Over the holiday weekend E and I managed to get away for a blissful 10+ mile walk on cold clear November day.  Nature lovers both, you’d expect the conversation would focus on the subtle beauty of late autumn, avian migrations and the like.

Nope, we talked about westerns. 

You’d also expect that at my advanced age with my worldly pretensions that I would have seen The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by now.  Nope, hadn’t seen that either until last Friday. Anyway, the experience of watching that set the stage for a mid-hike Nick Hornby-like list-making exercise.

E has a much broader and deeper grasp of the movies than I do, so I am at an immediate disadvantage in this arena. As I recall, her list of the top five westerns of all time were as follows – not in any particular order:

1.  How The West Was Won

2.  The Magnificent Seven

3.  The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

4.  The Unforgiven

5.  Stagecoach (I think. She may have said The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance)

My list – one reflective of a simpler mind – went like this: 

1.  High Plains Drifter

2.  Shane

3.  High Noon

4.  The Unforgiven (as well)

5.  Blazing Saddles

I had to defend pretty vigorously my #2 and #5 picks.  There is no question that Shane is a terrible movie in many respects.  It is dopey on more levels than I can throw a lasso at, but it still contains all the elements fundamental to a rock solid western.  Kind of  like what Star Trek is to science fiction.

I don’t care what anyone says: Blazing Saddles is as important and memorable a western as any of them.  I’m willing to bet that most of you can recall more scenes from Blazing Saddles than you can from most other westerns.  Those of you with true grit might even be able to recite most of the lyrics to the song “I’m Tired.”  So there.

Coda.  At the movies we saw a trailer – if trailers mean anything – for a 2011 film that may instantly elbow it’s way onto both our lists.  Stay tuned, cowpokes!  

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Dave Coulter

I have been a horticulturist for thirty years working in the Chicago area and beyond. I have lived in Oak Park for over thirteen years. My writing has recently appeared in the journal Ecological Restoration...

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