Monday, October 29, 2012

White Hat Down

art by frank mccarthy

White Hat Down

“As a kid, whenever a guy got killed
in a Western movie, I always wondered
what happened to his horse.”
--George Carlin

Quite the journey, that juxtaposition
of the buttoned up Miss Kitty being visited
slyly and regularly by Matt Dillon,
to the more realistic cum-stained raunchy
cleavage-revealing saloon whores
of Deadwood and Hell on Wheels;

from the pig-tailed two-gunned Gail Davis
wearing her drugstore white leather frilled finery
to the mercurial Robin Weigert vomiting rot gut
onto the chest of her sweat encrusted leather blouse;

from the days of Duncan Renaldo giving
The Cisco Kid perfectly pressed black vaquero
Hollywood Latin accent and charm,
to Eli Wallach’s gold-toothed cringing ugliness
in that Sergio Leone spaghetti epic;

from Hugh O’Brien’s tight-lipped prancing dude
marshall, always fingering his Buntline barrel,
to Kurt Russell’s blue-eyed mustached killer titan
riding down and blowing away his adversaries
while just seeming to step out of several
Remington canvases--much like laconic Lee
Marvin did in that battered hat as Monte Walsh;

from the skinny kid Cheyenne with the painted chest
that Anthony Quinn played in The Plainsman, 
standing rigid in front of a De Mille diorama, 
to the huge Will Sampson as Ten Bears saying,
“then it will be life” to Clint in Outlaw Josey Wales,
or the believability of Graham Greene’s Kicking Bird
as patriarch to Costner in Dancing with Wolves;

From Roy Rogers as William Bonny in Billy the Kid Returns,
sidekicking with Smiley Burnette to those flawed sociopaths
played later by Paul Newman, Kristofferson, Kilmer, 
& Michael J. Pollard, mixing in 
the politics of the roughshod cattle barons
and the ragtag squatters and small ranchers;

from the Depression dignity in handsome Tyrone Power’s
Jesse James, passing by Robert Duvall’s raging
raving Jesse in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid
to the naked preening arrogance of
Brad Pitt’s complex unsympathetic version;

from the sweet natured Paul Newman’s 
Robert Leroy Parker riding a bicycle
to the silly strains of raindrops dropping
awkwardly from the Bacharach score,
to the taciturn aging Butch Cassidy
that the brilliant Sam Shepard played
in Bolivia in Blackthorn;

From John Wayne lip-synching Singing Sandy,
to his bloated brilliant departure Rooster Cogburn, 
to the wiry bearded lethal hooligan 
bounty hunter that Jeff Bridges
played for the Coen Brothers.

I preferred Keith Carradine’s Will Bill Hickok
to the silliness of Guy Madison’s,
Ellen Barkin’s lusty Calamity Jane
to Doris Day’s scrubbed songbird,
and I do enjoy the full nudity
and the proliferation of the F-word
in modern Westerns. I am pleased to acknowledge
the powerful presence of black cowboys & Indians,

we definitely have lost the joy
of those long Saturday matinees
at the Orpheum cheering Tex Ritter,
Audie Murphy and Randolph Scott,
resigning one’s self to their remastered
flicker on Encore’s TWC, lost the cleanliness
of American pioneer white hat charm,
seeing it vanish into parody, nostalgia,
and frantic internet image searches;

some mornings I just want Jay Silverheels
to awaken me to the oder of kemo sabe coffee,
or have Dale bang the Double R Bar triangle
for some happy trail pancakes and eggs
as old Roy strums an expensive guitar
while harmonizing with the Sons of the Pioneers
who always seem to be out in the front yard,
take a ride in Nelly Belle,
throw a real bone for Bullet,
being genuinely sad that I never
had a son to give my Davy Crockett
coonskin cap to.

Glenn Buttkus

October 2012

Posted over on dVerse Poets OLN

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Brian Miller said...

smiling at the giving of the coon skin cap....i think we have swung the pendulum pretty far the other direction, after the good guys winning and the cleanliness of the old westerns to the deadwoods of today....and i imagine the truth lies somewhere in s was surely rough and a tough life on the frontier...i love a good western though...3:10 to Yuma is the last one i really remember...

Beachanny said...

I guess even a girlygirl like me growing up in Texas with two boys and a husband who loved westerns, was bound to know EVERY single allusion in this poem, get the joy, the discovery, the great acting, in so many, the great direction, art design in others, and have the same nostalgia for the good guy with white hat and white horse. Great poem.

seacamels said...

You bring back so many memories! So skilful and so well done. You have quite a catalogue there—certainly worthy of remembrance.

Anonymous said...

Yes, spaghetti westerns and matinees. So much here. And then you get me in the end with coonscap, that's even more impactful than missed Saturdays. Very good.

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