I have been hooked on western movies, books and TV shows for over 70 years. The West has exerted a strong influence on my imagination. I have been fascinated by the wide open spaces and other geographical features.

The books written about the West depict strong, rugged men and women, mostly frontiersmen, cowboys and settlers, who challenged the outlaws and the untamed land.

My favorite novels of the West include the Zane Grey books, notably Riders of the Purple Sage. I also liked Lonesome Dove and The Virginian. The latter I read in my high school American literature class.

Movies have played a major role in establishing the conflict between outlaws and good guys.

The movies I watched in the early days of my addiction starred Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, but I lost interest in these movies because Autry and Rogers sang too much.

I liked the more serious treatment of western themes as depicted in High Noon, Shane and Stagecoach.

My favorite line in Shane occurred when a small boy asked if the gunman Shane had just dispatched was fast on the draw. Shane said, “Yeah, kid, he was fast. He was real fast.”

Television, too, contributed to the popularity of westerns with several long-running series such as Gunsmoke, Maverick, Have Gun Will Travel, and Bonanza. Of these, I liked Gunsmoke the best.

Once when I was visiting a friend, he jokingly told me that Matt Dillon the marshal had been killed in a gunfight on the show which I had missed seeing the week before.

I was really shook up because I was certain the show would end with Matt’s death.

The next week, to my relief, I realized that though Matt had been seriously wounded, Doc patched him up and the series continued.

Have Gun Will Travel interested me because of the main character, named Paladin and played by Richard Boone.

Boone usually portrayed a more-than-sinister villain in western films, but in this series, he played a person who helped people out of difficult situations or was the leading champion of a cause.

Bonanza was the one show my grandmother rarely missed seeing, and I liked the depiction of this family, consisting of a widowed father and his three sons who worked together to bring justice not only to themselves but the downtrodden people they met along the way in 1880s Nevada. I also liked how each Cartwright had a unique character.

Ben, the father, was the wise one; Little Joe, the youngest son, was rash and hasty; Hoss, the middle son, was happy-go-lucky, and Adam, the eldest son, was the thinker.

When I was growing up, I asked for western novels for both Christmas and birthdays, and I accumulated quite a large collection over an eight-year period.

I still read western novels, and though I haven’t seen a western movie or TV series for quite a while, I’m always ready to ride the range when the opportunity arises.

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Doug Deuchler

Doug Deuchler has been reviewing local theater and delving into our history for Wednesday Journal for decades. He is alsoa retired teacher and school librarian who is also a stand-up comic, tour guide/docent...