The Soapbox Corral

Mary's Laramie and Wagon Train Musings

After spending a number of snowy evenings recently happily curled up by the fire with a glass of wine watching old episodes of Laramie and Wagon Train with my faithful companion, Beazley (elderly hound dog – not too bright and doesn’t smell so good but he’s real nice), I thought I’d like to jot down my impressions so that I could share them with others who might be interested. I’d also be especially interested in hearing your comments as well.

LRS:  Why we'd love to comment and rebutt. It's what we do.

· My theory as to the real reason Jess does that cute “hoppy thing” when he mounts a horse. In order to reach up and get one’s foot in the stirrup (particularly if you have a tallish horse) you have to be able to both bend your knee and flex your hip. This is impossible to do if your pants are extremely tight (I know this from a recent weight gain). Now poor Jess in those pre spandex days wore pants so tight it was amazing he could even breath much less bend his leg enough to reach the stirrup – hence the “hoppy thing”. The only other alternatives he would have had would have been to ask Slim for a leg up or find something to stand on – neither option being very cowboyish. I’m not complaining one single bit about the pants although it does seem that he was the only one who had to wear them that tight.

LRS:  We like your theory! We think we should go with that. One has to wonder how many sets of trou the poor boy went through per episode.

Episodes that were actually unsold pilots. I can see why Men of Defiance didn’t sell although I loved the episode and especially the music. The characters just didn’t work for me – they even all sort of looked alike except for Edgar Buchanan who I love in any role he plays and the cute fellow that went on to Wagon Train. Now I don’t know if The Marshals was an unsold pilot or not but it certainly felt like one – and I think it would have been wonderful. I thought McGarry and his deputy Reb were wonderful characters and their relationship reminded me a lot of Slim and Jess’s. And Patches – would have loved to have seen more of him and that terrific dog.

LRS:  And couldn’t Patches have been the “Jonesy” character? Hmmm, guess that would make the dog Andy. We agree about Men of Defiance. We don’t think the lead guy was charismatic enough to pull off a weekly series. He was a bit odd looking to boot (he was also in “Bare Knuckles”) We do love Edgar Buchanan and he was most wonderful in “Stolen Tribute”, one you must see. The Marshals would’ve made a much better series. We like David McLean even if he wasn’t a great actor, he had a presence and charisma.

· More thoughts on Men of Defiance – noticed that when Jess grows stubble he looks a lot less boyish and a lot more menacing. Also, don’t know how he did it but I thought he actually looked thin and wired as though he really had been living on nothing but coffee and anger for the previous few weeks. Man! Now that’s what I call acting! Okay, now I have to go look again…. And a curious thing at the end as Jess is riding up the drive and Andy notices his arm is in a sling and Slim mentions that that isn’t all that’s going to be in a sling – I thought “a** in a sling” was a strictly 20th century phrase…

LRS:  Yup, add that one to our list of anachronisms. There is a Laramie discussion list, and we were discussing (briefly) this very thing a few weeks ago. We think Laramie is full of anachronisms. Maybe we'll write a dissertation on that one o' these days.

· And speaking of 20th century phrases – in Run to Tumavaca – there was distinct reference to a “hickey” – now I know we baby boomers didn’t invent hickeys as a concept but I’m pretty sure we (or a generation close to us) invented the word….

LRS:  Don’t know about that one, but we’ll go with your theory. We don’t remember the reference. Guess we’ll have to go watch it again *sigh*

· The impact of Daisy’s cooking – probably as the series progressed over time, the boys in real life got older and “bulked up” a bit as they did so but it certainly appears as though they both lost weight over the second season when they were doing their own cooking – I think it was in Killer Without Cause that Slim appeared emaciated without his shirt on. Then over the third and fourth seasons, when Daisy took over the cooking, both boys (and especially Jess) appeared to fill out – far from even remotely chubby but definitely heavier.

LRS:  We agree! Been saying that for years! Jess is definitely "more mature" in the last season, and RF is even moreso in Wagon Train. Not chunky, but you know what I mean, "filled out". Also just married, that probably had a culinary impact.

· Jess’s never ending supply of hats. He loses a hat in about every other episode – he’s left hats everywhere from Mexico to Canada and when he loses it, it stays lost for the rest of the episode – then in the next episode he has a new one just like it right down to the dust.

LRS:  Well, at least he wasn’t like the Cartwrights who wore the same clothes in every damn episode. We agree about the hat. Not only that, but there were a couple of times it got holes in it too. Here’s our theory: When Jess found the hat he liked, he bought two dozen of them. They’re all stored in that corner cabinet in the living room. You know, the one next to the front door?

· Same thing with his horse – he’s left that poor horse all over the place and yet they always seem to hook up again at the end.

LRS:  See, being a horse woman yourself, you should know that horses are just like homing pigeons. Jess’ horse knows where home is and after a few days, he turns up. Usually bringing Jess’ hat home in his teeth.

· The chickens – now I know chickens aren’t the smartest creatures on earth but wouldn’t you think that after four years of being run over by the stage twice a day plus everyone and their brother that comes galloping in, that they’d find a more peaceful place to do their scratching around.

LRS:  Well, see, it’s not the chicken’s fault. They are brainless and therefore they simply go where the food is. Now if our heroes weren’t so darned lazy we wouldn’t have this problem. They could just as easily walk out away from the front of the house to throw out the feed. But nooooooo. See, our theory is that the frequent unfortunate accidents keeps them from having to go out and chop off heads when they get a hankerin’ for chicken pot pie.

· These are good boys – even when they are all on their own, they still make their beds, wash their clothes and generally pick up after themselves. They sit up straight at the dinner table and their table manners (even when one arm is in a sling) are beyond reproach. True, in the very first episode there was a cat eating on the table that didn’t seem to bother anyone but that was kind of unusual. And they take a bath at least every Saturday.

LRS:   Well, so they saaaay. We think they only do the dishes when the camera is around. Really, they let the cat do the dishes for them. One little slip up and their secret’s out!

· Where does Daisy sleep?

LRS:   We’ve wondered this our own selves. We have always assumed there was a little room off the kitchen at the back of the house. We even put that room there for Jonesy in our fanfic. That’s our story, and we're stickin’ to it. Course, there’s always the bunkhouse...or the attic.

· Are we supposed to determine what time of year it is by whether or not the boys are wearing long underwear (which appears sticking out through their shirt sleeves)?

LRS:   Yes, that would be the Southern California Winter. They did have a couple of episodes with them wearing heavier coats. But we swear, you could see the sweat on their faces.

And a few Wagon Train thoughts. I’ve loved some of the Wagon Trains (Cooper Smith episodes, of course) almost as much as Laramie. · The Story of Cain – a good episode that sort of feels like a made for TV movie but is also notable for the fact that Robert Fuller, who never looks bad, looks absolutely stunning in this one – wonder what the fan reaction at the time was.

LRS:   We have to agree re: stunning. And remarkable seeing as how his face got burned off in the explosion. Made a remarkable comeback, eh what?

· The Betsy Blee Story (I might not have that quite right) – this is sort of a strange little comedy in black and white. Again, Mr. Fuller looks particularly terrific in it but he also shows an acting side that I hadn’t seen much of in other things he’s done – kind of sweet and a little goofy – he could have so easily slipped into one of those Jim Hutton romantic comedy roles that were so popular back in the 60’s.

LRS:   Hear!Hear! A wonderful performance in Betsy Blee. Loved it from start to finish. Never thought Coop was as interesting a character as Jess, and you gotta admit, this episode was a bit out of character, but loved it, loved it, loved it!

LRS:  Thank you, Mary, for your great insights.

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