They're All Love Stories

Published by: David E. Sneed
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My pursuit of the Old West started early. In fact, before I was even born, I was waitin’ on a wagon; Wagon Train that is. Back in June of 2013, I wrote a Father’s Day tribute to my dad. He passed away a few years later but that post was just a glimpse into my dad’s life. Beyond his record-holding baseball talents, he was a consummate horseman and western fanatic. In fact, that passion for horses and the Old West left us with a world of family stories.

To that point, I was married with kids before my mom told me the tale of what happened when she went into labor while carrying me. For most folks, those frequent contractions would mean it was time for an immediate trip to the hospital. My dad, though, assumed that the biological clock could somehow be put on hold. It seems he was a little too preoccupied with a TV western when mom announced the need to leave. Even the doctor grew tired of waiting and called to see if everyone had left for the hospital (in those days, doctors not only made house calls but would actually call to check on folks).

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Every week, a new episode of 'Wagon Train' outlined another set of challenges for emigrants headed west.

Back to the latest episode of Wagon Train on my folks’ black and white TV... The show was holding dad spellbound and he wanted to know how it was going to end. I mean, who could blame him?  (Well, maybe mom could!) Indeed, there was no way to record a program in the early 1960’s and he, clearly, ‘needed’ to stay on top of Major Seth Adams’ progress as he led those emigrants west! The episode was entitled, ‘The Will Santee Story’. It aired May 3, 1961 at 7:30 in the evening. As a one-hour program, the delay meant that mom would have to ‘hold on’ until 8:30 before they could head to the hospital. What a mom I have! I don’t know any other person with that kind of patience, fortitude, and control. She’s done more to encourage, support, and watch over me than I deserve. Thanks, Mom, for giving so much of yourself and always being there for me.

Next week I’ll try to sum up the western lifestyle and pastime that I believe matches a good many of us. It may involve the pursuit of a particular wagon, regional history, rare images, or just an appreciation for the life that was. Whatever the intrigue, the American West is poetic to its core. So much so, that, in a moment my dad would have enjoyed, a few years ago, I offered my own justification for staying glued to a good western. My wife and I were sitting together watching an entire afternoon of cowboy flicks. At the end of one of them, she mentioned that it would be nice to watch a Hallmark-type romance. I turned and gave her my best, most sincere look. Then I said, “Honey, when it comes to westerns, they’re all love stories.” She gave me that look that only wives can give – and the wise learn to heed. I countered by doubling down and saying, “Seriously, think about it. Every western has a love interest. It’s either focused on the people, vehicles, animals, land, lifestyle, or all of the above.” Well, I had her. She couldn’t argue. So, what did I do next? I did what any smart man would do. I turned the channel to a Hallmark romance. Ha! But I had made my point and, today, we still laugh about how all westerns are woven together with a love interest!

So, today, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, here’s to all of the serial westerns and movies ever made. As I think of it, maybe my dad was more romantic and sentimental than we thought. Maybe that deep appreciation for programs like Wagon Train, Bonanza, The High Chaparral, Gunsmoke, Branded, The Big Valley, Rawhide, The Guns of Will Sonnet, The Lone Ranger, The Virginian, The Rifleman, and so many more was actually a heartfelt connection to the pure poetry of the Old West. After all, from one episode to another, They’re All Love Stories! 

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