Thursday, October 10, 2019



Pull your hat down tight next Monday, October 14, and keep it there all week!  The Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, a competition like none before it (that I’ve seen, anyway), begins on INSP, and runs for six days. A dozen professional cowboys will be going head-to-head in a series of challenges to test their overall cowboying skills, while Trace Adkins and his experts whittle down the field. There’s no show Saturday, but on Sunday night, the last cowpoke standing will win a shiny new belt-buckle – and a fifty-thousand-dollar herd of cattle, not coincidentally, the herd they’ve been working with all week.

The competitors come from all over the country – three from Texas, two from California, and one each from Florida, Utah, Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Dakota, Iowa, and even Washington D.C. – that last fellow describes himself as an urban cowboy. Some are rodeo cowboys, one is a movie stuntman, more are ranchers, more than one wants to win in order to save the family ranch. While the movies have mostly portrayed cowboying as a white man’s activity, the first cowboys were Mexican vaqueros, and after the Civil War there were many black cowboys, and both groups are represented here, as are women.   

Contestant J. Storme

Some challenges are group, and some are individual.  Some are typical, like calf roping, and some are not, like a relay race: the first person saddles and rides a horse, and passes the baton to the next, who has to load 21 bales of hay into a hayloft as fast as he can. The baton passes to the next, who has to change a flat tire on a trailer. The next person has to open the trailer, let out a horse and a calf, climb on the horse, and rope the calf. The final cowboy has to pick up that 200-pound calf and put it back in the trailer!

Although he’s grateful for the various experts’ input, the ultimate judge is three-time CMA Award-winning singer and actor Trace Adkins. I had the opportunity to talk to Trace about the show, and about his Western movies, when he took a brief break from his judging duties.


Henry Parke:   I'm very happy to finally meet you, because I'd been on three of your Western sets -- Hickock, Wyatt Earp’s Revenge, and Traded -- but never on days where you were working.

Trace Adkins: Well, let's see. Two of those I got killed in. That director, Timothy Woodward, I worked with on Hickok and Traded, and I just finished doing another western with him too, The Outsider. He kills me in every movie that he puts me in.  (laugh) I don't know what the deal is.

Henry Parke: Well, he must like you though. He kills you, but he keeps bringing you back. What kind of character do you play in it?

Trace Adkins: Well, I was a bad guy, but now I'm seeking redemption and trying to finish my life, doing hopefully something that'll get me into heaven. But my son is a lost cause. (My character’s) seed is bad, and there's just nothing he can to do about it. It's a really interesting role.

Henry Parke:   Well, with the Ultimate Cowboy Showdown, I hear you’re just coming back from an immunity challenge. What's been the most interesting of the challenges that they’ve done so far?
Trace Adkins: I think the team challenges. The immunity challenges are individual things. I tend to like the ones where they team up, and they have to work together and strategize. It's a little more nuanced, as opposed to just the mano a mano of roping or running a horse or something.

Henry Parke:   How did you get involved with the Ultimate Cowboy Showdown?

Trace Adkins: I've known (Producer) Andrew Glassman for a few years, and we talked years ago about trying to do something together. Andrew told me about this project and I just jumped right on it. It just sounded like it'd be something fun to do. I am at that beautiful place in my life and my career where I can make decisions on what I want to do based on the answer to the question, would that be something I would enjoy doing? I was involved from the very beginning, talking about who were the experts he was going to bring in to work with.  It's been a really, really interesting process and a lot of fun.

Henry Parke:   What experts has he brought in that you've enjoyed working with?

Trace Adkins: There’s a guy named Buddy Shnaufer, who owns a huge cattle company. It was interesting to hang out with Buddy and hear his insights on the cattle business. Fred Whitfield came, seven-time World Champion Calf Roper. He's a legend, and I got to spend a day riding next to Fred. I just had a blast, probably my favorite day so far. And then Chuck Tice, who’s former president of the Alabama Cattlemen's Association. I've learned from every expert that’s been on the show so far.

Contestant Hadley Hunting

Henry Parke:   And you're a rancher yourself?

Trace Adkins: No, I'm not a rancher. I mean, I grew up with horses, and I live on an old farm south of Nashville. I'm just never home; I feel guilty enough leaving my dogs. So, I'm looking forward to that day when I start to slow it down and not travel as much, and get back into having some livestock; right now, I don't have any.

Henry Parke:   Did you develop many cowboy skills when you were growing up?

Trace Adkins: You know, somebody asked me how I thought I would do in this competition. I said well, if you'd have caught me 35 years ago, maybe I'd have given you a run for your money, but at 57, no.  I'm in the perfect spot, standing on the sideline, cheering them on and judging. My participating days are over.

Henry Parke:   What do you think are the qualities and characteristics that add up to being the ultimate cowboy?

Trace Adkins: You know, every one of these contestants are experts at something. But this competition requires them to have some level of proficiency in a lot of different areas. It's the cowboy or cowgirl that has the most experience overall, a cowboying capacity, that's going to win this thing. Because they're being asked to do all kinds of different stuff, so they can't just rely on whatever their forte may be.

Henry Parke:  In your autobiography, TRACE ADKINS: A PERSONAL STAND, you talk about your roughneck work in the petroleum industry. How does that kind of work compare with cowboying?

Trace Adkins: I think the mentality was probably pretty similar. You're going to work 12 hours a day, and you're going to reach and get it all day long. And that's how these cowboys have to work. When it's time to work, you've got to work until the job's done. There's no calling time out, and taking a break. Just going to get it done. That's the way it was working oil fields, you know, we had a saying: it never rains, it never gets hot. And there are no holidays.

Henry Parke:   It's funny, I was just talking to my wife's two brothers who, like you, worked on oil rigs for Global Marine.

Trace Adkins: Oh wow!

Henry Parke:   And they told me that there were three things all successful men in that field have: a diamond pinky ring, a Rolex, and divorce papers. Is that true?

Trace Adkins: Well, I've got a pinky that I got cut off working on the drilling rig. That accounts for the pinky ring. I don't hardly ever wear a watch, but I have a couple of nice ones. And I've got three sets of divorce papers. So I guess I got that going for me.

Henry Parke:   Ever since the days of the singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, there's been a connection between country music and Western movies. Do you feel a personal connection with Western film?

Trace Adkins: Well, I never would have even allowed myself to dream that I would ever be in a Western. And now I've had the opportunity to live that dream. I absolutely love it. As a kid I watched those movies and just idolized those people. Gary Cooper, John Wayne, the list goes on and on, and I thought, wow, that's the best job in the world. To get paid to pretend to be a cowboy and ride a horse all day. That must be fun. And now I've found out it is, it absolutely is. It's just like stealing money. It's just too much fun to get paid for doing it.

Henry Parke:   Which is your favorite of the movies you've done so far?

Trace Adkins: My favorite was not a western. The Lincoln Lawyer, the movie than I did with Matthew McConaughey. But I was a biker, which is just a cowboy on two wheels.

Henry Parke:   I liked your work in The Virginian very much.

Trace Adkins: Thank you. I enjoyed that. That was my first lead. The very first day I was on set, I made the announcement to the entire crew that the director had no idea what he was doing because he hired me as the lead in the movie, which unsettled everybody just a little bit.

Henry Parke:   Besides Matthew McConaughey, any other actors you're particularly pleased to work with?

Trace Adkins: Well, the biggest ones that I've had a chance to work with, Mark Wahlberg and Dennis Quaid, a few others. Without exception, they've been so gracious and kind and giving, and willing to rehearse when they don't have to. Those guys have been really, really kind. And Kris Kristofferson. I did Hickok with him, and what a treat that was.  I'd done a couple of shows with Kris, but I've never had a chance to do a movie with him until then.

Henry Parke:   So I take it you watched a lot of westerns growing up?

Trace Adkins: Oh yeah, my daddy, that's all he loved. Gunsmoke was appointment TV. Whatever we were doing, we can't do that then: Gunsmoke is going to be on. Gunsmoke, Bonanza, all those Westerns we watched growing up, and all those movies. He had prints of John Wayne on the wall. My daddy rodeoed when I was kid. He steer-wrestled. He was a big, tough cowboy. When my second brother came along, my Momma made him quit. But he loved horses and he was a good rider. Good hand. He was good man. I think I really got my love of all things Western from him.

Henry Parke:   Did you go to Rodeos as a kid?

Trace Adkins: Yeah, we always went to the Rodeo. We had that hometown rodeo in Springhill, Louisiana every year. Then we'd go to Shreveport, to the Hirsch Memorial Coliseum when they'd have a big Rodeo during the State Fair. And we a couple of times we went to Houston to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. So yeah, we traveled to go to the rodeo.

Henry Parke:   Does doing The Ultimate Cowboy Showdown bring back memories?

Trace Adkins: Absolutely. It just reminds me of so many of my friends back home, too. People that do team roping and cutting. It just feels very familiar to me to be hanging out with these guys and these ladies. Good people, and always a good day spending the day with them. It's been a great experience so far.


The 30th Annual Lone Pine Film Festival will be held from Thursday, October 10 through Sunday, October 13, headquartered at the Museum of Western Film History. About 800 movies have been filmed in the general area, 400 in the Alabama Hills just outside of Lone Pine. For three decades, folks who love the look of the area, and love movies, and Westerns in particular, have gathered around Columbus Day to celebrate the place’s unique history in filmmaking.

There are many tours and talks over the three days, highlighting topics such as the films that Randolph Scott and William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd made there. The locations of many shoots can be visited, including not just Westerns, but the biggest-budget film for its time shot there, Gunga Din.

Many films and TV shows that were filmed there will be screened, featuring stars like Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Sunset Carson, Allan “Rocky” Lane, Gene Autry, Bob Steele, Tim Holt, John Wayne, Joel McCrea, and Randolph Scott.

Western Historian Rob Word will be moderating a number of panel discussions, and guests taking part, and introducing films, will include Bill Wellman Jr.; Wyatt McCrea, grandson of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee; Jay Dee Whitney, son of Western director William Whitney; Patrick Wayne, actor and son of John Wayne; and Cheryl Rogers, daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

Of particular interest, The Cowboys, the classic 1972 John Wayne film, will be presented with a Q&A featuring one of the picture’s stars, Robert Carradine, as well as Patrick Wayne and Richard Farnsworth’s son, Diamond Farnsworth.  Robert Carradine and Darby Hinton will do a Q&A with the brand-spanking-new Western that they co-star in, Bill Tilghman and The Outlaws.
Follow the link below to find out details and buy tickets. And don’t dawdle – many events are already sold out!


The Wild Bunch Film Festival has just wrapped up, and director Wayne Shipley and screenwriter Dan Searles are still doing their victory dance, and with good reason. I heard from one of the film’s stars, Darby Hinton, that they won seven awards: Best 1st Time Screen Writer – Dan Searles, Best Stunts – Ken Arnold, Best Child Actor - Noah Deavers, Best Ensemble Cast,  The Wild Bunch Award (for Best Screenplay That Exemplifies The Spirt Of The West) - Dan Searles, Best Western Songwriting Competition – Dan Searles and his mother, and Best Supporting Actor – Darby Hinton.  Dan Searles tells me the film is now available to rent from Amazon Prime.


On Friday, September 20th, the Reel Cowboys held their 22nd annual Silver Spur Awards. For a change, it was held not at the Sportmen’s Lodge, which was recently levelled, but the Equestrian Center in Burbank, which has an appropriately Western atmosphere. Julie Anne Ream once again ran the event with Reel Cowboys President Robert Lanthier, this year in part as a benefit for The Gary Sinise Foundation.

I spoke to a number of attendees on the red carpet. I’m working with a new, tiny digital recorder, which works very well but, with a fuzzy wind-cover over the mic, startled some of my subjects.

Julia Rogers Pomilia took this picture
of me with my fuzzy recorder

Granddaughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Julie Rogers:  Oh, I thought you were holding a hamster. What is that?

Henry Parke:   It’s my strange digital recorder. Well now, you're one of how many grandchildren of Roy and Dale?

Julie Rogers:   They had 16 and one passed away suddenly years ago. So we have 15. Lots of grandchildren and great grandchildren and great, greats.

Henry Parke:   What was Roy Rogers like as a grandfather?

Julie Rogers:   He was just so sweet and he loved kids. He would put us on Trigger. He would play with us in the pool. We'd play chicken and get up on his back. We'd watched The Roy Rogers Show with him on Saturday morning, and be crawling all over his back, and wrestling around on the floor, and he'd stop and say, "Go, Roy, go!" And we'd say, "Yeah, go get him!" And as far as I knew, every kid had a grandpa that had a TV show. I just thought that was normal because that's what was normal to me, you know? They were just so accessible and so loving. They never missed a birthday or a school play, even though they were so busy. They could be at the White House one night, and then at our house playing old maid with me on the floor the next night. They were wonderful.

Henry Parke:  And was Dale's personality really pretty much like the character she played?

Julie Rogers:   Oh my, you know, neither one of them were acting. When I see them on their shows, I don't mean this to sound negative, but I don't think they're very good actors, because they're just being themselves. So I don't ever see them act. And she was a hoot. She was so outgoing, she could never just fly under the radar when she came a room, and she didn't mean to. She just was. And grandpa was very quiet, just totally the opposite. So they were a cute couple.

Henry Parke:   Now, you said that he would put you on Trigger. Was this visiting on a set?

Julie Rogers:   No, no, no. After they were done with the show, he kept Trigger at the ranch where they lived in Chatsworth. So when we'd come over, we'd sometimes go down to the barn and pet him or feed him or sit on him and he'd ride us around. It was good memories.

Henry Parke:   How about Bullet?

Julie Rogers:   Bullet was one of their house dogs. They had six dogs, and they'd all come running out to greet us when we drove up. It was just magical. I didn't appreciate it as much growing up, until I look back on it and go, wow! I mean, I knew it was fun, but I really appreciate it now so much more.

Henry Parke:   Was Pat Brady around? Was he a friend?

Julie Rogers:   Yeah, he was around, but I was one of the last ones born, so he wasn't around a lot when I was. (Note: Pat Brady died in 1972) I didn't know him, but my sisters did. They said he was a really wonderful man. Funny, and just a really good friend of Grandpa's and Grandma's.

Henry Parke:   Now when you say that Roy and Dale weren't that great actors, or rather, that they didn’t get much of a chance to act, did you ever see Roy in Mackintosh and TJ (1975)? I thought he was wonderful in that.

Julie Rogers:   You know what? I need to see that. Somebody just sent me a copy of it, because you can't find it very easily, and I have never seen it, so I should look. But I mean back then, back in the 40s and 50s, he was just being himself and I bet that would be a whole different take on him.

Henry Parke:   Oh, it really is. It's a wonderful performance.  When I saw it I said, wow, I wish he'd been given more challenging roles more often. He really does so well.

Julie Rogers:   And he never aspired to be an actor. That was the last thing he probably thought he was going to be. But he was one of those that just sort of fell into it. Whereas grandma, she was born wanting to be an actress, and she would dance in front of the mirror, and think someday she was gonna marry Tom Mix and be an actress. And she did it.

Henry Parke:   She sure did. And she learned to ride very well.

Julie Rogers:   Yes, yes. Roy said that the first time she rode, he'd never seen so much sky between a woman's rear-end and a horse in his life. So she kind of bluffed her way in there and said she knew how to ride when she didn't. So she basically learned from him, on-set.

Henry Parke:   I think it's remarkable how accessible The Roy Rogers Show is now. It's on TV three times a day.

Julie Rogers:  I know. That's kind of fun.

Henry Parke:   Do you know if are younger people are watching it?

Julie Rogers:   No, that's a tough one, because with all of that computerized stuff and all the electronics and the special effects, there's not a whole lot of interest in those old westerns anymore. We're working on a musical (about Roy and Dale) coming out next year, opening in Atlanta. We're gonna see how that goes, and we're hoping to get his name out there a little bit more to the next generation.  Because kids don't like watching black and white. My kids were the same way. They didn't even want to watch their great grandpa because it’s black and white.  I teach kindergarten in Castaic.  I've talked about my grandparents to all my classes and show them little clips. It helps a little bit. Every little bit helps.


Best remembered as Bo Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard, in1986, John Schneider co-starred in a remake of 1939’s Stagecoach, as the coach driver, co-starring with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson.

Demonstrating how he held the reins
driving a six-up in Stagecoach

John Schneider:  Hi. What a nice dog.

Henry Parke:   Thank you for petting him. I've got to say, of all the men who played the stagecoach driver in the films of Stagecoach, you could not be less like Andy Devine or Slim Pickens.

John Schneider: (a screech-perfect imitation of Devine) "Not like Andy Devine?" Well you know, it was a great honor to be in that movie, especially considering Johnny (Cash) and I became best friends after that. I lived with John and June after we did Stagecoach because at that time, I had the number one album in the country. People don't necessarily remember that. My beard, they remember. That was my beard. But I so enjoyed Stagecoach, and working out there in Mescal (the Western movie town), and Old Tucson, before it burned down.  I've been there since. It's beautiful. It's actually, I think, much better for having burned down. Not the Hollywood way, where the Laramie Street burns down, so they build a parking lot. I'm glad that Old Tucson's back and thriving and beautiful. That was a great time for me and I actually drove the six-up. (Note: a stagecoach pulled by a team of six horses)

Henry Parke:   Really?

John Schneider:  Yeah. And I'm told that Ben Johnson and I were the only ones (who could). Ben was an amazing actor, but Ben was a cowboy. So I may be the only non-professional cowboy actor to actually drive a six-up on camera and I'm pretty damn proud of that.

Henry Parke:  Did you already know how to do that?

John Schneider:  I did not. I was taught.  There was a guy named Red, a red-haired cowboy that worked at Old Tucson.  I drove the stagecoach tours in Old Tucson for two days. It was a four-up. And then he would take me out after, and add the other team. You would have the lead team, and the wheel team. The swing team, the team in the middle, you would add.  Whenever I talk about Stagecoach, I do this – (he holds his hands up, separating his fingers) – because that's what you had to do. I mean, three sets of leather reins in your hands, with horses that would much rather run abreast. So, I loved it. I loved Dr. Quinn – Medicine Woman. I loved Guns of Paradise.

Henry Parke:   That's right. You've done all of the better TV westerns of the period.

John Schneider:  Thank you. And you know, in my heart and soul, I'm a seven-year-old who's watching the Sons of Katie Elder and McClintock and Cahill and wanting to be John Wayne. So one of these days, I guess by the time I get to be John Wayne, maybe I'll be playing him and that's okay.

Henry Parke:   That would be fine.

John Schneider:  I would love it. We share a name.

Henry Parke:   Now with Stagecoach, I was told that was originally going to be a full musical.

John Schneider:  I heard that too. I don't think that's true. What we were going to do is all of us had written songs. And the only one they wound up using was the "stagecoach, stagecoach, rolling on to glory, stagecoach," which was Willie's song. But they were going to put that music in there, and the music that we had written was going to be our individual themes. We weren't actually going to break out in "trouble in River City."  It wasn't going to be Paint Your Wagon, but there was gonna be a lot of music from all of us in it. Somehow that turned into just Willie's song. Well, I wrote this song, I don't remember what the song was, but I wrote, cause we all wrote. We had a lot of time there and we wrote.


Kathy Garver is best remembered as Cissy, the oldest child being raised by Uncle Bill (Brian Keith) on Family Affair.

Henry Parke:   I was surprised when I checked IMDB to realize how many westerns you've done.

Kathy Garver: I started out doing Westerns. One of my first roles was in Sheriff of Cochise, and then (slipping into a French accent) in The Adventures of Jim Bowie, I played a little French girl. Merci. It's interesting to look back at some of the DVDs that some fans have sent me and see. Oh my gosh, I was so little!  But I just did a presentation yesterday of Ex Child Stars on the Western Frontiers. It's about a 45 minute presentation I do with PowerPoint. So I have profiled Johnny Crawford, and Jimmy Hawkins from Annie Oakley and there was Lee Aaker from Rin Tin Tin, and Darby Hinton from Daniel Boone. So they're all my friends and I worked with them when I was little. And you know what, I'm still doing Westerns.

Henry Parke:  I’d love to see your presentation.

Kathy Garver: I'm doing it in Oklahoma if you want to go out there. But I was thinking it would be good to do with the Gene Autry Museum. I think that would be a wonderful place to present this. I have a retirement home where I'm going to present it.

Henry Parke: This morning I was watching your former co-star, Johnny Whitaker on an episode of Lancer. I didn't remember that he had done Westerns.

Kathy Garver: I didn't either. And I'm doing two adult westerns. One is Grace, which is a lovely Western, and the other one's Eli Elder. So we're getting those together. And here's a bit of news. I just finished filming my new series called Aunt Sissy, and that's kind of a wink and a nod to Family Affair. It's not a sequel.  It's a standalone kind of sitcom. So that went very, very well.


Producer Wyatt McCrea is the grandson of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee, and the son of Jody McCrea. He lives on the ranch that his grandparents built.  The Johnny Crawford that we discuss starred in the series The Rifleman as Chuck Connor’s son, Mark McCain.

Henry Parke:   I hear that you just had a wonderful event at your ranch for Johnny Crawford.

Wyatt McCrea:  We did. It was a lot of fun. We were trying to do what we could to help Johnny out. We screened the last movie he was in, Bill Tilghman and The Outlaws. We had a good crowd and hopefully we raised a little money for him.

Henry Parke:  That's terrific.

Wyatt McCrea:  Well, Johnny's a great guy, and he's done a lot for a lot of people over the course of his lifetime, so it was the least we can do to pay him back a little bit.

Henry Parke:   That's great. Tell me, are you getting an award or presenting one tonight?

Wyatt McCrea:  I'm presenting to Mariette Hartley, which will be a lot of fun. Her first movie was with my grandfather.

Henry Parke:   Of course, Ride the High Country.

Wyatt McCrea:  Yeah. So it was fitting that I was allowed to do it, and I’m so happy to do it. She's a great lady.

Henry Parke:   Yes, she is. I recently interviewed her for a True West article, and she was talking all about the good advice that your granddad gave her.  He said before he does a scene, he always read --

Wyatt McCrea:  -- read the scene before.

Henry Parke:   Exactly, which I thought was extremely smart, and should be obvious, but I've never heard anyone else say it.

Wyatt McCrea:  No, it's true. It should be obvious, but there are people that don't do it, you know.

Henry Parke:   As you can tell when you see their films.


In the next week or two I'll have a new Round-up, and look at the 70th birthday celebration of the Lone Ranger TV series, the travel series Travels with Darly, the new Western Soldiers' Heart, and much more. 

Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright October 2019 by Parke -- All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


TURQUOISE FEVER premiered on the INSP network this past Wednesday. The weekly reality series follows the fortunes and follies of the Nevada-based turquoise-mining Otteson clan. The first show was about trying to satisfy the blue-stone needs of a big-time buyer and jewelry designer from Japan, who is very influential in the jewelry markets throughout Asia.  If you missed this one, don’t worry, because there will be other chances. Besides, in a way, episode 2, which airs this Wednesday night, August 21st, is just as good a place to start, as it really focuses on the family, and how the Ottesons became a ‘Blue Gold’ powerhouse.

It all started in 1958, when the family moved en masse from Colorado to Nevada, and patriarch Lynn Otteson staked his first claim. His sons Dean, Danny and Tommy worked with him, and soon there were wives and sons and in-laws in the mix.  Dean would become the patriarch, and during this show’s six-year gestation period, he would pass away, pledging his brothers not only to continue mining, but to take care of his widow, and family matriarch, Donna.

Last week I had the opportunity to discuss the show with one of the younger members of the Otteson turquoise-mining family, Danny’s 22-year-old son, and already a veteran miner, Tristan. He’s both the historian and scientist of the family, and he started out by giving me a verbal sketch of the history of turquoise mining, and the Otteson’s involvement with it.

Tristan: Turquoise in the southwestern United States has been mined since way before any white people got here. The Native American mines in the New Mexico region of Cerrillos are some of the oldest turquoise mines in the entire world. But as for the Ottesons, we got into the mining business about three generations before me. Grandpa Lynn's father, Christian Vern Otteson, had worked a little bit at the Lick Skillet Mine in, Manassa, Colorado in the very early 20th Century. He fought in World War I, and passed away when my grandpa was only three years old. With their father gone, my grandpa would work all sorts of jobs to support his family. His uncle Pete King owned Lick Skillet Mine and (Lynn), worked there. Then, when he was about 18, Pete told him to come out and mine one of his claims in Nevada, the Cloverdale, Nevada Blue Gem Mine; it's now called the Easter Blue Mine, and we mine it still. This was around the mid-1940s, and he really started to fall in love with turquoise.  So he moved his very young family from Colorado straight out to Nevada. I think it was 1958 that they moved out to Nevada permanently. They lived in Haybag Johnson's chicken coop, and from there my grandpa was able to work various mines around Cloverdale. Finally my grandpa was able to put a four-year lease on Lone Mountain Turquoise Mine, which is one of the most famous turquoise mines in the entire world today.

They barely scraped up enough money to get a little tiny mixer, that he would haul all the way out to that mine. They’d bring water in big metal milk containers, and they had this little tub that was about three-foot-wide, that the family would bathe in, and they’d run the dumps that the other miners had mined out. And when they could fill the bottom of that tub full of turquoise nuggets, they’d load everybody up, drive down to New Mexico to sell it to the Zunis. And not only for money. They would trade it for clothes, groceries, saddles, guns, blankets, anything they could get of value. My grandma would always tell my grandpa, “You can't eat a saddle. Come back with money or food.’ Sometimes they were able to sell a whole bunch of nuggets, and put $3000 or $4,000 in their pocket.  Sometimes they only came back with a saddle or two or a blanket.”

From there, my grandpa was able to build up his own operation. He got in with a whole lot of different people over the years where they would front equipment, and he had the mining knowledge. It never seemed like my grandpa got a fair shake out of those deals, but eventually he traded a silver claim he had in eastern Nevada for the Pilot Mountain Turquoise Mines.

Tristan Otteson

Henry: Have you ever considered a profession other than turquoise mining?

Tristan:  Personally? I really haven't. In high school, we all dream of being a different thing. But when it came down to it, I had gone out to the turquoise mines with my dad, my older brothers, since I was real little and I couldn't really imagine doing anything else.

Henry: Except for the DeBeers diamond family in South Africa, I can't think of another family that has so dominated the mining of a single mineral.

Tristan:  You can see them literally everywhere. The Royston Turquoise, that's one of the world-famous mines that we mined. Just recently there was a story on Jason Mamoa, Aquaman. He came out with a big Indian squash necklace, and said he felt like the native American, Mr. T. That was Royston Turquoise in that squash.

Fire in the hole!

Henry: I know there're many different grades and types of turquoise.  Can you give me a sense of the range of value?

Tristan:  We generally sell our turquoise by carat weight.  To put it in perspective, gold's at $1400 per ounce, right around eight or $9 a carat. Our turquoise ranges anywhere from one to $2 a carat for the not as rare stuff, all the way up to $80 to $100 per carat for really special stuff. So turquoise it can be worth 10 times its weight in gold.

Henry: Do you ever have trouble with claim jumpers?

Tristan:  Yuh. Over the years, there's been a lot of times when people come out on our claims, and try to scoop up the vein you're digging on. And with the way the turquoise is, if you don't know how to get it out of the ground, if you see a vein sticking out of the wall and try to go at it with a hammer, you're just going to destroy it. We've had it where you show up to work the next day and your vein is just a whole bunch of chips on the ground.

Henry: Of course, it's not like gold; you can't reform it. It's just gone.

Tristan:  Exactly it. They could have just destroyed a $40,000 pocket of Turquoise and not even know it.

Henry:  I was fascinated to learn how popular turquoise is in Asia. How much of the turquoise business is outside of the U.S., and what other countries are involved?

Donna shows a buyer from Japan their best stones.

Tristan:  In the United States, they want the unique stone. But in other countries, that hasn't caught on except for Japan, that romanticizes Native American jewelry. In other countries, straight blue stones is what they look for. So there's huge turquoise mines in China, over in Egypt, and in Iran. It's kind of a pattern; the high desert places around the world all have turquoise mines. They call it Persian turquoise and Egyptian turquoise; it's really beautiful stuff, along with the Chinese. And they more or less dominate the markets outside of the United States, except for those like the Japanese market that focuses on Native American jewelry.

Henry: When you're prospecting for gold, you look for quartz because they're found together. What sort of indicators do you have when you're looking for Turquoise?

Tristan:  There's two different kinds of formations. What you’re looking for is mineralized ground with iron outcroppings or a black chert (note: chert is a hard, fine-grained sedimentary rock composed of quartz crystals).  And there’s a kind of a tan rock, dominated mostly by quartz, but not the kind of crystal quartz that you think of. My dad has walked literally thousands of miles, prospecting for turquoise, and tried to teach me and Lane how to read the differences in the minerals.
Henry: What is the process that makes turquoise form?

Lonely out there!

Tristan:  Well, this is still largely up for debate. Pretty much the only thing people can really agree on is it's an aluminum copper phosphate. Water goes through the ground, through the cracks, and where the right kind of phosphates are. There's debate on whether the water was going down through the rocks or up through the rocks.

Henry: Do we know how long it takes for turquoise to form?

Tristan:  They tested some turquoise down in Arizona and dated it to over 10 million years old. And other people have theories that puts it clear back to the Mesozoic era.

Henry: I get the impression that turquoise is getting harder to find. Do you have any sense of when turquoise will be mined out?

Tristan:  That's speculation, but the huge producing mines don't exist anymore. I would put a shelf life on the southwest and American turquoise to maybe 150, 200 years until it could literally be all dug up. Turquoise forms in two different ways;  it's either in veins, through the rocks, or it can get into a clay and actually make nuggets of turquoise where it formed and bubbled up.

Don't drop it!

Henry: I know your son is just a baby, but when he grows up, would you want your son to follow in your footsteps in the turquoise mining business?

Tristan:   If he wants to mine turquoise, he should. The thing is, it's hard. It's not easy if you weren't brought up in mining turquoise. Honestly, the biggest future in our business are the children that we have that come out to the mines with us, that are constantly learning from us. So I would kind of expect them to mine turquoise. But if they don't want to, that's cool too.

Henry: What is the most important thing to know about turquoise mining?

Tristan: The most important thing about a turquoise mining is appreciating the stones that you're digging up, and appreciating the ground that they come from, and having a good reason to dig them up, which is for your family.


Oxford University Press – Hardcover -- $34.95

First let me go on record as saying that I am not a musician, and I have three years of guitar lessons to prove it.  But I love music, and I love movie soundtracks. The first soundtrack I ever owned was Monty Norman’s score to DR. NO. I was eight years old, and I begged for it, not because of the music, but because there was a photo of a nearly nude Ursula Andress on the back of the cover. But I listened to the music while I stared at the picture, and I became fascinated.

At NYU Film School I got turned on to Ennio Morricone by fellow student and later screenwriter, the late Ric Menello (TWO LOVERS, THE IMMIGRANT). He made me buy an Italian import album, I, WESTERN, a collection of music from a fistful of Morricone Westerns, and I was hooked.

So, I love film music, I know a fair bit about it, but like the guy who doesn’t want the magic trick ruined by being told how it was done, I am an audience member, not an insider.  All of this is my roundabout way of saying that I absolutely loved reading ENNIO MORRICONE IN HIS OWN WORDS, and I probably understood about 10% of it.

The book represents a year of discussions between fellow-composers De Rosa and Morricone, and De Rosa’s encyclopedic knowledge of the maestro’s work makes him a perfect interviewer. If you aren’t signed up for Spotify yet, you’ll want to be, because there is an official cut list, and there are frequent music cues throughout the book, to give voice to the music they are discussing.

You’ll learn about the start of Morricone’s musical career, as a trumpet sideman filling in for his father during World War II.  You’ll learn about his classical education, ‘paying his dues’ in radio, and his early scores, including a pair of Spaghetti Westerns he scored before being approached by Sergio Leone for THE MAGNIFICENT STRANGER (later FISTFUL OF DOLLARS).  Much space is appropriately devoted to the Morricone/Leone collaborations, and Morricone describes both the inspirations and the frustrations – as when Leone used a piece from Dimitri Tiomkin’s RIO BRAVO score on a temporary music track, then fell in love with it and didn’t want to part with it. He did eventually – he had to part with the recording, or with Ennio.  

His other Euro-Western collaborations are not dealt with in similar depth – directors Sergio Sollima (three Westerns together) and Sergio Corbucci (seven Westerns together), each receive just a single reference, but as Corbucci’s was in a list of directors who did not get involved with the scoring, that may be why.

Morricone has much more to say about his work with Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, John Carpenter, Terence Malick, and many others. As an audience member, I was thrilled at the insights, and surprised at how much I learned. I can only imagine how much more I would have learned, had I been a musician.


It was on September 15th, 1949, that Clayton Moore first tied on the black mask, mounted the great horse Silver, and thundered into TV history as THE LONE RANGER!  On Tuesday, September 17th, join us at 11 a.m. at the Wells Fargo Theatre at The Autry to celebrate the 70th anniversary of television’s first Western series, and one of the most beloved.  It’s too early to post a guest attendee list just yet, but Clayton’s daughter, Dawn Moore, is taking part, and Rob Word always gets wonderful guests for his events.  I’ll have more details as the event gets closer.  In the meantime, here’s a link to my interview with Dawn Moore:

Dawn and Clayton Moore


GO WEST, a pre-Civil War Western that follows the trek of a diverse group of adventurers heading to California for gold and freedom, has been given a script commitment, as a co-production of Fox Entertainment and CBS.  Writer/Producer Bridget Carpenter shared an Emmy nomination for her work on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, as well as WGA nominations for her work on LIGHTS, and for season one of WESTWORLD. She was also Exec Producer on 2014’s dark contempo American Indian series RED ROAD.


“Westerns are our way of exploring our own mythology.”
                                                                                    Peter Fonda

The movies’ counter-culture Captain America has died of lung cancer at age 79.  Nominated for an Oscar for ULEE’S GOLD, the son of Oscar-winning screen legend Henry Fonda, and kid brother of double Oscar-winner Jane Fonda, Peter charted his own path. Not always pleased with his mainstream Hollywood films – in a Playboy interview he referred to his 1963 film TAMMY AND THE DOCTOR as TAMMY AND THE SHMUCKFACE – he starred for edgier independent filmmakers like Roger Corman in films like THE WILD ANGELS. Working both in front of and behind the camera, he not only co-starred in 1969’s earth-shaking EASY RIDER, he also wrote and produced it.

Although he didn’t star in a lot of Westerns – his earliest appearances include a WAGON TRAIN and an unsold HIGH NOON pilot where he played Will Kane Jr. – two of the three films he directed were Westerns.  In 1971’s poetic tragedy, THE HIRED HAND, Fonda and frequent collaborator Warren Oates play cowboy drifters who split up when Fonda goes back to abandoned wife Verna Bloom. But obligations force them back together. With strong performances, a wise script by Alan Sharp, stunning photography by Vilmos Zsigmond, and very creative visuals, editing and score, HIRED HAND was an artistic triumph for Fonda.

In his second, 1979’s much more light-hearted WANDA NEVADA, Fonda is a modern-day gold prospector who wins 13-year-old Brooke Shields in a poker game.  For Fonda, who described his relationship with his father as, “fraught,” one of the great thrills of that production was the chance to direct Henry Fonda, and to afterwards receive a letter from him about the experience. “It was a five-page letter.  And at the end, ‘In my forty-one years of making motion pictures, I have never seen a crew so devoted to the director.  You are a very good director.  And please remember me for your company.’  Now a company is a word we normally use in stage.  But in John Ford’s time, he carried a (stock) company of actors with him from one film to the next.  Ward Bond was one of them.  John Carradine was another.  Great characters that he would have as his company.  And the fact that my dad wanted to be part of my company… How cool is that?”

Fonda’s later acting career would get a considerable boost after his strong supporting role in 2007’s 3:10 TO YUMA. Fred Olen Ray, who was making AMERICAN BANDITS: FRANK AND JESSE JAMES, told me, “He was somebody we were really looking forward to having, because he’s very iconic. We had made the deal, I had spoken to him in France, and coming back on the plane, he fell on the jet-way. He busted his jaw open, and he had to have stitches. And (his people) were saying, he can’t be there on this day, and he could probably be ready in a week.

And that’s a week after the movie shoot had ended. So we thought, let’s not get ourselves caught in a tough spot here. Let’s go ahead and film these scenes anyway with a different actor. And a few days later, after the movie had wrapped, we heard, ‘Okay, Peter Fonda’s ready!’ So we shot the scenes over again with (Peter Fonda), and those are what we used in the movie.” 

Ron Maxwell enjoyed directing Fonda in the Civil War home-front drama COPPERHEAD. “Oh, he’s a lot of fun; he’s an icon.  There’s one scene where he meets Abner, and they speak about the issues that are dividing the town.  And that first shot, when you first see him, is an exact replica, to every detail, to his father playing YOUNG MISTER LINCOLN in John Ford’s 1939 film.   The only difference is that film was in black and white, and ours is color.  After we finished filming that scene, Peter looked up in the sky and said, ‘Dad, I hope you’re proud of me.’”  There is little doubt about that.


When, in the song-of-the-summer, OLD TOWN ROAD, Lil Nas X intoned that timeless lyric, “Wrangler on my booty,” the sales of the long-time denim favorite sky-rocketed. It’s kind of the reverse of when the 1934 equivalent of Lil Nas X, Clark Gable, in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, removed his shirt to reveal no undershirt: sales of the undergarment plummeted. Scott Baxter, honcho of Wrangler’s parent company, Kontoor Brands, says they didn’t see it coming.  "We knew nothing about it, and then it just took off.  It's introduced Wrangler to a more diverse group of folks, and that's where we want to be as a brand." Which is why Wrangler is partnering with Lil Nas X on a line of t-shirts (apparently not learning the Clark Gable lesson).

I don’t quite get the popularity of OLD TOWN ROAD myself. I have nothing against it – I love the opening western stuff, I love Chris Rock in anything, and the contemporary stuff is at worst innocuous, and sometimes amusing, but the song just seems repetitive; it doesn’t grow after the first few bars, and just peters out.

Actually, the big fashion-effect I was expecting this summer is related to ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, and the swoon heard ‘round the world when Brad Pitt took off his shirt. If only they could sell that like they can sell a pair of Wranglers. But then, they couldn’t figure out how to sell it in Gable’s day either.


Please check out the September TRUE WEST MAGAZINE, on newsstands now, featuring my article, STAGECOACH – THE LEGEND AT 80!

Speaking of which, I was amazed recently to look at Henry’s Western Round-up – I write it, but I don’t read it that often – and realize that I hadn’t put up links to any of my True West articles in about a year! There are about twenty new ones now, and I’ll update the links to my movie reviews very soon.  I don’t understand why the size of the type on these links keeps changing – the Rifleman one is huge, and others are tiny – but at least they work!

Happy Trails,
All Original Content Copyright August 2019 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved