He had much to say
about Texas, Texans, Mexicans,
and the cowboy way.
McMurtry, best known
for essays, books, and movie scripts
which Hollywood’s Oscar would pay.
But Larry most loved book scouting,
a proud bibliopolist,
another dying breed.
Look both ways learning about history, myth, legend, and reality.
Mind the gaps because therein may hide the best of the stories.
Larry Jeff McMurtry (1936-2021) was an American novelist, essayist, bookseller (book-scout) and screenwriter whose work was predominantly set in either the Old West or contemporary Texas. Dying breeds, historical truth, and books attracted him personally and professionally. My favorite McMurtry quotes are:
“People would be bored shitless if they had to love only the good in someone they care about.”
“Backward is just not a natural direction for Americans to look – historical ignorance remains a national characteristic.”
“Only a rank degenerate would drive 1,500 miles across Texas without eating a chicken fried steak.”
To begin the second week of the NaPoWriMo challenge, I was to give a name to my alter ego. Then I was to provide you with a detailed description of him or her (in my case, his). Finally, I was s’pposed to write in my alter ego’s voice, presumably a poetic piece of some kind. I looked up alter ego because I wasn’t certain what that was. I’m still not sure.
I’ve provided you with two video clips. One to clarify my alter ego’s behavior and attitude (Gus McCrae from the Lonesome Dove miniseries, played by Robert Duvall). It’s close, but not exactly right. So, I added another clip from a Bloomberg interview with Sam Elliot to help with the look, facial hair, and voice. I also added a photo for the uniform and a bushier mustache.
Meet Scratch McGillicuddy, my alter ego. Scratch got his first name playing pool (poorly). His last name was bestowed by his father, but it’s not his real family name. He never uses that. Scratch’s motto is do no harm but take no shit. He has a soft heart that he wants no one to see, and a hard head that everyone sees. Like Gus McCrae, Scratch has an appreciation for the arts, the intelligence of others, all kinds of learning, and he talks and drinks too much.
While McGillicuddy has seen better days and his best is in the past, he is seriously in denial about that and thinks he can do it all as well as always. Scratch is older than he looks, is more physically fit than many think, and admits to selling himself for a bit more than his worth. In many ways, except for his cowboy image, Scratch is an average sized man who hits hard and shoots straight, metaphorically and literally.
He sees things others miss. While his hearing is waning, he loves music. Secretly, he is proud of his physical and emotional scars. Yet, he doesn’t show them off or talk much about what price he paid for them.
We’re all gone now, but we ain’t
And we ain’t them Louis L’Amour pokes,
but we are too, in many a memory.
Now, we’re the Larry McMurtry truth.
We’re not the western movie,
but we’re the western hero
and the Liberty Valance, sorry to say.
We don’t drive pickup trucks,
but we ride, smack dab in the middle with you.
We love horses, snakes, and cows,
but we ain’t no farmers nor them
drugstore cowboy goat ropers.
We drink rank coffee and cheap rye whiskey,
and we cause tons a trouble on the double.
We’re on your saddles, in yer picture shows,
and we be a permanent part of yer art.
In Oklahoma we’re gussied up in a dad burn museum.
We’re who y’all pine to be, but you can’t be no more
b’cuz they done bob-warred the dang prairie.
We all been throwed, and some of us been rode.
Don’t be messin’ with our women folk,
now, ya been nicely told.
Hang on to the myth, the cowboy stories,
because it’ll be nowhere on earth, ever again.
Never like it was way back then. Like I said,
We just ain’t here abouts no more. But you are.
Look both ways for the stories of history: the truth, myths, and mysteries.
Mind the gaps, the hats, the spurs, and the boots.
It isn’t what it was, but it was what it is. Make the best of it.
Today I was to write a poem about a mythical person or creature doing something unusual – or at least something that seems unusual in relation to that person/creature.
While I may have skirted the “mythical person/creature” intent of this prompt into a mythical persona, my poem jibes with a contemporary American myth, my real life, and my reading of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and other books.
The Marlboro Men
Some didn’t smoke nor drink. Some hated horses.
First, for thirty years he was the
as soft as May she,
the lady who smoked, then she transitioned
into a tough, rugged, solitary, successful,
sometimes gay, mythical but authentic cowboy—
the sexiest of the sexist real men to face cancer.
Born with The Magnificent Seven’s memorable music,
growing and coming of age while riding
our cultural waves of the cold war, rock & roll,
civil and women’s rights; adverts were
icons of destiny for the decidedly deceived,
counters for conservative control
of our changing values.
The Big-un, the real one, a cowboy myth
to market coffin nails
and sell cowboy killers
to callow, naive boys who
never did and never will ride a horse
or be close enough to smell a cow.
The idolized hat, saddle, and boots of the Colorado rancher,
a friend to the duke, who took twelve years to
awaken to the wisdom of his being bought
to kill his own kin.
Was the demise of the man, the myth, and the cowboy the lie?
Was the image of what such men meant tarnished
by tobacco’s tar, nicotine, addiction, disease, and death?
What men or women deserve to be our exemplars?
Are the anonymous quitters, the rebels, those
who turn and fight for right; are they, the proven people,
our legitimate, proper heroes? Or is true grit bogus?
Look both ways while riding the trails of western myth.
There is a truth to be found, but it’s now more than a hundred years,
and thousands of movies, ads, and commercials later.
Mind the gaps in the lies of marketing and advertising.
At first, years ago
when I was a green carrot,
Texans were, it seemed,
wonderful; charming, friendly,
funny-talking folk in spurs
and special wide brim hats,
and mess on their boots;
mysterious, clever, dashing,
men, woman, and children;
lovers of prickly flora
and less flattering fauna; frank
but short of blunt, somber souls.
For forty years I lived among ‘em,
counted myself one,
raised three more,
befriended many, tolerated more;
a citizen with resident rights,
I’ve noticed fewer hold that mythical
lost in a dangerous land,
Houston in New York.
Look both ways when we pine for the past.
Enjoy the stories and the myths, but mind the gaps where rattlers sleep.