Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys


I grew up watching cowboys on TV. That might date me, but why try to hide it? When I was growing up, my siblings and I watched Roy Rogers every Saturday morning at my grandmother’s house. It was a huge treat for us (and for my mother, although I didn’t recognize it at the time). For years, we never missed an episode of Bonanza. Maverick? The Rifleman? Rawhide? I loved them all. To this day, I have a friend who still idolizes Paladin of Have Gun, Will Travel (you know who you are, Liz). Something about those Western heroes resonated with me as a young girl and still does.

The concept of “The West” has stirred the American imagination since we first became a nation. The West was a wide open place full of limitless possibilities—a place where a person could invent, or reinvent, himself. For better or worse, the realities of life on the frontier stripped away the veneer of civilization and exposed a man for who he really was.

The icon of the West in nineteenth century journalism and literature was the cowboy—lawmen and outlaws are just variations. These men were portrayed as stalwart, courageous, and true to their own code of honor, whether that code fell within the law or not. They were taciturn and independent to a fault. What a challenge for a strong woman!

Hollywood has brought us some of the best examples of the Western hero, but to appreciate the archetype you have to look back before the anti-hero of recent Western movies to the golden era of the ‘forties and ‘fifties. When you think “Western hero”, most people think of John Wayne, and many film critics have rated The Searchers as the greatest Western of all time.

But I never cared for the tortured character of Ethan Edwards. I much prefer the Duke in an earlier, lesser known film, Angel and the Badman, in which he plays a gunslinger who is nursed back to health by a Quaker girl and is ultimately forced to choose between the violence of his old life and his burgeoning love for her. It’s definitely the stuff of which great romance novels are made.

However, my nomination for the ultimate Western hero is Gary Cooper as Sheriff Will Kane in High Noon. A man who has vowed to kill Kane is scheduled to arrive on the noon train. Tension mounts as Sheriff Kane tries to find someone in town to stand up with him against the outlaw, but one after another the townspeople fail him. Everyone tries to convince him to run away, including his lovely bride, Amy (played by Grace Kelly), but Kane refuses. We see the sheriff’s growing fear as the hours count down toward noon, but he refuses to give in. Will Kane is the embodiment of true courage—not the lack of fear but standing resolute in the face of it. And in the end, he’s saved by the courage of the woman who loves him. Amy conquers her own fears and acts against deeply held beliefs to save her man. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Real Western heroes are strong, brave, and selfless. They’re grown-ups. I love charming rogues as much as the next woman, but when it comes to a hero, give me a cowboy. Whether your hero is a vampire, a cop, or a spy, there are few things sexier than a man doing what a man’s got to do.

What do you look for in a hero?

My latest release, Harvest of Dreams, explores many of these themes, and I think my hero can hold his own with the best of them. Here’s a brief blurb:

Alone on her farm in the middle of a blizzard, young widow Lisa McAllister labors to give birth to her first child. Help arrives in the strong hands of a stranger wearing a six-gun. Lisa has no reason to trust this man who makes a living by violence, even if he is on the right side of the law. Men and their guns have already claimed the lives of her father, brother, and husband, and she’s determined to protect her son at any cost.

Jared Tanner, a security agent for the stagecoach, has been on his own since he was twelve. Against his better judgment, his feelings of protectiveness toward Lisa and her baby turn to something deeper, and he is tempted by the possibility of a family of his own. Can their tender new love survive when an act of ultimate violence threatens to tear them apart?
Thanks for joining me today, and I invite you to visit me on the web at http://www.alisonhenderson.com/.

7 comments:

marybelle said...

There is something rather special about cowboys. A breed apart. 'Harvest of Dreams' looks wonderful.

marypres@gmail.com

Annette said...

this cover rocks

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Allison,

I'm a sucker for those alpha males, which probably comes from watching cowboy shows in my youth as well.

Maggie Toussaint @ Darientel Dot Net

booklover0226 said...

I've been hot for cowboys ever since I saw Yul Brynner, dressed in all black, in The Magnificent Seven!

Thanks,
Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Wendi Zwaduk said...

Cowboys rock! Great post. I loved Kevin Costner in his zillions of western movies.

Emly Forrest said...

Nothing and I mean NOTHING is more sexy than a cowboy. Sam Elliott is my favorite, but there have been so many others.

Cindy L said...

Oooh how could you not love a cowboy! "Save a horse ride a cowboy". ;)