Saturday, May 5, 2018



Tom Wopat and Jeff Fahey take their 
shots back to back

Alden Rockwell (Tom Wopat) and Clint Thorne (Jeff Fahey), sheriffs of neighboring Georgia counties, have been good-old-boy friends since before Vietnam. Then Alden loses his reelection bid, is widowed, and settles into a half-hearted existence as a pig-farmer who won’t slaughter his livestock because he’s given them names. Things change when Clint is shot while investigating a redneck crime family, and their links to a shadowy and sinister organization. With no legal authority, but decades of experience, Alden, at the request of Clint’s wife (Dendrie Taylor) starts poking his unauthorized nose in, and the fireworks begin.

The Prattler brothers have the drop on Jeff Fahey

Part contemporary Western, part mystery, the vigorous and enjoyable COUNTY LINE, which premieres Saturday night on INSP, has wisely teamed two stars who’ve covered lots of miles, but still have plenty of tread left. Wopat will, of course, always be remembered as Luke Duke in seven boisterous seasons of THE DUKES OF HAZARD. But he’s also appeared in the recent Westerns JONAH HEX and DJANGO UNCHAINED, on LONGMIRE, and his impressive string of Broadway Musical credits include a Tony Nomination for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. Indie film favorite Jeff Fahey played Tyree in SILVERADO, was Ike Clanton to Kevin Costner’s WYATT EARP, and was Devil Anse Hatfield in BAD BLOOD – HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS. Recently on television, he was the Texas Secretary of War in TEXAS RISING, and impressed as Zachariah on JUSTIFIED.
Patricia Richardson plays Wopat’s potential romantic interest, a waitress at a diner that straddles the county border, with a blue stripe dividing it down the middle. Emmy-nominated four times for playing Tim Allen’s wife in HOME IMPROVEMENT, she played more dramatic roles on STRONG MEDICINE and THE WEST WING, and starred opposite Peter Fonda in ULEE’S GOLD. Abbi Butler plays Wopat’s strong and handsome daughter, who’s enlisted in the Army, and about to go overseas.

While the term ‘contemporary Western’ has lately been bestowed on any film where someone wears a Resistol hat, COUNTY LINE, written by Jon Nappa, Shea Sizemore and Jason White, and directed by Shea, earns the label. There is a clear underlying pioneer spirit to the story, a philosophy of self-reliance. It is full of likable folks who all carry guns, and aren’t coy about using them – it is said derisively of a Deputy, “He carries a shotgun like it’s a broomstick.”

Davis Osborn, Michael Ruff and Brian Durkin
as the Prattler Brothers

Along with a complex plot, there is a surprising amount of convincing choking, punching, general brawling and specific shooting, and the ladies are every bit as dangerous as the gents. Western fans will be particularly amused by the Prattler Brothers, a family of dumb but malevolent thugs who call to mind the similar trios you’d find on a BIG VALLEY or GUNSMOKE, always with a young Warren Oates or Bruce Dern, and one, Sly Prattler, played by Davis Osborne, is practically the spitting image of the king of what Strother Martin termed prairie scum, L.Q. Jones!  With considerable humor, heart, action and smarts, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it begat COUNTY LINE II, or even a series.


Singer Almeda M. Bradshaw

On Saturday and Sunday, April 21st and 22nd, the 25th anniversary of the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival was marked in a highly unusual way: free admission! Held at William S. Hart Park in Old Town Newhall, the event originally started as a cowboy poetry reading at Santa Clarita High School. Then on January 14, 1994, the Northridge Earthquake hit Southern California, destroying, among so many other structures, the gymnasium where the readings were always held. The event was going to be cancelled for lack of a venue when the Veluzat brothers, owners and operators of Melody Ranch, Gene Autry’s old Western movie town, offered the ranch as an alternative location.   

Gunspinner Joey Dillon shows a 
volunteer the ropes

With the move, the event expanded to include music, merchandise, and all manner of activities, and it grew steadily for twenty years. Then four years ago, the resurgence of the Western movie and TV show began. Melody Ranch, which had only been sporadically busy since the demise of DEADWOOD, suddenly became in demand. Quentin Tarantino leased it for a year to shoot DJANGO UNCHAINED.  HBO has leased it for multiple years to film WESTWORLD. Again, a new venue was required, and what could be more appropriate than William S. Hart Park, the home range of one of the Western film’s great stars and philanthropists.

A Buffalo Soldier and his horse

Indian dancer

Hart Park is full of historical buildings, some built there, some moved there, and on this weekend it was also full of people, couples and families and packs of friends, there to do some shopping and eating, and to soak up cowboy atmosphere, and maybe some cowboy and Indian history as well.
As long as I have been attending – about a decade now – the center of activities for me has always been The Buckaroo Book Shop which was for years run by Bobbi Jean and Jim Bell, from their nearby OutWest Boutique. Bobbi and Jim recently packed up their cowpoke finery and moved home and operations to Albuquerque, New Mexico. But they came to town on Saturday to see how the event was going. Jim Christina, a Western author often featured at the event, took over the reins of the Book Shop this year. Other Western authors who attended included SHOTGUN series creator C. Courtney Joyner, Johnny D. Boggs, D.B. Jackson, Peter Sherayko, J.R. Sanders, Bob Brill, Eric Heisner, and artist and illustrator Al Bringas.  Also ran into Western author and entertainer Troy Andrew Smith by the cowboy coffee and peach cobbler.

Susie Arredondo, Troy Andrew Smith, with Bobbi Jean
and Jim Bell

Right beside the Book Shop tent, who had just set up shop but Johnny Crawford, Mark McCain from THE RIFLEMAN, and fresh a West Virginia film shoot, where he was portraying William S. Hart in the new Western film, BILL TILGHMAN AND THE OUTLAWS.

Tea-time for this Southern Belle

Union surrender

Among the high points of the event was the twice daily Civil War reenactment. Here's a quick and sloppy glance at it --hopefully it’ll give you a sense of the event. Hope to see you there next year!


Photo by Paul Wood

This weekend the Reenactment Guild of America will be taking part in the 6th annual Ramona Old West Days in Ramona, California.  Large 19th century encampments will represent pioneers, the American Indian Wars, and the life of the cowboy. There will be hearty grub, western collectibles, and a Showdown at Sundown, where reenactment groups compete for prizes. For more information, go here:


Tom Corrigan with his dad, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan

Tom Corrigan, the Thousand Oaks restaurateur who kept the memory of his father, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, alive for decades, had died.  For more than thirty years he ran the popular Corrigan’s Steak House, which was packed with memorabilia from his father’s long career as a Western star, stunt man, gorilla portrayer, and builder and operator of Corriganville, one of filmdom’s premiere Western movie towns. Tom died in his home on March 14th, with his wife and niece by his side.


And no, I’m not dissing WESTWORLD, I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and watch it.  If you have, what do you think?

Happy Trails,


All Original Material Copyright May 2018 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

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