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Remembering the King of the Western Frontier

Posted by tamelaquijas on June 13, 2012

It’s Wednesday morning out here and the sky is beautiful and overcast.  I’m not certain yet if it’s the threat of rain or the remnants of smoke slipping down from the Ruidoso fires, but I won’t complain.  In fact, I welcome anything that covers the sun, especially when the weather forecast calls for 101 today.  It’s a perfect day to slip out to the movies, enjoying the beautiful refrigerated air and basking in a bit of action-filled imagination…

As I’ve let many of you know, my daughter (sometimes) is very disappointed that I don’t have a thing for what I derisively call ‘chick-flicks”.  My sister-in-law is amazed that I’ve never, ever watched Dirty Dancing, Grease, The Last Song, and the likes.  My film tastes run more along the lines of Indiana Jones (The reason why I’ve always wanted to be a history teacher), Star Wars, Blade, Iron Eagle, Band of Brothers, Planet of the Apes, The Sands of Iwo Jima, Ben Hur, and any western released since the 1940s.

Why do I have this fascination?

When my Dad was home from Military maneuvers, his idea of quality time with me was either teaching me to play poker or a trip to the movies.  Since Mom frowned on the entire idea of her only daughter learning how to deal cards, the movies were the thing.  Just to spend time with him, this precious man who will always be my hero, I would watch whatever he wanted to watch.  Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, and the immortal John Wayne were my film favorites and my brothers and I anxiously awaited their latest release.

To say I adored these actors would be an understatement.  They were the epitome of the man’s man…vibrant personalities that swaggered onto the screen with a self-assurance I can’t find in any actors nowadays.  My all time favorite was John Wayne, from his troubled portrayal of a haunted boxer who escapes to the rolling green fields of Ireland and finds love with the fiery Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man, to his gutsy image of the patient big brother in The Sons of Katie Elder.  To this day, I will drop everything to watch a John Wayne film, just to hear him say “Well, good luck, Pilgrim”, or watch him amble across a dusty road as he did in Rio Bravo.

John Wayne was of Presbyterian Scots-Irish or ...

John Wayne was of Presbyterian Scots-Irish or Ulster-Scots descent. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wayne was a simple man with big dreams.  Born Marion Mitchell Morrison, he was from Iowa, who found work at a local film studio after losing his football scholarship at USC because of a bodysurfing accident.  John Ford saw something in his rugged masculinity, his clean-cut handsomeness, height (6’4”), and smooth voice, which made him cast the young man in his blockbuster film Stagecoach in 1939.

As they say, the rest is history.

This week in history, the world lost that unforgettable man.  I still have the newspaper clippings from his death, and remember how devastated my dad and I were when the king of the western’s slipped away.  We mourned, as did the majority of men in the United States, our hero of the western having moved on to that frontier in heaven.

On June 11, 1979, after over ten years of battling cancer, John Wayne passed away.

One Response to “Remembering the King of the Western Frontier”

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