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Author Topic: Christian Hero Stories As the Teaching of Christian Morality  (Read 3073 times)

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Re: Christian Hero Stories As the Teaching of Christian Morality
« on: November 02, 2018, 04:50:58 pm »
The Cowboy Hero in the Western operates within the American Frontier Culture, and he is shaped by that culture.

Two important American historians were  interested in the idea that the American Frontier experience shaped our culture.

Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932), professor of History at the University of Wisconsin taught that the American Frontier shaped the American mind and culture. Turner said that the spirit and success of the United States was due to its Western frontier culture. As each generation of pioneers moved farther west, they abandoned European and early American Eastern practices, institutions and ideas, and found new solutions to new problems created by their new environment. Over several generations in the 19th century the frontier changed the European and American Eastern "civilized" urban culture to a rural and small town frontier culture of informality, democracy, initiative, freedom and self-reliance that the world saw as "American." That frontier culture also enforced its right to self defense. There were some real outlaw gunslingers in the Old West, yet the gunslinger figure is exaggerated in fiction.

The cowboy image is a better representation of the character of the Old West frontier on the Great Planes. He carried guns and was capable of using then in self defense, but few cowboys ever fired a gun at another man.

In the fictional Cowboy Story the Cowboy Hero applies  his skills in the use of guns to defeat the villain and the  threat  of the villain to others in society.

Walter Prescott Webb (1888-1963), as a boy lived on what he later defined as the Great Planes, in Eastland county in west central Texas.   In his 1931 book, The Great Planes, Webb described and exalted the culture of the Great Planes. He said that in Texas -and on north to Canada - the 98th meridian marked the division between the wet area to the east, with its forests, from the dry area to the west, which did not get enough rain, and tended to be open planes with few larger trees. The 98th meridian runs through Meridian, Texas, which is in the middle of Basque county. If you draw a line due north from Meridian, it would run west of Tarrant county, or Fort Worth, putting it and Dallas in the "wet" east. A line going due south from Meridian would run through Gonzales county, Texas, which puts San Antonio clearly in Webb's Great Planes West.

Webb pointed out in The Great Planes that the region west of the 98th meridian is different from the land east of it, and that in adapting to this different environment the pioneers of the West had to change their institutions and way of life. One of the ideas of The Great Planes is that the environment itself had an influence upon the culture of Webb's West - the great planes - which emerged from the experiment of Americans adapting to life in the West.

The people of the Great Planes West were "lawless," said Webb, not meaning that they were all outlaws, but that they became unconventional, mavericks and more resourceful by the cultural standards of the civilized East. Webb’s idea that history is "a branch of literature"put him in opposition to the conventional academic historians of the Ivory Towers.

Walter Prescott Webb in The Great Planes (1931) said that the great distances and sparse population of the West encouraged self-reliance. 

Webb  said of the settler and cowboy on the great planes that "When he made that perfect adaptation he departed farther and farther from the conventional pattern of men, and as he diverged from the conventional pattern he became more and more unusual: He made a better copy for news-writers, artist and cartoonist" (The Great Planes, 1931, p. 245).

When the Americans of the 19th century "came out of the woods" they grew out of the culture and personality traits of the more urban and "civilized" East, and grew out of both the Northeast Establishment and the Southern Tradition.

The culture and personality
traits described by Frederick Jackson Turner and Walter Prescott Webb,
historians of the frontier and of the great planes, is useful in understanding
the difference between the older American generations and the Baby Boomers.

Walter Prescott Webb left his legacy in the University of Texas at Austin Department of History.  Other native Texan historians, in the Department, like Tuffly Ellis followed Webb's trail blazing.  I was allowed to take an individual graduate level  reading course under Ellis at UT in 1979, `even though I did not have  an academic background in history.  Webb died in a car wreck in 1963.

The Cowboy in the role of the hero who fights for the rights of others and  defeats the bad guys  in  fictional stories is unconventional.  is a maverick, is resourceful and is  self-reliant as a member of that Western Frontier Culture. He was the American Myth for many decades, even in some movies during the fifties, sixties and seventies.

Cast a cold eye On life, on death.  Horseman, pass by." "Under Ben Bulben" by William Butler Yeats


« Last Edit: November 02, 2018, 05:21:19 pm by bernardpyron »


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