Friday, January 31, 2014

Last Call: 2013 Peacemaker Submissions

Today is the last day submissions for the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Awards will be accepted for works published in the year 2013.  All entries must be emailed or postmarked by midnight tonight, January 31, 2014.  For more information about the awards and the forms needed, check out the WF website.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Western Comics Focus: SCALPHUNTER

Troy D. Smith

One of my favorite western comics in the late 70s was SCALPHUNTER. The character took over the lead role in Weird Western Tales when that title's previous star, Jonah Hex, got his own comic in 1977. The first time I became aware of Scalphunter was by seeing the ads promoting him. Even as a kid I was fascinated by Native American Indian culture, so I was especially excited to seen an Indian in a starring role.

Well, kinda.

See, I later discovered that Scalphunter was one of those ubiquitous "white Indians" (going back to the 1950s Frank Frazetta classic, White Indian, imagine that.) He was actually Brian Savage, a white man who had been captured by Kiowas as a young child. Like Richard Harris's character in A Man Called Horse, the child was initially a slave but was later adopted into the tribe. The Indians, in fact, called him Ke-Woh-No-Tay, "He who is less than human." Which is actually not far off base, historically; many tribes practiced "kinship slavery," in which captives were forced to be laborers until gradually they could potentially become full members of the tribe, and the Cherokee word for that class of people literally meant "not human."

As an adult, he continued to identify as an Indian, and dressed and acted accordingly. He became a bounty hunter, and it was whites who called him "Scalphunter." He was part of DC's stable of western stars, and as such often met up with Jonah Hex and Bat Lash. And like Jonah Hex, DC produced a story in which he was murdered in his middle-age, in Scalphunter's case in 1899 (making him around sixty.) Western heroes don't progress from hero to legend, it seems, unless we know they are ultimately backshot by a dastardly coward. (Bat Lash, by the way, was allowed to survive into old age.)

The character's legacy lived on. In the official timeline, it was revealed that DC's WWI flying ace hero, Lt. Stephen Savage, aka Balloon Buster (introduced 12 years before Scalphunter) was the son of the Kiowa-raised bounty hunter. There was also some esoteric stuff in which Star-man was Scalphunter's reincarnation.

In the last decade, DC's western heroes have seen a resurgence, especially Jonah Hex. Scalphunter still shows up from time to time, and I'm always glad to see him. I'm not aware of any bound collections of Scalphunter stories, though they may be out there.

I'll be talking about the character more in a future installment about Native Americans in comic books.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


In the Old West, a man had to know how to cut another to the quick without cursing. As we've already discussed, cursing was taboo, especially in public or in the presence of a woman. Yet there are times when a man just needs to vent his feelings. Here are some choice insults and descriptions from the Old West for your enjoyment.

When I'm done with you, there won't be enough left of you to snore.
He was mad enough to swallow a horn-toad backwards.
He was so mad he could bite himself

Bad Tempered or Generally Unpleasant:
He's so mean he'd steal a fly from a blind spider.
He was so mean, he'd fight a rattler and give him the first bite.
He was mean enough to steal a coin off a dead man's eyes.
He made an ordinary fight look like a prayer meetin'.
He was mean enough to eat off the same plate with a snake.
He was mean enough to hunt bears with a hickory switch.
He didn't have manners enough to carry guts to a bear.
He's as welcome as a rattlesnake as a square dance.
He's so crooked, he could swallow nails and spit out corkscrews.
He told lies so well a man would be a foot not to believe them.
He's as crooked as a dog's hind legs.
He's lyin' like a rug.
He ain't fit to shoot at when you want to unload and clean yo' gun.
He's as popular as a wet dog at a parlor social.

Mental State:
He was crazy enough to eat the devil with horns on.
He's off his mental reservation.
His intelligence shore ain't at this camp.
He's as crazy as popcorn on a hot stove.
He's as crazy as a sheepherder.
Somebody stole his rudder.
He's crazier than a run-over coon.
He's studying to be a half-wit.
He ought to be bored for the hollow horn.
His brain cavity wouldn't make a drinkin' cup for a canary.
He couldn't teach a hen to cluck.
He knows as much about it as a hog does a hip pocket in a bathing suit.
His knife's so dull it wouldn't cut hot butter.
He don't know dung from wild honey.
If all his brains were dynamite, there wouldn't be enough to blow his nose.
He couldn't cut a lame cow from a shade tree.
He couldn't track an elephant in snow.
He was so dumb he couldn't drive nails in a snowbank.
He's as dull as dishwater.
He don't know any more about it than a hog does a sidesaddle.
He is plumb weak North of his ears.
He can't tell skunks from house cats.
He had a ten dollar Stetson on a five-cent head.
His family tree was a shrub.
He couldn't track a bed-wagon through a bog hole.
He didn't have nuthin' under his hat but hair.
He couldn't hit the ground with his hat in three throws.
He was as shy of brains as a terrapin is of feathers.

Physical Appearance:
He was uglier than a new-sheared sheep.
He has teeth so crooked he could eat corn on the cob through a picket fence.
His face was puckered like wet sheepskin before a hot fire.
Her face looks like a dime's worth of dog meat.
He was ugly as a burnt boot.
He was so ugly he had to sneak up on a dipper to get a drink of water.
He looked like the hindquarters of bad luck.
His lip hangs down like a blacksmith's apron.
He looks so bad his ears flop.
She's so ugly, she'd make a freight train take a dirt road!
He's as ugly as homemade sin.
She's so ugly she could bluff a buzzard off a meat wagon.
He's as ugly as a mud fence.
He is so thin he could take a bath in a shotgun barrel.
He was so fat, you'd have to throw a diamond hitch to keep him in the saddle.
If he closed one eye he'd look like a needle.
He is built like a snake on stilts.

Additional Insults:
His voice sounded like someone forgot to grease the wagon.
His singin' was enough to make a she-wolf jealous.
He punished the air with his singing.
He had a voice like a burro with a bad cold.
He couldn't hit a bull's rump with a handful of banjos.
He was as drunk as a fiddler's clerk.
She's as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
He'd been in the desert so long, he knew all the lizards by their first names.
His mustache smelled like a mildewed saddle blanket after it had been rid on a soreback hoss three hundred miles in August.
He was grittin' his teeth like he could bite the sights off a six-gun.
This saloon's so bad, a rattlesnake'd be ashamed to meet his mother.
He lasted as long as a pint of whiskey in a five-handed poker game.


A Dictionary of the Old West, Peter Watts, 1977
Legends of America website:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

MY SECRET LOVE--by Cheryl Pierson

I know. You thought it was going to be a person, didn’t you? Since it's coming up on the month for lovers and all…but my secret love is different.

I love cars. All kinds of cars. I think I could be a car salesman if I were a guy. I’m not sure what all the technical jargon means, and don’t really even care that much. I just know what I like.

My first car was a 1962 Chevy Impala that I had to share with my sister, who was divorced and had moved back home with her two kids. I had my first wreck in that car. I was coming out of the parking lot at one of our high school football games and turned the corner too sharply, hitting the end of a 3’ tall rail fence. I scratched the back passenger side door all the way back to the wheel well.

My next car was a 67 Impala. Now, the wreck I had in this one was not my fault, and it was so freakish that I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it happening to anyone else. I was on my way to college one morning, and a West Virginia State Road Dept. truck was merging onto the interstate. His back wheel axle broke and half of it, with the tire still attached, crossed three lanes of traffic and stuck into my front tire. I loved that car because it was all mine—but after that, the frame was wrecked.

When I met my husband, he’d just bought a hot little car—a German made engine for Mercury graced the “Capri”. It was a 1974 ½ “special edition” car. I learned to drive a stick shift on it, and that car is still my all time favorite car we ever owned.

I think we’ve had about every type of car, truck or SUV out there. Favorite SUV? My Isuzu Rodeo, hands down. I’d still be driving it if the transmission hadn’t quit. Favorite truck? The Ford Explorer Sportrack. Beautiful, great to drive, but about as “un-functional” as a truck could be. My brother-in-law, the wisecracking lawyer, told my husband it had a “vanity bed” in it. We still laugh at that—it was true—there was nothing you could haul in that thing.

I have to admit, when it’s time to go look for a new car, I don’t dread it at all. I know what I want, and I know what the payment has to be to make it work. My husband tells his buddies that they should take me car shopping with them. I’m a tough nut to crack. Here's what I negotiated for the last time we went--a Chevy Cruze. I love it--it's got a killer Pioneer stereo system in it, and what's more, it never costs more than about $25 to fill it up. Yes, I loved my Silverado we had just before this, but...the gas was almost more than the mortgage payment.

My secret guilty pleasure? I LOVE watching Velocity TV. Wheeler Dealer, Pimp My Ride, Orange County Customs, Mecum auto auctions…yep. I get mesmerized, and I’ll watch those shows for hours. I look at the clock and feel like I’ve been sucked into a vortex somehow, of these never-ending car shows. I have to force myself to get up and go to the grocery store.

Anyone else out there like me? What’s your favorite car you’ve ever owned? Any memorable “car tales” you want to share?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review Roundup: A Ranger Rides Again

West of the Big River: The Ranger
By James J. Griffin
The Western Fictioneers Library, July 2013
$8.99 paperback, ISBN 1491065117
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B00E5RCV4M
$2.99 most other e-formats, ISBN 9781301580088
187 pages

For J.S. Turnbo, life in crime-ridden West Texas is a running gun battle. Outsmarting outlaws is just part of the job for a Texas Ranger … until one little mistake puts him at the mercy of a ruthless gang hiding out in plain sight.

When author James J. Griffin writes about Rangers, readers know what to expect: a steady stream of testosterone and no safe haven for the evildoers. Griffin’s lawdogs are indisputably good; their quarry indisputably rotten. Lots of gunplay takes place, but the violence is never graphic, and there’s nary a foul word to be found. The formula is tried and true, and Griffin wields it like no one else.

The Ranger is classic Griffin, white hats, black hats, trusty equine sidekick and all. Though the story is fictional, readers will have no trouble imagining Turnbo, a real-life nineteenth century Texas Ranger, actually might have experienced something similar. As usual, Griffin puts readers inside the story with uncommon details and dialogue that rings true to the period, and equine characters get better than a fair shake. In fact, some of the best moments in the story occur between Turnbo and his horse, a Medicine Hat paint named Hat.

The story itself moves along at a spritely pace, opening with a stagecoach robbery Turnbo triggers by throwing around his considerable law-enforcement weight. From there it’s off to the races, as the Ranger sets about cleaning up a West Texas landscape lousy with rustlers and bank robbers. Turnbo is undeniably in his element amid a hail of lead … which probably is why little things get by him during an evening of socializing in town. Those things return with big teeth later.

For traditional western storytelling about larger-than-life, tough-as-nails characters who dog a trail until their blisters have blisters, The Ranger is hard to beat. Turnbo probably would have approved.

Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and an author. She received a review copy of West of the Big River: The Ranger from the publisher. Her opinions are her own and are neither endorsed nor necessarily supported by Western Fictioneers or individual members of the organization. Links in the review are for convenience only; they do not produce affiliate revenue.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Writing About Indians When You're Not One, part 8: Sports

Troy D. Smith

If you've seen many old western movies, the scene is familiar. Brave young men from two different tribes -Sioux and Winnebago, aka Lakota and Ho-Chunk -come together on the prairie. The two tribes are fierce rivals, and each young man knows that his relatives and tribesmen are eager for them to bring home a resounding victory. On both sides, the previous day was spent in prayer and ritual preparation. The winning side will receive honors that, if the victory is big enough, might be sung about for years or even generations, whereas the losers will endure the agonizing shame of defeat. The two groups face each other menacingly -and then the signal comes for the conflict to begin.

A ball is thrown into the air.


That's right- we are not describing an actual battle, although the participants took it just as seriously as one. We are talking about a ball game. In this case, one witnessed in 1805 by Zebulon Pike. Although each nation, tribe, or indigenous group had its own unique social traits, ball play -like sweat lodges and vision quests -was one cultural trait that tribes across North America often had in common.

 The Onandaga call it dehuntshigwa'es ..."men hitting a round thing."
The Cherokee call it da-nah-wah'uwsdi ... "the little war."The Mohawks call it tewaarathon ..."war's little brother."To the Ojibwe it is baaga`adowe ... "bumping hips."

19th century anthropologist James Mooney tells us this:

"The Indian game of the ball play is common to all the tribes from Maine to California, and from the sunlit waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the frozen shores of Hudson bay. When or where the Indian first obtained the game it is not our province to inquire, but we may safely assume that the {Native American} shaped the pliant hickory staff with his knife and flint and twisted the net of bear sinew ages before visions of a western world began to float through the brain of the Italian dreamer.

In its general features, Indian ball play was the same all over the country, with this important exception, that among the northern and western tribes the player used but one ball stick, while in the Gulf States each contestant carried two and caught the ball between them. In California men and women played together, while among most of the more warlike tribes to the eastward it was pre-eminently a manly game, and it was. believed to insure defeat to a party if a woman even so much as touched a ball stick.

The game has a history, even though that history be fragmentary, like all that goes to make up the sum of our knowledge of the aboriginal race. The French, whose light-hearted gaiety and ready adaptability so endeared them to the hearts of their wild allies, were quick to take up the Indian ball game as a relief from the dreary monotony of long weeks in the garrison or lonely days in the forest. It became a favorite pastime, and still survives among the creoles of Louisiana under the name of Raquette, while in the more invigorating atmosphere of the North it assumed a new life, and, with the cruder features eliminated, became the famous Canadian national game of La Crosse."

The game was played on a large field. Each side tried to move the ball to the far end, and their opponents' goal. Hands were not used; rather, the ball was moved with sticks. In some regions it was common to use two sticks, in others one long stick was wielded with two hands. The top end of the stick was often fashioned into a net of some kind, but in a few cultures the net was replaced by a hook or crook, similar to a modern hockey stick, or the image of an animal.

Among the Choctaw, if you were scheduled for execution for murder and there was a big ball game coming up, you were granted an extension so you wouldn't miss it (Choctaws were Southern, after all.)

Players underwent purification rituals before  the game. Instead of sideline coaches they had shamans.

This was serious stuff.

In addition to village pride, other things were at stake. Sometimes a game was played as part of a larger ritual supplicating the heavens. Oh, and there was some pretty heavy betting involved.

And they could be rough. Fatalities were not unheard of. A few years ago I was in Cherokee North Carolina for the girls' stickball semi-finals, and my body still aches just from what I saw.

This was -and remains -a big part of native culture, but I have never seen it portrayed in film or television, and only rarely in literature. But with that strong an athletic tradition, it is little wonder that an Indian school like the one in Carlisle, Pennsylvania -the Indians (they could get away with the name!), coached by Pop Warner and featuring Jim Thorpe -could dominate college football in the early years of the game.

Troy D. Smith, Ph.D, teaches American Indian History at Tennessee Tech University.

Check out the previous entries in this series:


Saturday, January 25, 2014


Hello everyone! My last blog was about my father; this posting is about one of my books that came out a few years ago—one of my favorites. I wish my father could have been around to read it. It’s a collection of 17 short stories of mine, some new releases and others reprinted from other publications, totaling 166 pages.

Here is a short excerpt from the review of this book that was originally released by Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine.

Steel lists his masters as James Oliver Curwood, Zane Grey, Max Brand, L'Amour, and Jack London, but to this reviewer, there's more than a touch of Ambrose Bierce in some of the shorter tales—-and I'm hardly one to complain about that!

There's also just as much of the round-the-campfire flavor to these yarns as there is of the old pulps——and either quality is a high recommendation, from my side of the fire.

Included in this review is the mentioning of the iconic illustrations by Gail Heath. I have to concur. Those black and white sketches, seventeen in total, exactly match the content and essence of each story. Here are two examples:

Also, Gail Heath and her company, Condor Publishing, Inc., a small Michigan house committed to publishing quality westerns and children’s books, produced this anthology. This includes the final edit and book cover, utilizing PageMaker and Illustrator software for the professional and masterful layout of the book.

As far as this anthology goes, it was difficult for me to decide which short story to choose to quote from, but I finally decided to select the last story in the book. It is entitled DEAD MAN’S SONG. Somehow, this story has become a favorite of mine. Here are several excerpts from that piece:

The opening three paragraphs:

As he lay up in the jumble of rocks against Badito Cone, Bobby Carter knew he was a dead man. The Indians surrounded him. Three hours before, in the early dawn, he had broken camp and followed the Huerfano River south. He was only three miles from the village of Badito when Tierra Blanca and his small band of Ute warriors jumped him and chased him into the canyon.

Arrows flew in a storm and showered down on the white man among the rocks. Bobby hunkered behind and underneath a hanging boulder as big as a house. The arrows hit and shattered without striking him---but they were close, so very close. Bobby Carter hummed a tune under his breath, as he had since childhood. Always there were songs and melodies in his head.

Tierra Blanca fumed. There were so many whites coming into their lands; if they were not stopped, they would take everything. Already the game was scarce. That white village on the Huerfano was growing larger. Those intruders took over the land and defended it with their steel guns. They had no right. This was Ute land and the time was long past to fight and wipe the invaders out.

The story progresses and the conflict between the musician and the Indians comes to this:

From high in the rocks came a peculiar sound---the ringing of a musical chord. It was a guitar, the same as the Spanish played. And, with the strumming came a clear tenor voice raised in song. Many of the Utes had learned the English tongue---some taught by mountain men, others by whites who came among them. The warriors listened to the voice and the guitar. The music was strange, but pleasant. It carried clearly through the dry air.

“It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry. Sun so hot nearly froze to death, Susannah don’t you cry…”

The song continued. Despite himself, Chief Tierra Blanca smiled. This was a brave man. In all the battles he had fought, never had a foe ever lifted a voice in joy or happiness. The only song he ever heard a man sing was his death chant. This was not that kind of melody. It was clearly a song of gaiety.

And despite the bravery of the musician the hatred and conflict between the party of Utes toward the white man continue:

“Hey, you Utes! How about another song?”

The guitar echoed down again. The cords of the six strings sounded clear and melodious. The man sang from his heart and he had a soothing quality in his voice, despite his dry throat.

“The years creep slowly by, Lorena, the snow is on the grass again; the sun’s low down the sky, Lorena, the frost gleams where the flowers have been; but the heart throbs on as lovely now, as when the days were nigh…”

Again the Ute warriors put down their bows and sat among the rocks to listen. The white man finished his song and quickly went into the lilting refrain of The Yellow Rose of Texas. Chief Blanca leaned his back against a stone in what shade he could find. The Ute Chief looked around at his warriors who sat listening to this man sing. Suddenly, he became angry and barked out orders to attack.

Probably not a good idea with most stories to give away the ending but:

Despite himself, the Ute gave a begrudging smile in recognition of this man’s courage. In answer to his quick signal, the warriors backed away from the ambush and went for their mustangs. The Chief motioned to leave the horse of their foe. In a moment the warriors were mounted. In the clear dry air as they rode away, they heard the second refrain of the song.

“Tis the song, the sigh of the weary, hard times, hard times, come again no more, many days you have lingered around my cabin door; oh hard times come again no more…”

Bobby Carter sang with conviction. He knew that before nightfall he would be dead and lying among the rocks. All his life he had loved music, even in times of trouble. He carried his guitar with him everywhere; it was how he made his living. Bobby was greatly surprised when near the end of the song he heard the hoofs of the Indian ponies beat loudly and then fade into the distance. Despite the welcoming sound, Bobby kept playing and singing. Through dry mouth and rasping throat, he gave it his all. For never in his life had he ever quit in the middle of a performance.

This concludes the excerpts of the final story that ends the seventeen short story anthology, DESERT HEAT, DESERT COLD AND OTHER TALES OF THE WEST. It is my hope that the quotes from this story piqued your interest and that some of you will be motivated to give it a read.
Thank you.
Charlie Steel

Friday, January 24, 2014


It may be January, but in two weeks everyone's thoughts will be drenched with loooooove.

Valentine's Day brings hearts, flowers and chocolate (of course!) to mind, but to any lovers of the western genre, it may also bring a fluttering for their favorite cowboy or soldier hero. Today I'll explore some of the movies set in the west that the ladies consider real heart-throbbers.

Look at that baby face to the left. What I found interesting was seeing images of the actors when they were young, versus being portrayed as western heroes. Oh, the manliness! Oh, the chiseled jaws! Oh, the *muscles*... er, sorry.

I'd like to start with THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, which for its time was set in "the western frontier" of the United States as depicted in James Fenimore Cooper's day of 1757 during the French and Indian War.

Notice the change wrought in Daniel Day-Lewis' face after he takes on the role of Hawkeye, or Natty Bumpo, or Long Rifle... whatever you want to call him. He looks worried. He's got major diplomatic troubles dealing with the French and British, plus the Huron scout Magua. He's supported by Chingachgook and his son (as the last of the Mohicans) and then the Delaware tribe -- since the measly British won't send reinforcements for poor Colonel Munro and his soldiers. All that worry! He looks exhausted too.

Thankfully the movie plot simplifies the book (for the better, imo) by boiling down the war between the French and British, setting up a four-way romance with the Munro daughters, Hawkeye and Chingachgook's son. When Wes Studi (Magua) is determined to kill Munro and take his daughters captive -- well, let's just say I'd jump off a cliff too. That Magua scared me to death!

Hawkeye gets the girl, that's the important point of a romance. It's all about the HEA -- happily ever after. Come on! Who wouldn't want to end up with DDL in that costume? But being a western hero sure changes a guy. Really.

As a bonus, I found this image of Daniel Day-Lewis and Russell Means.
Both of them are pretty hot here.

Every single time I watch Mohicans, I weep when Russell Means is killed and Alice chooses to fall off the cliff after him rather than remain Magua's captive. When I met Wes Studi last summer in Albequerque at the WWA convention, I changed my mind about choosing that same fate. Wes is a great actor -- funny, warm and sweet, very generous about taking photos and giving autographs. He sure fooled me when I first saw the movie! That's fabulous acting.

Let's move on to Elmore Leonard's HOMBRE with Paul Newman. Ooooh, those baby blues! Who can resist those, or that manly chiseled jaw, or those muscles... er. Ahem.

The book and movie are pretty strong (I saw the movie, but must confess I have not read the book) for the "revisionist" western genre -- meaning the underlying issues of race are brought to the surface, in this case, the hero was raised as an Apache and faced big-time prejudice after he returns to the white man's world. I guess the blue eyes didn't matter much. I had trouble believing Newman as a Native American, but his acting is decent in the film.

Still, I much prefer him as Butch Cassidy. Sorry.

How about the book DANCES WITH WOLVES by Michael Blake? Oddly enough, the Comanche tribe is switched to Sioux, and Kevin Costner acted and directed this epic western into a real classic.

Once again, portraying a hero takes a toll on youthful men. That's a very young and hot Kevin Costner on the right, versus portraying Lieutenant John Dunbar (see the photo to the left below.) He looks tired. And worried, especially given the problems he's facing...

Oh, all right -- enough of that. Kevin portrays a disillusioned Civil War soldier who wants to die and ends up an unlikely hero during a battle. He then requests a transfer to a remote western fort -- apparently to redeem his burden of guilt and serve his country after an attitude adjustment. Alas, he "goes native" after seeing how unfair the government treats "the people."

I'd say the gorgeous cinematography of the prairie along with the portrayal of the natives by wonderful actors, and even the wolves and teeming herds of buffalo (which bring to life what the early post-Civil War era of the west) are as much Western heroes as Costner's character.

Kevin also gets the girl, a white woman who was taken in by the tribe he befriends. Like I said before, HEA is what makes a real romance. They go off together into the sunset.

Next up, let's see how portraying a hero took a heavy toll on another famous western actor... the Duke. Talk about manly! Talk about a chiseled jaw!! Talk about muscles - oh, fine. On to the gallery of photos. First up, the young Marion Morrison himself.

 Such a baby-face here. He was born in Iowa but his family soon moved to California. Marion intended to play football on a USC scholarship - but a bodysurfing accident put an end to that dream. All the better for us romantics, I say! Who knows what would have happened to Duke if he hadn't turned to small bit parts at the Fox studio.

Marion's first leading role was in the western The Big Trail which came out in 1930. He kept working in other roles, a few leading, until he became a superstar in 1939 in John Ford's Stagecoach.

Based on a 1937 short story titled "The Stage to Lordsburg" by Ernest Haycox, it features several strangers who travel by stagecoach through Apache territory. I saw the film long ago and it was okay. Sorry, just my opinion! But it boosted John Wayne's career, that's for certain.

See the photo on the right - the Duke looks worried, if not tired. He portrays Johnny Ringo, a fugitive, and is attracted to the prostitute who was run out of the Arizona town and is heading east on the stagecoach to New Mexico, along with a seedy doctor, the pregnant wife of a soldier and a whiskey salesman. The stage driver and a lawman make up the "company" that meet hardships along the way, including an Apache raid, before the cavalry rides in to the rescue.

Filmed in the Monument Valley, the movie became a classic and was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for their National Film Registry.

Let's take a look at another significant western featuring the Duke - The Searchers. Also directed by John Ford, the film is based on a novel published in 1954 by Alan LeMay, set during the Texas-Indian Wars, featuring a Civil War veteran on a quest to find his nieces kidnapped by Comanches.

The Searchers is one of the favorites of many Western Fictioneers and WWA colleagues of mine. I liked this one better than Stagecoach, although the setting is fairly similar, so perhaps it's the worry, the tiredness of hero John Wayne along with his adopted nephew (Jeffrey Hunter, who caught my eye as a hot hero - see photo).

That was one looooong search, and Natalie Wood didn't seem all that appreciative of their efforts. Yeesh.

The Searchers earned some great top honors. In 2008, the film was  named the GREATEST AMERICAN WESTERN OF ALL TIME (yep, you heard that right!)  by the American Film Institute. This after it climbed to 12th place on the AFI's 2007 list of the 100 Greatest American movies ever! Besides a few other awards, the film was named the Best Western of all time by the magazine Entertainment Weekly. Not bad! 
And BOTH heroes look like they went through HELL, all for love and loyalty. Sigh.

Here's several other young studs who looked fabulous -- until becoming heroes in famous western films. I tell you, being a hero out west is bad for your health. Look at these manly guys, the chiseled features, those muscles! Clint Eastwood looks great until he turns into a scruffy, worried, tired Man With No Name. Robert Redford looks spiffy in that uniform until he grows a thatch of beard and long hair, dons buckskin and then scalps people and eats their livers. See how Tom Selleck looks so happy, healthy and hot in Hawaii as Magnum, the ultimate private eye, until he goes FURTHER west to Australia and gets all worried, tired and grungy.

Of course, this is all tongue-in-cheek. We LOVE these hot western heroes. They're worried for good reason -- the situation needs changing! The heroine needs loving! And they can prove just how much of an American manly man they are by saving the day.

God bless American heroes!

Meg Mims is an award-winning author with two western mysteries under her Eastern belt. DOUBLE CROSSING earned the 2012 WWA Spur Award for Best First Novel, and the sequel DOUBLE OR NOTHING was recently named the First Place Winner in the 2013 Laramie Awards for Western Mystery. Her story, "A Savior Is Born," is included in the Western Fictioneers' anthology A WOLF CREEK CHRISTMAS. Meg lives in Michigan, where the hills are like driveway slopes and trees block any type of prairie winds. LIKE her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or check out her books on her website.