Watching Westerns With My Dad

Western on TV

My love for westerns comes from my Dad. My Dad grew up on a ranch as a kid and remembered wanting to be a cowboy - much like his Dad, who broke and shoed horses for a good portion of his life. I've found images of my Dad when he was a child wearing a cowboy hat, his classic black framed glasses running around in western boots, and sometimes seated on a pony his father bought for him and his sister. When I was a kid, I often would cuddle up in his lap, usually eating licorice, as we watched westerns through the weekends and the occasional weekdays. 

Our childhoods are much different. I sometimes think growing up on a ranch would've been fun. I ask my Dad often if he would've wanted a ranch. His answer, probably - at least to have horses around. When discussing the future, Dad imagines having a cabin and a few horses to look after in retirement. I see my Dad as a cowboy at heart. Anytime we visit family friends' ranches, you can find him petting the horses' snouts and feeding them grass and treats if supplied. Although I didn't have the same upbringing on a ranch, we share a love for western movies. 

Cowboy on his Horse

For proper movie watching, snacks are of the utmost importance. Of course, popcorn is at the top of the list. Not just regular popcorn but air-popped popcorn, as we are popcorn connoisseurs in our family. Since we had popcorn, we would need something sweet. For Dad and I, it would be licorice, preferably in the Red Vine tubs from Costco, but we enjoy Twizzlers when available. They should make big tubs of Twizzlers like they do Red Vines. Mixed nuts are a must, along with Little Debbie Mini Cherry Pies. Dad will often settle into the massive tan rocking chair with a piping cup of coffee - even in the evening. If he's in a different mood, a Cherry Coke Zero will be found in his right hand resting upon the arm of the rocking chair. Occasionally, he'll be holding a coffee cup as he dozes off for a short nap. Somehow his hand always stays perfectly still. 

My Dad and I are similar in a lot of aspects. One Christmas, I was given a heated blanket. I often would come home to find Dad sitting by the nearest outlet with the heated blanket on full blast. It always made me giggle to see how much he enjoys heated blankets. I relocated the blanket to my apartment after that Christmas - I think he misses it dearly. If Dad and I are the only ones up, the wood stove is packed as full as possible. We take turns standing by it like we're rotisserie chickens. When it isn't cold enough to justify a fire, we both pile on blankets as we sit in our separate chairs, nestling in for an excellent movie-watching party for two.

There's something about sitting down to watch a movie with a crackling fire in the background.


Recently, I haven't had the opportunity to sit at home with my Dad as often as I wish - especially when I have a hankering for a good western. However, a few months ago, I sat him down on one of his days off, and we watched Missouri Breaks (1976), starring Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. This movie was not the typical western Dad and I would typically watch - if you haven't seen it, you should watch it to say you have. The movie is set in Montana, following a group of rustlers trying to make a living from other people's cattle. David Braxton owns the cattle in the area and hires Marlon Brando's character to hunt down the thieves. Throughout the movie, Dad made a few comments, one of them being: "What a bunch of squirrels. I wonder how they get anything done." This is an unusual western movie, but worth the watch.

Movie quotes from westerns often make their way into conversations like flying bullets in our family. The other day when looking for new western boots, as Dad turned to walk down the aisle back to where Mom and I stood, I joked, saying, "Walk like John Wayne!" He willingly obliged, causing us to giggle and quote The Birdcage, "Actually, it's perfect. I just never realized John Wayne walked like that." 


John Wayne is pretty hard to avoid when talking about Western movies. He helped make the Western genre as iconic and memorable as we know it today. When I asked Dad what movies were his favorite, he named The Cowboys—this is also one of my favorites. We both enjoy the scenes reminiscent of his youth and riding horses. The Cowboys is a must-watch if you're having a western movie day; the scenery, the acting, the conflict, the resolution, and the music are all big draws for this film. John Williams wrote the score for the movie - a household name for us. You're guaranteed fantastic music if you see his name in any movie credits. 

I recently bought my Dad a silk scarf. His Dad used to wear them all the time, especially when working on the ranch and shoeing horses. Dad talked about remembering how Grandpa would wear the scarves and wished he knew how he tied them. Both of us started toward the internet for knot-tying videos to figure out how to tie nice silk scarf knots. Both of us struggled with getting a successful knot that didn't look like a five-year-old could do. I finally figured out how to tie the Square Buckaroo Knot. All it took was about 20 tries and watching a handful of videos before it made any sense. I proudly showed Dad my dark green scarf with a nice-looking knot. I did a step-by-step walkthrough mirroring movements, yet when he went to pull one of the tails through, it would tie a knot in only one side of the scarf. It was almost like a magic trick. I thought Dad struggled with it because he has large working hands, whereas I have long slim hands. It turns out he was missing the over-under part. We discussed focusing on movies to find new knots to tie into the future. 

If I had to compare my Dad to anyone, it would have to be Gary Cooper. I didn't know Cooper personally, but I know my Dad. He's a stand-up guy looking to contribute some good to the world. In a Hollywood Collection video on Gary Cooper, an acquaintance of Coopers said, "In many ways, Gary Cooper was one of the most moral men I ever knew. I think that's why he loved to make westerns, 'cause a western is the most moral story you can tell, it's a good against evil with the good winning out."

How people describe Gary Cooper often applies to my Dad. He usually's straight to the point, doesn't add a lot of fluff for the sake of others, and walks to the beat of his drum. The man who raised me is a cowboy at heart, with exceptional values taught him by his cowboy father.

I'll forever hold onto memories of growing up watching westerns with Dad.

No matter what, he'll always be the model of a real cowboy to me. 

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