The Legacy of the West

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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Where does time go?  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was stretched out on the floor in front of my grandparent’s television on a Saturday evening.  I would have been around 8 or 9 years old, intensely focused on one of my all-time favorite serial westerns, Gunsmoke.  Then and now, the theme music was highly identifiable.  Whether you’re a fan of the earlier episodes or all of them, it’s easy to appreciate the lineup of characters.  Who didn’t find themselves reading the opening credits and perhaps even imitating an announcer heralding the cast…  Milburn Stone as Doc.  Amanda Blake as Kitty.  Ken Curtis as Festus.  Buck Taylor as Newly.  And James Arness as Matt Dillon.  There was no mistaking that these characters were good folks with amazing friendships.  It was a combination that made all the difference in the trying times of the Old West. 

Today, the show still holds great memories.  Anyone growing up as a fan of the program doesn’t need a time machine to be transported back.  Like an old friend, the music and episodes have a way of drawing us back to spend more time together.  And why not?  The show was masterfully written with extremely well-developed personalities.  So significant is the program that it still stands as television’s longest-running prime time drama with the most episodes - 635.  It originally ran on radio and then captured the imagination of television audiences for another 20 years (1955-1975).  Re-runs continue to be aired today, over 60 years since the show’s promotional introduction by none other than John Wayne.   

For over 60 years, the cast of Gunsmoke have endeared themselves to fans of all ages.
For many, the program and its characters are much more than fictional representations of moments on the frontier.  The series is a connection to a way of life; a time when doing the right thing wasn’t just a convenient slogan.  It was the fabric that held family, friends, communities, and an entire nation together. 

So, when I got the opportunity to spend a few hours with one of the cast regulars, I wasn’t about to pass up the chance for an interview.  From acting to painting and a seemingly endless trail of appearances, Buck Taylor has been focused on the West for virtually his entire life.  The results of those creative efforts have produced countless true-to-life exploits from the western frontier. 

While this (and next) week’s blog may seem like a slight departure from my regular focus on western vehicles, the overall message is still on target.  How?  Well, for years I’ve shared concerns about how period information, artifacts, and even the original vehicles have been overlooked and are rapidly disappearing.  Truth is, the more I’ve studied this subject, the more convinced I’ve become that we only know a fraction of what there is to learn.  For instance, there were thousands of patents on early wagons and western vehicle designs.  Most go completely unnoticed today.  Why are they important?  Because each one has the potential to help authenticate, identify, date, and define the true value of a particular set of wheels – not to mention that many of these innovations were heavily contested in legal wranglings as wild as anything in the West!  Just as valuable are a host of all-but-forgotten details related to paint, wheels, timber, construction features, and even correct terminology for a particular piece.  In fact, one of the most exciting aspects in studying America's first transportation industry is that the subject is so deep, there’s always something new to learn.  It happens to me almost daily.     

Reinforcing that point, every day we have a choice to help save or lose valuable links to our past.  The first step in preserving that history takes place when we help others grow closer to the rich heritage and exciting stories accompanying this part of yesterday.  After all, it’s only through active sharing that any of us can experience the full depth, spirit, and life lessons found throughout the stories of the frontier.  So, while painting and acting make up Buck Taylor’s livelihood, he’s also a promotional ambassador for the American West – just like many of you reading this now.  The upshot to it all is that the more the subject is effectively promoted, the more likely it is that valuable parts of history are recognized and saved. 

My goal in next week’s blog is to share a few things about Buck Taylor that many have never read or known.  Hopefully, it helps add even more depth and appreciation for all who devote so much time to perpetuating our western legacy.  From chuck wagon competitors and historical organizations to collectors, writers, publishers, and enthusiasts in general, everyone plays a vital role.   

Similarly, we’ve been privileged to talk to a lot of good folks over the years.  We even have one reader who complimented us by saying that our blog is the first thing she reads before her feet hit the floor on Wednesdays.  Well, all I can say to that is you may want to move your coffee maker closer to the bed for next week’s blog because it will likely be a fair amount longer.  Even so… maybe, just maybe, it helps reconnect us all a little closer to the incredible spirit and allure of the Old West.  Maybe it even rekindles a special memory you haven’t thought of in quite a while.  If that spark can make you smile, slow you down, and draw you nearer to the most important parts of your life – well, maybe we’re all gaining some ground.  

See ya next week!

Please Note:  As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved.  The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC 
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