Back when the West was first settled, it was known to be a wicked and lawless place. In addition, Indian attacks made it often a perilous journey for people in wagon trains or even freight trains to cross the Great Plains unfettered on their way to places such as Oregon or California.
From 1965 to 1969, there was a popular television series called “The Big Valley” which starred Miss Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Long, Peter Breck, Linda Evans and Lee Majors. It was set in the area of Stockton, Calif.
I watched that show faithfully. I even grew to love wearing cowboy hats and cowboy boots partly because of that show and other Westerns such as “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke.”
There is a certain mystique about a man with cowboy boots with jingle-bob spurs walking across a wooden porch, deck, or old-fashioned wooden sidewalk. The sound of each step is firm, deliberate, precise, and in a steady gait or cadence.
To an observer, that was the sound of the West, where men were free to come and go as they pleased. It was a golden era where men worked hard with genuine grit and determination; yet be refined, chivalrous and protective of women.
It was an atmosphere whereby cattle were herded; where wild horses were tamed; and where children were raised in a solid, loving, and unified family-unit where even half-siblings were accepted as part of the family.
In the television series, the matriarch Victoria Barkley (played by Barbara Stanwyck) was a widow, but she was tough and kept her family together in an era where one-parent households were a rarity. The “Barkley Brand” wasn’t just their cattle-brand: it was their mark as a pioneer family. And, guns were a means of protecting oneself and one’s property; and the point-of-a-gun was often the biggest defender of “The Rule of Law.”
Recent news reports say that a new movie called “The Big Valley” will soon be made, with filming in Louisiana; with actor Lee Majors who originally played the character Heath Barkley in the television series now playing Heath’s father Tom Barkley in the upcoming movie. I wish it much success. And, if Mr. Majors needs a pair of boots with some jngle-bob spurs: he can borrow mine. I got them at a rodeo in Phillipsburg.
It would also be nice if the producers of the movie could incorporate a few scenes from in (or around) Great Bend, such as the old Fort Zarah area.
Even the sight of cowboys on horseback crossing some plain-looking railroad tracks in that historic area, would give a touch of luster and authenticity, honoring the many pioneers who crossed that way in bygone times.
The sight of railroad tracks crossing a bare field would look much the same as they did in the 1800s.
This would be a nice occasion for Hollywood to incorporate a Great Bend theme into one of its movies. If they can film parts of it in Louisiana, surely they can do a scene or two in Barton County.
Even the real Pony Express linked Kansas with California with the route supposedly crossing “the Barkley Ranch.”
I hope the movie’s producers will give that idea some serious thought.
James A. Marples,