Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Sights, Smells, and Experience of the Old West

The Old West was something that most every boy from my generation, as well as those before and after, dreamed of. We were inspired by Western sitcoms like Gene Autry, The Rebel, Maverick, Bonanza, Gun Smoke, The Rifleman, Sky King, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and so on and so forth. We already covered Gunsmoke, Roy and Dale Evans, and Sky King in previous blog articles.

I was thinking about this the other day, but although I and so many of you watched all these western sitcoms as well as great movies, many of which we have featured in the Hot Box in the right sidebar, unless you lived on a ranch or a farm, you wouldn’t, couldn’t totally understand the breadth and width of the experience. In this week’s blog post, we’re going to discuss the sights, smells, and experience of the Old West.

Horses, Campfires, Guns and Leather

The love of horses, guns, and a warm campfire on a chilly night were the most common and ordinary things that I and many others fell in love with. We played cowboys and Indians, we received holsters and toy 6-shooters for Christmas, and some of us even got to ride horses (being in Ohio, we’re most often looking at a farm environment). My dad, being a shoe cobbler by trade at that time--like his father before him--made me a real, authentic leather holster for Christmas one year, probably 1957. When I rediscovered it hanging in a remote part of the basement in or about 1997, it was dry rotted from being there so long without care.

Take, for example, the leather holster that a real cowboy of the Old West wore. Unless he took proper care of the leather, it would end up like mine, dry rotted and no longer usable. My dad at the time taught me how to care for my new holster, using an oil of some kind. Of course, keeping your holster in a toybox in between occasional rides over the prairie in the back yard is totally different than what a holster went through on the hip of a real cowboy in the days of ‘Yore.

The Smell of Leather

So I would imagine that any respectable cowboy would, from time to time, rub down his holster with an oil to preserve it so it looked better, but most importantly, so it served him well. I can even imagine him oiling the inside of the holster, at least around the upper portion, so it would draw faster in a shootout.

I can almost imagine those chilly nights with stars overhead while sitting around a warm campfire oiling a thick, heavy holster. I’d then turn my attention to the 6-shooter I would depend on, on a daily basis, as well as my saddle. I can almost smell the oil, the campfire, and feel the oil on my fingers on my favorite oiled rag I keep in my saddle bags, along with extra .45 caliber ammunition for my 6 shooter revolver.

I also can imagine--well, I’m trying to--a slow walk down main street Dodge City, the home of Marshal Dillon and the Gunsmoke gang. How different it must have been from that of today. The smells that accompany a walk down 5th Ave. with all the cars, buses, trucks, and people is sure to be a lot different than that of the Old West where there were horses; dirty, smelly cowpokes, and the like.

In Conclusion

In the coming months, we’ll feature commentaries on WMD concerning colonary considerations of the time--as in what did a cowboy eat on the trail versus a restaurant in a hotel in Dodge City, for example? What was the common attire worn by a cowboy? How much did it cost to rent a room at the hotel? What were some of the more common vocations of the day? Western movies and sitcoms focus on jobs such as the marshal and his deputies, cowpokes that drove cattle to market, bartenders, doctors, gunslingers, etc.

We’ll do the research and we’ll find guest authors who will weigh in from time to time, and much more. In the meantime, please enjoy this documentary/movie as well as those in the WMD Hot Box.

--Al Colombo

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