Valentine’s Day is a popular commercial holiday, but you might not know that February 14th is also an official feast day in the Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox churches. The actual celebration can be dated back to the early Christian days in Rome, when several Christian men by the very same name were put to death by the Roman authorities. The two most common references to Saint Valentine include Valentine of Rome, a priest, who was executed in 269 AD and Saint Valentine of Terni, who was martyred in 197 AD. Take your pick.

Antique Valentine’s Day from 1909, from Wikipedia

My Research

The inspiration for this post comes from another blogger, Lynn Viehl, alias Paperback Writer, who recently put up a post entitled, Ten Things We Ladies Don’t Want for Valentine’s Day . Among some of her most intriguing items on the list were a Tattoo Shop Gift Certificate and a Vajazzling Kit. After reading the entertaining blog it was only a short step until I was cruising the web to see what other people had to say on this matter.


Books did not rate very high on Valentine’s Day, with cookbooks being subject to special scorn. Nonetheless, even ordinary reading books made some lists, a suggestion that contrasts with a blog I posted on Valentine’s Day 2010, entitled Buy Your Sweetheart A Book For Valentine’s Day. Looking back, I guess this was not a very good suggestion, especially considering that at the time I was  trying to plug my own self-published titles.

English Lingerie Shop, from Wikipedia, photo by Lucarelli


High on the list of things not to buy was lingerie. Most common complaint was  purchase of improper fitting items and the ultimate comparison with perfectly-shaped professional models, such as one might see in a Victoria Secret catalog. Along similar lines, memberships at health clubs or purchases of exercising equipment were also highly discouraged.

Valentine’s day red roses photo by Vimukthi, from Wikipedia


Another item that was almost universally discouraged was flowers, especially plastic ones. The one possible exception here, might be flowers that were actually delivered by a florist.

Heart-shaped box of chocolates, from Wikipedia, photo by Dwight Burdette


Chocolates received a more mixed-bag of positive and negative reviews, indicating that there might be a sizable number of chocoholics among the female population.

Other Items

From my research other discouraged items included household appliances (especially vacuum cleaners), flannel nightgowns, stuffed animals, gift cards, sex toys and music CDs. So now that the field has been narrowed down a bit, happy shopping guys, for Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

The Friendship Is a real Ship

The Friendship is at berth in Salem, Massachusetts
The Friendship is at berth in Salem, Massachusetts


Here is the sailing ship, called the Friendship. It’s official sailing classification is a ship. This means that the boat has three masts, which are all square-rigged. This boat is a replica that was built in 1998. The original ship was built in 1797 and traded all around the world until it was seized by the british during the war of 1812.





This new replica makes a great tour (when it is port) for anyone who is visiting Salem or the greater Boston area. Not only do you get to walk on board the ship, but you get to visit the custom house, where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked. It is just several hundred feet away. These sites are part of the Salem National Maritime Historical Site in Salem, Massachusetts.

 This tour is a traveler’s bargain, for once you have forked out your five dollars you get to go two seperate walking tours through the maritme site. Both tours are very good, but I particularly enjoyed this one for you got to spend about a half an hour on the Friendship.

The Amistad under sail.
The Amistad under sail.


Here is another replica sailing ship. This is the Amistad made famous by the movie. It was built in New London, Connecticut, just a few years before the Frienship was reconstructed. It is called a cargo schooner and in this case its cargo it was slaves. The ship sailed into Portland Harbor this summer and was berthed at the Maine State Pier, where visitors could take a tour.