The trapline is full this month. March promises a mountain of plews. Mind yer topknot, keep yer powder dry — and enjoy it all.
Frank Hamer gets his due on screen. Netflix— March 29. Hamer, a former Texas Ranger, led the law enforcement cadre that took out Bonnie and Clyde. It’s high time that Hamer became the focus of this story. Bonnie and Clyde are, truth-to-tell, not all that interesting. And the portrayals of Hamer in “their” movies have ranged from scurrilous to bland. He deserves a telling worthy of the all-time badass that he was.
Netflix drops Triple Frontier for worldwide streaming on March 13.
Former Special Forces operatives reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers, these unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for themselves instead of the country. But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties, and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival.
In a way, this is reminiscent of the spate of merc films in the 1970s, post-Vietnam. But it also links up in an interesting way with some reading I’ve been doing from a warrior-scholar name of Sean McFate on the rise of Private Military Contractors and its implications for the future of warfare and the world order.
Of course, I see all this through a frontier lens. Wrote a piece on it for Running Iron Report.
Every single film like this owes a debt to The Granddaddy of Badass. Captain Paul McNamee of the Frontier Partisans New England Ranging Company scouted up this bizness:
The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film.
For the fiftieth anniversary of the film, W.K. Stratton’s definitive history of the making of The Wild Bunch, named one of the greatest Westerns of all time by the American Film Institute.
Sam Peckinpah’s film The Wild Bunch, named one of the greatest films of all time by the American Film Institute, is the story of a gang of outlaws who are one big steal from retirement. When their attempted train robbery goes awry, the gang flees to Mexico and falls in with a brutal general of the Mexican Revolution, who offers them the job of a lifetime. Conceived by a stuntman, directed by a blacklisted director, and shot in the sand and heat of the Mexican desert, the movie seemed doomed. Instead, it became an instant classic with a dark, violent take on the Western movie tradition.
Not sure the world really needs yet another take on Billy the Kid, but we’re getting one…
It’s an old complaint from me, but there are so many great stories that have not been told, I don’t get why we must continually get Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, etc.
McNamee also scouted out some good news for Tim Willocks fans (all of us, right?): Memo From Turner gets its U.S. release on March 12. This brutal contemporary “Western” set in the remote northern Cape of South Africa is as visceral and as propulsive as a thriller gets.
Last Saturday, Marilyn and I took advantage of free-admission day to revisit the High Desert Museum in Bend. It’s a very well-put-together small museum and it continually improves its content. We visited its raptor center and looked in on the hawks and eagles that live there, almost all of them rehabbed after crippling injury.
The display on the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Fur Trade sparked a marvelous discussion of the global commerce in furs that we continued over excellent street tacos.
At the Silver Sage Trading Post museum store, I picked up this little gem…
The music is lovely and evocative and will be part of my writing music library for Ghosts of the Red Road. This is the only cut I could find online.
Robert as in Robert Rogers.
I’d forgotten about the show for which this was composed. Frontier: Legends of the Old Northwest aired on History Channel back in 1998. It covered Rogers’ Rangers; Pontiac’s Rebellion; the Revolutionary War operations of George Rogers Clark; and Tecumseh’s attempted at building a native state to hold onto a homeland in the Old Northwest.
It can be found on Youtube in marginal video quality (it’s only available on VHS parchment scrolls). It’s watchable in theater mode.
It is FAR superior to the abominable Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen.
As a certified frontier “nerd” according to my daughter, perhaps I may be forgiven for having way too much fun tomahawking my way out of this mess:
My truck was under that. A big juniper next to our driveway snapped off overnight on February 24. It fell over — but not on — my truck. Some work with the Wetterlings forest ax and I was out from under it. Marilyn thinks I have an odd definition of fun — but it was. I mean, I get to say I tomahawked my way into the clear. I like contending with the elements, and we had us some to contend with. A couple of feet of heavy, wet stuff. Waugh!
Facebook has many negatives, but this ain’t one of ’em. A feller with the handle John H. Bryan, Attorney at Law has been posting his exploration of original weaponry from the Virginia frontier. Bryan is a frontier history buff, a civil rights attorney in West Virginia, a gun rights advocate and can manage a 500-pound Farmer’s Carry. So, my kinda feller.
This is stuff I’d never get to clap eyes on if it weren’t for social media, which makes up for a multitude of sins. Check out this old musket, which is believed to have served in one of the major pitched battles of the Ohio Valley frontier:
We believe this musket was at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. It descended through a family in present day Bath County, Virginia. It is an American stocked frontier musket using a combination of gunsmith made and recycled parts, probably originally made on the Virginia frontier for use in the French Indian War. It is iron mounted and .75 caliber.
Note that despite being a smoothbore, it carries rifle sights. Loaded carefully with a tight-patched roundball, it would have delivered acceptable hunting accuracy at reasonable range (30-75 yards). Charge with buck-and-ball and you’ve got yourself a formidable close-quarters-battle weapon. While the rifle was a superior hunting implement, the smoothbore was and remained through the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade a versatile frontier workhorse.
The thought that the musket was used in the Battle of Point Pleasant throws some mighty frisson. That is a fight that is overdue for the Frontier Partisans treatment — one of the few pitched battles in the war for the Ohio Country — and one of even fewer that the Anglo-Americans won. Lord Dunmore’s War was an odd little conflict between Pontiac’s War and the Revolution and I need to get it covered. The battle recently got the Osprey treatment and it’s highly-regarded.
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, served up a very nice tribute to Ian Tyson last month. Here it is:
Speaking of musical tributes, Steve Earle’s tribute to his mentor, the late, great Guy Clark will drop on March 29.
Steve Waylonizes one of my favorite Guy Clark songs. Makes me wish I was in Austin in the Chili Parlor Bar, drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas and not carin’ where you are…
This one had escaped my notice until my brother laid it before me…
Your daddy, he’s an outlaw
And a wanderer by trade
He’ll teach you how to pick and choose
And how to throw the blade
Was invited to give a talk based around Warriors of the Wildlands at Sisters Community Church last month. I just love doing that sort of thing. Engaged, interested audience. I prefer to make these things conversations rather than just reading to and talking at people. I framed this evening around Frederick Russell Burnham. We talked about the Frontiersman’s Paradox and how that classic phenomenon plays out in our own lives in Sisters, Oregon. We talked about the resonance of hero tales and the importance of being inspired to fortitude and resilience. One guy recounted the story of John Colter’s run from the Blackfeet. We talked about race and cultural identity. I quoted Springsteen lyrics at a poor woman who asked me in what ways I am a hero.
Now, I’m no hero it’s understood
All the redemption I can offer girl is beneath this dirty hood…
I sold enough books to pay for a Sig Sauer Red Dot sight (hat tip to you Dave Allen), which now sits proudly on the AR.
Ian Tyson is an old lion. So is Wilbur Smith. The great South African adventure writer is back next month with a sequel to his Triumph of the Sun, which brought his two major African frontier families — the Courteneys and the Ballantynes — together in the face of the Mahdi uprising and the fall of Khartoum.
King of Kings
Cairo, 1888. A beautiful September day. Penrod Ballantyne and his fiancee, Amber Benbrook, stroll hand in hand. The future is theirs for the taking.
But when Penrod’s jealous former lover, Lady Agatha, plants doubt about his character, Amber leaves him and travels to the wilds of Abyssinia with her twin sister, Saffron, and her adventurer husband, Ryder Courtney. On a mission to establish a silver mine, they make the dangerous journey to the new capital of Addis Ababa, where they are welcomed by Menelik, the King of Kings. But Italy has designs on Abyssinia, and there are rumours of a plan to invade…
Back in Cairo, a devastated Penrod seeks oblivion in the city’s opium dens. When he is rescued by his old friend, Lorenzo De Fonseca, now in the Italian army, and offered the chance to assess the situation around the Abyssinian border, Penrod leaps at the chance of action.
With storm clouds gathering, and on opposing sides of the invasion, can Penrod and Amber find their way back to one another – against all the odds?
For several books now, Smith has a co-writer (whom we can assume is doing most of the stalking and the killing while the old lion saunters up for a share of the kill). This sort of thing doesn’t always work that well, but in this case it’s a good thing, because Imogen Robertson can really write. I sampled some of her murder mysteries set in 1780s Britain and I’m impressed. It’ll be interesting to see what a deft woman’s touch will do with Smith’s hyper-alpha male characters.
Another hyper-alpha male swings back into the saddle next month as AMC returns with The Son. The ruthless Eli McCulloch, former Comanche captive turned cattle baron turned oil prospector is back in the second and final season of the epic Texas tale based on Philipp Meyer’s novel. Blood & Oil, friends. A true Texas cocktail.
Eli is a bastard, but he’s the best-dressed man on television, hands down.
Captain Schwertfeger scouted up this notice from Spur Award-winner Patrick Dearen:
My new novel Apache Lament, due out in late March, is based on the actual events of 1881, when Texas Rangers pursued the last free-ranging band of Mescalero Apaches across the desert mountains of West Texas.
At the time, Rangers were not the “one riot, one ranger” lone wolves of the 20th century, but organized military units. When the men of Ranger Company A rode out from their Musquiz Canyon camp near Fort Davis in January 1881, they sought to do what the U.S. Army had been unable to — pick up a fresh Mescalero trail. Near present-day Van Horn, they succeeded and took up the chase on January 25.
Among these 25 Rangers and scouts commanded by Capt. George Wythe Baylor and Lt. C.L. Nevill was 19-year-old Bill Roberts. In 1946 J. Evetts Haley used a SoundScriber machine to conduct two audio interviews with Roberts, by then in his mid ’80s. With the demise of SoundScribers, the discs from those interviews became inaccessible, and they languished for many decades in the archives of the N.S. Haley Memorial Library in Midland, TX.
Fortunately, as assistant archivist at the library, I was able to get the Roberts interviews digitized. His riveting accounts, never before accessed by historians, provided the basis for much of Apache Lament.
Mi amigo Greg Walker has completed a three part series at NEWSREP.com — the true tale of a Green Beret defector to the Sandinistas in the 1980s. Great stuff and it’s good to see Walker tapping into these tales from the wild and wooly days of yore, when Central America was a hot front in the Cold War…
Greg is an expert on knives and knife combat, a retired Special Forces soldier who spent the last part of his career bringing life-saving assistance and care to Special Operations veterans of the Global War on Terror. I have read his stuff since I was a teenager. We met when he was a Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office detective working the case of a rogue pastor in Sisters. You can listen to a Running Iron Report podcast featuring Greg here.