Every kid goes through a phase where they like to dress up. Mine was a little more than a phase, for a few years I spent more time in costumes than the Village People. I had them all: the astronaut, the army guy, the firefighter, James Bond. I can even remember dressing up like the Frito Lay delivery guy. But my absolute favorite thing to be was a cowboy.
From what I remember I was always the good guy that rode into town, took out the bad guys and got the girl. I would spend my days riding from one oppressed town to another on my faithful steed and then sleep out under the stars…. at least that is what I imagined it was like. Then my son and I went to a western this past weekend and I started to think that my childhood day dreams were way off base.
Each Wild West town pretty much has the same people, according to the movies at least. As I watched, it dawned on me for the first time, that if I lived in that town there is a pretty good chance I wouldn’t have been the hero. So then I spent the rest of the movie trying to figure out just which extra I would have been.
The Hero – This is the guy (I want to add gal here because I have a daughter and I am pretty sure she would be the hero) who we all want to be. She knows what to say and when to say it. Even more importantly when not to say anything and let the pistols do the talkin. They have the steady hands of a brain surgeon, the motivational skills of a general and cool disposition of a bomb diffuser. I am sure if I had any of those characteristics they would be apparent by now. I also use the word “sorry” way too much so I’m out of the running for that part.
The Sidekick – This wouldn’t be so bad. The hero is always there to save you and you’re still a major part of the plot line. But I can be a pretty anxious guy and that would be close to the action, heck if someone raises there voice in the checkout line I start to squirm, so this probably isn’t me.
The Outlaw – There is something kind of sexy about being bad and black is slimming. Unfortunately my morals would probably get in the way and the fact that I often catch insects to release them outside wouldn’t help either. Scratch that one.
The Town Doctor – I could have never stuck with school long enough to be a modern day Doc but back then it was probably a lot of hands on training. At first this was appealing but then I thought about amputations, which were quite frequent. With the tools available it would have been like sawing off tree limbs all day long. That seems like a lot of work, next.
The Spineless Sheriff – This had promise. I get to carry a gun, wear a badge and lock people up at will. Unfortunately it seems that often times the Outlaw ends up shooting the Sheriff in anger or to prove a point, so I’ll pass.
The Store Owner – I’ve worked retail before, so I know I would make a great shop keep, however, between paying the banditos for protection and my store getting shot up every other week I don’t think you could possibly turn a profit. Store closed.
The Rich & Evil Land Owner – This one has a lot of upside. You get to live in the time period’s equivalent of a castle. You run the show. You can shoot people just for fun. But I can’t get past the fact that it would take a lot of motivation and drive to get there. I’m not opposed to climbing my way up on the backs of others… it’s just all the climbing deters me.
The Bartender – The upside is that it seems like everyone drinks, a lot, so you would always be busy. Down side is that you mostly serve whiskey, how boring would that be? “Could someone order a Mojito for the love of…” Plus the bar always getting shot up would create a hostile work environment, no thanks.
The Undertaker – Talk about a job with perks. You could strip the corpses of any valuables before grave robbers got to them and no one would bother you with small talk at the store. I don’t think I could get past the whole “dead body” thing though and it would be even worse without air-conditioning so I am out on that one as well.
I reckon that makes me a town member. Probably the quite retiring type that rides off into the sunrise with family in tow early in the movie. At first this seemed like a pretty sad fate but then I realized that most of the “men folk” that stayed usually ended up getting killed during a big shootout at the end of the movie. By that time the family and I would be several days ride away. Sure the kids would be a little upset about having to change one room school houses again but they would get over it, sometimes only the weak survive.