WHY ARE WE THANKFUL FOR WESTERNS?
Think about it. It's just fiction/film entertainment. A way to pass the time, to relive the "Cowboys and Indians" fun we had as kids, right? Think again. Who hasn't been intrigued by what you've read or watched to Google a fact or fiction question? I have, countless times. Come on, don't be shy! Admit it. Why are we thankful?
B. CHARACTERS - you have to admit that the American West bred unique individuals. Tough, resilient, hard-working, gritty survivors who did whatever they had to or went back East (or died.) The origins of that character and integrity come from the melting pot of all the various people, native and immigrant - pilgrims from England, the original People of all the various tribes stretching east to west, stout Irish and Germans, Italians and other Europeans, Russians and Swedes and many others, and don't forget the African Americans forcibly brought here, who also fought for their freedom, plus the Chinese who were brought to dynamite through the Sierras while building the transcontinental railroad, and who stayed on to fight for a new life here.
These men (and women, which I'll address soon) were portrayed in books and films that have lasted in our memories - and it's up to us to pass on what we know to the next generation of Americans. From the real liver-eating Jeremiah Johnston, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Butch Cassidy, Jesse James and others to actors Graham Greene, Wes Studi, John "Duke" Wayne and Victor Sen Yung who portrayed Hop Sing on Bonanza - long before any television show dared to address anti-Chinese sentiment in the Old West. Long before David Carradine's Kung Fu show, too.
And now for the unique women who stood by their men or stood alone, just as tough and resilient, just as hard-working and gritty. In fact, women equaled men in helping to survive conditions in summer and winter in the endless, empty prairies or in rough towns. Consider Sacagawea, who with her infant son strapped on her back, helped lead the Lewis & Clark expedition... and the pioneer family of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose daughter Rose assisted her mother in writing the beloved series of her childhood on the prairie. Both Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane proved their mettle in matching men, shot for shot or job for job. And let's not forget Judy Garland in The Harvey Girls, where they actually got the uniform right, to give us a window into how some ladies came out to civilize the Old West.
C. AS AMERICAN AS MOM, HOT DOGS, BASEBALL AND APPLE PIE
Why else would people in Japan, Germany, Italy and other countries love westerns if not for a love of our country's origins? I'm not sure everyone in America loves our origins as much as they should - except when the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving roll around. Thomas Jefferson started America's westward expansion with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase from the French - you can see the map to get a picture of how fast the "west" was added to the original states and how the territories each had unique traits, from Florida's swamps to the majestic Rockies to the California gold fields and the Pacific Northwest forests. Western books and films give us far more than entertainment. They are based on a foundation of fascinating history, and no other country in the world (except Australia, although their books/films are few) has such a rich, massive lore for readers and film goers to explore and enjoy.
D. ER, LET'S NOT FORGET "THE PEOPLE"
Many Indian tribes called themselves "The People" and they were here first in fact, although the American government hardly took that into consideration when expanding west - and ruthlessly cut down an incredible array of culture, tribal history and way of life in sheer greed and profit. But Native Americans remain a cornerstone of the "Old West." They can never truly be forgotten, thank goodness. They may never regain the status they once had, of course, when nations and alliances stretched from the east to the west coasts of America. But their grit, spirit and courage shown in battling to maintain their unique way of life shaped the "Old West" as much as the cowboys, cattle droves, Mormons, prairie farmers, gold and silver miners, railroad builders and laborers, lawmen and criminals, soiled doves and gamblers, etc. Consider this map which shows all the tribes before Columbus.
I am exceedingly thankful for the Old West, for the history of this country and the endless possibilities to bring that era alive in my writing. Yeehaw and Happy Thanksgiving to y'all!
Facebook, follow her on Twitter or check out her books on her website. Double Crossing won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel and Double or Nothing is the exciting sequel. Both Double Crossing and Double or Nothing are finalists in the Laramie Awards! Her story, "A Savior Is Born," is included in A Wolf Creek Christmas published by Western Fictioneers, and her new Christmas novella, Santa Claws, is out. Last year's Christmas novella Santa Paws is once again an Amazon bestseller!
Source for Tribal Nations map - www.escapistmagazine.com