Saturday, July 27, 2013

Have We Lost Our Way?

            From the title one might think this post is all about the apparent tendency to disregard the truth, moral conduct, or equitable treatment in our society. Such actions are, or at least appear to me to be more prevalent each day and are destroying the world we live in.

            Our legal system doesn’t seem to be a great help in supporting our society and ensuring its continuity. They keep making decisions that fail to reward upright behaviour, make special efforts to protect those who are trying to destroy our society (and our system of law) and fail to hold felons responsible for their actions.

            But no, that’s not what this is about at all, although it’s quite apparent from what I just wrote and how I feel about it that it could be and would be very long.

            No, this is about our sense of direction.

            When some one says “West,” or you see the word in print what do you think of? For most of those in North America, and even a few in other parts of the world, the first picture that comes to mind is Monument Valley, perhaps the plains of Texas, or perhaps a view of Arizona sagebrush. I know that was, and often is, the first picture that comes to my mind.

            We know that isn’t right. If a person is in Maine then New York is west. In Canberra Perth is out west, even if the Perth in question is in Perthshire or Ontario.

            So why is it that for millions “The West” is in the U.S. south-west? Because several people, most notably in Los Angeles, CA spent millions to make it so. Hundreds of so called “low budget” westerns with Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, Rex Allen, Roy Rodgers and Gene Autry and a long list of others that we forget having seen. And then there are hundreds, yes hundreds, of big budget flicks such as Shane, High Noon, and all the Eastwood and John Wayne movies that, despite the critics decrying their costs still managed to make a dollar. They became vehicles that advanced the careers of those both in front of and behind the cameras including those who wrote both screen-plays and original stories.

            Why can’t a “Western” be about the west of Argentina? Perhaps an “Eastern” about the trapping, mining and rail road builing in Siberia. (Louis L’Amour’s “Last of the Breed” comes to mind as a good place to start.)

            Of course it has been done successfully for Australia with “Quigley Down Under” and the “Snowy River” stories.

            Personally I’m concerned with the West of Canada. A couple of passable TV shows have been done about the opening of Ontario in the early days, two “modern” western series that I can think of presented on CBC and a third that was absolutely awful and should never have seen the light of day. A couple of ‘made for TV’ movies; one about Bill Miner and another about early gold rush days in BC that where not only well done and entertaining but reasonably accurate.

            There are many reasons why I write, but this is the primary reason why I write stories placed in the early days of Canada’s west. Because I believe that more people need to know that Canada’s history, the stories of our growth and development, our cattlemen, farmers, lawmen, miners, trappers and railroad men are as exciting and entertaining as those from any “west.” They can also teach the value of truth, moral conduct and equitable treatment such as many of the Hollywood movies attempted.

            Besides, it is quite obvious from the money spent around the world on western memorabilia that there is a waiting, hungry market for the traditional western. (Not to be confused with the big budget, special effects, comedy western extravaganza.)

            On top of that, there aren’t many writing Canadian historical fiction. Guy Vanderhaeghe, Bill Gallaher, and …

            Perhaps the title should have been, “Searching for the West.”
Round-up crew at the chuck wagon.

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