My Heroes have always been Cowboys
– Waylon Jennings
Tom Mix Died Here
Tom Mix was the greatest of the silent-era movie cowboys, and a cowboy in real-life as well. He reportedly could knock a button off of a shirt with a rifle shot, and jump a horse into a railroad box car. He was married seven times to six different women. (MFW: Don’t try this at home folks. This is only for REAL Cowboys.)
But Tom was 60 years old on October 12, 1940, and behind the wheel of a V8 convertible, not in a saddle, when he decided to race north across the Arizona desert to visit his son-in-law. No one knows how fast he was going when he saw the road repair crew, but some say that he was standing straight up on the brakes, trying to stop, when his car flew into the washed-out gully. Tom’s aluminum suitcase was thrown out of the back seat and into the back of Tom’s head (He was wearing his trademark 10-gallon white Stetson at the time). Mix emerged apparently unscathed from the car — which was not badly damaged — took one step, and crumpled, dead of a broken neck.
The gully was renamed Tom Mix Wash as a makeshift memorial. Seven years later the Pinal County Historical Society erected a monument at the remote site. It’s a mortared, cobblestone pile topped with a two-foot-tall black iron silhouette of a saddled but riderless horse, its head bowed. The horse has several holes in it. At first you may think it’s rust — but then you remember that you’re in a desert, and there is no rust, and the holes are in fact bullet holes.
The monument was restored in 1990 when the horse, which had been stolen ten years earlier, was returned and had its first batch of bullet holes repaired. In the early 21st century a single, sheltered picnic bench was built just behind the monument, for those who want to eat lunch in the middle of a desert where Tom Mix died.
I didn’t just randomly pick this Tom Mix image for my Blog Icon.
I genuinely admire Mix as a real Cowboy who became a Film Star.
He really was an amazing character who did many of his own stunts.
The were a few Western Stars in those days – the 20’s –
who were genuine Cowboys.
This kind of Casting stopped after a while – possibly the reason being demonstrated by this famous quote from the
Great Western Film Director John Ford:
It is easier to get an actor to be a cowboy
than to get a cowboy to be an actor.
– John Ford
Yet later on we still found a few Cowboys that became BIG Stars:
Ben Johnson the 1971 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
and the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for the movie
The Last Picture Show.
The great irony here is that Johnson’s career was started
by John Ford who had originally hired him as a wrangler
to manage the horses for his Movies.
Also Slim Pickens who had an astounding film career
started as rodeo cowboy.
Then appeared in nearly 90 Films
and 60 TV appearances
over 40 years.
2 thoughts on “Reel Cowboys …”
good post, JC.
Much appreciated Don.
These guys are gone – but, thankfully, a lot of their work remains.