I was fortunate to have a college professor for the Civil War and the American West who knew his subject matter and graphically told the story that an antithetical history existed side by side with other history but radically different in its morality and cruelty. I’m talking about the massive influx of European settlers expanding west across the continent. In the wave of migration were the descendants of those who crossed the open tundra, created with arrival of the ice age. The customs, culture and structure of the Native American tribes were slowly confronted, challenged, and eviscerated. Those who remained were herded onto confined reservations and left with the ashes of their civilization.
On the same timeline a great nation rose from grit, sweat and ability to risk everything for a better life. Buttressing the guarantee of individual rights was the Bill of Rights. Government was established within a framework of freedom. The freedom extended into the economic system. Capitalism, albeit not perfect, provided the highest standard of living and variety of goods to the greatest amount of people in the history of the world. This is not a platitude or propaganda. It is fact.
That professor emphasized the struggles of the old west. The young cowboys existed in that world along with outlaws and gunslingers. The army battalions implemented the ever-changing policies promulgated by the U.S. government.
Each tribe or band shall have the right to posses, occupy, and use the reserve allotted to it, as long as grass shall grow and water run, and the reserves shall be their own property like their horses and cattle.”
– Article 5 of the Treaty with the Comanches and Other Tribes and Bands, 12 August 1861
A deceitful mantra. But what happened in the west occurred in far removed generations-their time not ours. Feeling guilty to the sins of others back makes no sense now.
I grew up with TV westerns and movie westerns. Native Americans were Indians. They were hostile. I wonder why. Native American tribes were all different. And Conditions in the old west were sometimes dirty and dingy with frontier justice in some cases. Gunslingers had heavy guns not the nicely dressed, quick-drawing boys on TV. Truth and right and wrong and justice were indeed hallmarks of the west. A man was a man who displayed courage and didn’t turn yellow. A man’s word was worth something. To live in the west meant being a self-reliant, rugged individualist.
There were the premier shows such as Bonanza and Gunsmoke, where there was always a problem to be overcome.
These shows had the element of justice as well as touting right and wrong. The tendency is to watch all the shooting and think it was about just killing people. First, it was a TV show with drama and action. The Second World War had just ended and the unreal shootouts on TV were mild compared to the real carnage of that War
In Maverick the clever Brett Maverick showboated his fast talking and his card skills. Johnny Yuma, the loner Rebel had a grudge. Paladin was for hire. The Lone Ranger was the only surviving member of six ambushed Texas Rangers. The Lone Ranger had his trusted Indian companion Tonto. He had a code he lived by. In today’s haphazard, subjective landscape the rangers’ code to some seems quaint.
I believe that to have a friend,
a man must be one.
That all men are created equal
and that everyone has within himself
the power to make this a better world.
That God put the firewood there
but that every man
must gather and light it himself.
In being prepared
physically, mentally, and morally
to fight when necessary
for what is right.
That a man should make the most
of what equipment he has.
That ‘this government,
of the people, by the people
and for the people’
shall live always.
That men should live by
the rule of what is best
for the greatest number.
That sooner or later…
we must settle with the world
and make payment for what we have taken.
That all things change but truth,
and that truth alone, lives on forever.
In my Creator, my country, my fellow man
I asked Clayton Moore to say a few words to my cousin David in Massachusetts-And he did! lol…
I said the west was antithetical. I have set the table with a multifaceted assortment of western ideals and traits. My book is called When You’re Dead, You’re Dead.
The Nexus Series features Mr. Melbourne who hails from the Nexus House. Melbourne has the ability to bring the justice to those who realize it may not exist in today’s world.
And so we begin with a notorious drug dealing killer who gets off a conviction on the usual technicality. Melbourne offers the assistant District Attorney Jake McBride an chance to make things right. Jake at first thinks he is losing his mind but when he finally accepts the agreement he steps into the past where he is a marshal in Nevada Territory. And thus the story unwinds with the players from the present thrust into the quest for justice in the past.
I had some fun creating images from the old west- close to what I was thinking in When You’re Dead, You’re Dead. Jake leaves Melbourne behind and sees the past down the corridor.
Unlike the Oxbow Incident Jake stops the hanging of an innocent man, pushed by one of the Turner boys, Rody Turner. But who killed Dunbar?
Jake, Coltraine and Doc Talmadge wonder where the derailed trains passengers have gone.
A facsimile of the Coltraine dining room and a woman who could be Pam Grayson.
Judge Mackenzie and Johnny Rheingold arrive at the Coltraine.
Soaring Bird is sometimes confined at the federal reservation. The Native American around the campfire would tell Jake the stories of the Shoshone.
Jake and Soaring Bird head through Sorroyo Canyon, following up on a lead about Jose Estrada having stolen the silver. They are trailed by a killer and a severe thunderstorm.
That same professor made a statement in class that, at the time, I found outrageous. He said succinctly that the march westward was inevitable. On the surface that sounds irresponsible. I have learned to see practical answers in how something will play out in everyday life. The mass migration could not have been stopped. Think about it. What could they do? Pass laws? Ask for voluntary compliance? Tax people? Put up a wall from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico? This is the great enigma and I would humbly ask how many times before in history have groups of people been run over by new arrivals? Doesn’t make it right.
More TV Westerns