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  • Philip Bryer

My Baby Loves the Western Movies

Updated: Jul 4, 2022

The Stranger rides into town alone. His mount is a handsome white horse and the man wears a pristine Stetson hat of the same colour. He rides up Main Street and people stare at him but nobody speaks. He arrives at the saloon (you can hear the sound of a honky-tonk piano tinkling through the swing doors) and tethers his horse by a water trough. Actually he doesn’t tether the horse, he just chucks the doings over the rail in the apparently certain knowledge that the horse won’t budge until he asks it to.

John Wayne, The Searchers

As he dismounts, he notices a cute girl in a blue gingham dress drawing up outside the General Store in a pretty little horse-drawn buggy. Some ruffians make coarse and unwelcome remarks and the Stranger warns them off. But the girl tells him she has no need of his help and he departs for the saloon. But she looks intrigued, and watches him walk away for far longer than is necessary. He has quite a funny walk, as his boots appear to be designed for when you’re on a horse, rather than when you’re not.

As he enters the saloon, the pianist brings his recital to an abrupt halt and dives for cover. Men at green baize-topped tables pause mid-bet, chew on cheroots, and try to discover which of them can narrow their eyes the most yet still be able to see. There’s a pinging noise as someone makes use of the spittoon. There are women about the place in off-the-shoulder blouses, flighty skirts, and stockings. They wear much more make-up than, for example, the girl who just went into the General Store. In addition to being a bar and casino, this is also brothel, although this is never quite made clear, and – for a brothel – it all seems rather innocent and cosy.

The man with the narrowest eyes of the lot is at the best table, with his back to the wall. We find out that he is a cattle baron, and he owns most of the town. Words are exchanged. A saloon girl comes over and slaps the Stranger's face, but we can see she is smitten. The Stranger has a whisky and somehow he senses what we can see – someone is pulling a gun on him. The Stranger spins round and fires. He shoots the gun from his assailant’s grasp, who flees clutching his wrist. The cattle baron looks a bit miffed. He wears a black hat. Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into this.

The saloon falls silent again as the Sheriff walks in. He and the Stranger appear to know each other. We overhear them talking about an upcoming cattle drive and a recent spate of robberies which have hit the Pony Express and Great Western Railways.

As the Sheriff leaves the bar, the Stranger covers him. The Stranger is obviously one cool customer as he doesn’t leave with the Sheriff, but goes upstairs with the slap-happy saloon girl. Presumably to discuss interior design, and have a wash and brush up. No sooner has he finished a refreshing bath in a tin tub that’s far too small for him and put his chaps back on, than gunshots are fired through the door. He leaps from a first floor window onto the back of his faithful steed who waits patiently below and hasn’t run off despite all of the gunfire and brouhaha.

The Stranger charges off into the mountains. This involves a fair bit of picking his way up and down rock-strewn hillsides (which is rather tedious), but the boredom is offset by the opportunity to have a fun and splashy gallop through the occasional river. One of which contains the pretty girl from earlier who is having a nice swim in her undies. She doesn’t welcome his turning up and they have another falling out. Plainly they are just not made for each other.

The Stranger rides on until he reaches a hole in one of the mountains. Rickety wooden train tracks run hither and thither, and a toothless old git takes a shot at him from the caboose of a tiny train which is towing some empty trucks. However, we soon realise they are actually old buddies. The old git is a gold miner, but he appears to have lost his mojo, as he is sleeping in the mine and living on takeaways and White Lightning cider. He says he has been shoring up the mine with planks as he’s been worried it’s going to collapse. They approach the entrance, hear a troubling rumble growing steadily louder and take the democratic decision to scarper. An enormous puff of dirt, dust, and muck billows out from the mine entrance and the whole thing goes el collapso. The old git asks the Stranger what he is to do now? But worry not (or if you’re the old git, worry quite a bit) because the Stranger has a job for him.

Walter Brennan

They head off to an indeterminate town – which looks rather like the original one – and go into the Telegraph Office where a little bespectacled and bushy side-burned bald chap in a stripy shirt with a tab collar, bow-tie, and a waistcoat to match his sponge bag trousers, is tap-tap-tapping at his message-sending machine. They hand over a piece of paper and request he do some tap-tap-tapping on their behalf too.

They gather up some pals from this town and head off to the Stockade in some miraculously acquired covered wagons. Miracles are seemingly abundant, as who should be making the self-same trip as the Stranger, the toothless old git, and their new chums, but the pretty girl who wears the blue gingham dress – except when she’s splashing about in rivers and getting in the way of speeding horses who are taking a much-needed break from hobbling up and down sodding mountains. She looks a bit cheesed-off, but they manage to get together over a ham and pickle sandwich, and seem to be getting on a bit better. Who knew?

Unfortunately, they have to pause their little jaunt up to the Stockade because of being accosted by what appear to be chuggers with a grudge. There is much a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ but they form a circle with their recreational vehicles and drive off the interlopers without anyone having their hairline rearranged.

They stop and wait while the old git gets to his knees and, it must be said, rather self-importantly examines a broken leaf and an old packet of 20 Kensitas. The old git announces someone, or many, has, or have gone this way and/or that way, and the Stranger gives him a biscuit and takes the opportunity for a meaningful gaze at the horizon and a close-up shot of his best side.

Eventually they get to the Stockade, where the Sheriff announces that he’s brought his posse with him. Which cheers everyone up. Having first ordered the toothless old git to perform sentry duty on the exposed area at the top of the Stockade, the Stranger finds time to have a wash using a jug and bowl he’s found on a dressing table and even manages to give his pistol a quick rub down.

A shot rings out.

The old git tumbles many, many feet to the cold, hard earth, yet still manages to croak out a few apposite last words to the Stranger. “You bastard,” he says, as his old yellowy eyes roll back in his skull.

There is now heavy shooting all round. A veritable shooterama. Bodies tumble from the ramparts of the Stockade, and things are looking mighty bad for the Stranger and the pretty girl who now sports some interesting rents and splits to the seams of her blue gingham outfit. Surely this is no time to be going swimming?

But, hark! What is that sound? That, my brother, is the sound of the bugle call of the US Cavalry, and in the old days it used to signify that the wrestling was about to begin over on ITV.

They have kiss and a cuddle, and he’s mighty pleased he took the opportunity for a quick wash, and also that his new squeeze’s clothes have almost completely fallen off.

And I never even mentioned the Jailhouse.

With a US Cavalry style salute and thanks to The GLW (Sandra Bryer) for her ideas and contributions to this piece.

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