I may squander a guess, I believe the term "the West" has generated more words
or volumes of words than any other subject with which I am familiar. In reality
the West is like a chameleon, always changing colors.
It can be a geographical
location like a territory, state, town or maybe a ranch. Sometimes it is merely
a direction, like "out there" and at other times it means "anywhere west" of where
the speaker or writer is standing at the moment.
To many it is a period
of time, like an hour, a year or maybe a generation. It can be a destination,
a place to go to, or a place to be from.
Others consider it a goal to
be reached or the reason for failing. The West has been called a deity like a
heavenly place or can be compared to hell. It can be a renewal of life or for
many in the past, it was the end.
No doubt there is a western direction
existing on every continent, in every country, ocean and location in the world.
But, only in America does the term have such distinctive form and fabulous myth
Of interest, many believe this vast and sometimes vague period
of time only lasted 35 to 40 years. Others believe the West lasted only from the
gold strike at Sutter's Mill until the massacre at Wounded Knee.
of a cowboy-bent-of-mind believe the West is limited to the heyday of the cowboy
which only lasted for 30 years or so.
This is a strong argument as the
average westerner always believes the cowboy must be involved some way or there
is no West.
Common sense dictates the West has always been the frontier,
the edge of settlement or even the edge of civilization no matter the location.
It seems, especially in America, you always had to look west to seek that
edge or boundary.
Writing about the West is either fiction or non-fiction.
Nonfiction better be right, on the money in detail, or history will negate what
ever you have written.
Fiction can be distorted a bit allowing almost
any situation to happen and is readily accepted by most with imagination.
did the West and its writings have so much appeal? Almost anything was exciting
if you were a stay-at-home settler with his nose to the grindstone. Long, hot
hours using an axe, shovel or swinging a chopping hoe left the mind open to fantasy
that could easily involve the West.
The monotonous existence of most farmers
and day laborers in close association with the same people every day, shackled
by law and tradition, held in place by poverty and afraid to venture from the
familiar made the West more mysterious and inviting than it was in reality.
matter the category of existence the reader or listener was trapped in, by reading
about adventure or listening to the stories told by travelers, the West was like
a bright beckoning light always blinking on the edge of imaginations.
8 , 2010 Column © Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears weekly.